There are a few facts to keep in mind to understand what’s going on in the wake of the death this week of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

#1. US foreign policy vis-a-vis North Korea has always sought to force the latter’s collapse to pave the way for its absorption into the US-dominated South [1] — and did so well before Pyongyang began to work on nuclear weapons. US hostility toward North Korea has never been about nuclear weapons. On the contrary, North Korea’s nuclear weapons are a consequence of US hostility. US hostility, now in its seventh decade, is about what it has always been about: putting an end to what Washington mistakenly calls North Korea’s Marxist-Leninist system (Marxism-Leninism has been replaced by Juche ideology—a home-grown doctrine of self-reliance), its non-market system, and its self-directed economic development [2]. None of these offer much latitude for US profit-making at North Korea’s expense, and hence are singled out for demolition.

#2. North Korea only began to seek nuclear weapons after the United States announced in 1993 that it was retargeting some of its strategic nuclear missiles from the former Soviet Union to North Korea. Since then the country has only been able to develop its nuclear capability to a kindergarten level. [3] The plutonium devices it tested in 2006 and 2009 produced only one-tenth the power of the Hiroshima blast. There is no evidence it has miniaturized a warhead to fit atop a missile. And its missile program is plagued by problems. [4]

#3. North Korea is a military pipsqueak, whose personnel are deployed in large numbers to agriculture. The military budgets and weapons’ sophistication of its adversaries, the United States, South Korea and Japan, tower over its own. If the Pentagon’s budget is represented by the 6’ 9” basketball player Magic Johnson, North Korea’s military budget is 1”, about the height of a small mouse. South Korea’s is 4.5” and Japan’s 3.9”, multiple times larger than the North’s. [5]

#4. North Korea has no more military heft to mount a provocation against the United States than a mouse has to beat Magic Johnson on the basketball court. Nor has it the capability to wage a civil war against its southern compatriots and expect to win. North Korea is not an aggressive threat. “In the Obama analysis,” writes New York Times reporter David Sanger, “the North is receding into what the president’s top strategists have repeatedly called a ‘defensive crouch,’ trying to stave off the world with a barrage of missile and nuclear tests…Constantly on the brink of starvation, its military so broke that it cannot train its pilots, it has no illusions about becoming a great power in Asia. Its main goal is survival.” [6]

#5. Because the United States is a military Gargantua compared to North Korea, and South Korea and Japan have better equipped militaries, they can safely stage provocations against the North, forcing Pyongyang into a defense-spending drain of its treasury, bringing closer the realization of the US goal of tipping the country into crisis and possibly collapse. On the other hand, North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party wants to avoid confrontations at all costs, short of surrendering to the demands that it close up shop, and re-open under South Korean management.

#6. Provocations, then, are all on the other side. There are few acts more provocative than the United States’ targeting of North Korea with strategic nuclear missiles, nor former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s warning that the Pentagon could turn North Korea into a charcoal briquette [7]. Six decades of Washington-led economic warfare against the country is equally provocative, and a principal cause of North Korea’s impoverishment. Tens of thousands of US troops are deployed along the North’s southern borders, US warships and nuclear missile-equipped submarines prowl the periphery of its territorial waters, and US warplanes menace its airspace. Pyongyang is only the immediate architect of North Korea’s Songun (military-first) policy. Washington is the ultimate architect. Finally, US and South Korean militaries conduct regular war games exercises, one of which, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, is an exercise in invading North Korea. Who’s provoking who?

#7. Kim Jong Il, the recently deceased North Korean leader–literally depicted in South Korean children’s books as a red devil with horns and fangs [8]–has been equally demonized in the Western mass media for starving his people. It is true that food shortages have plagued the country. But the vilifying Kim obituaries don’t mention why North Koreans are hungry. The answer is sanctions. [9] US foreign policy, like that of the Allied powers in WWI toward Germany, has been to starve its adversary into submission. This isn’t acknowledged, for obvious reasons. First, it would reveal the inhumane lengths to which US foreign policy is prepared to reach to secure its goals. And second, North Korean hunger must be used to discredit public ownership and a central planning as a workable economic model. North Koreans are hungry, the anti-Communist myth goes, because socialism doesn’t work. The truth of the matter is that North Koreans are hungry because Washington has made them so. Not surprisingly, calls by humanitarian groups for the United States to deliver food aid are being brushed aside with a litany of bizarre excuses, the latest being that food aid can’t be delivered because Kim Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong-eun, has succeeded him. [10] Huh? The real reason food aid won’t be delivered is because it would contradict US foreign policy. The United States once considered the death of half a million Iraqi children “worth it”. [11] Its leaders would consider the sanctions-produced demise through starvation of as many North Koreans worth it, as well.

#8. The death of Kim Jong-il is a potential boon for US foreign policy. There is a possibility of disorganization within the leadership, and internal conflicts leading to a fraying unity of purpose. Rather than focusing on external threats, the leadership may be divided, and pre-occupied with succession. If so, this is, from the perspective of the United States and South Korea, a pivotal moment—a time when the country may be tipped into collapse. And so, at this moment, who would you expect to unleash a provocation: Pyongyang? Or Washington and Seoul? At the best of times, Pyongyang wants to avoid a fight. At this critical juncture, it absolutely needs to. But the calculus works the other way round for the predators. Now is when North Korea is most vulnerable to predation.

#9. Predators never let on that they’re the hunters. Always they portray themselves as seeking to safeguard their security against the multiple threats of a dangerous world. Through guile and cunning, the mouse might just outmanoeuvre Magic Johnson and sink a basket or two. So it is that the United States, South Korea and Japan are said to be on high alert, in case the North Koreans stage another “provocation,” like the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan (for which the evidence of North Korean involvement is laughably thin at best [12]) or another Yeonpyeong Island artillery barrage (which the South set off by firing its own artillery into disputed waters, that, under international customary law, belong to the North. [13])

But as we’ve seen, it makes no sense to expect the scenario of a North Korean-furnished provocation to unfold. The more likely explanation for why US, South Korean and Japanese militaries are on high alert is because now is an ideal time for pressure on Pyongyang to be intensified, and because the triumvirate might be preparing to intervene militarily if conditions become propitious.

Notes

1. New York Times reporter David Sanger (“What ‘engagement’ with Iran and North Korea means,” The New York Times, June 17, 2009) notes that “American presidents have been certain they could … speed (North Korea’s) collapse, since the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.” At the same time, Korea expert Selig S. Harrison has written that “South Korea is once again seeking the collapse of the North and its absorption by the South.” (“What Seoul should do despite the Cheonan”, The Hankyoreh, May 14, 2010.)
2. According to Dianne E. Rennack, (“North Korea: Economic sanctions”, Congressional Research Service, October 17, 2006) many US sanctions have been imposed on North Korea for reasons listed as either “communism”, “non-market economy” or “communism and market disruption.”
3. In an article on Newt Gingrich’s fantasies about North Korea or Iran setting off a nuclear device far above US territory in order to unleash an electromagnetic pulse attack, New York Times’ reporter William J. Broad cites a US military expert who characterizes “the nations in question (as being) at the kindergarten stage of developing nuclear arms.” (“Among Gingrich’s passions, a doomsday vision”, The New York Times, December 11, 2011.)
4. Keith Johnson, “Pyongyang neighbors worry over nuclear arms”, The Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2011
5. The annual military budgets in billions are: United States, $700; North Korea, $10; South Korea, $39; Japan, $34. With the exception of the Pentagon’s budget, annual military expenditures were estimated by multiplying a country’s GDP by its military spending as a percentage of GDP, as estimated by the CIA and reported in its World Factbook. The source for the Pentagon’s military budget is Thom Shanker and Elisabeth Bumiller, “Weighing Pentagon cuts, Panetta faces deep pressures”, The New York Times, November 6, 2011.
6. David Sanger, “What ‘engagement’ with Iran and North Korea means,” The New York Times, June 17, 2009.
7. “Colin Powell said we would…turn North Korea into a ‘charcoal briquette,’ I mean that’s the way we talk to North Korea, even though the mainstream media doesn’t pay attention to that kind of talk. A charcoal briquette.” Bruce Cumings, “Latest North Korean provocations stem from missed US opportunities for demilitarizaton,” Democracy Now!, May 29, 2009.
8. David E. Sanger, “A ruler who turned North Korea into a nuclear state”, The New York Times, December 18, 2011.
9. See Stephen Gowans, “Amnesty International botches blame for North Korea’s crumbling healthcare”, What’s Left, July 20, 2010. http://gowans.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/amnesty-international-botches-blame-for-north-korea%E2%80%99s-crumbling-healthcare/
10. Evan Ramstad and Jay Solomon, “Dictator’s death stokes fears”, The Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2011.
11. Asked about a UN estimate that sanctions had killed 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five, then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said infamously, “It’s a hard choice, but I think, we, think, it’s worth it.” 60 Minutes, May 12, 1996. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbIX1CP9qr4. Retrieved June 19, 2011
12. See Tim Beal’s Crisis in Korea: American, China and the Risk of War. Pluto Press. 2011.
13. See Stephen Gowans, “US Ultimately to Blame for Korean Skirmishes in Yellow Sea”, What’s Left, December 5, 2010. http://gowans.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/us-ultimately-to-blame-for-korean-skirmishes-in-yellow-sea/

-Mr. Zhang noted that some countries outside the region interfere in our affairs under various pretexts, so-called human rights, democracy and so forth from time to time.
“The only result of such care is chaos, the destruction of stability. See what’s happening in the Middle East and North Africa where armed people overthrew a legitimate government. And what did it give to the people, except victims, disorder, poverty and chaos? Nothing!” Mr Zhang said.

Astana: China condemns the riots and is ready to provide necessary assistance to maintain stability in Kazakhstan, the Kazakh edition of Liter published, referring to the Director of Eurasia, Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhuy says.

“We are monitoring the situation in Zhanaozen. We experience heartache when such things happen in our neighbouring country. I want to assure you that we strongly support the efforts of the President and the Government of Kazakhstan to maintain peace and stability in their country.

“We categorically oppose intervention in the internal affairs of Kazakhstan. China is ready to render any assistance – moral, material – if it is necessary,” the Chinese politician said.

Unrest occurred in the city Zhanaozen, which killed 14 people and injured dozens. As many as 46 buildings were burned down, the property of individuals and legal entities were destroyed and cars were burned in the town on December 16. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev declared a state of emergency the following day.

The Chinese politician noted that in order to avoid provocations around the oil topic, which are widely used in Kazakhstan now, Chinese companies engaged in the oil and gas sectors are tightly focused on dealing with socio-economic problems before they occur.

“We have no assets in Zhanaozen, the Chinese joint venture operates in Aktau, but there is a tough directive from the Chinese government on how to run our business strictly down to the slightest nuance and correspond to the law in Kazakhstan and maintain a close relationship with local authorities.

“Kazakh has very good organisation of labour and wages in the Chinese companies. There are many provocations on oil companies in Kazakhstan. There are a lot of rumours, for example that a Chinese company fired a lot of oil industry workers. It is not true and cannot be true,” the director of Eurasia, Foreign Ministry of China said.

Mr. Zhang noted that some countries outside the region interfere in our affairs under various pretexts, so-called human rights, democracy and so forth from time to time.

“The only result of such care is chaos, the destruction of stability. See what’s happening in the Middle East and North Africa where armed people overthrew a legitimate government. And what did it give to the people, except victims, disorder, poverty and chaos? Nothing!” Mr Zhang said.

The Foreign Ministry of China stressed the need to intensify joint opposition to modern challenges on security and stability in the region within existing unions.

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Destroying the American Dream…

December 21st, 2011 by Stephen Lendman

Corporate greed and profits over people priorities launched nationwide OWS protests in hundreds of US cities for change.

Mindless of growing public rage, political Washington keeps cutting vital social benefits needing increases during hard times.

With real unemployment approaching 23%, earlier cuts affected:

Pell Grants help for college tuitions;

federal wages;

the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help impoverished families have heat in winter;

the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);

community healthcare centers;

nonprofit health insurance cooperatives;

HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other disease prevention programs;

WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) grants to states for supplemental foods, healthcare, and nutrition education for low-income families;

Head Start, providing comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income families with children;

the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (targeted earlier with more coming), providing food stamps for poor households;

community development block grants for housing, overall reducing HUD’s budget by $1.1 billion;

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) first-responder funding;

energy efficiency and renewable energy programs;

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean/safe water and other projects;

National Institutes of Health (NIH) medical research;

the National Park Service;

vital infrastructure and transportation needs; and

other non-defense discretionary spending.

New cuts will sustain Wall Street, militarism, favoritism, waste, fraud, and other rewards for Washington’s usual special interests. They’ll benefit at the expense of ordinary people losing out.

Increasingly on their own sink or swim, Obama calls it “shared sacrifice.” Ordinary people sacrifice to let business and super-rich elites share.

Washington’s new FY 2012 budget agreement cuts billions more from vital domestic programs. LIHEAP lost another $1.2 billion, a 25% reduction year over year. Labor, health and education allocations dropped $1.4 billion, including $225 million by eliminating 22 programs, many related to job training.

In addition, Pell Grants will end for another 100,000 students, and those getting them will only receive $5,500 for another year. Overall, $1.36 billion will be lost over several years.

Last August’s Budget Control Act of 2011 established the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction – aka Supercommittee.

After failing to agree on cuts by its self-imposed November 23 deadline, automatic reductions of $1.2 – $1.5 trillion will occur over the next 10 years, beginning in 2013.

Supposedly to be equally divided between defense and domestic programs, expect sustained military spending at the expense of gutting America’s social contract. Either way, lost purchasing power means less spending, fewer jobs, and greater public anger than today’s high levels.

Wrangling Over Extending Unemployment Benefits and Payroll Tax Cut

On December 31, both end unless congressionally extended and Obama agrees. On December 17, the Senate enacted both benefits through February 29, 2012. In addition, scheduled Medicare doctor reimbursement cuts were postponed.

Federally financed Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae home buyers will pay an extra $15 a month on a $200,000 mortgage to cover the $33 billion cost.

However, House Speaker John Boehner opposed the deal, telling Meet the Press on December 18:

It’s “just kicking the can down the road. It’s time to just stop, do our work, resolve the differences and extend this for one year. How can you have tax policy for two months?”

At issue, of course, is Republicans wanting greater domestic spending offsets in return for agreeing to these extensions. Still unresolved, time ran out as Congress prepared to adjourn for Christmas break.

On December 20, the House rejected the Senate bill. On January 17, the Senate adjourned until January 23. Throughout the holiday period into January, it’ll hold nine pro forma sessions. Unfinished business remains unresolved until it returns.

Ahead of adjournment, Republicans extracted another major Obama concession after refusing to go along earlier. At issue is constructing a controversial 1,661-mile Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, TX pipeline. For weeks, hundreds of environmental activists protested in front of the White House against it.

If completed, it’ll carry toxic tar sands oil from Western Canada to refineries on America’s Gulf coast. It’ll pass through environmentally sensitive areas in six states, including waterways and the Oballala Aquifer. It’s one of the world’s largest. In America, it supplies about 30% of the nation’s irrigation ground water.

Friends of the Earth says Keystone XL “will carry one of the world’s dirtiest fuels: tar sands oil.” Moreover, its route “could devastate ecosystems and pollute water sources, and would jeopardize public health.”

If completed, it’ll double America’s dirty tar sands oil supply, making its environment more toxic. No matter the stakes, Big Oil wants it. So do Republicans and conservative Democrats. Obama once again conceded.

TransCanada Corporation will build it. It’s spill-prone construction record assures trouble. It promised its Keystone I pipeline would leak once every seven years. In year one, it leaked 12 times or once a month on average. It was unprecedented in US pipeline history.

Washington’s Destructive Payroll Tax Extension

Leaving in place a 2% cut (perhaps indefinitely) is a scheme to drain hundreds of billions of dollars from the Social Security Trust Fund. Doing so will irreparably weaken its ability to pay future benefits. The idea, of course, is destroying it altogether, perhaps first through privatization.

At issue is allegedly extending another one-year tax holiday. It’s easy to enact cuts, but hard ending them. Doing so results in a substantial tax increase. It amounts to $2,000 on $100,000 a year earners, $400 for those making $20,000.

In other words, restoring it means a nearly 50% tax increase for 94% of American workers. Imagine doing it any time, but consider the harm in hard times.

However, maintaining the cut indefinitely will cause massive benefit reductions and eliminate any chance for improving them, notably for society’s poor and disadvantaged.

In addition, middle America will be harmed, violating Franklin Roosevelt’s pledge that:

“We put those pay roll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program. Those taxes aren’t a matter of economics, they’re straight politics.”

Key is that maintaining a payroll tax holiday of any amount is another step toward privatization. It’s also a sure way to kill America’s most important ever poverty reduction program.

Doing so will replicate how 401(k)s destroyed private pensions, leaving workers at the mercy of marketplace uncertainties that can wipe out life savings during hard times.

Key also are better ways to provide stimulus without harming Social Security. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), one way is by reinstituting the 2009 Making Work Pay Tax Credit. It expired at yearend 2010. Doing so would add much more stimulus than a payroll tax holiday.

It would give workers a refundable tax credit, increasing the size of the paychecks. At 6.2% of earned income, it provides maximum $400 for working individuals, $800 for married taxpayers filing joint returns.

A payroll tax holiday is a bad idea any time, besides doing little to stimulate economic growth. “The most efficient way to boost consumer spending is to put money into the hands of people who will spend it quickly rather than save it.” It’s most effective when low and middle-income workers get it, not high-end ones who’ll save, not spend, their windfall.

“A payroll tax holiday does not score well on this front – too little of the benefit goes to lower-income households struggling to make ends meet and too much goes to higher-income taxpayers, who are likely to save a significant (portion) of any new resources they receive.”

The Making Work Pay Tax Credit doesn’t harm Social Security. Indefinite payroll tax holiday extensions may destroy it. Republicans have long sought it, as well as ending Medicare since its 1965 enactment.

With considerable help from Democrats and Obama, their chance finally arrived. Only public anger may stop them.

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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

Debt repayment is a subject few want to discuss, or that few understand. We know most of the largest banks in the world are broke along with at least 6-euro zone nations. There are many others, but the most concerning are the debts of major nations, which are supposedly solvent. Needless to say the US is deeply indebted and the Super-Congress Enabling Committee couldn’t even lay politics aside to cut spending increases.

A bill has been entered into Congress to prohibit US funds being used via the IMF to bail out European banks and governments. We see a scant chance of passage because of the elitist control of both Houses. On the other hand it makes little difference, because the Fed has opened the swap floodgates and other avenues of secret funding to “recapitalize,” bailout, European banks of all sizes and depths of default.

As we end 2011 it is all quiet on the Western Front. Behind the scenes unbeknownst to almost all the elitists are plotting and planning on how to extricate themselves from the morass they have gotten themselves into. How do they put the crisis on the back burner and extend the timeline? The vaunted 6 nations on the edge of default await aid, but one might ask from whom? That solution hasn’t even been sorted out as yet, and we now find France facing a possible two level lowering of debt ratings, but even Germany is not as solvent as they were thought to be. Could it be that France and Germany might not be able to repay their debts? Now you can understand why the money machine, known as the Fed, says nothing about their bailout of Europe. 95% of the population of the world doesn’t even know what a swap is. Even if they did understand they are never going to get the truth from the Fed. We saw that in court and GAO revelations recently.

The European Central Bank, ECB, does not have the Fed’s ability to continue to create money and credit. That means that the taxpayers in each nation must foot the bill, unless the Fed prints money for them. Thus, we see a central bank, which really is not a central bank. Germany is still not allowing the ECB to emulate the Bank of England and Federal Reserve. Germans still vividly remember the Weimar Republic and the resultant rise of National Socialism and Adolph Hitler. Even if such possibilities do not exist today they still see rampant inflation as a result of endless funding. Northern Europeans, in spite of participating in the EU and the euro zone, understand the frailties and cultural differences of their neighbors in the south. Europe has pursed the wrong path for more than two years. There simply isn’t anyway to bail out the six. They have to allow them to default and leave the euro.

The short-term cost is $6 trillion just to go sideways for a year or two. After that the underlying problem will still exist, and it will be worse. Professionals in part recognize the problems and as a result interest rates have risen and the entire European system is under pressure, including their stock markets. We know that “The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets” has been active in markets worldwide, but because it is secret, we do no know the extent of market manipulation in keeping world markets up when they should be down. When Ron Paul becomes President of the United States and the reign of the bankers ends we will then be able to see what these criminals have been up too. A good part of the world is headed into recession and depression. Europe’s plunge into recession is underway and that condition is just going to exacerbate the situation. What we have is a European standoff and the possibility that Germany may go its own way, becomes more plausible with every passing day.

They could leave the euro, let the six nations go under and take their losses and leave the EU as well. Remember, Germany overwhelmingly did not want either but were forced into the situation or order to regain Western Germany. The cost of that effort was outrageous. They were forced to exchange a Deutschmark for a Reich mark, one-for-one. It should be between 30 to 1. Germany is sick and tired of getting the short end of the stick and we believe 65% or more of the German people want out and that may very well happen though few see that possibility. The recent exchange with the British over City of London taxation could well have been a ruse to expedite the German exit from the euro and the EU. This is why we are always thinking outside the box.

In order to circumvent the rules the elitists have formed and funded a new bailout program via the IMF, something the IMF was not created for. That is to bail out Europe. Bailing out singular nations is one thing, but bailing out a whole continent is another. What we should say is the job of the IMF was and is to bailing out countries, so they can pay the interest on their debt to keep the banks solvent.

The big ultimate question is, who will bail out the US? The answer is no one and that is why ultimately there will be a meeting of all nations, which will revalue and devalue all currencies against one another and have a multinational default and debt settlement. That means everyone gets to pay some of the losses, except of course those who own gold and silver related assets. All the elitists know that they can monetize money and credit only for so long before hyperinflation takes place. Thus, there will be an end game.

We will never know whether several weeks ago the German bond auction was for real. Did the government only sell half its bond auction or was it a ruse? From a logical point of view it was a disaster, but everything is not always the way it seems to be. If it were bona fide it would have been an effort to try to force Germany into quantitative easing.

There is no question that the creation of money and credit known as QE has been instrumental in the monetization of debt that has then caused inflation. Professionals and investors are fortunately catching on, but they have no clue how bad this really is and is going to be.

Students of economic history, whether Keynesian or Austrian, know there is no way of avoiding the collapse of an unlimited credit expansion. The only solution is abandonment of the expansion of money and credit and a purging of the excesses of malinvestment in the system.

The member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization released a strong message warning that European missile defense and unilateral military action may work to destabilize international security and strategic stability around the world.

The harsh statement was released by President Dmitry Medvedev and his counterparts from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in Moscow on Tuesday.

The leaders made specific mention of the missile defense system that the United States is currently constructing in Eastern Europe, just miles from the Russian border.

“The unilateral deployment of strategic missile defense systems by one state or a group of states without due account for the lawful interests of other countries and without extending legally-binding guarantees to the latter may damage international security and strategic stability in Europe and the world as a whole,” the statement by the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) read.

Moscow has repeatedly warned the US and NATO that the missile defense system, without Russia’s participation in the expansive project that promises to expand technologically and spatially by 2018, will be viewed as a direct security threat.

CSTO, a security alliance that was signed into force in May 1992, made a thinly veiled comment regarding NATO’s military operation in Libya when it mentioned the “increasing tendency for military intervention” in countries that are experiencing domestic crises.

“Since the [collective security] Agreement was signed, international relations have been increasingly characterized by a rise in tensions. Serious concern is being caused by the…tendency for military intervention in critical situations,” the CSTO said on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Collective Security Agreement and the tenth anniversary of the CSTO.

The leaders agreed that internal problems inside of sovereign states are giving particular countries a green light to break international law and exert military pressure.

“We are alarmed by the attempts to bypass the commonly recognized principles of international law by taking advantage of the temporary difficulties of certain countries and peoples,” the document said.

The security alliance then gave special attention to Afghanistan, where NATO has been engaged in a bruising battle against Taliban forces for the past decade.

Of particular concern is “the deteriorating situation in the Afghanistan, which borders with the Organization’ s responsibility zone,” it said. “We believe that achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan is one of the main factors of ensuring regional and international security. We are calling for building Afghanistan as a peaceful, prosperous, independent and neutral state.”

Finally, the leaders of the CSTO agreed that the deployment of foreign bases in their territory is only possible with the consent of all CSTO partners.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said “an accord has been reached to coordinate the deployment, in the territory of the CSTO states, of military infrastructure facilities belonging to non-CSTO states.”

“In order to deploy military bases of a third country in the territory of the CSTO member-states, it is necessary to obtain the official consent of all its members,” said Nazarbayev, who took over the rotating presidency of the Organization from Belarus.

President Medvedev said the decision on the deployment of military bases of third countries in the territory of the CSTO member states only with the consent of CSTO partners was an important measure for consolidating the Organization.

“Reaching these accords is very important for consolidating the position within the CSTO,” the Russian leader said.

I believe it is very important that all the parties have reached consensus, Medvedev added.

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Government Says It Can Assassinate or Indefinitely Detain Americans on American Soil Without Any Due Process of Law

I’ve previously noted that Obama says that he can assassinate American citizens living on U.S. soil.

This admittedly sounds over-the-top.  But one of the nation’s top constitutional and military law experts – Jonathan Turley – agrees.

Turley:

  • Is the second most cited law professor in the country
  • Has worked as both the CBS and NBC legal analyst during national controversies
  • Ranks 38th in the top 100 most cited ‘public intellectuals’ in a recent study by a well-known judge
  • Is one of the top 10 lawyers handling military cases
  • Has served as a consultant on homeland security and constitutional issues
  • Is a frequent witness before the House and Senate on constitutional and statutory issues

Turley said yesterday on C-Span (starting at 15:50):

President Obama has just stated a policy that he can have any American citizen killed without any charge, without any review, except his own. If he’s satisfied that you are a terrorist, he says that he can kill you anywhere in the world including in the United States.

Two of his aides just … reaffirmed they believe that American citizens can be killed on the order of the President anywhere including the United States.

You’ve now got a president who says that he can kill you on his own discretion. He can jail you indefinitely on his own discretion

***

I don’t think the the Framers ever anticipated that [the American people would be so apathetic]. They assumed that people would hold their liberties close, and that they wouldn’t relax …

The Government Has Never Given a Rationale for Assassination

While one might assume that the government has given a valid justification for the claim that it can assassinate anyone anywhere, the Washington Post noted yesterday:

In outlining its legal reasoning, the administration has cited broad congressional authorizations and presidential approvals, the international laws of war and the right to self-defense. But it has not offered the American public, uneasy allies or international authorities any specifics that would make it possible to judge how it is applying those laws.

***

“They’ve based it on the personal legitimacy of [President] Obama — the ‘trust me’ concept,” [American University law professor Kenneth Anderson] said. “That’s not a viable concept for a president going forward.”

***

Under domestic law, the administration considers [assassinations] to be covered by the Authorization for Use of Military Force that Congress passed days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In two key sentences that have no expiration date, the AUMF gives the president sole power to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against nations, groups or persons who committed or aided the attacks, and to prevent future attacks. [But the government just broadened the authorization for use of military force from those who attacked us on 9/11 to include the Taliban and the vague category of "associated forces".]

***

The authorization did not address targets’ nationality or set geographical boundaries, and there was “nothing about the permission of the government” of any country where a terrorist might be found, the former official said.

And see this.

Almost Any American Could Be Arbitrarily Labeled a “Terrorist”

As I’ve previously noted, this is especially concerning when almost any American could be labeled a “terrorist” if the government doesn’t happen to like them:

It is dangerous in a climate where you can be labeled as or suspected of being a terrorist simply for questioning war, protesting anything, asking questions about pollution or about Wall Street shenanigans, supporting Ron Paul, being a libertarian, holding gold, or stocking up on more than 7 days of food. [And the FBI says that activists who investigate factory farms can be prosecuted as terrorists.] And see this.

And it is problematic in a period in which FBI agents and CIA intelligence officials, constitutional law expert professor Jonathan Turley, Time Magazine, Keith Olbermann and the Washington Post have all said that U.S. government officials “were trying to create an atmosphere of fear in which the American people would give them more power”, and even former Secretary of Homeland Security – Tom Ridge – admitst hat he was pressured to raise terror alerts to help Bush win reelection.

And it is counter-productive in an age when the government – instead of doing the things which could actually make us safer – are doing things which increasethe risk of terrorism.

And it is insane in a time of perpetual war. See this, this, this and this.

And when the “War on Terror” in the Middle East and North Africa which is being used to justify the attack on Americans was planned long before 9/11.

And when Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser told the Senate in 2007 that the war on terror is “a mythical historical narrative”. And 9/11 was entirely foreseeable, but wasn’t stopped. Indeed, no one in Washington even wants to hear how 9/11 happened, even though that is necessary to stop future terrorist attacks. And the military has bombed a bunch of oil-rich countries when it could have instead taken out Bin Laden years ago.

***

And – given that U.S. soldiers admit that if they accidentally kill innocent Iraqis and Afghanis, they then “drop” automatic weapons near their body so they can pretend they were militants – it is unlikely that the government would ever admit that an American citizen it assassinated was an innocent civilian who has nothing at all to do with terrorism.

Well 2011 has been nothing if not eventful but frankly, in spite of all the #Occupy this and #Occupy that, it’s not been a good year for us progresssives or the planet. The Empire acts with increasing, not decreasing impunity, desperate now to try and keep ahead of events lest events take control of it.

Are we living in a fool’s paradise?

A question keeps nagging at me: Are all of us, including the left, reacting to an entirely engineered reality, fed to us via an all-embracing media? We get blown this way and that, all of it being determined by whatever ‘event’ the globalized media decides to feed us with. Then, just as ‘mysteriously’, the ‘event’ disappears to be replaced by yet another ‘event’.

The old Anarchist cry of ‘Do not adjust your mind, there’s a fault in reality’ takes on an entirely new kind of import given the power of the media to determine what’s ‘real’ for us.

What this means is that the media effectively acts as an agent provocateur for the state and big business as it decides for us what is actually going on in the world. In turn, progressives make decisions based not on what needs to be done, but as a reaction to the ‘news’ in a weird political version of the Heisenberg Effect.

Press coverage of the Summer Riots is a perfect example of this process in action whereby the media, by focusing solely on the violence and destruction, not only transformed it into a ‘riot without a cause’ but in doing so actually incited even more violence and destruction, just as ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) are worn as ‘badges of honour’ by alienated youth who actually go out of their way to get one (or two).

Aside from anything else it demonstrates just how out-of-touch the political elite is with the reality of life as it is really lived by a goodly chunk of the population; the so-called underclass.

Life as supplied to us is now an endless succession of ‘crises’ or public spectacles (the lines between the two often blur):

‘Ground-to-air missiles ‘may protect’ London 2012 games’ BBC News, 14 November 2011.

In fact, the very nature of BBC’s headlines headlines betray the essence of how to report the ‘news’ as a succession of dramas to be played out, not in the real world that you and I live in but in the world created by a globalized, corporate media machine.

‘Crises’ are played out in the TV equivalent of ‘flaming’ (shooting off at the mouth without thinking). Dictators come and go… All but the dramatic essence is removed and along with it real meaning disappears. This is the triumph of television, the ability to be able to cut and paste reality in its entirety.

And the question, what of life outside the media-supplied ‘reality’ has been brought home to me by MSM’s coverage of the #Occupy ‘movement’. The left debates its relevance and its potential endlessly but within the confines of a media-supplied reality. All that’s solid melts into air, or in this case bits and bytes.

The #Occupy movement exists for as long as it grabs the headlines and for said headlines to work, an element of violence is an absolutely necessary ingredient for it to become ‘news’. But once the ‘confrontations’ are gone and the ‘struggle’ safely removed to the controllable environment of the High Court, the story is no longer ‘newsworthy’ except as a footnote to ’2011 – Year of Occupations’.

We are now literally, passive observers of our own funerals in a world of total media saturation and control. A world of endless tragedy but at a distance, mediated by an unseen hand and fed to us pretty much like an out-of-control soap opera, where events break and at first reporting is chaotic and normally wrong but as soon as the MSM has gotten hold of the ‘right script’ then ‘reasons’, ’causes’ and ‘solutions’ can then be inserted for each unfolding, dramatic episode.

Gaddafi’s tortured, broken and abused body presented to us as the rightful end to a ‘weirdo celebrity’, a victim of his own success and failure. First courted then betrayed, an epic worthy of a plot by Shakespeare.

The ‘story’ can then be handled as spectacle and for as long as it remains spectacle it’s a product that can be safely and passively consumed. In this sense the #Occupy movement has also become a victim of its own success. It plays out its life not in the real world but in that other reality, that the rest of us live in, the one supplied by the corporate media machine.

In turn this determines our relationship with it or lack of one. The media for example talks of how occupations or strikes affect the public, as if by some miraculous process, the occupiers or strikers are no longer part of the ‘public’. They’ve been relocated to media-land to live lives as ephemeral as the photons they are made of.

It’s for this reason that the question of the role of class in the proceedings rarely if ever figures in media-land, for if it were to explore the role of class with as much zeal as it explores the ‘role’ of violence, it would have to redefine its use of the word ‘public’ let alone violence. It would also have to reveal which side of the class divide it’s actually on.

If it’s true, and I think it is, that it’s working people who are paying the price for the crimes of the 1%, the ones who own the capital that (just about) makes capitalism work, then it’s a question of a struggle between two classes; those who own capital and those who don’t.

Currently the media represents the interests of the 1% of the ‘public’ that imposes its reality on the proceedings as if it’s ours. A reality in which certain fundamentals are a ‘given’, for example, the rule of private capital, the primacy of the state to act with impunity in all things in order to ‘protect our national interest’. In a phrase, the preservation of the existing order and way of doing things.

Even the tools that we now have including blogs, social networking and instantaneous video have proved to be very powerful tools of propaganda for the Empire. Tools that have been turned against us as is the case with Libya and now Syria.

The BBC’s use of video from cellphones–mostly unattributed and revealing nothing about what is actually going on in Syria–have become the staple diet of the BBC’s alleged news coverage of Syria, claiming that they’re not allowed into the country.

And ‘bloggers’ are now a regular feature of MSM coverage, which is fine except that only a couple of years ago, the MSM was ranting on about how ‘blogging’ was going to be the death of ‘professional’ journalism. If only…

But no more, the MSM realized that ‘reality’ video was the perfect tool of propaganda, as it appears that it’s ‘the people’ speaking. The BBC is merely relaying ‘reality’ to its public and in the process it accrues the authenticity needed to make it believable. To make it credible.

And in doing so, the MSM has jettisoned the last remnants of what it chooses to call ‘impartial and objective’ journalism.

The drama and (hidden) tragedy of the destruction of Libya was played out for us as if it were cin�ma verit�, all grainy footage and hand-held cameras swinging about wildly all over the place, inter-cut with BBC propagandists masquerading as news men standing in front of a weapon of death boasting to the viewer of its awesome fire power.

As the Empire acts with increasing impunity, so too does the media. The Media and the Empire in total lockstep.

An American citizen from Boston suburb was convicted on Tuesday on terrorism charges, but the charges were loosely defined and the verdict may represent a significant blow to free speech rights.

Federal prosecutors claimed that Tarek Mehanna, 29, traveled to Yemen in 2004 with the hope of training as a terrorist and going on to fight American soldiers in Iraq. He failed to find any training camps, but returned home and allegedly promoted al Qaeda by writing about violent jihad against U.S. foreign policy on the Internet.

Mehanna and his lawyers instead claimed that he traveled to Yemen to receive training to become an Islamic scholar and that his writings on the Internet amounted to free speech.

“The charges scare people,” said J. W. Carney Jr., Mehanna’s lawyer and told reporters they would appeal. “The charges scared us when we first saw them. But the more that we looked at the evidence, the more that we got to know our client Tarek, the more we believed in his innocence.”

Post 9/11, the government has convicted many people on charges of “material support” to terrorists. But free speech advocates insist these are suffocating First Amendment rights and may grow to be even broader in the future.

Mehanna’s lawyers requested a jury instruction on First Amendment issues which included three points of instruction. The first reminded the jury of the right to hold views they regard as appalling. The second emphasized special protection for speech concerning public issues.

And the third explained the material support statute Mehanna was charged with, and makes clear: “To constitute a crime, the material support must be provided at the direction of the terrorist group, or in coordination with the terrorist group, or as a service provided directly to the terrorist group at its request. The statute does not prohibit someone from vigorously promoting and supporting the political goals of the group. This is considered independent advocacy, and is protected by the First Amendment.”

“The ACLU of Massachusetts,” read a statement by executive director of the Massachusetts ACLU Carol Rose, ”is gravely concerned that today’s verdict against Tarek Mehanna undermines the First Amendment and threatens national security.”

“Under the government’s theory of the case, ordinary people–including writers and journalists, academic researchers, translators, and even ordinary web surfers–could be prosecuted for researching or translating controversial and unpopular ideas. If the verdict is not overturned on appeal, the First Amendment will be seriously compromised.”

The Arab Winter: Violence from a US-backed Egyptian military junta

December 21st, 2011 by Patrick Henningsen

Now that the Arab Spring has come and gone, one of the features of the new Arab Winter is watching how a US/UK-backed brutal Egyptian military dictatorship has become increasingly more violent towards its own pro-reform, unarmed citizens.

There are still a few readers left out there who will understandably be a bit confused and ask, “Wait a minute, I thought Egypt’s military dictator President Hosni Mubarak was ousted during the famous Arab Spring? I thought we brought democracy to Egypt?

The answer, of course, is ‘no’ – as democracy never made it to Egypt during the Arab Spring. Instead, the US and UK were under a very tight time table because of what was going on next door in Libya and could not afford to have a civilian government full of democratic idealists running that country. The stakes were just too high.

At the time of Mubarak’s exit in Egypt, both the US and the UK, along with the other participating NATO countries, were busily engaged in a hot contest of regime change and the gradual private takeover of Libya’s economy. In order for NATO’s al-Qeada rebel army to succeed on the ground, and for NATO allies not to be seen breaking the UN’s Resolution 1973 guidelines by being caught directly supplying arms to their proxy army in Libya, they needed a solid ask-no-questions partner in the region for the duration of 2011. That partner came in the form of the new Egyptian military junta, who obediently smuggled arms and al-Qaeda fighters over their western border into eastern Libya to help overthrow the regime of the late Col. Muammar Gaddafi.

The Wall Street Journal reported on March 17, 2011:

“Egypt’s military has begun shipping arms over the border to Libyan rebels with Washington’s knowledge, U.S. and Libyan rebel officials said…

… The shipments-mostly small arms such as assault rifles and ammunition-appear to be the first confirmed case of an outside government arming the rebel fighters. Those fighters have been losing ground for days in the face of a steady westward advance by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.”

For this reason, and for the most part, our moral crusaders in the White House will keep their mouths shut if any reports of naked violence by the Egyptian police state are circulating around Washington DC.

The state-sponsored violence appears to be getting much worse.

Regarding clashes this past weekend, the Daily News Egypt reported:

At least nine people have been killed and around 300 people injured in the two days of clashes, according to the Health Ministry.

“The military council is either fed up or lacks vision in dealing with protests. It’s unbelievable what is happening; the revolution was meant to give us freedom,” said Aboul-Ela Madi, a member of the panel who resigned…

… Aya Emad told the AP that troops dragged her by her headscarf and hair into the Cabinet headquarters. The 24-year-old said soldiers kicked her on the ground, an officer shocked her with an electrical prod and another slapped her on the face, leaving her nose broken and her arm in a sling.

“It was a humiliating scene,” activist Mona Seif told TV network Al-Nahar about seeing soldiers slapping an old woman in the face. “I have never seen this in my life.”

