Millions of South Africans mourned the death of Nelson Mandela as you would expect,  but the rest of world also joined in an unprecedented display of the same international solidarity that for years helped South Africa isolate its enemies and overthrow apartheid.

Mandela was not the first Third World revolutionary to become so popular in the West—just think of all the images of Cuba’s Che Guevara that remain proudly displayed on T-shirts the world over.  Yet, Mandela built an international community of supporters that transcended ideological/political differences, races and cultures.

Nations not known for being supportive of the liberation movement he headed want to be thought of as Mandela backers.

Even Israel, whose Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu begged off an invitation to attend a memorial service in Johannesburg because he ostensibly ‘could not afford’ to come—other Israelis did attend—is now floating claims that their intelligence service assisted Mandela through support from a  Intelligence operative in the Mossad back in 1962 who gave him a pistol.

Israel later became an ally of the apartheid government, helping them develop a nuclear weapon,

The claim of Israel’s largesse got a big spread in the Haaretz newspaper, and was clearly targeted at Israeli critics who are now boycotting the self-styed “Jewish State,” denouncing it for apartheid practices, just as South Africa was boycotted with international sanctions.

With many South Africans including Mandela’s closest prison comrade Ahmad Kathrada supporting the boycott of Israel, The Nelson Mandela Center of Memory, an institution he created as an objective source of historical information, looked into the Israeli report and said it cannot be confirmed.

 Wrote the foundation, “The Nelson Mandela Foundation can confirm that it has not located any evidence in Nelson Mandela’s private archive (which includes his 1962 diary and notebook) that he interacted with an Israeli operative during his tour of African countries in that year. Both the diary and the notebook were used as evidence against him in the 1963-1964 Rivonia Trial for sabotage.”

 What hasn’t been reported is a fact, shared with me, by Kathrada who was asked by Mandela to procure books on armed struggles worldwide before he launched the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe (The Spear of the Nation.)

“Everything that Madiba did was well planned and thorough,” he told me for a documentary I am making on the meaning of the movie Mandela Long Walk To Freedom. He also said that among the movements Mandela studied was guerilla warfare in Israel against the British.  Mandela later spoke out supporting Palestinian rights.

The world was focused on the speeches made by 91 Presidents and heads of State at the Memorial Service in Johannesburg, but the longest and most publicized was given by President Obama for consumption mostly on US TV.

A South African government speech writer dissected Obama’s technique, explaining: “In particular Obama’s speech is very strong on word pairs, not alliterative pairs like “sense and sensibility” or “pride and prejudice”, but simple pairs like “a son and husband, a father and a friend”. The use of pairs or the use of two words when one will do creates a sense of stability and authority (one word would have sufficed there, but two gives you the sense that I know what I am talking about)….

He warns against “too many of us” paying lip service to Mandela’s principles while ignoring them in practice. He slips a “too many leaders” variation into the triple, “who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people”. Of whom was he thinking?”

Commenting on the speech in the Readers Blog of Johannesburg’s Mail & Guardian newspaper, a reader who calls himself “George Orwell,” wrote:

“[I] think you credit B.O. with too many literary skills. The praise goes to his speechwriter, Ben Rhodes.

Rhodes is the man with the pen skills, he comes from a fiction writing background, which is just about the right experience for political persuasion, n’est ce pas?

Rhodes penned all the stirring propaganda that Obama’s wealthy Wall Street backers required to oil their man’s way into high office.”

I was troubled by the extensive air time Obama was given, to the exclusion of other world leaders, at the Memorial event in Johannesburg. Perhaps that’s why the UN General Assembly organized its own special tribute to Mandela so that every country could equally be heard.

I was delighted to be invited by the UN as a ‘special guest” to the event that took place in the Trusteeship Council because the “GA,” as its known’ is being physically reconstructed. I attended along with several anti-apartheid activists including actor Danny Glover and African-American journalist Herb Boyd.

I was told that  the speeches were mostly for the domestic audiences in the various countries, many of whom were hardly high profile supporters of Mandela and the ANC. Said one former official, “It is important for everyone to know how remarkable Madiba was.”

 As you would expect, American and global television did not cover this international outpouring for Mandela.  To hear them tell it, ‘we have done Mandela! or “We Are Mandela’d out!”

 South Africa spoke first, thanking the many country’s present for this meaningful tribute. The Russian Federation and China were represented as was Fiji, Algeria, Morocco, Jamaica, Cuba and Venezuela, 37 nations in all.

 UN speechmaking can be deadly but on this occasion there was a rare unanimity and passion among the Nations of the world, especially from Africa, Asia, Latin America.

 First, various regional entities, like ASEAN of Asia, the Group of 77, The Non-Aligned Movement based in Iran, CARICOM of the Caribbean, the EU of Europe, and the organization of South American states rose to praise Mandela and call attention to his global significance and impact on their peoples.

And then, one by one, UN Permanent representatives rose to make speeches, express “Eternal Glory” and share anecdotes about his visit to their countries and what about the man and his values touched them. Some became more emotional than is common in diplomatic circles.

Some like the representative of Jamaica mentioned songs by their reggae stars, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, that galvanized world opinion. Morocco praised Stevie Wonder.

 Algeria cited Mandela’s support for their national liberation struggle in 1962, and the military training they offered him. They reported that there had been six days of official mourning.

 The Algerian rep reminded the other countries that when it led the General Assembly, it got apartheid South Africa tossed out, just one of the many resolutions and act of solidarity with the then struggling people of South Africa. Significantly, although An African state, Algeria is an Arabic speaking country.

Zambia, the country that hosted the ANC in exile spoke of their prolonged national commemorations.  Zambia was bombed by South Africa because of its supportive stance.

 Cuba took pride in its active help for the fight against apartheid—it sent troops to combat the South African invasion of Angola. Bolivia praised him as fellow Socialist. Argentina hailed him for his humanism and persistence. Others spoke of his compassion and support for the fight against AIDs.

Britain was one of the few Western governments that praised Mandela but did not mention the remarks by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who had labeled him a terrorist.

 Each nation spoke with an almost personal sense of connection with this African leader as if he belonged to them.

China stressed the sincerity of its relationship with Africa as well.

These were all diplomats in a very formal setting controlled by UN rules—but a sense of global support and even love came through much more directly than it did in the official South African funeral.

 It was a rare global moment that’s showed how Mandela and the ANC had unified world opinion.

Yes, UN talkfests don’t change the world—they can come off as a tower of babble—but events like this put countries on the record, and reinforced a sense of support.

 Flawed as it may be, the General Assembly is a global Hyde Park, but rarely as emotional and positive. It is one of the few institutions open to all countries on an equal basis.

It was clear Mandela had become a hero for all, and a person who brought a problem-obsessed world with few such giants together, if just for a few hours, and just in time for Christmas when the movie about him opens nationwide in the US.

News Dissector Danny Schechter directed 6 documentaries with Nelson Mandela. His new book, Madiba A-Z: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela, offers a new unconventional biography. Comments to [email protected].

Putin Scores a New Victory in the Ukraine

December 24th, 2013 by Israel Shamir

 It is freezing cold in Kiev, legendary city of golden domes on the banks of Dnieper River – cradle of ancient Russian civilisation and the most charming of East European capitals. It is a comfortable and rather prosperous place, with hundreds of small and cosy restaurants, neat streets, sundry parks and that magnificent river. The girls are pretty and the men are sturdy. Kiev is more relaxed than Moscow, and easier on the wallet.

Though statistics say the Ukraine is broke and its people should be as poor as Africans, in reality they aren’t doing too badly, thanks to their fiscal imprudence. The government borrowed and spent freely, heavily subsidised housing and heating, and they brazenly avoided devaluation of the national currency and the austerity program prescribed by the IMF. This living on credit can go only so far: the Ukraine was doomed to default on its debts next month or sooner, and this is one of the reasons for the present commotion.

 A tug-of-war between the East and the West for the future of Ukraine lasted over a month, and has ended for all practical purposes in a resounding victory for Vladimir Putin, adding to his previous successes in Syria and Iran. The trouble began when the administration of President Yanukovich went looking for credits to reschedule its loans and avoid default. There were no offers. They turned to the EC for help; the EC, chiefly Poland and Germany, seeing that the Ukrainian administration was desperate, prepared an association agreement of unusual severity.

 The EC is quite hard on its new East European members, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria et al.: these countries had their industry and agriculture decimated, their young people working menial jobs in Western Europe, their population drop exceeded that of the WWII.

But the association agreement offered to the Ukraine was even worse. It would turn the Ukraine into an impoverished colony of the EC without giving it even the dubious advantages of membership (such as freedom of work and travel in the EC). In desperation, Yanukovich agreed to sign on the dotted line, in vain hopes of getting a large enough loan to avoid collapse. But the EC has no money to spare – it has to provide for Greece, Italy, Spain. Now Russia entered the picture. At the time, relations of the Ukraine and Russia were far from good. Russians had become snotty with their oil money, the Ukrainians blamed their troubles on Russians, but Russia was still the biggest market for Ukrainian products.

 For Russia, the EC agreement meant trouble: currently the Ukraine sells its output in Russia with very little customs protection; the borders are porous; people move freely across the border, without even a passport. If the EC association agreement were signed, the EC products would flood Russia through the Ukrainian window of opportunity. So Putin spelled out the rules to Yanukovich: if you sign with the EC, Russian tariffs will rise. This would put some 400,000 Ukrainians out of work right away. Yanukovich balked and refused to sign the EC agreement at the last minute. (I predicted this in my report from Kiev full three weeks before it happened, when nobody believed it – a source of pride).

The EC, and the US standing behind it, were quite upset. Besides the loss of potential economic profit, they had another important reason: they wanted to keep Russia farther away from Europe, and they wanted to keep Russia weak. Russia is not the Soviet Union, but some of the Soviet disobedience to Western imperial designs still lingers in Moscow: be it in Syria, Egypt, Vietnam, Cuba, Angola, Venezuela or Zimbabwe, the Empire can’t have its way while the Russian bear is relatively strong. Russia without the Ukraine can’t be really powerful: it would be like the US with its Mid-western and Pacific states chopped away. The West does not want the Ukraine to prosper, or to become a stable and strong state either, so it cannot join Russia and make it stronger. A weak, poor and destabilised Ukraine in semi-colonial dependence to the West with some NATO bases is the best future for the country, as perceived by Washington or Brussels.

 Angered by this last-moment-escape of Yanukovich, the West activated its supporters. For over a month, Kiev has been besieged by huge crowds bussed from all over the Ukraine, bearing a local strain of the Arab Spring in the far north. Less violent than Tahrir, their Maidan Square became a symbol of struggle for the European strategic future of the country. The Ukraine was turned into the latest battle ground between the US-led alliance and a rising Russia. Would it be a revanche for Obama’s Syria debacle, or another heavy strike at fading American hegemony?

 The simple division into “pro-East” and “pro-West” has been complicated by the heterogeneity of the Ukraine. The loosely knit country of differing regions is quite similar in its makeup to the Yugoslavia of old. It is another post-Versailles hotchpotch of a country made up after the First World War of bits and pieces, and made independent after the Soviet collapse in 1991. Some parts of this “Ukraine” were incorporated by Russia 500 years ago, the Ukraine proper (a much smaller parcel of land, bearing this name) joined Russia 350 years ago, whilst the Western Ukraine (called the “Eastern Regions”) was acquired by Stalin in 1939, and the Crimea was incorporated in the Ukrainian Soviet Republic by Khrushchev in 1954.

The Ukraine is as Russian as the South-of-France is French and as Texas and California are American. Yes, some hundreds years ago, Provence was independent from Paris, – it had its own language and art; while Nice and Savoy became French rather recently. Yes, California and Texas joined the Union rather late too. Still, we understand that they are – by now – parts of those larger countries, ifs and buts notwithstanding. But if they were forced to secede, they would probably evolve a new historic narrative stressing the French ill treatment of the South in the Cathar Crusade, or dispossession of Spanish and Russian residents of California.

 Accordingly, since the Ukraine’s independence, the authorities have been busy nation-building, enforcing a single official language and creating a new national myth for its 45 million inhabitants. The crowds milling about the Maidan were predominantly (though not exclusively) arrivals from Galicia, a mountainous county bordering with Poland and Hungary, 500 km (300 miles) away from Kiev, and natives of the capital refer to the Maidan gathering as a “Galician occupation”.

Like the fiery Bretons, the Galicians are fierce nationalists, bearers of a true Ukrainian spirit (whatever that means). Under Polish and Austrian rule for centuries, whilst the Jews were economically powerful, they are a strongly anti-Jewish and anti-Polish lot, and their modern identity centred around their support for Hitler during the WWII, accompanied by the ethnic cleansing of their Polish and Jewish neighbours. After the WWII, the remainder of pro-Hitler Galician SS fighters were adopted by US Intelligence, re-armed and turned into a guerrilla force against the Soviets. They added an anti-Russian line to their two ancient hatreds and kept fighting the “forest war” until 1956, and these ties between the Cold Warriors have survived the thaw.

After 1991, when the independent Ukraine was created, in the void of state-building traditions, the Galicians were lauded as ‘true Ukrainians’, as they were the only Ukrainians who ever wanted independence. Their language was used as the basis of a new national state language, their traditions became enshrined on the state level. Memorials of Galician Nazi collaborators and mass murderers Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych peppered the land, often provoking the indignation of other Ukrainians. The Galicians played an important part in the 2004 Orange Revolution as well, when the results of presidential elections were declared void and the pro-Western candidate Mr Yuschenko got the upper hand in the re-run.

 However, in 2004, many Kievans also supported Yuschenko, hoping for the Western alliance and a bright new future. Now, in 2013, the city’s support for the Maidan was quite low, and the people of Kiev complained loudly about the mess created by the invading throngs: felled trees, burned benches, despoiled buildings and a lot of biological waste. Still, Kiev is home to many NGOs; city intellectuals receive generous help from the US and EC. The old comprador spirit is always strongest in the capitals.

For the East and Southeast of the Ukraine, the populous and heavily industrialised regions, the proposal of association with the EC is a no-go, with no ifs, ands or buts. They produce coal, steel, machinery, cars, missiles, tanks and aircraft. Western imports would erase Ukrainian industry right off the map, as the EC officials freely admit. Even the Poles, hardly a paragon of industrial development, had the audacity to say to the Ukraine: we’ll do the technical stuff, you’d better invest in agriculture. This is easier to say than to do: the EC has a lot of regulations that make Ukrainian products unfit for sale and consumption in Europe. Ukrainian experts estimated their expected losses for entering into association with the EC at anything from 20 to 150 billion euros.

For Galicians, the association would work fine. Their speaker at the Maidan called on the youth to ‘go where you can get money’ and do not give a damn for industry. They make their income in two ways: providing bed-and breakfast rooms for Western tourists and working in Poland and Germany as maids and menials. They hoped they would get visa-free access to Europe and make a decent income for themselves. Meanwhile, nobody offered them a visa-waiver arrangement. The Brits mull over leaving the EC, because of the Poles who flooded their country; the Ukrainians would be too much for London. Only the Americans, always generous at somebody’s else expense, demanded the EC drop its visa requirement for them.

 While the Maidan was boiling, the West sent its emissaries, ministers and members of parliament to cheer the Maidan crowd, to call for President Yanukovich to resign and for a revolution to install pro-Western rule. Senator McCain went there and made a few firebrand speeches. The EC declared Yanukovich “illegitimate” because so many of his citizens demonstrated against him. But when millions of French citizens demonstrated against their president, when Occupy Wall Street was violently dispersed, nobody thought the government of France or the US president had lost legitimacy…

 Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State, shared her biscuits with the demonstrators, and demanded from the oligarchs support for the “European cause” or their businesses would suffer. The Ukrainian oligarchs are very wealthy, and they prefer the Ukraine as it is, sitting on the fence between the East and the West. They are afraid that the Russian companies will strip their assets should the Ukraine join the Customs Union, and they know that they are not competitive enough to compete with the EC. Pushed now by Nuland, they were close to falling on the EC side.

Yanukovich was in big trouble. The default was rapidly approaching. He annoyed the pro-Western populace, and he irritated his own supporters, the people of the East and Southeast. The Ukraine had a real chance of collapsing into anarchy. A far-right nationalist party, Svoboda (Liberty), probably the nearest thing to the Nazi party to arise in Europe since 1945, made a bid for power. The EC politicians accused Russia of pressurising the Ukraine; Russian missiles suddenly emerged in the western-most tip of Russia, a few minutes flight from Berlin. The Russian armed forces discussed the US strategy of a “disarming first strike”. The tension was very high.

 Edward Lucas, the Economist’s international editor and author of The New Cold War, is a hawk of the Churchill and Reagan variety. For him, Russia is an enemy, whether ruled by Tsar, by Stalin or by Putin. He wrote: “It is no exaggeration to say that the [Ukraine] determines the long-term future of the entire former Soviet Union. If Ukraine adopts a Euro-Atlantic orientation, then the Putin regime and its satrapies are finished… But if Ukraine falls into Russia’s grip, then the outlook is bleak and dangerous… Europe’s own security will also be endangered. NATO is already struggling to protect the Baltic states and Poland from the integrated and increasingly impressive military forces of Russia and Belarus. Add Ukraine to that alliance, and a headache turns into a nightmare.”

 In this cliff-hanging situation, Putin made his pre-emptive strike. At a meeting in the Kremlin, he agreed to buy fifteen billion euros worth of Ukrainian Eurobonds and cut the natural gas price by a third. This meant there would be no default; no massive unemployment; no happy hunting ground for the neo-Nazi thugs of Svoboda; no cheap and plentiful Ukrainian prostitutes and menials for the Germans and Poles; and Ukrainian homes will be warm this Christmas. Better yet, the presidents agreed to reforge their industrial cooperation. When Russia and Ukraine formed a single country, they built spaceships; apart, they can hardly launch a naval ship. Though unification isn’t on the map yet, it would make sense for both partners. This artificially divided country can be united, and it would do a lot of good for both of their populaces, and for all people seeking freedom from US hegemony.

There are a lot of difficulties ahead: Putin and Yanukovich are not friends, Ukrainian leaders are prone to renege, the US and the EC have a lot of resources. But meanwhile, it is a victory to celebrate this Christmastide. Such victories keep Iran safe from US bombardment, inspire the Japanese to demand removal of Okinawa base, encourage those seeking closure of Guantanamo jail, cheer up Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, frighten the NSA and CIA and allow French Catholics to march against Hollande’s child-trade laws.

***

 

What is the secret of Putin’s success? Edward Lucas said, in an interview to the pro-Western Ekho Moskvy radio: “Putin had a great year – Snowden, Syria, Ukraine. He checkmated Europe. He is a great player: he notices our weaknesses and turns them into his victories. He is good in diplomatic bluff, and in the game of Divide and Rule. He makes the Europeans think that the US is weak, and he convinced the US that Europeans are useless”.

 I would offer an alternative explanation. The winds and hidden currents of history respond to those who feel their way. Putin is no less likely a roguish leader of global resistance than Princess Leia or Captain Solo were in Star Wars. Just the time for such a man is ripe.

 Unlike Solo, he is not an adventurer. He is a prudent man. He does not try his luck, he waits, even procrastinates. He did not try to change regime in Tbilisi in 2008, when his troops were already on the outskirts of the city. He did not try his luck in Kiev, either. He has spent many hours in many meetings with Yanukovich whom he supposedly personally dislikes.

  Like Captain Solo, Putin is a man who is ready to pay his way, full price, and such politicians are rare. “Do you know what is the proudest word you will ever hear from an Englishman’s mouth?”, asked a James Joyce character, and answered: “His proudest boast is I paid my way.” Those were Englishmen of another era, long before the likes of Blair, et al.

 While McCain and Nuland, Merkel and Bildt speak of the European choice for the Ukraine, none of them is ready to pay for it. Only Russia is ready to pay her way, in the Joycean sense, whether in cash, as now, or in blood, as in WWII.

Putin is also a magnanimous man. He celebrated his Ukrainian victory and forthcoming Christmas by forgiving his personal and political enemies and setting them free: the Pussy Riot punks, Khodorkovsky the murderous oligarch, rioters… And his last press conference he carried out in Captain Solo self-deprecating mode, and this, for a man in his position, is a very good sign.

  Israel Shamir reports from Moscow for Counterpunch, comments on RT and pens a regular column in Russia’s largest daily, KP.

 Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia Atallah Hanna said that Christmas and New Year’s celebrations will be limited to religious services as a gesture of solidarity with Syria.

In an interview given to SANA on Monday, Archbishop Hanna said that this gesture is motivated by the close ties between the Palestinian and Syrian peoples, saying “how can I be happy during the holiday when I see my brothers the bishops, my sisters the nuns abducted, and the Syrian people depraved of the joy of holidays?”

He said that the war on Syria targets all its components and seeks to destroy its religious coexistence and national unity, voicing confidence in Syria’s ability to overcome this ordeal thanks to the wisdom of its leadership, the awareness of its people, and the valiance of the Syrian Army.

Archbishop Hanna stressed that what is happening in Syria has nothing to do with establishing a democratic, civil state nor with people’s demands; rather it’s a revived colonialist plot.

He asserted that violence is an imported phenomenon and not ingrained in the Syrian people, and that despite the fact that some Syrians may have deviated from the right path, the greater majority of Syrians reject violence, murder and terrorism.

The Archbishop reiterated calls for releasing all abductees in Syria, particularly bishops Paul Yazigi and John Ibrahim and the nuns of St. Thecla Convent, affirming that abduction is a barbaric conduct and holding the Turkish government responsible for the safety of the bishops, nuns and all abductees because Turkey is deeply involved in the Syrian crisis.

He also offered condolences and commiserations to all those who lose loved ones in Syria, stressing that terrorist attacks on Syria and its people represent a threat to all of humanity and all civilized values, saying that it’s everyone’s duty to defend Syria.

On the terrorist attack and massacre in Adra city, the Archbishop denounced this heinous crime, saying that the biggest crime is that Arab Gulf countries are sending money to destroy Syria and that countries that boast about human rights and democracy remain indifferent to the slaughter and violation of human dignity committed by criminals sent to Syria by countries that own money and petrol.

The decision by the US Federal Reserve Board to begin to “taper” its program of “quantitative easing” (QE)—the pumping of $1 trillion a year into the financial markets—was supposed to signal a return to more normal monetary policy.

It turned out to be a commitment to continue the provision of ultra-cheap money to fuel the financial parasitism that has brought untold wealth to the corporate and financial elites, while creating ever-worsening social conditions for billions of people the world over.

The key decision was not the reduction in the asset-purchasing program by $10 billion a month—a move that will have little or no effect—but the Fed’s commitment to maintain the federal funds rate in the range of zero to 0.25 percent.

Previously, the US central bank had indicated it would consider lifting the rate—the interest it charges on loans to major banks—when the US unemployment rate went below 6.5 percent. But in its statement last Wednesday, the Fed made clear that money would continue to be provided to the banks at virtually no cost “well past the time” the official unemployment rate went below that level—in other words, at least until 2015, and probably beyond.

Financial markets duly celebrated the decision, with Wall Street’s S&P 500 index reaching a record high at the end of the week, having risen by 27 percent so far this year.

The announcement made clear that the Fed policy has never been about boosting growth in the real economy and creating more jobs—its official justification—but is instead directed to funding the financial parasitism that has become such a central feature of the global capitalist economy. As outgoing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke repeated on numerous occasions during his hour-long press conference, the Fed remained “highly accommodative.” That is, it is there to do the bidding of the banks and the major finance houses.

The extent of that accommodation can be seen in the expansion of the Fed’s asset holdings. Last week alone they increased by $14.1 billion, taking the total to $4 trillion—up from $870 billion in 2008. The Fed’s holdings of financial assets are now greater in size than the entire US budget and larger than the gross domestic product (GDP) of Germany, the world’s third largest economy.

The rapid expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet, together with the increased holdings of the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England, both of which have been engaged in their own versions of QE, is creating the conditions for a new financial crisis. Bernanke suggested as much during his press conference.

“As the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve gets large, managing that balance sheet, exiting from that balance sheet, becomes more difficult,” he said.

This is because any significant diminution of monetary stimulus, and consequent return to higher interest rates, means a fall in the value of the financial assets held by central banks, since interest rates and bond prices move in opposite directions. This poses the danger of significant losses.

Earlier this year, research by the International Monetary Fund put those potential losses at 4 percent of GDP for the US Fed, 7.5 percent for the Bank of Japan, and almost 6 percent for the Bank of England. In other words, a new financial crisis, the conditions for which are being created by the QE program itself, would have even more serious consequences than the meltdown of 2008. Unlike the situation five years ago, this time the world’s major central banks would be directly impacted.

The Fed’s latest decision makes clear that far from having been resolved, the breakdown of global capitalism, which began in 2008, is deepening and assuming potentially more explosive forms.

All financial assets are, in the final analysis, claims on the underlying wealth of the global economy. For a time, the real situation can be masked by the continuous injection of money into the financial markets, which makes it possible to create wealth through speculation on rising asset values. But eventually the laws of the capitalist economy assert themselves, as Karl Marx put it, just as the law of gravity asserts itself when a house falls about our ears.

While financial assets have been growing to an enormous size, the real economy is barely expanding. Such expansion is driven by investment—capital expenditure that leads to a growth in markets and increased production. But as financial wealth rises in leaps and bounds, investment is falling.

Last July, the Financial Times Lex column pointed to what it called “the depressed state of global corporate capital expenditure.” Even though companies were sitting on cash holdings estimated to be around $4 trillion, capital expenditure was expected to fall in real terms this year, and could even drop by 5 per cent in 2014.

This signifies that rather than creating the conditions for future economic expansion, capital spending is not even covering depreciation on existing capital stocks.

The banks, hedge funds and investment houses, which are the majority and decisive shareholders in the world’s major corporations, are hostile to such spending, regarding it as a deduction from the profits they can make through financial manipulation.

Consequently, corporations are using their cash holdings not for investment, but to finance share buybacks, thereby boosting share prices and creating the conditions for reaping increased profits through stock market trading. According to data released last week, US companies are spending more on buying back their own shares than at any time since 2008.

Far from providing a cure for the crisis of the global capitalist system, the Fed’s policies are boosting the growth of a giant economic cancer, which threatens the lives and future of the world’s people. It must be surgically removed through the expropriation of the major banks, finance houses and corporations so as to establish an economic system based on meeting human needs, rather than the rapacious demands of a financial oligarchy.

 

The U.S. Trade Representative – the federal agency responsible for negotiating trade treaties – has said that the details of the Trans Pacific Partnership are classified due to “national security”.

A Congressman who has seen the text of the treaty says:

There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret … this agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.

It will increase the cost of borrowingmake prescription drugs more expensive, destroy privacy, harm food safety,  and – yes -  literally act to destroy the sovereignty of the U.S. and the other nations which sign the bill.

To give an idea of what would happen to American law if TPP passes, just look at Equador …

It’s courts awarded billions against Chevron for trashing huge swaths of rainforest.  But then a private arbitration panel simply ignored the country’s court system.

If TPP passes, American courts will be sidelined as well. (Conservatives might want to read this and this.)

William Pesek writes at Bloomberg:

The Big Brother-like secrecy enshrouding the treaty on the U.S. side [is stunning.]

***

WikiLeaks did what Barack Obama’s White House refuses to: share portions of the document with the public. The draft of the intellectual-property rights chapter by Julian Assange’s outfit validated the worst fears — that TPP is a corporatist power grab. Rather than heed the outcry, the U.S. doubled down on secrecy, refusing to disclose more details.

***

You know you have a transparency problem when citizens of a democracy need to rely on WikiLeaks for details on changes to laws on Internet use, labor, environmental and food-safety standards, and the cost and availability of drugs. It’s worth considering something Google Inc. Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt told CNBC in December 2009: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” So why is the Obama administration behaving as if it runs a closed Communist Party state? The answer can only be, To circumvent the legislative process.

***

Last month, 151 House Democrats, members of Obama’s own party, sent a letter to the White House stating their opposition to granting him fast-track authority to negotiate trade agreements, citing a lack of congressional consultation.

***

What would America’s founders make of this process?

***

Asians should say no to a trade deal that’s as democratic and transparent as a one-party state.

The A-Z of Drones 2013

December 24th, 2013 by Chris Cole

letter_aIt was good to see large numbers turn out at a big protest at Parc Aberporth, the drone test centre in West Wales, in September as the owners announced a big expansion. It was even better to see Yemeni journalist  Abdulelah Haider Shaye released from prison even though he is still under virtual house arrest.  Phase two of the UK government-industry programme, ASTRAEA, which aims to open up UK airspace to civil drones, came to an end this year.  While the drone lobby is keeping up the  pressure the public remain extremely sceptical.   News that British drones may be heading to Africa came as a big surprise, and will no doubt be a focus of campaigning in the coming year.

purple-alphabet-letter-bBAE Systems continues to be very coy about its Taranis drone development, hinting that it has had its first flight – without providing any evidence. The British Brimstone missile began tests to incorporate it into the Reaper drone under the US Big Safari programme.  Britain’s Black Hornet mini-drone got the star treatment this year after being promoted by the MoD.  Less popular with MoD media office was Reprieve’s revelation that BT had installed a cable between Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti and US base ‘RAF’ Croughton  near Oxford.

cChildren continued to be among the civilian casualties from US drone strikes in Pakistan.  Despite this, for some in the US, it’s China’s development of drones that we are supposed to see as threat to peace and security.  The lack of Congressional oversight over CIA use of drones continues despite the best efforts of the ACLU and others. The drone lobby continue to push the opening of the skies to the civil use of drones despite many drone crashesWhistleblower Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison – without her we would know even less than we do about drones.

dFurther so-called double-tap drone strikes were reported this year even though UN Special rapporteur and many others dubbed them as clear war crimes.  Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley’s movie Dirty Wars was released to huge acclaim while drones dominated at this year’s London DSEI arms fair.  The Dutch air force joined the UK, France and Italy in procuring Reaper drones from the US while James Bridle’s Dronestagram  continues to document the locations of US drone strikes.

e-a-zIsrael reportedly carried out a drone strike in Egypt for the first time this year,  while Elbit Systems continues to develop and export its drones.  In Germany the cancellation of the Euro Hawk drone - at a cost of 500 million Euros -  was a huge scandal that almost brought down the government.  Meanwhile Germany was one of seven countries that formed a European Drones Club, with the aim of developing a future European drone.  A debate on the ethics of drone warfare at the Oxford Union this year was a particular highlight for us (especially as we were on the winning side!)

FFrance joined the growing list of countries operating US Reaper drones, but there appeared to be little progress on any Anglo-French drone.  The revelation that the FBI has been using drones since 2006 surprised many but compared to the shocking NSA surveillance disclosures, drew little media attention.  Also gaining almost no media coverage was the news that 21 Predator drone crew face fraud charges over expenses claims.  Speculation over the future use of drones continues to generate column inches.

GReprieve’s legal action over GCHQ’s role in providing intelligence to the US for drone strikes in Pakistan continued, with the case reaching the Appeals Court in London in December.  Reaper and Predator drone manufacturer General Atomics, proved it had a sense of humour by arguing that its products should not be called drones as they have a “proven beneficial role in humanitarian crises.”    Meanwhile the company’s Gray Eagle drone, a souped-up version  in use with US special forces, continues to (ahem) fly off the shelves.  Much less funny is how Israeli drones continue to haunt Gaza and traumatise Palestinians throughout the year.

letter_hThe continued vulnerability of drones to hacking was brought home to many with the release of SkyJack – a drone that takes control of other drones -  in December.  Eight major human rights groups  have written twice to President Obama this year condemning the US use of drones for targeted killings.  The death of Pakistan Taliban leader  Hakimullah Mehsud  in a US drone strike was said to be the end of the nascent peace process.  Also brought to an ignominious end in 2013 was the Global Observer Hydrogen drone which, perhaps unsurprisingly, simply no one wanted.

Peace Talks Syria: German weapons business

It is unclear what, exactly, impresses the Arabs most about the new “Leopard 2″ battle tank. Is it its reliable 120-millimeter smoothbore cannon, which remains stubbornly fixed on its target, even when the 68-ton behemoth is traveling at high speeds through the desert? Is it the “increased power-rated additional power generators for check-point missions” touted by the Munich-based manufacturer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann? Or the “communication interface on the exterior of the vehicle for dismounted forces?”

In the first week of July 2012, Krauss-Maffei shipped one of its new miracle weapons to the Saudi desert to test the Leopard 2 under extreme heat conditions. The Defense Ministry in Berlin sent along an officer with the German Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr, to ensure safety during test firing of the tank’s guns.

The successful desert test didn’t go unnoticed by the region’s sheikhs. The government of Qatar has already shown interest in buying up to 200 tanks, a deal that, should it come to fruition, could be worth up to €2 billion ($2.6 billion).

The Saudis, for their part, have already become loyal customers. The German government responded positively to their request to buy up to 270 of the Leopard 2 tanks. In a new request, the sheikhs have petitioned the German government for its approval of the purchase of a few hundred “Boxer” armed transport vehicles.

German high-tech weapons are a hot commodity among Arab potentates and other autocrats. They haven’t failed to notice that the coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) has steadily relaxed Germany’s otherwise restrictive arms export policy.

On December 6, 2012, Germany’s cabinet authorized the stationing of German Patriot air defense missiles on the Turkish border with Syria as part of a NATO mission ‘to help protect Turkey from possible cross-border attacks’. The mission involved up to 400 troops from the German military, the Bundeswehr, and also included personnel for AWACS surveillance aircraft and commando units. The mandate had a one year limit with the possibility of extension.

References

June 25, 2013 – Saudi Arabia: ‘Syrian rebels must be armed’:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/25/saudi-arabia-syria-rebels-armed

 

November 7, 2013 – Syria: Saudi Arabia to spend millions to train new rebel force:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/07/syria-crisis…

 

November 25, 2013 – Iran nuclear deal: Saudi Arabia warns it will strike out on its own:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran…

 

December 12, 2013 – Why Is Saudi Arabia Buying 15,000 U.S. Anti-Tank Missiles for a War It Will Never Fight?
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/12/12/why_is_s…

 

December 18, 2013 – Ambassador: Saudi Ready to Act ‘With or Without’ West:
http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/110367-ambassador-saud…

 

December 18, 2013 – Germany: U.S. Opens New Training Range For Global NATO Warfare
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/germany-u-s-op…

 

December 21, 2013 – U.S. blocking Iranian role in Syrian peace talks next month – Thirty countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait, have been invited to participate in the opening session of the peace conference… http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/1.564633

copyright brusselbruxellesbrussels.skynetblogs.be, 2013

 

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December 23rd, 2013 by Global Research News

Amid last summer’s rush to judgment on the Aug. 21 Sarin attack in Syria, the New York Times joined the stampede blaming the Assad regime by pushing a “vector analysis” showing where the rockets supposedly were launched, but now that certainty has collapsed.  

Ake Sellstrom, the head of the United Nations mission investigating chemical weapons use in Syria, agrees that the vector analysis – at the heart of the New York Times’ indictment of the Syrian government for the deadly Aug. 21 Sarin gas attack – doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

In a little-noticed comment at a UN press conference on Dec. 13, Sellstrom disputed claims that the launching point for the two missiles, which were recovered after the Aug. 21 attack, could be traced back following the angles of their final descent until they intersected at a Syrian military base about 9.5 kilometers away.

Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, chief of the United Nations mission to inspect chemical weapons use in Syria, stands next to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon chemical weapons investiaSecretary-General speaks to correspondents before his meeting with Ǻke SellströmInstead, Sellstrom said he accepted as accurate other analyses that estimated the range of the rockets at about two kilometers. “Two kilometers could be a fair guess,” he said, noting that the UN team had consulted its own missile experts on the subject. “If you simulate the flight path, it seems not to meet as may be indicated in the report.”

In other words, the lead author of the UN report on the Aug. 21 incident has contradicted the much-touted “vectoring” claims of a New York Times front-page story and Human Rights Watch, which has been pushing for a U.S. military intervention in Syria. Their “vector analysis” of the two flight paths implicated an elite Syrian military unit, the 104th Brigade of the Republican Guard, based northwest of Damascus, near the Presidential Palace.

Since the two short-range rockets had a maximum range much less than 9.5 kilometers – and one of the rockets clipped a building during its descent making any assumptions about its flight path unreliable – the Times’ and the HRW’s “vector analysis” has essentially been debunked, although the Times and other major U.S. news outlets have been hiding that revelation from the American public.

Rather than serving as honest brokers – evaluating the Syrian evidence fairly and openly – the Times and most of the mainstream U.S. media have simply reprised their propaganda roles played so disastrously a decade ago in the run-up to the Iraq War. In the case of Syria, only President Barack Obama’s last-minute change of mind about authorizing a retaliatory strike prevented the U.S. military from going to war in Syria.

Sticking by the Story

Despite the collapse of the Times/HRW “vector analysis” – and the continuing failure of the Obama administration to present any public evidence supporting its allegations of Syrian government guilt – Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and other senior U.S. officials continue to insist that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is guilty of the Aug. 21 attack.

But the UN inspectors have voiced uncertainty about who carried out the attack. At the press conference, Sellstrom admitted, “I don’t have information that would stand in court.” He also told Wall Street Journal writer Joe Lauria that both sides in the conflict had the “opportunity” and the “capability” to carry out chemical weapons attacks. [See WSJ, Dec. 16, 2013]

Sellstrom’s statements further undermine the outward certainty of U.S. officials who have claimed that only the Assad regime could be responsible for the Sarin attack. Sellstrom’s team found some evidence of other Sarin incidents in Syria, suggesting that rebel forces have developed the capability of deploying chemical weapons.

Besides the roughly 2 kilometer-range of the rockets and the problem of one rocket striking a building on its descent thus throwing off any precise calculation of its flight path, the Times’/HRW’s “vector analysis” is further undercut by the fact that no Sarin was found at the site of the missile landing in Moadamiya, south of Damascus.

The only rocket apparently carrying Sarin was the one that landed in Zalmalka/Ein Tarma, east of Damascus. Logically, it’s impossible to do a “vector analysis” of missiles carrying Sarin if there was only one such missile.

The Times’ front-page “vectoring” article of Sept. 17, thus, is reminiscent of its infamous “aluminum tube” story in September 2002, a highly misleading article that neatly dovetailed with President George W. Bush’s public relations strategy for manipulating the American people into supporting an unprovoked invasion of Iraq. Now, the Times is playing a similar propaganda role in connection with Syria.

To meet even minimal standards of journalistic ethics, the Times should publish a new article incorporating the emerging consensus – now including the head of the UN investigative team – that the “vectoring” story was nonsense. But the Times has simply continued to present one-sided articles blaming the Assad regime for the Aug. 21 attack.

For more details on this issue, see Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Replays Its Iraq Fiasco in Syria.”

For more of our early reporting on the Syrian chemical weapons attack, see: “A Dodgy Dossier on Syrian War”; “Murky Clues From UN’s Syria Report”; “Obama Still Withholds Syria Evidence”; “How US Pressure Bends UN Agencies”; “Fixing Intel Around the Syria Policy.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

 The fossil fuel industry offensive in British Columbia and across Canada is proceeding relentlessly.

This is a report from some of the key fronts of the fossil fuel wars.

On December 16, Kinder Morgan company made its official application to the National Energy Board for approval to build a $5.4-billion tar sands  pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver harbour. The new line will use the path of its existing Trans Mountain Pipeline for part of the route, but it will diverge from that significantly in places, including in the final leg of the line into metropolitan Vancouver.

The population of British Columbia has risen four times since the original Trans Mountain pipeline was built in the 1950s. The new line will cross busy urban areas, seven provincial parks and 13 park reserves, including 500 rivers and streams. It will require expanded bulk-oil storage on the Vancouver harbourfront and increased berths for the estimated 35 tankers per month that will transport the line’s diluted bitumen to overseas markets.

Meanwhile, on December 19, the National Energy Board (NEB) made its much-anticipated ruling on Enbridge Inc’s proposed Northern Gateway tar sands line. This follows two years of study and public hearings by the agency. Surprise, the NEB recommends to the federal government that the project should proceed, subject to a series of “conditions” it has laid out. (See map of the proposed route.)

The Vancouver Observer published some initial reactions in BC to the NEB decision.

Two very informative articles on the Alberta tar sands appeared last week in Postmedia and The Globe and Mail. Both detail the rising tensions between the industry and two First Nations in northern Alberta that have obtained perceived economic benefits but are being relentlessly squeezed by the ever-expanding ambitions of the industry. Those are the Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan First Nations. Here is a map and here are the two articles:

The online publication Vancouver Observer is launching a one-year publishing project on the tar sands and is appealing for financial support. It’s the news outlet that broke the story last month of intense, federal government spying on the environmental movement conducted by CSIS (Canada’s FBI) and the RCMP.

Natural Gas Fracking

A similar squeeze on First Nations is taking place in northern British Columbia over natural gas, albeit at an earlier stage. The lure of funding from natural gas fracking and the vast expansion plans coming from proposals for a liquefied natural gas industry on the northern coast are squeezing the First Nations in the fracking zone and all along the proposed pipeline routes. The proposed gas pipeline routes are proximate to Northern Gateway.

The message that I have received in several conversations with First Nations in the northeast gas zones is, ‘The environmental movement needs to become more active and outspoken. We need help. We’re under siege and we don’t have the power by ourselves to stop these fossil fuel projects. We need alternatives to a fossil fuel-based economy so that we have meaningful employment for young people and revenues that can fund education, health care and other social services that we need.’

Go to this web page and scroll down to see all the pipelines proposed to date in northern BC.

Tensions are rising over the decision of the British Columbia government to seek regulatory approval for a third dam on the Peace River, called Site C. The dam is being sold as needed for expanding urban needs for electricity. But it will be used directly or indirectly to serve expanded fossil fuel extraction and mining projects. First Nations in the region to be flooded and otherwise affected have divided opinions – some accept the project as a fait accompli, others are fighting it.

Oil by Rail

On December 13, Transport Canada raided the offices of Irving Oil in Saint John, New Brunswick to find out what that company knew and what it did about the volatility of the oil from the vast Bakken field in North Dakota that it contracted to receive by rail beginning in 2012. Much of that oil was passing through Lac Mégantic, Quebec via the rail link between Montreal and Saint John (passing through the state of Maine). Irving operates Canada’s largest refinery at Saint John, close to the international border with Maine.

The CBC first reported the raid on Irving. The Globe and Mail reported on it December 14. The story is being widely reported in Maine.

The Globe‘s report reveals that Irving changed the shipping documents it received. The oil in the incoming rail cars was labeled by the U.S. shipper as moderately volatile. That’s been reported already by the Globe. Now the newspaper reports that Irving changed the labeling to ‘more volatile’ on the empty cars it was returning.

The Irving conglomerate is joining the rush to fracking. It is behind the widely-reported fracking conflict in Elsipogtog, New Brunswick by virtue of its hiring of the exploration company – SNW Resources – whose work sparked the storm. Due to the boom in gas fracking in North America, Irving’s jointly-owned, liquefied natural gas import facility in Saint John presently stands idle.

Yesterday, the Toronto Star reported on its front page, “Cleaning up the millions of litres of crude swamping Lac-Mégantic is a mind-bogglingly complex task.” It’s an excellent, detailed article on the cleanup.

The federal government has now ‘got religion’ over oil train safety. It’s going to take firm measures to make oil trains safer, says transport minister Lisa Raitt.

The federal government will, for the first time, designate crude oil a highly dangerous substance and introduce tougher safety and testing measures for shipping oil by rail, reports The Globe and Mail. Earlier this year, the newspaper broke the veil of secrecy and conspiracy by the oil and rail industries over the volatility of North Dakota oil.

Transport Canada has been ordered by Raitt to come up with an Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP) for oil train shipments. The first railway ERAP in Canada was formulated for chlorine shipments after a derailment in Mississauga (Toronto region) in 1979 forced the evacuation of 220,000 people from their homes. Transport Canada has decided three times in the past decade against an ERAP for oil trains.

Following the disaster at Lac Mégantic, the message from the government and rail industry was denial. Train safety in Canada is top of the class, they said. Why, ‘we have a record of safe delivery of 99-point-whatever per cent of shipments.’ Oops. News reporting, particularly in the Globe, lifted the lid on that fable in the months following Lac Mégantic. Two oil train derailments in the center of Calgary in June and August and a spectacular oil train derailment outside of Edmonton in October didn’t help the rail industry’s and federal government’s arguments.

A latest expose is reported in the Vancouver Sun, showing that the federal government (Transport Canada) has consistently ignored its own audited safety warnings over rail and other shipments at least as far back as 2006.

Rail safety regulations in Canada and the U.S. have changed significantly over the past 20-30 years. From directly monitoring, reporting and regulating the railways’ performances, federal agencies now monitor the railways’ own reporting of their performance. They step in only when they perceive problems as reported by the railways or when disaster occurs.

My website contains extensive reporting by myself and other writers on the July 6 oil train disaster in Lac Mégantic.

A recent article in Socialist Worker (U.S.) provides some excellent historical backdrop to the struggles of Indigenous peoples for sovereign control of their lands and air and water: “First Nations fight against the frackers.”

Oil Pipeline Volatility

The issue of the North Dakota oil volatility is coming under scrutiny in Ontario and Quebec, as well, as a result of Enbridge Inc’s proposal to reverse the flow of its Line 9 pipeline. The line would carry both Bakken oil and diluted tar sands bitumen across southern Ontario to Montreal. It connects at Sarnia, Ontario to Enbridge’s network from Alberta and across the U.S. Midwest.

Coal Shipments from British Columbia and the Paving Over of Farmland

Delta is the latest municipality in the Vancouver region to vote in favour of a full health and environmental assessment of the proposal to build a new coal export terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks on the Fraser River. On December 16, it voted in favour of a comprehensive review.

The resolution approved by Delta city council and the supporting documentation is doubly significant. It calls for a comprehensive review of all coal operations in the Lower Mainland, to be undertaken by a broad, inter-agency committee. This would look more broadly than the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal alone. It would review (my emphasis – RA) all coal operations, and it urges, “THAT recommendations from the independent interagency review committee be forwarded to Port Metro Vancouver for implementation and action, including but not limited to, the comprehensive independent assessment of the health and environmental impacts associated with the handling and transportation of coal.” In other words, all of the activity of Port Metro Vancouver (PVM) should be reviewed.

According to a city councilor of Delta to whom I spoke today, there are between 300-400 train movements in the Lower Mainland per week, including 40 or so to the Roberts Bank coal and container terminal in Delta. That number includes 75-150 CP trains and 200-300 CN trains, as well as BNSF trains coming up from the U.S.

PVM is a federal government agency that favours Fraser Surrey Docks. It is trying to evade a full, comprehensive review of FSD. It commissioned its own assessment of the project, conducted by SNC Lavalin. Surprise, this gave the project a green light.

Those opposing the project as it stands include the Greater Vancouver Regional District, a growing number of the adjacent municipalities, and both public health boards in the Vancouver region.

Delta BC is exceptionally affected by the vast expansion over the past decade of train, auto and ship traffic in the Vancouver region. It sits at the crossroads of so much of that traffic. Much of its land space is the exceptionally rich agricultural land of the Fraser River Delta.

The federal and provincial governments have spent billions of dollars in the region to build new highways and highway bridges and expand railway lines and ports. Commercial and retail space has also grown significantly, much of it on agricultural land.

A column in yesterday’s Vancouver Sun by Pete McMartin, the first of a series, voices the serious concern of Richmond mayor Malcolm Brodie over the ongoing industrialization of the Vancouver region (facilitated by the cozy ties of the region’s planners and decision-makers to the fossil fuel industry). McMartin writes, “Richmond, like all the municipalities along the lower Fraser, finds itself faced with what seems like a well-choreographed sequence of events, seemingly decided years ago and without their significant input, that will utterly change the nature of their municipalities.”

Richmond is one of the Fraser Delta municipalities directly threatened by rising ocean levels caused by the increased extraction and burning of fossil fuels. Somehow, Richmond and its neighbouring municipalities are going to have to find billions (yes, billions) of dollars in the near future to raise the levels of the dikes that protect them from the rising oceans.

The McMartin column is alarmingly titled, “Who’ll pay to dike the Pacific?”

A recent article by U.S. writer Dahr Jamail examines dire consequences for human society and the human race that leading scientists and economic forecasters hold out if the unbridled expansion of capitalism and its fossil fuel consumption continue. Naomi Klein recently wrote an overview with a similar theme, titled “How science is telling us to revolt.” The evidence is overwhelming of the need to replace the madcap, limitless-growth capitalist order with a rational, planned society that can make a rapid transition to a new economy cognizant of the Earth’s ecological limits. The fight against Canada’s madcap fossil fuel industry owners and facilitators is a key front in that battle. •

Roger Annis is a writer in Vancouver BC. He publishes a website featuring his writings and those of others at A Socialist in Canada.

Protests erupted this past Thursday in San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capitol building. The ongoing economic stagnation of Puerto Rico continues with proposed pension cuts for retired public school teachers according to the Associated Press:

The protest interrupted a special legislative session that Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla had called to debate reform measures amid pressure to appease Wall Street ratings agencies as the U.S. territory braces for its eighth year in recession. Garcia said the teachers’ pension system has a $10 billion deficit and will run out of funds by 2020 if nothing is done. 

“We cannot remain with our arms crossed,” he said. “Postponing this reform will worsen the state of the system, require more drastic measures to save it and contribute to the country’s worsening credit.” The government is seeking to change the system from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution one and possibly increase the retirement age, among other things.

This means reducing monthly payments and increasing the retirement age. Wall Street is looking to profit from Puerto Rico’s debt problem through “trading revenue” according to Bloomberg News last month:

Lazard Capital held a meeting Oct. 10 at its New York office with about 75 participants said Peter Santry, head of fixed-income trading. As more hedge funds buy and sell commonwealth securities, the firm wants to capture that trading revenue, Santry said. “You want to get business out of it,” Santry said.  

Former Governor Luis Fortuno, who lost a re-election bid in November 2012 and is now a partner at Washington-based Steptoe & Johnson LLP, spoke at the Lazard Capital meeting on the legal structures of Puerto Rico debt and the commonwealth’s economy, Santry said. Fortuno declined to comment in an e-mail, saying he wouldn’t discuss current or potential clients.  

Citigroup hosted an Oct. 24 conference that attracted more than 200 attendees, eight times more than the company was expecting, according to two participants, who asked not to be identified because the meeting was private. Bank representatives said in the presentation that the company originally booked a conference room and had to find a bigger space, the attendees said.

Former Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno’s decision not to mention his current and future potential cliental for Puerto Rico’s potential commonwealth securities is troubling. But Fortuno’s law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP in the past represented CEO and Chairman of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein in relation to mortgage fraud in 2012 that resulted in no criminal charges for the banking institution after a year-long investigation. That should win the hearts and minds of the Puerto Rican people! The new governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla will bow to Wall Street’s demands. “Teachers protesting the proposed measures say they favor alternatives such as increasing taxes on foreign companies to generate more revenue and receiving unclaimed money from the island’s electronic lottery system” according to Bloomberg. Caribbean Business reported back on October 10th ‘García Padilla administration makes new pitch on Wall Street’:

Despite Moody’s ill-timed move, García Padilla’s top economic brass remain steadfast in a plan that they insist will be instrumental in achieving 2.6% growth by the end of 2016.

During an exclusive roundtable interview with CARIBBEAN BUSINESS, Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Alberto Bacó Bagué, Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. Executive Director Antonio Medina, Puerto Rico Tourism Co. Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort and Puerto Rico Commerce & Export Co. Executive Director Francisco Chévere explained that a concerted effort is underway to showcase an integrated plan—the fiscal and economic teams together— in presentations to credit-rating agencies on Wall Street.

The idea is for the rating agencies to see the economic-development plan, not as an afterthought, but as an integral part of a strategy—the next step after raising taxes and fixing the government workers’ retirement plan—that will spur growth even in the face of austerity. To that end, they have commissioned a review of Puerto Rico’s economy by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) that, they say, will certify 2.6% economic growth and the creation of 90,000 new jobs by the end of 2016—if they execute their plan to perfection.

The government of Puerto Rico and the teachers both agree to raise taxes on foreign companies. It is important to note that raising taxes on companies would force them to leave the island altogether in hopes of finding better tax shelters in other nations with a lower tax rate. In the process, jobs would be eliminated which will increase unemployment rates adding to an already struggling economy. Raising taxes on foreign companies is not the only bad idea. Using unclaimed money from the Puerto Rico lottery system would not “trickle down” down to the local economy.

The Puerto Rico government would use unclaimed funds to repay its growing $70 billion debt to Wall Street. Puerto Rico’s austerity measures would not create 90,000 jobs with a 2.6%economic growth rate which will be certified by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is unrealistic. The only jobs that will exist in Puerto Rico will be through the US government and the military with its ever expanding defense department budgets and continuous wars.

What is more disturbing for Puerto Rico’s retired teachers is that they fully depend on their pensions because they do not receive any form of social security benefits or any other retirement incentives.

“Nearly 42,000 teachers contribute to a pension system that supports nearly 38,000 retired teachers. Unlike other government workers in Puerto Rico, teachers do not receive Social Security and depend completely on their pensions upon retirement” according to the Bloomberg report. Once austerity measures take place, Wall Street and other private investors would reap the benefits. Puerto Rico will suffer the economic consequences of their politicians because of their loyalties to Washington and Wall Street. Maybe when Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla’s term expires or if he loses the next election, he will find himself in a cushy position in a Wall Street firm following his predecessor former Governor Luis Fortuno. Don’t be surprised.

Glaring Western Hypocrisy on Human Rights in Iran

December 23rd, 2013 by Kourosh Ziabari

Now that Iran is reconstructing its international relations through a dynamic nuclear diplomacy and gaining reputation as an emerging regional superpower, the United States and its allies, infuriated and frantic, consider it as worthwhile to test Iran’s patience by using the notion of human rights as a leverage for pressuring the Islamic Republic.

On Wednesday, December 18, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proposed by the Canadian government to condemn the alleged violations of human rights in Iran. 83 countries votes in favor, 36 against and 62 others abstained.

The adoption of the anti-Iran resolution, despite failing to get the vote of the majority of the 193 UN member states, comes on the heels of the sensitive and highly significant negotiations between Iran and the six world powers over Iran’s nuclear program, especially after Iran and the Sextet ratified the Joint Plan of Action on November 24, 2013 which stipulated limitations on certain portions of Iran’s nuclear program in return for relief from some of the sanctions imposed against Iran in the recent years.

 Such a resolution which seems completely irrelevant and unbecoming amidst the important expert-level talks between the representatives of Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany to find a practical basis for implementing the Geneva accord, is undeniably counterproductive and unconstructive and will simply serve to increase the Iranians’ feeling of mistrust in the United States and the other Western states who voted in favor of the resolution.

All the European members of the UN General Assembly voted in favor of the resolution while some of them are themselves accused of violating the essential rights of their citizens. Aside from being detrimental to the spirit of Iran-West rapprochement which the new Iranian administration under President Hassan Rouhani sees itself committed to, the resolution clearly underlines the hypocritical and duplicitous approach of some of these countries to the notion of human rights.

It seems as some Western powers are utilizing the idea of human rights as a pretext for furthering their agenda of isolating such independent countries as Iran. It’s interesting that they don’t present any confirmable evidence to substantiate their claims, and instead resort to general statements, condemning in their own way what they say is the violation of the rights of Iranian people.

 They blatantly close their eyes on the grave violations of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities as well as women in the countries with whom they are allied, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen and Egypt, portraying everything in an upside-down manner, making the credulous people believe that it’s really Iran that violates the rights of its people.

 But why is it so? The answer sounds simple. Confirming a country’s commitment to such values as human rights is a matter of alliance with the bullying powers who call themselves the sole defenders and pioneers of human rights. If you are an ally and a friend, they will commend you, and if you’re an adversary, they pull out all the stops to crush you.

 The Canadian government that circulated the draft resolution against Iran is said to be one of the major violators and abusers of human rights in the Western world. In a December 2012 report, the Amnesty International noted that committees on racial discrimination, prevention of torture and children’s rights found “a range” of “ongoing and serious human rights challenges,” especially for indigenous peoples in Canada.

 “By every measure, be it respect for treaty and land rights, levels of poverty, average life spans, violence against women and girls, dramatically disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration or access to government services such as housing, health care, education, water and child protection, indigenous peoples across Canada continue to face a grave human rights crisis,” it said.
It’s been long objected by the people across the world who intend to travel to Canada for various purposes that the Canadian embassies in different countries treat the visa applicants in a derogatory, insulting and humiliating manner. Even in Iran, where Canada maintained an embassy which was unilaterally closed by the Ottawa government on September 7, 2012, the Iranian applicants of Canadian visa continuously complained of the rude behavior of the embassy staff and that the embassy prolonged the issuance of visas due to political reasons, leading to serious problems for those who wanted to travel to Canada on specific dates.

 Canada also violates the rights of the aboriginal communities and the women in a very appalling and dreadful way.

 According to a report published by the Native Women’s Association of Canada in 202, “aboriginal women continue to face violence in their lives every day… According to various statistics, Aboriginal women in Canada experience consistently higher rates of reported intimate violence than the overall female population. At least one in three is abused by a partner compared to one in ten women overall and there are some estimates of as high as nine in ten. Four out of five Aboriginal women have witnessed or experienced intimate violence in childhood.”

 “A survey by Correctional Services of Canada pointed out that abuse played a more widespread part in the lives of Aboriginal women compared to non-native women. It indicated that 90% of Aboriginal and 61% of non-Aboriginal women had been physically abused, whereas 61% of Aboriginal and 50% of non-Aboriginal women had been sexually abused” in a given time, the report added.

 The aboriginal Canadians have also face other types of discrimination and injustice in the recent decades, but there has been no UN General Assembly resolution to defend their rights and condemn the atrocities being committed against them.           

The same goes with the U.S. allies in the Middle East which are surely the biggest human rights abusers in the world, but get away with their crimes and felonies thanks to their “passionate attachment” to Uncle Sam.

 In Saudi Arabia, where the women are not allowed to drive cars, and constitute only 5% of the workforce, human rights are being trampled underfoot in the daylight, but no voice is raised in protest from the side of the world powers and international organizations. In Saudi Arabia, women and men are not allowed to work with each other in public offices. Even prior to 2008, the women were not allowed to enter hotels or furnished apartments without the permission of a male chaperon. Currently, every woman who wants to reside in a hotel for a few days should inform the nearest police station of her room reservation and the length of her stay.

 Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and a founding member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, but even the Shiite Saudis who comprise around 10% to 15% of the population are deprived of their basic rights, including practicing their religious and denominational tenets in public, reciting the prayers exclusive to the Shiites and visiting the shrines of their demised relatives.  

 In December 2012, the Saudi forces raided a house in the province of al-Jouf and detained 41 people for “plotting to celebrate Christmas.”

 The state of civil liberties, political freedoms and the freedom of press is immensely deplorable and declining in Saudi Arabia. The minutest criticism of the House of Saud and the government can lead to the detention and even execution of a journalist or blogger, as it has been the case with the Saudi novelist and political author Turki al-Hamad and blogger Fouad al-Farhan.

These kinds of injustice and discrimination are being committed in a country which is the closest U.S. ally in the Middle East and one of its major trade partners in the whole Asian continent.

 The situation in Bahrain or Yemen is not any much better. Bahraini activists and human rights advocates have reported hundreds of cases of extrajudicial killing, illegal detention and abuse of the critics of the Al-Khalifa regime, especially following the February 2011 uprising in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom.

 The violation of human rights in these Arab countries with which the United States and other Western governments have strategic alliances can be effortlessly neglected and ignored. It clearly indicates a flagrant duplicity on the notion of human rights.

Iran is making progress on its human rights record, but there’s nobody to confirm and attest to it. Of course what has propelled Canada, the United States and their European partners to adopt a resolution in condemnation of the so-called human rights violations in Iran, as they did in 2011 and 2012, is not that they really care for the rights of the Iranian people. It’s simply a matter of demonization and propaganda to vilify Iran and undermine its international stature and the fact that the public around the world are coming to a new understanding of Iran as a pacifist and beneficial member of the international community that is ready to allay the concerns of the world countries over its nuclear activities.

A decision on whether to deploy tactical ballistic missiles near borders with NATO countries will be made only following a threat assessment by the Russian military, Russia’s top diplomat said Friday.

“When such a necessity arises, it’s up to the military to decide,” Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

Lavrov said that only professionals could provide a reliable assessment of the risks to Russia’s national security that would be posed by the European segment of the US global missile shield.

“That’s how the game is played. Nothing personal, so to speak,” the foreign minister said.

He reiterated, though, that the deployment of Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone) nuclear-capable missile systems near NATO borders could eventually be part of Russia’s response to NATO missile defense plans.

It was claimed in media reports over the weekend that at least 10 Iskander systems had been identified by satellite photos in Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad and along its border with Baltic states and NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

However, President Vladimir Putin denied on Thursday the reported deployment of such Iskanders, saying the Russian leadership had not yet made such a decision.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in an ambiguously worded statement earlier this week that Iskander missiles had been stationed in Russia’s Western Military District, which includes Kaliningrad as well as much of the European part of Russia.

Following the statement, representatives of a number of NATO nations expressed concern that if true, the move would represent a deepening of tensions with Russia that could demand a NATO response. The United States said the move would be destabilizing to the region.

Polish authorities said Thursday, however, that the Iskander deployment reports had not been confirmed by the country’s military.

Previously unpublished 2012 Fukushima plume map from gov’t scientists: “Radioactivity will almost entirely shift to eastern N. Pacific” –

Rhodes Scholar: No one can imagine what effects radiation flowing into ocean will have on sea life and ‘other things’ 

.