It is important to note that the likes of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and David Cameron are supporting this gruesome violence by the Egyptian State, even in the face of prima facia evidence that the military council is beating and killing its own political opponents. Unlike western crusades to capture the assets of Syria and Iran, following the template of Libya, you will hear no serious moral or lofty ‘human rights’ condemnations of Egypt’s supreme military council coming out of Washington or Whitehall.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Just look at how both the US and UK deal with their own protesters at home.

After seeing Occupy Wall Street activists being intimidated, beaten and pepper sprayed by New York City law enforcement, Egypt’s military has cited those same heavy-handed US police actions against the OWS demonstrators in order to justify their own violent suppression in Cairo. The message to protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square is not so different than the one delivered to demonstrators in New York’s Zuccotti Park – and that is, “Pack up and go home now, or else you could be seriously hurt – or worse.”

Notice now that the only regimes which are safe from US-UK or NATO routing them are the monarchies and the military dictatorships in the Middle East. This should tell you all you really need to know in order to understand the foreign policy of western countries today.

Washington, D.C.- The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) owes it to the half-a-million cholera victims in Haiti to take responsibility for having caused the outbreak, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. Weisbrot also called recent statements by UN’s head of Humanitarian Affairs in Haiti, Nigel Fisher, regarding the origins of the epidemic “false and deceptive.”

“It is deplorable that a full 14 months after the discovery of the first cholera case, the UN continues to dodge responsibility for having reintroduced a deadly disease that has now killed a minimum of 7,000 people,” Weisbrot said. “This is a case of criminal negligence, and the UN, if it is to continue to be worthy of the respect of people around the world, must own up to the fact that it caused this problem.

“Even worse, the UN, through its spokespeople, is attempting to mislead the public about the type of cholera strain that has been identified in Haiti.”

Weisbrot noted that in recent comments to the BBC, Fisher claimed that “The cholera strain we have in Haiti is the same as the one they have in Latin America and Africa. They all derive from Bangladesh in the 1960s so they are all an Asian strain.”

But this directly contradicts several scientific studies. Even the UN’s own report states:  “Overall, this basic bacteriological information indicates the Haitian isolates were similar to the Vibrio cholerae strains currently circulating in South Asia and parts of Africa, and not to strains isolated in the Gulf of Mexico, those found in other parts of Latin America…” and that “A careful analysis of the MLVA results and the ctxB gene indicated that the strains isolated in Haiti and Nepal during 2009 were a perfect match.”

In a case that continues to attract international interest and attention, last month, lawyers with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux filed for damages from the UN on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims. A Brazilian organization, the Faculdade de Direito de Santa Maria, has also filed a separate petition [PDF], seeking intervention by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and calling for the UN to provide compensation to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and other affected countries, and for a fund of at least $500,000,000 to create a public health system in Haiti.

Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460

The multiple nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima plants beginning on March 11, 2011, are releasing large amounts of airborne radioactivity that has spread throughout Japan and to other nations; thus, studies of contamination and health hazards are merited. In the United States, Fukushima fallout arrived just six days after the earthquake, tsunami, and meltdowns. Some samples of radioactivity in precipitation, air, water, and milk, taken by the U.S. government, showed levels hundreds of times above normal; however, the small number of samples prohibits any credible analysis of temporal trends and spatial comparisons.

U.S. health officials report weekly deaths by age in 122 cities, about 25 to 35 percent of the national total. Deaths rose 4.46 percent from 2010 to 2011 in the 14 weeks after the arrival of Japanese fallout, compared with a 2.34 percent increase in the prior 14 weeks. The number of infant deaths after Fukushima rose 1.80 percent, compared with a previous 8.37 percent decrease. Projecting these figures for the entire United States yields 13,983 total deaths and 822 infant deaths in excess of the expected.

These preliminary data need to be followed up, especially in the light of similar preliminary U.S. mortality findings for the four months after Chernobyl fallout arrived in 1986, which approximated final figures. We recently reported on an unusual rise in infant deaths in the northwestern United States for the 10-week period following the arrival of the airborne radioactive plume from the meltdowns at the Fukushima plants in northern Japan. This result suggested that radiation from Japan may have harmed Americans, thus meriting more research.

This result suggested that radiation from Japan may have harmed Americans, thus meriting more research. We noted in the report that the results were preliminary, and the importance of updating the analysis as more health status data become available (1). Shortly after the report was issued, officials from British Columbia, Canada, proximate to the northwestern United States, announced that 21 residents had died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in the first half of 2011, compared with 16 SIDS deaths in all of the prior year. Moreover, the number of deaths from SIDS rose from 1 to 10 in the months of March, April, May, and June 2011, after Fukushima fallout arrived, compared with the same period in 2010 (2).

While officials could not offer any explanation for the abrupt increase, it coincides with our findings in the Pacific Northwest. Any comparison of potential effects of radiation exposure must attempt to examine the dose-response relationship of the exposure of a population. In the United States, the principal source of dose data (i.e., environmental radiation levels) is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Health data are the responsibility of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which provides weekly reports on mortality in 122 U.S. cities. These are preliminary data, but are the most useful at a date so soon after an event such as Fukushima. The goal of this report is to evaluate any potential changes in U.S. mortality resulting from exposure to the Fukushima plume, using EPA and CDC data.

BACKGROUND: POST-CHERNOBYL HEALTH TRENDS

A quarter of a century before the Fukushima disasters, the meltdown at Chernobyl and the presence of environmental fallout presented a similar challenge for researchers to assess any adverse health effects. The discussion that began after the April 26, 1986, meltdown is still very much a current one, with varying estimates. A recent conference concluded that 9,000 persons worldwide survived with or died from cancer (3), while a compendium of more than 5,000 research papers put the excess death toll (from cancer and all other causes) at 985,000 (4). In the United States, Chernobyl fallout was detected in the environment just nine days after the meltdown. Gould and Sternglass (5) used EPA measurements of environmental radiation post-Chernobyl (6) and found elevated levels of radioactivity in air, water, and milk. For example, EPA data indicate that from May 13 to June 23, 1986, U.S. milk had 5.6 and 3.6 times more iodine-131 and cesium-137 than were recorded in May–June of 1985 (see Appendix Table 1, p. 60).

In some cities, especially those in the harder-hit Pacific Northwest, average concentrations were as much as 28 times the norms, while some individual samples were much higher. Gould and Sternglass (5) also studied preliminary mortality data, to analyze any potential impact from fallout. Using a 10 percent sample of all U.S. death certificates, they found that during the four months after Chernobyl (May–August 1986), total deaths in the United States rose 6.0 percent over the similar period in 1985 (see Appendix Table 2) (7; estimated deaths based on a 10% sample of death certificates, minus the New England states, for which data were incomplete at the time).

Eventually, final figures showed an increase of 2.3 percent, which exceeded the 0.2 percent decline in the first four months of the year (8). The number of excess deaths, or the difference between the actual and expected death totals, is 16,573.

To date, the cause of this unusual pattern remains unknown, and no research testing hypotheses for causes other than Chernobyl has been published. This difference has a very high degree of statistical significance; there is a less than 1 in 109 probability that it occurred by random chance. The change in deaths for infants was also analyzed. Preliminary data showed an increase of 3.1 percent in U.S. infant deaths in the first four months after Chernobyl, 1985 versus 1986.

The final increase was 0.1 percent, compared with a 2.3 percent decline in the four months before Chernobyl. The 1985–1986 differences in infant death rates were –2.9 percent (January–April) and +0.4 percent (May–August).

These gaps amounted to excess infant deaths of 306 and 424, and differences were significant at p < 0.08 and p < 0.055. The stillbirth, neonatal, and prenatal mortality increased in England and Wales within 11 months after Chernobyl’s initial release (9, 10), and in Germany (11). In two Ukrainian districts with increased levels of cesium-137 ground contamination, there was a significant increase in stillbirths (12).

U.S. publications offered evidence that Americans may have suffered harm from Chernobyl, especially damage to fetuses and infants. Reports covered elevated levels of various radiation-related disorders, including newborn hypothyroidism (13), infant leukemia (14), and thyroid cancer among children (15). Gould and Sternglass (5) showed that trends using preliminary data were rough approximations of the final data. Because of the lengthy delay in generating final statistics—2011 data will probably not be published on the CDC website until 2014—we believe that analyzing preliminary health data at this time is a useful exercise that can approximate final mortality patterns and help guide future research on the effects of fallout from the Fukushima meltdowns.

…  [...]

RESULTS U.S.

Total Deaths

During weeks 12 to 25, total deaths in 119 U.S. cities increased from 148,395 (2010) to 155,015 (2011), or 4.46 percent. This was nearly double the 2.34 percent rise in total deaths (142,006 to 145,324) in 104 cities for the prior 14 weeks, significant at p < 0.000001 (Table 2). This difference between actual and expected changes of +2.12 percentage points (+4.46% – 2.34%) translates to 3,286 “excess” deaths (155,015 × 0.0212) nationwide.

Assuming a total of 2,450,000 U.S. deaths will occur in 2011 (47,115 per week), then 23.5 percent of deaths are reported (155,015/14 = 11,073, or 23.5% of 47,115).

Dividing 3,286 by 23.5 percent yields a projected 13,983 excess U.S. deaths in weeks 12 to 25 of 2011.

After March 19, 2011, total deaths were higher than a year earlier in 11 of the 14 weeks, with a 7.5 percent or greater increase in four of the weeks.

The greatest rise occurred in weeks 12 to 20, with a 5.37 percent increase (96,900 to 102,108). In weeks 21 to 25, the increase was a considerably lower 2.74 percent (51,495 to 52,907).

Whether this pattern will continue into the future or is temporary is not yet known.

[...]

Continue Reading (Complete article).

VIDEO: Against AFRICOM: Questioning the US Agenda in Africa

December 20th, 2011 by Cynthia McKinney

Impact Seen As Roughly Comparable to Radiation-Related Deaths After Chernobyl; Infants Are Hardest Hit, With Continuing Research Showing Even Higher Possible Death Count.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – An estimated 14,000 excess deaths in the United States are linked to the radioactive fallout from the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, according to a major new article in the December 2011 edition of the International Journal of Health Services.   This is the first peer-reviewed study published in a medical journal documenting the health hazards of Fukushima.

TO READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE,

International Journal of Health Services, Volume 42, Number 1, Pages 47–64, 2012 (based at the Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health)  [Global Research Editor's Note: IJHS is a prestigious peer reviewed journal.]

Authors Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman note that their estimate of 14,000 excess U.S. deaths in the 14 weeks after the Fukushima meltdowns is comparable to the 16,500 excess deaths in the 17 weeks after the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986.  The rise in reported deaths after Fukushima was largest among U.S. infants under age one.  The 2010-2011 increase for infant deaths in the spring was 1.8 percent, compared to a decrease of 8.37 percent in the preceding 14 weeks.

The IJHS article will be published Tuesday and will be available online as of 11 a.m. EST at http://www.radiation.org.

Just six days after the disastrous meltdowns struck four reactors at Fukushima on March 11, scientists detected the plume of toxic fallout had arrived over American shores.  Subsequent measurements by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found levels of radiation in air, water, and milk hundreds of times above normal across the U.S.  The highest detected levels of Iodine-131 in precipitation in the U.S. were as follows (normal is about 2 picocuries I-131 per liter of water):  Boise, ID (390); Kansas City (200); Salt Lake City (190); Jacksonville, FL (150); Olympia, WA (125); and Boston, MA (92).

Epidemiologist Joseph Mangano, MPH MBA, said: “This study of Fukushima health hazards is the first to be published in a scientific journal.  It raises concerns, and strongly suggests that health studies continue, to understand the true impact of Fukushima in Japan and around the world.  Findings are important to the current debate of whether to build new reactors, and how long to keep aging ones in operation.”

Mangano is executive director, Radiation and Public Health Project, and the author of 27 peer-reviewed medical journal articles and letters.  

Internist and toxicologist Janette Sherman, MD, said: “Based on our continuing research, the actual death count here may be as high as 18,000, with influenza and pneumonia, which were up five-fold in the period in question as a cause of death. Deaths are seen across all ages, but we continue to find that infants are hardest hit because their tissues are rapidly multiplying, they have undeveloped immune systems, and the doses of radioisotopes are proportionally greater than for adults.”

Dr. Sherman is an adjunct professor, Western Michigan University, and contributing editor of “Chernobyl – Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment” published by the NY Academy of Sciences in 2009, and author of “Chemical Exposure and Disease and Life’s Delicate Balance – Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues weekly reports on numbers of deaths for 122 U.S. cities with a population over 100,000, or about 25-30 percent of the U.S.  In the 14 weeks after Fukushima fallout arrived in the U.S. (March 20 to June 25), deaths reported to the CDC rose 4.46 percent from the same period in 2010, compared to just 2.34 percent in the 14 weeks prior.  Estimated excess deaths during this period for the entire U.S. are about 14,000.

America’s Delusional Democracy. Don’t Mute Newt

December 20th, 2011 by Joel S. Hirschhorn

The trick to maintaining the US delusional democracy is feeding the illusion for citizens that voting and elections really matter.  But when both major parties are owned by rich and corporate elites it matters less than most people think whether Republicans or Democrats win and control Congress or the White House.  Their seeming differences are a clever distraction that keeps fooling and manipulating Americans.  With the help of the mainstream media, making entertainment out of political races, Americans are deceived into thinking that elections deserve their respect and participation. 

As power shifts periodically from one party to the other partner of the two-party plutocracy, the illusion of meaningful change sustains the corrupt, dysfunctional political and government system and the economy rewarding the top one percent.  Winning politicians are adept at lying convincingly, especially about change and reforms and, like well advertised products, Americans consume the lies.

The perennial problem is that despite what so many Americans view as failed presidencies and, even more clearly, failed Congresses, no Second American Revolution is produced that would return the government to we the people.  The biggest lie of all: Elections can fix the broken system.

The candidacy of Newt Gingrich presents a historic opportunity for a new, bigger form of failure that could clarify to most Americans just how broken the electoral system is.  On the one hand, the widespread anti-Obama sentiment coupled with a crippled economy could be sufficient to elect any Republican opponent.  On the other hand, despite a long list of Gingrich deficiencies proclaimed by many mute-Newt conservatives and Republicans, he just might grab the Republican nomination and beat Obama.  Counter intuitively, President Gingrich could help revive American democracy.  He is the failure we have been waiting for, just the right old, fat, loud mouth, hypocritical white guy.

He would be such an utter and complete disaster as President that, finally, a vast majority of Americans, especially those that still vote, would reach a heightened level of despair, anger and disgust that some form of rebellion akin to what created the nation in the first place could occur.  Think of Gingrich as the Segway President: all hype and fakery with no possibility of success, being much, much worse that George W. Bush and Barrack Obama.

In other words, the US would finally reach a bottomed-out political state more analogous to the tyrannical regimes that have fallen to grassroots revolutions.  The illusion of a functioning democracy would melt away and the nonsense of being the greatest democracy would become crystal clear.  History suggests that things must get so bad and painful that no amount of rationalizations, propaganda, lies and distractions can keep sustaining a corrupt and delusional democracy.

In this nightmare-salvation scenario, here are possible concrete actions that would put the US on the path to revolutionary reforms: overwhelming public demands for reform constitutional amendments through the use of an Article V convention bypassing Congress, successful emergence of a competitive third party, massive voting out of incumbent Democrats and Republicans, a stronger Occupy movement leading a populist, nonpartisan rebellion aimed at overturning the status quo political and economic system.

Even if you cannot get yourself to vote for Gingrich you can still help by not voting for any of his Republican opponents in primaries and, later, not voting for Obama.  Think of this behavior as courageous patriotic dissent.  Desperate action for desperate times.  Sure, you might worry about some awful consequences for the nation from a scary Gingrich presidency.  Against this, however, how much more can the nation suffer from presidencies that serve rich and corporate interests rather than the 99 percent?  With Gingrich we could get a populist backlash to drive rebellion and reform.  Any system that produced a President Gingrich would clearly justify tearing it down.

The recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 50 percent of Americans polled would never vote for Gingrich, clearly a sign of how little trust and confidence he engenders.  This sentiment must be overcome by seeing Gingrich as the devilish stimulus for national rebellion against the two-party oligarchy.  Of note, 37 percent said they were certain to vote against Obama, and 34 percent said the two-party system is seriously broken, and the country needs a third party.  But the current system has been rigged to make a third party presidential candidacy extremely difficult, though the Americans Elect effort may be significant in 2012.

Note that a President Romney would probably not help; he just does not have what it takes to talk and behave recklessly, stupidly and crazily enough to embarrass and chagrin most Americans at historic levels.  Unlike the genuinely reptilian Gingrich, Romney is no more genuine than our current democracy, which would stay fake.  Like Obama, Romney has far too much self-control to be bad enough to wake up Americans to our warped democracy.  Replacing Obama with Romney would be like choosing white eggs instead of brown eggs; a difference without distinction.

Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through delusionaldemocracy.com.


Nearly two months after NATO warplanes ended their bombing campaign in Libya, the New York Times has now published “an investigation” by its staff writers that purports to show that “civilians were killed in several distinct attacks” [1]. The so-called “paper of record” goes on to say in its article published 17 December that it has found evidence that the “air campaign was not as flawless as NATO has described” – nor, it should be added, as the New York Times itself tended to report at the time of the atrocities.

NATO powers, led by the United States, Britain and France, began bombing Libya on 19 March, supposedly with a United Nations Security Council mandate to “protect civilians”. Western mainstream media, including the New York Times, enthusiastically endorsed the NATO military onslaught, even though technically and legally it went well beyond the mandate to set up a “no-fly zone” over Libya purportedly to protect civilians, who were allegedly coming under attack from the state forces of Muammar Gaddafi.

The NATO bombing campaign – involving cruise missiles, fighter jets and unmanned drones – escalated over seven months until its cessation on 31 October, when it had succeeded in its unofficial objective of overthrowing the Gaddafi government, having served as the air force for anti-Gaddafi insurgents.  Indeed without the might of NATO air power, it is unlikely that the rabble of so-called rebels would have made much progress beyond their stronghold in Benghazi in the far east of the North African country. Some 8,000 strike sorties were carried out by NATO warplanes, according to the Western alliance’s own admission. The true figure is probably much higher.

Global Research, along with other alternative media sources, had reported on the civilian casualties and the criminality of such military strikes during the months of NATO bombardment. See this report by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, for example [2].

Nevertheless, from the outset of NATO’s bombing and during the seven months of aerial attacks, the Western mainstream media served as cheerleaders for the campaign, running stories that delegitimised the Gaddafi government, exaggerated images and claims of popular support for the insurgents, scoffed at official Libyan claims of civilian atrocities committed by NATO, downplayed or did not report incidents of NATO bombing of civilian sites, and gave prominent coverage of NATO denials of civilian deaths and casualties.

Now, lo and behold, the New York Times appears to be realizing that the NATO bombardment of Libya was indeed not “cost free”, as it tends to delicately describe civilian horrors.

“The Times has found credible accounts of dozens of civilians killed in several distinct attacks, of an attack on rebels and an ambulance that NATO explicitly denied, and of structures that seem to have been hit by mistake [sic],” it tells us.

The paper cites 13 cases of what it calls “errant NATO strikes” at locations across Libya, including the capital, Tripoli, Brega, Misurata, Surt and Zlitan. It says that the victims included women and children and the total number of fatalities at the sites it examined amounts to “at least 40 and perhaps more than 70 killed by NATO”.

A definition of the attack sites and targets visited by the NYT is not clear; at different points in its report, the paper talks of 13 cases, 25 sites and 150 targets, including bunkers, buildings and vehicles.  But what is clear is that the number of civilian casualties that the NYT reports as being “at least 40 and perhaps more than 70” – only from its examinations – would be a tiny fraction of the total number of civilian deaths committed by NATO across Libya during the entire seven months.

With nearly 8,000 strike sorties admitted by NATO and taken as a conservative estimate of the actual number, it may be reasonably estimated that the actual number of civilian deaths inflicted by NATO across Libya amount to several thousand. This is a damning conclusion to Western government militaries acting with what was supposed to have been a mandate to “protect civilians”. Indeed, it is evidence of massive war crimes committed by NATO.

Yet the New York Times, far from displaying truthful, investigative journalism, appears to be concealing the real extent of the war crimes committed by NATO.

The NYT admits that its figures for civilian casualties are not “complete accounting”. It goes on: “Survivors and doctors working for the anti-Qaddafi interim authorities point to dozens more civilians wounded in these and other strikes, and they referred reporters to other sites… “because the Times did not examine sites in several cities and towns where the air campaign was active, the casualty estimate could be low.”

The question is: why did the New York Times not follow up on leads that point to more accurate and much greater accounting of the total number of the civilian death toll caused by NATO? The answer is obvious: because it would show the kind of massive casualties deduced above, the criminality of NATO governments and the complicity of Western mainstream media, such as the New York Times itself, in endorsing this military operation under the fraudulent pretext of R2P (responsibility to protect).

So, why would the NYT now shed partial light on the criminal nature of NATO’s Libyan bloodbath? Possibly, there are reasons of vanity. The ‘paper of record’ no doubt salves its own conscience and that of its readers in appearing to “tell some harsh truths”. And for the sake of historical record, the NYT can now produce citations that suggest it did not behave as an abject mouthpiece for Western government militarism in Libya.

But there is another insidious effect from the NYT’s “investigation” into NATO’s civilian deaths in Libya. Its latest reporting is replete with bias towards the notion that the evidence is not one of criminal atrocities, but rather one of “unintended mistakes” committed by NATO that resulted in “collateral damage”.

“There are indications that [NATO] took many steps to avoid harming civilians,” says the NYT report… “operations were devised and supervised with exceptional care”.  Repeatedly, the paper refers to “collateral deaths” “fatal mistakes” “mistaken attacks” “errant strikes” “lethal accidents” “unintended victims”.

Under the guise of “boldly telling the truth” the NYT – supposedly one of the stalwarts of independent Western journalism – ends up apologizing for and concealing mass murder committed by the governments of the US, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, along with Persian Gulf allies Qatar and United Arab Emirates.

Other troubling questions remain about the standard of NYT journalism, or should we say propaganda. Some of the civilian casualties that the paper investigates two months after the ending of the NATO bombing campaign were not reported by the NYT at the time of the incidents. One incident involved a mother and two young sons who were killed when NATO warplanes hit their home in Zlitan on 4 August. Another incident was that of a NATO strike on a seven-storey apartment block in Surt on 16 September killing at least one woman, who died after both her arms were severed in the blast. Searches in the NYT archives by Global Research found no reports pertaining to these atrocities. The NYT had staff based in Libya during the NATO bombardment. Why were such incidents not investigated at the time? Or maybe they were, but just not disclosed?

One of the case studies highlighted by the latest NYT article is the NATO bombing of a food warehouse in Surman on 30 March. Again, there appear to be no reports in the NYT at around the time of the attack. Yet in the latest investigation published on 17 December, the NYT refers to satellite imagery of the attack at Surman that is dated 23 August. Why did the New York Times not report this criminal bombing of a food warehouse until nearly nine months after the incident and four months after the date of the satellite evidence?

More disturbing is indication that the New York Times deliberately obfuscated the magnitude of a second NATO war crime near the town of Zlitan, east of Tripoli. On 8 August, Agence France Presse and various non-Western media reported the deaths of up to 85 civilians after NATO warplanes repeatedly attacked several farmhouses. Global Research published images at the time that clearly showed that the targets were civilian homes, contradicting NATO claims that the sites were military facilities.

On 9 August, the NYT ran this short 175-word report from Reuters under the headline: Libya Says Civilians Died in Strike [3].

ZLITAN, Libya (Reuters) — Libyan officials said Tuesday that dozens of civilians had been killed in a NATO strike on a cluster of farmhouses east of the capital, Tripoli, but the alliance said it had hit a legitimate military target.

A spokesman for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government who took foreign reporters to the site said 85 people had been killed when missiles struck farm compounds in the village of Majar, about 90 miles east of Tripoli. He said 33 children, 32 women and 20 men had been killed.

Standing on a pile of rubble, the spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, said: “This is a crime beyond imagination. Everything about this place is civilian.”

There was no evidence of weapons at the farmhouses, but there were no bodies there, either. Nor was there blood.

At a news conference in Brussels, a NATO military spokesman said the target of the strikes was a military staging area that was being used to support government attacks on civilians. “This was a legitimate target,” said the spokesman, Col. Roland Lavoie.”

Note that the NYT gives prominence to NATO justification for the attack even though there was credible evidence from eyewitnesses, doctors and other media outlets that a serious war crime had been committed. Note too that the NYT uses a Reuters dispatch. Why wasn’t a member of its own staff sent to report? Note too that the above report highlights the official Libyan source of information on the casualties, instead of an abundant number of eyewitnesses and medics reported by other media, which has the effect of implying that the information is less than credible. Finally, why did the NYT not follow up this horrific incident in the subsequent days, dispatching its own staff to the scene?

As it turns out, the latest NYT investigation published on 17 December confirms that the village of Majar, near Zlitan, did witness an atrocity in which dozens of civilians were killed by NATO bombers on 8 August. This is corroborated by surgeons and medics who treated the victims, as well as by death certificates. The Times puts the death toll at 35, less than the 58-85 reported elsewhere. But regardless of the exact figure, this is clearly an atrocity, a war crime. But the Times does not call it by name. Instead, even in its “investigative follow-up” – four months after the deadly attack – the NYT still reiterates NATO claims that the homes were a “military staging area”. It reports: “NATO told the New York Times it had reviewed the strikes and that claims of civilians casualties were not corroborated by ‘available factual information’.”

Time and again the NYT does not challenge the NATO propaganda line, even in its supposed hard-hitting investigation, merely leaving NATO’s claims as a final ambiguous punctuation on the matter.

It is hard not to conclude that if the NYT had really carried out its supposed journalistic mission of telling the truth at the time of such atrocities in Libya, then NATO’s criminal war on Libya would not have had the crucial media cover/obfuscation that allowed the war to be waged. The atrocity at Zlitan came at a pivotal time in NATO’s campaign to overthrow Gaddafi. It paved the way for NATO’s proxies on the ground to make the final assault on Tripoli. 
 
Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa correspondent

[email protected]

NOTES

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/world/africa/scores-of-unintended-casualties-in-nato-war-in-libya.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha2

[2] http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=25966

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/10/world/africa/10libya.html?scp=2&sq=reuters+libya&st=nyt

The US could use a preemptive strike against  Iranian nuclear facilities if intelligence reports show that the country is on track to developing a nuclear weapon.

In an interview with CBS, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that Iran  would need less than a year to develop a nuclear weapon, but only if “they have a uranium enrichment plant hidden somewhere”.

Tensions are soaring inside Iraq tonight, as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose government is on the brink of collapse, has ordered his Vice President, Tareq al-Hashemi, arrested on terrorism charges.

An arrest warrant was issued for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi according to Article 4 of the terrorism law and is signed by five judges,” confirmed an Interior Ministry spokesman. Of course Iraq has no permanent Interior Minister, as this along with the Defense Ministry have been kept under Maliki’s de facto control.

Maliki ordered Hashemi detained at an airport only yesterday, claiming they thought his bodyguards were responsible for assassinations. Since then the state-run media has been broadcasting confessions of bodyguards linking Hashemi to the scheme.

Hashemi has been vice president since 2006, and one of the nation’s most influential Sunni politicians. This makes the potential of his arrest even more controversial for the Shi’ite-dominated government, as it is liable to fuel more sectarian anger.

PRESS RELEASE TORONTO, ON., CANADA- 19/12/2011

ECONOMIC THINK TANK CONFRONTS THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL POWERS IN CANADIAN FEDERAL COURT.

RESTORE THE USE OF THE BANK OF CANADA FOR THE BENEFIT OF CANADIANS AND REMOVE IT FROM THE CONTROL OF INTERNATIONAL PRIVATE ENTITIES WHOSE INTERESTS AND DIRECTIVES ARE PLACED ABOVE THE INTEREST OF CANADIANS AND THE PRIMACY OF THE CONSTITUTION OF CANADA

Canadian constitutional lawyer, Rocco Galati, on behalf of Canadians William Krehm, and Ann Emmett, and COMER (Committee for Monetary and Economic Reform) on December 12th, 2011 filed an action in Federal Court, to restore the use of the Bank of Canada to its original purpose, by exercising its public statutory duty and responsibility. That purpose includes making interest free loans to municipal/provincial/federal governments for “human capital” expenditures (education, health, other social services) and /or infrastructure expenditures.

The action also constitutionally challenges the government’s fallacious accounting methods in its tabling of the budget by not calculating nor revealing the true and total revenues of the nation before transferring back “tax credits” to corporations and other taxpayers.

The Plaintiffs state that since 1974 there has been a gradual but sure slide into the reality that the Bank of Canada and Canada’s monetary and financial policy are dictated by private foreign banks and financial interests contrary to the Bank of Canada Act.

The Plaintiffs state that the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), the Financial Stability Forum (FSF) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were all created with the cognizant intent of keeping poorer nations in their place which has now expanded to all nations in that these financial institutions largely succeed in over-riding governments and constitutional orders in countries such as Canada over which they exert financial control.

The Plaintiffs state that the meetings of the BIS and Financial Stability Board (FSB) (successor of FSF), their minutes, their discussions and deliberations are secret and not available nor accountable to Parliament, the executive, nor the Canadian public notwithstanding that the Bank of Canada policies directly emanate from these meetings. These organizations are essentially private, foreign entities controlling Canada’s banking system and socio-economic policies.

The Plaintiffs state that the defendants (officials) are unwittingly and /or wittingly, in varying degrees, knowledge and intent engaged in a conspiracy, along with the BIS, FSB, IMF to render impotent the Bank of Canada Act as well as Canadian sovereignty over financial, monetary, and socio-economic policy, and bypass the sovereign rule of Canada through its Parliament by means of banking and financial systems.

A press conference will be held on Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. to answer any questions the media may have of the Plaintiffs at: 637 College Street, Suite 203, Toronto, Ontario.

The 2000 Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which was the backbone of the NeoCon’s agenda, was predicated on “waging a war without borders”.

The PNAC’s declared objectives were to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars” in different regions of the world as well as perform the so-called military “constabulary” duties “associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions”. Global constabulary implies a worldwide process of military policing and interventionism, including covert operations and “regime change”.

This diabolical military project formulated by the NeoCons was adopted and implemented from the very outset of the Obama administration. With a new team of military and foreign policy advisers, Obama has been far more effective in fostering military escalation than his White House predecessor, George Bush Junior….

Escalation and Military Redeployment

The Iraq war is “officially over”. The thrust of US foreign policy in the wake of the Iraq war is not towards “peace” but towards military escalation and redeployment in all major regions of the World. This process is supported by new military technologies including cyber warfare as well the development of special forces.  

The Pentagon’s global military design is one of world conquest. The emphasis in the wake of Iraq will be placed on the militarization of the Asia Pacific region requiring the redeployment of military capabilities from Europe to South East Asia and the Far East, visibly implying a military build-up directed against the “region’s rising economic and military power”, namely The People’s Republic of China. To this effect, the US will be reinforcing its military ties with several Asian and Pacific countries including Australia, South Korea, Japan, India, Singapore and  The Philippines:

The United States has laid bare its concerns about China. Obama last month announced that the United States would post up to 2,500 Marines in the northern Australian city of Darwin by 2016-17, a move criticized by Beijing.

The United States also has some 70,000 troops stationed in Japan and South Korea under longstanding alliances and has offered assistance to the Philippines which launched its newest warship on Wednesday.

Singapore is also a long-standing partner of the United States. The US military already operates a small post in the city-state that assists in logistics and exercises for forces in Southeast Asia. (AFP Report, December 17, 2011, emphasis added)

A report published in Stars and Stripes, December 19, 2011 confirms the Pentagon`s continued resolve to wage a global war, with increasingly advanced weapons systems:

A day after the last U.S. troops left Iraq, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the U.S. military must redirect its focus of the last 10 years from preparing for continuous deployments to training, with an eye toward the growing strategic importance of the Pacific region.“

-As a global power, “we cannot afford to pick a point on the spectrum of conflict and say ‘that’s what we’re going to be best at,’ ”

“We have to be capable of providing options to our leaders to deal with problems across the entire spectrum.”

-The U.S. military…will look at how to integrate new capabilities into training, such as cyber expertise and special forces, the number of which have quadrupled over the last decade or so`.

“We have to restore readiness for all potential forms of warfare,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey told a crowd of more than 400 U.S. military members and civilians at a town hall meeting Monday in Ramstein’s officers’ club.

In the last 10 to 15 years, Dempsey said, there’s been “a pretty prominent shift of strategic risk towards the Pacific,” as defined by changing demographics and the region’s rising economic and military power [i.e. China].

That doesn’t mean the U.S. military is “going to pick everybody out of Europe and put them in Japan” or South Korea, he said, but “you will see some shifts.”

Dempsey didn’t say what those shifts might be, but stressed that “as we shift, we’re going to have to think through, how do we maintain the foundation of our traditional strategic relationships,” with the country’s current partners and allies.

As a global power, “we cannot afford to pick a point on the spectrum of conflict and say ‘that’s what we’re going to be best at,’ ” he said. “We have to be capable of providing options to our leaders to deal with problems across the entire spectrum.”

One area future training may focus on is the ability of the U.S. military to operate in areas without fixed bases, unlike the so-called “forward operating bases” in Iraq and Afghanistan, complete with working fiber optics and satellite dishes, for example.

“We’ve got to rekindle our skills to be mobile, to maneuver and to have the ability … to establish architectures that don’t always exist,” Dempsey said.

The U.S. military also will look at how to integrate new capabilities into training, such as cyber expertise and special forces, the number of which have quadrupled over the last decade or so, according to Dempsey. (See  Jennifer H. Svan, Dempsey: Future to focus on training ‘for all potential forms of warfare’, Stars and Stripes, December 19, 2011, emphasis added)

December 19, 2011

India, Japan, US to meet in Washington on Asia-Pacific
Yashwant Raj

Washington: India, the US and Japan are holding their first trilateral meeting later in the day in Washington in what is being widely seen as a move to coordinate push back against a common competitor — China.

All three countries are seeking to enlarge their respective roles in the Asia-Pacific region, with the US pushing most aggressively. They are members of the East Asia Summit.

The trilateral meeting is being held at the level of officials only — joint secretaries Jawed Ashraf and Gautam Bambwale from India will be meeting counterparts from the US and Japan.

While the three countries will have a lot of talk about trade, economy and nuclear weapons, experts expect China to be the big issue on the table.

At a Track II discussion on the talks in August – hosted by a think-tank Center for Strategic International Studies – participants agreed China was a shared concern.

“The United States, Japan and India share concerns at the rapid pace of China’s military modernization and operations, the lack of transparency in this military build-up, its assertive posture and questions about China’s intentions with respect to territorial disputes, cyberspace, and outer space,” the CSIS said in a statement on the talks, which were off-record.

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The “Official End” of the Bush-Cheney Disaster in Iraq?

December 20th, 2011 by Prof Rodrigue Tremblay

“Just think of what happened after 9/11. Immediately before there was any assessment there was glee in the [Bush-Cheney] administration because now we can invade Iraq.” Ron Paul, U.S. Congressman (R-Tex.) and 2012 Republican presidential candidate

After the war [against Iraq] has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America’s image around the globe.” Sen. Robert Byrd, (D-W.Va), March 19, 2003

Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end… Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.” President Barack Obama, Friday, February 27, 2009

The Obama administration officially put an end to the Iraq war  on Thursday December 15, 2011, close to nine years after the March 20, 2003 military invasion of Iraq, dubbed “shock-and-awe.”

I had not intend to comment on the end of this most unnecessary war, but since I wrote a book to explain how it all came about, I feel that I must say something.
Analysts have begun to describe this war, launched on false pretenses, as “the Biggest Mistake In American Military History.” 

Indeed, beginning right after 9/11 and throughout 2002, the Bush-Cheney administration had its mind firmly set to invade Iraq military, and no fact, law or argument could deter it from doing so.

In that, it was following the blueprint that neocons and pro-Israel “Likudniks” under the leadership of Paul Wolfowitz (Bush’s future deputy secretary of defense) and Lewis “Scooter” Libby (Cheney’s future chief of staff) had drafted in 2000 under the auspices of “The Project for the New American Century”, in a report entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses, Strategy: Forces and Resources For a New Century“. 

This was a neo-conservative imperial project that became officially the “Bush Doctrine”. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_Doctrine] Its goal was to project, as far as possible into the future, the “unipolar advantageous position” that the United States inherited after the break-up of the Soviet Union, in December 1991.

It was really a hubristic and bare-knuckle strategy of world hegemony, based upon unilateral interventionism—militarily, economically and politically—by the U.S. It was an “America First” doctrine, based not upon modern international law, but rather on a solipsistic approach to American interests and the elementary principle of brute force. In fact, it was a giant step backward that could have consequences for decades to come.

In the book that I wrote in 2003 to denounce such a suicidal shift in American foreign policy (see: The New American Empire), I pointed out that “the ‘Bush Doctrine’ was a near identical reenactment of the infamous 1968 Soviet Union’s ‘Brezhnev Doctrine’, which …paved the way for the [Soviet] invasion Afghanistan in 1979.” Ultimately, it also led to the demise of the Soviet Union.

Contrary to what some still think, the war against Iraq did not arise from a generous desire to promote democracy around the world. In fact, “spreading democracy” was little more than a domestic war propaganda slogan.

After the events of 9/11, the policy was to divert the war against international terrorism and the al Qaeda network, and turn it towards the real big prize, i.e. Iraq, its armaments and its oil. In the spirit of the newly designed “Bush Doctrine”, it was obvious that the war against international terrorism offered a strategic opportunity to promote American interests around the world.

Nobody can understand why so many lies, so many distortions and so many artifices were used by the Bush-Cheney administration and its sycophants in the media to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq, a country that had no connection to 9/11 whatsoever, if one does not understand the policy that prepared it.

But here we are with that most unnecessary war and what are the results?

This is a war that destroyed a country, killed hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants and drove ,4500 American soldiers to their death and severely injured 30,000 more.
This was a war that did not improve U.S. National Security to any extent, because it has now made Islamist Iran the primary influence in the Middle East region.

Moreover, this is a war that seriously diminished the United States’ global credibility and moral posture around the world.

Finally, this is a war that has also contributed in breaking the U.S. economy,  because it caused the U.S. government’s fiscal deficit to spiral out of control and because that deficit was mainly financed with foreign debt.

All considered, except for the war profiteers  who filled their pockets, this so-called Iraq war was an unmitigated disaster.

Prof. Rodrigue Tremblay, an economist, is the author of the book “The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, Please visit the book site at:

www.TheCodeForGlobalEthics.com  

http://www.TheNewAmericanEmpire.com/tremblay=1143.htm

To write to the author:

[email protected]  

Even though it has spent at least $60 billion to destroy them, the Pentagon is losing the battle to combat the Improvised Explosive Devices(IEDs), which have accounted for two out of every three U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. This won’t stop the Pentagon, though, from spending another $10.1 billion on them next year as it struggles to reduce the human toll the IEDs are taking in its longest-ever war.

While 10 to 15 percent of the IEDs that go off maim or kill U.S. soldiers, “The statistical likelihood of (an enemy) being killed or hurt while planting a bomb was close to zero”, writes Andrew Cockburn in the November issue of Harper’s magazine. By May, 2007, he reported, some 70,000 IEDs were planted in Iraq alone.

“Assembled from cooking pots, mobile phones, flashlight batteries, farm fertilizer, and other commonplace items, these home-made weapons have altered the course of the Iraqi and Afghan wars,” Cockburn writes. “They are also as far removed from our industrial approach to warfare as it is possible to be.”