Radionuclide Transport from Fukushima to Eastern North Pacific, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2013 PICES Annual Meeting on Oct. 15, 2013:

  • Main inventory of Fukushima 137Cs had been transported towards central North Pacific By 2012. […] The inventory of Fukushima radioactivity will almost entirely shift from the western to the eastern North Pacific during the next 5 years.
  • Surface water distribution of Fukushima 137Cs in 2012 (Aoyama et al., 2013; G. Hong, pers. comm. [personal communication]):

Interview with Alex Kerr, “[Rhodes] scholar, linguist, specialist and prize winner” -Japan Times, Dec. 23, 2013:

“Surge in cancers among young in Fukushima, but experts divided on cause [...] experts are divided about whether their illness is caused by nuclear radiation [from Fukushima Daiichi]. [...] At a meeting hosted by Japan’s Environmental Ministry and the prefectural government on Saturday, most experts were not convinced [...] Among those who voiced alarm was Toshihide Tsuda, a professor of epidemiology [...] In the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, it was not until four or five years after the accident that thyroid cancer cases surged.” (South China Morning Post, Dec. 23, 2013 emphasis added:

“Experts differ over nuclear accident’s effect on cancer rate in children [...] Experts were divided over whether radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident affected the thyroid cancer rate among children in Fukushima Prefecture, in which 59  young people have been diagnosed with or suspected of contracting the disease [of 239,000 tested]. Most of the experts dismissed the possibility that effects from radiation from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant could appear so soon in children.” (Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 22, 2013)

The ‘Divided Experts’

  • Toshihide Tsuda, a professor of epidemiology at Okayama University: “The rate at which children in Fukushima Prefecture have developed thyroid cancer can be called frequent because it is several times to several tens of times higher” [Based on Japan's cancer registration statistics froom 1975-2008 which show an annual average of 5-11 people in their late teens/early 20s developed thyroid cancer for every 1 million people] “Because there is the possibility that the number of cases could increase in the future, there is a need to implement measures now.”
  • Tetsuya Ohira, professor of epidemiology at Fukushima Medical University: It was not appropriate in scientific terms to compare the results of the testing in Fukushima with cancer registry statistics.
  • Shinichi Suzuki, Fukushima Medical University professor involved in the thyroid tests: There was no link between the effects of radiation exposure and the cases of diagnosed or suspected thyroid cancer.

Is Chernobyl proof that it’s too soon for there to be any thyroid cancers related to the Fukushima disaster?

by Leevin T. Camacho

The U.S. has long viewed the island of Guam, an unincorporated U.S. territory that already hosts two of the Department of Defense’s most “valuable” bases in the world,2 an indispensable part of its “Pacific Century.” Prior to talk of the “Pacific Pivot,” the Governments of Japan (“GOJ”) and the United States agreed to reduce the number of Marines on Okinawa in response to intense local pressure. Defense Department planning for Guam is closely bound up with changing plans for basing in Okinawa. In 2006, the governments of Japan and the US formalized a “roadmap” to move 8,600 Marines from Okinawa to Guam. The plan was contingent, however, on closing the dangerous Futenma Base and expanding an existing base at Henoko, an approach fiercely resisted by Okinawan people and politicians.

In November 2009, The Department of Defense (“DOD”) released an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) outlining the environmental effects that the realignment of Marines would have on Guam.3 The effects included:

  • A 45% population growth on the island over a four (4) year period;
  • A 6.1 million gallon per day shortfall of water for the civilian community;
  • The destruction of over 70 acres of coral reef to accommodate a nuclear aircraft carrier; and
  • The construction of a firing range complex over an indigenous burial site.

Despite serious concerns raised by federal agencies, local leaders and the community, DOD issued its “Record of Decision” (ROD) in September 2010 without any significant changes in plans. At the time, DOD officials stated publicly that the timeline for the (ROD) was driven by the goal of spending down funds appropriated by the U.S.4 and, more importantly, “Mamizu” funds contributed by the GOJ.5 DOD, however, was unable to move forward with most of its construction projects because it was unable to force the local historic preservation officer to sign off on a document called the “Programmatic Agreement.”

The status of the Guam military buildup today

After the issuance of the ROD, several other factors contributed to the delay of the proposed realignment. One factor was a lawsuit filed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Guam Preservation Trust and We Are Guåhan.6 The goal of the lawsuit was to stop DOD from building a firing range complex on an indigenous burial site and village, Pågat Village. The non-profit organizations pointed out that, despite controlling approximately one-third of Guam, DOD had failed to consider a single alternative for building the firing range complex on existing DOD property. The lawsuit garnered wide local support, with many in the community viewing DOD’s plans as an unnecessary land grab that targeted a sacred site. This attitude was grounded in the history of land-taking on Guam, where the DOD had controlled approximately half of the island and had only slowly begun to return unused or “underutilized” property to its original landowners.


Pågat

Congress’s demand that DOD identify and justify costs also slowed the proposed military build-up. In June 2011, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a report on the cost and financial challenges surrounding the Guam realignment. The GAO estimated the cost of the buildup at $23.8B, more than double the $10.27B cost estimate agreed upon by the GOJ and the U.S. Furthermore, the DOD’s failure to provide Congress with its own master plan detailing the funds necessary to complete the transfer of Marines from Okinawa to Guam drew the attention of several U.S. senators, including influential members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Committee Chairman Senator Carl Levin, Senator John McCain and Senator Jim Webb called DOD’s plans “unrealistic, unworkable and unaffordable.”7 Senator Claire McCaskill, another member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, stated that its members “will not authorize such multi-billion-dollar projects without showing the rigorous analysis behind why we are doing what we are doing and a well-thought-out master plan of how we are going to get it done at a set cost and on a set schedule.”8 Congress subsequently required that certain conditions be met before it appropriated funding for projects related to the movement of Marines to Guam:9

  • A preferred force lay-down from the Commandant of the Marine Corps;
  • Master plans for Marine Corps facilities and infrastructure on Guam and Hawaii;
  • An outline of funds and construction necessary to restore facilities and infrastructure at Futenma; and
  • An outline of the impacts and costs that the proposed buildup would have on civilian utilities, facilities and infrastructure.

DOD plans suffered a legal setback when, in November 2011, it conceded to the demands of plaintiffs in the lawsuit to save Pågat Village and agreed to reevaluate sites for its proposed firing range complex. DOD agreed to evaluate all reasonable alternatives in the preparation of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (“SEIS”), estimating that the process would take years to complete.

More changes to the 2006 Roadmap were announced in February 2012 and formalized after a “2 + 2 meeting” held between the U.S. and Japan. In a Joint Statement issued on April 26, 2012, the GOJ and the U.S. officially “delinked” the movement of Marines to Guam from the controversial Futenma Replacement Facility at Henoko on Okinawa.10 Under the adjusted agreement, the number of Marines moving to Guam would be reduced from 8,600 to approximately 5,000. The Joint Statement indicated that 9,000 Marines would be moved from Okinawa, 5,000 Marines moving to Guam and the remaining 4,000 “rotating” between Australia and Hawaii. Based on the changes in force structure, the scope of the SEIS, initiated to assess the location of the proposed firing range complex, was expanded to analyze new housing and basing options.

DOD estimates that a draft SEIS for the proposed firing range complex and basing options will be released in March 2014.

Cost of the Pivot: 9,000 Marines realigned for $18.3B

The original estimated cost of building a new Marine Corps base on Guam for 8,600 marines and their dependents was $10.27B.11 The GOJ would pay $6.09B of this, with the U.S. agreeing to pay $3.18B. The 2006 estimates also included a $1B “super highway” that was artificially included to bring the percentage of costs borne by the GOJ down.12 The 2011 GAO report criticized this estimate and stated that the cost of the proposed military build-up on Guam would actually be $23.8B.

DOD announced a reduction in the number of Marines moving to Guam from 8,600 to approximately 5,000 in the April 2012 Joint Statement. Based on the reduced number of Marines and dependents that would be moved to Guam under this new plan, DOD estimated that the cost of the realignment would be $8.6B.13 Of this amount, the GOJ would be responsible for paying $3.1B. According to a report published by GAO in June 2013, the U.S. would pay $2.5B to move additional Marines to Hawaii.

The GAO concluded that even these estimates were “not reliable.”14 A presentation given at a closed door “roundtable” by Bryan H. Wood, Director of Plans, Policies and Operations of the Pacific Division of the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters, supported the GAO’s conclusion. Wood estimated that the total cost of DOD’s “preferred laydown” for the realignment of Marines from Okinawa to Guam and Hawaii would be $18.3B.15 This would put the cost of moving 9,000 Marines from Okinawa at approximately $2M per Marine. Wood estimated that, of this amount, the U.S. would be responsible for $12B with the GOJ contributing $6.3B.

DOD’s Vision for the Marianas: Poison in our Waters

The Marine’s move to Guam is just one component of DOD’s vision for the Mariana Islands. In addition to the “rebalancing” of Marine Corps forces to Guam,16 DOD has announced two other proposals that impact Guam and the wider region: (1) the Mariana Islands Range Complex (“MIRC”) / Mariana Islands Training and Testing (“MITT”) and (2) the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (“CNMI”) Joint Military Training Proposal.

The MIRC was the subject of an EIS that was finalized when DOD issued its Record of Decision in July 2010. DOD released its EIS for the MIRC in May 2010, literally months after it had published the 10,000 page EIS for the Marine realignment. The MIRC authorized the use of land, sea, and air for various military training exercises. The total geographical area of the MIRC is approximately 500,000 square nautical miles17 making it, according to one DOD official, the largest training range within DOD. To provide some context, the geographical area covered by the MIRC is three (3) times larger than the state of California.

DOD recently published an EIS for the MITT, which seeks to nearly double the area of the MIRC. Under the MITT, DOD would be authorized to conduct training and military exercises from the Mariana Islands as far west as Palau. The total area to be covered under this training complex would be 984,000 square nautical miles.18 To provide context, this range will be larger than the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Montana and New Mexico combined.

The second proposal announced by DOD this year is to establish unit and combined level training in the CNMI. As part of obtaining commonwealth status, the CNMI leased two-thirds of the island of Tinian and the entire island of Farallon de Medinilla to DOD for military training. The CNMI Joint Military Training Proposal would expand DOD operations in the CNMI by introducing unit level training on DOD leased lands on Tinian.19 Under this proposal, DOD would also turn the entire island of Pagan into a combined level training range with supporting facilities. This plan would permanently displace the indigenous people of Pagan, who have been waiting for decades to be cleared by their local government to return home.20

While those following these studies closely have treated each proposal independently, presentations made at a closed-door “roundtable” meeting hosted by military lobbyists on Guam gave a glimpse of DOD’s long-term objectives in the region. The Guam United States Asia Security Alliances or GUASA (the Chamorro word for sharpening a spear or fishing by use of poison) formed in 2012 to lobby Congress for military contracts on Guam and in the CNMI. In September 2013, GUASA invited several defense experts to Guam to discuss the continued militarization of the region and, specifically, expanding the role of Guam and the Marianas.

Amphibious assault training exercises were a major topic of discussion. One presenter pointed out that, in light of the threat of conflict surrounding the South China Sea and the Senkaku (Diaoyutai) Islands, the Marine Corps was now the “force of choice” because of its amphibious capabilities. The plans for the Mariana Islands, and in particular the plans to take control over Pagan, would center on the ability to conduct joint military amphibious assault training exercises with countries allied with the U.S. such as Japan. A GUASA member confirmed this position when he publicly stated that DOD control over Pagan was the “key linchpin” for the proposed military buildup.21 To assist in these training exercises, one defense expert explained that DOD is planning to deploy Joint High Speed Vehicles to Guam as well as Australia, Hawaii and Japan. The threat of conflicts over island areas has also been used to push for the deployment of Osprey to Okinawa as well as Guam. This line of thought is at odds with statements made by former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, who pointed out that “advances in anti-ship systems keep pushing the potential launch point from shore.”22 “On a more basic level,” Gates asked, “in the 21st century, what kind of amphibious capabilities do we really need to deal with the most likely scenarios and then how much?”

Logic notwithstanding, the overarching goal of the GUASA conference appears to be the preparation of a “white paper” justifying an increase in military presence on Guam and the region. Ultimately, this “white paper” will be used to lobby Congress to release funds for military construction projects on Guam and / or to ease the conditions currently kept in place by the U.S. Senate. GUASA is hopeful that the return on investment for this “white paper” will be greater than the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have paid to Washington D.C. lobbyists.

Conclusion

On a visit to Makua Valley in Hawai’i, Kyle Kajihiro told me the legend of a villainous shape shifter who would change shape from man to shark in order to lure his prey. “Shape-shifting U.S. militarism maneuvers to keep its opponents and victims guessing, to occupy our attention in one direction while executing a different tactic in another part of the world.”23 Shape-shifting also serves another, more pragmatic purpose: finding a way to justify the huge sums of money given to the DOD each year for construction and weapons development. The Guam realignment is an example of how the number of Marines and dependents moving from Okinawa can be cut down by three-fourths, while the overall price tag increases. DOD will be bird, frog, shark – whatever it takes to secure defense appropriations.

Leevin Camacho is a practicing attorney in Guam and active member of WeAreGuåhan—a collective of concerned individuals engaged in the preservation of native Chamorro culture, environment and resources. His research and work are focused on social and domestic issues. He is a contributor to Under Occupation: Resistance and Struggle in a Militarised Asia-Pacific.

Related articles

• Leevin Camacho and Daniel Broudy, ‘Sweetening’ the Pentagon’s Deal in the Marianas: From Guam to Pagan

• Yonamine Michiyo, Economic Crisis Shakes US Forces Overseas: The Price of Base Expansion in Okinawa and Guam

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

• LisaLinda S. Natividad and Victoria Lola-Leon, The Explosive Growth of U.S. Military Power on Guam Confronts People Power: Experience of an island people under Spanish, Japanese and American colonial rule

• Kensei YOSHIDA, Okinawa and Guam: In the Shadow of U.S. and Japanese “Global Defense Posture”

• LisaLinda Natividad and Gwyn Kirk, Fortress Guam: Resistance to US Military Mega-Buildup

Notes

1 A more detailed analysis of the EIS process on Guam can be found in Daniel Broudy, Peter Simpson, and Makoto Arakaki, eds. “Under Occupation: Resistance and Struggle in a Militarized Asia-Pacific”

2 According to the Pentagon’s 2013 “Base Structure Report, Andersen Air Force Base has a “replacement value” of $5.49 billion; Naval Base Guam has a replacement value of $4.99 billion.

3 All documents related to the Guam buildup EIS can be found here. (last visited Oct. 28, 2013).

4 “Bice Blitz Ahead of ROD Release” found here (last visited Oct. 27, 2013).

5 According to the GAO, the U.S. is holding $833.9 million of GOJ funds.

6 Guam Preservation Trust v. Gregory, CV10-00677LEK-RLP (Dist. Haw. 2010).

7 “Senators Levin, McCain, Webb call for re-examination of military basing plans in East Asia” (last visited Oct. 27, 2013).

8 “Senate panel blocks funding for major military projects in Pacific” found out (last visited Oct. 27, 2013).

9 Section 2832 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, Pub. L. No. 112-239 (2013).

10 Joint Statement of the Security Consultative Committee (April 26, 2012) found here (last visited Oct. 28, 2013).

11 United States-Japan Roadmap for Realignment Implementation (May 1, 2006), found here (last visited Oct. 28, 2013).

12 According to a cable published by Wikileaks, the U.S. requested that any agreements for the Guam realignment “delete reference to the approximately one billion dollar military road on Guam. This road was included during the April 2006 negotiations on cost-sharing as a way to increase the overall cost estimate (i.e., the denominator) and thereby reduce the share of total costs borne by Japan.” Found here (last visited Oct. 28, 2013).

13 Joint Statement (April 26, 2012).

14 More Reliable Cost Estimates and Further Planning Needed to Inform the Marine Corps Realignment Initiatives in the Pacific (June 11, 2013), found here (last visited Oct. 28, 2013).

15 A copy of Wood’s presentation can be found here (last visited Oct. 28, 2013).

16 DOD officials no longer speak about an “Asia pivot”, instead alluding to the re balancing of forces in the Pacific. Perhaps this is an attempt to redirect attention from the initial purpose of “reducing the burden on the Okinawan people” to more recent talk of forces being “geographically distributed, operationally resilient and politically sustainable.”

17 MIRC Environmental Impact Statement, p. ES-2 (stating that the MIRC would encompass 501,873 square nautical miles). The MIRC EIS can be found here (last visited Oct. 28, 2013).

18 MITT EIS, Vol. 1, p. 1-2. The MITT and supporting documents can be found here (last visited Oct. 28, 2013).

19 Documents related to the CNMI Joint Military Training EIS can be found here (last visited Oct. 28, 2013).

20 For more information about Pagan and the efforts to stop the proposed firing range complex visit this website (last visited Oct. 28, 2013).

21 Former D.C. Lobbyist Juan Carlos Benitez calls Pagan “Key Linchpin” to Entire Buildup found here (last visited Oct. 28, 2013).

22 Speech delivered on May 3, 2010 can be found here (last visited Oct. 28, 2010).

23 “Shape Shifter: The Many Faces of U.S. Militarism” found here (last visited Oct. 28, 2013).

Copyright Leevin Camacho, Asia Pacific Journal, 2013

The Federal Reserve: 100 Years of “Financial Terrorism”

December 23rd, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

December 23, 1913 will live in infamy. Three days before Christmas, House members passed the Federal Reserve Act (FSA).

 On December 23, Senate members did so. President Woodrow Wilson was a tool of big money. He was JP Morgan’s man in Washington. He signed FSA into law straightaway.

So did Congress. It passed FSA in the middle of the night. Most congressional members hadn’t read it.

They wouldn’t have understood it anyway. It was cleverly worded to deceive them. Only its creators knew its purpose. Ellen Brown explained what happened as follows:

“In plain English, the Federal Reserve Act authorized a private central bank to create money out of nothing, lend it to the government at interest, and control the nation’s money supply, expanding or contracting it at will.”

 Weeks before FSA was enacted, the 1913 Revenue Act became law. It imposed a federal income tax. It did so to pay bankers interest on America’s money. It let taxpayers do it.

 The University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs calls itself a “nonpartisan research institute.” It claims to seek “to expand understanding of the presidency, policy, and political history.”

It calls the Federal Reserve Act “one of the crowning achievements of President Wilson’s New Freedom program.”

It lied claiming it helped “safeguard America’s financial institutions, the American economy, and the supply of US currency.”

It turned truth on its head saying it let “a level of governmental control…monetary supply that was unprecedented in American history.”

It went further claiming it continues to provide “the framework for regulating the nation’s banks, credit, and money supply.”

Truth is polar opposite what the Miller Center’s narrative suggests. Privately controlled Fed policy has been hugely destructive for 100 years. It’s a financial weapon of mass destruction. More on this below.

In 1910, seven powerful figures met secretly. They did so on Jekll Island. Nelson Aldrich and Frank Valderclip represented Rockefeller financial interests.

Charles Norton and Benjamin Strong represented JP Morgan. Paul Warberg represented Rothschild family interests. No one represented popular ones.

Rockefeller/Morgan/Rothschild representatives planned the Federal Reserve System. Three years later, it became the law of the land. Congress acted unconstitutionally. So did Wilson signing FSA into law.

Doing so violated the Constitution’s Article I, Section 8. It affords Congress sole power to coin (create) money and regulate the value thereof.

In 1935, the Supreme Court ruled Congress can’t constitutionally delegate its authority to another body or group.

Congress and Wilson defrauded the public. They did so by granting Wall Street money creation power. They gave powerful bankers absolute monetary control.

US and world economies changed. They did so for the worst. Former law professor Woodrow Wilson understood full well what he did. He acted lawlessly anyway.

When it was too late to matter, he lied saying:

 ”I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its credit system. Our system of credit is concentrated.”

“The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men.”

“We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the civilized world no longer a Government by free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.”

Wilson irresponsibly signed into law the 1917 Espionage Act and 1918 Sedition Act. Both measures targeted free expression.

The Sedition Act specifically prohibited anti-government “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language.” It applied when America went to war. It was repealed in December 1920.

 Both measures never should have become law in the first place. Nor FSA. Congress and Wilson bore full responsibility. Subsequent lawmakers and administrations did nothing to change things.

 James Madison knew the dangers of letting bankers create money.

“History,” he said, “records that the Money Changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance.”

Thomas Jefferson stressed:

“I sincerely believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.”

“Already they have raised up a money aristocracy that has set the government at defiance.”

“The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs.”

The Bank of the United States was its first national one. In 1791, it was established. It was based in Philadelphia.

At the time, it was America’s capital. Andrew Jackson called it a “hydra-headed monster.” He called bankers “vipers and thieves.”

Lincoln expressed angst during America’s Civil War, saying:

“The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity.”

“It is more despotic than a monarch, more insolent than autocracy and more selfish than a bureaucracy.”

“It denounces, as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon its crimes.”

“I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at the rear is my greatest foe.”

He signed into law the 1862 Legal Tender Act. It empowered the Treasury to issue greenbacks.

Lincoln refused to pay bankers 24 – 36% interest. They demanded usury to fund his war on southern states.

Treasury issued currency was interest free. It would be today if Washington issued its own money.

After Lincoln’s assassination, new legislation rescinded greenback currency. Washington again paid bankers irresponsibly. It still does so today.

It benefits bankers. It enriches them. It does so at the expense of popular interests. Wall Street and Washington conspire against them.

Wealth is transferred from Main Street to powerful financial interests. Bipartisan complicity permits it.

Monied interests run America. They wage financial war on humanity. They do so by controlling money, credit and debt. They manipulate markets for private enrichment.

In his book titled , “Tragedy and Hope,” historian Carroll Quigley said:

“(T)he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole.”

“This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences.”

Money power is supreme. It’s omnipotent. It assures controlling economies, commerce, politics and imperial adventurism. House of Rothschild founder Amschel Rothschild said:

 ”Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.” He didn’t care what laws were passed provided he retained money power.

Former Bank of England director Josiah Stamp said:

“Banking was conceived in iniquity and was born in sin. The bankers own the earth.”

“Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create money, and with the flick of the pen they will create enough deposits to buy it back again.”

“However, take it away from them, and all the great fortunes like mine will disappear and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in.”

“But, if you wish to remain the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create money.”

The Fed isn’t federal. It has no reserves. It’s one of four dominant central banks. Others include the Bank of England, ECB, and Bank of Japan.

The Basel, Switzerland-based Bank of International Settlements (BIS) functions as a central bank for central bankers.

It’s an unaccountable boss of bosses. It’s final solution plan calls for establishing a global currency it controls. Achieving it assures ultimate money power.

Ellen Brown calls its headquarters the “tower of Basel.” It’s been “scandal-ridden” from inception. It’s called “the most exclusive, secretive, and powerful supranational club in the world.”

It’s run by a handful of powerful private central banks. They can make or break world economies.

Their tactics include lowering or raising capital requirements. Doing so permits greater or lesser amounts of lending.

Economist Henry CK Liu said Basel Accords force national banking systems “to march to the same tune. (They) serve the needs of highly sophisticated global financial markets.”

It’s done “regardless of the development needs of their national economies.”

A century of Fed power was hugely destructive. America lurched from one crisis to another. A 1913 dollar isn’t worth a plug nickel today. Artificially manipulated inflation eroded its value.

Fed policy caused booms, busts, inflation, deflation, instability, crises, and today’s protracted Main Street Depression.

Growing poverty, unemployment, underemployment, homelessness, hunger and human misery reflect it. Money power in private hands is responsible for:

  • economic instability;
  • wrecking world economies for profit;
  • waging wars for it;
  • rising consumer debt;
  • record budget and trade deficits;
  • an out-of-control national debt;
  • record numbers of business and personal bankruptcies;
  • millions of home foreclosures;
  • loss of America’s manufacturing base; and
  • an unprecedented wealth gap between America’s privileged class and all others.

Ostensibly, the Fed was established to stabilize the economy, smooth out the business cycle, maintain healthy sustainable growth, create price stability, control inflation, and work for the betterment of everyone.

It didn’t turn out this way. Fed policy is polar opposite. It spurned its mandate. Wall Street control prioritizes self-interest.

The 1978 Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act (aka Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act) was enacted to fulfill the 1946 Employment Act’s mandate.

Doing so requires pursuing “maximum employment, production, purchasing power,” price stability, and balanced trade cooperatively with private enterprise.

It involves Fed policy prioritizing sustainable, minimal inflation growth. It called for unemployment not exceeding 3% for persons aged 20 or over, not over 4% for those over age 16, and inflation held under 4%.

In 1988, a zero inflation target was set. Pre and post-Humphrey-Hawkins Fed policy produced polar opposite results.

It wasn’t happenstance. It was orchestrated by design. It was done to shift wealth disproportionately to Wall Street, other corporate favorites, and super-rich elites.

It was done to circumvent America’s anti-trust laws. It let Wall Street and other corporate giants eliminate competition. Doing so let them consolidate, become huge and more dominant.

It let money power in private hands more than ever run America. It let Wall Street and other major central banks rule the world.

They transformed global economies into an unprecedented money making racket. Government collusion facilitates it.

In America, it’s at the highest federal, state and local levels. It permits scamming ordinary people for profit.

Growing millions lost jobs, incomes, benefits, savings, homes, and futures. Today’s contagion is global. Billions suffer. Economies, communities and households are wrecked for profit.

Washington is Wall Street occupied territory. Profits are privatized. Losses are socialized.

Casino capitalism is the coin of the realm. Grand Theft Wall Street reflects it. Markets are manipulated for profit.

Other tactics include front-running them, pumping and dumping, scamming investors, buying politicians like toothpaste, bribing them for control, placing banking officials in high administration posts, and getting open-ended low or no interest bailouts and other special benefits when needed.

Whatever bankers want they get. Social America is being eliminated to benefit them. Money is made the old fashioned way. Business as usual reflects it.

Publicly controlled money could change things. Former congressman Ron Paul tried several times. He sponsored the Federal Reserve Abolition Act. No co-sponsors joined him.

Paul responsibly tried putting money power back in public hands where it belongs. Doing so works as intended. Inflation-free prosperity follows.

Ellen Brown calls it a “practical, proven approach.” It works the same way everywhere. It worked for 25 years in colonial America.

It can work the same way again. It’s the antidote to corrupted, dysfunctional privatized banking. For 100 years, it worked wonders for Wall Street.

It created dystopian harshness for growing millions. It’s worse than ever today. What better time than now to change things.

Doing so is responsible. It’s sensible. It’s essential. It’s sorely needed. It’s an idea whose time has come. Ending business as usual depends on it.

A Final Comment

Ron Paul addressed the Fed’s 100th anniversary, saying:

“(S)ecret negotiations (established) a banking cartel. (It’s) grown ever stronger through the years.” It operates “independent(ly).”

“Rather than preventing financial crises, (it precipitates) new ones.”

“Talk about putting inmates in charge of the asylum!”

“Now we are reaping the noxious effects of a century of” Fed policy.

“(O)ur economy remains mired in mediocrity.”

“A century ago politicians failed to understand that (19th century) financial panics (were) caused by collusion between government and the banking sector.”

Today we know more. “(W)e know better,” said Paul. “We know that the Federal Reserve continues to strengthen the collusion between banks and politicians.”

“We know (Fed) policy continues to reap profits for Wall Street while impoverishing Main Street.”

“One hundred years is long enough. End the Fed.” Put money power back in public hands where it belongs!

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/100-years-financial-terrorism/

 The New York Times is hardly a progressive newspaper — but when it comes to the surveillance state and ongoing militarism of the Obama White House, the establishment’s “paper of record” puts MoveOn.org to shame.

And so, the same day that the Times editorialized to excoriate President Obama for his latest betrayal of civil liberties, MoveOn sent out a huge email blast sucking up to Obama.

The Times was blunt in its Saturday editorial: “By the time President Obama gave his news conference on Friday, there was really only one course to take on surveillance policy from an ethical, moral, constitutional and even political point of view. And that was to embrace the recommendations of his handpicked panel on government spying — and bills pending in Congress — to end the obvious excesses. He could have started by suspending the constitutionally questionable (and evidently pointless) collection of data on every phone call and email that Americans make.”

But, the newspaper added: “He did not do any of that.”

As the Times editorial went on to say, “any actions that Mr. Obama may announce next month would certainly not be adequate. Congress has to rewrite the relevant passage in the Patriot Act that George W. Bush and then Mr. Obama claimed — in secret — as the justification for the data vacuuming.”

Let’s reiterate that the Times is far from a progressive outlet. It serves as a highly important megaphone for key sectors of corporate/political elites. Voicing the newspaper’s official stance, its editorials are often deferential to spin and half-truths from favored political figures. And much of the paper’s news coverage feeds off the kind of newspeak that spews out of the Executive Branch and Congress.

But on crucial matters of foreign policy, militarism and surveillance, the contrast between Times editorials and MoveOn is stunning. The “progressive” netroots organization has rarely managed to clear a low bar of independence from reprehensible Obama policies.

Instead, millions of people on MoveOn’s list are continually deluged with emails pretending that Republicans are the only major problem in Washington — while nearly always ignoring Obama administration policies that are antithetical to basic progressive values.

And so, on the same day the New York Times was ripping into Obama’s latest affront to civil liberties and privacy rights, MoveOn was sending out a mass email that began by quoting from Obama’s 2008 convention acceptance speech — as though his five-year record as president still makes him an apt source of inspiration: “The change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.”

 After five years, MoveOn seems not to have noticed what the New York Times editorial board has often pointed out: that some of the change Obama has brought to Washington has not been in a progressive direction. As the Times put it in a follow-up editorial Sunday, at his latest news conference Obama “insisted that there was no evidence that the phone surveillance program was being abused — a truly disturbing assessment given all the revelations since June.”

As usual, the MoveOn email did not include a single word of criticism, much less challenge, of Obama. Instead, the email blamed Congress for all the political obstacles to needed “change.”

This is typical. Year after year of the Obama presidency, MoveOn has been routinely silent on such crucial matters as U.S. drone and cruise missile strikes across borders, war in Afghanistan, assaults on press freedom and whistleblowers, and methodical undermining of precious civil liberties.

The intertwined warfare state and surveillance state have little to fear from MoveOn. And that’s tragic.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

 

Monday 23 December marks the 100th Anniversary of the creation of the Federal Reserve System – the Central Bank of the United States of America.

The mainstream media are keeping remarkably quiet about this key milestone.

No doubt, they know only too well that growing millions of workers inside and outside the US are realizing that a century of central banking monopoly in the hands of a private clique of usurer banksters is enough. More than enough!

‘Twas the night before Christmas…

…when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”. These words written by 19th Century American poet, Clement Clarke Moore, aptly describe the scene a hundred years ago when the Federal Reserve Act was discretely rubberstamped in the US Congress: true, hardly a mouse was stirring either in the House or in the Senate… But the big rats were definitely there to vote in their act!

1913: Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States; World War One was but eight months away; and three years earlier a very hush-hush meeting had taken place at mega-banker, John Pierpont Morgan’s, private estate on Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia.

Bloomberg News described this in a February-15, 2012 article as “a secret meeting that launched the Federal Reserve Bank. In November 1910, a group of government and business leaders fashioned a powerful new financial system that has survived a century, two world wars, a Great Depression and many recessions.”

That’s the Bloomberg Version. The ugly truth is probably exactly the opposite: in November 1910 a group of government, banking and business leaders fashioned a powerful new financial system that triggered, promoted and imposed a century of conflict and genocide, including two world wars, a Great Depression, many recessions and systematic mega-banker bailouts using taxpayer’s money.

In 1995, American investigator and author, G. Edward Griffin, published what is clearly the most authoritative book on the “FED” – as it is colloquially called in banking circles and by the mainstream media – “The Creature from Jekyll Island”.

 

Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP

Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP

Griffin’s book describes how a top secret conspiracy – sorry, can’t think of a better phrase – of very high-powered bankers, government officials and foreign agents met to plan the take-over of the American economy, finance and national currency, the US Dollar, to then wage global wars of conquest.

Bloomberg went on to describe how Rhode Island Senator, Nelson Aldrich, whose daughter married John D. Rockefeller Jr, “invited men he knew and trusted, or at least men of influence who he felt could work together: Abram Piatt Andrew, assistant secretary of the Treasury; Henry P. Davison, a business partner of JP Morgan’s; Charles D. Norton, president of the First National Bank of New York; Benjamin Strong, another Morgan friend and the head of the Bankers Trust; Frank A. Vanderlip, president of the National City Bank; and Paul M. Warburg, a partner in Kuhn, Loeb & Co. and a German citizen.”

Paul Warburg was the actual mastermind behind the FED. Interestingly, his main partner at Kühn, Loeb & Co, Jakob Shiff, had just financed the Japanese war against the Russian Tsar; he would later channel 20,000,000 US dollars via a Russian exile living in Brooklyn by the name of Lev Davidovich Bronstein (better known as Leon Trotsky) to ensure the 1917 victory of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Neither ‘Federal’, nor ‘Reserve’, nor a ‘Bank’

Actually, it’s a “system”. Officially, the “Federal Reserve System” wields full control over the US Dollar, not to serve the American people but on the contrary the interests of private bankers, who hold its very special type of stocks and shares.

In practice, the FED is over 95 percent privately-owned, is not integrated into the US Government, nor accountable to any branch of government. There is nothing “Federal” about it as it lies fully outside the government system of checks-and-balances.

Nor does it “Reserve” anything. Rather it arbitrarily prints all the money the mega-bankers and power elites need to keep the “globalized” world rolling in the direction that they wish and need. This includes such things as multi-trillion dollar “quantitative easings” to keep Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, CityCorp, Wachovia and JPMorgan Chase happy and “healthy”; financing clandestine and terror operations to overthrow the governments of Iran, Nicaragua, Argentina, Cuba, Chile, Syria, Libya, Vietnam and many others; waging decades-long wars against Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Africa and Latin America; unflinchingly supporting “little Israel’s” genocide in Palestine and its “democratic” 400-bomb strong nuclear program; and keeping Wall Street on permanent life-support.

Finally, it is definitely no “Bank” in the sense of a financial institution promoting the credit needs of the real economy for the benefit of the vast majority of the working population’s needs.

Rather, the FED supports the financial needs of the global war system, covert operations, usury, drug dealers, and the global banksters.

 

Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

The FED answers to no one. It clearly does not serve “We the People” of the US or anywhere else. Its purpose is to serve the global power elites, regularly meeting to plan world government through entities like the Council of Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg, World Economic Forum and others forming part of todays’ intricate planetary web of global money power.

Straight from the horse’s mouth

In a Public Broadcast System (PBS) interview on “News Hour” aired on September 18, 2007, US journalist Jim Lehrer had this Q&A session with former decades-long Fed Chairman (and JP Morgan bank officer) Alan Greenspan:

Jim Lehrer: “What is the proper relationship between a chairman of the Fed and a president of the United States?”

Alan Greenspan: “Well, first of all, the Federal Reserve is an independent agency, and that means, basically, that there is no other agency of government which can overrule actions that we take. So long as that is in place and there is no evidence that the administration or the Congress or anybody else is requesting that we do things other than what we think is the appropriate thing, then what the relationships are don’t frankly matter.”

Huh? If you’re a US citizen, you should re-read the above once or twice.

The FED System lies at the root of US “superpower” status. Allow me to explain how the FED scam really works from the point of view of someone living in Argentina – a very down-trodden country repeatedly made to bite the dust by the global power elites through their local agents imposed upon us through money-power “democracy”.

This means that every time Argentina needs to buy 100 dollars-worth of, say, oil, medicines or technological components, the Argentine people must work to earn those 100 dollars through exports and genuine work.

By comparison, every time the US Government needs to buy 100 dollars-worth of oil, medicines or whatever, all they need to do is tell the Fed to print 100 dollars and that’s that. Let’s just say that this makes it much easier to be a “superpower”.

OK, the mechanism’s not that simple, but this certainly explains schematically how the whole US-Dollar power system really works. It also explains why the elites won’t tolerate anybody challenging the dollar.

Oh, when the Fed… comes marchin’ in…

Look at the world’s oil market. It is a monopoly run by three global trading centers located in New York, London and Dubai. The idea is to ensure that “petro-dollars” flow around the world 24/7, and only incidental small amounts should flow back into the US financial system.

This explains why when in late 2002 Saddam Hussein decided he would do his UN-sanctions authorized “One Billion Dollars Iraqi Oil for Food” trade with the West in euros instead of dollars, he was quickly visited by the Fed’s military branch in March 2003.

Or take Muammar Kaddafi who in 2011 was about to launch a program to trade Libyan and North African oil using a new gold-backed currency – the gold dinar. He too got a little visit from Peace Prize Barack and Babylon Hillary. Do you begin to see the pattern?

But don’t think that the FED’s global financial enslavement system is simply aimed outside the US; it kicked off a century ago by first silently enslaving the very people of the United States it is supposed to serve.

Here’s how that works: every time the US Government decides to put money into circulation – those 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 dollar bills we’re all so familiar with – instead of asking the government mint to print them at a penny’s cost in paper and ink, the government instead asks the private banksters at the Fed to print those bills for the Treasury, in exchange delivering to the Fed interest-bearing US Treasury Bills and Bonds, which translates into trillions of dollars’ in profits funneled to the private banking elite though the Fed.

It was all so well planned a hundred years ago, that just before the Federal Reserve Act was passed on December 23, 1913, they also maneuvered to close this parasitic circle, for if the US Government was to begin making gigantic interest payments to the Fed just for printing its own money, they first needed to have a revenue scheme in place to milk the American taxpayer: the Income Tax Act!

 

Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP

Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP

Actually, it was the 16th Amendment to the US Constitution passed by Congress in July 1909, and enacted as law in February 1913. Thus international banksters have been ripping off Americans and getting America to fight their wars as proxies for a full century, whilst most of the population haven’t got a clue of what’s going on.

Clearly, the FED lies so far above the US White House, Congress and Supreme Court, that over the past five decades no one has been able to have a proper audit done on its books and numbers. Oh, you Homer Simpsons!

Not that you haven’t been warned. In 1923, Minnesota representative, Charles Lindbergh, father of the famous aviator, sent an early warning: “The financial system has been turned over to the Federal Reserve Board which administers the finance system by authority of a purely profiteering group. The system is private, conducted for the sole purpose of obtaining the greatest possible profits from the use of other people’s money.”

In the 60’s, republican senator and presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, said “most Americans have no real understanding of the operation of international moneylenders; the accounts of the Federal Reserve system have never been audited; it operates outside the control of Congress and manipulates the credit of the United States.” Today, former representative, Ron Paul, has been sending the same message.

Even president John Kennedy understood this when he issued Executive Order No. 11110 on June 4, 1963, ordering the US Treasury to print zero-interest public money to the tune of 4.3 billion dollars, fully bypassing the Fed. But he too ran into some trouble in Dallas barely five months later on 22 November.

Epilogue: Fed Up?

One would have thought that something as important as whether to continue to allow a private FED to operate in its present format, or revamping it, or even doing away with it after a whole century, would be something that should be squarely on the American and global public agenda… big time!

And yet all we have is silence from the US Government, Congress and politicians; silence from world leaders; total silence from the mainstream media, and from the academic world.

And so you little parasitic mega-bankers running planet Earth: come Monday 23 December you can uncork all the champagne you like and celebrate your “One Hundredth Masters of the Universe Slave Drivers Anniversary”, partying on straight into Christmas Day.

Then, come Thursday 26th, just carry on crucifying the entire world. For you it will be business as usual.

 The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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

Thailand: Third Mass Mobilization Floods Bangkok’s Streets

December 23rd, 2013 by Tony Cartalucci

 For the third time in the past two months, hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters took to the streets from early morning until late night, paralyzing Thailand’s capital of Bangkok throughout the day. Major roads were turned into walking streets as tens of thousands of protesters assembled at each of over 10 stages throughout the city’s major intersections.

\
Images: (Top to bottom) Ratchaprasong, Taksin Bridge, Silom, Asoke, & Victory Monument. These are images of just some of the separate protest sites and marches organized across the city of Bangkok yesterday, December 22, 2013. Between the sites, a stream of thousands flowed as many participants sought to visit as many stages as possible throughout the day. Police dubiously claim only “135,000″ turned up, when in reality the number was clearly well over a million.
….

Thousands of protesters streamed between the stages, walking, riding, or driving miles from one stage to the other. Across the city, in every place of business, the signature Thai flag, ribbons, wrist bands, and banners could be seen carried by protesters as they took breaks to eat and rest. Each protest site was filled to capacity, with a steady stream of people flowing to and from the sites throughout the day. Mass transit systems ran out of tickets and eventually opened gates to let passengers ride for free.

Protest-numbers overwhelm Bangkok’s mass transit.

The regime’s police have claimed the number of protesters at 4pm was approximately 135,000 – which would still dwarf by nearly 3 times the largest pro-regime rallies at the height of its popularity years ago. However, pictures, accounts, security officials and the fact that people were constantly arriving throughout the day as others left to sustain the crowds indicate a million or more turned out. The city’s elevated train alone moved over 700,000 people, most of whom were protesters.

Meanwhile, the regime’s proxy prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, placeholder for her convicted criminal brother, fugitive, Thaksin Shinawatra who openly runs the country from abroad as he evades a 2 year jail sentence, multiple arrest warrants and a long list of pending court cases, has fled to Thailand’s northern provinces where the remaining stronghold of the regime’s “red shirt” mobs desperately attempt to cling to power through a campaign of fear and intimidation.

Despite overwhelming opposition, increasing awareness around the world of the cartoonish nepotism and illegitimacy of the current regime, Yingluck Shinawatra was once again placed at the top of the candidate’s list for Thaksin Shianwatra’s “Peua Thai Party” (For Thais Party) for upcoming February 2014 elections being boycotted by opposition parties.

Who are the Protesters & What Do They Want? 

The protesters demand the end of the Thaksin Shinawatra regime. To understand why, we must first understand who Thaksin Shinawatra is and what he has done over the past decade:

  • Thaksin was Thailand’s prime minister from 2001-2006. Has since dominated the various reincarnations of his political party – and still to this day runs the country by proxy, via his nepotist appointed sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
  • Also in 2003, he initiated what he called a “war on drugs.” 3,000 were extrajudicially murdered in the streets over the course of just 90 days. It would later turn out that more than half of those killed had nothing to even do with the drug trade. In this act alone, Thaksin earned himself the title as worst human rights offender in Thai history, and still he was far from finished.
  • In 2004, he oversaw the killing of 85 protesters in a single day during his mishandled, heavy-handed policy in the country’s troubled deep south. The atrocity is now referred to as the “Tak Bai incident.”
  • Throughout his administration he was notorious for intimidating the press, and crushing dissent. According to  Amnesty International, 18 human rights defenders were either assassinated or disappeared during his first term in office. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) claimed in its report, “Attacks on the Press 2004: Thailand” that the regime was guilty of financial interference, legal intimidation, and coercion of the press.
The protesters then, see the privatization and selling off of Thailand’s natural resources and infrastructure, the pending FTA’s the regime has been attempting to pass, the chaos in the nation’s south, the atrocious “war on drugs,” and the use of Thailand to serve the strategic interests of the West, in particular the United States, as intolerable. They believe that “elections” and an electorate that continue to return such a regime to power, time and time again, is illegitimate and in dire need of reform.They have a list of very specific demands that set them apart from “color revolutions” backed by the US for the purpose of mere regime change centered solely on empty rhetoric like “democracy” and “freedom.” The demands are as follows:
1. No Amnesty - This refers to an amnesty bill designed by and for Thaksin Shinawatra to absolve himself of a decade of plundering, lying, and mass murder. While the government eventually backed off, it was only because massive street protests were mobilized. When the Constitution Court declared the bill unconstitutional, the ruling regime announced that it no longer recognized the authority of the court – even while using constitutionality to condemn the protests. Even though it is considered “dead,” Thaksin’s entire future depends on it eventually passing. Protesters feel the only way to truly kill this bill, is to remove entirely the regime attempting such an absurd abuse of power.2. Reform Before Elections - The anti-regime protesters are not, nor have they ever suggested that elections be permanently suspended. Instead, it is recognized that elections now, with no fundamental change to a system that has allowed a mass murdering convicted criminal to run the country by proxy from Dubai will only bring the entire nation back to square one.3. Restore Article 190 - Article 190 of the Thai constitution requires that all treaties be approved by the parliament before they can be signed. In 2004, this mechanism had prevented Thaksin Shinawatra from unilaterally passing a US-Thai free trade agreement, and was one of many attempted circumventions of the law that led to his ouster in 2006. His nepotist-appointed sister Yingluck Shinawatra, has now managed to amend it making it possible for her to unilateral approve treaties (specifically unpopular FTA’s). Protesters would like to see this reversed.

4. The Re-Nationalization of Thailand’s Oil - Thailand’s oil giant, PTT, was privatized and sold off  to foreign multinationals under Thaksin Shinawatra in late 2001. Tremendous wealth has been siphoned out of Thailand and sent overseas, particularly to Chevron, one of the many sponsors on the US-ASEAN Business Council that directly supports the Shinawatra regime.

Image: Another issue protesters have is with the changing of article 190 which allows the regime to now unilaterally sign treaties without the parliament’s approval. This will be used specifically to pass through a series of extremely unpopular free trade agreements with the regime’s Western sponsors.
….

5. Keep Thailand Anti-GMO, Anti-IP - The current Thai establishment resisting the Thaksin regime has been stalwartly defending against GMO and “intellectual property” (IP) laws pushed on them by the United States, the UK, and the EU. In fact, one of the main points of attack by Thaksin Shinawatra’s Washington lobbyists, was attacking the military council that ousted Thaksin for ignoring US pharmaceutical patents while producing cheaper drugs for poor patients. Regarding GMO, Monsanto has been desperately trying to overrun Thailand’s food security but to no avail. Would it surprise readers to know that the US-ASEAN Business Council directly supporting Thaksin Shinawatra and his political machine also includes Monsanto?6. Keep Thailand Sovereign - It was recently revealed that the current regime hired the US lobbying firm of Davenport McKesson to, among other things, help arrange the building of a US Navy base in Thailand. Of course, considering the other demands of the protesters, this is unacceptable. Not only must this deal be investigated  it must be rolled back and the mechanisms that have allowed it to proceed as far as it did in the first place, be taken apart permanently.

Students from Chulalongkorn University had brought up this issue at the Siam site yesterday and signs denouncing the US Navy base had already begun to circulate. The regime has since denied this, and the original PDF found on the US lobbying disclosure site FARA has been promptly taken down (it can be found here on Scribd).

What’s Next? 

Protesters had promised to open roads late Sunday and promptly did so. The masses shifted from the multitude of stages across the city to the permanent protest encampment at Democracy Monument in the old quarter of Bangkok. Others moved to Bangkok’s Din Daeng area to surround the police station and the site where the regime plans to hold registration for an election only they will be running in. The goal is to disrupt this and prevent even show elections from taking place – forcing the regime to further expose its illegitimacy and eventually collapse.

For Thaksin Shinawatra and his foreign sponsors, they can afford to cling to power to the bitter end. After all, neither has anything to lose, and everything to gain. It will be their proxies who pay the price when the inevitable happens – and the longer they help Thaksin cling to power, the graver the consequences will be when they finally fail.

The anti-regime forces have proven they can mobilize unprecedented numbers time and time again, and have demonstrated that not only are the protest leaders becoming better organized and their message spreading, but those under their various banners are also becoming better organized in smaller, smarter groups. For the regime, the prospect of “riding out” unrest is not an option. 

U.S., Russia, Japan and Other Countries Have All Polluted the Oceans With Radiation

The Tampa Bay Times reports:

For up to 15 years after World War II, the crew of Albernaz’s ship, the USS Calhoun County, dumped thousands of tons of radioactive waste into the Atlantic Ocean, often without heeding the simplest health precautions, according to Navy documents and Tampa Bay Times interviews with more than 50 former crewmen.

Albernaz began a battle for his life in 1988 when part of his brain began to die, mystifying doctors who eventually concluded the rare ailment might be linked to radiation. He filed a VA claim for benefits in 2001 that was repeatedly rejected, often with tortured government reasoning.

The VA and Navy told Albernaz he was not exposed to radiation on the Calhoun County, a vessel the Navy ordered sunk in 1963 because it was radioactive.

In order to make sure the waste-containing drums sank, the sailors would sometimes shoot them with rifles:

Not all of them sank. A few pushed back against the frothing ocean, bobbing in the waves like a drowning man. Then shots would ring out from a sailor with a rifle at the fantail. And the sea would claim the bullet-riddled drum.

The U.S. isn’t the only country that has dumped mass quantities of radiation into the ocean:

  • Numerous above-ground nuclear weapons tests were conuducted in the oceans:

The Lies Behind The West’s War On Libya

December 23rd, 2013 by Jean-Paul Pougala

It was Gaddafi’s Libya that offered all of Africa its first revolution in modern times – connecting the entire continent by telephone, television, radio broadcasting and several other technological applications such as telemedicine and distance teaching. And thanks to the WMAX radio bridge, a low cost connection was made available across the continent, including in rural areas.

It began in 1992, when 45 African nations established RASCOM (Regional African Satellite Communication Organization) so that Africa would have its own satellite and slash communication costs in the continent. This was a time when phone calls to and from Africa were the most expensive in the world because of the annual US$500 million fee pocketed by Europe for the use of its satellites like Intelsat for phone conversations, including those within the same country.

An African satellite only cost a onetime payment of US$400 million and the continent no longer had to pay a US$500 million annual lease. Which banker wouldn’t finance such a project? But the problem remained – how can slaves, seeking to free themselves from their master’s exploitation ask the master’s help to achieve that freedom? Not surprisingly, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the USA, Europe only made vague promises for 14 years. Gaddafi put an end to these futile pleas to the western ‘benefactors’ with their exorbitant interest rates. The Libyan guide put US$300 million on the table; the African Development Bank added US$50 million more and the West African Development Bank a further US$27 million – and that’s how Africa got its first communications satellite on 26 December 2007.

China and Russia followed suit and shared their technology and helped launch satellites for South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, Algeria and a second African satellite was launched in July 2010. The first totally indigenously built satellite and manufactured on African soil, in Algeria, is set for 2020. This satellite is aimed at competing with the best in the world, but at ten times less the cost, a real challenge.

This is how a symbolic gesture of a mere US$300 million changed the life of an entire continent. Gaddafi’s Libya cost the West, not just depriving it of US$500 million per year but the billions of dollars in debt and interest that the initial loan would generate for years to come and in an exponential manner, thereby helping maintain an occult system in order to plunder the continent.

African Monetary Fund, African Central Bank, African Investment Bank

The US$30 billion frozen by Mr Obama belong to the Libyan Central Bank and had been earmarked as the Libyan contribution to three key projects which would add the finishing touches to the African federation – the African Investment Bank in Syrte, Libya, the establishment in 2011 of the African Monetary Fund to be based in Yaounde with a US$42 billion capital fund and the Abuja-based African Central Bank in Nigeria which when it starts printing African money will ring the death knell for the CFA franc through which Paris has been able to maintain its hold on some African countries for the last fifty years. It is easy to understand the French wrath against Gaddafi.

The African Monetary Fund is expected to totally supplant the African activities of the International Monetary Fund which, with only US$25 billion, was able to bring an entire continent to its knees and make it swallow questionable privatisation like forcing African countries to move from public to private monopolies. No surprise then that on 16-17 December 2010, the Africans unanimously rejected attempts by Western countries to join the African Monetary Fund, saying it was open only to African nations.

It is increasingly obvious that after Libya, the western coalition will go after Algeria, because apart from its huge energy resources, the country has cash reserves of around €150 billion. This is what lures the countries that are bombing Libya and they all have one thing in common – they are practically bankrupt. The USA alone, has a staggering debt of $US14,000 billion, France, Great Britain and Italy each have a US$2,000 billion public deficit compared to less than US$400 billion in public debt for 46 African countries combined.

Inciting spurious wars in Africa in the hope that this will revitalise their economies which are sinking ever more into the doldrums will ultimately hasten the western decline which actually began in 1884 during the notorious Berlin Conference. As the American economist Adam Smith predicted in 1865 when he publicly backed Abraham Lincoln for the abolition of slavery, ‘the economy of any country which relies on the slavery of blacks is destined to descend into hell the day those countries awaken’.

Regional Unity as an Obstacle to the Creation of a United States of Africa

To destabilise and destroy the African union which was veering dangerously (for the West) towards a United States of Africa under the guiding hand of Gaddafi, the European Union first tried, unsuccessfully, to create the Union for the Mediterranean (UPM). North Africa somehow had to be cut off from the rest of Africa, using the old tired racist clichés of the 18th and 19th centuries ,which claimed that Africans of Arab origin were more evolved and civilised than the rest of the continent. This failed because Gaddafi refused to buy into it. He soon understood what game was being played when only a handful of African countries were invited to join the Mediterranean grouping without informing the African Union but inviting all 27 members of the European Union.

Without the driving force behind the African Federation, the UPM failed even before it began, still-born with Sarkozy as president and Mubarak as vice president. The French foreign minister, Alain Juppe is now attempting to re-launch the idea, banking no doubt on the fall of Gaddafi. What African leaders fail to understand is that as long as the European Union continues to finance the African Union, the status quo will remain, because no real independence. This is why the European Union has encouraged and financed regional groupings in Africa.

It is obvious that the West African Economic Community (ECOWAS), which has an embassy in Brussels and depends for the bulk of its funding on the European Union, is a vociferous opponent to the African federation. That’s why Lincoln fought in the US war of secession because the moment a group of countries come together in a regional political organisation, it weakens the main group. That is what Europe wanted and the Africans have never understood the game plan, creating a plethora of regional groupings, COMESA, UDEAC, SADC, and the Great Maghreb which never saw the light of day thanks to Gaddafi who understood what was happening.

Gaddafi, the African Who Cleansed the Continent from the Humiliation of Apartheid

For most Africans, Gaddafi is a generous man, a humanist, known for his unselfish support for the struggle against the racist regime in South Africa. If he had been an egotist, he wouldn’t have risked the wrath of the West to help the ANC both militarily and financially in the fight against apartheid. This was why Mandela, soon after his release from 27 years in jail, decided to break the UN embargo and travel to Libya on 23 October 1997. For five long years, no plane could touch down in Libya because of the embargo. One needed to take a plane to the Tunisian city of Jerba and continue by road for five hours to reach Ben Gardane, cross the border and continue on a desert road for three hours before reaching Tripoli. The other solution was to go through Malta, and take a night ferry on ill-maintained boats to the Libyan coast. A hellish journey for a whole people, simply to punish one man.

Mandela didn’t mince his words when the former US president Bill Clinton said the visit was an ‘unwelcome’ one – ‘No country can claim to be the policeman of the world and no state can dictate to another what it should do’. He added – ‘Those that yesterday were friends of our enemies have the gall today to tell me not to visit my brother Gaddafi, they are advising us to be ungrateful and forget our friends of the past.’

Indeed, the West still considered the South African racists to be their brothers who needed to be protected. That’s why the members of the ANC, including Nelson Mandela, were considered to be dangerous terrorists. It was only on 2 July 2008, that the US Congress finally voted a law to remove the name of Nelson Mandela and his ANC comrades from their black list, not because they realised how stupid that list was but because they wanted to mark Mandela’s 90th birthday. If the West was truly sorry for its past support for Mandela’s enemies and really sincere when they name streets and places after him, how can they continue to wage war against someone who helped Mandela and his people to be victorious, Gaddafi?

Are Those Who Want to Export Democracy Themselves Democrats?

And what if Gaddafi’s Libya were more democratic than the USA, France, Britain and other countries waging war to export democracy to Libya? On 19 March 2003, President George Bush began bombing Iraq under the pretext of bringing democracy. On 19 March 2011, exactly eight years later to the day, it was the French president’s turn to rain down bombs over Libya, once again claiming it was to bring democracy. Nobel peace prize-winner and US President Obama says unleashing cruise missiles from submarines is to oust the dictator and introduce democracy.

The question that anyone with even minimum intelligence cannot help asking is the following: Are countries like France, England, the USA, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Poland who defend their right to bomb Libya on the strength of their self proclaimed democratic status really democratic? If yes, are they more democratic than Gaddafi’s Libya? The answer in fact is a resounding NO, for the plain and simple reason that democracy doesn’t exist. This isn’t a personal opinion, but a quote from someone whose native town Geneva, hosts the bulk of UN institutions. The quote is from Jean Jacques Rousseau, born in Geneva in 1712 and who writes in chapter four of the third book of the famous Social Contract that ‘there never was a true democracy and there never will be.’

Rousseau sets out the following four conditions for a country to be labelled a democracy and according to these Gaddafi’s Libya is far more democratic than the USA, France and the others claiming to export democracy:

1. The State: The bigger a country, the less democratic it can be. According to Rousseau, the state has to be extremely small so that people can come together and know each other. Before asking people to vote, one must ensure that everybody knows everyone else, otherwise voting will be an act without any democratic basis, a simulacrum of democracy to elect a dictator.

The Libyan state is based on a system of tribal allegiances, which by definition group people together in small entities. The democratic spirit is much more present in a tribe, a village than in a big country, simply because people know each other, share a common life rhythm which involves a kind of self-regulation or even self-censorship in that the reactions and
counter reactions of other members impacts on the group.

From this perspective, it would appear that Libya fits Rousseau’s conditions better than the USA, France and Great Britain, all highly urbanised societies where most neighbours don’t even say hello to each other and therefore don’t know each other even if they have lived side by side for twenty years. These countries leapfrogged leaped into the next stage – ‘the vote’ – which has been cleverly sanctified to obfuscate the fact that voting on the future of the country is useless if the voter doesn’t know the other citizens. This has been pushed to ridiculous limits with voting rights being given to people living abroad. Communicating with and amongst each other is a precondition for any democratic debate before an election.

2. Simplicity in customs and behavioural patterns are also essential if one is to avoid spending the bulk of the time debating legal and judicial procedures in order to deal with the multitude of conflicts of interest inevitable in a large and complex society. Western countries define themselves as civilised nations with a more complex social structure whereas Libya is described as a primitive country with a simple set of customs. This aspect too indicates that Libya responds better to Rousseau’s democratic criteria than all those trying to give lessons in democracy. Conflicts in complex societies are most often won by those with more power, which is why the rich manage to avoid prison because they can afford to hire top lawyers and instead arrange for state repression to be directed against someone one who stole a banana in a supermarket rather than a financial criminal who ruined a bank. In the city of New York for example where 75 per cent of the population is white, 80 per cent of management posts are occupied by whites who make up only 20 per cent of incarcerated people.

3. Equality in status and wealth: A look at the Forbes 2010 list shows who the richest people in each of the countries currently bombing Libya are and the difference between them and those who earn the lowest salaries in those nations; a similar exercise on Libya will reveal that in terms of wealth distribution, Libya has much more to teach than those fighting it now, and not the contrary. So here too, using Rousseau’s criteria, Libya is more democratic than the nations pompously pretending to bring democracy. In the USA, 5 per cent of the population owns 60 per cent of the national wealth, making it the most unequal and unbalanced society in the world.

4. No luxuries: according to Rousseau there can’t be any luxury if there is to be democracy. Luxury, he says, makes wealth a necessity which then becomes a virtue in itself, it, and not the welfare of the people becomes the goal to be reached at all cost, ‘Luxury corrupts both the rich and the poor, the one through possession and the other through envy; it makes the nation soft and prey to vanity; it distances people from the State and enslaves them, making them a slave to opinion.’

Is there more luxury in France than in Libya? The reports on employees committing suicide because of stressful working conditions even in public or semi-public companies, all in the name of maximising profit for a minority and keeping them in luxury, happen in the West, not in Libya.

The American sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote in 1956 that American democracy was a ‘dictatorship of the elite’. According to Mills, the USA is not a democracy because it is money that talks during elections and not the people. The results of each election are the expression of the voice of money and not the voice of the people. After Bush senior and Bush junior, they are already talking about a younger Bush for the 2012 Republican primaries. Moreover, as Max Weber pointed out, since political power is dependent on the bureaucracy, the US has 43 million bureaucrats and military personnel who effectively rule the country but without being elected and are not accountable to the people for their actions. One person (a rich one) is elected, but the real power lies with the caste of the wealthy who then get nominated to be ambassadors, generals, etc.

How many people in these self-proclaimed democracies know that Peru’s constitution prohibits an outgoing president from seeking a second consecutive mandate? How many know that in Guatemala, not only can an outgoing president not seek re-election to the same post, no one from that person’s family can aspire to the top job either? Or that Rwanda is the only country in the world that has 56 per cent female parliamentarians? How many people know that in the 2007 CIA index, four of the world’s best-governed countries are African? That the top prize goes to Equatorial Guinea whose public debt represents only 1.14 per cent of GDP?

Rousseau maintains that civil wars, revolts and rebellions are the ingredients of the beginning of democracy. Because democracy is not an end, but a permanent process of the reaffirmation of the natural rights of human beings which in countries all over the world (without exception) are trampled upon by a handful of men and women who have hijacked the power of the people to perpetuate their supremacy. There are here and there groups of people who have usurped the term ‘democracy’ – instead of it being an ideal towards which one strives it has become a label to be appropriated or a slogan which is used by people who can shout louder than others. If a country is calm, like France or the USA, that is to say without any rebellions, it only means, from Rousseau’s perspective, that the dictatorial system is sufficiently repressive to pre-empt any revolt.

It wouldn’t be a bad thing if the Libyans revolted. What is bad is to affirm that people stoically accept a system that represses them all over the world without reacting. And Rousseau concludes: ‘Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietum servitium – translation – If gods were people, they would govern themselves democratically. Such a perfect government is not applicable to human beings.’ To claim that one is killing Libyans for their own good is a hoax.

What Lessons for Africa?