According to Wikipedia, “In 2009, there were 7,228 IED attacks in Afghanistan, a 120 percent increase over 2008, and a record for the war.

Last year, “IED attacks in Afghanistan wounded 3,366 U.S. soldiers, which is nearly 60 percent of the total IED-wounded since the start of the war…Insurgents planted 14,661 IEDs in 2010, a 62 percent increase over the previous year,” Wikipedia said.

“As a general rule, we find about 50 percent of the IEDs before they go off,” General Michael Oates told Cockburn. The other 50 percent do detonate but of this group one-third do no harm because they were set incorrectly or were not sufficiently lethal or failed to pierce the protective gear of the troops, Oates continued. But, “Somewhere between 10 and 15 percent kill or harm our soldiers or our equipment, and that number’s been very stubborn since about 2004.”

Military analyst Rex Rivolo said the human networks employed making, planting and triggering the IEDs provide jobs for 15,000 workers so that it “counts as a definite growth sector.” IED-planters earn about $15 per job. Rivolo said the best way to inhibit their deployment was to operate low-flying light aircraft over areas where IEDs might be planted.

“When Rivolo oversaw a test-exercise in Jordan in 2005 that clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of the light-aircraft approach, all copies of the resulting report were recalled and destroyed,” Cockburn wrote. Rivolo told him, “It was too cheap for their taste.” Rivolo headed research at the Counter-IED Operations Integration Center in Baghdad.

A concurring view comes from Franklin Spinney, a former Pentagon analyst, who said that those who come up with simple responses to nullify the IED impact “are the antithesis of the techno-war that keeps the money flowing. The American military has sold the idea that complex technologies coupled to step-by-step analytical procedures can negate all the uncertainties and surprises of combat to solve any problem in war.”

A big part of the U.S. response money has been plowed into sophisticated surveillance systems. The Air Force and the Army are hard at work building blimps costing $211 million and $517 million, respectively, that can hover 20,000 feet or higher for a week at a time that will spy over large areas to detect IED planters.

Those who plant IEDs are regarded as High Value Targets, or HVTs, and their eradication is “the ultimate objective of our entire counter-IED strategy,” Cockburn writes. Yet, when HVT bomb-planters are killed, attacks within three miles of their strikes increase by an average of 20 percent, he writes.

According to Rivolo, the reason is “our principal strategy in Iraq is counterproductive and needs to be evaluated.” The slain HVTs were almost always replaced at once, usually within 24 hours and, Rivolo said, “The new guy is going to work harder.”

If the strategy is counter-productive, a cynic may well wonder if the goal in Afghanistan isn’t so much to win—-as to spend. #

Sherwood Ross, who worked formerly as a columnist for major dailies and wire services, writes on current affairs and runs a public relations firm “for good causes.” Reach him at [email protected] 

“Our war there will be over. All of our troops will be out of Iraq,” President Barack Obama said in his Dec. 17 weekly radio address.

But while combat troops are leaving, for now at least, the U.S. government is creating a staff of 16,000 for its newly constructed embassy in the heart of Baghdad. Although Iraq has only 28 million people, the new U.S. embassy is the largest in the world. It is a massive compound that is one and a half square miles-—an enormous complex of 22 buildings and the size of 94 football fields. Half of the 16,000-person staff will consist of a private military army made up of mercenaries under the control of the State Department. The State Department budget for the embassy is estimated at $25-30 billion over the next five years.

In addition, the Pentagon retains a vast network of bases, sea and air power surrounding Iraq. Washington’s intention clearly is to dominate Iraq for many years to come in a colonial-type relationship. Iraq possesses the second largest oil reserves in the world.

Obama’s speech was the latest in a series of appearances seeking to bolster the president’s re-election prospects by associating himself with “the end of the war in Iraq.”

The dishonesty of this presentation would be considered breathtaking except for the fact that his deception fits exactly into the pattern of lies and deceit practiced by all other Democrats and Republicans who have served as the CEO of the U.S. imperialist state.

While trying to ingratiate himself with the service members, veterans and their families, Obama vastly underestimated the real damage done to them, stating that “tens of thousands have been wounded.”

The official Pentagon figure of U.S. wounded is around 32,000. But a Brown University 2011 study reported that, of the 1.25 million service members who had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan at that time, nearly half had filed disability claims—in others words, 600,000, a big majority Iraq veterans. Nor did the president mention that many thousands of returning vets are now homeless, living in the streets—a number that grows daily.

No mention either that the war in Iraq has already cost more than a trillion dollars and will likely end up costing more than $3 trillion in the end due to long-term interest, disability and health cost.

But the most glaring omission was the catastrophic impact of the war on Iraq and its people. “For nearly nine years, our nation has been at war in Iraq,” said Obama. In reality, the war in Iraq has been going on for more than two decades: The 1991 “Desert Storm” destruction of the country’s infrastructure and a lethal 13-year sanctions blockade preceded the 2003 invasion and occupation.

More than two million Iraqis have died as a result of war and sanctions, an estimated 4.5 million have been displaced and an unknown number, but one which must be counted in the millions, wounded. There are over one million widows in Iraq. All this in a country of just 28 million people.

The U.S. occupiers disbanded the entire government and shut down all vital service systems, such as health care and food distribution. The occupation deliberately pitted religious and ethnic groups against each other, using the classic methods of colonial divide-and-rule. This policy greatly exacerbated sectarian violence that took a toll in the hundreds of thousands and continues to plague Iraq today. A once relatively stable society was ripped to shreds.

There is not a single reference in the president’s proclamation about the horrific crimes committed against Iraq. Just colonialist-style statements like, “Iraq’s future will be in the hands of its own people.” As if the U.S. occupation had, instead of inflicting untold destruction, been a training session for the Iraqi people in self-government.

Iraq had been an independent country for 45 years after kicking out the British colonizers in 1958, and was one of the most economically and socially advanced countries in the Arab world prior to the 1991 war.

Despite all that they have suffered, the Iraqi people have a long and proud history of struggle against imperialism and injustice, a struggle that will continue.

For more on the hidden history of Iraq, read “Our view on modern Iraq: An anti-colonial revolution in perspective”

“Godfather” of Colombian Army Intelligence Acquitted in Palace of Justice Case

December 19th, 2011 by The National Security Archive

Gen. Iván Ramírez Led Unit that “Tortured and Killed” Palace of Justice Detainees in 1985

“Infamous” Commander “was “Passing Military Intelligence to the Paramilitaries,” according to U.S. Ambassador

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 368

For more information contact:
Michael Evans – 202/994-7029
[email protected]

 
Washington, D.C. , December 16, 2011 – A Colombian army general acquitted today in one of the country’s most infamous human rights cases “actively” collaborated with paramilitary death squads responsible for dozens of massacres, according to formerly secret U.S. records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive.

Once the third-highest-ranking officer in the Colombian military and later a top adviser to President Álvaro Uribe’s Department of Administrative Security (DAS), Iván Ramírez Quintero was acquitted today in the torture and disappearance of Irma Franco, one of several people detained by the army during the November 1985 Palace of Justice disaster.

The exoneration comes despite substantial evidence, including declassified U.S. embassy cables, linking Ramírez to the disappearances. Among the documents are reports that the missing individuals were “tortured and killed” by members of the Charry Solano Brigade, the unit led by Ramírez at that time.

Two former senior army officers, Col. Alfonso Plazas Vega and Gen. Jesús Armando Arias Cabrales, have already been convicted in the Palace of Justice disaster and remain the only people sentenced in the now more than 25-year-old case. More than 100 people, including 11 Supreme Court justices, perished during military operations to retake the Palace of Justice from M-19 insurgents who seized the building in November 1985. A document previously published by the Archive blamed “soldiers under the command of Col. Alfonso Plazas Vega” for the deaths of individuals detained by the army following the raid.

The declassified file on Gen. Iván Ramírez Quintero, the so-called “godfather of army intelligence,” portrays him as a shrewd and corrupt spymaster who shared sensitive intelligence with illegal militia groups, cultivated relationships with drug traffickers and notorious paramilitary figures, and engaged in “scare tactics” to take down his political enemies.

“Portrait of a Corrupt General”

The declassified reports focus on ties between Ramírez, narco-traffickers, and the country’s illegal paramilitary groups in the 1990s, particularly while he was in charge of the army’s First Division, along Colombia’s Atlantic coast, where he maintained “direct links with paramilitaries,” according to intelligence sources cited in a 1996 Embassy cable. The following year, a special Defense Intelligence Agency report pictured Ramírez beneath the heading, “Portrait of a Corrupt General,” and next to a picture of “Drug Trafficker-Backed Paramilitary Forces.”

U.S. Ambassador Myles Frechette spoke with at least two different Colombian defense ministers about the general’s “suspected ties to narcotraffickers and paramilitaries.” In a November 1997 meeting with Colombian minister of defense Gilberto Echeverri, Frechette cited “more evidence suggesting that Ramirez is passing military intelligence to the paramilitaries, and that the intelligence is being used against the guerrillas.” Frechette had good reason for concern. A new U.S. law linking foreign military assistance to human rights performance had heightened the embassy’s focus on abusive officers, and Ramírez, despite pressure from the U.S. over his human rights record, had just been designated as the next army inspector general. Frechette bluntly told the defense minister “that if Ramirez were to attain higher rank or position, it would seriously compromise the USG’s [United States Government's] ability to cooperate with the Colombian military.” 

“Godfather of army intelligence”

U.S. contacts in the Colombian military took a similarly dim view of Ramírez. One former colonel said he was “convinced [that Ramírez] has gone far beyond the passive phase with paramilitaries and is actively supporting them.” The colonel was “concerned about the potential direction the Colar [Colombian army] could take if Ramirez abuses his position as IG [inspector general] or, worse, if he is allowed to rise to even higher positions in the armed forces hierarchy.” Ramírez is repeatedly characterized as the “godfather of army intelligence” with influence “so pervasive within the military intelligence community” that he maintained control over intelligence assignments even from non-intelligence posts.

Another retired Colombian officer told the Embassy that Ramírez had been the “godfather” of Colombia’s “intelligence mafia” for more than 20 years. The general “surrounded himself with loyal subordinates who ‘covered up for him’” and was connected to “shady elements” inside the army’s 20th Military Intelligence Brigade,” according to a cable reporting on the meeting.

The 20th Brigade was established in 1990 on the recommendations of a U.S. intelligence team, and Ramírez was its first commander. “Fundamentally designed for covert operations,” the brigade’s members were attached to army units across the country, according to a U.S. Army report (See page 79.). Personnel worked “undercover and in civilian clothes,” reporting only to division commanders and other intelligence officers.

The brigade became the most visible symbol of Colombia’s corrupt and abusive intelligence establishment, and was tied to political assassinations, the torture of suspected guerrillas, and Colombia’s brutal paramilitary forces. The State Department’s human rights report for 1997 singled out the intelligence brigade for “death squad activity,” a charge also leveled by Ambassador Frechette as he left the Bogotá post late that year.

Pulling the strings was the “godfather” Ramírez. One report addressed to the State Department’s under secretary for political affairs, Thomas Pickering, asserted that “Ramirez and some elements of the Bogota-based 20th Intelligence Brigade actively collaborate with paramilitaries by providing intelligence and other support.” The CIA connected Ramírez to Carlos Castaño, notorious head of the powerful United Self-defense Forces of Córdoba and Urabá (ACCU). A U.S. Embassy report from 1998 noted the army’s “new-found effectiveness in curbing the paramilitaries” since Ramírez had been removed from the First Division, adding that it seemed “more than coincidental that the recent anti-paramilitary actions have all taken place since the departure from northern Colombia of military personnel believed to favor paramilitaries.”

In May 1998, shortly before Colombia announced plans to dismantle the 20th Brigade, the State Department cancelled Ramírez’s U.S. visa. In an unusually passionate memo on the moral dilemma faced by U.S. policymakers in Colombia, the State Department’s desk officer for Andean Affairs, David Passage, made a rhetorical plea for self-reflection on the part of the Colombian army and the military intelligence system in particular. Colombia needed to develop “credible and defensible intelligence gathering techniques instead of 12-volt batteries and rubber hoses,” Passage asserted, strongly implying the Colombian military’s penchant for torture techniques.

Yes, we know the Colombian military doesn’t control all the paramilitary organizations – but we also know there are enough ties between many of them and Colombian military officers that it becomes impossible for us to turn a blind eye. NO, we’re not going to identify them; you know who they are. Heal yourselves before you ask us for help!  If you don’t understand why we withdrew Gen Ivan Ramirez’s visa, then we’re too far apart to be able to cooperate with each other.

Three months later, a Washington Post report detailed extensive ties between Ramírez and paramilitary groups and also identified him as a “liaison and paid informant for the Central Intelligence Agency,” charges that he angrily denied. The damage done, Ramírez was passed up for promotion in 1999 and sent out of the country to serve as military attaché in Chile.

Never charged for his alleged paramilitary ties, Ramírez was appointed by President Álvaro Uribe as a special adviser to the country’s top civilian intelligence organization, the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) in 2006. The spy agency was subsequently found to be running a Watergate-style illegal-wiretapping operation targeting journalists, judges and human rights defenders.

Arrested for disappearances in the Palace of Justice case in 2008, Ramírez spent more than three years in preventive detention pending investigation and trial. Jailed former paramilitary chief Salvatore Mancuso has testified that both Ramírez and former DAS agents collaborated with his illegal forces.

The revelations about Gen. Ramírez are drawn from Colombia and the United States: Political Violence, Narcotics, and Human Rights, 1948-2010, a recent addition to the Digital National Security Archive. Edited by Michael Evans and published by ProQuest, the set consists of more than 3,000 declassified diplomatic and intelligence documents on Colombia’s decades-old conflict.

Obama, Congress Ratify Social Spending Cuts

December 19th, 2011 by Patrick Martin

The budget agreement passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama Saturday puts in place cuts for the current fiscal year that target social spending, particular energy assistance and education.

One of the biggest single cuts comes in low-income heating assistance, which is slashed 25 percent, or $1.2 billion, compared to last year’s figure. This cut is particularly cruel, coming at the onset of winter, and insuring that tens of thousands of poor and elderly people will face the danger of hypothermia and potential death.

Another $1.4 billion was cut from labor, health and education spending, including $225 million from the outright elimination of 22 separate programs, many of them related to job training.

An estimated 100,000 youth will be cut off Pell grants, the main program for aiding low-income college students, and the maximum amount of the grant will be frozen at $5,500 for another year, forcing millions of students to bear the brunt of sharply rising tuition and fees. Total cuts in Pell grants, spread over several years, come to $1.36 billion.

The basic outlines of the budget were determined by the bipartisan agreement last August that raised the federal debt ceiling and set limits on the total amount of spending for the current fiscal year, which began September 30. Both the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House adhered to these ceilings.

The House passed a $915 billion omnibus appropriations bill that combined the spending for 10 federal departments—including Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, Labor—as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, into a single 1,200-page bill.

The bill included an additional $126.5 billion for overseas contingency funds, mainly for the war in Afghanistan, bringing the total appropriated to $1.042 trillion. Overall military spending will rise $5.1 billion from 2011 to 2012, despite the cuts everywhere else in the budget.

The bill was approved Friday by a 296-121 vote, with 86 Republicans, mostly right-wing Tea Party supporters, comprising the bulk of the opposition. The majority of the Republicans and nearly all the Democrats rejected calls to tear up the bipartisan budget deal and impose even more draconian spending cuts.

Senate action followed on Saturday morning, with a 67-32 roll call vote, as 51 Democrats joined 16 Republicans in passing the budget. Two Democrats and 30 Republicans voted against the bill.

Domestic social spending will be 12 percent below what the Obama administration initially requested, a cut of $73 billion, but is $24 billion higher than the House Republican budget passed last April. While this outcome antagonized the Tea Party elements who wanted a complete capitulation by the White House and congressional Democrats, the result is far closer to the initial Republican figure.

House Speaker John Boehner backed a separate piece of legislation on emergency disaster spending, approving up to $11.3 billion for next year, with the requirement of an across-the-board spending cut on non-military spending to fund it. This passed the House 255-165, on a largely party-line vote, but was defeated in the Senate by 56 to 43. The result is that spending on natural disasters will not be offset by either tax increases or cuts in other spending, and will be added to the deficit.

According to one estimate, prepared by the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee, total spending, both emergency and non-emergency, including all supplementary military spending for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, will fall from $1.275 trillion in fiscal year 2010, when Democrats were in control of both houses of Congress, to $1.211 trillion for fiscal year 2011, which ended September 30, and $1.181 trillion in fiscal year 2012.

Congressional negotiators had reached agreement on the basic budget deal Tuesday, but the Obama administration delayed signing off in an effort to pressure House and Senate Republicans to back an extension of the payroll tax cut and extended unemployment benefits, both scheduled to expire December 31.

The Senate finally approved a two-month extension Saturday, by a vote of 89-10, effectively postponing a final decision on both measures until the end of February. But House Republicans publicly opposed the deal, with Boehner appearing on the NBC interview program “Meet the Press” Sunday to denounce it.

As adopted by the Senate, the payroll tax cut enacted a year ago would be extended through February 29, 2012, along with extended unemployment benefits and postponement of scheduled cuts in Medicare reimbursement for doctors, and the $33 billion cost would be paid for by a fee on new mortgages backed by the federally subsidized loan companies Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae. Home buyers would pay an average of $15 a month extra on a $200,000 mortgage.

The Obama administration abruptly dropped its insistence that the payroll tax cut and unemployment compensation extension contain no extraneous policy provisions, after House and Senate Republicans insisted on a measure that would require the president to make a final decision on permitting the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days.

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer indicated Obama would sign the two-month extension, despite the pipeline provision. The 1,700-mile-long pipeline would carry oil from tar sands sites in western Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast, passing across six US states. It has been opposed by environmental groups but hailed by Republicans and the oil industry.

In a further cave-in to the oil bosses, the Interior Department gave conditional approval Friday to Shell Oil’s plan for exploration in the Chukchi Sea, off the Arctic coast of Alaska, and the White House agreed to transfer permitting for Arctic drilling rigs from the EPA to the Interior Department, which is regarded as more under the thumb of the oil industry.

America Just Says No to the Rule of Law

December 19th, 2011 by David Kerans

A society is in serious trouble when its political pariahs have at the core of their demands a return to the rule of law. This inversion, with our political and cultural outcasts demanding a respect for law, highlights the awful fact that the most radical and retrograde forces within the body politic {the Right—D.K.} have seized control. – Chris Hedges

In 2005, Michael Greco, the President of the American Bar Association, decided he had to come to the defense of the rule of law in the US. A variety of Bush administration practices, such as signing statements, struck Greco as dangerous transgressions against the constitution, and he commissioned three research reports on the subject from groups of ABA specialists who had deep experience working within the executive branch, including the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and the Justice Department. Each report identified serious violations of the constitution, and expressed alarm at the gravity of the consequences should they go unchecked. Greco made the reports public, and delivered them to the White House, only to be met with silence from the media and the political establishment.The rule of law, it seems, was no longer a concern to the US establishment, even when the legal profession’s umbrella association was weighing in with stern warnings.

However indifferent the establishment may have become to the rule of law by 2005, a large proportion of American citizens were not willing to tolerate brazen illegality at the top.Indignation at the Bush administration’s disregard for the law played a significant role in delivering the Presidency and majorities in both chambers of Congress by 2008. President Obama’s own background as a one-time teacher of constitutional law conditioned optimism that his administration would honor the rule of law, and would hold many Bush administration officials accountable for their transgressions. Such was the spirit of 2008.

Alas, Obama moved to temper expectations for justice as soon as he assumed office, famously declaring his preference for “moving forward” rather than dredging up the sins of the just concluded Bush administration. Obama’s policy made quite an impression, given the scale of the crimes—which included launching a war of aggression in Iraq on false pretenses, the systematic use of torture on prisoners, and the widespread orchestration of federal prosecutions for partisan (Republican Party) political purposes. The implications of non-prosecution are momentous, of course. It serves to establish the practices of the Bush administration in precedent, and leaves such practices available to future administrations.

“Traditionally, a bank would tell the Department of Justice when an employee engaged in crimes, but what do you do when the bank itself is run by a criminal enterprise? – Solomon L. Wisenberg, former chief of a Justice Department financial institutions fraud unit.

As grievous as the lack of accountability in the executive branch may be, Americans have still held out some hope for accountability in the economic realm, chiefly as regards the major Wall Street banks and the specialized mortgage lenders (Countrywide being the most famous) that did so much to foment the financial crisis. The contours of the criminality are sufficiently clear. To consider just one of many vectors, mortgage lenders systematically and surreptitiously falsified documentation from mortgage loan applicants, so as to ensure the approval of these loans, and payment for themselves when they sold ownership of the loans on to banks, for repackaging into MBS (mortgage-backed securities) the banks hawked worldwide.

It is worth a moment to contemplate the scale of just this one dimension of Wall Street crime in the lead-up to the crisis of 2008. According to former Citigroup VP Richard Bowen, who led the group evaluating mortgages bought from lenders like Countrywide, about 60% of 2006 vintage mortgages were defective. He reported this up channels to the top of consumer lending group, but the business was highly profitable, so the bank took no corrective action. It continued to declare that the mortgages underlying its MBS met internal Citigroup lending standards. The defective rate hit 80% in 2007. Bowen notified everyone at the very top of Citi, including the Board of Directors and CEO Charles Prince. But Prince took no action, and signed off on SEC filings that all within his company and its MBS offerings was in order, thus leading investors worldwide over a cliff.

While the Justice Department and the SEC claim to be investigating MBS fraud and other criminal machinations of the banks and lenders, they have pursued only trivial prosecutions to date. When asked point-blank on Friday (December 9th) how the Justice Department could possibly be so inert, the President dodged, deferring to the Justice Department. Facing the same question, the official in charge of the investigations there, Lanny Brewer, insists they are investigating everything, and that they have not experienced any interference from anywhere else in the government asking them to go easy on the big banks. At the very least, this tells us that Obama and his upper advisers are not keen on prosecutions. The President could certainly bolster and accelerate the investigations. To leave himself out of the process is to invite Justice Department officials to collude with the large banks, so as to secure lucrative “revolving door” jobs for themselves in the near future.

The public’s suspicions that Wall Street is above the law look all the more accurate in the light of recent revelations that the Justice Department consciously withdrew resources from financial crime investigations back in 2005. Under pressure from President Bush’s attorney general, the Justice Department outsourced investigations of wrongdoing to the banks themselves, allowed a gray zone between guilty and not guilty assessments, deferred prosecutions, etc. And the picture darkens further when we learn that 1) the SEC systematically and illegally shredded materials from 18,000 investigations over the last decade; 2) this was an SEC-wide policy, per a discovered internal memo; 3) that the SEC tried to cover up their cover-up; and 4) that the SEC has been very rough on whistleblowers within its own walls.

Obama Piles On?

Beyond the shielding Bush administration officials and Wall Street banks from liability, the Obama administration has proceeded to inflict a wide a wide variety of new wounds on the rule of law in the US. Consider, for a moment, three of the seven pillars of democratic rights in America, as defined by Bill Goodman, former legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights: “People can’t be detained without good cause and without being charged with a crime in front of an independent magistrate. They can’t be tortured or punished in ways that are extreme. They’re allowed to protest publicly.” Taking these three in reverse order:

1) Very strong indications point to the Department of Homeland Secuirty having orchestrated or at least coordinated crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street encampments (and on journalists) in a number of cities in November. This is a serious violation of Constitutional prohibitions against federalized policing, (and responsibility would appear to rest with Obama, as Homeland Security chief Peter King reports directly to him).

2) Obama has famously embraced the right of the President to order assassinations, including of US citizens. As Glenn Greenwald put it: “…the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar (‘No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law’), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law).”

3) The Senate recently approved a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which awards the military the right to detain anyone, including US citizens, anywhere, including within the US, and detain them, indefinitely, without charges.

Where is the Outrage?

Public reactions to revelations of selective justice and extra-legal oppression were tepid at best until this year, thanks to so-called “scandal fatigue” and to optimism regarding President Obama’s promises to respect the laws of the land. Now that Americans have came out in the streets, however–first in the midwest this winter, and then in the context of OWS this fall—awareness of lawlessness at the top has galloped ahead, and the public is less likely to tolerate abuses. Thus, a high-profile exposure two weeks ago of the fact that members of Congress are not subject to restrictions on insider trading of stocks generated a torrent of disgust, and looks to be getting rapid reaction on Capitol Hill.

The public does not have the wherewithal to mobilize against all abuses, however. Many recent revelations of abuses have gone more or less unnoticed. Take, for example, recent news of then-Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson having leaked enormously valuable inside information to a handful of hedge fund friends as the financial crisis began to blow up in 2008 (as one analyst remarked: “What is this but crony capitalism?”; or the Federal Reserve surreptitiously bypassing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to allow Bank of America to shift large quantities of very risky derivatives into vehicles the FDIC (taxpayers) will have to guarantee, a gesture Yves Smith and William Black imply was either criminal incompetence or abject corruption.

In these circumstances, hopes for a recovery of the rule of law rest largely in the hands of highly placed and independently minded judges and State-level Attorneys General. Fortunately, some of these ranks are taking up the challenge.

…worse than mindless,… inherently dangerous” – Federal Judge Jed Rakoff, characterizing the SEC’s habit of settling serious fraud cases with major banks out of court, concealing the details of the crime, and excusing the perpetrators from any further liability.

The judicial branch of government is not entirely under the thumb of the political and economic establishment, and may now play an aggressive role in reversing some of the establishment’s transgressions. A landmark ruling came down on November 28th, when a federal judge named Jed Rakoff rejected a $285 million settlement the SEC (Wall Street’s main regulator) had arranged to accept from Citigroup, pursuant to an investigation into deception and fraud in the composition and marketing of a mortgage-backed security in 2007. The settlement reflects Wall Street’s immunity in more than one way. The $285 million is only $95 million more than Citigroup’s profits plus interest on this particular deal, and pales before investors’ losses of over $700 million. It is not punishment at all. Further, it is the fifth time the SEC has proposed an out-of-court settlement with Citigroup regarding accusations of securities fraud since 2003, testifying to the ineffectiveness of such settlements, and the crying need for criminal prosecutions. Rakoff is effectively instructing the SEC to do its job, and enforce securities laws.

In a similar vein, several State-level Attorneys General have resisted pressure from the Obama administration to accept a blanket settlement of up to $25 billion against the largest Wall Street banks and mortgage lenders for charges of deceptive and fraudulent practices with respect to home loan modifications and foreclosures. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has now fired the first official shot against this particular Washington-Wall Street collusion, by filing a suit against five of the banks as regards loan modification and foreclosure practices. California, New York, and Delaware look likely to follow Coakley’s lead, and the movement could easily snowball. Should the Occupy Wall Street movement maintain its momentum and continue to arouse public opinion against establishment abuses, the rule of law may recover to some extent. But there is certainly no guarantee of that.

David Kerans is a historian of Russia and financial analyst. He has held appointments at Harvard, Stanford, and Yale Universities, as well as Wall St. investment houses. Lives in New York.

Every American should read this letter:

December 18, 2007
To:   Mr. Randy Waddle, Assistant Inspector General, Ft Carson, Colorado
CC:  LTC John Shawkins, Inspector General, Ft Carson, Colorado
        Major General Mark Graham, Commanding Officer, Ft Carson, Colorado
        Major Haytham Faraj, USMC, Camp Pendleton, California
        Lt General Stanley Greene, US Army Inspector General
Subject: Formal Notification of War Atrocities and Crimes Committed by Personnel, B Company, 2-12, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division in Iraq

Dear Mr. Waddle,

My name is John Needham.  I am a member of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry division, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, (BCo,2-12INF,2BCT,2ID .  I deployed with my unit to Iraq from October 2006 until October 2007 when I was medically evacuated for physical and mental injuries that I suffered during my deployment.  The purpose of my letter is to report what I believe to be war crimes and violation of the laws of armed conflict that I personally witnesses while deployed in Iraq.

Upon arriving in Iraq in October of 2006 my unit was assigned to the ¼ Cavalry unit at Camp Prosperity.  In March of 2007 I was sent back to my unit, B Company 2-12 at Camp Falcon.  It was at Camp Falcon that I observed and was forced to participate in ugly and inhumane acts against the Iraqi citizens in our area of responsibilities.  Below I list some of the incidents that took place.

In March of 2007, I witnessed SSG Platt shoot and wound an Iraqi national without cause of provocation.  The Staff Sergeant said that he suspected the Iraqi be a “trigger” man.  We had not been attacked and we found no evidence on the man to support the suspicion.  As the Iraqi lay bleeding on the ground, PVT Smith requested to administer first aid to the Iraqi.  SSgt Platt said no and “let him bleed out.”  When SSG Platt walked away, Pvt Smith and PVT Mullins went to the Iraqi, dragged him to an alley, and applied first aid.  They then drove him to the cache for further treatment.

In June of 2007 1SG Spry caused an Iraqi male to be stopped, questioned, detained, and killed.  We had no evidence that the Iraqi was an insurgent or terrorist.  In any event when we stopped he did not pose a threat.  Although I did not personally witness the killing, I did observe 1sg Spry dismembering the body and parading of it while it was tied to the hood of a Humvee around the Muhalla neighborhood while the interpreter blared out warnings in Arabic over the loud speaker.  I have a photo that shows 1SG Spry removing the victim’s brains.

On another occasion an Iraqi male was stopped by a team led by Sgt Rogers as he walked down an alleyway.  The Iraqi was detained and questioned then with his hands tied behind his back, SGT Rogers skinned his face.

1ST Spry shot a young Iraqi teenager who was about 16 years old.  The shooting was unprovoked and the Iraqi posed no threat to the unit.  He was merely riding his bicycle past an ambush site.  When I arrived on the scene I observed 1SGT Spry along with SSG Platt dismember the boy’s body.

In August of 2007, I responded to radio call from SGT Rogers reporting that he had just shot an Iraqi who was trying to enter through a hole that the platoon had blown in a wall to allow them observation of the area during a security patrol.  When I arrived, I saw a one armed man who was still alive lying on a barricade.  The man was about 30 years old.   He had an old Ruger pistol hanging from his thumb.  It was obvious to me that the pistol was placed there because of the way it hung from his thumb.  The Iraqi was still alive when I arrived.  I saw SGT Rogers shoot him twice in the back with hollow point bullets.  The Iraqi was still moving.  I was asking why they shot him again when I heard Sgt Hoskins say “he’s moving, he’s still alive.”  SPEC Hoskins then moved to the Iraqi and shot him in the back of the head.  SSG Platt and SGT Rogers were visibly excited about the kill.  I saw them pull the Iraqi’s
brains out as they placed him in the body bag.  CPT Kirsey must have learned something about this incident because he was very upset and admonished the NCOs involved.

I have seen and heard 1SGT Spry brag about killing dogs.  He kept a running count.  At last count I remember he was boasting of having killed 80 dogs.

On many occasions I observed SGT Temples, SSG Platt and SGT Rogers beat and abuse Iraqi teenagers, some as young as 14, without cause.  They would walk into a house near areas where they suspected we had received sniper fire, then detain and beat the kids.

I have photos that support my allegations.  I also have numerous other photos on a laptop PC that the unit illegally seized from me.  I have requested its return but they have refused.

My experiences have taken a terrible toll on me.  I suffer from PTSD and depression.  I had no way to stop the ugly actions of my unit.  When I refused to participate they began to abuse and harass me.  I am still in treatment at the Balboa Naval hospital.  I respectfully request that you investigate these matters, that you protect my safety by reassigning me to a different unit that is not located at Fort Carson, that you return my PC or, at least, seize it to protect the evidence on it, and that you issue a military protective order to prohibit the offending members of my unit from harassing, retaliating, or contacting me.

I have some photographs and some supporting documentation to these allegations.

Respectfully,
PFC John Needham
US Army
 

And every American should view these photographs (warning, extremely revolting).

And then watch this superb video to learn from John Needham’s father what became of him:

On the Dark Side in Al Doura – A Soldier in the Shadows from Pulse TV & Maverick Media on Vimeo.

WARNING: Graphic and disturbing photos between 38:47 and 40:00.

VIDEO DESCRIPTION:

U.S. Army Ranger John Needham, who was awarded two purple hearts and three medals for heroism, wrote to military authorities in 2007 reporting war crimes that he witnessed being committed by his own command and fellow soldiers in Al Doura, Iraq. His charges were supported by atrocity photos which, in the public interest, are now released in this video. John paid a terrible price for his opposition to these acts. His story is tragic.

CBS reported obtaining an Army document from the Criminal Investigation Command suggestive of an investigation into these war crimes allegations. The Army’s conclusion was that the “offense of War Crimes did not occur.” However, CBS also stated that the report was “redacted and incomplete; 111 pages were withheld.”

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18559_162-57323277/war-damaged-vet-kills-girlfriend-ptsd-to-blame/?tag=currentVideoInfo;videoMetaInfo

Salon covered this story too:

 http://www.salon.com/2009/02/12/coming_home_three/

Thanks to Cindy Piester for the excellent video and all of this information.

About 400 members of Québec solidaire met in Montréal, December 9-11 in a delegated convention to debate and adopt positions on major social and cultural questions. The convention capped the third phase in a lengthy process of developing what the left-wing sovereigntist party describes as a program of social transformation.1

Only days earlier, the QS candidate had tripled the party’s vote in a by-election in Bonaventure, a rural riding in the Gaspé region; her 9% of the popular vote (up from 3% in the 2008 general election) has inspired high hopes in the party of equivalent or better results in a Quebec general election, which could occur next year. A wave of enthusiasm swept the delegates when the candidate, Patricia Chartier, was introduced. Although she ran third (behind the Liberals, 49%, and Parti Québécois, 37%), her tally seemed to many a successful result for a small pro-independence party that is generally portrayed in the mass media as anti-capitalist.

Great Expectations

Election expectations were definitely in the air as delegates turned their attention to education, healthcare, social welfare, housing and cultural and language policy. These are the bread-and-butter issues on which the party hopes its proposals will resonate with an electorate fed up with neoliberal austerity, cutbacks, downsizing and offloading. And they are issues with which many of the delegates are well acquainted through their own lives as teachers, students, healthcare professionals and workers, and activists in the various social movements.

The common theme of most of the adopted proposals was defense of existing public services and their accessibility free of charge in opposition to the wave of privatizations that is ravaging such services as healthcare and education. But delegates also adopted a resolution proposed by QS members in Jean-Lesage riding (Quebec City) calling for “democratic management of public services” through mechanisms of participative democracy allowing users, workers and local citizens to determine local and regional priorities and the resources to be allocated to them.

Social Policies and Resolutions

The delegates reaffirmed Québec solidaire’s commitment to free-of-charge public education from kindergarten to university. They called for strengthening “a public, democratic, secular school system independent of market forces.” However, by a large majority they turned down a proposal for a single public school system, voting instead in favour of a mixed system comprising both public schools financed by the state and private schools offering equivalent curriculum but without state funding. Some 20 per cent of Quebec elementary and secondary students attend private schools, which are funded at present by the government. Thus, while wealthy elites may still send their children to private schools, the effect of the adopted proposal would be to stream many students into the public system.

The adopted resolutions also called for an end to shaping the curriculum of junior colleges (CEGEPs) to the job market and the interests of big business, and for freeing university research and development from corporate influences. Schools would be encouraged to propose their own curriculum, democratically decided in consultation with parents, students and staff, in addition to the official program of the Ministry.

The proposals on healthcare reflected an approach that would focus on preventive medicine and greater attention to alternative and traditional medicines. Proposed measures include strengthening front-line services in the popular local community service centres (CLSCs), enhancing home-care and restoring the public educational role of the CLSCs. A major issue is the lack of doctors in rural areas and remote regions. But delegates rejected a proposal that would impose financial penalties on doctors who leave Quebec before working five years in a region (10 in a university health centre). And on a very close vote they rejected a proposal to integrate all family doctors in CLSCs, which would effectively put them all on salary instead of fee-for-service.

A major issue in Quebec is the urgent need to strengthen French as the common language of employment and public discourse. Delegates voted for revisions to the Charter of the French Language (Law 101) that would, among other things, prohibit employers from requiring knowledge of English unless it is demonstrated that English is indispensable to the job, and to strengthen French as the language of work by extending the Charter’s reach to companies with fewer than 50 employees (the current threshold). They rejected proposals to make French the sole language of instruction in the CEGEPs and universities, reflecting QS’s position that students who wish to study in English do so primarily because of job requirements and that the solution lies instead in reinforcing French in the workplace.

A separate resolution was adopted on “Immigration and the French language.” It outlined how recent (and often non-Francophone) immigrants could be encouraged to integrate with the French-speaking majority through such measures as increased accessibility to regulated trades and professions, affirmative hiring of immigrants in the public service, and an end to job discrimination by ethnic profiling.

On media and communications, adopted proposals included creating a Quebec public radio network, eliminating commercial advertising on public radio and TV, and creating an independent agency to supervise and regulate Quebec broadcasting (replacing the federal CRTC). A major debate occurred over the proposal to “place distribution of telecommunications under public control, including if needed complete (100%) nationalization.” As one delegate noted, Quebec has the highest rates in the world for cell-phone use. In the end, however, the entire set of proposals on this topic was referred to the party’s policy commission for further study.

Proposals for substituting public debate and culture in place of commercial advertising and marketing in the media, and even “complete elimination of commercial advertising,” were set aside. Delegates instead called for regulations to avoid sexism, racism, violence, etc. from the media.

Québec solidaire is now on record in support of a guaranteed minimum income. In the context of a full-employment policy, the adopted resolution reads, “for anyone who is unemployed or with insufficient income, the state will provide a guaranteed and unconditional minimum income paid on an individual basis from the age of 18. This income could be complementary to income from work or other income support where these are below the established threshold.” This proposal should be read in light of previous QS commitments for a substantial increase in the minimum wage and for a shorter work week without reduction in wages. However, the “established threshold” was left undefined.

Delegates selected guaranteed annual income over other options that were proposed, such as a “citizenship income” that would operate like old-age security but be paid to everyone, children included; a living wage (salaire à vie) related to skills, studies, know-how, etc.; and a “universal guaranteed social income” that would replace all tax redistribution measures and income support transfers other than family allowances.

The convention also voted in favour of establishing a universal retirement plan comprising a vastly improved Quebec Pension Plan that would replace the many private and public plans, including RRSPs. Benefits would be defined and indexed, available at age 60, and adapted to need and years worked, with supplements for low-income beneficiaries. Employee contributions would be geared to capacity to pay.

Other proposals adopted included a massive program of investment in quality social housing (public, cooperative and community), and limits on rents to no more than 25% of income.

Finance Capital Gets a Pass

While the delegates managed, on a very tight agenda, to wade through the 65-page resolutions book, readily disposing of a mass of detailed resolutions and amendments that had previously been debated in draft form in local membership assemblies and aggregates, they seemed less comfortable with some unfinished business that had been referred to this convention from the previous one in March for lack of time. These were resolutions on “Nationalization of the banks” and a similar one on other financial institutions, and a set of resolutions addressed to tax policy.

In the wake of the developing global protests against capitalist austerity and government bailouts of the banks, it might be thought that expropriation of the banks and financial interests would be high on the agenda of a party that sometimes promises to “go beyond capitalism.” And indeed, in the lead-up to the March convention, the QS policy commission had proposed, in a draft resolution, that “to eliminate completely the influence of private financial power,” an independent Quebec would implement “a complete nationalization of the banking system.” The QS national coordinating committee (CCN) had responded, however, with a counter-proposal to nationalize banking “if and as needed,” this phrase (au besoin) being underlined in the resolutions booklet.