After 500 years of a profoundly unequal relationship with the West, it is clear that we don’t have the same criteria of what is good and bad. We have deeply divergent interests. How can one not deplore the ‘yes’ votes from three sub-Saharan countries (Nigeria, South Africa and Gabon) for resolution 1973 that inaugurated the latest form of colonisation baptised ‘the protection of peoples’, which legitimises the racist theories that have informed Europeans since the 18th century and according to which North Africa has nothing to do with sub-Saharan Africa, that North Africa is more evolved, cultivated and civilised than the rest of Africa?

It is as if Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Algeria were not part of Africa, Even the United Nations seems to ignore the role of the African Union in the affairs of member states. The aim is to isolate sub Saharan African countries to better isolate and control them. Indeed, Algeria (US$16 billion) and Libya (US$10 billion ) together contribute 62 per cent of the US$42 billion which constitute the capital of the African Monetary Fund (AMF). The biggest and most populous country in sub Saharan Africa, Nigeria, followed by South Africa are far behind with only 3 billion dollars each.

It is disconcerting to say the least that for the first time in the history of the United Nations, war has been declared against a people without having explored the slightest possibility of a peaceful solution to the crisis. Does Africa really belong anymore to this organisation? Nigeria and South Africa are prepared to vote ‘Yes’ to everything the West asks because they naively believe the vague promises of a permanent seat at the Security Council with similar veto rights. They both forget that France has no power to offer anything. If it did, Mitterand would have long done the needful for Helmut Kohl’s Germany.

A reform of the United Nations is not on the agenda. The only way to make a point is to use the Chinese method – all 50 African nations should quit the United Nations and only return if their longstanding demand is finally met, a seat for the entire African federation or nothing. This non-violent method is the only weapon of justice available to the poor and weak that we are. We should simply quit the United Nations because this organisation, by its very structure and hierarchy, is at the service of the most powerful.

We should leave the United Nations to register our rejection of a worldview based on the annihilation of those who are weaker. They are free to continue as before but at least we will not be party to it and say we agree when we were never asked for our opinion. And even when we expressed our point of view, like we did on Saturday 19 March in Nouakchott, when we opposed the military action, our opinion was simply ignored and the bombs started falling on the African people.

Today’s events are reminiscent of what happened with China in the past. Today, one recognises the Ouattara government, the rebel government in Libya, like one did at the end of the Second World War with China. The so-called international community chose Taiwan to be the sole representative of the Chinese people instead of Mao’s China. It took 26 years when on 25 October 1971, for the UN to pass resolution 2758 which all Africans should read to put an end to human folly. China was admitted and on its terms – it refused to be a member if it didn’t have a veto right. When the demand was met and the resolution tabled, it still took a year for the Chinese foreign minister to respond in writing to the UN Secretary General on 29 September 1972, a letter which didn’t say yes or thank you but spelt out guarantees required for China’s dignity to be respected.

What does Africa hope to achieve from the United Nations without playing hard ball? We saw how in Cote d’Ivoire a UN bureaucrat considers himself to be above the constitution of the country. We entered this organisation by agreeing to be slaves and to believe that we will be invited to dine at the same table and eat from plates we ourselves washed is not just credulous, it is stupid.

When the African Union endorsed Ouattara’s victory and glossed over contrary reports from its own electoral observers simply to please our former masters, how can we expect to be respected? When South African president Zuma declares that Ouattara hasn’t won the elections and then says the exact opposite during a trip to Paris, one is entitled to question the credibility of these leaders who claim to represent and speak on behalf of a billion Africans.

Africa’s strength and real freedom will only come if it can take properly thought out actions and assume the consequences. Dignity and respect come with a price tag. Are we prepared to pay it? Otherwise, our place is in the kitchen and in the toilets in order to make others comfortable.

The war in Syria grinds on, an endless wreckage of shattered limbs and lives. The blood flows across borders, fueling the religious sectarian killing across the Middle East that is the life-blood of the Syrian conflict. 

Hopes rose in Syria after Obama’s last minute decision not to “punish Assad” with a missile attack. Then came the U.S.-Iran nuclear peace deal, and it was hoped that peace in Syria was part of the broader shift in U.S. policy, “pivoting” away from the Middle East towards China. 

The “Geneva II” Syrian peace talks have been discussed for months, but there always seems to be an endlessly complicated barrier. Contrary to what the media and politicians say, stopping the mass carnage is sadly easy. And it could be done relatively quickly, if the power brokers behind the conflict actually wanted it stopped. 

Peace talks are not advanced calculus, but basic addition. You bring together those outside nations who are fueling the conflict — directly or indirectly — you add the groups inside Syria who have power on the ground, and out of negotiations equals a settlement.  

If groups on the ground in Syria refuse to negotiate, the outside powers are then expected to exert their leverage on their proxies, with the threat of being cut off politically and financially. Through this process an agreement can be forged.

Of course, an x factor often emerges: whether parties are actually willing to negotiate, and whether or not they do so honestly, with the intention of pursuing peace, rather then using the talks to wage a better-timed war.

Obama seems conflicted about wanting peace in Syria. One of the key actors in the Syrian drama is Iran, and Obama is blocking Iran from participating. The UN understands that Iran’s involvement in the peace talks is crucial, but Obama is exploiting U.S. power to pick and choose who participates, sabotaging the talks in the process. 

Why does Obama want Iran out of the picture? Because the U.S. wants to control the outcome of the talks, and Obama insists that Iran agree that the peace talks be conditional, the condition being that the goals of the talks be limited to creating a “transitional government,” i.e., the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Obama is essentially attempting to achieve via talks what he couldn’t achieve through a proxy war.

Of course, any pre-condition to peace talks is a great way to abort any chance of peace, though there has been much chatter that Obama is reconsidering his “Assad must go” pre-condition, since it is so obviously destructive to peace talks.

But Obama continues to encourage war in Syria by refusing to muzzle his attack dog, Saudi Arabia, which continues to openly funnel money, weapons, and jihadists into Syria, supporting Islamic extremist rebel groups that refuse to participate in peace talks.

Recently the Saudi ambassador to Britain wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, where he defiantly declared that Saudi Arabia will “go it alone” to continue to fuel the Syrian sociocide.

The article was a masterstroke of hypocrisy; Saudi Arabia remains the motor force of religious extremism in the Middle East and a prime contributor to sectarian atrocities committed in Syria. The ambassador shamelessly writes: 

“The way to prevent the rise of extremism in Syria — and elsewhere — is to support the champions of moderation: financially, materially and yes, militarily, if necessary.”

 

Of course, in Syria there are zero “moderate” rebel forces with any shred of power. This long-known fact was made explicit recently when a large group of rebels — some of them former “moderates” under the Free Syrian Army — realigned themselves under the banner of the Islamic Front, which shares a fundamentalist Sunni Islam ideology similar to al Qaeda — the other dominant power among the Syrian opposition. What was Obama’s response to the implosion of his Free Syrian Army and the rise of the Islamic Front?

Obama’s U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf casually commented:

“We wouldn’t rule out the possibility of meeting with the Islamic Front … We can engage with the Islamic Front, of course, because they’re not designated terrorists … We’re always open to meeting with a wide range of opposition groups.”

There you go. Taliban-style extremists aren’t designated as “terrorists,” so it’s OK to support them. Obama is forced to support these groups because without doing so, the U.S. would have zero influence on the ground in the Syrian conflict. And without power on the ground the U.S. has no influence to steer peace talks in a direction favorable to U.S. interests.

This is why Obama continues to allow Saudi Arabia to fuel the conflict, as it has done — along with the other Gulf states — since the beginning. For example, the highest religious authority of Saudi Arabia gave his support to the widely popular Qatari-based Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, after the Sheikh called for jihad against the Syrian government. 

The response to these calls for jihad has been predictable; a recent study estimates that as many as 11,000 foreign fighters have fought in Syria, although no one knows exactly.

In practice, a Sunni fundamentalist call for jihad equals the murder of Shia Muslims, Christians and by implication, the majority of Sunni Muslims who are not of the Saudi fundamentalist variety. These Saudi and Qatari for-profit Sheikh’s are up to their necks in Syrian blood.

Of course, if Obama wanted to address this issue, he would actually discuss it publicly, and then he would use his “bully pulpit” to push Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and others into line towards a peace agreement, since these nations’ national and domestic security is completely dependent on the United States military and weapon industries. 

Ultimately, religious sectarianism is just the surface gloss used to divide the Middle East into an orgy of violence. The real motor force of the conflict remains profit: regional domination for raw materials, markets, loans, military sales, client states, etc.         

And this is the real x factor that Obama creates in the Syrian conflict: how best to manage a peace deal that leaves in place U.S. power in the region, as well as the power of U.S. allies, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc. 

Consequently, the Syrian Kurds who’ve carved out their own autonomous zone — similar to the Kurds in Iraq — have thus far been ignored, since they pose an “existential threat” to Turkey and its large Kurdish population. 

The battle for power and profit are the real complications in creating peace in Syria. Obama has had several prior chances to forge peace in Syria and has chosen not to. When Syria and Russia proposed peace last year, John Kerry openly mocked the prospect, so sure he was of his rebels taking power. 

When Syria and Russia again asked for peace talks last summer, Obama’s rebels boycotted the talks and Obama’s silence equaled complicity.  Obama has sabotaged peace talks for over a year by attaching pre-conditions and demands — such as the removal of Bashar al-Assad– before peace talks could begin.

Now peace talks are again on the table, the situation in Syria is more dire than ever, and the world as a whole demands peace. 

Obama’s actions will testify to his intent in Syria; he will either insist on a no conditions peace talk and pressure his allies to stop the bloodshed, or he will do the opposite and remain a driving force for senseless slaughter and the continued butchering of innocents.  

Shamus Cooke is a social worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org).  He can be reached at [email protected]

Notes

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/starving-in-syria-the-biggest-emergency-in-the-uns-history-9008979.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-25469992

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/opinion/saudi-arabia-will-go-it-alone.html?_r=0

http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/12/16/us_weighing_closer_ties_with_hardline_islamists_in_syria#sthash.8CshYLR6.m6Dhgh93.dpuf

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/06/us-syria-crisis-saudi-idUSBRE9550Y420130606

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/17/us-syria-crisis-fighters-idUSBRE9BG0P320131217

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/12/2012123112025591599.html

http://workerscompass.org/who-killed-the-syrian-peace-talks/

December 23rd, 2013, marks the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve, warranting a review of its performance.  Has it achieved the purposes for which it was designed?

The answer depends on whose purposes we are talking about.  For the banks, the Fed has served quite well.  For the laboring masses whose populist movement prompted it, not much has changed in a century.

Thwarting Populist Demands

The Federal Reserve Act was passed in 1913 in response to a wave of bank crises, which had hit on average every six years over a period of 80 years. The resulting economic depressions triggered a populist movement for monetary reform in the 1890s.  Mary Ellen Lease, an early populist leader, said in a fiery speech that could have been written today:

Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street. The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master. . . . Money rules . . . .Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us. . . .

We want money, land and transportation. We want the abolition of the National Banks, and we want the power to make loans direct from the government. We want the foreclosure system wiped out.

 That was what they wanted, but the Federal Reserve Act that they got was not what the populists had fought for, or what their leader William Jennings Bryan thought he was approving when he voted for it in 1913. In the stirring speech that won him the Democratic presidential nomination in 1896, Bryan insisted:

 [We] believe that the right to coin money and issue money is a function of government. . . . Those who are opposed to this proposition tell us that the issue of paper money is a function of the bank and that the government ought to go out of the banking business. I stand with Jefferson . . . and tell them, as he did, that the issue of money is a function of the government and that the banks should go out of the governing business.

He concluded with this famous outcry against the restrictive gold standard:

You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

What Bryan and the populists sought was a national currency issued debt-free and interest-free by the government, on the model of Lincoln’s Greenbacks. What the American people got was a money supply created by private banks as credit (or debt) lent to the government and the people at interest. Although the national money supply would be printed by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, it would be issued by the “bankers’ bank,” the Federal Reserve. The Fed is composed of twelve branches, all of which are 100 percent owned by the banks in their districts. Until 1935, these branches could each independently issue paper dollars for the cost of printing them, and could lend them at interest.

1929: The Fed Triggers the Worst Bank Run in History

The new system was supposed to prevent bank runs, but it clearly failed in that endeavor. In 1929, the United States experienced the worst bank run in its history.

 The New York Fed had been pouring newly-created money into New York banks, which then lent it to stock speculators. When the New York Fed heard that the Federal Reserve Board of Governors had held an all-night meeting discussing this risky situation, the flood of speculative funding was retracted, precipitating the 1929 stock market crash.

 At that time, paper dollars were freely redeemable in gold; but banks were required to keep sufficient gold to cover only 40 percent of their deposits. When panicked bank customers rushed to cash in their dollars, gold reserves shrank. Loans then had to be recalled to maintain the 40 percent requirement, collapsing the money supply.

 The result was widespread unemployment and loss of homes and savings, similar to that seen today. In a scathing indictment before Congress in 1934, Representative Louis McFadden blamed the Federal Reserve. He said:

Mr. Chairman, we have in this Country one of the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known. I refer to the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Banks . . . .

The depredations and iniquities of the Fed has cost enough money to pay the National debt several times over. . . .

Some people think that the Federal Reserve Banks are United  States  Government  institutions.  They are private monopolies which prey upon the people of these United States for the benefit of themselves and their foreign customers; foreign and domestic speculators and swindlers; and rich and predatory money lenders.

These twelve private credit monopolies were deceitfully and disloyally foisted upon this Country by the bankers who came here from Europe and repaid us our hospitality by undermining our American institutions.

Freed from the Bankers’ “Cross of Gold”

To stop the collapse of the money supply, in 1933 Roosevelt took the dollar off the gold standard within the United States. The gold standard had prevailed since the founding of the country, and the move was highly controversial. Critics viewed it as a crime. But proponents saw it as finally allowing the country to be economically sovereign.

 This more benign view was taken by Beardsley Ruml, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in a presentation before the American Bar Association in 1945. He said the government was now at liberty to spend as needed to meet its budget, drawing on credit issued by its own central bank. It could do this until price inflation indicated a weakened purchasing power of the currency. Then, and only then, would the government need to levy taxes—not to fund the budget but to counteract inflation by contracting the money supply. The principal purpose of taxes, said Ruml, was “the maintenance of a dollar which has stable purchasing power over the years. Sometimes this purpose is stated as ‘the avoidance of inflation.’”

 It was a remarkable realization. The government could be funded without taxes, by drawing on credit from its own central bank. Since there was no longer a need for gold to cover the loan, the central bank would not have to borrow. It could just create the money on its books. Only when prices rose across the board, signaling an excess of money in the money supply, would the government need to tax—not to fund the government but simply to keep supply (goods and services) in balance with demand (money).

Ruml’s vision is echoed today in the school of economic thought called Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). But after Roosevelt’s demise, it was not pursued. The U.S. government continued to fund itself with taxes; and when it failed to recover enough to pay its bills, it continued to borrow, putting itself in debt.

The Fed Agrees to Return the Interest

For its first half century, the Federal Reserve continued to pocket the interest on the money it issued and lent to the government. But in the 1960s, Wright Patman, Chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee, pushed to have the Fed nationalized. To avoid that result, the Fed quietly agreed to rebate its profits to the U.S. Treasury.

 In The Strange Case of Richard Milhous Nixon, published in 1973, Congressman Jerry Voorhis wrote of this concession:

It was done, quite obviously, as acknowledgment that the Federal Reserve Banks were acting on the one hand as a national bank of issue, creating the nation’s money, but on the other hand charging the nation interest on its own credit—which no true national bank of issue could conceivably, or with any show of justice, dare to do.

Rebating the interest to the Treasury was clearly a step in the right direction. But the central bank funded very little of the federal debt. Commercial banks held a large chunk of it; and as Voorhis observed, “[w]here the commercial banks are concerned, there is no such repayment of the people’s money.” Commercial banks did not rebate the interest they collected to the government, said Voorhis, although they also “‘buy’ the bonds with newly created demand deposit entries on their books—nothing more.”

Today the proportion of the federal debt held by the Federal Reserve has shot up, due to repeated rounds of “quantitative easing.” But the majority of the debt is still funded privately at interest, and most of the dollars funding it originated as “bank credit” created on the books of private banks.

Time for a New Populist Movement?

 The Treasury’s website reports the amount of interest paid on the national debt each year, going back 26 years. At the end of 2013, the total for the previous 26 years came to about $9 trillion on a federal debt of $17.25 trillion. If the government had been borrowing from its own central bank interest-free during that period, the debt would have been reduced by more than half. And that was just the interest for 26 years. The federal debt has been accumulating ever since 1835, when Andrew Jackson paid it off and vetoed the Second U.S. Bank’s renewal; and all that time it has been accruing interest. If the government had been borrowing from its central bank all along, it might have had no federal debt at all today.

 In 1977, Congress gave the Fed a dual mandate, not only to maintain the stability of the currency but to promote full employment.  The Fed got the mandate but not the tools, as discussed in my earlier article here.

 It may be time for a new populist movement, one that demands that the power to issue money be returned to the government and the people it represents; and that the Federal Reserve be made a public utility, owned by the people and serving them. The firehose of cheap credit lavished on Wall Street needs to be re-directed to Main Street.

 Ellen Brown is an attorney, president of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the bestselling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her blog articles are at EllenBrown.com. She is currently running for California State Treasurer on the Green Party ticket.

 Henry Swieca is a money man. The New York-based billionaire made his fortune by co-founding Highbridge Capital Corp., a hedge fund that boasted clients like the American International Group.

In 2009, the banking giant JP Morgan Chase, another client of Highbridge, fully took over the flagship hedge fund. Swieca went on to play a role at two more hedge funds: Talpion Fund Management, which he launched, and Clearline Capital, which Swieca joined as a startup investor in February 2013.

Swieca, whose net worth is $1.2 billion as of September 2013, is well-known as a financial guru. His every move is covered by the financial press. But he’s less known for what his foundation pours money into: right-wing, pro-Israel causes. Along with a host of charitable groups and domestic Jewish centers, the Swieca Family Foundation, which he runs with his Israeli-American wife Estee, has poured tons of cash into pro-Israel groups–including to religious extremist groups that operate in the most sensitive of holy places. Swieca did not return requests for comment on his donations.

According to tax records reviewed by AlterNet, Swieca, an Orthodox Jew, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the American Israel Education Foundation, the non-profit offshoot of the powerful lobbying group called the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He’s also handed over cash to groups like the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces; the right-wing, anti-Muslim David Horowitz Freedom Center; and the Hebron Fund, a Brooklyn-based organization that funnels American money into illegal Israeli settlements in Hebron, a big city in the West Bank that has the most intense regime of settler violence and enforced segregation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

But perhaps most alarmingly is Swieca’s funding of the Temple Institute, an organization that promotes the building of the Third Temple on the third most holy site for Muslims. In early December, the Washington Post disclosed that Swieca and his wife funded the Jerusalem-based Temple Institute’s move to “to a large, renovated space in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter, overlooking the Western Wall.” The move put the institute just a short walk away from the place where they hope the Third Temple arises.

The religious extremists who run the Temple Institute have their sights set on the Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary in English, which is also the Temple Mount for Jews. “Our short-term goal is to rekindle the flame of the Holy Temple in the hearts of mankind through education,” the Temple Institute says on their website. “Our long-term goal is to do all in our limited power to bring about the building of the Holy Temple in our time.”

In the middle of the Noble Sanctuary sits the Dome of the Rock, a shrine whose gold dome is a fixture on the Jerusalem skyline. The Noble Sanctuary is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, thought to be the place where the Prophet Muhammad was transported to from Mecca and is the third holiest site to Muslims around the world. At the same time, it is a site deeply revered by Jews, since it is the place thought to be where the First and Second Temples stood. The Second Temple was famously destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans, who then sent Jews into exile. The Temple Institute says that “the Temple Mount has to be cleared of the Dome of the Rock and the mosques which are presently located upon it before the physical rebuilding of the Holy Temple can begin.”

Both Judaism and Islam have competing claims to the site, making it the most contested piece of real estate on earth. In 2000, a provocative visit by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Noble Sanctuary set off clashes that many say sparked the Second Intifada. It continues to be a frequent site of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli authorities.

The Obama administration has been caught spying on the Verizon phone calls of tens of millions of Americans. The spying effort specifically targeted Americans living on U.S. soil.

And as NBC News reports:

NBC News has learned that under the post-9/11 Patriot Act, the government has been collecting records on every phone call made in the U.S.

But the government has sought to “reassure” us that it is only tracking “metadata” such as the time and place of the calls, and not the actual content of the calls.

That claim is patently absurd.

The American government is in fact collecting and storing virtually every phone call, purchases, email, text message, internet searches, social media communications, health information, employment history, travel and student records, and virtually all other information of every American.

Whistleblowers revealed years ago that the NSA was vacuuming up virtually all Internet communications. The Washington Post and Guardian report today that the NSA is tapping directly into the central servers of 9 leading U.S. Internet companies – including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple, and soon Dropbox – and extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that the NSA spies on Americans’ credit card transactions as well.

In fact, all U.S. intelligence agencies – including the CIA and NSA – are going to spy on Americans’ finances.  The IRS will be spying on Americans’ shopping records, travel, social interactions, health records and files from other government investigators.

Glenn Greenwald reported in May:

A seemingly spontaneous admission this week by a former FBI counterterrorism agent provides a rather startling acknowledgment of just how vast and invasive these surveillance activities are.

***

On Wednesday night, [CNN's Erin] Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could:

BURNETT: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It’s not a voice mail. It’s just a conversation. There’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?

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

BURNETT: “So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.

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

“All of that stuff” – meaning every telephone conversation Americans have with one another on US soil, with or without a search warrant – “is being captured as we speak”.

 

 

On Thursday night, Clemente again appeared on CNN, this time with host Carol Costello, and she asked him about those remarks. He reiterated what he said the night before but added expressly that “all digital communications in the past” are recorded and stored:

Let’s repeat that last part: “no digital communication is secure“, by which he means not that any communication is susceptible to government interception as it happens (although that is true), but far beyond that: all digital communications – meaning telephone calls, emails, online chats and the like – are automatically recorded and stored and accessible to the government after the fact. To describe that is to define what a ubiquitous, limitless Surveillance State is.

There have been some previous indications that this is true. Former AT&T engineer Mark Klein revealed that AT&T and other telecoms had built a special network that allowed the National Security Agency full and unfettered access to data about the telephone calls and the content of email communications for all of their customers. Specifically, Klein explained “that the NSA set up a system that vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T” and that “contrary to the government’s depiction of its surveillance program as aimed at overseas terrorists . . . much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic.”

***

That every single telephone call is recorded and stored would also explain this extraordinary revelation by the Washington Post in 2010:

Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. ***

Two Democratic Senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, have been warning for years that Americans would be “stunned” to learn what the US government is doing in terms of secret surveillance.

The Atlantic notes:

TSA’s surveillance of our communications is most likely much, much bigger than [metadata]. Technology has made it possible for the American government to spy on citizens to an extent East Germany could only dream of. Basically everything we say that can be traced digitally is being collected by the NSA.

***

On its face, the document suggests that the U.S. government regularly collects and stores all domestic telephone records,” The Week’s Marc Ambinder writes of Glenn Greenwald’s scoop last night. “My own understanding is that the NSA routinely collects millions of domestic-to-domestic phone records. It does not do anything with them unless there is a need to search through them for lawful purposes.” Previous reporting from many outlets suggests that’s true.”

As the top spy chief at the U.S. National Security Agency – William Binney – explained, the NSA is collecting some 100 billion 1,000-character emails per day, and 20 trillion communications of all types per year.

Binney says that the government has collected all of the communications of congressional leaders, generals and everyone else in the U.S. for the last 10 years.

Binney further explains that he set up the NSA’s system so that all of the information would automatically be encrypted, so that the government had to obtain a search warrant based upon probably cause before a particular suspect’s communications could be decrypted. But the NSA now collects all data in an unencrypted form, so that no probable cause is needed to view any citizen’s information. He says that it is actually cheaper and easier to store the data in an encrypted format: so the government’s current system is being done for political – not practical – purposes.

Binney says that if anyone gets on the government’s “enemies list”, then the stored information will be used to target them. Specifically, he notes that if the government decides it doesn’t like someone, it analyzes all of the data it has collected on that person and his or her associates over the last 10 years to build a case against him.  This includes whistleblowers, activists or even government insiders … like the head of the CIA.

Binney’s statements are confirmed by other NSA whistleblowers. For example, Huffington Post reports:

While at the NSA, [Kirk] Wiebe, along with Ed Loomis and Bill Binney, created a computer program that could isolate large amounts of information collected by the NSA while protecting Americans’ privacy. But the NSA ignored their program ….

“We had a solution to this entire problem that would have avoided this whole mess,” Wiebe said.

Instead, the NSA chose Trailblazer, a multi-billion dollar computer program that was supposed to revolutionize how the agency analyzed communications data. Wiebe, Loomis, Binney and another NSA employee, Thomas Drake, called for an investigation into Trailblazer, citing massive waste and fraud.

The Other Types of Spying the Government Is Doing On Us

In addition, the amount of money and effort the government is putting into spying on Americans using a wide variety of other technologies tends to discredit any notion that the government is exercising restraint in monitoring our phone calls (which are already being tapped) for content.

For example, the government is flying drones over the American homeland to spy on us.

Senator Rand Paul correctly notes:

The domestic use of drones to spy on Americans clearly violates the Fourth Amendment and limits our rights to personal privacy.

Emptywheel notes in a post entitled “The OTHER Assault on the Fourth Amendment in the NDAA? Drones at Your Airport?”:

http://www.emptywheel.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Picture-7.png

 

***

As the map above makes clear–taken from this 2010 report–DOD [the Department of Defense] plans to have drones all over the country by 2015.

Many police departments are also using drones to spy on us. As the Hill reported:

At least 13 state and local police agencies around the country have used drones in the field or in training, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry trade group. The Federal Aviation Administration has predicted that by the end of the decade, 30,000 commercial and government drones could be flying over U.S. skies.

***

“Drones should only be used if subject to a powerful framework that regulates their use in order to avoid abuse and invasions of privacy,” Chris Calabrese, a legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said during a congressional forum in Texas last month.

He argued police should only fly drones over private property if they have a warrant, information collected with drones should be promptly destroyed when it’s no longer needed and domestic drones should not carry any weapons.

He argued that drones pose a more serious threat to privacy than helicopters because they are cheaper to use and can hover in the sky for longer periods of time.

A congressional report earlier this year predicted that drones could soon be equipped with technologies to identify faces or track people based on their height, age, gender and skin color.

Moreover, Wired reports:

 

Transit authorities in cities across the country are quietly installing microphone-enabled surveillance systems on public buses that would give them the ability to record and store private conversations….

The systems are being installed in San Francisco, Baltimore, and other cities with funding from the Department of Homeland Security in some cases ….

The IP audio-video systems can be accessed remotely via a built-in web server (.pdf), and can be combined with GPS data to track the movement of buses and passengers throughout the city.

***

The systems use cables or WiFi to pair audio conversations with camera images in order to produce synchronous recordings. Audio and video can be monitored in real-time, but are also stored onboard in blackbox-like devices, generally for 30 days, for later retrieval. Four to six cameras with mics are generally installed throughout a bus, including one near the driver and one on the exterior of the bus.

***

Privacy and security expert Ashkan Soltani told the Daily that the audio could easily be coupled with facial recognition systems or audio recognition technology to identify passengers caught on the recordings.

RT notes:

 

Street lights that can spy installed in some American cities

America welcomes a new brand of smart street lightning systems: energy-efficient, long-lasting, complete with LED screens to show ads. They can also spy on citizens in a way George Orwell would not have imagined in his worst nightmare.

­With a price tag of $3,000+ apiece, according to an ABC report, the street lights are now being rolled out in Detroit, Chicago and Pittsburgh, and may soon mushroom all across the country.

Part of the Intellistreets systems made by the company Illuminating Concepts, they have a number of “homeland security applications” attached.

Each has a microprocessor “essentially similar to an iPhone,” capable of wireless communication. Each can capture images and count people for the police through a digital camera, record conversations of passers-by and even give voice commands thanks to a built-in speaker.

Ron Harwood, president and founder of Illuminating Concepts, says he eyed the creation of such a system after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Hurricane Katrina disaster. He is “working with Homeland Security” to deliver his dream of making people “more informed and safer.”

 

Cell towers track where your phone is at any moment, and the major cell carriers, including Verizon and AT&T, responded to at least 1.3 million law enforcement requests for cell phone locations and other data in 2011. (And – given that your smartphone routinely sends your location information back to Apple or Google – it would be child’s play for the government to track your location that way.) Your iPhone, or other brand of smartphone is spying on virtually everything you do (ProPublica notes: “That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker“).

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

The TSA has moved way past airports, trains and sports stadiums, and is deploying mobile scanners to spy on people all over the place. This means that traveling within the United States is no longer a private affair.

You might also have seen the news this week that the Department of Homeland Security is going to continue to allow searches of laptops and phones based upon “hunches”.

What’s that about?

The ACLU published a map in 2006 showing that nearly two-thirds of the American public – 197.4 million people – live within a “constitution-free zone” within 100 miles of land and coastal borders:

 

 

The ACLU explained:

  • Normally under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the American people are not generally subject to random and arbitrary stops and searches.
  • The border, however, has always been an exception. There, the longstanding view is that the normal rules do not apply. For example the authorities do not need a warrant or probable cause to conduct a “routine search.”
  • But what is “the border”? According to the government, it is a 100-mile wide strip that wraps around the “external boundary” of the United States.
  • As a result of this claimed authority, individuals who are far away from the border, American citizens traveling from one place in America to another, are being stopped and harassed in ways that our Constitution does not permit.
  • Border Patrol has been setting up checkpoints inland — on highways in states such as California, Texas and Arizona, and at ferry terminals in Washington State. Typically, the agents ask drivers and passengers about their citizenship. Unfortunately, our courts so far have permitted these kinds of checkpoints – legally speaking, they are “administrative” stops that are permitted only for the specific purpose of protecting the nation’s borders. They cannot become general drug-search or other law enforcement efforts.
  • However, these stops by Border Patrol agents are not remaining confined to that border security purpose. On the roads of California and elsewhere in the nation – places far removed from the actual border – agents are stopping, interrogating, and searching Americans on an everyday basis with absolutely no suspicion of wrongdoing.
  • The bottom line is that the extraordinary authorities that the government possesses at the border are spilling into regular American streets.

Computer World reports:

Border agents don’t need probable cause and they don’t need a stinking warrant since they don’t need to prove any reasonable suspicion first. Nor, sadly, do two out of three people have First Amendment protection; it is as if DHS has voided those Constitutional amendments and protections they provide to nearly 200 million Americans.

***

Don’t be silly by thinking this means only if you are physically trying to cross the international border. As we saw when discussing the DEA using license plate readers and data-mining to track Americans movements, the U.S. “border” stretches out 100 miles beyond the true border. Godfather Politics added:

But wait, it gets even better! If you live anywhere in Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey or Rhode Island, DHS says the search zones encompass the entire state.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have a “longstanding constitutional and statutory authority permitting suspicionless and warrantless searches of merchandise at the border and its functional equivalent.” This applies to electronic devices, according to the recent CLCR “Border Searches of Electronic Devices” executive summary [PDF]:

Fourth Amendment

The overall authority to conduct border searches without suspicion or warrant is clear and longstanding, and courts have not treated searches of electronic devices any differently than searches of other objects. We conclude that CBP’s and ICE’s current border search policies comply with the Fourth Amendment. We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits. However, we do think that recording more information about why searches are performed would help managers and leadership supervise the use of border search authority, and this is what we recommended; CBP has agreed and has implemented this change beginning in FY2012.***

The ACLU said, Wait one darn minute! Hello, what happened to the Constitution? Where is the rest of CLCR report on the “policy of combing through and sometimes confiscating travelers’ laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices—even when there is no suspicion of wrongdoing?” DHS maintains it is not violating our constitutional rights, so the ACLU said:

If it’s true that our rights are safe and that DHS is doing all the things it needs to do to safeguard them, then why won’t it show us the results of its assessment? And why would it be legitimate to keep a report about the impact of a policy on the public’s rights hidden from the very public being affected?

***

As Christian Post wrote, “Your constitutional rights have been repealed in ten states. No, this isn’t a joke. It is not exaggeration or hyperbole. If you are in ten states in the United States, your some of your rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights have been made null and void.”

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the entire DHS report about suspicionless and warrantless “border” searches of electronic devices. ACLU attorney Catherine Crump said “We hope to establish that the Department of Homeland Security can’t simply assert that its practices are legitimate without showing us the evidence, and to make it clear that the government’s own analyses of how our fundamental rights apply to new technologies should be openly accessible to the public for review and debate.”

Meanwhile, the EFF has tips to protect yourself and your devices against border searches. If you think you know all about it, then you might try testing your knowledge with a defending privacy at the U.S. border quiz.

 

Wired pointed out in 2008 that the courts have routinely upheld such constitution-free zones:

Federal agents at the border do not need any reason to search through travelers’ laptops, cell phones or digital cameras for evidence of crimes, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, extending the government’s power to look through belongings like suitcases at the border to electronics.

***

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the government, finding that the so-called border exception to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches applied not just to suitcases and papers, but also to electronics.

***

Travelers should be aware that anything on their mobile devices can be searched by government agents, who may also seize the devices and keep them for weeks or months. When in doubt, think about whether online storage or encryption might be tools you should use to prevent the feds from rummaging through your journal, your company’s confidential business plans or naked pictures of you and your-of-age partner in adult fun.

Going further down the high tech Big Brother rabbit hole, the FBI wants a backdoor to all software. The CIA wants to spy on you through your dishwasher and other appliances. Verizon has applied for a patent that would allow your television to track what you are doing, who you are with, what objects you’re holding, and what type of mood you’re in. (And some folks could conceivably be spying on you through your tv using existing technology.)

And they’re probably bluffing and exaggerating, but the Department of Homeland Security claims they will soon be able to know your adrenaline level, what you ate for breakfast and what you’re thinking … from 164 feet away.

Indeed, technology has made pervasive spying more possible than ever before.

TechDirt notes:

In a radio interview, Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin (who’s been one of the best at covering the surveillance state in the US) made a simple observation that puts much of this into context: the US surveillance regime has more data on the average American than the Stasi ever did on East Germans.

Postscript:  This is not some “post-9/11 reality”.  Spying on Americans started before 9/11

And the national security boys can choose to share U.S. civilian information with federal, state, local, or foreign entities for analysis of possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them.

And many say that the spying isn’t being done to keep us safe … but to crush dissent and to smear people who uncover unflattering this about the government … and to help the too big to fail businesses compete against smaller businesses (and here).

And for other reasons.  For example, the Atlantic notes:

In 2008, NSA workers told ABC News that they routinely eavesdropped on phone sex between troops serving overseas and their loved ones in America.

Note: Here’s a full report card on how well the government has been balancing civil liberties with other concerns.

Media Disinformation and the Framing of the Syrian War

December 22nd, 2013 by James Corbett

Months after the events took place, Pulitzer prize winning journalists and others are finally reporting about the lies and manipulations of the US government regarding the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria. Far from shining a light on the true situation in the country, however, these reports continue to avoid the underlying causes and explanations for what is happening in Syria, and the forces that are behind it. This is the GRTV Backgrounder on Global Research TV.

The architects of our modern system of manufactured consent and official propaganda have long known the importance of the mass media in framing public opinion on any given event. To the pathocrats who blazed the trail toward our modern era of information warfare and opinion control, facts themselves were malleable, subject not to objective reality but to the way they were perceived and internalized by a credulous public. As Ivy Lee, the man that the Rockefellers hired to invent the modern PR industry after the Ludlow massacre, put it:

“It is not the facts alone that strike the popular mind, but the way in which they take place and in which they are published that kindle the imagination…Besides, what is a fact? The effort to state an absolute fact is simply an attempt to…give you my interpretation of the facts.”

This disdain for the public and the psychopathic ease with which elected officials lie to their electorate is nowhere more apparent than when a democracy attempts to rally its citizens to support a war of aggression abroad. If truth is the first casualty of war, the battlefield where that casualty takes place is in the mind of the liars’ own citizenry.

Sadly, recent events have provided no shortage of examples of this phenomenon. In the early days of the Iraq War, media analyst Andrew Tyndall examined 414 news stories aired by ABC, CBS, and NBC about the build up to the war, finding that 380 of them, a staggering 92%, sourced back to one of three U.S. government agencies: the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon. A further study found that of 574 stories aired between Bush’s speech to the UN in September 2002 and the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, only 12 stories, just 2%, dealt with the possible aftermath of the invasion.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a remarkably similar pattern has played out in the years-long propaganda campaign to convince the American, British and Western public in general of the need for armed intervention in Syria. A September 2013 study from Pew Research found that in the wake of the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta in August, the coverage of the Syrian war debate on cable news networks from supposedly different viewpoints was almost identical. The study found that Al Jazeera America, CNN, and BBC America all framed their reports in substantially similar ways and relied on substantially similar sources, including by far their most common three sources: the White House, the congress, and the military. A further study in October of this year by the Public Accountability Initiative found that many of the so-called Syria “experts” relied on by the western media to provide commentary on the Syrian conflict had direct financial ties to the defense industry, exactly as had been previously exposed in coverage of the Iraq war.

None of this is surprising to those who have been following the media coverage of the Syrian conflict from the beginning. Indeed, alternative media pundits have been pointing out the obviously biased coverage of the conflict since its very inception.

The beginning of the campaign to frame public opinion on Syria can be traced back at least as far as 2006, when the Bush administration first approved US government funding and training for opposition forces in the country, but began in earnest after the conflict broke out in 2011.

From the early days of the Syrian conflict, Western media outlets including CNN relied on dubious activist Danny Dayem, known as “Syria Danny,” for coverage on the ground in the war-torn country. However, after Syria Danny was exposed staging his reports, Anderson Cooper invited him on his program, not to explain why he was staging fictitious reports, but how the evidence of that fakery made its way onto the internet.

In March 2012, several key staff from Al Jazeera’s Beirut bureau, including the bureau’s managing director, a correspondent and a producer, all resigned in protest of the network’s bias in its coverage of the Syria conflict.

In August of 2012, the BBC released a video report showing members of the Syrian terrorist insurgency planning to trick a prisoner into becoming an unwitting suicide bomber, a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. After independent media started to draw attention to the clip, it was quickly removed from the BBC website and copyright violations were posted on YouTube copies of the footage.

And in the wake of the recent Syrian chemical weapons attack, the BBC aired an interview with a dubious medical expert that appeared to have had its soundtrack drastically altered in two different versions of the interview broadcast in separate reports.

As Michel Chossudovsky, director of The Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal, points out, however, as egregious as these manipulations are, even the more “balanced” critiques such as Seymour Hersh’s recent reporting on the US government’s manipulation of its intelligence over the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, still exclude the key information which would help the public understand what is really happening in Syria.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Syrian war coverage of the mainstream media is not its underlying bias—that was always to be expected—but how remarkably ineffective that coverage has been in convincing the public of the need for military intervention in the country. After nearly three years of relentless propaganda attempting to convince the public of the virtue of the terrorist insurgency and the incomparable evil of Assad, the seemingly inevitable march toward war in the wake of the Ghouta chemical weapons attack faltered after public opinion overwhelmingly came down on the side of non-interventionist policies.

Perhaps reading public sentiment, many mainstream outlets even took to pointing out the media bias on the war and trying to retroactively position themselves against military intervention. This has to be credited to a remarkable, global, grassroots phenomenon of independent citizen media breaking through the layers of propaganda to provide true, cogent analysis of the situation on the ground in Syria. In the face of generations swayed by the mass media manipulation of Ivy Lee and his ideological progeny, this alternative media movement is setting the foundation for an alternative paradigm in which Lee’s cynical rhetorical question “What is a fact?” has a very different answer than that which the ruling classes would want us to believe.

Britain’s Youth Unemployment Crisis

December 22nd, 2013 by Joe Mount

UK youth unemployment in the UK now stands at 21 percent, or nearly 1 million people.

More than 650,000 young people are classified as NEETs (not in education, employment, or training), or 9 percent of the total. The number of under-25s in work has fallen rapidly since 2008, reaching 49.9 percent in recent months, the lowest figure since records began in 1992.

Long-term unemployment is also rising. The number of workers aged 18 to 24 and unemployed for over two years trebled since the start of the recession to 115,000—the highest figure since July 1994, according to government figures. A third of those unemployed, a quarter-million youth, have been jobless for more than a year. The Princes’ Trust youth charity said the number of long-term unemployed youth seeking their help has risen by at least a third since 2010.

The jobs situation is more difficult for youth than older workers. The unemployment rate for under-25s is 3.7 times higher than for adults and has increased over the past year, according to a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Current levels of youth unemployment are predicted to cause widespread poverty in old age, as most youth can’t afford retirement savings, according to a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

They also attribute this to the undermining of state pensions. Successive governments have promoted private saving schemes with monthly contributions that are neglected during periods of unemployment, creating pension shortfalls. Some are linked to the stock market, placing pensions in further jeopardy.

This threatens youth with poverty. The report notes that “pension reforms made during the past two decades lowered the pension promise for workers who enter the labour market today. Working longer may help to make up part of the reductions, but every year of contribution toward future pensions generally results in lower benefits than before the reforms.

“In 2010, the average poverty rate among the elderly was 12.8%. In many OECD countries, the risk of poverty is higher at younger ages.”

Long-term youth unemployment also raises the threat of life-long social scarring, with disadvantaged youth facing a future of insecure, low-wage work or NEET status.

Aside from poverty, homelessness and mental illness, there is a devastating impact on young people’s physical health, as highlighted by a recent World Health Organisation study. Leading researcher Professor Michael Marmot warned that “persistent high levels of youth unemployment are a public health time bomb waiting to explode.”

Youth unemployment is pushing increasing numbers into further education or training, with the number of full-time students up 10 percent since the onset of recession. These youth must shoulder a huge student debt burden and face a stagnant job market upon graduation. The public sector, the biggest graduate employer, is shedding jobs at a record pace due to the austerity agenda of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

This means that most graduates cannot find work commensurate with their skills, with 47 percent of recent graduates in unskilled jobs, up from 39 percent in 2007 and 27 per cent in 2001, according to official figures.

Graduates are squeezing unqualified youth out of the labour market, with more than 50 graduates competing for each entry-level position, according to the Adzuna jobs site, an official UK government data source. Britain’s graduates are repeating the experience of Japan’s, who have largely been trapped in precarious, unskilled jobs since that country’s economic stagnation began in the early 1990s.

Although a degree retains a clear economic benefit, graduate earnings are falling. Current graduates are paid 12 percent less in real terms than their counterparts before the financial crash, according to the Student Loans Company. This is three times greater than the fall in average pay for all full-time workers since 2007. The figures exclude the 28 percent of recent graduates who earn below the loan repayment threshold or the 17 percent who are unemployed.

The student debt burden has increased 60 percent during the same period, as the tuition fee cap was almost tripled last year to £9,000. Universities now charge an average of £8,400 per year, in addition to living expenses.

The government has also announced plans to privatise the student loan book, selling it to investors at giveaway prices. Investors are now free to profit from student debt and ramp up interest repayments to commercial rates. These changes will be retrospective, also applying to past graduates.

These appalling social conditions and the bleak prospects facing youth in the UK are symptomatic of the protracted decay of British capitalism. Five years after the 2008 financial crash, the economy is stagnant. Despite some GDP growth, the number of unemployed is still at 2.5 million, according to official estimates.

All the major parties are fully committed to enacting devastating austerity measures. They aim to make the working class pay for the world economic crisis, while enriching themselves by gutting the welfare state through extensive privatisation. As part of this, the ruling class is stepping up its attacks on the existing, inadequate social provisions for young people.

The government’s own advisors admit that its Youth Contract has failed. Launched last year, the government claimed the £1 billion scheme would provide more than 160,000 work placements and apprenticeships for those out of work for six months or more. In reality, it is a wage subsidy to businesses that has created only 4,700 placements over the past year, according to official figures. Only 2,070 payments were made to firms that employed youth for the full 26-week placement.

Workfare schemes, where the unemployed are forced to work for free to receive benefits, are rapidly proliferating. Chancellor George Osborne used his Autumn Statement address to blame youth for their situation. He threatened that all long-term unemployed youth aged 18 to 21 would be forced into unpaid work schemes or lose their benefit payments.

Earlier, the Conservative Party conference heard Prime Minister David Cameron insisting on “tough love” for NEETs. In reality, his plans for the elimination of housing and unemployment benefit for under-25s will condemn hundreds of thousands to complete parental dependency or homelessness.

The US Senate voted Thursday night to authorize nearly $633 billion in military spending. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation, which provides $552.1 billion for the regular military budget and $80.7 billion for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas contingency operations (OCO).

The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes spending for the fiscal year that began October 1. It is the 52nd consecutive year that Congress has passed such legislation, and represents a minimal reduction from the $643 billion authorized for fiscal year 2013.

To put these expenditures into perspective, the budget for all of fiscal year 2013 for food stamps, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), was $76.4 billion, only 12 percent of the figure designated for the military in 2014. A Republican proposal in the Farm Bill, which Congress has yet to pass, would cut $39 billion over the next decade from this vital nutrition program.

Some 1.3 million Americans will lose their sole income at the end of this month when the federal government ends extended unemployment benefits. The $25.6 billion spent on these benefits in 2013 is dwarfed by the massive spending on the military apparatus and its destructive weaponry slated for fiscal year 2014.

The Senate voted 84-15 to pass the Pentagon spending bill, and the US House approved similar legislation last week in a 350-69 vote. The bill’s passage demonstrates the overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress for the continued US presence in Afghanistan and other acts of military aggression across the globe. The legislation covers combat pay, ships, aircraft and military bases, as well as providing a 1 percent pay raise to military personnel.

The bill also includes measures in response to the widespread instances of sexual assault in the US military and their cover-up and deliberate disregard and mishandling by the military brass. The Pentagon estimates that at least 26,000 members of the military may have been sexually assaulted last year alone, and that thousands more victims did not come forward for fear of inaction or retribution.

The legislation would strip commanders of their ability to overturn military jury convictions and would also require a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case. Any individual convicted of sexual assault would also face dishonorable discharge or dismissal.

The legislation does not include a proposal by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (Democrat of New York) that would give victims of sexual assault an independent route to pursue prosecutions of their attackers outside the military chain of command.

The Congressional authorization of close to $81 billion to fund the continued occupation of Afghanistan stands in sharp contrast to deep popular opposition to the 13-year-old war, in which 2,289 US troops have died and more than have been 19,000 wounded.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1,005 US adults conducted December 12-15 shows that 66 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting, and a record 50 percent now “strongly” believe that the war has not been worth the cost.

A separate Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday shows that 57 percent of Americans think the US did “the wrong thing” in going to war in Afghanistan.

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have died as a result of airstrikes, house-to-house raids, as well as a consequence of displacement, starvation and disease, and lack of medical treatment. The US government has refused to sign a security agreement with the regime of Afghan President Hamid Karzai—which would keep 8,000-10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014—guaranteeing a halt to US military raids on civilian homes.

The NDAA not only authorizes the stationing of US troops in Afghanistan and at bases and other locations around the world, but covers the cost of weapons programs and military construction projects. The measure also authorizes $17.6 billion for nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy.

The Pentagon is authorized to buy this year’s installment of 29 F-35 Lightning II jets, capable of performing ground attack and reconnaissance with stealth capability. Produced by Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Maryland, the fighter jet is the military’s costliest weapons program, with an overall projected cost of $391.2 billion for a fleet of 2,443 aircraft.

The measure authorizes $1.3 billion for multiyear procurement contracts for Northrop Grumman’s E-2D Advanced Hawkeye surveillance plane, and would also prohibit the Pentagon’s plan to retire Northrop’s Global Hawk Block 30 drone.

The bill also authorizes $90 billion to continue upgrades performed by General Dynamics in Ohio of the M1A2 tank. It also provides $178 million in funding that was not requested by the Pentagon for M-1 Abrams tanks.

The cost ceiling has been raised to $12.9 billion on the USS Gerald R. Ford, being built by Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News, Virginia, making the vessel the most expensive US warship in history. The NDAA will require quarterly reports from the Navy on its cost estimates for the USS John F. Kennedy, the next in the new class of aircraft carriers.

The NDAA authorizes $284 million to boost Israel, the US ally in the Middle East in its pursuit of control over the oil rich region and its targeting of Iran, Syria and other nations. This includes $33.7 million to improve the Arrow Weapon System and $117 million for the Short-Range Missile Defense Program. Another $22 million is pegged for development of the Arrow-3 upper-tier interceptor, a joint development project of Chicago-based Boeing Co. and Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd.

Putting Fukushima In Perspective

There was no background radioactive cesium before above-ground nuclear testing and nuclear accidents started.

Wikipedia provides some details on the distribution of cesium-137 due to human activities:

Small amounts of caesium-134 and caesium-137 were released into the environment during nearly all nuclear weapon tests and some nuclear accidents, most notably the Chernobyl disaster.

***

Caesium-137 is unique in that it is totally anthropogenic. Unlike most other radioisotopes, caesium-137 is not produced from its non-radioactive isotope, but from uranium. It did not occur in nature before nuclear weapons testing began. By observing the characteristic gamma rays emitted by this isotope, it is possible to determine whether the contents of a given sealed container were made before or after the advent of atomic bomb explosions. This procedure has been used by researchers to check the authenticity of certain rare wines, most notably the purported “Jefferson bottles”.

As the EPA notes:

Cesium-133 is the only naturally occurring isotope and is non-radioactive; all other isotopes, including cesium-137, are produced by human activity.

What people call “background” radiation is really the amount of radiation deposited into the environment within the last 100 years from nuclear tests and nuclear accidents (and naturally-occurring substances, such as radon).

2,053 nuclear tests occurred between 1945 and 1998:

Above-ground nuclear tests – which caused numerous cancers to the “downwinders” – were covered up by the American, French and other governments for decades. See this, this, this, this, this and this.

But the amount of radiation pumped out by Fukushima dwarfs the amount released by the nuclear tests.

As nuclear engineer and former nuclear executive Arnie Gundersen notes, the wave of radioactive cesium from Fukushima which is going to hit the West Coast of North America will be 10 times greater than from the nuclear tests (starting at 55:00).

This graphic from Woods Hole in Massachusetts – one of the world’s top ocean science institutions – shows how much more cesium was dumped into the sea off Japan from Fukushima as compared to nuclear testing and Chernobyl:

(And Fukushima radiation has arrived on the West Coast years earlier than predicted.)

The Canadian government has confirmed in October that Fukushima radiation will exceed “levels higher than maximum fallout” from the nuclear tests.

The party line from the Japanese, Canadian and American governments are that these are safe levels of radiation.   Given that those countries have tried to ban investigative journalism and have tried to cover up the scope of the Fukushima disaster, people may want to investigate for ourselves.

For example, Gundersen notes that the U.S. government flew helicopters with special radiation testing equipment 90 days after the Fukushima meltdown happened.  The government said it was just doing a routine “background radiation” check, but that it was really measuring the amount of “hot particles” in the Seattle area (starting at 27:00). Hot particles are inhaled and become very dangerous “internal emitters”. The government then covered up the results on the basis of “national security”.

As the Washington Department of Health noted at the time:

A helicopter flying over some urban areas of King and Pierce counties will gather radiological readings July 11-28, 2011. [Seattle is in King County.] The U.S. Department of Energy’s Remote Sensing Laboratory Aerial Measurement System will collect baseline levels of radioactive materials.

**

Some of the data may be withheld for national security purposes.

Similarly, the Department of Homeland Security and National Nuclear Security Administration sent low-flying helicopters over the San Francisco Bay Area in 2012 to test for radiation. But they have not released the results.

Indeed, residents of Seattle breathed in 5 hot particles each day in April of 2011 … a full 50% of what Tokyo residents were breathing at the time:

After all, the reactors at Fukushima literally exploded … and ejected cladding from the reactors and fuel particles. And see this.

Gundersen says that geiger counters don’t measure hot particles. Unless the government or nuclear scientists measure and share their data, we are in the dark as to what’s really going on.

U.S. Navy Sailors Sue TEPCO over Cluster-Fukushima Snafu

December 22nd, 2013 by William Boardman

“Why has this not made national headlines??? The Aircraft Carrier Ronald Reagan is nuclear powered. Radiation detection equipment did not pick up on this?? Why have these sailors and marines medical records been removed from permanent tracking. Criminal implications galore. This should be all over mainstream media. Someone please forward all these ene reports to the media…. Tepco is the lowest of snakes. Hari Kari for the lot of em!!”

Fukushima lawsuit of 2012 comes as news to too much of the public

The story referred to in the enenews.com comment above has had some coverage by Energy News, Tuner Radio Network, Stars and Stripes and a few others, but coverage, if any, by mainstream media is scant to none. All the same, it’s a real story, with real villains (TEPCO, Japanese government, U.S. Navy for starters), and real victims (a growing number of American service personnel put in harm’s way and abandoned by their government when things got tough).

The core of this story is the lawsuit filed December 21, 2012, by attorney Paul C, Garner of Brooks & Associates of Encinatas, California, on behalf of nine plaintiffs (including a one-year-old), all of whom “were among the members of the U.S. Navy crew and attached to the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), whose home port was San Diego, California, when they were exposed to radiation off the coast at Fukushima prefecture, Japan, whereat the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant is located, on and after March 11, 2011, during the mission known as ‘Operation Tomodachi.’”

The plaintiffs are seeking $40 million each in damages as well as a fund of more than a billion dollars to be used for their future medical expenses, and requested a jury trial. On November 26, federal judge Janis Sammartino dismissed the complaint on narrow jurisdictional grounds and plaintiffs plan to re-file in January within the judge’s stated parameters.

The U.S.S. Reagan is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a crew of about 5,000 that arrived off the coast of Fukushima the day after the tsunami with other ships as part of Operation Tomodachi, or “friend” in Japanese.

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake near Fukushima caused a tsunami that killed an estimated 19,000 people and swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant. In the aftermath of the tsunami, three of the six reactors at Fukushima melted down, releasing radiation into the air, ground, and water. The precise sequence of events remains unclear, but the Japanese government and TEPCO (the Tokyo Electric Power Company, a wholly owned public benefit subsidiary of the government of Japan) were not being fully forthcoming about the danger as the disaster developed. 

 Japanese officials apparently lied to everyone about the damage

Although the potential seriousness of the Fukushima accident was widely apparent, Japanese officials publicly and privately minimized the danger for as long as they could, lying to their own people and rescue personnel from other countries alike. At the time, the first meltdown was thought to have happened on March 12. But on December 12, 2013, Naoto Kan, the former prime minister who was in office at the time, told a meeting of the Japan Press Club that his government had known that “the first meltdown occurred five hours after the earthquake” which hit at 14:46 on March 11. 

 The U.S.S. Reagan and accompanying ships were coming into an environment where radiation levels in the air and water were far higher than the Navy was being told officially.  That lying is at the heart of the lawsuit against TEPCO, which was exposing its own workers to even greater risks than U.S. Sailors. The lawsuit argues that TEPCO’s lies led the U.S. Navy to sail unknowingly into intensely and dangerously radioactive waters.

 True as that may be, it fails to explain why the Navy would be so trusting and negligent in the first place. The Reagan is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Its officers and crew are or should be more sensitive than most to radioactive risk under all conditions, but especially when approaching a damaged nuclear power plant, and operating downwind of Fukushima. 

For days (it’s not clear how many), U.S. sailors were going into the radioactive ocean to save people swept out to sea by the tsunami. Sailors were drinking and bathing in desalinated ocean water until someone figured out it was radioactive. Sailors washed planes and surfaces of the ship that were radioactive. How do the people in charge of the Reagan not know they’re in a radioactive environment without being negligent? 

U.S. Seventh Fleet Public Affairs issues incredible press release 

 On March 14, 2011, without explaining what woke them up to the danger, which they minimized anyway, Navy officials issued a press release that began:

 “The U.S. 7th Fleet has temporarily repositioned its ships and aircraft away from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant after detecting low level contamination in the air and on its aircraft operating in the area. The source of this airborne radioactivity is a radioactive plume released from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant.

“For perspective, the maximum potential radiation dose received by any ship’s force personnel aboard the ship when it passed through the area was less than the radiation exposure received from about one month of exposure to natural background radiation from sources such as rocks, soil, and the sun.”

 Why would anyone believe that, having failed to detect (they say) the radioactive plume, the Navy has any credible way of knowing what exposure any sailor may have received? The Navy also claimed the Reagan was 100 miles away from Fukushima “at the time,” not specified. The Navy further claimed that only 17 crew members in three helicopter crews were exposed, that the “low level radioactivity was easily removed… by washing with soap and water,” and “no further contamination was detected.”  

 This impossible-to-believe narrative was then effectively contradicted by the next paragraph of the press release:

“As a precautionary measure, USS Ronald Reagan and other U.S. 7th Fleet ships conducting disaster response operations in the area have moved out of the downwind direction from the site to assess the situation and determine what appropriate mitigating actions are necessary.” 

If no further contamination was detected, then it should be relatively easy to determine what appropriate mitigation actions were necessary. 

 Navy “supports the troops,” at least until they really need it 

According to individual reports, the Navy passed out iodine pills to officers and pilots, but not to most of the crew. The Navy also required crew members, before they could go on shore leave later in Thailand, to sign papers stating that they were healthy and couldn’t sue the Navy. Clearly that would be mitigating for the Navy, even if it meant abandoning people whose potential radiation injuries wouldn’t be showing up for months or years.   

 That’s exactly what happened to Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Hair, as reported in Stars and Stripes in July 2013. Hair is part of the lawsuit against TEPCO and, like the other plaintiffs, has classic symptoms of low level radiation poisoning. The article also minimizes the possible exposure on the Reagan, quoting a Navy spokesman who uses the exact same language as the 2011 press release to minimize Fukushima radiation levels.  

According to Stars and Stripes, Hair was told that the Reagan was just 5-10 miles off the coast of Fukushima. The paper also reported that:

 “Sailors were drinking desalinated seawater and bathing in it until the ship’s leadership came over the public address system and told them to stop because it was contaminated, Hair said. They were told the ventilation system was contaminated, and he claims he was pressured into signing a form that said he had been given an iodine pill even though none had been provided. As a low-ranking sailor, he believed he had no choice.

 “The Navy has acknowledged that the Reagan passed through a plume of radiation but declined to comment on the details in Hair’s story.” 

 Most of the sick sailors are in their early twenties

 There’s no apparent reason to doubt that there are sick sailors, not all of them part of the lawsuit, but all of them with a common source of exposure from Fukushima. Two other plaintiffs, Maurice Enis and his girlfriend, Jaime Plym, held a press conference on March 11, 2013, that was part of a symposium at the New York Academy of Medicine dealing with the medical and ecological consequences of Fukushima. Enis and Plym both served on the Reagan, as the Huffington Post  reported:  

 “The couple had been looking forward to leaving the military and starting a family. Now, Enis said, they don’t know if children will be an option due to health problems they’ve both developed since signing away government liability. They’ve both been honorably discharged from the military and don’t know how they will pay for medical treatment. Plym has a new diagnosis of asthma and her menstrual cycle is severely out of whack. Enis has lumps on his jaw, between his eyes and on his thigh. He’s also developed stomach ulcers and lung problems, and is losing weight and hair.” 

In all, the Pentagon sent some 70,000 American military personnel to serve in or near Japan in response to Fukushima during the period from March 12 to May 11, 2011. And in 2011, the Dept. of Defense set out to do the right thing for these men and women who may have been exposed to harmful levels of radiation. The Defense Dept. announced plans to establish the Operation Tomodachi Registry to help these people track their health histories, an initiative pushed by Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. According to the Pentagon:

“The DOD may establish an environmental health surveillance registry when: 1) occupational and environmental health exposures could cause illness, or 2) when the exposure is not expected to cause illness, but individuals need access to exposure data. In either case, these registries will contain the names of all the individuals who were known or believed to have been exposed along with estimates of their exposure.”

 No radiation level is “safe,” and internal radiation is less safe

Since the Pentagon admitted it was unprepared to deal with radiation risk when the Fukushima crisis began, the creation of a registry was something of an after-the-fact means of making up for that initial unpreparedness. By the end of July 2011, the Pentagon reported that it had “already done ‘internal monitoring’ of radiation levels inside the bodies of 7,700 personnel who worked in parts of the disaster zone closest to the damaged power plant, including those who flew over the disaster zone….”

 But the same report went on to minimize the impact without addressing the timeframe in which the radiation was received:

“The scans revealed that 98 percent of those personnel did not have elevated radiation inside their bodies…. among the 2 percent of service members (about 154 individuals) with elevated internal radiation levels the highest readings were about 25 millirems, equivalent to the dose that they would receive from 2 1/2 chest X-rays.”

The lawsuit against TEPCO has 50-75 plaintiffs, as new people continue to join. If the 2 per cent with elevated exposure levels found by the Pentagon is relevant, then there would be something like 1,400 potential plaintiffs among the 70,000 service members who were part of Operation Tomodachi. The lawsuit was filed in December 2012, before the radiation exposure registry was completed. In September 2012, the Pentagon put out another press release touting the usefulness of the registry even though it asserted that “no Defense Department personnel or their families were exposed to radiation causing adverse health conditions following the nuclear accident in Japan last year.” 

 The Defense Dept. promised the registry would be finished in 2012. The suffering veterans filed their lawsuit December 21. Within a month, the Pentagon decided to drop the whole registry thing after an almost two-year effort, saying that it had decided that there was no serious contamination in the first place. 