But many of the delegates at this December convention were relatively new to the party, and seemed less familiar than those in the previous convention with economic and financial questions. Also, the left-over resolutions attracted little attention in the pre-convention discussions. And this convention met in a context that was much more electoralist-oriented; QS is now an established party, much more subject to media scrutiny and criticism. (This was the first QS convention covered live by Radio-Canada television.) Opportunist pressures weigh more heavily on the members.

No less than seven options were presented and debated. Most advocated “socializing” or “nationalizing” banking and private finance (one called for complete expropriation). In the end, the convention, voting each proposal up or down in a process of elimination, simply opted “to establish a state bank, either through creation of a new institution or by partial nationalization of the banking system,” which would “compete with the private banks.” As a few delegates had noted, however, as long as most of the banking and financial industry remains privately owned, a single bank could compete with others only on much the same terms; Quebec has a vivid example of this in the caisses populaires, the credit unions that started as a chain of small parish-based banks but now comprise the giant Desjardins complex which largely replicates the lending and investment practices of the major chartered banks.

The proposals for “nationalization of financial institutions other than banks” were referred without debate to the policy commission for further study. And the proposals on taxation policy were referred once again to the policy commission for consideration when preparing the QS election platform. These draft proposals included placing personal incomes 30 times the minimum wage in the highest tax bracket, imposing estate taxes, shifting the tax burden from individuals to corporations, and reviewing consumption taxes as “regressive.” (In its 2008 election platform, QS called for abolishing the Quebec sales tax or at least adjusting it to meet ecological concerns.)

All said, it was hardly “a program of social transformation,” as alleged by one enthusiastic QS member. But the adopted proposals are probably a fair representation of many of the demands raised by the social movements in current struggles, and enough to distinguish Québec solidaire, as an independentist party, from the capitalist Parti Québécois.

An End to Discussion on Program?

At a post-convention news conference, QS president Françoise David said the party “has now adopted almost the totality of the program that shapes our vision for the next 15 years.” She and other QS leaders now plan to convert a subsequent program convention, scheduled for April 2012, into a more modest event designed to fine-tune an election platform.

However, there are in fact many topics that have not yet been addressed in this programmatic exercise – among them, agriculture and international affairs. Québec solidaire originated amidst the mobilizations of the altermondialistes, the opponents of capitalist globalization, antiwar activists, and proponents of global justice and solidarity with progressive movements and governments around the world. David herself was best known for helping to initiate the World March of Women. The Union des forces progressistes (UFP), a QS predecessor, took strong positions in opposition to imperialist war and “free trade” agreements. These are positions that should resonate with the new generation of activist youth, “the indignés” who just recently occupied public spaces in Montréal and Quebec City in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

It is worth noting, however, that QS does occasionally address international questions. An important initiative was taken this past summer when the QS leadership designated Manon Massé as the party’s representative on the Boat to Gaza project, in solidarity with Palestine and the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment campaign unanimously endorsed at a previous convention. More such initiatives would be welcome.

Likewise, Québec solidaire has yet to develop its thinking on agrarian issues, or to connect in any significant way with farmers’ organizations that are fighting on behalf of “peasant agriculture” and organic farming practices. Some, such as the Union paysanne (UP), the Quebec affiliate of Via Campesina, are trying to abolish mandatory membership in the government-backed farmers organization, the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), which is dominated by major agribusiness interests. An agrarian program must be an integral part of any regional development strategy, and intersects closely with important environmental protest movements, including the mass movement now developing against shale gas exploration and development.

Another major area of Québec solidaire’s activity that remains largely undeveloped so far is the labour movement. Although the party adopted strong proposals on labour and trade unions at its March 2011 convention, it still lacks a consistent and coherent intervention in this milieu. A book recently published by QS leader Françoise David [2] outlining her vision for the party and Quebec scarcely mentions the organized labour movement or employment issues, although full employment and strong unions are key to achieving any serious redistribution of wealth in a capitalist society.

This lacuna has important implications for contemporary politics. The Charest government, taking advantage of recent exposures of corruption and union coercion in Quebec’s construction industry – and hoping to distract public attention from its own share of recent corruption scandals – has scapegoated construction workers by introducing legislation to abolish a longstanding practice of “placement syndical,” the union hiring hall by which jobs are allocated under the control of the respective unions the workers have chosen to represent them. Under Bill 33, workers will now be assigned to jobs by a government bureaucracy – unelected and not answerable to the workers. The main beneficiaries of Bill 33 will be the construction bosses, the very ones at the source of the industry’s corrupt practices. Yet Amir Khadir, the sole QS member of the National Assembly, did not fight the bill and was absent for the vote, when the 99 MNAs present voted unanimously in favour. A remarkable opportunity was lost for Québec solidaire to stand out as the sole defender of an important section of the Quebec working-class.3

During a break in the convention proceedings, about 30 members, mostly trade unionists but also a few students, met in a meeting of the party’s “Intersyndicale,” an informal caucus of union members, to discuss ways to network and engage in possible future actions, especially in collaboration with student activists who are mounting a militant campaign for free education in opposition to the Charest government’s scheduled tuition fee increases. The Intersyndicale has recently published an attractive leaflet outlining the program on labour and the unions that was adopted at the March 2011 convention.

Major Challenges Ahead

Québec solidaire faces some imposing challenges in the coming period. The tectonic plates under Quebec’s political landscape are shifting. The capitalist parties that have dominated the province’s politics for the last 40 years or more are in crisis. Jean Charest’s governing Liberals (the PLQ) are mired in mounting scandals, and popular discontent with the party is fueled in particular by its flagrant collaboration with the resources multinationals; yet Charest’s new flagship program Plan Nord offers only further concessions to them. The Parti québécois, out of office since 2003, is bleeding profusely from the crisis that erupted in sovereigntist ranks on the heels of the New Democratic Party’s “orange surge” in the May federal election. To date, a half-dozen of its MNAs have defected, most of them in opposition to PQ leader Pauline Marois’ insistence on placing the fight for Quebec sovereignty on the backburner for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, a group of former Péquistes and Liberals led by ex-PQ minister François Legault and businessman Charles Sirois have formed a new party, Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), which advocates putting the national question on ice for the next ten years – a position which apparently appeals to many Québécois who have abandoned hope for any change in Quebec’s constitutional status for the foreseeable future. The CAQ has already absorbed the right-wing Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) and appears to be capturing substantial support from former Liberal and PQ supporters although it has yet to contest any election.

Québec solidaire is faced with an unprecedented opportunity to mobilize support among disaffected Péquistes as the independentist party with a relatively progressive social agenda. However, under the first-past-the-post electoral system, its electoral prospects are quite uncertain, and in a multiparty context it is impossible to predict how even an electoral score of 10% or more might – or might not – translate into seats in the National Assembly. In the circumstances, the party leadership – and a portion of the membership[4] – continues to entertain hopes of negotiating a deal with the PQ (or possibly the Verts, the “Green” party) under which each party would agree to stand down from running a candidate in one or more ridings where the two parties are in relatively close contention, thus facilitating the election of QS candidates. Many QS members are inclined to view the PQ as a party of the “left” – not so much because of its politics, which are thoroughly neoliberal, but because QS and the PQ appeal to much the same constituency of working-class voters.

In recent months both Françoise David and Amir Khadir, the party’s co-leaders, have publicly spoken in favour of such a deal, to the dismay of many QS members, who voted at the party’s last convention in March to reject any such “tactical alliances.” With this in mind, QS militant Marc Bonhomme moved an emergency motion at the opening of the QS convention to add to the agenda a debate on the question of alliances, from the perspective of proposing that QS work instead to build a “left front,” both electoral and extra-parliamentary, with the unions and popular movements “against the Right of the banks, the bosses and the parties in their pay, the PLQ-PQ-ADQ-CAQ.” Bonhomme’s motion was defeated. Although the vote meant there was no debate on the strategic direction for QS proposed by the motion, it does mean that the March convention’s decision remains in force – as Amir Khadir later conceded to reporters who had been unaware of the vote taken in March in a closed session of that convention.

In any event, the PQ has virtually ruled out any talk of alliances. In a document on institutional reform to be debated by its National Council in January, the PQ leadership opposes any electoral reform that would offer proportional representation to parties (as proposed by Québec solidaire), and proposes instead a two-round system of voting in which, failing a majority for a candidate in the first round, the two candidates with the highest scores would face off in a second round. Given its present standing in the polls, Québec solidaire’s candidates would have little chance of election except in a very few Montréal ridings under this formula.

Still unclear is the possible long-term impact on Québec solidaire of the recent gains of the NDP, now a factor in Quebec politics and not just on the federal scene. Notwithstanding QS’s independentism, there is considerable overlap in popular support and even membership of the two parties. Significantly, the QS candidate in the Bonaventure by-election, Patricia Cloutier, staffs the constituency office of the local NDP member of parliament. However, the NDP’s progress in Quebec may be ephemeral; judging from recent opinion polls, its stumbling on some issues related to the national question during the recent session of the federal Parliament – such as its acquiescence to the appointment of a unilingual Anglophone Supreme Court judge and federal Auditor General, or its contradictory reactions to Quebec’s exclusion from the recent multibillion dollar shipbuilding contract – is a factor in a serious decline in support in the province. The NDP’s historic inability to relate to Quebec’s national consciousness is demonstrated repeatedly, even on questions that may seem trivial to an uncomprehending audience in English Canada but are regarded by most Québécois as vital to their identity and existence as a minority nation within Canada. •

Richard Fidler is an Ottawa member of the Socialist Project. This article first appeared on his blog Life on the Left. Thanks to Nathan Rao, who (like Richard) was an observer at the convention, for his input.

Endnotes:

1. For reports on previous program conventions, see “Quebec left debates strategy for independence” and “‘Beyond capitalism’? Québec solidaire launches debate on its program for social transformation.”

2. F. David, De colère et d’espoir (Montréal: Ecosociété, 2011).

3. For an excellent analysis of the issues raised by Bill 33, and a critique of Québec solidaire’s silence on the matter, see “Comment comprendre l’abolition du placement syndical dans l’industrie de la construction?” by André Parizeau, the leader of the Parti communiste du Québec, a recognized collective within QS.

4  See, for example, “Québec solidaire et les pactes tactiques : un mal nécessaire.” The author, Stéphane Lessard, is a former member of the QS national coordinating committee, the party’s top leadership body.

After months of negotiations, the U.S. and Canada have unveiled new trade, regulatory and security initiatives to speed up the flow of goods and people across the border. The joint action plans provide a framework that goes beyond NAFTA and continues where the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) left off. This will take U.S.-Canada integration to the next level and is the pretext for a North American Homeland Security perimeter.

On December 7, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the Beyond the Border Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan. The new deal focuses on addressing security threats early, facilitating trade, economic growth and jobs, integrating cross-border law enforcement, as well as improving infrastructure and cyber-security. It will act as a roadmap with different parts being phased in over the next several years. This includes the creation of various pilot projects. Many aspects of the agreement will also depend on the availability of funding from both governments. In addition, the two leaders issued a separate Regulatory Cooperation Council Action Plan that sets out initiatives whereby the U.S. and Canada will seek greater regulatory alignment in the areas of agriculture and food, transportation, environment, health, along with consumer products.

At a Joint News Conference, President Obama declared that, “Canada is key to achieving my goal of doubling American exports and putting folks back to work. And the two important initiatives that we agreed to today will help us do just that.” He went on to say, “we’re agreeing to a series of concrete steps to bring our economies even closer and to improve the security of our citizens.” Obama also added, “we’re going to improve our infrastructure, we’re going to introduce new technologies, we’re going to improve cargo security and screening.” Prime Minister Harper proclaimed that, “These agreements create a new, modern order for a new century. Together, they represent the most significant steps forward in Canada-U.S. cooperation since the North American Free Trade Agreement.” He explained that, “The first agreement merges U.S. and Canadian security concerns with our mutual interest in keeping our border as open as possible to legitimate commerce and travel.” Harper described how, “The second joint initiative will reduce regulatory barriers to trade by streamlining and aligning standards.”

Some of the measures found in the Beyond the Border action plan include conducting joint, integrated threat assessments; improving cooperative law enforcement capacity and national intelligence- and information-sharing; cooperating on research and best practices to prevent and counter homegrown violent extremism; working to jointly prepare for and respond to binational disasters and enhancing cross-border critical infrastructure protection and resilience. Other facets of the deal will work towards adopting an integrated cargo security strategy; implementing entry and exit verification; establishing and verifying the identity of foreign travellers to North America; better aligning Canadian and U.S. programs for low-risk travellers and installing radio frequency identification technology at key border crossings.

As part of the agreement, both countries will, “implement two Next-Generation pilot projects to create integrated teams in areas such as intelligence and criminal investigations, and an intelligence-led uniformed presence between ports of entry.” This will build on past joint law enforcement initiatives such as the Shiprider program and the Integrated Border Enforcement Teams. The Next-Generation pilot projects are scheduled to be deployed by the summer of 2012. In September, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed plans that would allow law enforcement officers to operate on both sides of the border. He announced that, “the creation of ‘NextGen’ teams of cross-designated officers would allow us to more effectively identify, assess, and interdict persons and organizations involved in transnational crime.” Holder also commented that, “In conjunction with the other provisions included in the Beyond the Border Initiative, such a move would enhance our cross-border efforts and advance our information-sharing abilities.”

In his article, How the U.S. blackmailed Canada, Gar Pardy stressed that as part of a North American security zone, “Canadian security institutions will be more closely integrated with those of the United States.” While addressing the Beyond the Border declaration and the subsequent action plan, he highlighted the fact that, “these are not formal treaties or even formal agreements, although there could be greater formality in the future.” Pardy also noted, “Nowhere in the documentation resulting from the two meetings are there suggestions the people of Canada will be provided with detailed information on which judgments can be made on the wisdom of this consensual agreement negotiated in the backrooms of both capitals.” Instead he cautioned that, “the troublesome details implicit in the agreement will be hidden behind the wall of national security.” Pardy argued that in the process, “Canada sold its national security independence in exchange for hoped-for minor changes to American border restrictions.” He concluded that, “It is not an overstatement to suggest the United States blackmailed the government of Canada into making this deal. It was the American way or no way.”

The Council of Canadians have also strongly rejected the new border deal. They have challenged the notion that, “proper privacy protections can be achieved between Canada and the U.S. without significantly diluting stronger Canadian laws and norms.” Citing privacy concerns associated with the U.S. Patriot Act, the organization emphasized that, “the proposed new entry-exit system for travellers needs the greatest scrutiny by Canadian parliamentarians, security and privacy experts.” The Council of Canadians also criticized, “the government for hiding behind a sham public consultation and implying that this should clear the way for implementation of the action plan.” In August, the Conservative government released two reports which summarized online public input received concerning regulatory cooperation, as well as perimeter security and economic competitiveness. While improving the movement of trade and travel was the priority for business groups, many individuals expressed concerns over the loss of sovereignty, along with the protection of personal information.

When it comes to regulatory convergence, Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians agreed that, “Standardization can be a good thing when standards are high,” She conceded, “The problem is standards aren’t higher in the U.S. in many cases.” Barlow also acknowledged that, “Already Health Canada and other agencies consider harmonization with U.S. standards to be a more important consideration than the real safety of our food. This perimeter deal cements that skewed priority list.” There are fears that it could erode any independent Canadian regulatory capacity and weaken existing regulations. Part of the SPP agenda called for improving regulatory cooperation which resulted in Canada raising pesticide limits on fruits and vegetables. Regulatory integration threatens Canadian sovereignty and democracy. Further harmonization with the U.S. could result in Canada losing control over its ability to regulate food safety. This could also lead to a race to the bottom with respect to other regulatory standards.

By all accounts, big business is the winner in the new trade and security perimeter deal. Maude Barlow explained that, “this process has been set up to accommodate one sector of our community and that is big business.” In advance of the action plans being unveiled to the public, business stakeholders were briefed on the specifics. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives, an organization that lobbies the government on behalf of Canada’s largest corporations has given it their stamp of approval. The U.S. and Canadian Chambers of Commerce also applauded the new vision for border and regulatory cooperation. When it comes to negotiations on the border security agreement, Barlow confirmed that, “the big business community was the only sector at the table with government and guided the process from the beginning.” This was also the case with the now defunct SPP. Big business was a driving force behind the initiative which led to the creation of the North American Competitiveness Council to ensure that corporate interests were being addressed.

In her article, Maude Barlow also warned that when it comes to the perimeter deal, “Canada is essentially giving up policy control in the key areas of privacy, security, immigration and surveillance in order to entice the U.S. to loosen controls at the border.” She stated, “it is likely to lead to a wholesale replacement of Canadian privacy and security standards with American ones, set by Homeland Security.” When it comes to information being collected and stored, Barlow questioned whether it will be, “used as a form of social control, to identify not terrorists, but activists and dissenters of government policy.” She insisted that, “We must call on our government to create a full public and Parliamentary debate before this deal becomes operational.” From the beginning, the whole process has lacked transparency with no congressional or parliamentary oversight. This has drawn comparisons to the SPP which was shrouded in secrecy and fueled by fears over the loss of sovereignty that finally led to its downfall. We can only hope that this latest endeavour will meet the same fate. With the 2012 U.S. election cycle about to get into full swing, the new bilateral deal could get lost in the shuffle.

While the perimeter agreement is being sold as vital to the safety and prosperity of Canadians and Americans alike, there is little doubt that it will mean a tradeoff between sovereignty and security. Any deal which gives the Department of Homeland Security more personal information poses a serious risk to privacy rights. As both countries move forward, perimeter security will be further defined and dominated by American interests. This could force Canada to comply with any new U.S. security measures, regardless of the dangers they may pose to civil liberties. A North American Homeland Security perimeter goes well beyond keeping people safe from any perceived threats. It is a means to secure trade, resources, as well as corporate interests and is a pretext for control over the continent. Ultimately, the U.S. wants the final say on who is allowed to enter and who is allowed to leave.

Exactly ten years ago Argentina suffered a full-scale financial and governmental collapse. That was the end-result of over a decade of doing exactly what the IMF, international bankers, rating agencies and global “experts” told us to do.

Then President Fernando de la Rúa kept applying all IMF recipes to the very last minute, making us swallow their poisonous “remedies”.

It all began getting really ugly in early 2001 when De la Rúa could no longer service Argentina’s “sovereign debt” even after driving the country into full “deficit zero” mode, slashing public spending, jobs, health, education and key public services.

By March 2011, he had brought back Domingo Cavallo as finance minister, a post Cavallo had already held for six years in the nineties under then-President Carlos Menem, imposing outrageous IMF deregulation and privatization policies that weakened the state and led straight to the 2001 collapse.

Well, it wasn’t really De la Rúa who brought back Cavallo but rather David Rockefeller (JPMorgan Chase) and William Rhodes (CitiCorp), who personally came to Buenos Aires to tell/order President De la Rúa to name Cavallo… or else!

So, by June 2001, Cavallo – a Trilateral Commission member and Soros-Rockefeller-Rhodes protégé – tried to allay a default by engineering a new sovereign debt bond mega-swap which increased public debt by $51 billion, but did not avert total collapse that December.

What then? De la Rúa and Cavallo protected the bankers, avoiding a massive run on all banks by freezing all bank deposits. “Corralito” they called it – “the crib” – whereby account holders could only withdraw 250 pesos per week (at the time, equivalent to $250; after the 2002 devaluation, equal to $75).

Argentina’s economy all but collapsed; people took to the streets banging pots and pans, screaming and yelling, calling all bankers ‘thieves, criminals, crooks, swindlers and robbers’ but… the big mega-bank bronze gates all remained tightly shut. No one got their money back.

Half of bank deposits were in dollars. Again, no one got their dollars back, but just as pesos at a fraudulent rate of exchange after devaluation had been imposed and Argentina’s so-called “convertibility” Currency Board that Cavallo had imposed a decade earlier pegging the peso to the dollar at an unrealisticone-to-one parity, was dropped.

Clearly,this was a massive banker-orchestrated, government-backed robbery of the assets and savings of 40 million Argentinians.Half our population quickly fell below the poverty line, GDP contracted by almost 40% in 2002, millions lost their jobs, their savings, their homes to foreclosures, their livelihoods and yet… not one single bank folded or collapsed!

Amid rioting in Buenos Aires and major cities and brutal police repression that left 30 dead on the streets, De la Rúa boarded his helicopter on the rooftop of the “Casa Rosada” presidential palace and abandoned ship. That last week of December 2001, four presidents successively went by until finally the bankers, the media, and the US State and Treasury Departments accepted Eduardo Duhalde as provisional president. He finally named finance minister Roberto Lavagna, a founding member of the local CARI, the Argentine Council on Foreign Relations, which is the local New York CFR branch.

Argentina was used as a testing ground by the global power elite to learn how a full-scale financial, monetary, banking and economic collapse can be controlled and its social consequences suitably engineered to ensure that, with time: (a) the bankers came out unharmed, (b) “democratic order” is re-instated and the new government imposes another sovereign debt mega-swap, balance their numbers, and calm the people down (or else!), and (c) put big smiles back on bankster faces…Business as usual!

The lessons learned in Argentina in 2001/3 are today being used in Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Iceland, the UK and the US.

So, “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators, lend me your ears! You haven’t got a chance! The global money masters already made their financial war game exercise in Argentina.

At one point it got so bad that New York Times journalist Larry Rohter (later alleged by the Brazilian government to have ties with the CIA) had the gall to suggest the territorial break-up of Argentina to “solve” our debt crisis. The title of his perverse article, published on 27 August 2002, said it all: “Some in Argentina see secession as the answer to economic peril”, specifically targeting our natural resources-rich Patagonian region…

Then, the global power elite finally got their man when Néstor Kirchner became president in May 2003. Kirchner retained the finance minister, Lavagna, engineered yet another sovereign debt mega-swap running 42 years into the future (!); he paid the IMF the full amount they claimed of $10 billion (in cash, in dollars and with no deductions; i.e. absolutely most-favored creditor status!) getting nothing in return; he further weakened Argentina’s military, dumbed-down education, media and culture, and ended up imposing his wife Cristina as successor.

Clearly, lots of lessons were learned from the “Argentine experience,” which come in so handy when dealing with those rowdy, poorer Europeans today.

So, one decade on…. anyone for a tango?

­Adrian Salbuchi is a political analyst, author, speaker and radio/TV commentator in Argentina. www.asalbuchi.com.ar

Washington’s Greater Middle East Agenda: War

December 19th, 2011 by Stephen Lendman

Targeting the Middle East’s rich oil and gas resources, Washington plans waring against the region one country at a time to replace independent regimes with client ones.

At issue is achieving total dominance over MENA (Middle East/North Africa) countries and Central Asia to Russia and China’s borders. Another key objective is removing or marginalizing their regional influence. 

Russia is Washington’s main military rival. Between them, they control about 97% of the world’s nuclear arsenal with sophisticated delivery systems able to target strategic global sites.

China also has significant military strength. According to a 2009 Pentagon report, its naval forces alone are formidable.They number at least 260 vessels, including 75 or more major warships and over 60 submarines. 

In addition, Beijing has hundreds of nuclear warheads, sophisticated delivery systems, and other strategic weapons. As a result, it’s the region’s dominant military power.

During Asia’s mid-November Bali summit, Obama sought anti-China coalition partners to enhance Washington’s regional position. Key is establishing military superiority. 

Obama said America “is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.” Military spending amounts “will not – I repeat, will not – come at the expense of the Asia Pacific.”

It does include escalating military tensions with China. Beijing is very mindful of US belligerence and quest for global dominance.

During his visit, Obama announced boosting America’s Australian presence as part of a broader military buildup targeting China and Eastern Russia.

Together with South Korea, America’s expanding its Asian footprint on Jeju Island with a strategic naval base for Aegis class attack ships. They’re equipped with sophisticated SM-3 interceptor missiles for offense, as well as powerful computers and tracking radar for first-strike capability.

In 2002, Seoul announced construction plans to accommodate Pentagon officials despite strong local opposition. Located south of Korea proper, Jeju is its only special autonomous province. It’s situated in the Korea Strait, Southwest of Jeollanam-do Province it separated from in 1946.

Japan lies Northeast, China due West. Jeju is in central Northeast Asia. Strategically located Southwest of Japan, East of China between the East China Sea and Korea Strait shipping lanes, Pentagon officials value its location to control key shipping lanes and regional waters.

China, of course, is concerned about America’s growing military presence that challenges its regional dominance.

Beijing also rivals Washington economically. The IMF’s 2011 World Economic Outlook shows it surpassing America by 2016, based on purchasing power parity (PPP). 

It reflects an appropriate exchange rate between currencies as measured by the cost of a representative basket of goods in one country v. another.

China’s growth requires increasing amounts of resources, especially oil, gas, others for its industries, and enough food for its huge population. 

Getting them puts them in direct competition with America that wants unchallenged global control. AFRICOM was established to secure it and deny Beijing and Russia access.

America tolerates no rivals. Economic, political and belligerent policies are employed to marginalize and eliminate them. In contrast, China and Russia establish relationships through mutually beneficial investments and other economic ties. Longer-term, they matter most.

Targeting Syria and Iran

Last winter, Syria’s externally generated uprising began. Orchestrating change like elsewhere in the region, Washington replicated its Libya model. Heavily armed insurgents are involved. So are Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon’s March 14 alliance, other Arab League partners, and Israel.

Regime change is planned. So far it’s short of war, but it’s coming if other measures fail. Middle East analyst Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya calls the Syrian situation “complicated,” because of “several competing trends of opposition.”

Internal and external forces are involved. In Libya, NATO formed the Transitional National Council (TNC) to replace Gaddafi and Jamahiriya government. Proxy Syrian National Council (SNC) members were enlisted to replace Bashar al-Assad’s regime after it’s ousted.

Internal conflict’s raged for months to “isolate, cripple, and subjugate Damascus.” Given Syria’s military capability, expect protracted conflict and violence to continue.

However, disturbing reports about hundreds of US and NATO Special Forces massing on Syria’s border may tip the balance of power if using them for combat operations is planned, especially if combined with air operations.

According to former FBI whisleblower Sibel Edmonds, Washington and other NATO partners have a “secret training camp” at America’s Incirlik, Turkey air base. In April, it began “organiz(ing) and expand(ing)” Syrian dissidents.

Edmonds says Washington and NATO forces are also training Turkish troops for a possible Syria strike. In addition, US forces from Iraq’s Ain al-Assad base were transferred to Jordan on December 8 instead of returning home.

Obama’s cynical Fort Bragg speech about withdrawing US forces from Iraq, in fact, concealed their regional repositioning and continued Iraq presence on major bases America will keep operating.

In fact, it plans increased numbers of regional forces through one or more Libyan bases, larger force contingents in Kuwait, expanded ties with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman, and a greater overall regional footprint to establish an enhanced “security architecture” to integrate air, ground, and naval units for future combat missions.

Israel’s Mossad-connected DEBKAFile also said “American special forces troops have been diverted to positions in Jordan opposite a Syrian tank concentration building up across the kingdom’s northern border.”

In addition, America’s naval presence includes additional warships and attack boats, perhaps there for combat, not saber rattling.

Edmonds said NATO forces have conducted training operations near Syria’s border since May. Until now, Western media scoundrels suppressed it. Still, little about it is reported. The situation bears watching, including hostile anti-Iranian rhetoric.

Washington claims Tehran threatens world peace, saying its commercial nuclear program plans nuclear weapons development, despite no evidence proving it.

In October, Washington falsely charged Iran with plotting to kill Saudi Arabia’s US ambassador. The accusation sounded more like a bad film plot than real intent. Laughable on its face, it was baseless propaganda.

In November, outdated, forged, long ago discredited, and perhaps nonexistent documents were used to claim Iran’s developing nuclear weapons. Again, no credible evidence proves it. Instead, baseless accusations were used to justify Washington’s claim about Iran threatening world peace. 

America and Israel alone hold that distinction along with Arab League client states supporting their rogue agendas.

On December 15, Manhattan Federal Judge George Daniels said he’ll sign an order accusing Iran, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda of responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.

In response to a lawsuit brought by family members of 9/11 victims, he claimed Iran provided material support to Al Qaeda, based on spurious testimonies from three Iranian defectors whose affidavits remained sealed during court proceedings. 

Expert witnesses never appeared in court to refute them. Instead Judge Daniels relied solely on anti-Iranian operatives, making baseless accusations without evidence.

Testimonies given were false. Iran, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda had nothing to do with a plot hatched in Washington to initiate America’s global war on terror. Ravaging the world one country at a time was planned. 

It remains ongoing across the Middle East and Central Asia. Syria and now Iran are targeted. At issue is regime change throughout the region to install subservient client states. 

The road to Tehran runs through Damascus. Expect belligerence to persist longer-term. The business of America is war. Waging them alone matters. New targets replace subdued ones. Nations are pillaged for wealth, power and dominance. War profiteers want them fought, win, lose or draw.

Iran is hugely important. It has about 10% of proved world oil reserves. It’s second only to Russia in gas resources with about 33 trillion cubic meters. In fact, after a potentially huge new Caspian Sea discovery, it may rank first. 

Washington covets Iran’s mineral wealth to control its supply, price, what nations get access in what amounts, and which ones don’t. Regionally, Iran’s the remaining crown jewel. Washington’s longstanding policy is replacing its government with a subservient client regime.

On December 16, Obama told the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism that America will continue pressuring Iran with “no options off the table.” 

One of them is war. Battleground belligerence could rage across the entire Mediterranean Basin through Central Asia to Russia and China’s borders. 

As a result, general war may follow. America’s key rivals may enter. Their interests very much are at stake. Nuclear weapons could be used. 

Preventing potentially global catastrophic destruction is crucial before it’s too late to matter.

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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

Channel 4 makes Goebbels proud with conveniently timed propaganda piece.

With the UN’s recent “human rights” report falling flat, for lack of evidence and being compiled by Karen Koning AbuZayd, a director of the US Washington-based corporate think-tank, Middle East Policy Council, that includes Exxon men, CIA agents, US military and government representatives, and even the president of the US-Qatar Business Council, the corporate-media has stepped in to give faces and screams to the alleged victims of Wall Street and London’s premeditated implosion of Syrian society.

The UN’s human rights chief, Navi Pillay had been having difficulties peddling the recycled lies used just months ago to commence NATO and UN-sanctioned genocide in Libya, in what is now verified, even confessed fabrications produced by the Libyan opposition and filtered through corporate foundation-funded Human Rights Watch, the International Criminal Court, and the UN. Additionally, Syria itself had brushed off attempts by the Wall Street and London compromised Arab League and their numerous, feckless attempts to impose ultimatums clearly crafted in Washington and given an “Arab” face.

It is now, just as both efforts have ground to a halt and the Arab League prepares to bring their ultimatums and demands to the UN that Channel 4 in England has released “shocking images of violence and child abuse that proves Syrian torture policy,” reports the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail claims they are the most graphic images ever shown on British television, and surely such an exception has been made because Wall Street and London’s efforts to justify NATO intervention in Syria have stalled. Words such as “believed to be,” “allegedly,” and “strong evidence that” litter the Daily Mail’s article and cast serious doubt on claims that Channel 4′s objectivity-devoid presentation featuring the overtly biased title “Syria’s Torture Machine” provides “‘irrefutable prima facie’ evidence that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is torturing its citizens.”

Then again, “irrefutable prima facie” is what Wall Street and London have depended on to sell one genocidal military conquest after another, from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Libya to the gates of Damascus. In each case, the evidence upon closer examination, revealed the magnitude to which the truth had been stretched, abused, or all together fabricated. Already snipers have been uncovered killing both protesters and Syrian security forces in single confrontations – illustrating a malice element clearly seeking to prolong and expand the violence, conveniently giving the West an opportunity for a repeat performance of their military conquest of Libya.

To the trained eye, “Syria’s Torture Machine” salutes the crass, hamfisted propaganda films of yesteryear that instilled the baseless anger, outrage, and emotions throughout the masses that made the horrors of the World Wars possible. Channel 4 hopes to recapture the success of these vintage films, preying on the ignorance of what it hopes is an impressionable audience, as well as join the ranks of modern day war propaganda like the corporate-fascist Neo-Conservative produced “Iranium.” No mention will most likely be made that Syria’s opposition is entirely funded, supported, even armed, and harbored by NATO members, with the Syrian opposition literally based in London where Channel 4 is also conveniently headquartered.

The timing of Channel 4′s “presentation” and the unprecedented exceptions made to air its violent content publicly, illustrates an eagerness, almost desperation behind the West’s designs toward Syria. Indeed, just as it was with Libya, NATO intervention, the subsequent genocide, and the rise to power of a suitable stooge bent to the West’s agenda will be achieved at any cost. Stretching the credibility of an already discredited corporate-media is a risk the global elite can’t risk not taking.

One must ask themselves, however, how NATO, led by the US who has legalized, normalized, even standardized torture and indefinite detention, stands on any moral ground to use the rhetoric provided by propagandists in London as justification for further meddling in Syria. If Channel 4′s one-sided, clearly biased “presentation” is casus belli for NATO bombers to level Damascus, perhaps they should visit Washington D.C. or Langley, Virginia on the way.

After first denying that the Iranian military had captured the CIA’s RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone, and then reluctantly acknowledging the fact only after PressTV aired footage of the killer bot, the Associated Press reported that “the Obama administration said Monday it has delivered a formal request to Iran” that they return it.

“We have asked for it back,” Obama said. “We’ll see how the Iranians respond.”

A huge embarrassment to the CIA and the Pentagon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters during a State Department briefing: “We submitted a formal request for the return of our lost equipment as we would in any situation to any government around the world.”

Cheekily, Clinton said although the U.S. government has little prospect of getting their $6 million toy back because of “recent Iranian behavior,” she then threatened the Islamic Republic saying, “the path that Iran seems to be going down is a dangerous one for themselves and the region.”

In Washington’s bizarro world where war is peace the United States, which has Iran surrounded with a string of military bases and where nuclear-armed aircraft carrier battle groups and submarines ply the waters of the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, the aggressor is magically transformed into the aggrieved party.

The Secretary said, “given Iran’s behavior to date we do not expect them to comply but we are dealing with all of these provocations and concerning actions taken by Iran in close concert with our closest allies and partners.” (emphasis added)

Talk about chutzpah!

Firing back, the head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani told PressTV that “the US has violated our country’s territory and has waged an intelligence war, and now expects us to return the aircraft.”

Noting the absurdity of U.S. demands Larijani said, “Iran has the right to deal with this blatant crime in any way [it deems necessary] and the US should forget about getting the spy aircraft back.”

By all accounts, the “intelligence war” is heating heating up. On Thursday, Haaretz reported that the “Israel Defense Forces is forming a command to supervise ‘depth’ operations, actions undertaken by the military far from Israel’s borders.”

In a follow-up piece published Sunday, Haaretz informed us that the new corps, “has already earned the somewhat overstated sobriquet ‘the Iran Command’.”

The newspaper’s chief military correspondent, Amos Harel, wrote that the new unit “could, in the future, assist in mobilizing special forces in the Iranian context.”

“More important,” Harel averred, “it will have the job of planning and leading operations in areas far beyond the borders, operations that are connected to the covert war against terror organizations (and, indirectly, against Iran).”

Whether the IDF’s newly-launched “Iran Command,” will prove any more effective than the CIA or Mossad, which suffered major set-backs when their intelligence nets were rolled-up in Iran and Lebanon as Asia Times Online recently reported, is an open question.

War “by other means” however, will continue.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a vote of 283-136 the Iran Threat Reductions Act (H.R. 1905), a draconian piece of legislative detritus which hopes to crater Iran’s Central Bank.

The following day, the U.S. Senate followed suit, approving the legislation by an 86-13 vote. President Obama has said he would sign the bill, cobbled-together by war hawks as part of the massive $670 billion 2012 Defense Authorization Act.

Spinning the Story

U.S. military and CIA operations today involve far more than simply “putting steel on the target.” Increasingly, covert actions and clandestine operations rely on what the Pentagon has described as “information operations.”

With few exceptions, corporate media in Europe and the U.S. have played accessory roles in ginning-up the so-called “Iranian threat,” a decades’ long program to secure hegemony over the energy-rich regions of Central Asia and the Middle East.

When initial reports surfaced that the drone had gone missing deep inside Iran, “CIA press officials declined to comment on the downed drone and reporters were directed toward a statement from the military,” The Washington Post reported.

Indeed, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO-led alliance currently occupying Afghanistan, dismissed Iran’s claims that the drone was operating over their territory. “The UAV to which the Iranians are referring may be a U.S. unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week,” the ISAF statement read.

Deep inside the media echo chamber, CNN informed us earlier this month that the drone had been “tasked to fly over western Afghanistan and look for insurgent activity, with no directive to either fly into Iran or spy on Iran from Afghan airspace.”

“A U.S. satellite quickly pinpointed the downed drone, which apparently sustained significant damage,” the “senior official” told the network.

CNN quoted the unnamed “senior official” as saying, “the Iranians have a pile of rubble and are trying to figure what they have and what to do with it.” According to this reading, “the drone crashed solely because its guidance system failed, the official said.”

While first claiming that the CIA drone had strayed off-course, CNN reported after the Sentinel was publicly displayed, that unnamed “U.S. military officials” re-calibrated their tale and now said that the drone “was on a surveillance mission of suspected nuclear sites” in Iran.

Anonymous officials told CNN that “the CIA had not informed the Defense Department of the drone’s mission when reports first emerged that it had crashed,” and that the U.S. military “‘did not have a good understanding of what was going on because it was a CIA mission’.”

As with their earlier reporting, CNN’s latest explanation was a fabrication.

The Los Angeles Times reported two days after the incident, “though the drone flight was a CIA operation, U.S. military personnel were involved in flying the aircraft, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy involved.”

In fact, as The Washington Post disclosed in September, the CIA and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are thick as thieves.

“Their commingling at remote bases is so complete, the Post informed us, “that U.S. officials ranging from congressional staffers to high-ranking CIA officers said they often find it difficult to distinguish agency from military personnel.”

“‘You couldn’t tell the difference between CIA officers, Special Forces guys and contractors’,” an unnamed “senior U.S. official” told the Post. “‘They’re all three blended together. All under the command of the CIA.”

“Their activities occupy an expanding netherworld between intelligence and military operations.” One can presume that these “blended” units have been tasked by Washington with the “Iranian brief.”

“Sometimes their missions are considered military ‘preparation of the battlefield’,” the Post reported, “and others fall under covert findings obtained by the CIA. As a result, congressional intelligence and armed services committees rarely get a comprehensive view,” which of course is precisely what the Agency and Pentagon fully intend.

In light of recent statements by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to The New York Times, that “surveillance flights over Iran would continue despite the loss of the drone,” reporting by U.S. media stenographers, are blatant misrepresentations of the basic facts surrounding the entire affair. (emphasis added)

Now sensing the jig was up and that a face-saving meme had to be injected into the news cycle, a “former intelligence official” continued to discount Iranian assertions that their armed forces had brought the drone down.

“It simply fell into their laps,” he told CNN.

However, much to the consternation of American officials, Iranian spin doctors were running their own info op, one which cast U.S. claims in a most unflattering light.

The Associated Press reported that “Iran deliberately delayed its announcement that it had captured an American surveillance drone to test U.S. reaction, the country’s foreign minister said Saturday.”

“Ali Akbar Salehi said Tehran finally went public with its possession of the RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone to disprove contradictory statements from U.S. officials,” AP reported.

“When our armed forces nicely brought down the stealth American surveillance drone, we didn’t announce it for several days to see what the other party (U.S.) says and to test their reaction,” Salehi told the official IRNA news agency. “Days after Americans made contradictory statements, our friends at the armed forces put this drone on display.”

Unlike American and Israeli assertions that Iran is taking steps to “go nuclear,” Iranian officials at least had hard evidence on their side that the United States was violating their territorial integrity–the captured U.S. drone.

Electronic Countermeasures

Although Western “defense experts” have ridiculed claims that Iran’s electronic warfare specialists have captured the Sentinel rather than recovering the downed craft from a crash site, a report by The Christian Science Monitor shed new light on Iran’s apparent capabilities.

Investigative journalists Scott Peterson and Payam Faramarzi disclosed that an Iranian engineer now working on the captured drone, said that the military “exploited a known vulnerability and tricked the US drone into landing in Iran.”

According to the Monitor, “Iran guided the CIA’s ‘lost’ stealth drone to an intact landing inside hostile territory by exploiting a navigational weakness long-known to the US military.”

Earlier reports suggested that Iran, which had recently been supplied with the Russian-built Kvant 1L222 Avtobaza Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) systems, may have been a factor in the drone’s capture.

The Israeli defense industry publication, Defense Update, informed us that the Avtobaza is “capable of intercepting weapon datalink communications operating on similar wavebands. The new gear may have helped the Iranians employ active deception/jamming to intercept and ‘hijack’ the Sentinel’s control link.”

The Monitor investigation however, suggests that the Iranians had accomplished this feat on their own.

Regardless of the means employed, statements by U.S. officials that all the Iranians had was “a pile of rubble” were blatant falsehoods.

According to the Monitor, Iran’s military experts were able to do so by cutting off “communications links of the American bat-wing RQ-170 Sentinel, says the engineer, who works for one of many Iranian military and civilian teams currently trying to unravel the drone’s stealth and intelligence secrets, and who could not be named for his safety.”

Armed with knowledge “gleaned from previous downed American drones and a technique proudly claimed by Iranian commanders in September, Peterson and Faramarzi disclosed that “the Iranian specialists then reconfigured the drone’s GPS coordinates to make it land in Iran at what the drone thought was its actual home base in Afghanistan.”

It would seem then, if this account is accurate, that Iranian defense experts had already “figure[d] out what they have and what to do with it” from earlier captures.

“The GPS navigation is the weakest point,” the Iranian engineer said. “By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain.”

Once military engineers had “spoofed” the American drone, “which took into account precise landing altitudes, as well as latitudinal and longitudinal data,” they were able to make “the drone ‘land on its own where we wanted it to, without having to crack the remote-control signals and communications’ from the US control center.”

Peterson and Faramarzi reported that the techniques employed “were developed from reverse-engineering several less sophisticated American drones captured or shot down in recent years,” as well as by taking advantage “of weak, easily manipulated GPS signals, which calculate location and speed from multiple satellites.”

Former U.S. Navy electronic warfare specialist Robert Densmore told the Monitor that “‘modern combat-grade GPS [is] very susceptible’ to manipulation,” saying it is “certainly possible” to “‘recalibrate the GPS on a drone so that it flies on a different course’.”

As Antifascist Calling reported in 2009, Iraqi insurgents battling the U.S. occupation had deployed $26 off-the-shelf spy kit which enabled them to intercept live video feeds from Predator drones.

What the Iranians claim to have done, according to defense experts, are orders of magnitude greater than simply capturing a video feed. Indeed, if this report is credible, it would have wide-reaching implications for other U.S., Israeli and NATO aircraft and missiles which similarly rely on GPS to guide them towards their targets.

Why is this the case? As WikiLeaks revealed in a 2009 report on the earlier Iraqi revelations that “it is theoretically possible to read off this [drone] mission control data both in the intercepted video feed and saved video data on harddisks.”

In plain English, this means that the “control and command link to communicate from a control station to the drone” and the “data link that sends mission control data and video feeds back to the ground control station,” for both “line-of-sight communication paths and beyond line-of-sight communication paths” are hackable by whomever might be listening.

Leaked Pentagon Document

On December 13, the secret-shredding web site Public Intelligence, published a leaked U.S. Air Force document, USAF Operating Next-Generation Remotely Piloted Aircraft for Irregular Warfare, SAB-TR-10-03, dated April 2011.

Classified “For Official Use Only,” the 110-page report issued by the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), revealed that drones or “remotely piloted aircraft” (RPA) are subject to a number of vulnerabilities.

Air Force analysts averred that “in spite of current low RPA losses, inexpensive physical threats (e.g., MANPADS, low-end SAMs, air-to-air missiles) and electronic threats (e.g., acoustic detectors, low cost acquisition radars, jammers) threaten future operations.”

Relevantly, “sensor/data downlinks for some RPAs have not been encrypted or obfuscated.”

However, the RQ-170 Sentinel, which can operate at 50,000 feet would not have been vulnerable to “MANPADS” or “low-end SAMs,” and was certainly not brought down by an Iranian air-to-air missile; therefore, a valid explanation of its capture would be the one offered by Iran: electronic countermeasures developed by the Islamic Republic.

Amongst the more salient findings of the Air Force report are the following:

Section 2.4.3 Threat to Communication Links

1. Jamming of commercial satellite communications (SATCOM) links is a widely available technology. It can provide an effective tool for adversaries against data links or as a way for command and control (C2) denial.

2. Operational needs may require the use of unencrypted data links to provide broadcast services to ground troops without security clearances. Eavesdropping on these links is a known exploit that is available to adversaries for extremely low cost.

3. Spoofing or hijacking links can lead to damaging missions, or even to platform loss.

Section 2.4.4 Threat to Position, Navigation, and Guidance

1. Small, simple GPS noise jammers can be easily constructed and employed by an unsophisticated adversary and would be effective over a limited RPA operating area.

2. GPS repeaters are also available for corrupting navigation capabilities of RPAs.

3. Cyber threats represent a major challenge for future RPA operations. Cyber attacks can affect both on-board and ground systems, and exploits may range from asymmetric CNO [computer network operation] attacks to highly sophisticated electronic systems and software attacks.

Jeffrey Carr, a U.S. cybersecurity expert who maintains the Digital Dao web site wrote that the timing of document’s release to Public Intelligence was “very interesting.”

“Clearly,” Carr wrote, “someone with FOUO access wanted this information to be made public to inform the controversy surrounding the incident.”

Commenting on the Air Force report, Carr averred that “the capture of the RQ-170 by Iranian forces needs to be evaluated fairly and not dismissed as some kind of Iranian scam for reasons that have more to do with embarrassment than a rational assessment of the facts.”

“Theft of this technology via cyber attacks against the companies doing R&D and manufacture of the aircraft is ongoing,” Carr noted.

“Whether or not the Iranians got lucky or have acquired the ability to attack the C2 of the drone in question, there’s obviously some serious errors in judgment being made at very high levels and secrecy about it is only serving the ones guilty of making those bad decisions.”

While Carr’s observations are true as far as it goes, the “serious errors in judgement” begin with chest-thumping U.S. and Israeli politicians who believe they have a monopoly when it comes to dictating policies or invading other countries, killing people on an industrial scale, stealing their resources and reducing their cities to smoking ruins as was done in both Gaza and Fallujah.

To make matters worse for technophilic Western militaries hell-bent on attacking Iran, Tehran Times reported Thursday that “Iran plans to put foreign spy drones it has in its possession on display in the near future.”

According to unnamed sources quoted by the newspaper, which reflects the views of the Iranian government, “the foreign unmanned aircraft that Iran has are four Israeli and three U.S. drones.”

Back in September, The Christian Science Monitor disclosed, “Gen. Moharam Gholizadeh, the deputy for electronic warfare at the air defense headquarters of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), described to Fars News how Iran could alter the path of a GPS-guided missile–a tactic more easily applied to a slower-moving drone.”

According to Peterson and Faramarzi, Gholizadeh told the news agency that “we have a project on hand that is one step ahead of jamming, meaning ‘deception’ of the aggressive systems,” … such that “we can define our own desired information for it so the path of the missile would change to our desired destination.”

While it is not possible to verify these claims, indeed they may be nothing more than propaganda offerings from Iranian spinmeisters, if their assertions are accurate, a technological leap such as this would pose a serious threat to any attacking force.

As I wrote back in 2009, since cheap and readily-obtainable software packages were now part of the spy-kit of Iraqi insurgent forces, I wondered whether it was “only a matter of time before militant groups figure out how to hijack a drone and crash it, or even launch a Hellfire missile or two at a U.S. ground station?”

We were told by military experts this was not possible; however, who would have dreamed that the Achilles’ heel of Pentagon robo-warriors, blinded by their own arrogance and racist presumptions about the “Arab” or “Persian mind” was something as simple as their own imperial hubris.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, he is a Contributing Editor with Cyrano’s Journal Today. His articles can be read on Dissident Voice, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.

Even though most Americans have become very frustrated with this economy, the reality is that the vast majority of them still have no idea just how bad our economic decline has been or how much trouble we are going to be in if we don’t make dramatic changes immediately.  If we do not educate the American people about how deathly ill the U.S. economy has become, then they will just keep falling for the same old lies that our politicians keep telling them.  Just “tweaking” things here and there is not going to fix this economy.  We truly do need a fundamental change in direction.  America is consuming far more wealth than it is producing and our debt is absolutely exploding.  If we stay on this current path, an economic collapse is inevitable.  Hopefully the crazy economic numbers from 2011 that I have included in this article will be shocking enough to wake some people up.

At this time of the year, a lot of families get together, and in most homes the conversation usually gets around to politics at some point.  Hopefully many of you will use the list below as a tool to help you share the reality of the U.S. economic crisis with your family and friends.  If we all work together, hopefully we can get millions of people to wake up and realize that “business as usual” will result in a national economic apocalypse.

The following are 50 economic numbers from 2011 that are almost too crazy to believe….

#1 A staggering 48 percent of all Americans are either considered to be “low income” or are living in poverty.

#2 Approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are living in homes that are either considered to be “low income” or impoverished.

#3 If the number of Americans that “wanted jobs” was the same today as it was back in 2007, the “official” unemployment rate put out by the U.S. government would be up to 11 percent.

#4 The average amount of time that a worker stays unemployed in the United States is now over 40 weeks.

#5 One recent survey found that 77 percent of all U.S. small businesses do not plan to hire any more workers.

#6 There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million extra people to the population since then.

#7 Since December 2007, median household income in the United States has declined by a total of 6.8% once you account for inflation.

#8 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16.6 million Americans were self-employed back in December 2006.  Today, that number has shrunk to 14.5 million.

#9 A Gallup poll from earlier this year found that approximately one out of every five Americans that do have a job consider themselves to be underemployed.

#10 According to author Paul Osterman, about 20 percent of all U.S. adults are currently working jobs that pay poverty-level wages.

#11 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#12 Back in 1969, 95 percent of all men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job.  In July, only 81.2 percent of men in that age group had a job.

#13 One recent survey found that one out of every three Americans would not be able to make a mortgage or rent payment next month if they suddenly lost their current job.

#14 The Federal Reserve recently announced that the total net worth of U.S. households declined by 4.1 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2011 alone.

#15 According to a recent study conducted by the BlackRock Investment Institute, the ratio of household debt to personal income in the United States is now 154 percent.

#16 As the economy has slowed down, so has the number of marriages.  According to a Pew Research Center analysis, only 51 percent of all Americans that are at least 18 years old are currently married.  Back in 1960, 72 percent of all U.S. adults were married.

#17 The U.S. Postal Service has lost more than 5 billion dollars over the past year.

#18 In Stockton, California home prices have declined 64 percent from where they were at when the housing market peaked.

#19 Nevada has had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation for 59 months in a row.

#20 If you can believe it, the median price of a home in Detroit is now just $6000.

#21 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 percent of all homes in the state of Florida are sitting vacant.  That figure is 63 percent larger than it was just ten years ago.

#22 New home construction in the United States is on pace to set a brand new all-time record low in 2011.

#23 As I have written about previously, 19 percent of all American men between the ages of 25 and 34 are now living with their parents.

#24 Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

#25 According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, health care costs accounted for just 9.5% of all personal consumption back in 1980.  Today they account for approximately 16.3%.

#26 One study found that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.

#27 If you can believe it, one out of every seven Americans has at least 10 credit cards.

#28 The United States spends about 4 dollars on goods and services from China for every one dollar that China spends on goods and services from the United States.

#29 It is being projected that the U.S. trade deficit for 2011 will be 558.2 billion dollars.

#30 The retirement crisis in the United States just continues to get worse.  According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 46 percent of all American workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, and 29 percent of all American workers have less than $1,000 saved for retirement.

#31 Today, one out of every six elderly Americans lives below the federal poverty line.

#32 According to a study that was just released, CEO pay at America’s biggest companies rose by 36.5% in just one recent 12 month period.

#33 Today, the “too big to fail” banks are larger than ever.  The total assets of the six largest U.S. banks increased by 39 percent between September 30, 2006 and September 30, 2011.

#34 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have a net worth that is roughly equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans combined.

#35 According to an analysis of Census Bureau data done by the Pew Research Center, the median net worth for households led by someone 65 years of age or older is 47 times greater than the median net worth for households led by someone under the age of 35.

#36 If you can believe it, 37 percent of all U.S. households that are led by someone under the age of 35 have a net worth of zero or less than zero.

#37 A higher percentage of Americans is living in extreme poverty (6.7%) than has ever been measured before.

#38 Child homelessness in the United States is now 33 percent higher than it was back in 2007.

#39 Since 2007, the number of children living in poverty in the state of California has increased by 30 percent.

#40 Sadly, child poverty is absolutely exploding all over America.  According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 36.4% of all children that live in Philadelphia are living in poverty, 40.1% of all children that live in Atlanta are living in poverty, 52.6% of all children that live in Cleveland are living in poverty and 53.6% of all children that live in Detroit are living in poverty.

#41 Today, one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

#42 In 1980, government transfer payments accounted for just 11.7% of all income.  Today, government transfer payments account for more than 18 percent of all income.

#43 A staggering 48.5% of all Americans live in a household that receives some form of government benefits.  Back in 1983, that number was below 30 percent.

#44 Right now, spending by the federal government accounts for about 24 percent of GDP.  Back in 2001, it accounted for just 18 percent.

#45 For fiscal year 2011, the U.S. federal government had a budget deficit of nearly 1.3 trillion dollars.  That was the third year in a row that our budget deficit has topped one trillion dollars.

#46 If Bill Gates gave every single penny of his fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for about 15 days.

#47 Amazingly, the U.S. government has now accumulated a total debt of 15 trillion dollars.  When Barack Obama first took office the national debt was just 10.6 trillion dollars.

#48 If the federal government began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 440,000 years to pay off the national debt.

#49 The U.S. national debt has been increasing by an average of more than 4 billion dollars per day since the beginning of the Obama administration.

#50 During the Obama administration, the U.S. government has accumulated more debt than it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that Bill Clinton took office.

Of course the heart of our economic problems is the Federal Reserve.  The Federal Reserve is a perpetual debt machine, it has almost completely destroyed the value of the U.S. dollar and it has an absolutely nightmarish track record of incompetence.  If the Federal Reserve system had never been created, the U.S. economy would be in far better shape.  The federal government needs to shut down the Federal Reserve and start issuing currency that is not debt-based.  That would be a very significant step toward restoring prosperity to America.

During 2011 we made a lot of progress in educating the American people about our economic problems, but we still have a long way to go.

Hopefully next year more Americans than ever will wake up, because 2012 is going to represent a huge turning point for this country.

VIDEO: NATO Wants a Civil War in Syria – As a Prelude

December 18th, 2011 by Pepe Escobar

US and Nato should avoid confrontation with Russia  

-To understand the side-effects which might result from this missile crisis, America should remember the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

What the US is trying to do in the name of Nato is a true replica of the Cuban missile crisis which almost caused the first global nuclear war.

-Russia’s top generals consider the missile shield in Europe project to be a direct threat to its nuclear forces, with US use of ‘rogue states’ as a target for the planned missiles just a cover-up.

-This is a serious threat not only to the US-Nato alliance but to global peace. America and its hawkish European partners should think twice before going ahead with the missile project. They have to take into consideration that Russia is not a push-over as the Pentagon and Brussels may like to believe.

Even more important Russia is not a soft target like Muammar Gadaffi’s Libya, Afghanistan or Iraq where America and its hawkish European partners were certain of victory prior to embarking upon invasion.

The way the United States of America through the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) treats Russia when the former implements its strategic military projects in Europe generates more questions than answers.

This is proved by the planned project to place new missile defence systems and radars in Europe. The project has caused unrest following the involving of new Nato members in Eastern Europe.

US-Russia cooperation since the collapse of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1991 has been tricky for both states, with Russia facing an uphill task of trying to halt the US’s strong drive to woo former Warsaw Pact states to join Nato. [All former Warsaw Pact nations outside the former Soviet Union are now full NATO members - RR]

Earlier when Poland, Romania and other former USSR allies under the Warsaw Pact applied for Nato membership, Moscow came up fighting against the move, Russia lost the fight…

A moment to fight Nato presented itself this year following US and its Nato allies unveiling a multi-billion- dollar plan to place land- and sea-based radars and interceptors in different European locations over the next decade.

Among identified locations to host the missiles are Poland and Romania, two states formerly members of the defunct Warsaw Pact.

While Moscow is furious and spiting fire, Washington claims the new missile sites where new shield missile system are to be placed are not aimed at Russian targets, but are rather aim at protecting US allies against ‘rogue states’.

The unfolding Nato-Russia spat as a result of Nato’s missile project leads one to question, are the US and Nato underestimating Russia’s military strength to the point of daring to provoke the former super power?

Or is US-Nato homework on Russian military strength done competitively to justify a provocation which if it leads to a military confrontation will see the US and by extension Nato emerge victorious, hence tilting the military balance in Europe to Nato’s favour?

If that is the calculation by Nato military experts in Brussels and the Pentagon, then they should go back to the drawing board. This is because they are provoking Russia at their own peril. One can’t imagine who among Nato members pushed for the missile shield project so arbitrarily with no reasoning as to the need of bringing Moscow on board.

To understand the side-effects which might result from this missile crisis, America should remember the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

What the US is trying to do in the name of Nato is a true replica of the Cuban missile crisis which almost caused the first global nuclear war.

To prove what is in store following the US’s thirst to create an imperialist hegemony in Europe, outgoing Russian president Dmitry Medvedev responded to the US-Nato project by warning the US and its European allies that Russia will rightfully target the new proposed missile defense sites.

According to Medvedev, Russia will deploy short-range Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, a Baltic Sea exclave along the Russia-Poland border. The Russian leader displayed the reaction while wearing a stern face. He said tension would only be defused if the US takes into account Russian proposals to jointly man the sites with Nato. This will help Russia be sure the sites will not target its territory.

Unfortunately the US and Nato flatly rebuffed Moscow by rejecting the proposal.

With such a US-Nato position, automatically the ‘understanding’ between the two parties will be achieved in the battle trenches. 

To show what the menu is for the West, Russia has stated that it will position Iskander missiles and other weapons in Russia’s west and south targeting the planned U.S  missiles in Europe.

Russia’s top generals consider the missile shield in Europe project to be a direct threat to its nuclear forces, with US use of ‘rogue states’ as a target for the planned missiles just a cover-up. To bolster the Russian ‘warning’ on the US-Nato threat, Medvedev went public saying that prospective Russian strategic nuclear missiles will be fitted with systems that would allow them to penetrate missile defenses.

This is a serious threat not only to the US-Nato alliance but to global peace. America and its hawkish European partners should think twice before going ahead with the missile project. They have to take into consideration that Russia is not a push-over as the Pentagon and Brussels may like to believe.

Even more important Russia is not a soft target like Muammar Gadaffi’s Libya, Afghanistan or Iraq where America and its hawkish European partners were certain of victory prior to embarking upon invasion.

The writer is a correspondent with The Citizen based in Dar es Salaam.

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Afghanistan: NATO Troops Shoot Women in Home Raid

December 18th, 2011 by Daud Tapan

Official’s house raided, woman killed in Paktia

GARDEZ (PAN): NATO and Afghan forces raided the house of a senior counternarcotics official, arresting him along with two sons and killing a female family member in the capital of southeastern Paktia province, relatives said on Saturday.

Another four women were injured during the overnight raid on the house of Paktia Counternarcotics Department head, Dr. Hafizullah Ahmadzai, who was arrested along with his two sons, a relative, Yusuf Ahmadzai, told Pajhwok Afghan News.

He said the joint forces opened fire at the family during the raid that came at around 2:30am last night.

Five female members of the family received bullet wounds and later one of the injured died of her wounds, the relative said, adding a second woman was still in a coma.

Ahmadzai said one of the detained sons was student and the other had a medicine shop in Gardez city.

Deputy police chief Col. Syed Zakria said the operation was conducted against suspected militants, but stopped short of giving further details

However, the deputy governor, Abdul Rahman Mangal, confirmed the raid was carried out on the house of Hafizullah Ahmadzai.

He said an investigation team had been sent to the scene and more details would be provided to the media after the investigation was completed.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) media office in Kabul said its troops had carried out an operation targeting a rebel commander in Gardez last night. In a statement, the force said the incident was still being investigated.

Pakistan: Pentagon Pressure May Have Delayed Obama Apology

December 18th, 2011 by Sherwood Ross

Reportedly, under pressure from the Pentagon, President Obama “hesitated for more than a week” before he phoned Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari “to provide a qualified apology” for the November 26th killings by U.S. aircraft and artillery of two dozen Pakistani soldiers at a border post near Afghanistan, Robert Dreyfuss reports in The Nation magazine.

There are two U.S. policies on Pakistan: that of the White House and State Department, which prefer to talk, and that of the CIA and Pentagon, which prefer to fight, Dreyfuss writes in the December 26th issue of the American liberal magazine. President Obama’s delayed and weak response may have been a result of that internal tug-of-war.

Dreyfuss raises the possibility that by its sustained attack on the Pakistani troops the U.S. military may have been sending a message to the Pakistans, whose sanctuaries for Afghan insurgents it considers a major obstacle to its progress in the fighting. It is possible, the article said, the Pentagon might be “thinking about escalating the (Afghanistan) war into Pakistan.”

In the wake of the U.S. attack, Pakistan did not attend a Bonn conference hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to work out an accord between Afghanistan, the U.S.-led coalition, Pakistan, and the Taliban, editor Dreyfuss noted.

What’s more, Pakistan also demanded the U.S. quit a drone base there and closed down U.S. supply lines into Afghanistan. Pakistanis are seething not only over the Nov. 26th slaughter but also over the killing of two Pakistanis last January by an armed CIA contractor; the incursion into their country that killed Osama bin Laden last May 1st; and “the barrage of drone attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas,” Dreyfuss reports.

“Even many U.S. generals know that the war in Afghanistan can’t be won militarily,” Dreyfuss writes, “so the U.S. needs an all-out focus on a settlement, even after the crash-and-burn conference in Bonn.”

A good place to begin, he proposes, would be with a unilateral US/NATO cease-fire. “By halting drone attacks, the United States could provide a face-saving way for Pakistan to enter serious negotiations. A cease-fire would also end the mixed messages sent to the Taliban and their allies and provide a true test of their willingness to come to the table.”

Coaxing Pakistan and the Taliban into talks while getting the region’s powers to underwrite a rebalanced Afghan accord, and very likely a new Constitution is complex indeed, Dreyfuss points out. “With each passing day, it seems the Obama administration isn’t up to the task, and that could mean we will remain bogged down in the (Afghan) quagmire even after 2014,” he writes.

This is unfortunate, he adds, as the American people have turned sharply against the war and want their troops out of Afghanistan. Currently, the timetable for departing calls for 33,000 U.S. troops to quit Afghanistan by next September and withdrawal of nearly all foreign forces by 2014.

Dreyfuss writes that by pursuing “a contradictory policy of warmaking, peace talks and development assistance,” it isn’t all that clear that the Obama administration knows what it’s doing.

Sherwood Ross, who formerly worked for major dailies and wire services, is a public relations consultant for good causes. Reach him at [email protected] . Hear his commentaries on New American Dream internet radio at 8 PM EST the first Thursday of each month.

Then U.S. President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad December 2008. / Credit:White House photo by Eric Draper (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons
Then U.S. President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad December 2008.

Credit:White House photo by Eric Draper (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON, Dec 16, 2011 (IPS) – Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s suggestion that the end of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq is part of a U.S. military success story ignores the fact that the George W. Bush administration and the U.S. military had planned to maintain a semi-permanent military presence in Iraq.

The real story behind the U.S. withdrawal is how a clever strategy of deception and diplomacy adopted by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in cooperation with Iran outmanoeuvered Bush and the U.S. military leadership and got the United States to sign the U.S.-Iraq withdrawal agreement.

A central element of the Maliki-Iran strategy was the common interest that Maliki, Iran and anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr shared in ending the U.S. occupation, despite their differences over other issues.

Maliki needed Sadr’s support, which was initially based on Maliki’s commitment to obtain a time schedule for U.S. troops’ withdrawal from Iraq.

In early June 2006, a draft national reconciliation plan that circulated among Iraqi political groups included agreement on “a time schedule to pull out the troops from Iraq” along with the build-up of Iraqi military forces. But after a quick trip to Baghdad, Bush rejected the idea of a withdrawal timetable.

Maliki’s national security adviser Mowaffak Al-Rubaei revealed in a Washington Post op-ed that Maliki wanted foreign troops reduced by more than 30,000 to under 100,000 by the end of 2006 and withdrawal of “most of the remaining troops” by end of the 2007.

When the full text of the reconciliation plan was published Jun. 25, 2006, however, the commitment to a withdrawal timetable was missing.

In June 2007, senior Bush administration officials began leaking to reporters plans for maintaining what The New York Times described as “a near-permanent presence” in Iraq, which would involve control of four major bases.

Maliki immediately sent Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari to Washington to dangle the bait of an agreement on troops before then Vice President Dick Cheney.

As recounted in Linda Robinson’s “Tell Me How This Ends”, Zebari urged Cheney to begin negotiating the U.S. military presence in order to reduce the odds of an abrupt withdrawal that would play into the hands of the Iranians.

In a meeting with then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in September 2007, National Security Adviser Rubaie said Maliki wanted a “Status of Forces Agreement” (SOFA) that would allow U.S. forces to remain but would “eliminate the irritants that are apparent violations of Iraqi sovereignty”, according Bob Woodward’s “The War Within”.

Maliki’s national security adviser was also seeking to protect the Mahdi Army from U.S. military plans to target it for major attacks. Meeting Bush’s coordinator for the Iraq War, Douglas Lute, Rubaie said it was better for Iraqi security forces to take on Sadr’s militias than for U.S. Special Forces to do so.

He explained to the Baker-Hamilton Commission that Sadr’s use of military force was not a problem for Maliki, because Sadr was still part of the government.

Publicly, the Maliki government continued to assure the Bush administration it could count on a long-term military presence. Asked by NBC’s Richard Engel on Jan. 24, 2008 if the agreement would provide long-term U.S. bases in Iraq, Zebari said, “This is an agreement of enduring military support. The soldiers are going to have to stay someplace. They can’t stay in the air.”

Confident that it was going to get a South Korea-style SOFA, the Bush administration gave the Iraqi government a draft on Mar. 7, 2008 that provided for no limit on the number of U.S. troops or the duration of their presence. Nor did it give Iraq any control over U.S. military operations.

But Maliki had a surprise in store for Washington.

A series of dramatic moves by Maliki and Iran over the next few months showed that there had been an explicit understanding between the two governments to prevent the U.S. military from launching major operations against the Mahdi Army and to reach an agreement with Sadr on ending the Mahdi Army’s role in return for assurances that Maliki would demand the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces.

In mid-March 2007, Maliki ignored pressure from a personal visit by Cheney to cooperate in taking down the Mahdi Army and instead abruptly vetoed U.S. military plans for a major operation against the Mahdi Army in Basra. Maliki ordered an Iraqi army assault on the dug-in Sadrist forces.

Predictably, the operation ran into trouble, and within days, Iraqi officials had asked General Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard, to intervene and negotiate a ceasefire with Sadr, who agreed, although his troops were far from defeated.

A few weeks later, Maliki again prevented the United States from launching its biggest campaign yet against the Mahdi Army in Sadr City. And again, Suleimani was brought in to work out a deal with Sadr allowing government troops to patrol in the former Mahdi Army stronghold.

There was subtext to Suleimani’s interventions. Just as Suleimani was negotiating the Basra ceasefire with Sadr, a website associated with former IRGC Commander Mohsen Rezai said Iran opposed actions by “hard-line clans” that “only weaken the government and people of Iraq and give a pretext to its occupiers”.

In the days that followed that agreement, Iranian state news media portrayed the Iraqi crackdown in Basra as being against illegal and “criminal” forces.

The timing of each political diplomatic move by Maliki appears to have been determined in discussions between Maliki and top Iranian officials.

Just two days after returning from a visit to Tehran in June 2008, Maliki complained publicly about U.S. demands for indefinite access to military bases, control of Iraqi airspace and immunity from prosecution for U.S. troops and private contractors.

In July, he revealed that his government was demanding the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops on a timetable.

The Bush administration was in a state of shock. From July to October, it pretended that it could simply refuse to accept the withdrawal demand, while trying vainly to pressure Maliki to back down.

In the end, however, Bush administration officials realised that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who was then far ahead of Republican John McCain in polls, would accept the same or an even faster timetable for withdrawal. In October, Bush decided to sign the draft agreement pledging withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of 2011.

The ambitious plans of the U.S. military to use Iraq to dominate the Middle East militarily and politically had been foiled by the very regime the United States had installed, and the officials behind the U.S. scheme, had been clueless about what was happening until it was too late.

Yesterday, December 16, 2011, 40 supporters of Bradley Manning saw him in person in the military courtroom at Fort Meade, Maryland and another 60 saw him on a video feed from the court, the first time Manning has been seen by the public in 19 months.  Over 100 other supporters, including 50 from Occupy Wall Street who had bused down from New York City, were at the front gates of Fort Meade in solidarity with Manning.

Hundreds of supporters will gather today, Saturday, December 17, for a large rally and march.

For his first court appearance, Bradley was in what looked to be a new military uniform and typically military, he had a fresh haircut.  He was not in shackles in the courtroom, but it appeared in a photo that he was shackled in the van that brought him to the court. Manning talked freely with his civilian defense counsel and his two military legal counsels.

He did not turn around and look at the people in the court, but as he was brought in and taken out during the various recesses of the court, he no doubt noticed supporters in Bradley Manning t-shirts.

Bradley Manning has been imprisoned for 19 months, since May, 2010, without a trial.  Yesterday, December 16, 2011, an Article 32 hearing began at Fort Meade, Maryland, in which an investigating officer will determine whether there is sufficient evidence of the crimes with which the military has charged him for the case to be referred to a General court-martial.

In July, 2010, Manning was charged with transferring classified information onto his personal computer and communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source.  22 more crimes were charged in March 2011, including “aiding the enemy,” a capital offense.  Defense Department prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty. In April, 2011, Manning was found fit to face a court martial.

Defense Challenges Impartiality of Investigating Officer

On Friday, December 16, Manning’s civilian lawyer, David Coombs challenged the impartiality of the investigating officer US Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza, citing Almanza’s civilian employment as a lawyer in the Department of Justice which has conducted investigations on Manning, Julian Assange, and Wikileaks. The defense team had requested that 38 witnesses be allowed to testify in the Article 32 hearing. Coombs also said that the decision of Almanza to allow only two defense witnesses other than the10 the prosecution wanted demonstrated a bias by Almanza.

Coombs told Almanza,  “That simple fact alone, without anything else, would cause a reasonable person to say, ‘I question your impartiality.’?” Stating that his office of child exploitation in the Department of Justice had nothing to do with the Wikileaks investigation or with national security issues, Almanza denied Coombs’ request for recusal.

Almanza told [6] Coombs and Manning, “I do not believe a reasonable person, knowing all the circumstances, would be led to the conclusion that my impartiality would be reasonably questioned.  I thus deny the defense request to recuse myself.”  

After that, Coombs filed a writ with the Army Court of Criminal Appeals to stay the proceedings until a decision can be made on whether Almanza should continue to preside. According to military law experts, the hearing can proceed while the appeals court makes its determination.

Manning under harsh imprisonment at Quantico reeked of intimidation and retaliation

The military’s treatment of Manning has reeked of intimidation and retaliation.

Until citizen activist protests six months ago in March, 2011, brought sufficient attention to the harsh conditions of his pre-trial confinement, the US military was treating  him as if he were beyond the scrutiny of the law — as if he were an “enemy combatant” in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib.  Amnesty International and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture expressed great concern about the conditions under which Manning was being held — in a maximum-security, single-occupancy cell, placed on a prevention-of-injury order and allowed to wear only a suicide-proof smock at night.

Independent UN expert on torture calls for unrestricted access to Manning and other US detainees

On July 12, 2011, Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, stated that it was “vital for him to have unmonitored access to Bradley Manning.” Mendez said,

“I am assured by the US Government that Mr. Manning’s prison regime and confinement is markedly better than it was when he was in Quantico, however, in addition to obtaining firsthand information on my own about his new conditions of confinement, I need to ascertain whether the conditions he was subjected to for several months in Quantico amounted to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. For that, it is imperative that I talk to Mr. Manning under conditions where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid.”

At the request of Mr. Mendez and after several meetings, the US Department of Defense said it would allow him to visit Mr. Manning, but warned that the conversation would be monitored.

Mendez said such a condition violated long-standing rules that the UN applies for prison visits and for interviews with inmates everywhere in the world. On humanitarian grounds and under protest, Mr. Mendez, through Mr. Manning’s counsel, offered to visit him under these restrictive conditions, an offer Manning declined.

Mr. Mendez said, “The question of my unfettered access to a detainee goes beyond my request to meet with Mr. Manning — it touches on whether I will be able to conduct private and unmonitored interviews with detainees if I were to conduct a country visit to the United States.”

Additionally, Mr. Mendez has requested several times since his appointment in November, 2010, that the US Government allow him to visit the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. However, the US government has not responded to his requests.

Best Military Legal System in the World?

Despite the military’s mantra of having the best military legal system in the world, the past treatment of Manning—keeping him in solitary confinement, forcing him to stand naked while in pre-trial confinement and the lack of compliance with the norms of the military legal system of a “speedy” trial have added to the low points of Abu Gharib and Guantanamo in the history of military “justice.”

The federal courts have long established mechanism of dealing with classified information in national security cases. 

The military’s contention that it took 19 months to figure out how to try him while protecting classified materials reeks of intimidation, retribution and retaliation. 

Global Economic Crisis: The USA, An Insolvent and Ungovernable Country

December 17th, 2011 by Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin (GEAB)

As announced in previous GEABs, in this issue our team presents its anticipations on the changes in the United States for the period 2012-2016. This country, the epicentre of the global systemic crisis and pillar of the international system since 1945, will go through a particularly tragic in its history during these five years. Already insolvent it will become ungovernable bringing about, for Americans and those who depend on the United States violent and destructive economic, financial, monetary, geopolitical and social shocks. If the United States today is already very different from the “super-power” of 2006, the year the first GEAB was published, announcing the global systemic crisis and the end of the all-powerful US, the changes we anticipate for the 2012-2016 period are even more important, and will radically transform the country’s institutional system, its social fabric and its economic and financial weight.

At the same time, every December, we evaluate our anticipations for the year just ended. This exercise, too rarely practiced by the think tanks, experts and media (1) is a tool enabling our subscribers (2) as well as our researchers to verify that our work retains a high added-value and and is in direct contact with reality. This year our score improved slightly and LEAP/E2020 attained an 82% success rate in its anticipations for 2011.

In addition we also detail our recommendations on foreign currencies, gold, stock exchanges and the consequences of the United Kingdom’s marginalization within the EU (3) on the Pound, Gilts and UK debt and we set out some advice on developments of the American institutional system (4).

In this public communiqué we have chosen to present an excerpt from our anticipation on the changes in the United States for the 2012-2016 period.

But before addressing the American case, we wish to review the situation in Europe (5).

From the non-dislocation of Euroland to the dislocation of the United Kingdom

As anticipated by our team, the EU summit in Brussels on 7 and 8 December last has led to two key events:

. the further integration of Euroland with an acceleration and strengthening of budgetary and financial integration and the initiation of a fiscal integration (6). The Eurozone governments, led by Germany, have confirmed their willingness to go right through to the end of this process, unlike all the Anglo-Saxon and Eurosceptic discussions which, for the last two years, predicted that Germany would abandon the Euro. At the same time, they have refused to follow the path of the Fed and the Bank of England by refraining from running the printing press (Quantitative Easing) as long as budgetary discipline is not achieved within Euroland (7). The clear failure of QE in the US as in the UK (8) confirms the relevance of this choice which will allow the issue of Eurobonds at the end of 2012 (9).

US, UK, Japanese and European central bank balance sheets (2007-2011, based 100 in June 2008) - Source: Société Générale, 11/2011

US, UK, Japanese and European central bank balance sheets (2007-2011, based 100 in June 2008) – Source: Société Générale, 11/2011
In contrast, the “assurance” that the Greek case (of a “voluntary tax” of a 50% “haircut” for the country’s private creditors) will remain an exception is a promise that binds only those who believe it. Incidentally it has been pushed by the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, whose citizens are well aware, after five years of seeing him in action, that his commitments have no lasting value and are always tactical in nature (10).

. the lasting marginalization (at least 5 years) of the UK within the European Union vividly confirms that it really is now Euroland that henceforth leads European affairs. David Cameron’s inability to gather even only two or three of the United Kingdom’s “traditional allies” (11) illustrates the structural weakening of British diplomacy and the general lack of confidence in Europe on UK’s ability to overcome the crisis (12). It’s also a reliable indicator of the loss of US influence on the continent since the sending of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Vice President Joe Biden to maraude on the mainland a few days before the summit served no purpose and didn’t prevent the British failure (13).

 

Comparison between interest rates on current debt and the market rate for 10 year borrowing - Source: Figaro, 11/2011
Comparison between interest rates on current debt and the market rate for 10 year borrowing – Source: Figaro, 11/2011
In fact this summit will have been historic, but not yet because it will have settled the European financial and budgetary problems. As we anticipated in December 2010, and as Angela Merkel has just said in the Bundestag, the Euroland path is a long journey, complex and chaotic, like the road traveled since the 1950s for European integration (14). But it’s a way that strengthens our continent and will place Euroland at the heart of the world after the crisis (15). If markets are not happy with this reality, it’s their problem. They will continue to see their ghost-assets go up in smoke, their banks and hedge funds go bankrupt, trying in vain to push up interest rates on European debt (16) resulting in the ratings of the Anglo-Saxon credit rating agencies losing all credibility (17).

 

Large hedge funds’ donations to the British Conservative Party (2001-2011) - Source: Financial Times, 12/2011
Large hedge funds’ donations to the British Conservative Party (2001-2011) – Source: Financial Times, 12/2011
This summit is historic because it confirms and boosts the return of the EU founding countries in charge of the European project and because it shows that far from witnessing a collapse of the Euro zone, the shock treatment attempted by David Cameron on the orders of City financiers (18), is resulting in an acceleration of the United Kingdom’s dislocation (19). In addition to the confrontation between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives which Cameron’s posture initiated, undermining even further a coalition already in really bad shape, this British marginalization raises fierce opposition in Scotland and Wales whose leaders proclaim their attachment to the EU and its volition, as regards Scotland (20), to join the Euro once the independence process starts around 2014 (21).

And, the icing on the cake, the collusion between the City and the British government is now a topic that extends beyond the UK’s borders and reinforces the continent’s determination to finally bring this “outlaw” under control. As we have described since December 2009 and the beginning of the attacks against Greece and Euroland, the City, alarmed by the consequences of the crisis as regards European regulations, launched itself in an attack against an evolving Euroland, putting the Conservative Party and Anglo-Saxon financial media in its service (22). The episode of the recent Brussels summit marks a major defeat for the City in this increasingly public war, exposing by the way the resentment of a majority of British who are not so much against Euroland than against the City (23) accused of exploiting the country (24).