 This decision means, as Roger Witherspoon wrote on his blog at the time, “there will be no way to determine if patterns of health problems emerge among the members of the Marines, Army, Air Force, Corps of Engineers, and Navy stationed at 63 installations in Japan with their families. In addition, it leaves thousands of sailors and Marines in the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group 7 on their own when it comes to determining if any of them are developing problems caused by radiation exposure.” 

 So as far as the government is concerned, officially, it doesn’t matter if Operation Tomodachi becomes, for some who served, a mission kamikaze.   

United Nations’ drones: A sign of what’s to come?

December 22nd, 2013 by Global Research News

By: Anna Crowe

News that the United Nations is using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) to collect information in the troubled east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) illustrates the growing use – and acceptance – of surveillance technologies in humanitarian operations.

The deployment of two drones by the UN Stabilisation Mission (MONUSCO) in the DRC last week, to assist the Mission in fulfilling its mandate to protect civilians, had been long foreshadowed, with requests for their use in the eastern DRC dating back to 2008; the UN Security Council effectively authorised MONUSCO to use drones in January 2013 following a 2012 letter from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commenting on the ability of drones “to enhance situational awareness and permit timely decision-making” in the eastern DRC.

Despite the careful groundwork laid for their deployment and repeated assurances that the drones would not be weaponised, the picture of UN drones flying over conflict zones raises the spectre of the infamous US drone programme and its “targeted” killings. However, a more appropriate, though equally concerning, comparison is with existing initiatives utilising surveillance technologies to assist in humanitarian work. The seemingly benign use of satellite imagery to record massive human rights abuses, for example, is now fairly well established. The privacy implications of using these technologies in humanitarian settings are, however, not well understood.

Unanswered questions

The humanitarian crisis in the conflict-wracked eastern DRC is severe and MONUSCO’s resources are limited. Over the last year alone, more than 100,000 people have been displaced, “exacerbating an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region which includes 2.6 million internally displaced persons and 6.4 million in need of food and emergency aid.” One of the key challenges MONUSCO faces is gathering information in the expanse of the eastern DRC to enable it to carry out its mandate of protecting civilians, tracking armed groups and assessing the needs of displaced populations. The information collected by the DRC drones is extensive and, no doubt, very useful to MONUSCO: the UN Under-Secretary for Peacekeeping Operations, in discussing the Eastern DRC deployment, has noted:

One can observe the movements of the armed groups, movements of populations and can even see the arms carried by people on the ground, and it is also possible to see people in forested areas.”

It is clear that collecting information about the complex and constantly evolving situation on the ground is critical to protecting the civilian population and understanding the dynamics of armed groups’ operation. Surveillance drones might well be an appropriate response to this need in the Eastern DRC, but there are many unanswered questions around the information they collect.

For one, who will have access to the information? The drones are reportedly being deployed with consent of the DRC government, and neighbouring countries Rwanda and Uganda have been informed. Could the UN drones – deployed to protect civilians – become the unwitting instruments of government surveillance of vulnerable groups? The drones are also gathering information on environmental damage, but will the information they obtain also be used to identify valuable mineral resources, to further drive conflict?

How will MONUSCO use information it obtains about the movements of armed groups – will publicity cause more unpredictable behaviour or put different populations in harm’s way? How is the information collected stored and kept secure from hackers? Do civilians in the region know the drones are unarmed, or will they fear their presence? These are the types of questions that the UN press releases do not answer, but which are critical to assessing the success – or otherwise – of the drones’ mission.

The UN as an intelligence-gathering agency?

While the prospect of weaponised UN drones remains remote, more worrying – and perhaps less evident –  is the idea that this deployment might augur an era of increasingly intrusive surveillance by UN bodies in the name of humanitarian good. In a June briefing to the UN Security Council, MONUSCO’s Force Commander enthusiastically promoted the use of drones in the eastern DRC and also notably endorsed a more expansive scope for surveillance by the UN, stating,

[There is] the potential to make much greater use of surveillance technology to bolster monitoring capacity, as in the context of cross-border activity. We have borders with many countries and more than 50 armed groups operating close to those borders, which they may cross, leading to broader disturbances. High-resolution imagery could be of significant use as material evidence. In a similar vein, the selective employment of signals intelligence could enable peacekeepers to stay one step ahead of those posing a threat to peace, which would undoubtedly help to mitigate the risks both to the population and to United Nations troops and personnel.”

If drones are the first step in implementing this NSA-lite vision of UN Peacekeeping Operations, their deployment in eastern DRC may represent a deeply concerning development. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that in the same briefing, the Force Commander was careful to note “certain sensitivities and limitations that need to be recognised”:

“The use of surveillance devices could be regarded as overly intrusive by host nations if not adequately controlled, including the information that is generated. … Advanced technology also often requires skilled operators and analysis to support it. Such resources are often in scarce supply, particularly for the United  Nations …”

Drones – the future for the UN?

The drone deployment in eastern DRC is explicitly on a trial basis, but in the June briefing to the Security Council the UN Under-Secretary for Peacekeeping Operations observed that there inevitably would be pressure to deploy them in other peacekeeping operations, stating that “…clearly there is a demand in several other missions and I think there is a need. We shall do that in an appropriate way in the sense that we will first want to learn our lessons and then see how we can best implement it elsewhere.”

This willingness to discuss drones and the role of surveillance technologies in humanitarian settings should be seized now, to prevent the UN itself from facilitating a culture of surveillance that the people of the world – and the UN’s own organs – are rejecting. As Kristin Bergtora Sandvik and Kjersti Lohne of PRIO have noted, drones may “offer humanitarian agencies a range of possibilities in relation to crisis mapping, search and rescue and (some way off in the future) cargo transport and relief drops”. What safeguards must be put in place to ensure that the same technology and its fruits are not used for more malevolent purposes?

Copyright Privacy international 2013

Friday 19th of December felt more like a 13th for many Ugandans. The country has finally passed its notorious anti-gay bill. The bill makes it a crime to be gay, to ‘promote homosexuality’ and not to report someone who is gay to the authorities. So far so very 1930s Germany . After years of fear instilling promises to codify the  death penalty for being gay, the proposed state sponsored holocaust has been somewhat tempered  down to a severe jail sentence of up to 18 years. This giant step backwards for Uganda is a giant step backwards for all of humankind.

David Behati, the Member of Parliament who first proposed the private members’ bill, may not have had his blood lust satiated but the passed bill is still one of the most anti-human laws in the world. Prime Minister Amama Mbabzi opposed the bill and as yet President  Museveni has not yet ratified it. The death knell is yet to toll. The only hope for Uganda’s LGBTQ communities, as well as their families and friends, is a massive outcry from the rest of the world.

What can we do? The threat of withholding development aid is one of the most powerful tools that we have at our disposals. For all the problems, corruption and mis-management that are our international development agencies are plagued with they sometimes get it right. Sometimes they even do what’s right. I urge everyone to write to their governments and demand that all aid to Uganda is suspended if President Museveni signs this bill into place.It is the last and only hope for Uganda’s LGBTQ communities and the least we owe our fellow men and women.

It is unconscionable that such an abhorrent sentence be imposed on anyone who dares to be themselves and dares to love who they want to love. Ethnocentric worries about imposing Western moral belief systems fall out the window when human rights come into play. Respect for humanity is not the sole preserve of Western minds. Gay rights are human rights. Human rights are universal. They may not be afforded universally but human rights are most definitely universal.

To those who say that with holding aid from Uganda will only punish those who need it most I do see your reasoning but I believe it is flawed. It is true that those who need aid most in Uganda are not served sufficiently by their government. There are millions of people in Uganda dependent on international development through no fault of their own. The West owes a huge debt to the Ugandan people for years of colonial and post-colonial exploitation. Their extreme poverty  has its roots in our historical and present day lust for Africa’s wealth. This needs to be addressed, acknowledged and rectified. But sacrificing and ignoring the rights of LGBTQ Ugandans, their families and friends is not the way to go about it.

 The bloated Ugandan political class and their evangelical puppet masters respond to one thing and one thing only. Money. If they see aid being withdrawn from their country they just might decide that the divide and conquer strategy is not the best way to line their bank accounts. The threat of ceasing aid from the United States and the United Kingdom has worked in the past to delay the bill until now. A more concerted effort is what is needed right now.

It won’t be long before petitions start appearing on your facebook newsfeed so until then please take a moment to stand up for the rights of the millions of people whose lives will be destroyed if President Museveni does finally toll the death knell. Write to your member of parliament, your senator, your development minister, your president, your prime minister. Write to whomever you think might have a little influence. Just maybe they will do what’s right if enough of us implore them to.

Paul O’Keeffe is a doctoral research fellow at Sapienza University of Rome

As unrest continues in both countries, a sharp, hypocritical divide widens for the “intentional community.”  

For audiences around the world watching pro-EU protests unfold in the streets of Ukraine’s capital of Kiev, they may have noticed flags bearing a lifted hand giving a “three-fingered salute.” This is the reformed Nazi salute of right-winged nationalist group Svoboda.

Along with other racist, bigoted, extremist political parties including “Fatherland,” Svoboda has filled the streets, clashed with police, occupied government buildings and called for the overthrow of the elected government of Ukraine – for the sake of joining the European Union. The EU, for its part, awaits these mobs with open arms.

Joining the EU in anticipation is US Senator John McCain of the US National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) International Republican Institute. McCain went as far as traveling to Kiev, Ukraine, and even taking to the stage at the protest – side-by-side with Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok.

Of Svoboda, the Business Insider would have this to say in their article titled, “John McCain Went To Ukraine And Stood On Stage With A Man Accused Of Being An Anti-Semitic Neo-Nazi:”

“…Svoboda (which means freedom in Ukrainian) is one of those reconstructed modern European far right parties — it is aligned with the British National Party and the French National Front, for example — and it has gained some kind of electoral legitimacy, winning 10 percent of the seats in Ukraine’s parliament in 2010. 

However, the party’s past is seriously murky. When it was founded in 1995, the party called itself the Social-National Party of Ukraine (SNPU), and it had a swastika-like logo. While it eventually split from its more right wing members, the party remained focused on celebrating Ukrainian ethnic identity in opposition to Russia and Communism. 

Tyahnybok himself was expelled from the Our Ukraine parliamentary faction in 2004 after giving a speech demanding that Ukrainians fight against a ”Muscovite-Jewish mafia” (he later clarified this by saying that he actually had Jewish friends and was only against to “a group of Jewish oligarchs who control Ukraine and against Jewish-Bolsheviks [in the past]“). In 2005 he wrote open letters demanding Ukraine do more to halt “criminal activities” of “organized Jewry,” and, even now, Svoboda openly calls for Ukrainian citizens to have their ethnicity printed onto their passports.”

Image:  US Senator John McCain reaches new depths in an already truly disgraceful career - associating with literal Nazis to support them in their goal of guiding Ukraine, its wealth, and its people into the arms of Wall Street and London. McCain’s support for sedition worldwide for similar purposes has seen him visit other nations such as Egypt in his capacity as chairman of the IRI

….

One could scarcely imagine what justification John McCain could give for associating with literal Nazis. But one will have to be satisfied with only imagining, since the Western media, charged with seeking the truth, has not raised this question let alone answered it. Even the Business Insider attempts to give McCain the benefit of the doubt in order to allow the protests to continue and to allow the US, UK, and EU to continue openly supporting them.

Other protest leaders in Kiev include Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleksandr Turchynov, both of deposed, disgraced, and now currently imprisoned former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s All Ukrainian Union or “Fatherland” party. Both have taken controversial stances regarding homosexuals. 

In light of the recent “Duck Dynasty” hysteria, one might believe the Western media would have immediately highlighted “Fatherland’s” bigotry, especially considering the Nazi-pedigree of the party. 

Arseniy Yatsenyuk would go as far as stating, when his views regarding homosexual marriage were labelled “conservative” that:  

 ”I do not agree. If a man has normal views, then you label him a conservative, but those who use drugs or promote sodomy – you label them a progressive person. All of these are perversions.” 

And despite all of this, news organizations like the BBC are still attempting to endear global audiences to Ukraine’s pro-EU Nazis in articles like, “Ukraine protests: Singing in the cold.” And of course, not all of the protesters are Nazis – but those that are not should surely question just what they are supporting when the likes of Svoboda, “Fatherland,” and John McCain are standing beside them.

Back in Bangkok…

In the hundreds of thousands of protesters taking to the streets in Bangkok, Thailand, you will not find Nazis, nor “three-fingered salutes.” Neither will you find bigotry or disparagement being aimed at minority groups. There are no political parties leading marches that trace their pedigree back to Adolf Hitler and the global-spanning tragedy that he led the world into. And yet, when anti-regime protesters invited foreign dignitaries from the West to participate in a special press briefing, only Switzerland and Russia would attend.

The Thai anti-regime protesters, like in Ukraine, have filled the streets, clashed with police, occupied government buildings and called for the overthrow of the Thaksin Shinawatra regime. Unlike in Ukraine, the West has utterly condemned the protests as violent and “undemocratic.”

Worse yet, the only bigotry one will find against homosexuals in Thailand comes from the Wall Street-backed regime of Thaksin Shinawata, whose sister Yingluck Shinawatra is currently sitting for as “prime minister.”

Indeed, Thaksin’s “red shirt” mobs had used violence and intimidation to disrupt and shut down an HIV/AIDS awareness march organized by homosexual groups in the northern city of Chiang Mai, a regime stronghold. “Out in Perth” reported in their article, “Chiang Mai Pride Shut Down by Protests as Police Watch On,” that:

Organisers were forced to call off Chiang Mai’s planned second annual Gay Pride Parade on February 21 after harassment from the Rak Chiang Mai 51 political group.

Dressed in their trademark red shirts, members of Rak Chiang Mai 51 locked parade participants into the compound where they were gathering, throwing fruit and rocks and yelling abuse through megaphones.

150 police officers looked on but did nothing to intervene during the four and a half hour stand off.

Fearing escalating violence, organisers eventually called off the parade.

Ginger Norwood from the newly formed Sao-Sao-Et network says the decision to call off the parade was a difficult but necessary one.

‘The red shirts continued to threaten violence if the parade started and would not leave the blockaded area as long as there was a possibility that the parade might happen,’ she said.

‘The inaction of the police further added to the tense situation, because the organisers had no confidence the police would intervene or provide any kind of protection if the red shirt protesters attacked parade goers.’

The action against the Gay Pride Parade had been planned weeks before the event, with Rak Chiang Mai 51 using a local radio station to rally people and driving a truck around the city centre the day before, recruiting people to join their protest.

When asked what would happen if march organizers decided to ever hold another legally sanctioned event in Chiang Mai, regime demagogue Kanyapak (DJ Aom) Maneejak stated:

If in the future they wish to have a parade they can send us their proposal and if we think that it is polite then we will allow it, and even promote it.

Evidently, an already approved event must also be cleared by self-appointed arbiters wearing similar colored shirts who use violence and intimidation to crush opposing views – a tale that should sound sadly familiar as we recall the history of John McCain’s Svoboda friends in Ukraine.

It would appear then, that US Senator John McCain and the rest of the West who embrace the Nazis of Kiev, have decided to oppose the anti-regime protesters in Bangkok because their sort of regime is already in power in Thailand. It should be no surprise then, that McCain’s NED directly funds pro-regime propaganda outfits like Thailand’s Prachatai and hosted “red shirt” leaders in Washington DC ahead of the last general elections in 2011.

Whatever one might think of homosexuals – they are human beings and should be afforded the same amount of respect, dignity, and liberty as anyone else. Infringing upon one group opens the door for infringing upon others and then eventually upon us all – another maxim learned the hard way during the rise and fall of Nazism.

That Thaksin’s “red shirts,” whom the West, including the BBCNew York Times, and Reuters seem to portray as the embodiment of “democracy,” seem to believe otherwise is exactly why protesters have risen up against the regime and have demanded reform before elections, currently scheduled for February 2014. What has allowed Thaksin Shianwatra to remain dug into power for over a decade is most certainly not democracy – and the regime’s transgressions and thuggery go well beyond disrupting HIV/AIDS awareness marches.

For Now…

It is more than mere fascist ideology that attracts the West to Svoboda in Ukraine and the regime of Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand – it is each group’s willingness to make vast economic, social, and political concessions to the corporate-financier interests of the West in exchange for political power built upon foreign-funding, favorable news coverage in the Western press, and “appearances” by figures like John McCain to lend them legitimacy and drive they themselves lack. The forces opposed to them may not be perfect, but by comparison, and for the sake of both Ukraine and Thailand’s future and the many otherwise unprotected minorities that reside there, they are the best alternatives.

The West, and the Fortune 500 corporations that drive their destinies – corporations like Exxon, BP, Monsanto, Chevron, Raytheon, and other giants of big-pharma, agri, defense, oil, and finance – will not come to the aid of those opposing Nazis in Ukraine or fascistic, bigoted, violent mobs of “red shirts” in Thailand. No – that task is left to us. We must be the ones to speak up in the silence or confusion created by the West’s media machine and the many little helping hands that carry their propaganda far and wide.

We must get organized and work together to not only condemn a world we disagree with, but to build one we believe is better.

The Sandy Hook School Massacre, One Year Later

December 21st, 2013 by James F. Tracy

On the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, mainstream media are predictably excluding from their tragedy porn any substantive analysis of the idiosyncratic, misleading, and in some cases flagrantly propagandistic reportage of the event that might call the official story into question.

As with a majority of scandals and coverups over the past several decades where powerful interests are implicated, American journalism has become more and more complicit if not actively involved in delivering dubious information that establishes a dominant narrative, while thereafter failing to vigorously interrogate and amend faulty coverage that leads to vast public misconceptions.

The assassination of JFK, the falsely-reported Tonkin Gulf incident that sparked the costly Vietnam War, and the similarly questionable events of 9/11 that have together brought the US to the present national and geopolitical impasse all come to mind. One is left to ponder how the behavior of a wholly government-controlled media system would differ from our corporate-run consciousness industry that routinely and shamelessly showboats its First Amendment protections.

The consequences of such a communication breakdown are vast, with countless lives and entire nations having been undermined and destroyed. Moreover, the “first drafts of history” become plagued by myth and distortion that eventually cohere as collective memory, thus robbing a people of their self-determination, nullifying their humanity, and ensuring that the cycle repeats interminably.

Those rationally dissenting from the official record and who occupy positions to alter public opinion are usually written off by establishment-controlled media outlets as “conspiracy theorists,” “wackos,” and so on. If such individuals cannot be neutralized through defamation or blackmail, and if they possess information or occupy positions where they are capable of posing a serious and immediate threat to official fictions and thus the power structure itself, they are prone to becoming oddly “suicidal,” (see, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), or are simply killed outright (e.g. here, here, here, here, here, here, and here and here).

What else won’t we see in the corporate media’s series of heart-tugging memorials devoted to the anniversary of Sandy Hook? The two most recent and obvious indications that the event itself is at the very least a coverup include, first, the wholly unreported story of the Obama administration’s $2.5 million payout (read: bribe) to state and local law enforcement agencies directly involved in responding to the incident, and second, what is by almost any measure the entirely illegal destruction of pertinent evidence in the demolition of the crime scene itself.

Empowered by the internet as their primary means of communication, a broad array of independent researchers have conduced an impromptu “truth commission” that together calls the Sandy Hook narrative presented by corporate news media into serious question. For those with eyes to see and the ability to think critically they have also shamed the mainstream journalists directly involved in (mis)representing the event to the American public.

Yet without a genuinely independent investigation of the incident apart from the oversight and influence of the [Governor Dannel] Malloy and Obama administrations, the broader public will likely never know what actually took place on December 14, 2012 in Newtown Connecticut. As has too often been the case throughout the last half century, the prospects are high that yet another “big lie” has again taken root in the ever-malleable and somnambulent public mind.

Nelson Mandela’s life, included violence and controversy but he “walked the walk” paying the price of twenty seven years in jail for the racial equality he fought for South Africa. For all the country’s complexities, imperfections and astonishing betrayals (i) the concept of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission surely averted a cycle of vengeance which would have dwarfed the country’s continuing turbulence.

In death, however, he has uniquely highlighted the monumental paucity of integrity, intelligence, introspection and vision of a swathe of Western politicians.

On Monday December 9th, four days after his death, eight hours of tributes were paid in a special sitting of London’s Houses of Parliament. Mandela’s statue stands just yards away, in Parliament Square.

Prime Minister David Cameron led the session reminding:

“We must never forget the evil of apartheid and its effect on every day life. Separate benches, separate buses, separate schools … Inter-racial relationships criminalised, pass laws and banning orders, a whole language of segregation (expressing) man’s inhumanity to man.”

He might ponder on his words when he, his Foreign Secretary or Party Members next jet off on a Conservative Friends of Israel junket to that apartheid State, which behaves as he described, additionally seizing lands, demolishing homes, that “temple of the family”, as described by David Halpin (ii) who nearly lost his own life at Israel’s State hands in his commitment to Palestine. Olive and apricot groves are razed, as orchards, farms, livelihoods. Even fishing is restricted and fishermen shot from Israeli gun boats – in Palestine’s territorial waters.

Having spouted sanctimonious insincerity, Cameron flew to attend the Memorial the following day, Tuesday 10th December – the twentieth anniversary of Mandela and South Africa’s last apartheid-era President, F.W. de Klerk, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize: “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime …”

It has to be wondered whether the Prime Minister reflected on his 1989 “all expenses paid trip” to South Africa “funded by a firm that lobbied against the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime”- or the “Hang Nelson Mandela” badges that aspiring Conservative MPs wore at the time – some now actual MPs in his Party. (iii)

President Obama’s address was a masterpiece of oiled humbug:

” … while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better.  He speaks to what is best inside us . . . we can change . . . We can choose to live in a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes … a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice … “

He reminded that:

” … there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us”, and that: ” … we, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace.”

The previous day, missiles fired from a U.S. drone killed at least three people traveling in a car in eastern Yemen. Two days later, seventeen people in a convoy heading for a wedding party were killed, ten instantly, seven dying shortly afterwards and in differing reports, between five and twenty two remain seriously injured. The President, it is reported, personally signs off on these obscenities, weekly.

According to Tom Dispatch, this may be the eighth Yemeni wedding party to be decimated – families heading to a joyous celebration rendered unidentifiable charred remains.(iv)

Two days later, Saturday 14th, six people in a boat on Afghanistan’s Kabul river were reported killed by a Drone attack, two were injured. They were, of course “suspected militants.” In a sane world, suspects are subject to legalities, not assassinations of an obscene, for real computer game.

In contrast, Obama traveled in the security of Air Force One, arrived at the memorial stadium in “The Beast”, his great armoured, multi-reinforced vehicle, flanked by a protective motorcade, all flown in for the occasion, as when ever he travels. The ultimate protection for one who decides, from half a world away, who lives or dies by computer, whether they be wedding or funeral parties, in tents or pick up trucks, kids collecting firewood, or babes in arms.

So much for ” peace and justice’ and the “oneness to humanity.” Norman Pollack peerlessly summed up the address as: “Honeyed words on serpent’s wings.”

Senator John McCain, who as Republican Presidential contender, sang “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”, to the tune of the Beach Boys classic “Barbara Ann”, at an appearance in South Carolina, in April 2007, said of Mandela’s enduring friendship with one of his guards when a prisoner on Robben Island, it was: “a mutual regard that ancient hatreds could not prevent. Love, you see, comes more naturally to the human heart than hatred.” Serpents rule. Fortunately he did not pitch up for the Memorial.

McCain is an enthusiast for an Iraqi type blood bath in Syria. In May he illegally entered Syria and met with terrorist factions whose propensity for beheading, cannibalism and dismemberment of others are proudly loaded on You Tube.

Currently he is in Ukraine, to “hasten regime change” there.(v) So much for “love” trumping “hatred” in the human heart.

One report claims that in his commitment to an  ”Arab Spring” in Russia’s orbit, John McCain dined in Kiev, with the leaders of the pro-EU opposition parties. Allegedly,one an open neo-Nazi, the other a barely covert neo-Nazi, the third a right-wing Zionist. “While their democratic and revolutionary quality is fake, their fascism isn’t.”(vi)

Other notable no-shows at Mandela’s Memorial ceremony were Israel’s  Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres (born Szymon Perski in Wiszniew, Poland, former Haganah militia member, and instrumental in the planning, with Britain and France, of the 1956 Suez war.)

It was the expense, explained the Prime Minister. Frugality ruled the day, the cost an estimated $ two million, just for transport and security. In fact on the Monday morning Netanyahu had confirmed traveling, with his wife, Sara. By the afternoon he had been hit with the cost-cutting bug. Larry Derfner, writing in 972 Magazine called the decision “a jaw-dropper” their spending of public moneys making them: “Israel’s Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.”

Netanyahu’s chosen stand in, President Peres pulled out suffering a lingering bout of a virulent ‘flu – appearing publicly later seemingly symptom free.

Derfner doesn’t buy the economy ruse, quoting Yediot Ahronot columnist Eiran Haber’s take:

“Israel in the ’70s and ’80s was a full, enthusiastic partner of the apartheid regime. Until this day, millions of South African citizens have not forgotten nor forgiven Israel’s role. …(the) announcement of the cancellation of Netanyahu’s flight … shouldn’t have surprised anyone. The leader has not yet been born who will knowingly step into a boiling pot of hatred and contempt.”

Prime Ministerial expenses, incidentally have included a $140,000 custom built bed for a flight to Europe, $one million for maintenance of his three private residences; a $75,000 electricity bill for his villa in Caesarea and bill for ice cream $3,000.(vii) Omitted is the filling of a swimming pool at $23,000, wine and flowers. Scented candles were quoted at $1,700.

Mondoweiss.net rose to Bibi’s sudden financial dilemma with an admirably tongue in cheek appeal: “Help send Netanyahu to the Mandela Memorial.” Their internet trawl discovered a Turkish Airlines flight (economy) for a mere $3,443. Chip in, “help him save face”, they pleaded.

In the event, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein led a small delegation to the Memorial. Edelstein, lives in a settlement, opposes a Palestinian State, and said of Mandela: “he was a man (who) knew that you do not correct an injustice with another injustice and violence with more violence.”

Further: “I hope our region will have (such) leaders, who will say no more violence, no more armed battle, it’s time for peace.” Indeed. One can imagine that the helpless Palestinian victims of Israel’s December-January 2008 Operation Cast Lead, or the November 2012 Operation Pillar of Cloud would endorse his sentiments whole heartedly.

A minutely detailed Report (viii) on Cast Lead states: “The ferocity of the attack was unprecedented in the more than six-decade-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians … ” The facts are eye- watering, shaming and crimes against humanity.

Also erased is the close co-operation between Israel and South Africa. The apartheid regime was implemented in South Africa the year of the establishment of Israel, 1948. In the 1960s a political and military alliance was formed. In 1975 the:  ”Joint Secretariat for Political and Psychological Warfare” was created to facilitate the apartheid South Africa-Israel alliance, including “propaganda and psychological warfare … championed by Shimon Peres, then Defence Minister …”(ix)

Apartheid in South Africa and Israel were uncannily mirrored over the decades, until apartheid’s wall began to disintegrate, however imperfectly, in South Africa. In Israel it remains, also physically at eight metres high, three metres thick, approximately six hundred kilometers long and still a work in progress.

The two countries closely co-operated in the development of nuclear weapons.

When Mandela was finally released from prison invitations arrived: “from almost every country in the world, except Israel.” When they finally came, he finally accepted in 1999. Prime Minister Ehud Barak seemed close to peace agreement with the Palestinians – perhaps Mandela hoped his presence might aid the process.

It did not. He visited the Israeli Foreign Ministry and was quoted as saying: “Talk of peace will remain hollow if Israel continues to occupy Arab territories … if there is going to be peace, there must be complete withdrawal from all of these areas.” (BBC 6th December 2013.)

Mandela’s memorable bottom line, was, of course: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” That a settler, living on stolen land, represented Israel at his passing is a multi-dimensional irony

George W. Bush, responsible for Iraq’s unending carnage and illegal invasion, who with Hilary Clinton hitched a free ride on Air Force One, said of the death: “President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time … our world is better off because of his example.”

Even with nil transport costs he had hardly come to grieve a man who said, with searing accuracy of him and his nation, shortly before the Iraq invasion:

“What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust. … If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care.” (30th January 2003.)

For Tony Blair, the Memorial was, as ever, a business opportunity. Advisor to the Romanian government, he used the opportunity to introduce the country’s Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, to President Obama, in an exchange that seemingly lasted fifteen minutes.

In context: “In October, Mr Ponta indicated that Romania was also preparing to join Mr Blair’s Global Network of Delivery Leaders, which aims to help members improve the ‘delivery’ of services such as education, health and construction.”

Photographs show Blair seemingly crouching behind the seated Obama, prompting the President to turn around to greet him and shake Mr Ponta’s hand.

The: “encounter, however, could prove awkward. On the same day, the Romanian parliament approved controversial new changes to the country’s criminal law to help protect MPs against corruption charges.”(x)

Bill Clinton shares Blair’s shamelessness. On hearing of the death, he tweeted: “I will never forget my friend Madiba.”

An instant response was: “Then why was he on the US Terrorist Watch List during your Presidency?”

Mandela was, in fact, on the US Terrorist Watch List until 1st July 2008, nearly a year after his statue was unveiled in London’s Parliament Square (29th August 2007) and twelve years after he was hosted at a banquet given by the Queen.

The statue had been virulently opposed over years by many of the “great and the good.”

One such was John Bercow who had been Chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students when “Hang Nelson Mandela” and similar slogans had been all the rage amongst FCS Members.

He is now Speaker of Parliament, who presided over the eight hour special sitting, in tribute to Mandela, opening with: “This is a special day for special tributes to a special statesman …”

Hypocrisy über alles.

 Notes

 i. http://www.globalresearch.ca/exporting-apartheid-to-sub-saharan-africa-the-legacy-of-nelson-mandela/5361386

ii. http://dhalpin.infoaction.org.uk/the-voyage-of-the-dove-and-the-dolphin

iii. http://www.globalresearch.ca/nelson-mandela-obama-clinton-cameron-blair-tributes-of-shameful-hypocrisy/5360539

iv. http://muslimmatters.org/2013/12/12/drone-strikes-yemen-bombing-weddings-families/

v. http://www.globalresearch.ca/senator-john-mccain-en-route-to-ukraine-to-hasten-regime-change/5361594

vi. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dz2CGS6_lQ

vii. http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2013/12/09/bibi-cancels-trip-to-mandela-memorial-over-cost-israeli-settler-leads-israeli-delegation/

viii. http://imeu.net/news/article0021968.shtml

ix. http://imeu.net/news/article0024677.shtml?utm_content=bufferbf36a&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

x. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/tony-blair/10518182/Tony-Blair-introduces-prospective-client-Victor-Ponta-to-Barack-Obama.html

China’s decision last month to announce a new Air Defense Identification Zone, and the near-collision of U.S. and Chinese ships in the South China Sea, are only the latest moves in East Asia to bring the reality of a new strategic competition and regional arms race out into the open. The game of chicken being played in the Pacific has very real consequences, and threatens to destroy that ocean’s namesake.