With £1.8 trillion of public money invested in banks to prevent their collapse in 2008, the British taxpayers are in fact those who have paid the most for the rescue of financial institutions. And the British government may well continue to exclude this amount from its public debt calculations by claiming it’s an “investment”, de facto, fewer and fewer people consider that the banks in the City will recover from the crisis, especially since its worsening in the second half of 2011: the shares purchased by the Government in fact are already worthless. The “UK hedge fund” is on the brink of collapse (25) … and thanks to David Cameron and the City, it’s isolated with no one to come to its aid, neither in Europe nor the United States.

With the Chinese bubble (26) about to join the European recession and the US depression, the 2012 storm will determine whether David Cameron and his finance minister George Osborne are worthy descendants of the great British sailors.

 

Maritime freight costs China/Europe (in blue) and China/USA (in red) (September-November 2011) - Source: Phantonomics, 12/2011
Maritime freight costs China/Europe (in blue) and China/USA (in red) (September-November 2011) – Source: Phantonomics, 12/2011
But back now to the extract from our anticipation on the future of the United States for the 2012-2016 period.

The future of the USA – 2012-2016: An insolvent and ungovernable United States

In this issue, our team therefore gives its anticipations regarding the future of the United States for the 2012-2016 period. We recall that since 2006 and the first GEAB issues, LEAP/E2020 described the global systemic crisis as a phenomenon characterizing the end of the world as we know it since 1945, marking the collapse of the American pillar on which this world order has rested for nearly seven decades. Since 2006, we had identified the period 2011-2013 as that during which the “Dollar Wall” on which the power of the United States sits would fall apart. Summer 2011, with the cut in the United States’ credit rating by S & P, marked an historic turning point and confirmed that the “impossible” (27) was indeed in the process of coming true. Therefore today, it seems essential to provide our subscribers with a clear anticipatory vision of what awaits the “pillar” of the world before the crisis at the point when the crisis moved into “top gear” in summer 2011 (28).

Thus, according to LEAP/E2020, the 2012 election year, which opens against the backdrop of economic and social depression, complete paralysis of the federal system (29), strong rejection of the traditional two-party system and a growing questioning of the relevance of the Constitution, inaugurates a crucial period in the history of the United States. Over the next four years, the country will be subjected to political, economic, financial and social upheaval such as it has not known since the end of the Civil War which, by an accident of history, started exactly 150 years ago in 1861. During this period, the US will be simultaneously insolvent and ungovernable, turning that which was the “flagship” of the world in recent decades into a “drunken boat”.

To make the complexity of the current process understandable, our team has chosen to organize its anticipations around three key areas:

US institutional deadlock and the break-up of the traditional two-party system
The unstoppable spiral of recession/depression/inflation
The breakdown of the US socio-political fabric

The unstoppable US economic spiral : recession/depression/inflation (extract)

In fact, the United States ends 2011 in a state of weakness unmatched since the Civil War. They practice no significant leadership at international level. The confrontation between geopolitical blocs is sharpening and they find themselves confronted by almost all the world’s major players: China, Russia, Brazil (and in general almost all of South America) and now Euroland (30). Meanwhile, they cannot control unemployment where the true rate stagnates at around 20% against the backdrop of an unabated and unprecedented reduction in the labour force (which has now fallen to its 2001 level (31)).

Real estate, the foundation of US household wealth along with the stock market, continues to see prices drop year after year despite desperate attempts by the Fed (32) to facilitate lending to the economy through its zero interest rate policy. The stock market has resumed its downward path artificially interrupted by two Quantitative Easings in 2009 and 2010. US banks, whose balance sheets are much more heavily loaded with financial derivative products than their European counterparts (33), are dangerously approaching a new series of bankruptcies of which MF Global is a but a precursor, indicating the absence of procedural controls or alarms three years after the collapse of Wall Street in 2008 (34).

Poverty is gradually increasing in the country every day, where one in six Americans now depend on food stamps (35) and one in five children has experienced periods of living on the streets (36). Public services (education, social, police, highways…) have been significantly reduced across the country to avoid city, county, or state bankruptcies. The success with which the revolt of the middle class and the young (TP and OWS) has met is explained by these objective developments. And the coming years will see these trends get worse.

The weakness of the 2011 US economy and society is, paradoxically, the result of the “rescue” attempts carried out in 2009/2010 (stimulus plans, QE …) and the worsening of a pre-2008 “normal” situation. 2012 will mark the first year of deterioration from an already badly impaired situation (37).

SMEs, households, local authorities (38), public services,… have no more “padding” to soften the blow of the recession into which the country has fallen again (39). We anticipated that 2012 would see a 30% drop in the Dollar against major world currencies. In this economy, which imports the bulk of its consumer goods, this will result in a corresponding decrease in US household purchasing power against a backdrop of double-digit inflation.

The TP and OWS have, therefore, a bright future ahead of them since the wrath of 2011 will become the rage in 2012/2013.

Notes:

(1) Not to mention the rating agencies that spend their time changing their ratings, proof that they have no reliable methodology and that they float at the mercy of pressure and fashion.

(2) Which can thus directly determine both the relevance of our anticipations and the honesty of our assessments.

(3) A development anticipated by our team for a long time.

(4) At the request of numerous American readers.

(5) We will put forward our anticipations for the EU in the GEAB N°61 or 62.

(6) The EU president, Herman Van Rompuy, is almost right in saying that in a few years this 2011 year-end will be judged as an “annus mirabilis” for Europe. Our team considers that 2012 will actually be the key year. Source: Le Soir, 13/12/2011

(7) Source: New York Times, 10/12/2011

(8) The Bank of International Settlements has just warned the UK that its policy of Quantitative Easing was in the course of failing. Source: Telegraph, 12/12/2011

(9) Whatever Angela Merkel may say today.

(10) The Germans, Dutch and other countries with a surplus are for that matter determined to return to this point when the time comes. And we maintain our anticipation that 30% of Western public debt will not be repaid in 2012: in Europe, Japan and the United States.

(11) That’s to say European countries still subservient to Washington such as Vaclav Klaus’ Czech Republic, the Baltic countries or Sweden.

(12) All countries outside the Eurozone, except the United Kingdom, have wisely lined up behind the banner of the European single currency. But of course, they are without any doubt “irresponsible”, “idiots” or “foolhardy”… unlike the writers in the Anglo-Saxon media who know that this is doomed to failure. Just as before 2008, they were convinced of the invincibility of Anglo-Saxon finance or, until the second half of 2011, that the crisis was under control! Source: Libération, 13/12/2011

(13) This type of high-level US visit or presidential phone call, widely reported by the US press, just before an EU summit, has become a feature of the Obama administration. In the absence of being able to influence events – since Euroland has made it clear to Washington that it should mind its own business, it helps to convince the US public that Washington is still the “eus ex machina” of European affairs, even though never since 1945, has US influence been so weak on the evolution of Europe. It’s true that without money, without a common threat, and without credibility, as regards economic and financial affairs, the task of US envoys isn’t easy!

(14) Source: Euronews, 14/12/2011

(15) LEAP/E2020 considers that today Angela Merkel is undoubtedly the only European, and even Western, “statesman”. She isn’t a great visionary but is the only political leader combining the need for difficult policies with a positive vision of the future. And whatever we may think, she shows an undeniable determination, a necessary quality to achieve the things that are important in politics and which are always difficult.

(16) We say “in vain” for two reasons. First, because the actual current rates are not those used by the press (see chart above) and, secondly, because according to our analyses, Euroland in 2012 or early 2013, if interest rates continue to rise, will undertake to directly collect a part of the huge European savings in order to withdraw under its own conditions from the Anglo-Saxon financial markets… who will have to accept a major haircut.

(17) In this regard, the shareholding composition of the three agencies throws the light on the complete lack of decision-making independence since they are held by a few large US banks and investment funds (source: Bankster ). It’s time that they downgrade Euroland by several notches… so that investors are compelled to make their choice: believe the agencies’ ratings or rely on their own views (source: CNBC, 15/12/2011). Ultimately there will be a difference. LEAP/E2020 believes those who follow the agencies will be the biggest losers in this financial crisis. And the attempt by European governments to “keep their AAA rating at all costs”, as in Nicolas Sarkozy’s case, demonstrates just one thing: they’re only listening to their financial friends. When one is Euroland and the first global trading bloc, the holder of the largest global savings, etc… one couldn’t care less about the rating agencies. One ignores them or one breaks them. Two things that will be in the 2012 programme for that matter.

(18) The City “hedge funds” have become the largest donors to the Conservative Party (see chart above) which is de facto their political intermediary. And these same “hedge funds”, of course, have a special affection for the British Eurosceptics of whom Roger Cohen paints a particularly edifying picture in the New York Times of 13/12/2011. What the British Eurosceptics have against Angela Merkel, is not that she’s German, but that she’s not a Nazi. If it were so, their ideas of “superior race” could be expressed more easily within the EU.

(19) Which will find itself left without influence over the decisions that will affect it in any way. Source: Guardian, 10/12/2011

(20) Sources: Scottish TV, 12/12/2011; Wales Online, 10/12/2011; Independent, 05/12/2011

(21) In this regard, our team took the opportunity to share its thoughts on the use of the term “United” in country names. We believe that all countries or political entities that put the word United or Union in their name are doomed to disunion the day a serious crisis changes the internal balances. Using the term “United” in fact masks a fundamental problem of common identity. That is why the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics collapsed, the United Provinces were disunited and the United States like the United Kingdom are facing growing centrifugal tendencies. It’s also why the European Union is not a viable political entity (it is doomed to be only a big market, source: Spiegel, 18/11/2011)… unlike Euroland which has no need to add Union or Uni to have a common identity. Franck Biancheri, director of LEAP/E2020, had thus expressed, for these reasons, his opposition to the adoption of the term European Union in place of European Community at the beginning of the 1990s.

(22) And making full use of its ability to manipulate the currency markets and other financial assets. An aptitude in rapid decline due to the crisis and the growing unmasking of ongoing manipulation.

(23) Source: Independent, 10/12/2011

(24) The City is a feudal relic that escapes all genuine regulation within the United Kingdom. Even if only because it is a huge financial center that too few controllers “control”, supported by the extensive network of tax havens created from the confetti of the former British Empire. For information, France Télévisions has just broadcast a remarkable report on the City on 11/2011. One could say that the City is a kind of “pirate” base like the Barbary corsairs that the European powers finally mastered by military campaigns in the nineteenth century, after centuries of piracy and smuggling of all kinds.

(25) Whether due to the fact that the debt is public or private. Thus in 2012 the British real estate investors will be unable to refinance USD 156 billion in loans. Source: Bloomberg, 09/12/2011

(26) Sources: Telegraph, 14/12/2011; Les Echos, 01/12/2011

(27) Let’s remember just a year ago it seemed totally crazy to anticipate such a breakdown. Financial experts, the specialized media and other experts of “the future as a mirror image of the past” considered such a breakdown impossible, or possible after five or ten years if the country’s financial situation continued to deteriorate.

(28) This requirement is all the higher that the media and financial sectors are completely parasitized by the “lure” of the “Euro crisis” destined, as we have been emphasizing for the last two years, to hide the seriousness of the situation at the heart of the global financial system, namely on Wall Street and in the City. David Cameron’s resounding failure in Brussels last week incidentally shows the panic that reigns in the heart of Anglo-Saxon finance.

(29) Euroland, despite its “handicaps”, repeated at length in the Anglo-Saxon media and the hysterical gibes of Wall Street and City intermediaries, has managed for nearly two years to build a whole new politico-institutional device to pass through the crisis and prepare for the world after. On the contrary, the United States is proving itself totally incapable of the least initiative to adapt itself to the new world order as was once again recently demonstrated with the failure of the deficit reduction super-committee goal despite its very limited target of 1.5 trillion in reductions over 10 years (see chart above). The history of states, like the species, shows however that the ability to adapt is essential for survival, and it’s a law that has no exceptions.

(30) In his marvellous poem « If », Rudyard Kipling wrote “… If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken/ Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools/ Or, being lied about/ Don’t deal in lies/ Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it”. And this advice applies to communities as well as individuals because the reading of the Anglo-Saxon press about the Euro and Euroland irresistibly makes our team think of this passage from the poem. However, with the marginalization of the United Kingdom within the EU and faster Euroland integration (as per our anticipations), we note the crossing of a psychological barrier in Euroland: it’s no longer the time to avoid offending the sensibilities of our Anglo-Saxon “allies”, but simply to protect ourselves from the attacks of our Anglo-Saxon opponents. Unlike the media and “mainstream” experts of Wall Street and the City, Euroland isn’t wasting time “to twist the words to make a trap for fools”, it satisfies itself in taking reality into account, to move forward “grinning and bearing it” and cut, one by one, the ties that bind it to the British and US financial centres (and the political ones later). Our team cannot resist the temptation to provide a further illustration of the daily “spinning” of information of which most of the British and US media have made a specialty. Thus, in the section of our heading “twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”, MarketWatch published an article on 14/12/2011 entitled “Fund managers fear a Eurozone break-up” Yet what did we discover in the article? That their main concern (75% of them) was a further US downgrade (48% think it will happen in 2012) and only 44% of them thought there was a risk that one day a country would leave the Eurozone, without mentioning a timeframe. An honest title should, therefore, have been “Fund managers fear a further US downgrade”. But as they say in French: “A la guerre comme la guerre (make do with what you’ve got)!”.

(31) Whereas in the same time, the US population has increased by 30 million, a 10% rise. Source: Washington Post, 02/12/2011

(32) Our team thinks 2013/2014 will provide, via the Congress and due to massive public support, an unprecedented opportunity to demand a dismantling of the Fed. The anti-federal beliefs of the Tea Parties and those anti-Wall Street of the OWS will find a compelling focal point here.

(33) Source: New York Times, 24/11/2011

(34) In this connection it is interesting to note that the rating agencies, led by Moody’s, saw nothing coming once again since, until the end of summer 2011, MF Global had a positive rating from these agencies… even while the company was already tapping its clients’ accounts in an attempt to survive. May those who believe that their investments are better protected on Wall Street or in the City reflect on this “detail”.

(35) Sources: MSNBC, 11/2011; RT, 08/12/2011

(36) These are the numbers that henceforth rank the country fully in the “Third World” category in social matters. Source: Beforeitsnews, 29/11/2011

(37) Gregor McDonald says the country can no longer generate growth. Source: SeekingAlpha, 05/12/2011

(38) Source: Washington Post, 29/11/2011

(39) In fact, it has never left it since 2008, except technically due to macro-economic measures. But no one eats macroeconomics… except economists.

-For next year, Nato is well on its way to making a security force in Afghanistan that will consume most of that poor country’s resources and operate in areas where it will be seen either as an ethnic ‘outsider’, a foreign ‘invader’ or a local ‘traitor’. If you’re a Pakistani, whether in Karachi, Balochistan or Fata, this should all sound very familiar. Thus, much like a Hollywood superhero fantasy, Nato’s mad scientists are inadvertently putting together an (ethnically skewed and over consumptive) ‘Pakistan Army model’ to tackle the Taliban – and, yes, maybe even the Pakistan Army itself – in Afghanistan. The irony is superb.


Around 200 kilometres from Amsterdam, in South Limburg (famously called the ‘appendix of the Netherlands’), lies the sleepy town of Brunsum.

Once home to the Dutch charcoal mining industry, a gas find in the north of the country during the 1950s put Brunsum on the Netherlands’ not-doing-so-well list. The Eurocrats didn’t struggle too hard to figure what to do with this ailing community: soon enough, Nato was invited to build its Joint Forces Command Headquarters here. Since then, life changed for the locals, as it’s not everyday that one’s hometown becomes the epicentre of a global military command structure.

Thus, in 1967, when General Kayani was probably filling out his application forms to enter the Pakistan Military Academy as a gentlemen cadet, JFC Brunsum became the forward base for history’s mightiest military alliance, overseeing the European theatre as the Cold War reached its peak.

Nowadays, Brunsum is the thinking post for another war, in another continent. The locals are still sleepy, but this new campaign is keeping the uniforms of Brunsum wide awake, even sleepless.

From almost 6000 kilometres away, Nato controls the 10-year-old conflict in Afghanistan. The workday starts early for Marine General John Allen and his staff, who are three and half hours ahead in Kabul, averaging five video-conferences with Brunsum every day. On their part, the intelligence analysts here devise formulae that can help Allen and his Isaf commanders deal with the day-to-day, as well as the long haul, of the war.

These days, the analysts at Brunsum are more worried than usual: the deadline of 2014 looms, the ‘transition’ phase is in full effect, tensions with Pakistan are at an all-time high, and Nato has to urgently deliver on training and equipping the Afghan National Security Forces. This means that it has to ensure the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police are fighting-fit and corruption-free entities that are ready to secure their country, fast.

Think of it in another way, while trying on Nato’s shoes: You’re broke and not the man you used to be (an economic crisis and not enough local support for the war have dwindled Natos’ efforts); your partner caught you cheating and has filed for divorce (post-Salala Pakistan is hitting back with several punitive measures); and you have resorted to leaving the house while trying to ensure your two delinquent juveniles become responsible adults who can fend for themselves (the ANA and the ANP have to be shaped up ASAP so that they can fill the security vacuum Nato shall leave behind).

If life in Afghanistan were Hollywood, Nato would have low self-esteem, an empty bank account, and a bad drinking habit at this point of the movie.

Thus, much like a badgered Hollywood protagonist, an increasingly desperate Nato is looking for that magic pill that could end its problems, here and now. Keeping our blockbuster in perspective, Nato is now working in overdrive to plug all possible gaps: it can’t do much about the financial crunch, nor the weak support for the war effort, neither can it woo Pakistan back easily, so it’s spending extra time in the basement trying to hammer together solutions that will make its two affected teenagers – the Afghan army and police – functional and contributing members of society. In this plot, Nato’s legacy could be sealed as a good dad and a great creator.

The problem is that this Ironman approach Nato’s devising for Afghanistan, by providing it a new suit of armour via beefing up the ANA/ANP, is looking more and more like Frankenstein’s rendition of a militarised monster. The formula for saving Afghanistan – a country that has fought itself longer than it has fought foreign powers – by converting it into a multi-polar security state is morphed. Here’s how.

Nato’s metrics are almost unfathomable in their optimism, as this summary of JFC Brunsum’s stated year-end objective for 2012 indicates: Make a 352,000 man army and police force that is not necessarily representative of the ethnic reality and composition of Afghanistan (and is projected by Nato itself to consume around 30 to 40 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP), deploy them in an environment where they either don’t belong (ethnically) or will face pressures (socially/tribally), give them command authority as well as the weapons and training platforms to perform at the tactical, operational and eventually the strategic level (while the government in Kabul continues to struggle for legitimacy and establishing its writ country-wide)…and then leave!

Let’s repeat that again: For next year, Nato is well on its way to making a security force in Afghanistan that will consume most of that poor country’s resources and operate in areas where it will be seen either as an ethnic ‘outsider’, a foreign ‘invader’ or a local ‘traitor’. If you’re a Pakistani, whether in Karachi, Balochistan or Fata, this should all sound very familiar. Thus, much like a Hollywood superhero fantasy, Nato’s mad scientists are inadvertently putting together an (ethnically skewed and over consumptive) ‘Pakistan Army model’ to tackle the Taliban – and, yes, maybe even the Pakistan Army itself – in Afghanistan. The irony is superb.

But here’s the scary twist. Brunsum’s analysts estimate that Afghanistan’s cops suffer a 30 percent ‘attrition’ rate, which means around 45,000 will go AWOL – desert their positions – just this year. Meanwhile, the army has a representation crisis (according to Foreign Affairs and The Economist magazines, less than 10 percent of the ANA’s Officer Corps is Pashtun – the ethnic group that forms the backbone of the Taliban-led insurgency). Thus, Afghanistan’s cops are running off, while its soldiers are ethnically opposed to their enemy – and the 2014 pullout hasn’t even begun!

Drive through Kabul and you see the chaos of a new police state. Multiple uniforms – Special Forces, regular army, ‘Urdu’ militia (a shady lashkar which is the only Pashtun-dominated component of the ANSF), national police and local police all guard different turfs within a kilometre of downtown.

It’s not fantasy to wonder how benevolent these uniforms will treat themselves, their people and each other when the “kharji” (foreigners) leave, pulling the plug of dollars and authority after 2014. Thus, Nato’s monster – Afghanistan’s artificial military complex – that has been fed so far, just might feed on itself. Cannibalism versus kebabs? That’s the choice Afghans are facing, thanks to Nato’s experiment.

The writer is a Harvard Shorenstein Fellow and investigates for print/broadcast/social media. Email: [email protected]

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Main Street Europe and America face protracted Depression conditions. As a result, millions lost jobs, homes, incomes, and futures.

Human misery is growing. So is public anger. Rage across America and Europe reflect it. Gerald Celente explains the stakes, saying:

“When people lose everything and have nothing else to lose, they lose it.”

Draconian police state provisions were enacted to contain them. Hundreds of secret Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) camps may hold them. Martial law may authorize it, claiming “catastrophic emergency” conditions. Senators blew their cover calling America a “battleground.”

During WW II, loyal Japanese Americans were lawlessly detained. Today, social justice protesters and others wanting change are at risk. Political Washington’s targeting them to assure business as usual continues. Obama’s fully on board.

On December 14, the House passed the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). On December 15, the Senate followed suit – ironically on Bill of Rights Day.

Obama will sign it into law. The measure ends constitutional protections for everyone, including US citizens. Specifically it targets due process and law enforcement powers.

With or without evidence, on issues of alleged terrorist connections posing national security threats, the Pentagon now supplants civilian authorities. It’s well beyond its mandate.

Militaries exist to protect nations from foreign threats. Its Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) applies solely to its own personnel as authorized under the Constitution’s Article I, Section 8, stating:

“The Congress shall have Power….To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval forces.”

In America, state and local police, the Justice Department and FBI are responsible for criminal investigations and prosecutions. No longer on matters relating to alleged national security concerns.

Henceforth, America’s military may arrest and indefinitely detain anyone anywhere, including US citizens, based on suspicions, spurious allegations, or none at all if presidents so order dictatorially.

Law Professor Jonathan Turley expressed outrage, saying:

“I am not sure which is worse: the loss of core civil liberties or the almost mocking post hoc rationalization for abandoning principle. The Congress and the President have now completed a law that would have horrified the Framers.”

“Indefinite detention of citizens is something (they) were intimately familiar with and expressly sought to bar in the Bill of Rights.”

Other legal scholars agree about all alleged criminals having habeas, due process, and other legal rights in duly established civil courts.

Military tribunals are constitutionally illegal. Since June 2004, America’s (conservative) High Court made three landmark rulings.

In Rasul v. Bush (June 2004), the Court granted Guantanamo detainees habeas rights to challenge their detentions in civil court. Congress responded with the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), subverting the ruling.

In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court held that federal courts retain jurisdiction over habeas cases. It said Guantanamo Bay military commissions lack “the power to proceed because (their) structures and procedures violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the four Geneva Conventions (of) 1949.”

In October 2006, Congress responded a second time. It enacted the Military Commissions Act (MCA). It subverted the High Court ruling in more extreme form.

Undermining fundamental rule of law principles, it gave the administration extraordinary unconstitutional powers to detain, interrogate, torture and prosecute alleged terrorist suspects, enemy combatants, or anyone claimed to support them.

It lets presidents designate anyone anywhere in the world (including US citizens) an “unlawful enemy combatant” and empowers him to arrest and detain them indefinitely in military prisons.

The law states: “no (civil) court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause for action whatsoever….relating to the prosecution, trial or judgment of….military commission(s)….including challenges to (their) lawfulness….”

On June 12, 2008, the High Court again disagreed. In Boumediene v. Bush, it ruled that Guantanamo detainees retain habeas rights. MCA unconstitutionally subverts them. As a result, the administration has no legal authority to deny them due process in civil courts or act as accuser, trial judge and executioner with no right of appeal or chance for judicial fairness.

Nonetheless, Section 2031 of the FY 2010 NDAA contained the 2009 Military Commissions Act (MCA). The phrase “unprivileged enemy belligerent” replaced “unlawful enemy combatant.” Language changed but not intent or lawlessness to assume police state powers.

So far, military commissions haven’t tried Americans. Henceforth, based on alleged national security concerns, they will be under draconian FY 2012 NDAA provisions.

Notably, Jose Padilla, a US citizen, was lawlessly held over three and a half years in military and civilian confinement as an alleged “enemy combatant.” Charges against him were spurious. Yet he was denied due process, tortured, brutalized, dehumanized, and transformed in solitary confinement to mush.

Emotionally destroyed ahead of his civil trial, his lawyer said he resembled “a piece of furniture,” unable to represent himself properly in court. In military detention ahead of his court martial, Bradley Manning’s barbaric treatment may have left him less than fully able.

A Final Comment

For years, America’s crept closer to totalitarian rule. Notably, the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act eased surveillance and death penalty restrictions, eroded habeas protection, and smoothed the way for repressive measures to follow.

Post-9/11, they proliferated. Constitutional protections have been systematically eliminated. FY 2012 NDAA provisions destroy fundamental Bill of Rights ones, including Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment due process rights.

The Fifth Amendment says, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury..”

Moreover, no one shall “be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb….be compelled (to bear) witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law….”

The Fourteenth Amendment says, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are” US citizens.

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of (US) citizens..nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law….”

Overall, America’s Constitution protects against unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious laws not based on rule of law principles.

Supreme Court rulings affirmed Bill of Rights protections. In November 2008, Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with a majority ruling, saying:

“After carefully considering the relevance of the 10 inviolable rights that comprise the ideological foundation on which our nation is built, the court finds that these basic freedoms remain important for the time being, and should not be overturned.”

“Until such time as it can be definitively proven that citizens no longer require the protections provided by the Bill of Rights, it shall remain the principal legal guidance for the United States of America.”

Under Obama and the 112th Congress, inviolability no longer holds. Tyranny replaced it. America’s no different than other totalitarian states. As a result, no one challenging state power is safe.

Denouncing imperial lawlessness can be criminalized. So can defending right over wrong. Constitutional protections no longer apply.

People power alone can restore them. There’s no other way.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sb[email protected].

Also visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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The Fed’s third quarter audit data shows a total system debt of 355% and of GDP, in spite of so-called de-leveraging. It is down from the second quarter’s 375% of GDP, but up from 264% a dozen years ago. Financial sector borrowing fell almost 50% in the quarter but non-financial debt increased while financial debt fell – a push so to speak. Unfortunately most of the debt growth emanated from Washington. That growth was $557 billion, of at a 14.1% annualized rate. Of course, what the federal government is doing is the antithesis of what they should be doing. Will these borrowings and debt continue, of course they will.

In 13 quarters Treasury debt is up $100 trillion an increase of almost $4.9 trillion, or by 92%. In three years Treasury debt rose from 16.2% of non-financial debt to 26.7% and total federal debt has increased from 46% of GDP to 78% of GDP. In 2007 federal non-financial debt grew from 3.3%. In 2010 it was 113%. Year-on-year total compensation rose only 2.8% as real inflation grew 11.6%. During that period corporate earnings set records. For the most part those earnings were achieved via layoffs. From the second thru the third quarters household debt fell 1.2% from a minus 0.6% and mortgage debt fell 1.8%, as consumer credit rose 1.2%.

Funding especially foreign funds of US bank branches has been wild and the Fed has done its best to obscure what they are up too. It looks like these foreign bank balances grew about $2.6 trillion.

The result is that pressure was relieved in Europe and the US went sideways in spite of massive increases in money and credit. Fed issuance is in a bubble and it is only a question of when it pops. It is not surprising that the American public believes we are headed in the wrong direction, some 70%. Only 39% approve of the administration’s financial policies. The GOP frontrunner Gingrich, if he ran against Obama today would lose 50% to 41%. It shows you how dumb Republicans are. Nominating a crook who is a guaranteed loser.

As we pointed out earnings were the highest in four years. Layoffs were part of that, plus a lowering of loan reserves, bank lending and possible losses were virtually unchanged and the to-big-to-fail banks were able to borrow money at no cost, while the public pays up to 35% for funds.

European banks are struggling to raise capital under BIS dictates. In that process they are selling off their best assets. Normally they would sell the worst assets, but presently losses would worsen their balance sheets, so they are forced to sell best assets to bolster the balance sheet to meet the reserve figures demanded by the Bank for International Settlements the banker’s bank. These sales tend to negatively affect markets. The higher the leverage, the worse the effect.

Via the Patriot Act the US government has declared war on Iran by invoking sanctions. This is under the guise of Iran supposedly having nuclear weapons, which is a figment of colonial Washington’s imagination. The elitists in Washington want to isolate the Iranian banking system and as a result Iran is preparing to shut off 40% of the world’s oil by shutting the Straits of Hormuz. The reason added to these actions by Treasury Secretary Geithner is that Iran is a primary money launderer. We see Iran’s being cut off from western banking providential, considering the state of western banking today. The Fed and the IMF are again scurrying around trying to save Europe from itself, a place where few are capable of making decisions. We call that contagion and Iran could be spared that. The drones are being shot down over Iran and the US keeps sending them. Next it will be air combat where the loss of life and equipment will be high.

In Europe the past few weeks have been disastrous. Confidence continues to erode as the plunge protection team holds up markets and attacks gold and silver. Greece continues in a standoff until there are February elections. If there are no elections nothing will ensue in a big way. Greece refuses to reduce sovereign debt and take any more austerity cuts. What all these masters of the universe don’t understand, or want to understand, is that Greek debt, in fact almost all debt, is unrepayable. What all governments have done by raising massive amounts of debt has frozen the productive private sector out of the market. The exceptions are AAA rated companies, almost of which just happen to be Illuminist run. Government spending is generally non-productive.

As we have seen recently even the elitists Super Congress Enabling Committee could not come to a conclusion on cutting US government debt. It shows you even under controlled circumstances that the kept Congress will not at all commit themselves to any kind of austerity.

Europe is about austerity and debt. The big question is will the Bundesbank take the easy way out? Will they print their way out now that selling bonds is difficult? Of course either printing or bonds or money is an answer or solution to the problem. Worse yet every currency is fiat and loaded by nothing and they are all unconnected. They call that spreading the misery. Growth is falling into the minus category, as Germany shows a third month of falling manufacturing orders.

In response to the economic situation, the European Commissioner for internal markets says, it will crackdown on credit agencies. These agencies are now finally doing their jobs and the commission wants to shoot the messenger. All they want is for the raters to create greater transparency and to explain their ratings. They went so far as to propose that raters be liable for financially punitive action when mistakes occur. What the commission wants is no ratings at all, so that they can operate in darkness. It complains about an S&P monopoly and that European downgrades should stop. These demands reflect the socialist-one-world attitude. If we can’t have things our way they should not exist at all. We know the attitude and culture; we lived there.

The OECD says recession is upon you Europe and UK and you had best quickly expend money and credit, always the Keynesian answer. In France and Germany and the UK it will become more obvious in the spring as French presidential elects occur. They are all finding out that austerity caused recession. The next step by these control planners will be spending on infrastructure to try to ease the falling economy. Early next year all caution will be thrown to the four winds, spending will go rampart again. What they are doing does not work, they know, but they have no better answer because there is none. In England pension funds are being asked to invest in these projects. If they do not comply we see mandatory edicts to “invest” as the Fed did a few years ago in the US. The Treasury is contemplating forcing banks to take money and credit just created by the Bank of England and to lend it to small and medium sized businesses, which is where 70% of new jobs are created.

Euroland is facing a possible breakup and if Marine Le Pen wins the presidency in France that is sure to happen. Even if she loses the futility of the unnatural euro will be pointed out with great transparency, moving the euro zone toward extinction. There are many parts to this mosaic and they all have to be put together. You have to understand each and every culture and their history or you cannot predict what each group will do. In order to prevent gradual euro destruction they euro zone members should disband the currency as soon as Greece defaults, but they won’t do that. They will allow financial carnage.

Germany and the ECB are still refusing to emulate the Fed and the Bank of England in creating money and credit and tending to loan to the unsound six countries. This is driving interest rates higher and is putting major pressure on the euro. That is because German citizens demand the loans stop and that they recognize that recession is already underway.

The contagion of higher rates is spreading across the world financial spectrum.

Thus, the big question is, will Germany and the ECB go to quantitative easing to extend the life of the euro, euro zone and its six broke participants? At the moment we have to say no, and if we are correct the euro will break up. We can assure you that Bundstag and Bundesrat members are being overwhelmed by constituents who want to cut off funds to the 6 and leave the euro, during the Christmas break.

If the call of the German people is heeded Germany won’t try to print their way out of the problem and the edifice will collapse. This difficult problem has been heaped upon the shoulders of Germany and few other countries are willing to help. France financially cannot get out of its own way. Everywhere all we see is failure and as we have contended for years, that is all that could be expected. The Illuminist bankers have painted themselves into a corner and there is no way out. These problems should have been addressed years ago, but the one-worlders wanted to use the EU as a basis for world government and the euro as the new world currency. Very simply it did not work. Thus, there are no contingency plans and all that can be anticipated is a euro at $1.18 or perhaps an even one-to-one. This failure will be the catalyst for world financial contagion. That is why you do not want to be in any currency, only in gold and silver shares, coins and bullion.

Not much will be coming out of Europe until the third week in January. The region is beset by a regional crisis, such as that we have seen last summer, and Europe is on vacation for another month. These pauses reflect the style of socialist living. We were supposed to see a new mechanism to control recalcitrant countries and all we have seen, what is already in the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties, no public debt to exceed 3% of GDP. Last time around, the Germans were the first to breach this rule and the other members followed. They were supposed to be fined 0.5% of the over debt. No one was fined and the Commission wants to drop the fine to 0.2%. The overall country debt would be set at 60% of GDP. The nations now vary from 70% to 153%. All we see is smoke and mirrors to buy time. The abuse is never going to go away and everyone knows it. The euro and the EU, as a result, is ultimately doomed. Debt piled upon debt solves nothing and further loans to unsound countries would only worsen the situation. Thus, we see this being abandoned as an option and that managed selective default is the answer. That means other sovereigns and regional banks will have to take a major financial hit, and be funded by these governments, which will supply the money and credit out of thin air. The only rational response is to allow the banks to go under and purge the system. The elitists won’t do that because the nexus of their power will be destroyed. This is a long-term solution, but the elitists are not interested on long-term solutions. Managed default will probably be the path taken. In this toxic cocktail we also have major banks writing derivatives and shorting all the way, which is the antithesis of what is trying to be accomplished. All major US, UK and European banks are broke and they are staying alive by using inside information, which puts them on the right side of every trade. No one trusts anyone anymore, and the bankers can no longer control their own system. The systemic debt has undermined the entire structure.

Taking the equation one step further is the fact that most of the 17 nations cannot even come up with the revenue to service debt when under an austerity program. We are not just talking about Greece. It’s the entire euro zone. Furthermore, all the funds spent on servicing debt, no matter what the source, is unproductive and it takes capital out of the hands of the real economy by freezing that productive loan flow. We are currently in the process of bringing sovereign debt into disrepute. That means there are no safe havens left except gold and silver investments.

Politicians realize this and that is why you have seen smoke and mirrors in Europe since early this year. The viable solutions are not there. In the US, look at the failure of the Super-Congress Enabling Committee. It was a total failure because in spite of the payoffs, no one was willing to commit to solving a small budget cut problem. Mind you, they couldn’t even commit to paltry cuts of $120 billion annually. It is obvious no politicians want to cut anything. These were cuts in proposed increases in spending, not scheduled spending. As an example, military spending will rise 16% to 23% depending on how it is handled.

None of the nations and banks can repay their debt and if you hold any of it get rid of it. It eventually will end in failure or be inflated away. In Europe there can be no escape, because every nation and bank is tied to the ECB. The question in Europe is will the solvent bail out the insolvents, or will there be managed default and failure? No matter which route is taken get out of euros and into gold and silver related assets. It is only a question of when the euro will be history.

VIDEO: Accusing Iran of being Behind 9/11. Pretext to Wage War on Iran?

December 17th, 2011 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

 

TO VIEW THIS INTERVIEW ON GRTV CLICK HERE

Director of the Center for Research on Globalization Michel Chossudovsky has told RT that calling Iran’s officials – including the supreme leader – guilty of helping the 9/11 attackers is nothing but “a ploy.”

On Thursday, families of victims of the September 11th 2001 attacks won a default judgment against Iran, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Lebanon-based Hezbollah. According to the lawsuit, people in Iran – including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei- provided support to the terrorists who went on to attack civilians on US soil.But Mr. Chossudovsky told RT he believes it’s nothing but a cover-up, with Iran as a convenient fall guy.

“There is absolutely no evidence that Iran aided the 9/11 attacks. There is ample evidence that there was conspiracy and the complicity at the highest levels of  the US government…There is absolutely no evidence that Al Qaeda or the Taliban were involved in the 9/11 attacks. In fact, if there is anyone behind Al Qaeda, it was the Central Intelligence Agency, going back to the Soviet Afghan war”, Chossudovsky said.

And this latest court ruling is part of the plan, according to Chossudovsky. “We are dealing with fabrications whereby a war agenda, which has been on the Pentagon’s drawing board for many years, is now seeking justification to go live – and we’ve seen the drone attacks, we’ve seen the sanctions.”

But why would the United States get involved in such a long-running, costly, dangerous ploy? The answer, according to the Canadian analyst, is simple.

“Because Iran has 10 per cent of the world’s oil reserves – four or five times the amount of the United States; it’s in a crucial region, it doesn’t accept US hegemony and it’s an ally of Russia and China.”

However, Chossudovsky told RT, the consequences of such a move could be disastrous. “It could unleash a war which extends from the eastern Mediterranean right through to Central Asia and the Chinese border – and then we are in a World War III scenario.”

Jamal Abdi from the National Iranian American Council believes there is a campaign going on “to ratchet up pressure for yet another US attack on a Middle Eastern country.”

What we are seeing now is this strange self-fulfilling prophecy process. This is exactly what we saw with Iraq. This is a campaign to go to war,” he told RT.

Abdi says he does not see any evidence that is particularly compelling that Iran had a direct role in 9/11.

Immediately afterwards Iran condemned the attacks. There were candlelit vigils on the streets of Tehran in solidarity with the Americans who lost their lives,” he explained.

You saw Iran cooperating with the United

TO VIEW THE INTERVIEW ON GRTV CLICK HERE


VIDEO: End of Nations: Canada, the US and the “Security Perimeter”
Learn about the path toward the North American Union on GRTV
- by James Corbett, Paul Hellyer – 2011-12-17

When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama announced the much-anticipated border agreement between the two countries at a press conference in Washington last week, those mainstream media outlets that bothered to cover the story at all compensated for the lack of details about what specifically is going to be accomplished by this accord by focusing on issues of no practical significance.

The Globe and Mail, for example, ran an entire article about how Harper and Obama’s personal “friendship” allegedly effected the deal, which was in reality and admittedly struck by bureaucrats in months of closed-door negotiations.

A variety of trade magazines and corporate websites released vague laudatory statements about the “streamlining” of the border.

But the story itself, which generated few headlines at all in the American media, was not about what specifically will change at the border so much as the border is increasingly being redefined as just one part of a broader security perimeter that in fact encompasses both the US and Canada.

The agreement in fact comprises two so-called “action plans,” one entitled Beyond The Border and the other the Regulatory Cooperation Council. The former plan focuses on border security with the explicit aim of creating a security perimeter that encompasses both countries. The latter is meant to harmonize regulations for business, facilitating cross-border trade.

The security agreement uses the threat of terrorism, crime and health securities to announce an increasing merger of the two countries’ border security, including an integrated entry-exit system that will involve full sharing of individuals’ biometric details between the two governments by 2014 and even the creation of integrated cross-border law enforcement teams with authority to collect intelligence and conduct criminal investigations on either side of the border.

The regulatory plan, meanwhile, aims to standardize agricultural regulations on such items as maximum pesticide residue limits as well as develop standards and regulations for potential future products and industries like nanotechnology.

Although the plans detail certain steps that can be or are being taken, the majority of the information is about agreed-upon shared values and the possibility of cooperation.

In light of the relative paucity of detail about these “action plans,” media outlets chose to illustrate the general points of the agreement with seemingly random examples, such as this one about breakfast cereals.

Keen-eyed observers of this trivial example of the effects might have noted a striking similarity to the way that Prime Minister Harper tried to deflect criticism of the Security and Prosperity Partnership agreement that sought to merge the governments, security forces and regulatory framework of the US, Mexico and Canada, back in 2007 by talking about jellybean regulations.

On one level, reducing these agreements to regulations on cereals and jelly beans marginalizes the legitimate criticism and fears about the erosion of national sovereignty implicit in these talks. It also serves to keep the public disinterested in the issues by painting them as dry and unimportant talks about bureaucratic affairs.

What this similarity in rhetoric unwittingly reveals, however, is how this latest agreement is in fact nothing new, and can only be properly understood as the latest point in a continuing process of merging the bureaucratic, regulatory and military functions of Canada and the US that has in fact been taking place for a decade.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the two countries began work on reshaping the nature of the world’s longest undefended border. This resulted in the Canada-US Smart Border Declaration, an agreement signed in December 2001 that contained much of the same rhetoric as the recent agreement, including vows to coordinate security and law enforcement efforts in the name of facilitating the flow of people and goods between Canada and the States.

This led into the Security and Prosperity Partnership, a trilateral framework between the governments of the US, Canada and Mexico that began a process of regulatory integration. Formally launched in 2005, the SPP quickly caught the attention of the public on both sides of the border, and as freedom of information requests shed more light on the process, including the almost total domination of the partnership in closed-door meetings by big business, the SPP’s annual summit quickly became a flashpoint for political activism.

In the light of public scrutiny, the SPP was shelved in 2009, but many of its initiatives and recommendations continue on behind the scenes. SPP documents, for example, show how Canada’s controversial no-fly list was in fact part of a trilateral agreement, with the 2006 report to leaders in fact mandating the program’s June 2007 launch date.

Meanwhile, the military merger of Canada and the US has proceeded in its own series of mutual agreements, beginning with the creation of NORTHCOM, the United States Northern Command, in 2002, which charged the US military with the protection of the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Mexico and Canada.

In February of 2008, the Canadian and American militaries signed an agreement allowing troops of either country to cross the border and carry out operations in the other country in the event of an emergency, such as civil unrest.

In 2010, the two countries signed the shiprider agreement, allowing the operation of specially designated vessels to patrol the shared waterways of the two countries by joint crew, consisting of both Canadian and American law enforcement. This agreement is cited in the new border proposal as an example of how cross-border policing can be implemented.

Now, with increasing “cooperation” between cross-border law enforcement, Canadians will be expected to allow American officials to pursue their investigations of suspected criminals on Canadian soil. And the process of harmonization means that Canada may even be expected to allow the use of drone surveillance, an idea presently being used by the US to patrol the Canadian border and even to pursue criminal investigations of American citizens far away from the border.

Although there are many individual aspects of this latest accord that are worrying, from the militarization of the border to the harmonization of regulatory frameworks to allow for the lowest common denominator in food standards and other areas, to the increasing sharing of information about citizens between the two countries, perhaps the most worrying aspect is the project itself. As many have warned, these seemingly bland border proposals, a story so dull that it has barely been covered at all by the American press, may in fact be used to slip in a North American Union through the gradual merging of the two countries’ bureaucratic systems.

The most insidious part of this process is that it is not subject to legislative oversight of any kind, and is taking place in behind-the-scenes discussions between high-level bureaucrats outside of the glare of public scrutiny, a point that is readily conceded by the proposals’ proponents.

Last week I had the chance to talk to Paul Hellyer, the former deputy Prime Minister of Canada, about this agreement, and whether the border security threat that the US is using to justify the process is in fact a ploy to obscure an underlying agenda, the drive to merge Canada and US in a de facto union.

Regardless of whether this particular agreement bears fruit for those seeking to bring the two countries into a closer union, or whether it is just another waypoint on the road of a much longer and more detailed process, the very real concerns about the erosion of national sovereignty implicit in this deal is one that those in power are eager to see avoided. So far, they are being aided in that quest by a media that chooses to avoid the hard questions about this series of agreements to the extent that they cover them at all.

As always, the power belongs in the hands of the people. Without significant pushback from the public, however, the momentum of these border agreements might be enough to make the North American Union an inevitability. Alternatively, the public can fight back by making this into a key political issue and informing others of the potential threat to the survival of both the US and Canada as sovereign nations.

Understanding Unemployment: Keynesian vs. Marxian Explanations

December 16th, 2011 by Prof. Ismael Hossein-Zadeh

“A study of the struggle waged by the English working class reveals that, in order to oppose their workers, the employers either bring in workers from abroad or else transfer manufacture to countries where there is a cheap labor force. Given this state of affairs, if the working class wishes to continue its struggle with some chance of success, the national organisations must become international.” (Karl Marx)

To borrow a metaphor from the medical sciences, an effective cure requires a sound diagnosis. Yet, in the face of the current plague of unemployment the Keynesian economists issue all kinds of passionate prescriptions to remedy the problem of joblessness without paying necessary attention to its root causes.

According to these economists, the origins of the ongoing high rates of unemployment (and of the underlying economic crisis in general) can be traced back toRonald Reagan: his election to the presidency in 1980 and the subsequent rise of Neoliberalismbrought forth an economic doctrine that has gradually led to the reversal of the Keynesiandemand-management strategies of economicstimulation.So, for most Keynesian/liberal economists and politicians, Reagan is the pivotal figure and 1980 is the watershed year:

“Before 1980, economic policy was designed to achieve full employment, and the economy was characterized by a system in which wages grew with productivity. This configuration created a virtuous circle of growth. Rising wages meant robust aggregate demand, which contributed to full employment. Full employment in turn provided an incentive to invest, which raised productivity, thereby supporting higher wages.

“After 1980, with the advent of the new [Neoliberal] growth model, the commitment to full employment was abandoned as inflationary, with the result that the link between productivity growth and wages was severed. In place of wage growth as the engine of demand growth, the new model substituted borrowing and asset price inflation. Adherents of the neo-liberal orthodoxy made controlling inflation their primary policy concern, and set about attacking unions, the minimum wage, and other worker protections” [1].

While this account of US economic policies and developments of the past several decades is shared by most Keynesians and other critics of Neoliberalism, it suffers from a number of weaknesses.

First, the claim thatthe abandonment of Keynesian policies in favor of Neoliberal ones began with the 1980 arrival of Ronald Reagan in the White House is factually false. Indisputable evidence shows that the date on the Keynesian prescriptions of economic stimulation expired at least a dozen years earlier.Keynesian policies of economic expansion through demand management had run out of steam (i.e., reached their systemic limits) by the late 1960s and early 1970s; they did not come to a sudden, screeching halt the moment Reagan sat at the helm.

The questioning and the gradual abandonment of the Keynesian strategies took place not simply because of purely ideological proclivities or personal preferences of Ronald Reagan and other“right-wing” Republicans, as many Keynesians argue, but because of actual structural changes in economic or market conditions, both nationally and internationally. As discussed in my previous essay on this subject [2], Keynesian-type policies were pursued in response to the Great Depression and in the immediate aftermath of WW II as long as political forces and economic conditions of the time rendered those policies effective, or profitable. Those favorable conditions included nearly unlimited demand for US manufactures, both at home and abroad, and the lack of competition for both US capital and labor, which allowed US workers to demand decent wages and benefits while at the same time enjoying higher rates of employment.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, both US capital and labor were no longer unrivaled in global markets. Furthermore, during the long cycle of the immediate post-war expansion US producers had invested so much in fixed/constant capital, or capacity building, that by the late 1960s their profit rates had begun to decline as the capital-labor ratio and other “sunk costs” of their operations had become too high.More than anything else, it was these profound changes in the actual conditions of production that precipitated the gradual rejection of the Keynesian economics.

Second, not only is the Keynesians’ narrative of the actual developments that led to the demise of Keynesian policies and the rise of Neoliberalism inaccurate, but also their theory or explanation of the ongoing problem of unemployment (and of the economic crisis in general) is woefully deficient. By blaming the unemployment on Neoliberalism, or “Neoliberal capitalism,” as some Keynesians argue [3], instead of capitalism per se, proponents of Keynesian economics tend to lose sight of the structural or systemic causes of unemployment: the secular and/or systemic tendency of capitalist production to constantly replace labor with machine, and to thereby create a sizeable pool of the unemployed, or a “reserve army of labor,” as Karl Marx put it. This means, of course, the higher the degree of industrialization and automation, the higher the potential of the reserve army of labor to expand. Marx described this tendency of capitalism to constantly create high levels of unemployment (or low levels of wages) as an essential condition for profitable production in the following words:

“The greater the social wealth, the functioning capital, the extent and energy of its growth…the greater is the industrial army…. The relative mass of the industrial reserve army increases therefore with the potential energy of wealth. But the greater this reserve army in proportion to the active labor army, the greater is the mass of a consolidated surplus population…This is the absolute general law of capitalist accumulation. Like all other laws it is modified in its working by many circumstances” [4].

The fundamental laws of demand and supply of labor under capitalism are thereforeheavily influenced, Marx argued, by the market’s ability to regularly produce a reserve army of labor, or a “surplus population.” The reserve army of labor, whose size is determined largely by the imperatives of capitalist profitability, is therefore as important to capitalist production as is the active (or actually employed) army of labor. Just as the regular and timely adjustment of the level of water behind a dam is crucial to a smooth or stable use of water, so is an “appropriate” size of a pool of the unemployed critical to the profitability of capitalist production.“The industrial reserve army,” Marx wrote,

“during periods of stagnation … weighs down the active army of workers; during the period of over-production and feverish activity, it puts a curb on their pretensions. The relative surplus population is therefore the background against which the law of the demand and supply of labour does its work. It confines the field of action of this law to the limits absolutely convenient to capital’s drive to exploit and dominate the workers” [5].

It is clear that the Marxian theory of the reserve army of labor, which shows how unemployment arises and why it is necessary to capitalism, provides a much better understanding of the current plague of unemployment than the Keynesian view, which blames it on “Neoliberal” capitalism—and which is essentially tantamount to explaining something by itself.

In the era of globalization of production and employment, the reserve army of labor has drastically expanded beyond national borders. According to a recent report by the International Labor Organization (ILO), between 1980 and 2007 the global labor force rose from 1.9 billion to 3.1 billion, a growth rate of 63 percent. Historical transition to capitalism in many less-developed parts of the world, which has led to the so-called de-peasantization, or proletarianization and urbanization, especially in countries such as China and India, is obviously a major source of the enlargement of the worldwide labor force, and its availability to global capital. The ILO report further shows that, worldwide, the ratio of the active (or employed) to reserve (or unemployed) army of labor is less than 50%, that is, more than half of the global labor force is unemployed [6].

It is this huge and readily available pool of the unemployed, along with the ease of production anywhere in the world—not some abstract or evil intentions of “right-wing Republicans and wicked Neoliberals,” as Keynesians argue—that has forced the working class, especially in the US and other advanced capitalist countries, into submission: going along with the brutal austerity schemes of wage and benefit cuts, of layoffs and union busting, of part-time and contingency employment, and the like. Ruthless Neoliberal policies of the past several decades, by both Republican and Democratic parties, are more a product of the structural changes in the global capitalist production than their cause. This is not to say that economic policies do not matter; but that such policies should not be attributed simply to capricious decision, malicious intentions or conspiratorial schemes.

It might be argued: “who cares what caused the unemployment? The fact is that it is a huge problem for millions; and why not simply replicate the Keynesian-type stimulus policies that were adopted in the immediate aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II?” Indeed, this seems to be the view of most of the Keynesian economists and liberal policy makers.

While prima facie this sounds like a reasonable suggestion, it suffers from the problem of issuing useless or ineffectual prescriptions based on inaccurate or flawed diagnoses. Not surprising, repeated Keynesian calls of the recent years for embarking on Keynesian-type stimulus packages in order to help end the recession and alleviate unemployment continue to sound hollow. For, under the changed conditions of production from national to global level, and in the absence of overwhelming political pressure from workers and other grassroots, there are simply no refills for Dr. Keynes’s prescriptions, which were issued on a national (not international or global) level, and under radically different socio-economic conditions—the solution now needs to be global.

Theoretically, the Keynesian strategy of a “virtuous circle” of high employment, high wages and economic growth is rather simple: massive government spending in the face of a serious economic downturn would raise employment and wages, inject a strong purchasing power into the economy and create a strong demand, which would then spur producers to expand and hire, thereby further raising employment, wages, demand, supply. . . . Many well-known Keynesians (such as Paul Krugman, Dean Baker, Thomas Palley, Robert Reich, and Randall Wray, for example) have in recent years repeatedly put forth this strategy of economic stimulation—only to see them fall on deaf ears. Why?

While in theory (and on the face of it), the “virtuous circle” proposition is a relatively simple and fairly reasonable strategy, it suffers from a number of problems.To begin with, it seems to assume that employers and their government policy makers are genuinely interested in bringing about full employment, but somehow do not know how to achieve this objective. Full employment production, however, may not necessarily be the ideal, or profit-maximizing, level of production; which means it may not be a real objective of employers. As explained above, a sizeable pool of the unemployed is as essential to capitalist profitability as is the number of workers needed to be actually employed. In its drive to keep the labor cost as low as possible, by keeping the working class as docile as possible, capitalism tends to prefer high unemployment and low wages to low unemployment and high wages. This explains why, for example, in reaction to the ongoing high levels of unemployment in the United States, the Obama administration (and the US government in general) has been making a lot of hollow, echoing noise about “jobs programs” without seriously embarking on a genuine plan of job creation a la FDR.

Secondly, the Keynesian argument that a “virtuous circle” of high employment, high wages, strong demand and economic growth is relatively easily achievable only if it were not due to the opposition of employers, or “bad” policies of Neoliberalism, seems to be based on the assumption that employers/producers are oblivious to their own self-interest. In other words, the argument presumes that it is not in the interests of employers to drive the wages too low as this would be tantamount to undermining consumer demand for what they produce. If only they were mindful of the benefits of the proverbial “Ford wages” to their sales, the argument goes,could they help both themselves and their workers, and bring about economic growth and prosperity for all. The well-known liberal professor (and former Labor Secretary under President Clinton) Robert Reich’s view on this issue is typical of the Keynesian argument:

“For most of the last century, the basic bargain at the heart of the American economy was that employers paid their workers enough to buy what American employers were selling. . . . That basic bargain created a virtuous cycle of higher living standards, more jobs, and better wages. . . . The basic bargain is over. . . . Corporate profits are up right now largely because pay is down and companies aren’t hiring. But this is a losing game even for corporations over the long term. Without enough American consumers, their profitable days are numbered. After all, there’s a limit to how much profit they can get out of cutting American payrolls. . . .” [7].

There are two major problems with this argument. The first problem is that it assumes (implicitly) that US producers depend on domestic workers not only for employment but also for sale of their products—as if it were a closed economy. In reality, however, US producers are increasingly becoming less and less dependent on domestic labor for either employment or sales as they steadily expand their export/sales markets abroad. Transnational capital’s consumer and labor markets are now spread across the globe. As Professor Alan Nasser recently pointed out (in a Counter-Punch article), “On both the supply [employment] side and the demand side, the US worker/consumer is perceived as incrementally inessential” [8].

President Obama and his top economic advisors have been specially keen, indeed aggressive, on expanding US export markets to make up for the loss ofdomestic purchasing power. For example, in a speech (on his National Export Initiative) to the annual conference of the Import-Export Bank (March 11, 2010) the president pointed out: “The world’s fastest-growing markets are outside our borders. We need to compete for those customers because other nations are competing for them.” Mr. Obama’s chairman of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, Jeffrey Immelt, likewise states: “Today we go to Brazil, we go to China, we go to India, because that’s where the customers are” [9].

The second problem with Professor Reich’s (and his Keynesian co-thinkers’) argument of “high wages as the engines of virtuous cycles” of growth and expansion is that wages and benefits are micro- or enterprise-level categories that are decided on by individual employers and corporate managers, not by some macro or national level planners (as in a centrally-planned economy) of aggregate demand. In other words, individual producers (large or small) view wages and benefits first, and foremost, as a major cost of production that needs to be minimized as much as possible; and only secondarily, if ever, as part of the national aggregate demand that may (in roundabout ways) contribute to the sale of their products. This is another example of how Marx’s theory of capitalist exploitation and wage-determination(as a subsistence-based historical category) is superior to the Keynesian view that, in a manner of wishful thinking, hopes that producers would be wise and generous enough to pay “sufficient” wages in order to sell their products!

Keynesian economists passionately talk about “virtuous cycles” of high employment, high wages and high growth as if there are no limits to such expanding, upward spiralingcycle. It is well established, however, both theoretically and empirically, that such virtuous cycles are bound to be temporary because as they expand they also sow the seeds of contraction. A discussion of economic cycles and the underlying theories of capitalist crisis is beyond the purview of this essay. Suffice it to point out that, contrary to the arguments of Keynesian economists, an expanding cycle of accumulation and high levels of employment may not necessarily be accompanied by rising wages. If it does, it would be temporary because, sooner or later, the rising wages would cut into profitability imperatives, which would then trigger the employers’ reaction to curtail wages and benefits—by either curtailing or outsourcing production and/oremployment.

This means that not only may growth and expansion not be precipitates or accompanied by high wages, as Keynesian economists claim, but (on the contrary) by low wages, or low cost of labor. More often than not, capitalism flourishes on the poverty, compliance and, therefore, low cost of labor. Marx characterized capitalism’s ability to create a big pool of the unemployed, or “relative surplus population,” in order to create a largely poor and meek working class as “immiseration” of the labor force, a built-in mechanism that is essential to the “general law” of capitalist accumulation:

“In proportion as capital accumulates, the situation of the worker, be his payment high or low, must grow worse.… The law which always holds the relative surplus population in equilibrium with the extent and energy of accumulation rivets the worker to capital more firmly than the wedges of Hephaestus held Prometheus to the rock. It makes an accumulation of misery a necessary condition, corresponding to the accumulation of wealth. Accumulation at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, the torment of labour, slavery, ignorance, brutalization and moral degradation at the opposite pole, i.e. on the side of the class that produces its own product as capital” [10].

A major flaw of the Keynesian reform or restructuring package is that it consists of a set of populist proposals that are devoid of politics, that is, of political mechanisms that would be necessary to carry them out. They rest largely on the hope that, in an independent or disinterested fashion, the state can control and manage capitalism in the interest of all. This is, however, no more than wishful thinking, since in reality it is the powerful capitalist interests that elect and control the government, not the other way around.

In response to criticisms of this kind, Keynesians are quick to invoke the experience of the “golden years” (1948-1968) of the US economy in support of their arguments. It is true that during that long cycle of expansion high employment, high wages, high demand and high growth reinforced each other in the fashion of a virtuous cycle. But the constellation or convergence of a set of propitious socio-economic conditions (political pressure from workers and other grassroots, fear of revolution and radical change, unrivaled US labor and capital, unlimited demand for US goods and service both on a national and international levels, and more) that precipitated and nurtured that long cycle of expansion were unique historical circumstances of the time. Empirical observations or conjunctural developments under certain/specific circumstances ought not to be facilely extrapolated, generalized, and elevated to the level of a general theory, or a universal/timeless pattern of actual developments. Such an intellectual exercise would be tantamount to empiricism through and through—not scientific or realistic inquiry into a theoretical understanding of the actual socio-economic developments of the day.

To sum up, the Marxian theory of unemployment, based on his theory of the reserve army of labor, provides a much better explanation of the protracted high levels of unemployment than the Keynesian view that attributes the plague of unemployment to the “misguided” or “bad” policies of Neoliberalism. Likewise, the Marxian theory of subsistence or near-poverty wages, also based on his theory of the reserve army of labor, provides amore satisfactory understanding of how or why such poverty levels of wages, as well as a generalized or nationwide predominance of misery, can go hand-in-hand with “healthy” or high levels of corporate profits than the Keynesian perceptions, which view a high level of wages as a necessary condition for a “virtuous” or expansionary economic cycle.

Perhaps more importantly, the Marxian view that meaningful, lasting economic safety-net programs can be carried out only through overwhelming pressure from the masses—and only on a coordinated global level—provides a more logical and promising solution to the problem ofeconomic hardship for the overwhelming majority of the world population than the neat, purely intellectual, and apolitical Keynesian stimulus packages on a national level, which are based on the hope or illusion that the government can control and manage capitalism “in the interest of all.” No matter how long or loud or passionately our good-hearted Keynesians beg for jobs and other New Deal-type reform programs, their pleas for the implementation of such programs are bound to be ignored by the government of big business. Only by mobilizing the masses of workers and other grassroots and fighting, instead of begging, for an equitable share of what is truly the product of their labor, the wealth of nations, can the working majority achieve economic security and human dignity.

Notes 

[1] Thomas I. Palley, “America’s Exhausted Paradigm,” http://newamerica.net/files/Thomas_Palley_America%27s_Exhausted_Paradigm.pdf

[2] Ismael Hossein-zadeh, “Keynesian Myths and Illusions,”http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/11/04/keynesian-myths-and-illusions/

[3] David M. Kotz, “The Financial and Economic Crisis of 2008: A Systemic Crisis of Neoliberal Capitalism,” Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 41, No. 3 (2009), pp. 305-317.

[4] Capital, Vol. 1 (Moscow, no date), pp. 592-93.

[5] Capital, vol. 1 (London: Penguin, 1976), P. 792.

[6] International Labor Organization (ILO), The Global Employment Challenge (Geneva, 2008); as cited in “The Global Reserve Army of Labor and the New Imperialism” (by John Bellamy Foster, Robert W. McChesney and R. JamilJonna): http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=27549

[7] Robert Reich, “Restore the Basic Bargain” (November 28, 2011): http://robertreich.org/post/13469691304

[8] Alan Nasser, “The Political Economy of Redistribution: Outsourcing Jobs, Offshoring Markets,”http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/12/02/outsourcing-jobs-offshoring-markets/

[9] As cited by Alan Nasser, Ibid.

[10] Capital, vol. 1 (London: Penguin, 1976), p. 799.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author ofThe Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave – Macmillan 2007) and theSoviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt(Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor toHopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.

The Way to Occupy a Bank is to Own One

December 16th, 2011 by Ellen Brown

 

 

 

The campaign to “move your money” has gotten a groundswell of support. Having greater impact would be to “move our money” — move our local government revenues out of Wall Street banks into our own publicly-owned banks.

Occupy Wall Street has been both criticized and applauded for not endorsing any official platform.  But there are unofficial platforms, including one titled the 99% Declaration which calls for a “National General Assembly” to convene on July 4, 2012 in Philadelphia.  The 99% Declaration seeks everything from reining in the corporate state to ending the Fed to eliminating censorship of the Internet.  But none of these demands seems to go to the heart of what prompted Occupiers to camp out on Wall Street in the first place – a corrupt banking system that serves the 1% at the expense of the 99%.  To redress that, we need a banking system that serves the 99%. 

Occupy San Francisco has now endorsed a plan aimed at doing just that.  In a December 1 Wall Street Journal article titled “Occupy Shocker: A Realistic, Actionable Idea,” David Weidner writes:

[P]rotesters in the Bay Area, especially Occupy San Francisco, have something their East Coast neighbors don’t: a realistic plan aimed at the heart of banks. The idea could be expanded nationwide to send a message to a compromised Washington and the financial industry.

It’s called a municipal bank. Simply put, it would transfer the City of San Francisco’s bank accounts—about $2 billion now spread between such banks as Bank of America Corp., UnionBanCal Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co.—into a public bank. That bank would use small local banks to lend to the community.

The public bank concept is not new.  It has been proposed before in San Francisco and has a successful 90-year track record in North Dakota.  Weidner notes that the state-owned Bank of North Dakota earned taxpayers more than $61 million last year and reported a profit of $57 million in 2008, when Bank of America had a $1.2 billion net loss.  The San Francisco bank proposal is sponsored by city supervisor John Avalos, who has been thinking about a municipal bank for several years. 

Weidner calls the proposal “the boldest institutional stroke yet against banks targeted by the Occupy movement.” 

Responding to the Critics

 

He acknowledges that it will be an uphill climb.  In a follow-up article on December 6th, Weidner wrote:

Of course, there are critics. . . . They argue that public banks would put public money at risk.  Would you be surprised to know that most of the critics are bankers?

That’s why you don’t hear them talking about the $100 billion they lost for the California pension funds in 2008.  They don’t talk about the foreclosures that have wrought havoc on communities and tax revenues.  They don’t talk about liar loans and what kind of impact that’s had on the economy, employment and the real estate market — not to mention local and state budgets.

Risk to the taxpayers remains the chief objection of banker opponents.  “There is no need for such lending,” they say.  “We already provide loans to any creditworthy applicant who comes to us.  Why put taxpayer money at risk, lending for every crackpot scheme that some politician wants to waste taxpayer money on?”

Tom Hagan, who pays taxes in Maine, has a response to that argument.  In a December 3rd letter to the editor in the Press Herald (Portland), he maintained there is no need to invest public bank money in risky retail ventures.  The money could be saved for infrastructure projects, at least while the public banking model is being proven.  The salubrious result could be to cut local infrastructure costs in half.  Making his case in conjunction with a Maine turnpike project, he wrote:

Why does Maine pay double for turnpike improvements?

Improvements are funded by bonds issued by the Maine Turnpike Authority, which collects the principal amounts, then pays the bonds back with interest.

Over time, interest payments add up to about the original principal, doubling the cost of turnpike improvements and the tolls that must be collected to pay for them. The interest money is shipped out of state to Wall Street banks.

Why not keep the interest money here in Maine, to the benefit of all Mainers? This could be done by creating a state-owned bank. State funds now deposited in low- or no-interest checking accounts would instead be deposited in the state bank.

Those funds would be used to buy up the authority bonds and municipal bonds issued by the Maine Bond Bank. All of them. Since all interest payments would flow into the state treasury, we would end up paying half what we now pay for our roads, bridges and schools.

North Dakota has profited from a state-owned bank for 90 years. Why not Maine?

The state bank could generate “bank credit” on its books, as all chartered banks are authorized to do.  This credit could then be used to buy the bonds.  The government’s deposits would not be “spent” but would remain in the government’s account, as safe as they are in Bank of America—arguably more so, since the solvency of the public bank would be guaranteed by the local government.

Critics worry about the profligate risk-taking of politicians, but the trusty civil servants at the Bank of North Dakota insist that they are not politicians; they are bankers.  Unlike the Wall Street banks that had to be bailed out by the taxpayers, the Bank of North Dakota invests conservatively.  It avoided the derivatives and toxic mortgage-backed securities that precipitated the credit crisis, and it helped the state avoid the crisis by partnering with local banks, helping them with capital and liquidity requirements.  As a result, the state has had no bank failures in at least a decade.   

With intelligent use of the ever-evolving Internet, truly effective public oversight can minimize any cronyism.  California’s pension funds might have avoided losing $100 billion if, instead of gambling in the Wall Street casino, they had invested in infrastructure through the state’s own state bank. 

The Constitutional Challenge

In Weidner’s Wall Street Journal article, he raises another argument of opponents—that California law forbids using taxpayer money to make private loans.  That, he said, would have to be changed.

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has held otherwise.  In 1920, the constitutional objection was raised in conjunction with the Bank of North Dakota and was rejected both by the Supreme Court of North Dakota and the U.S. Supreme Court.  See Green v. Frazier, 253 U. S. 233 (1920), and fuller discussion here.     

A municipal bank would be doing with the public’s funds only what Bank of America does now: it would be lending “bank credit” backed by the bank’s capital and deposits.  The difference would be that the local community, not Florida or Europe, would get the loans; and the city of San Francisco, not Bank of America, would get the profits. 

California and many other states already own infrastructure banks that use the states’ funds to back loans.  If that use of public monies is legal, and if public funds can be deposited in Bank of America and used as the basis for loans to multi-national corporations, they can be deposited in the Bank of San Francisco and used as the basis for loans to the local community. 

Better yet, they can be used to buy municipal bonds.  Investing in municipal bonds would avoid the constitutional issue with “private loans” altogether, since the loans would be to local government.

Sending a Message to Wall Street

The campaign to “move your money” has gotten a groundswell of support, but move your money into what?  Weidner repeats the complaint of critics that private credit unions have gotten too big and threaten commercial banking.  Having greater impact would be to “move our money”—move our local government revenues out of Wall Street banks into our own publicly-owned banks, which could then generate credit for the local economy and public works.   

 

Ellen Brown is an attorney and president of the Public Banking Institute, http://PublicBankingInstitute.org.  In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she shows how a private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back.  Her websites are http://WebofDebt.com and http://EllenBrown.com.

Washington: US is eyeing to sell its battle proved armed drones to key allies, including India, but the move is being opposed by lawmakers who don’t want the technology to be exported.

“The Pentagon wants more North Atlantic Treaty Organization members to have such pilotless aircraft to ease the burden on the US in Afghanistan and in future conflicts like the alliance’s air campaign in Libya this year,” Obama

Administration officials were quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying.

It is believed that India would be one of the potential target countries for the US to sell its drones.

It is believed that India would be one of the potential target countries for the US to sell its drones. India has been purchasing drones from Israel for quite some time now, and has been developing its drone capabilities, but does not have armed drones like the Predators and Reapers used by US security agencies with devastating effect against al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan.

“The Pentagon’s proposed sales have set off a behind-the-scenes debate between the administration and some members of Congress over whether the US should speed the spread of a technology that will allow other countries to carry out military strikes by remote control,” the report said.

Drones have been highly successful in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan and also in countries like Yemen and Somalia.

However, the report some lawmakers are resisting to such a move from the Administration.

“There are some military technologies that I believe should not be shared with other countries, regardless of how close our partnership,” said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein.

                                

Need a last minute gift for your beloved locavore? Several books would make excellent holiday gifts, so this review covers a few of them on the environment, as it relates to local food sovereignty, food security and palate delight. There’s even one for kids, which starts the set:

Avatars of Gaia: Escape from Hazard Hollow
Professor Heart (self-published: 2009, 210 pp.)
Website: www.avatarsofgaia.org

Charlotte Purin of Los Angeles decided one of the best ways to save Mother Earth is to get kids involved. So she wrote Avatars of Gaia: Escape from Hazard Hollow for preteens. The adventure/fantasy tale educates as it entertains, integrating the concepts of sustainability, healthy-eating, and environmental consciousness into a fantasy adventure story.

Because she also wants reach all kids, regardless of financial background, she’s made several youtube videos, (seed saving, read the label/obesity, how to recycle & compost, how to make a solar oven, and one about saving frogs). Colorful, full-page drawings accompany the text, and the book includes a special seed protection pledge, along with a glossary.  She also has board games: the E.A.K. (environmentally aware kid) game, and ‘Gimme Green Grub’ game, about what’s healthy food.

Motivated by the privatization of water and seeds, an epidemic of childhood obesity, and rising bankruptcies among farmers, she plans several more books along the Gaia line, getting feedback as she tours schools, appearing as Professor Heart.

Life Rules: Why so much is going wrong everywhere at once and how Life teaches us to fix it
Ellen LaConte (self-published: 2010, 283 pp.)
Website: www.ellenlaconte.com/life-rules-the-book

LaConte provides a fresh take on ecosystem collapse, hierarchical culture, and the global capitalist industrial economy, analogizing them with AIDS.  By following the evolution of life, LaConte shows how human “civilization” will always self-destruct, because it thrives on dominance and environmental exploitation. She provides a detailed comparison of nature to human societies, pointing out that in mature ecosystems there is no dominant species – everything is in balance.

She also contrasts her vision of a sustainable society with “civilization” that thrives on exploitation, domination and wealth concentration. Citing Derrick Jensen (Endgame) and Michael Ruppert (Confronting Collapse), she agrees that Power won’t voluntarily change, pointing out that the World Trade Organization has never once decided in favor of the environment. “The best we’ve done,” she writes, “is to flatten they pyramid” of power.  Now is the time to challenge its existence, she says.

More than a third of the book lays out the plan for moving into sustainable human societies. All of the ideas are already being tried somewhere – like permaculture, slow money, slow food, and local organic democracy – going from competition and partisanship to participation and partnership. And this section is what makes the book ideal: all the best ideas are collected, and all of them are underscored by her theme of humanity living in accord with natural law, or Life Rules.

Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots along the Pepper Trail
Kurt M. Kriese, Kraig Kraft and Gary P. Naghan
(Chelsea Green, 2011, 193 pp.)
Website: http://chasingchiles.com

Here’s another delightful read in the eco-genre, although the serious business of climate change – wrought via whatever means – forms the basis for their culinary ecotours spanning the Western Hemisphere. A chef, a chili agroecologist and an ethnobotanist traveled to Mexico, Florida, Cajun Country, the Yucatan, New Mexico and even New England talking with chili pepper farmers about the history of their crops, the weather and the development of “rapid adaptation” farming.

The authors report that aberrant weather is only one problem threatening the diversity of peppers (and all foods): water disputes, agricultural industrialization, globalization, loss of farmland and of specialty markets, and genetic modification. “The Seed Savers Exchange has documented that more than 200 varieties of sweet and hot peppers have disappeared from the seed trade in North America since 1981.”

Interspersed throughout the story of how an unstable climate affects these crops – sometimes beneficially, sometimes disastrously – are recipes that include one variety or another, along with side boxes with detailed info. One helpful tip – to cool down your mouth if your pepper (or Tabasco sauce) is too hot, ingest something fatty instead of drinking water, since capsaicin – the heat molecule – is hydrophobic. A glass of milk will bind the hot stuff, taking away its burn. Many believe the chemical also provides arthritic pain relief.

The Superfood Gardener: A step-by-step guide to growing superfood vegetables in your garden
Sharon and Andrew Cooper
(Global Publishing Group, 2010, 161 pp.)
Website: www.thesuperfoodgardener.com

While not everyone can grow chili peppers, Superfood Gardener provides detailed instructions on growing local food. Replete with pictures, drawings and detailed descriptions of plants and their pests, the Coopers also explore soils and companion plants, along with twelve specific veggies in the superfood Hall of Fame.

This is a book you haul out to the garden, and it’s built for durability. Thank goodness – mine is well thumbed and smudged with South Florida soil. I highly recommend this colorful how-to manual. Not all those superfoods can be grown here, but I’m making my way with spinach, broccoli, corn, and several varieties of tomato.

(Not on the superfood list, I still can’t get the tobacco to grow, and the watermelons failed. But we’re not giving up.)

Cooking Close to Home: A Year of Seasonal Recipes
Diane Imrie and Richard Jarmusz
(Chelsea Green, 2011, 240 pp.)
Website: www.cookingclosetohome.com/

Now that you’ve raised your own veggies – be they superfoods or not – you’ll want to prepare them using recipes in Cooking Close to Home.  This is a beautiful hardcover recipe book focused on the Northeast U.S., covering all the seasons for each of the major food groups, including pastries and other sweets. It’s even got a recipe for pickling jalapeno peppers, or you can use them in the rib-eye steak marinade.

I’ve tried the Kale and Mushroom Soup, and the Garlic-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Fresh Basil and Goat Cheese, over pasta. Delish. My next endeavor will be the Vermont Vegetable New Year Rolls which I’m serving at the the family gathering this Sunday.

Imrie and Jarmusz introduce the sections with political tidbits to encourage supporting local farms, slow food and eco-consciousness. This is an excellent addition to any locavore’s cookbook shelf.

Bankers rule the world. A new Swiss Federal Institute of Technology study says so. Written by Stefania Vitali, James Glattfelder and Stefano Battiston, it’s titled “The network of global corporate control,” saying:

“We find that transnational corporations from a giant bow-tie structure and that a large portion of control flows to a small tightly-knit core of financial institutions. This core can be seen as an economic ‘super-entity’ that raises new important issues both for researches and policy makers.”

The study says 147 powerful companies control an inordinate amount of economic activity – about 40%. Among the top 50, 45 are financial firms. They include Barclays PLC (called most influential), JPMorgan Chase, UBS, and other familiar and less known names.

Twenty-four companies are US-based, followed by eight in Britain, five in France, four in Japan, and Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands with two each. Canada has one.

Moreover, “top ranked” companies “hold a control ten times bigger than what could be expected based on their wealth.”

As a result, they have enormous influence over political, financial, and economic activity.

In his book titled, “When Corporations Rule the World,” David Korten said they’re able to transfer enormous amounts of power, wealth and resources from public to private hands with government complicity. Money power and concentrated wealth in few hands especially harm humanity.

“These forces have transformed” financial institutions and other corporate predators “into instruments of a market tyranny that is extending its reach across the planet like a cancer, colonizing ever more of the planet’s living spaces, destroying livelihoods, displacing people, rendering democratic institutions impotent, and feeding on life in an insatiable quest for money” and profits as a be and end all.

Only bottom line priorities and market dominance matter, not human welfare, environmental sanity, peace, equity and justice.

Transnational giants are the dominant institution of our time – especially financial ones with money power control of everything.

They decide who governs and how, who serves on courts, what laws are enacted, and whether or not wars are waged. Corporate dominance, especially financial power, and democratic values are incompatible.

They operate ruthlessly as private tyrannies. They’re predators. We’re prey, and every day we’re eaten alive. They do it because they can, and in America by mandate.

Publicly owned US corporations, including financial ones, must serve shareholders by maximizing equity value through higher profits. They do it by exploiting nations, people and resources ruthlessly.

Social responsibility doesn’t matter. Neither does being worker-friendly, a good citizen, or friend of the earth. Bottom line priorities alone matter. Failure to pursue fiduciary responsibilities means possible dismissal or shareholder lawsuits.

Yet nothing in America’s Constitution or statute laws endow corporations with their rights. They usurped them by co-opting Washington, the nation’s courts, state capitals, and city halls.

As a result, over half the world’s largest economies are corporations. Financial ones controlling the power of money are most dominant.

Corporate personhood enhanced their power, yet imagine. Although corporations aren’t human, they can live forever, change their identity, reside in many places globally, can’t be imprisoned for wrongdoing, and can transform themselves into new entities for any reason.

They have the same rights and protections as people without the responsibilities. As a result, they operate freely unrestrained, especially financial giants controlling the power of money at the public’s expense.

Beginning in the late 1960s, financialization grew more dominant. Economic control began shifting from industry to finance. Corporations are now seen as bundles of assets, the more liquid the better. A new monopoly finance capitalism developed to exploit it.

FIRE sector (finance, insurance, and real estate) predators capitalized. Casino capitalism gained prominence. Today it thrives. Major players took advantage, profiting hugely from speculation, chicanery and fraud.

A burgeoning financial superstructure gained a life of its own. Today it’s omnipotent, especially in America and Europe. Their business model involves grabbing everything that smells money, no matter what harm is caused.

Money doesn’t buy everything, but it buys enough influence to matter. The smartest guys in the room take advantage, buying politicians like toothpaste. Democracy’s just a figure of speech.

Only wealth and power matter. Enough of them turned financial giants into monsters. Whatever they want, they get, including the right to operate freely outside the law, manipulate markets, bilk investors, strip-mine nations and people for profit, and get bailed out at public expense if overreach.

Under Obama and European leaders, the worst of bad practices flourish. Foxes guard the henhouse. Inmates run the asylum. Regulators don’t regulate. Investigations aren’t conducted. High-level criminal fraud gets wink and nod approval. Nothing is done to curb it.

Nor do public considerations matter nor is sustained low inflation long-term growth pursued as long as bankers get paid. Today, it’s issue one in America and troubled Eurozone countries.

Wall Street dominance matters most in America. In Europe, “Troika” power is omnipotent – the IMF, EU and European Central Bank (ECB). Nations trapped under euro straightjacket rules can’t devalue their currencies to be more competitive, monetize debt freely, or legislate fiscal policies to stimulate growth.

Instead, they’re entrapped by banker diktats demanding tribute. In other words, financial coup d’etat authority runs sovereign governments. They occupy them rapaciously, making rules, setting terms, issuing demands, and pressuring, bribing or otherwise forcing political leaders to acquiesce. If not, they’re replaced.

Working households bear the burden through layoffs, wage and benefit cuts, higher taxes, and other austerity measures to assure bankers are paid.

According to Michael Hudson, the system:

“shift(s) planning power into the hands of high finance on the claim that this is more efficient than public regulation. Government planning and taxation is accused of being ‘the road to serfdom,’ as if ‘free markets’ controlled by bankers given leeway to act recklessly is not planned by special interests in ways that are oligarchic, not democratic.”

“Governments are told to pay bailout debts taken on not to defend countries in military warfare as in times past, but to benefit the wealthiest layer of the population by shifting its losses onto taxpayers.”

As a result, social inequality proliferates. A new Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report discusses the damage over the last three decades among its 34 member states. They include America, Japan, Western Europe, and others.

Titled “Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising,” it discusses conditions from the early 1980s until the 2008 global economic crisis. Its impact alone left 200 million workers unemployed compounded by more imposed austerity.

Among OECD countries, the top 10% is nine times better off than the bottom 10%. America, Israel and Turkey are the most unequal industrialized nations at 14 to 1. In Britain, Japan, Italy, and South Korea, the gap is 10 to 1.

Rising inequality also affected “traditionally egalitarian countries” like Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. They went from 5 to 1 in the 1980s to 6 to 1 today. Mexico and Chile are worst off with gaps of 25 to one.

In America, the top 1% controls 20% of all income plus a far greater percent of total assets. Concentrated wealth extremes also affect European countries, following America’s pattern.

The report says income inequality “first started to increase in the late 1970s and early 1980s in some English-speaking countries, notably the United Kingdom and the United States, but also in Israel.”

Since the late 1980s, it’s grown more widespread. At the same time, labor rights were sacrificed to benefit corporate bottom line priorities. In addition, finance capital grew omnipotent. As a result, money power rules everything.

Imposed austerity greatly impacted working households in troubled Eurozone countries and others facing economic hard times. Greece has been especially hammered by repeated layoffs, wage and benefit cuts, as well as higher taxes.

In early December, unelected Prime Minister Lucas Papademos (a former Bank of Greece governor and ECB vice president) force-fed through parliament more austerity cuts. Receiving an eight billion euro loan was conditional on doing so.

As a result, imposed measures include another five billion euros in spending cuts, 3.6 billion in new taxes, pensions cut 15%, and wages slashed more than already. In addition, more ahead is planned.

Papademos said “(t)he financial crisis in our country is not a passing storm….It will take many years” of greater worker sacrifices to assure bankers are paid.

In fact, the more wage, benefit, pension, and other cuts ordinary people bear, the weaker Greece’s economy becomes from lost purchasing power with a working population heading toward serfdom in a nation no longer fit to live in.

Millions of Greeks are now impoverished. Unemployment approaches 20%. For youths between 15 and 24, it’s nearly 50%. Years more imposed pain is planned to assure bankers are paid. As a result, expect Greece sooner or later to explode.

In addition, the more debt Greece assumes, the less it’s able to service it, and faster it heads toward debt peonage. According to Michael Hudson, moreover, “(a) basic mathematical as well as political principle” explains that “(d)ebts that can’t be paid, won’t be.”

In early December, unelected Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti (former EU official installed by Goldman Sachs, known to some as “three-card Monte”) introduced his own austerity package.

To service Italy’s $1.6 trillion debt, it includes attacking its social security pension system. In retirement, families depend on it. Nonetheless, retirement age eligibility will be raised to 66 from 58 by 2018, inflation-adjusted increases will end, and to qualify fully, workers must contribute from wages for 42 years.

In addition, value-added taxes will increase by 2%, and firing workers will be easier than ever. As in Greece, more cuts are planned, targeting workers to benefit bankers, other corporate favorites, and Italy’s super-rich.

Portugal’s new austerity cuts will see take-home pay down 27% since 2010. Its 2012 budget reduces spending by 4.4% of GDP by cutting healthcare and other benefits.

It also raises value added and other taxes, extends working days by 30 minutes with no added pay, and eliminates bonuses equal to two months earnings.

These measures follow earlier ones. They included cutting public sector wages 10%, eliminating four holidays, slashing overtime pay 50%, reducing pay for shift work, imposing “time banks” for greater employer flexibility over when employees must work, making firings simpler and cheaper, imposing shorter fixed-term contracts, ending rest breaks, and lowering unemployment benefits.

A Final Comment

Financial tyranny runs America and Europe. As a result, public anger grows.

Can revolutionary sparks be far behind? Expect pain levels eventually to cross thresholds of no return. Anything after that is possible, good or bad.

Hopefully a better world will emerge, free from banker occupation. It’s our only chance!

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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

Interfax-Military

December 16, 2011

New Russian strategic missiles invulnerable – RVSN commander

-”It seems to me that as long as a stable mechanism of nuclear deterrence based on a threat to use nuclear weapons exists in the world, it should not be undermined, provoking a strategic offensive arms race. Should it happen, any strategic stability would be out of the question. I do not think that such a situation will benefit anyone.”

MOSCOW: Nearly all of the silo-based and mobile missile systems belonging to the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces (RVSN) are equipped with warheads capable of overpowering missile defense shields, RVSN Commander Lt. Gen. Sergei Karakayev said.

“The capabilities of such combat means were demonstrated to U.S. technical control means during the trials of the Yars ground-based mobile missile system and the Bulava sea-based missile system. It also concerns hypersonic warheads capable of performing altitude and trajectory maneuvers,” he told journalists.

“The new missiles have characteristics that allow them to stay invulnerable at all sections of their flight,” Karakayev said.

“Today we have to vigorously respond to America’s missile defense build-up because the U.S. has chosen to ignore Russia’s concerns over it,” the commander said.

“New missile systems of RVSN will be equipped with highly effective maneuverable and guided warheads and more advanced means able to overpower missile defense shields. All this allows us to confidently forecast the Russian strategic nuclear forces’ ability to maintain the country’s security no matter what scenario the international situation follows,” Karakayev said.

“Russia is not opposed to the deployment of a U.S. missile defense shield, but it is against the creation of such a shield that would overtly be directed against it, potentially reducing the capabilities of the Russian strategic nuclear forces,” he said.

“It seems to me that as long as a stable mechanism of nuclear deterrence based on a threat to use nuclear weapons exists in the world, it should not be undermined, provoking a strategic offensive arms race. Should it happen, any strategic stability would be out of the question. I do not think that such a situation will benefit anyone,” the general said.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2011-12/16/c_131311316.htm

Xinhua News Agency
December 16, 2011

Russia considers new ICBM to counter U.S. missile defense

             
MOSCOW: Russia might build a new intercontinental ballistic missile capable of breaking through the U.S.’ space-based missile defense system, the commander of Russian Strategic Missile Forces said Friday.

Lieutenant General Sergei Karakayev told reporters thaT Russia needs the ICBMs to contain possible threats of nuclear attack in the future.

“In case (the U.S.) deploys space-based anti-missile systems, the potential of the existing ICBMs could be insufficient to overpass that defense shield. So we need to deploy a new 100-ton ICBM,” he was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

The general noted that missiles of such weight could be only ground-based, and also be equipped with conventional warheads with unlimited striking range.

Russia currently deploys the ground-based Topol-M and Yars strategic multi-warhead guided missiles and submarine-based Bulava ICBM.

Moscow has long opposed the deployment of U.S.-led NATO missile defense facilities near its borders and intends to seek legally binding guarantees from the U.S. and NATO that the missile defense shield is not targeting Russia.

President Dmitry Medvedev warned in November that Russia might station missile defense systems, including the Iskander, in western and southern sections of the country if there were any additional U.S. missile deployments in Europe.

http://www.interfax.com/newsinf.asp?pg=5&id=295853

Interfax-Military
December 16, 2011

Two more RVSN divisions to switch to Yars missile systems in 2012 – commander

VLASIKHA, Moscow region: The Novosibirsk- and Kozelsk-based divisions of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces (RVSN) will start to switch to Yars advanced mobile missile systems next year, RVSN Commander Lt. Gen. Sergei Karakayev told journalists on Friday.

“The second regiment of the Teikovo rocket unit will finish its transfer to Yars mobile missile systems in 2012. The Novosibirsk and Kozelsk rocket units will start to switch to this complex as well,” he said.

The Kozelsk division will receive “silo-based Yars missile systems,” Karakayev said.

Two more rocket divisions are expected to switch to Yars systems in the future, the commander said.

The Russian Armed Forces’ first rocket regiment equipped with Yars systems was fully equipped in 2011, he said. This regiment is part of the Teikovo rocket division, based in the Ivanovo region.

“Another Yars regiment, made up of the regiment’s command center and one rocket battalion, entered a trial run in the same division on December 7. One more battalion of this regiment will enter service before the end of 2011,” the commander said.

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-“If the USA deploys space-based strike anti-ballistic missile forces, which is not excluded due to intensive research in that area it carries out, the potential of small solid propellant missiles would not be enough to overcome such a system. In this situation deployment of a liquid propellant ICBM with a launch weigh about 100 tonnes is preferable, since it would be noticeably better than a solid propellant missile of a similar size in terms of the payload-to-weight ratio.”

Russian strategic missiles may target American anti-ballistic missile shield facilities in Europe, the commander of the Russian missile troops has warned.

The missiles on duty have blank flight programs, but they can be promptly targeted at any destination, including the controversial European AMD sites, Lieutenant General Sergey Karakaev told journalists on Friday.

“There are no technical limitations on the use of strategic missiles. It would take very little time to select a new target and upload a new missile flight program,” he assured.

He added that “the combat use of missile troop forces is done on command of the Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces, while planning objectives for possible strikes is the job of the General Staff.”

The general also announced the military’s plans to create a new heavy silo-based liquid propellant strategic missile. It will “have improved capabilities to overcome multiple echelons of an anti-missile system” through the use of advanced design of the vehicle and its warhead as well as better fuel.

Karakaev stressed that the need for the new missile comes due to development of ABM technology by the United States.

“If the USA deploys space-based strike anti-ballistic missile forces, which is not excluded due to intensive research in that area it carries out, the potential of small solid propellant missiles would not be enough to overcome such a system,” he said. “In this situation deployment of a liquid propellant ICBM with a launch weigh about 100 tonnes is preferable, since it would be noticeably better than a solid propellant missile of a similar size in terms of the payload-to-weight ratio.”

He added that such a missile can be used to deliver conventional precision warheads and will still have a virtually global reach, which gives more options for Russia in warfare.

In the short-term period, the existing Topol-M and Yars ICBMs are capable of overcoming any challenges the strategic missile troops may face, the commander assured. He said that by year’s end, a quarter of the missiles deployed by Russia will be of these advanced designs. The near-total rearmament of the military is currently being carried out and will be finished by 2012.

The American plans to deploy its anti-missile sites in Europe are a long-standing point of conflict between Moscow and Washington. Russia wants legal guarantees that the system will not undermine its nuclear deterrence, which the US is reluctant to provide such assurances.

Lately Moscow has taken a tougher stance on the issue, opting for a military response to the threat, which politics is failing to address. It plans to deploy Iskander tactical missiles in Kaliningrad exclave, which would allow destruction of the future ABM facilities, should this be needed. President Medvedev also ordered defense ministry to develop further measures to counter the American system.

Stop NATO e-mail list home page with archives and search engine:
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Iraq War “ends” with a $4 trillion IOU

December 15th, 2011 by Christopher Hinton

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The nine-year-old Iraq war came to an official end on Thursday, but paying for it will continue for decades until U.S. taxpayers have shelled out an estimated $4 trillion.

Over a 50-year period, that comes to $80 billion annually.

Ceremony marks end of Iraq war

The flag is lowered Thursday in Baghdad at a ceremony to mark the closure of U.S. military headquarters and the end of the war in Iraq.

Although that only represents about 1% of nation’s gross domestic product, it’s more than half of the national budget deficit. It’s also roughly equal to what the U.S. spends on the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency combined each year.

Near the start of the war, the U.S. Defense Department estimated it would cost $50 billion to $80 billion. White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey was dismissed in 2002 after suggesting the price of invading and occupying Iraq could reach $200 billion.

“The direct costs for the war were about $800 billion, but the indirect costs, the costs you can’t easily see, that payoff will outlast you and me,” said Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at American Progress, a Washington, D.C. think tank, and a former assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan.

Those costs include interest payments on the billions borrowed to fund the war; the cost of maintaining military bases in Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain to defend Iraq or reoccupy the country if the Baghdad government unravels; and the expense of using private security contractors to protect U.S. property in the country and to train Iraqi forces.

Caring for veterans, more than 2 million of them, could alone reach $1 trillion, according to Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, in Congressional testimony in July.

Other experts said that was too conservative and anticipate twice that amount. The advance in medical technology has helped more soldiers survive battlefield injuries, but followup care can often last a lifetime and be costly.

More than 32,000 soldiers were wounded in Iraq, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. Add in Afghanistan and that number jumps to 47,000.

Altogether, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost the U.S. between $4 trillion and $6 trillion, more than half of which would be due to the fighting in Iraq, said Neta Crawford, a political science professor at Brown University.

Her numbers, which are backed by similar studies at Columbia and Harvard universities, estimate the U.S. has already spent $2 trillion on the wars after including debt interest and the higher cost of veterans’ disabilities.

The annual budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs has more than doubled since 2003 to a requested $132.2 billion for fiscal 2012. That amount is expected to rise sharply over the next four decades as lingering health problems for veterans become more serious as they grow older.

Costs for Vietnam veterans did not peak until 30 or 40 years after the end of the war, according to Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

“We will have a vast overhang in domestic costs for caring for the wounded and covering retirement expenditure of the war fighters,” said Loren Thompson, a policy expert with the Lexington Institute. “The U.S. will continue to incur major costs for decades to come.”

Week in Review: Looking back, moving forward

December 15th, 2011 by Global Research

Two months ago, we approached Global Research readers with a challenge: to increase the Global Research Newsletter list by 10,000 new subscribers before the end of 2011. Now mid-December, we have made significant steps forward, and although we have not (yet!) reached our goal, the response has been encouraging.

Today, there are 28,058 subscribers receiving daily news, article lists (like the one below), information about important events and breaking news. This newsletter service is FREE because we believe that the more people know the truth about the world we live in, the more empowered we will be to make the necessary changes, to stand up for a world without war, a world where accountability takes precedence over inequality.

As a new goal, can we reach 30,000 subscribers in the next two weeks? Are there 3 people you can forward this email to right now and encourage to sign on? If even one of those subscribes to receive the Global Research newsletter, we can blow away the goal and count thousands of people amongst those who choose to stay informed and refuse mainstream media lies. We need your help to do this!

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The end of 2011 is around the corner and where are we at? NATO in Syria, financial collapse in Europe, militarization of peaceful protests… The list goes on, pointing to the obvious: all is NOT right with the world.

However, there are steps we can take every day, big and small, against injustice. Learn, explore, understand… and together we can STOP the lies and start 2012 with hope for peace.

Information is free; awareness if priceless.

With best wishes,
The Global Research Team


Libya and “The Arab Spring”: Neoliberalism, “Regime Change” and NATO’s “Humanitarian Wars”
ONLINE INTERACTIVE READER
- by Michel Chossudovsky, Finian Cunningham, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2011-12-25


The Justification to Wage War: Libya and UN Security Resolution 1973
Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a “dangerous concept”
- by Ronda Hauben – 2011-12-15


VIDEO: Los Angeles: Constitutional Rights are for Humans, Not Corporations
Learn about the call to amend the Constitution on GRTV
- 2011-12-15


VIDEO: NATO Troops on Syrian Border
Learn what’s happening on GRTV
- by James Corbett – 2011-12-15


Class and Capitalism in the Gulf
The Political Economy of the Gulf Cooperation Council
- by Adam Hanieh, Ed Lewis – 2011-12-15

Pentagon Plans Space Telescopes To Spy Anywhere On Earth
- 2011-12-15


Congress Authorizes Pentagon To Wage Internet War
- by Steven Aftergood – 2011-12-15

Putin Lashes Out At McCain Over Libya-Russia Parallel
- 2011-12-15


Obama at Fort Bragg: A hypocritical embrace of a criminal war
- by Bill Van Auken – 2011-12-15


Obama administration backs bill authorizing indefinite military detention of US citizens
- by Joseph Kishore – 2011-12-15


The Arab Spring and the “Unemployment Trap”
- by Prof. Ali Kadri – 2011-12-15


POLICE STATE USA: Explaining to a 5-Year Old Why the Indefinite Detention Bill DOES Apply to U.S. Citizens on U.S. Soil
- by Washington’s Blog – 2011-12-14


VIDEO: Former Ambassador: ‘US to control Iraq oil always’
Learn more on GRTV
- by Ranjit Singh Kalha – 2011-12-14


The Iraq Withdrawal and the Continuing Eruption of US Militarism
- by Bill Van Auken – 2011-12-14


America’s War on Pakistan: Death From The Skies, NATO In Search of an Enemy
- by Roedad Khan – 2011-12-14


Stories from Harlem
Poverty and the daily reality of living in substandard housing
- by Li Onesto – 2011-12-14

Western Elite Wages Info-war to Justify Syria Invasion?
- by Prof. Igor Panarin – 2011-12-14


IRAN-DRONEGATE: Washington’s Acrimony over the Downed Top Secret Spy Drone
- by Dr. Ismail Salami – 2011-12-14


New Satellite Images Reveal A Secret US Drone Base In Nevada
- by Eric Goldschein – 2011-12-14


Cyber war on US drones? Another spy craft crash, now in Seychelles
- 2011-12-14


Orwell and Beyond: Legislating Tyranny in America
- by Stephen Lendman – 2011-12-14


Euro Crisis: Britain’s Financial Arsonist Returns to the Scene of the Crime
- by Finian Cunningham – 2011-12-14


The European Stabilization Mechanism (ESM), Financial Insolvency and the Bailout of Europe’s Mega Banks
- by Bob Chapman – 2011-12-14

US Troops Surround Syria on the Eve of Invasion?
- 2011-12-13


This Holiday Season, Remember: Peace comes through Awareness
- 2011-12-13


Occupy Wall Street: Poverty and Rising Social Inequality, Interrogating Democracy in America
- by Prof. Joseph Tharamangalam – 2011-12-13


Markets of Shame Before The Collapse: Crisis, Crisis, Everywhere
- by Danny Schechter – 2011-12-13


Solidarity with the Palestinian People
BDS unites East and West
- by Eric Walberg – 2011-12-13

Trial of Khmer Rouge leaders underway in Cambodia
- by John Roberts – 2011-12-13


Reform vs. Revolution Within Occupy
- by Shamus Cooke – 2011-12-13


Libya on the verge of chaos and civil war: experts
- by Alexander Vatutin – 2011-12-13

Asia: Cold War To World War?
- 2011-12-13


Instruments of Repression. Nation of Laws, The Immorality of Today’s Government
- by Prof. John Kozy – 2011-12-13


Remembering His-Story – Iran Attack Next?
- by Bruce Gagnon – 2011-12-13


Say NO to the Use of the Military against Peaceful Protest in the United States
Will the Military be used against the Occupy Movement?
- by Kevin Zeese – 2011-12-13


Humanity at the Crossroads: Destruction or Rebirth
- by Devon DB – 2011-12-13


Canadian Mining Companies Make the Big Move into Afghanistan
- by Michael Skinner – 2011-12-13


America’s Covert War Against Iran. Do ‘All Options’ Mean Nukes?
Slouching Towards Disaster
- by Tom Burghardt – 2011-12-12


VIDEO: FOX Fakes Moscow Protest with Athens Clashes
Find out what happened on GRTV
- 2011-12-12


VIDEO: Consensus 9/11: Challenging the Official Story
Learn about the evidence on GRTV
- by Elizabeth Woodworth – 2011-12-12


Wall Street Propagandists Scramble To Cover US Ties to Russian Protesters
- by Tony Cartalucci – 2011-12-12


Media Lies: Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad Sets ABC News Senior Propagandist Barbra Walters Straight.
- by Tony Cartalucci – 2011-12-12


Newt Gingrich’s Invented History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Gingrich’s Serial Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds
- by Jeremy R. Hammond – 2011-12-12


VIDEO: US Covert Ops may be First Phase of War on Iran
New interview now on GRTV
- by Michel Chossudovsky – 2011-12-12


Prisoners in their own Land: The Struggle and Resistance of Serbs in Kosovo
Report from the Kosovo barricades
- by Benjamin Schett – 2011-12-12


The Derivative Debt Bubble: “Ghost Financial Assets” and the Widespread Discounting of Western Public Debt
$30 trillion in ghost assets will disappear by 2013…
- by Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin (GEAB) – 2011-12-12


#Occupy4Children: The Illegal and Immoral US-led invasions against the World’s Children
- by Mickey Z – 2011-12-12

Pakistan: U.S. Challenged As NATO Surrounds Iran
US outed, and far from drawn down
- by Amb. M K Bhadrakumar – 2011-12-12


Hundreds of US-NATO Soldiers Arrive and Begin Operations on the Jordan-Syria Border
BFP Exclusive: Foreign Troops Begin to Spread Near the Villages of Al-Mafraq
- 2011-12-12


Secret US-French drone base in Libya?
- by Bill Weinberg – 2011-12-12

Iran, Djibouti, Afghanistan, China: Drones Simply Keep Crashing
- 2011-12-12


Washington’s Alliance with “Moderate Islam”: Containing Rebellion, Defending Empire
- by Prof. James Petras – 2011-12-12


Pakistan’s Decision to Shoot Down America’s Drones: Prelude to an All Out US-Pak War?
- by Michel Chossudovsky – 2011-12-12


Doomed to Fail: Wrecking Europe’s Monetary System to Fix It
- by Stephen Lendman – 2011-12-12


Fall 1941: Pearl Harbor and The Wars of Corporate America
- by Jacques R. Pauwels – 2011-12-11


America’s “Democratic Dictatorship”: The Defense Authorization Act will Destroy The Bill of Rights
The grim face of totalitarianism is emerging in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) now before Congress
- by Sherwood Ross – 2011-12-11


VIDEO: Earth… Alive, Beautiful, Finite, Hurting
See this powerful video about life on our planet on GRTV
- by Vivek Chauhan – 2011-12-11


The Great War Tour : America’s “Repositioning” of Military Forces
- by Manlio Dinucci – 2011-12-11


Stephen Lendman Receives Mexico Media Award
- 2011-12-11


Joe Biden Drafted the Core of the Patriot Act in 1995 … Before the Oklahoma City Bombing
- by Washington’s Blog – 2011-12-11


Human Activity Driving Extremes of Weather
- by Sherwood Ross – 2011-12-11


Occupy is Not Just About Occupying: The Goal is Not to Occupy it is to End Corporate Rule
- by Kevin Zeese – 2011-12-11


Building a Pretext to Wage War on Syria: NATO’s “Humanitarian Watchdog”
The Pro-Israel NGO behind War on Libya is targeting Syria
- by Maidhc Ó Cathail – 2011-12-11


Obama Raises the Military Stakes: Confrontation on the Borders with China and Russia
- by Prof. James Petras – 2011-12-10

Obama has embraced a policy of encirclement and provocations against China, the world’s second largest economy and the US’s most important creditor, and Russia, the European Union’s principle oil and gas provider and the world’s second most powerful nuclear weapons power.


VIDEO: US Government Ignores Imprisoned Palestinian Protester
Watch how media questions are sidestepped on GRTV
- 2011-12-10


On the Apparent Suicide of Georgia State Senator Robert Brown
- by Cynthia McKinney – 2011-12-10

Drone Incursion Proves U.S. Afghan Bases Threat To Region: Iran
- 2011-12-10

BREAKING NEWS: Russia warns Israel not to attack Iran
- 2011-12-10


STOP NATO: Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts
- by Rick Rozoff – 2011-12-10


The Financial Crisis Was Entirely Foreseeable
- by Washington’s Blog – 2011-12-10


US Covert Operations Threaten War with Iran
Redrawing the Political Map of the entire Middle East.
- by Chris Marsden – 2011-12-10

Inside Romania’s secret CIA prison
- by Matt Apuzzo – 2011-12-10


America’s Drone Wars: Drone ‘beast’ captured in Iran – others rampage in Afghanistan and Gaza
- 2011-12-10

The New Arms Race: America to Wage War in Space, Cyberspace, Air And Sea Simultaneously
- by Geng Yansheng – 2011-12-09


Global Research’s War Correspondent Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya receives Prize of the Mexican Press Club
- 2011-12-09


Demise of the Euro: Part of a Long-term Plan for a Global “Super-currency” controlled by the Banksters
- by Adrian Salbuchi – 2011-12-09


US Condemned for Arming Egyptian Regime
- by Bill Van Auken – 2011-12-09

NATO Deepens Military Ties With Gulf Cooperation Council
- by Habib Toumi – 2011-12-09


U.S.-NATO ABM Missile System “Covers” a Large Part of Russian Territory
- 2011-12-09


The Chongryon: Japan’s Continued Colonial-Style Discrimination against Koreans
- by Kiyul Chung – 2011-12-09


CIA ‘secret prison’ found in Romania – media reports
“Detainees were held and tortured”
- 2011-12-09


A “Soft Revolution” is developing in Pakistan
- by Liaqat Toor – 2011-12-09


The Destruction of Canada’s Family Farm
Open Letter To Environmental Groups from an Alberta grain farmer
- by Arthur W. Macklin – 2011-12-09


Pakistan Reviews Ties With U.S. After Deadly NATO Strike
- by Muhammad Tahir – 2011-12-08


Pearl Harbor: 70 Years on, Is Iran the New Japan?
- by Finian Cunningham – 2011-12-08


A Union is Born: Latin America in Revolution
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)
- by Eva Golinger – 2011-12-08


Week in Review: Top Stories of the Week
- 2011-12-08


Israeli Intelligence Report: US Drone downed by Iran Cyber Attack
- 2011-12-08


VIDEO: Engineering the Eurozone Collapse
- by F. William Engdahl – 2011-12-08


The Saudi Arab Spring Nobody Noticed
- by Russ Baker – 2011-12-08


Clinton Lectures Russia On Elections, NATO Chief On Missiles
U.S not in a position to criticize Russian elections
- by Rick Rozoff, John Robles – 2011-12-08


Pulling Back the Curtain on the Wall Street Money Machine
- by Ellen Brown – 2011-12-08


The Militarization of the American Police, the Shredding of Our Constitutional Rights
It Started At Least 30 Years Ago
- by Washington’s Blog – 2011-12-08


OWS: Reform or Revolution… and the Lessons from Egypt.
- by Ghada Chehade – 2011-12-08


The West’s Most-Cherished Desire: The Disintegration of the Russian Federation
- 2011-12-08


VIDEO: Russia Slams Clinton Over Election Criticism
Explore the irony on GRTV
- by Pepe Escobar – 2011-12-07


VIDEO: Occupation Nation: The Militarization of Police
New report now on GRTV
- by Maria Portnaya – 2011-12-07


WAR ON IRAN. HAS IT ALREADY STARTED? US, Israeli Covert Ops Targeting Iran
- 2011-12-07

Romanian Senate Ratifies U.S. Interceptor Missile Deployment
- 2011-12-07


US-NATO Missile Shield directed against Russia spawning New Arms Race – Russia military chief
- 2011-12-07

I –Introduction

As  is customary, a press conference was held by Ambassador Vitaly Churkin to mark the beginning of the Russian Federation’s Presidency of the Security Council for the month of December 2011. Ambassador Churkin’s comments in this press conference provide insight into an important problem in the structure of the Security Council that became evident in the course of the implementation of the Security Council resolutions against Libya. 

The press conference was held on December 2.  There is video of the press conference for those who are interested in viewing the conference itself. (1)

Though other issues were brought up, many of the questions asked by journalists related to the Russian Federation’s views concerning Security Council action on Libya and Syria.

II– Critique of Implementation of SCR 1973 on Libya

During the press conference Ambassador Churkin revealed that NATO had been asked for a “final report…summing up their view of their complying or not complying, of performing or not performing under the resolutions of the Security Council.” But no summary had been received from NATO. Ambassador Churkin said it was his understanding that NATO was not planning to send the Security Council any summary.

The importance of this revelation is that during its military action against Libya, NATO claimed it was acting under the authorization of UNSC Resolution 1973 (SCR 1973). Yet when asked to provide the Security Council with an evaluation of how its Libyan campaign complied with the actual resolution, apparently NATO did not see itself as being held accountable to the Security Council.

This situation reinforces the observation made by some inside and others outside the Council.(2) The Council passed SCR 1973, but it had no means of monitoring or controlling how this resolution was implemented. Thus the implementation of this Security Council resolution on Libya reveals a serious flaw in the structure of the Council itself.

Some members maintained that the resolution called for a cease fire and political settlement of the conflict in Libya.

Other Security Council members began bombing Libyan targets, and brought NATO in to carry out a bombing campaign against military, civilian and infrastructure targets in Libya. Ironically, NATO claimed such bombing was about the protection of civilians.(3) Similarly a self appointed “Contact Group” on Libya set as its goal, regime change in Libya. Members of the Security Council who expressed opposition to these activities, arguing they were contrary to SCR 1973, had no means to stop such usurpation of Security Council control over the implementation of the resolution.

The December 2 press conference with Ambassador Churkin helped to illustrate and examine this problem.

In an earlier Security Council meeting, Brazil had indicated it was planning to do a concept paper on the “responsibility while protecting” under the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) concept. (4) Brazil’s two year term on the Security Council will be over at the end of December, but no such concept paper has yet been presented. When Churkin was asked what he could tell journalists about the progress on this paper, he said, “My understanding is that it is going to be a serious process, a fundamental process of revisiting those things.”

On the issue of the Security Council’s summary of what had happened in the course of implementing Resolution 1973 against Libya, Ambassador Churkin explained the dilemma this posed for the Council.“As to lessons learned, this is a much broader issue which unfortunately I think we cannot put together as council members. It is something for round tables, academics, politicians to discuss in various flora. We discussed that. We have had a number of discussions of the various lessons we have learned, and the things we need to do or not to do.”

He recommended looking back at the Security Council meetings held in open chambers, particularly at the statements he had made in his capacity as the Russian Federation Permanent Representative. “I minced no words about some of the conclusions that need to be drawn from our Libyan experience,” he said, “But I am sure the Libyan experience is something that will have an impact of such importance that this will be a subject of attention for years to come.”

Asked whether the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) concept had been misused by the Security Council, Ambassador Churkin responded, “This is a very dangerous thing.”  This was not only the view of his delegation, but also of others both on the council and outside of the council, he explained.

“That is something that makes the life and work on the Security Council very difficult because words are no longer what they used to be. They have different meanings,” he said, offering as an example the implementation of the No Fly Zone on Libya contained in SCR 1973.

He described how, “No Fly Zone in the good old world, used to mean that nobody’s flying. That you prevent aircraft from being used against civilians.” 

“In the brave new world,” though, said Churkin, “No Fly Zone means freewheeling bombing of the targets you choose to bomb in whatever modality and mode you want to bomb. Close air support ok. Bombing a television station, ok. And that is a matter of grave concern.”

The significance of there being such a big difference in how words are being used, Churkin explained, was that, “Now we have to think not only about the words and concepts, but about the enormous ability of some of our colleagues to interpret the world out of them. And this is a very serious issue.”

“We need to return to the Council, to our interaction and cooperation with our colleagues, a clear understanding of what we mean,” maintained Churkin.

Demonstrating the significance of this discrepancy between how different members of the Council interpreted the words of resolutions, Churkin pointed out that in the case of Libya, there had been reports that the Gaddafi regime was using airplanes to bomb civilians. (But no evidence was ever presented to support these claims, at the time, or since.-ed) (5)

There were, however, no such reports about Syria. How then could there be “such uncritical enthusiasm” for setting up a No Fly Zone for Syria, Churkin wondered. Where was this enthusiasm coming from?

“Is it,” he asked, “an indication that in fact when they are saying that they don’t plan any military action (against Syria-ed), they don’t really mean it? When they talk about a No Fly Zone, they are already planning targets to bomb in Syria?”

Referring to the implication of this problem, Churkin noted, “On various issues which can have dramatic repercussions for regions and countries, and unfortunately this is clearly the case about Syria and about Iran and about some other issues, so it is not a perfect day for diplomacy, a perfect day to work in the Security Council.”
 
III- Security Council Action Against Syria

In response to several questions from journalists asking about the Russian Federation’s view of what action was appropriate with respect to Syria, Churkin explained the principles that should guide such action.

“We think it’s the role of the international community to try to help resolve internal crises by promoting dialogue,” Churkin told journalists, “This is what we have been doing with our contacts with the Syrian authorities, opposition, and the Arab League.”

Referring to the proposal of the Arab League to conduct a monitoring mission in Syria, he explained, “We think that the Arab League has a unique opportunity to play a constructive role in Syria.”

This required, however, that the Arab League be willing to consider Syria’s proposed amendments to the Arab League proposal, rather than just offering Syria an ultimatum that it had to accept the Arab League proposal with no negotiations over it, said Churkin. 

“We think the Syrian government’s proposed amendments to that plan could have been considered,” he explained. “Personally I looked at the two texts. I haven’t seen in the texts anything which couldn’t have been bridged there with some negotiations on the modalities of the deployment of that mission.”

Concerned that, “this opportunity to really mediate between the government and the opposition is not lost,” Churkin proposed that the Arab League economic sanctions imposed on Syria were “counterproductive.”

Comparing Security Council action on Syria with its action on Yemen, Churkin said that Russia was able to “exercise our position of principle” in Security Council Resolution 2014 (2011) about Yemen, “by encouraging dialogue and political accommodation on the basis of the Gulf States initiative.”(6) In the case of Yemen, Churkin noted, the Security Council and the international community had rallied in support of the action that Russia proposed.

But when it came to Syria, he described how Russia and China had proposed a resolution that “had many of the same elements which were contained in the resolution which was adopted on…Yemen.” In the case of Syria, however, the Russian-Chinese sponsored Resolution, was not supported by several other members of the Council.(7)

“So I think in Yemen the international community can be proud that even in a situation with bloodshed and very serious conflict in a country we were giving a strong signal in favor of dialogue and of political accommodation and this is what we achieved,” said Churkin.

“What we don’t understand,” he noted, “is why if that can be done in Yemen, why that can’t apply to Syria.”

Furthermore, in the case of Syria, he said, the Security Council met with opposition from some of the capitals, to any form of dialogue to resolve the Syrian conflict. The governments opposed to dialogue, he reported, took the position that there was, “no way dialogue can help. That those who go into dialogue they should stop it immediately,” and that “there is no future in the Arab League initiative.”

Such action is, he proposed “something very counterproductive. And this is something that has acerbated the situation in Syria.”

While maintaining that there is “no prescription for different countries” since they are all structured differently with regard to their traditions and political set up, Churkin proposed that there is a general attitude and principles that can be applied in a general way. This is that “the international community is not there to smell blood and to fan confrontation. But the international community is there to prevent further bloodshed and to encourage dialogue.”

Reflecting on the importance of such an international effort in favor of domestic dialogue, Churkin said, “This is what the United Nations is all about. This is what the Security Council is about.”

IV-Concerns about Libya
 
With respect to Gaddafi, Churkin said members of the council, including Russia, thought that what happened to Gaddafi is something that shouldn’t have happened.”

Ambassador Churkin was asked whether the Security Council was concerned about the conditions in Libya for those who had supported the Gaddafi government and particularly, about the situation of Saif al Islam Gaddafi and whether it was conceivable he could get a fair trial in Libya when there was no functioning legal system in the country.

Churkin responded that these concerns about the situation in Libya had been discussed very often and the delegation of the Russian Federation and of a number of other countries had raised these concerns. Also he spoke to concern over the plight of migrant workers in Libya. “We directed the UN mission in Libya to pay proper attention to these issues,” he said.

He indicated that they would continue to follow these issues closely.

V-Conclusion

Ambassador Churkin’s press conference was an important and all too rare example of a press conference held by a member of the Security Council which helps to shed light on the workings of the Council. All too often the problems that develop in the course of Security Council activity are shrouded in shadows and kept from public view. This is contrary to the obligations of the Council, which is obliged to report on its actions to the General Assembly in annual and special reports under the UN Charter, Article 15(1). Members of the General Assembly responding to the annual report from the Security Council ask for more analytical reports, rather than just summaries of the activities that have gone on over the year. 

In his December 2 press conference, Ambassador Churkin shared some of the problems that developed in the Security Council over the course of the implementation of the resolutions on Libya. In the process he has helped clarify what future difficulties in the Security Council will be given a failure to understand and resolve the problems he has outlined. By helping to reveal the difficulties in the functioning of the Security Council, Ambassador Churkin has provided important details that need further attention and consideration.

Notes

1) Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation and President of the Security Council for the month of December 2011 on the Programme of Work of the Security Council for the month.

http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2011/12/press-conference-ambassador-vitaly-churkin-president-of-the-security-council.html

2) See for example the critique of Resolution 1973 by the Concerned Africans, “An Open Letter to the Peoples of Africa and the World from Concerned Africans,” July 2011.

http://www.concernedafricans.co.za/

See also Mahmood Mamdani, “A Ugandan’s Perspective: What Does Gaddafi’s Fall Mean for Africa.”

http:// www.unaatimes.com/2011/10/

3) For some of the examples of NATO’s bombing of civilians that went on during its military campaign against Libya see:
Global Civilians for Peace in Libya

http://globalciviliansforpeace.com/tag/bombing/

“Libya: War Without End” by Stephen Lendmain, ThePeoplesVoice.org, October 30, 2011.

http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/TPV3/Voices.php/2011/10/30/libya-war-without-end

4) See Nov. 9, 2011 meeting of the Security Council on Protecting Civilians in the Situation of Armed Struggle, S/PV.6650, pg. 16

Ambassador Viotti said:
“The Brazilian delegation will shortly circulate a concept paper. It elaborates on the idea that the international community, as it exercises its responsibility to protect, must demonstrate a high level of responsibility while protecting.”

http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/PRO/N11/585/43/PDF/N1158543.pdf?OpenElement

5)Actually no evidence was ever presented that airplanes were ever used to bomb civilians under the Gaddafi government. It was only under NATO that there is evidence that airplanes were used resulting in the bombing of civilians. See for example:

http://globalciviliansforpeace.com/reports

“Despite detailed investigation we could not find any evidence that the three regions of Tripoli cited in UN resolution 1973  had been subjected to government forces bombardment nor that  their had  been fighting between government troops and the people, we received many testimonies to the contrary.”

6) See Security Council Resolution 2014 (passed October 21, 2011)

7) See for example Ronda Hauben, “UN Security Council Challenges Hidden Agenda on Syria,” taz.de/netizenblog

http://blogs.taz.de/netizenblog/2011/10/27/security_council_veto_on_syria/

Ronda Hauben has been a resident correspondent at the UN for the past 5 years covering the UN first for the English edition of OhmyNews International, and more recently as a blog columnist at taz.de .  She is co-author of the book “Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet.”

This article appears on my blog.
http://blogs.taz.de/netizenblog/2011/12/14/lessons-from-unscr-1973-on-libya