In practice, the ADIZ put in place by China means that international aircraft flying through the particular airspace are required to report their flight plans to China, maintain radio communications and transponder identification, and identify their aircraft with appropriate logos. Aircraft that deviate from these rules become subject to “defensive emergency measures.” [1] Ostensibly, the zone would serve to “reduce military misjudgment, avoid aerial friction and safeguard the flight order and safety.” [2]

Inline image 1

The problem, however, is that the ADIZ encompasses islands whose sovereignty is disputed between China, Japan, and Taiwan. Unfortunately, “in contrast with the usual defense zone — which helps build stability by reducing the chances of accidents based on mistaken identity — the unilateral and assertive nature of the new Chinese effort increases the risk of conflict.” [3] The ADIZ also overlaps those of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. As a result, China’s move seems to have shot itself in the foot, and “will be used as an example of China’s status as a revisionist state and will further strengthen the China threat narrative.” [4]

Already, other Asian countries and the United States have proven themselves willing to test the integrity of China’s ADIZ, carrying out a series of daring and provocative moves in response. Japan, South Korea, and the United States have all carried out overflights of the islands using military planes, and defying China’s new required protocol. In the lead-up to Vice President Biden’s trip to Asia, some even encouraged this dangerous dynamic, saying that, “If Biden doesn’t encourage Japanese and South Korean military planes to fly with the U.S. Air Force and Navy through the contested zones, it will be a missed opportunity. If he displays any indecision, it will be a signal that U.S. resolve may not be as strong as has been presumed so far.” [5] These tit-for-tat flights are already a dangerous and far too common move, with Japan scrambling fighter jets 306 times in the previous fiscal year in response to Chinese aircraft. [6]

In addition to these overflights, South Korea has taken additional steps to push back against Beijing. The country’s navy conducted a sea and air military drill in an area within the ADIZ, [7] and also expanded their own ADIZ more than 300 kilometers to the south. [8]

By making the announcement of its new ADIZ, China is making a three-sided gamble: First, that the U.S. will not deviate from its stated position of neutrality on the island issue. Second, to test the limits of the United States’ support for its most important regional ally, Japan. And thirdly, Beijing intends to test the United States’ commitment to its new “Asia pivot” foreign policy strategy, in which the U.S. gives greater importance to developments in this part of the world. So far, aside from its overflight using B-52 bombers, the United States’ response has been to denounce the move and tell U.S. commercial airlines that, “the U.S. government generally expects that U.S. carriers operating internationally will operate consistent with NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen) issued by foreign countries.” [9] To many hardliners, this cautious move amounts to nothing more than acquiescence.

The dispute over the islands has, stunningly, become little more than a symbolic piece of world politics. The islands will have only modest strategic significance to whomever ends up claiming them. The real question for all the stakeholders is, who will become the Asia-Pacific’s hegemon? In this context, it becomes difficult for any of the actors to back down without losing face. The islands have therefore become a dangerous, and extremely stupid, flashpoint.

Some have pointed out that China’s ADIZ is likely a response to the United States’ operational concept for the Asia-Pacific of “Air-Sea Battle,” seen as a possible threat to China. “Chinese and U.S. military planners,” one analyst says, “are already engaged in a conceptual arms race to produce frameworks for controlling access to the Near Seas.” [10]

Conceptual arms races aside, a very real arms race is developing in East Asia, with each country bringing forth new strategies and weapons. China’s ADIZ has added momentum to the Asian arms race and increases the chances of strategic miscalculation — an unwelcome combination. Japan unveiled its first-ever national security strategy this week, a momentous inflection point in Japan’s history that shows the country’s concern about its security environment and competition with China.

In the strategy, Japan lists China’s activities as one of two “national security challenges” in its immediate environment, referencing China’s activities around Japan, the Senkaku Islands, and the ADIZ. “Such an external stance and military activities by China,” the strategy reads, “have become an issue of concern to the international community including Japan; therefore, the Government of Japan needs to pay careful attention to this situation.” [11] Japan’s strategy means it will begin acquiring drones, amphibious assault vehicles, the new F-35 plane, and other weaponry. Meanwhile, South Korea is building a new naval base and will also buy the F-35, [12] and China’s defense budget continues to grow at double-digit rates. If China decides to put in place another ADIZ in the South China Sea, the countries of Southeast Asia will be sucked further into the dispute.

All this makes it seem as if the Pacific is on the precipice of something terrible. With so many other crises ongoing around the world, the dispute needs to be dealt with before another unnecessary military and diplomatic crisis breaks out.

Notes

[1] ”Announcement of the Aircraft Identification Rules for the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone of the P.R.C.” Ministry of National Defense. Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China, 23 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.
[2] Cohen, David. “East China Sea Air Defense Moves: What for and Why Now?” The Jamestown Foundation. The Jamestown Foundation, 27 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.
[3] Steinberg, James, and Michael E. O’Hanlon. “China’s Air Defense Zone: The Shape of Things to Come?” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 16 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.
[4] Wang, Zheng. “China’s Puzzling ADIZ Decision Making.” The Diplomat. The Diplomat, 18 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.
[5] Auslin, Michael. “US, China Scoreless after One.” American Enterprise Institute. American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 30 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.
[6] Blumenthal, Dan, and Michael Mazza. “Japan: Land of the Rising Gun.” American Enterprise Institute. American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 20 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.
[7] Keck, Zachary. “South Korea Conducts Military Drill in China’s ADIZ.” The Diplomat. The Diplomat, 4 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.
[8] Sang-Hun, Choe. “South Korea Announces Expansion of Its Air Defense Zone.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 8 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.
[9] ”China’s Declared ADIZ – Guidance for U.S. Air Carriers.” U.S. Department of State. The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, 29 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.
[10] Kazianis, Harry. “AirSea Battle and ADIZ: A Reaction to a Reaction.” The Jamestown Foundation. The Jamestown Foundation, 5 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.
[11] ”National Security Strategy.” Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet. Cabinet Secretariat, Cabinet Public Relations Office, 17 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.
[12] Sanger, David E. “In the East China Sea, a Far Bigger Test of Power Looms.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 1 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.

Introduction

Following the Vietnam War, US imperial intervention passed through several phases:  In the immediate aftermath, the US government faced a humiliating military defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese liberation forces and was under pressure from an American public sick and tired of war.Imperial military interventions, domestic espionage against opponents and usual practice of fomenting coups d’état (regime change)  declined.

Slowly, under President Gerald Ford and, especially President ‘Jimmy’ Carter, an imperial revival emerged in the form of clandestine support for armed surrogates in Southern Africa – Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau— and neo-liberal military dictatorships in Latin America.  The first large-scale imperial intervention was launched during the second half of the Carter Presidency .It involved massive support for the Islamist uprising against the secular government of Afghanistan and a mercenary jihadist invasion sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the US (1979).  This was followed by direct US invasions in Grenada (1983) under President Reagan; Panama (1989) and Iraq (1991) under President Bush Sr. and Yugoslavia (1995 and 1999) under President Clinton.

In the beginning, the imperial revival involved low cost wars of brief duration with few casualties.  As a result there were very few voices of dissent, far diminished from the massive anti-war, anti-imperial movements of the early 1970’s.  The restoration of direct US imperial interventions, unhindered by Congressional and popular opposition, was gradual in the period 1973-1990.  It started to accelerate in the 1990’s and then really took off after September 11, 2001.

The imperial military and ideological apparatus for direct intervention was firmly in place by 2000.  It led to a prolonged series of wars in multiple geographical locations, involving long-term, large-scale commitments of economic resources, and military personnel and was completely unhampered by congressional or large-scale public opposition – at least in the beginning.  The ‘objectives’ of these serial wars were defined by their principal Zionist and militarist architects as the following:

(1) destroying regimes and states (as well as their military, police and civil governing bureaucracies) which had opposed Israel’s annexation of Palestine;

(2) deposing regimes which promoted independent nationalist policies, opposing or threatening the Gulf puppet monarchist regimes and supporting anti-imperialist, secular or nationalist-Islamic movements around the world. 

Blinded by their imperial hubris (or naked racism) neither the Zionists nor the civilian militarists within the US Administrations  anticipated prolonged national resistance from the targeted countries, the regrouping of armed opposition and the spread of violent attacks (including terrorism) to the imperial countries.  Having utterly destroyed the Afghan and Iraqi state structures, as well as the regime in power, and having devastated the economy as well as any central military or police capacity, the imperial state was faced with endless armed civilian ethno-religious and tribal resistance (including suicide bombings), mounting US troop casualties and spiraling costs to the domestic economy without any “exit strategy”.  The imperial powers were unable to set up a stable and loyal client regime, backed by a unified state apparatus with a monopoly of force and violence, after having deliberately shredded these structures (police, bureaucracy, civil service, etc) during the invasion and early occupation.  The creation of this “political vacuum” was never a problem for the Zionists embedded in the US Administrations since  their ultimate goal was to devastate Israel ’s enemies .  As a result of the US invasions, the regional power of Israel was greatly enhanced without the loss of a single Israeli soldier or shekel.  The Zionists within the Bush Administration successfully blamed the ensuing problems of the occupation, especially the growing armed resistance, on their ‘militarist’ colleagues and the Pentagon ‘Brass’. ‘Mission Accomplished’, the Bush Administration Zionists left the government , moving on to lucrative careers in the private financial sector. 

Under President Obama, a new ‘cast’ of embedded Zionists have emerged to target Iran and prepare the US for a new war on Israel ’s behalf.  However, by the end of the first decade of the 21st century, when Barak Obama was elected president, the political, economic and military situation had changed.  The contrast in circumstances  between the  earlyBush (Jr.) years and the current administration is striking.

The 20-year period (1980-2000) before the launching of the ‘serial war’ agenda was characterized by short, inexpensive, low-casualty wars in Grenada , Panama and Yugoslavia , and a proxy war in Afghanistan . Israeli invasions and attacks against Lebanon , the occupied West Bank and Syria .One major US war of short duration and limited casualties against Iraq (the First Gulf War).  The First Gulf War succeeded in weakening the government of Saddam Hussein, fragmenting the country via ‘no fly zones’,  establishing a Kurdish client ‘state’ in the north  while ‘policing’ was left to the remnants of the Iraqi state – all without having to occupy the country.

Meanwhile, the US economy was relatively stable and trade deficits were manageable.  The real economic crisis was still to come. Military expenditures appeared under control.  US public opinion, initially hostile to the First Gulf War was “pacified” by its short duration and the withdrawal of US troops.    Iraq remained under aerial surveillance with frequent US bombing and missile strikes whenever the government attempted to regain control of the north.  During this period, Israel was forced to fight its own wars and maintain an expensive occupation of southern Lebanon – losing its own soldiers.

By the second decade of the 21st century everything had changed.  The US was bogged down in a prolonged thirteen year war and occupation in Afghanistan with little hope for a stable client regime in Kabul .  The seven-year war against Iraq (Second Gulf War) with the massive occupation, armed civilian insurgency and the resurgence of ethno-religious conflict resulted in casualties and a crippling growth in US military expenditures.  Budget and trade deficits expanded exponentially while the US share of the world market declined. China displaced the US as the principle trading partner in Latin America, Asia and Africa .  A series of new ‘low intensity’ wars were launched in Somalia , Yemen and Pakistan which show no prospect of ending the drain on the military and the US Treasury.

The vast majority of the US public has experienced a decline in living standards and now believes the cost of overseas wars are a significant factor contributing to their relative impoverishment and insecurity.  The multi-trillion-dollar bailout of the Wall Street banks during the economic crash of 2008-09 has eroded public support for the financial elite as well as the militarist-Zionist elite, which continue to push for more imperial wars.

The capacity of the US imperial elite to launch new wars on Israel ’s behalf has been greatly undermined since the economic crash of 2008-09.  The gap between the rulers and ruled has widened.  Domestic economic issues, not the threat of external terrorists, have become the central concern.  The public sees the Middle East as a region of unending costly wars – with no benefit to the domestic economy.  Asia has become the center of trade, growth, investment and a major source of US jobs.  While Washington continues to ignore the citizens’ views, accumulated grievances are beginning to have an impact.

A Pew Research report, released in late 2013, confirms the wide gap between elite and public opinion.  The Pew Foundation is an establishment polling operation, which presents its questions in a way that avoids the larger political questions.  Nevertheless, the responses presented in the report are significant:  By a vast margin (52% to 38%) the public agree that the US “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own”. This represents a major increase in public opposition to armed US imperialist intervention and the 52% response in 2013 contrasts sharply with 30% polled 2002. 

A companion poll of elite policy advisors,  members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), highlights the gap between the US public and the ruling class.   The elite are described by the Pew Report as having a ‘decidedly internationalist (imperialist-interventionist) outlook’. 

The American public clearly distinguishes between ‘trade’ and ‘globalization’ (imperialism.):  81% of the public favor ‘trade’ as a source of job creation while 73% oppose ‘globalization’ which they see as  US companies relocating jobs overseas to low wage regions.  The US public rejects imperial economic expansion and wars for the harm done to the domestic economy, middle and working class income and job security.  The members of the Council on Foreign Relations, in contrast, are overwhelmingly in favor of ‘globalization’ (and imperial interventions).  While 81% of the public believe the principle goal of US foreign policy should be the protection of American jobs, only 29% of the CFR rate US jobs as a priority.

The elite is conscious of the growing gap in interests, values and priorities between the public and the imperial state; they know that endless costly wars have led to a mass rejection of new imperial wars and a growing demand for domestic job programs.

This gap between the imperial policy elite and the majority of the public is one of the leading factors now influencing US foreign policy.  Together with the general discredit of the Congress (only 9% favorable), the public’s rejection of President Obama’s militarist foreign policy has seriously weakened the empire’s capacity to begin new large-scale ground wars at multiple sites.

Meanwhile, Israel ( Washington ’s foreign patron), the Gulf State clients and European and Japanese allies have been pushing the US to intervene and confront ‘their adversaries’. To this end, Israel and the Zionist Power Configuration within the US government have been undermining peace negotiations between the US and Iran .  Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies, as well as Turkey are urging the US to attack Syria .  The French had successfully pushed the US into a war against the Gaddafi government in Libya and have their sights on their former colony in Syria .  The US has given only limited backing to the French military intervention in Mali and the Central African Republic . 

The US public is aware that none of Washington’s ‘militarist’ patrons, clients and allies has paid such a high price in terms of blood and treasure as the US in the recent wars.  The Saudi, Israeli and French “publics” have not experienced the socio-economic dislocations confronting the US public.  For these ‘allied’ regimes, the cheapest way to resolve their own regional conflicts and promote their own ambitions is to convince, coerce or pressure the US to “exercise its global leadership”. 

Washington ’s imperial policymakers, by background, history, ideology and past experience, are sensitive to these appeals – especially those from the Israelis.  But they also recognize the growing “intervention fatigue” among the American public, the CFR’s euphemism  for  rising anti-imperialist feelings among the American  majority, which is saying ‘no’ to further imperial military interventions.

Faced with choice of acting as an unfettered imperial power with global interests  and facing rising domestic discontent, Washington has been forced to revise its foreign policy and strategies.  It is adopting a more nuanced approach, one less vulnerable to external pressures and manipulations.

Imperial Foreign Policy in a Time of Domestic Constraints and External Pressures

US empire builders, with increasingly limited military options and declining domestic support, have begun to (1) prioritize their choice of places of engagement, (2) diversify their diplomatic, political and economic instruments of coercion and (3) limit large-scale, long-term military intervention to regions where US strategic interests are involved.  Washington is not shedding its militarist polices by any means, but it is looking for ways to avoid costly long-term wars which further undermine the domestic economy and intensify domestic political opposition.

In order to decipher US imperial policy in this new context, it is useful to first (1) identify the regions of conflict, (2) estimate the significance of these countries and conflicts to the empire and, (3) analyze the particular interventions and their impact on US empire building.  Our purpose is to show how the interplay between domestic and external countervailing pressures affects imperial policy.

Conflicts which Engage US Empire Builders

There are at least eleven major or minor conflicts today engaging US empire builders to a greater or lesser extent.  A major premise of our approach is that US empire builders are more selective in their aggression, more conscious of the economic consequences, less reckless in their commitments and have a greater concern for domestic political impact.  Current conflicts of interest to Washington include those taking place in the Ukraine , Thailand , Honduras , China-Japan-South Korea, Iran-Gulf States/Israel, Syria , Venezuela , Palestine-Israel , Libya , Afghanistan and Egypt .

These conflicts can be classified according to whether they involve major or minor US interests and whether they involve major or minor allies or adversaries.  Among the conflicts where the US has strategic interests and which involve major actors, one would have to include the territorial and maritime dispute between Japan , South Korea and China .  On the surface the dispute appears to be over economically insignificant pile of rocks claimed by the Japanese as the Senkaku Islands and by the Chinese as the Diaoyu Islands .  In essence, the conflict involves the US plan to militarily encircle China by provoking its Japanese and Korean allies to confront the Chinese over the islands.  Washington ’s treaties with Japan will be used to come to the ‘aid’ of its most important ally in the region.  The US support of Japan ’s expansionist claims is part of a strategic shift in US policy from military commitments in the Middle East to military and economic pacts in Asia, which exclude and provoke China . 

The Obama Regime has announced its ‘Pivot to Asia ’ in an attempt to deal with its largest economic competitor.  China , the second biggest economy in the world, has displaced the US as the principle trading partner in Latin America and Asia .  It is advancing rapidly as the principal investor in developing Africa ’s natural resources.  In response, the US has (1) openly backed Japan’s claims, (2) defied China’s strategic interests in the East China Sea by flying B52 bombers within China’s Air Defense Identification Zone and (3) encouraged South Korea to expand its ‘air defense’ zones to overlap with those of the Chinese.  History teaches us that inflexible assertions of dominance by established imperial powers against rising dynamic economies will lead to conflicts, and even disastrous wars.

Imperial advisers believe that US naval and air superiority and Chinese dependence on foreign trade give the US a strategic advantage in any armed confrontation.  Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” is clearly designed to encircle and degrade China ’s capacity to outcompete and displace the US from world markets.  Washington’s militarists, however, fail to take account of China’s strategic levers – especially the over two trillion dollars of US Treasury notes (debt) held by China, which, if dumped on the market, would lead to a major devaluation of the US currency, panic on Wall Street and a deeper economic depression.  China could respond to US military threats by (1) seizing the assets of the 500 biggest US MNCs located in the country which would crash the stock market and (2) cutting off the source for major supply chains, further disrupting the US and world economy.

Imperialist ambitions and resentment over the loss of markets, status, and supremacy is pushing Washington to raise the stakes and confront China .  Opposing the militarists, Washington ’s economic realists believe the US is too exposed and too dependent on credit, overseas earnings and financial revenues to engage in new military interventions in Asia, especially after the disastrous consequences of wars in the Middle East .  Current US policy reflects an ongoing struggle between the militarist imperialists and the defenders of imperial economic interests.  For the market-oriented policy advisers, it makes no sense to confront China , when mutual gains from rising trade and economic inter-dependence have proven far superior to any marginal territorial gains offshore.  These conflicting outlooks find expression in the alternating bellicose and conciliatory rhetoric of Vice President Biden during his December visit to Japan , China and South Korea .

The second area involving major actors and interests is the Persian Gulf, especially Israel – Iran – Saudi Arabia and the US .  Having gone through costly and disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and fully aware that US intelligence agencies have found no evidence of an Iran nuclear weapons program,  the Obama Administration is eager to reach an agreement with Iran.  Nevertheless, US strategists are pursuing an agreement that would (1) weaken Iran ’s defense capability, (2) undermine Iranian support for popular revolts among Shiite populations living in the Gulf Monarchies, (3) isolate President Bashar Assad in Syria and (4) facilitate a long-term US presence in Afghanistan by destroying Al Qaeda operations throughout the region.  In addition a US – Iran agreement would lift the harsh economic sanctions  and (1) allow US oil companies to exploit Iran’s richest oil fields, (2) lower the cost of energy and (3) reduce US trade deficits.

A major stumbling block to any US-Iran agreement is from the well-entrenched Zionist strategists and advisers among policy-makers, especially in the Executive Branch, including such Department heads and Secretaries as Treasury Undersecretary (for ‘Terrorism’) David Cohen, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, US Trade Representative Michael Froman, ‘Special Adviser for the Persian Gulf’ Dennis Ross among others.  An even greater obstacle to the agreement comes from the Zionist-controlled US Congress, which acts more on behalf of Israel ’s regional ambitions than for US interests.  Israel ’s megalomaniacal rulers seek military, political and economic supremacy throughout the Middle East (from Sinai to the Gulf) and have so far successfully used the US military to destroy and weaken its adversaries at no cost to Israeli soldiers or economy.

Israel has taken a direct hand in setting the terms, which the US will demand from Iran .  According to the Financial Times (12/8/13, p. 4),  “A team of senior Israeli officials led by Yossi Cohen, national security adviser, is due to visit Washington … to begin detailed discussions with the Obama Administration to use its influence in shaping  the negotiating agenda.”

Secretary of State John Kerry has already caved in to Israeli pressure stating, “We will be stepping up on enforcement (of existing sanctions) through the Treasury Department,” (FT 12/18/13, p. 4).  Israel and its top Zionist agent within the Obama Administration, Dennis Ross, are pushing for a joint Israeli-US “working group” to discuss tightening sanctions on Iran and punishing any government or business which tries to do business with Iran during the “interim agreement”, a position pursued by David Cohen and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (FT 12/ 13/13).  Israel is behind the US demand that Iran convert its Arak Facilities from a heavy water into a light-water reactor and reduce its centrifuges by 95% from 19,000 to 1,000.

In other words, Israel dictates terms to the US negotiators that will effectively sabotage any possible agreement and put the US on a course toward another war for Israel .  Surprisingly, Israel ’s hardliners and its agents within the US Administration have an important and unlikely ally – Iran ’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javid Zarif, the chief negotiator in Geneva , who has downplayed Iran ’s military capabilities and exaggerated US military capabilities and seems quite willing to dismantle Iran ’s peaceful nuclear program.  In justifying his far-reaching concessions and meager returns, Foreign Minister Zarif publicly declared that ‘the US could destroy the country’s ( Iran ’s) defense system with one bomb!” (FT, 12/10/13, p. 2)   Zarif, in effect, is preparing to sell out Iran ’s nuclear industry, in advance, without any objective consideration of Iran ’s military power or recognition of US strategic weaknesses.

Saudi Arabia’s rulers influence US policy through their contracts with the military – industrial complex – amounting to over $20 billion dollar arms purchase in 2013.  In addition, the Saudi Monarch has allowed the construction of US military bases on its territory and maintains close ties with Wall Street investment houses.  Saudi opposition to any US – Iran rapprochement arises from Riyadh ’s fear of Iranian influence over its oppressed Shia minority and Tehran ’s critique of the absolutist monarchy. 

The positive gains, in terms of US strategic military and economic interests from an agreement with the liberal Iranian regime, are offset by the negative pressures from Saudi and Israeli-Zionists interests.  As a result, Washington ’s policy oscillates between peaceful, diplomatic overtures to Iran and bellicose threats to appease Israel and Saudi Arabia .  Washington is desperate to avoid being dragged into another “war for Israel ”, in order to secure its hegemony in the Persian Gulf region and avoid a major domestic political and economic crisis.  The Obama Administration has yet to exhibit the high degree of statesmanship necessary to restrain and neutralize the deeply embedded Zionist Power Configuration, within its ranks and in the Congress, which places Israeli interests over those of the US .

Regional Conflicts:  Minor Interests and Major Actors

The Ukraine – European Union (EU) – Russian conflict involves minor US economic interests but potentially major military interests.  The US supports the EU’s policy of incorporating the Ukraine into its economic and trade system.  The EU will be the major beneficiary in the plunder of Ukraine ’s economy, penetrating its market and reaping mega financial returns.  The US is content to watch the EU play the major role in stoking Ukrainian civil unrest.  If and when Ukraine joins the EU, it will become another client regime subject to the dictates of the bankers and bureaucrats in Brussels , just like Spain , Greece , Portugal and Italy ).  The US is mainly interested in bringing the Ukraine into NATO as part of its policy of surrounding Russia .

Syria, like Libya , Mali , Central African Republic and Egypt , are of secondary interest for the US .  Washington has let the European Union, especially France, England and their allies, lead and direct military operations directly and through proxies.  The Obama Administration already faced intense “intervention fatigue” – widespread popular opposition to war – when it joined the EU in bombing Tripoli to rubble, but it refused to commit ground forces and left Libya a broken country without a viable economy, stable society or functioning state!  So much for ‘humanitarian intervention’!  Intervention in Syria has faced even greater domestic opposition from Congress and the US public – except for the Israeli and Saudi lobbies.  

Obama was clearly not willing to act as ‘Al Qaeda’s Air Force’ by bombing Damascus and facilitating a jihadist takeover.  It chose diplomatic solution and accepted the Russian proposal to dismantle Syria ’s chemical weapons.  It appears to support a Geneva-based negotiated solution.  Another war, this time with Syria , would inflame US domestic discontent and further erode the economy, with no positive gain for US imperialism.  In fact, US military victory over Damascus would expand the territory of operation for Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant .  It was US public opinion that overcame the massive pro-Israel media barrage and pressure from the 52 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations that had been actively pushing the Obama Administration into a ‘Syrian Quagmire’!

French President Francoise Hollande is the new face of imperial militarism and interventionism in Africa with its massive bombing in Libya and invasion and occupation in Mali and the Central African Republic .  The US is content to play a ‘supporting role’ to France .  It has no strategic involvement in Africa apart from its proxy wars in Somalia .

With public opinion strongly against any more major direct military intervention Washington has turned to military proxies for conflicts in ‘strategic’ and marginal countries and regions.  Even where significant imperial interests may be involved, Washington increasingly relies on local elites to act on its behalf in conflicts in countries as diverse as Yemen , Thailand , Honduras , Venezuela , Pakistan , Afghanistan and Egypt .  Sending drones and dispatching teams of Special Forces in clandestine operations have been the US Administration’s intervention of choice in Yemen , Somalia and Pakistan .  In Afghanistan, Special Forces combine with the US military, NATO troops and local client military proxies, as well as drones. 

In Honduras, the US-backed military coup, which unleashed death squads with the killing of over 200 dissident activists in a two year period was followed by a fraudulent election which reclaimed ‘power’ for a US client regime.  In Venezuela , the US continues to finance opposition parties who support violent street mobs, the sabotage of public services like electricity, while relying on local business elites to hoard basic goods and inflate prices.  So far, these efforts to undermine the Venezuelan government have failed. 

Conclusion

US Empire builders have relied on a wider variety of interventions than their predecessor under President George W. Bush.  They are much less prone to launch large-scale ground operations and more likely to turn to local client elites. They have shown a far greater sense of priorities in selecting targets for direct intervention.

Washington relies more on its imperial European allies, especially the French, to take the lead in Africa, without relinquishing its key interest in maintaining Egypt tightly under  US-Israeli control.   There is a shift in priority toward the Far East, especially the countries bordering China , like Japan and South Korea , as part of the long-term US strategy to encircle and limit China ’s economic expansion.  The US ‘Pivot to Asia ’, under the Obama Administration, is characterized by alternating economic negotiations with growing military encirclement.

 Controlling the Persian Gulf and undermining Iran continues to be a high priority for US Empire builders, but the costly and disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq under George W. Bush and its adverse domestic fallout, has led Washington to rely less on military confrontation with Tehran and more on economic sanctions, military encirclement and now diplomatic negotiations to secure collaboration from the new Rouhani regime.

 The principle strategic weakness in US empire building policy lies in the absence of domestic support.  There is a growing demand for better paying jobs to reverse the decline of US living standards and greater protection for social services and livelihoods.  The second strategic weakness is found in the incapacity of the US to create a viable economic “co-prosperity sphere”, which would win allies in Asia and Latin America .  The so-called “Pivot to Asia” is overly and overtly reliant on military(mostly naval) power, which functions in times of ‘territorial conflicts’ with China, but does not create stable, structural links with local productive elites – who rely on China for trade.

 In the end the most serious obstacle to effectively adapting US foreign policy to the current realities is the influential Israel-linked-Zionist Power Configuration embedded in the Congress, the Administration and the mass media.  Zionists are deeply committed to pushing the US into more wars for Israel .  Nevertheless the shift to negotiations with Iran, the refusal to bomb Syria and the reluctance to get involved in the Ukraine are all indications that Washington is less inclined to launch more large-scale military intervention and more receptive to the public opinion constraints on the exercise of imperial power.

Mission creep? More like a ‘new dawn’ for Africa.

Indeed, famous last words of many a US President, now coming out of Barack Obama’s mouth today:

“These troops will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed.”

Watch this space, as US AFRICOM’s first major set piece in the new Africa – the partitioning of Sudan and South Sudan – begins heating up this month.

obama-africom

Off the wire: “The US has deployed 45 troops to protect US personnel and assets in South Sudan amid ongoing fighting between rebels and government forces, the White House said. President Barack Obama sent a letter to Congress, saying the group of soldiers was sent Wednesday, AFP reported. The small force will remain in South Sudan “until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed,” Obama said.“Although equipped for combat, this force was deployed for the purpose of protecting US citizens and property.”

‘US citizens and property?’ Yes, we think there are bigger fish to fry in South Sudan, much bigger in fact. Realise that the major theme regarding the new South Sudan, is not only its oil fields and refineries, but also Chinese investment in the south. Two major points of contention which US AFRICOM was originally set-up to deal with.

According to  Rappler:

The United States has deployed 45 troops to protect US personnel and assets in South Sudan, amid intensifying fighting between rebels and government forces, the White House said Thursday.

In a letter to Congress, President Barack Obama said the force was sent Wednesday and “will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed.”

“Although equipped for combat, this force was deployed for the purpose of protecting US citizens and property,” he added.

“This action has been directed consistent with my responsibility to protect US citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of US national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct US foreign relations and as commander in chief and chief executive.”

Obama said the force consisted of “approximately” 45 troops, without giving a precise number.

The growing violence has prompted fears the world’s youngest nation could slide toward civil war.

The move came after the United States ordered all non-emergency embassy staff on Tuesday to leave South Sudan and stressed the onus was on the country’s leaders to end the violence.

The US mission in the capital Juba is also due to suspend normal operations for the time being.

The fighting in the world’s youngest nation has set off alarm bells in the international community, with the United Nations urging the warring groups to refrain from ethnic violence.

In an example of the danger facing foreign troops in the volatile country, 3 Indian peacekeepers were killed Thursday in an attack by ethnic Nuer youths on a United Nations base in Jonglei state. Other casualties are feared.

US authorities also urged Americans against travel to the troubled country, urging that “US citizens currently in South Sudan depart immediately.”

Those who choose to stay in South Sudan “should review their personal security situation and seriously reconsider their plans to remain,” it added.

As the financial crisis recedes, one nagging question remains: Why have no high-level executives been prosecuted for fraud in the way Charles Keating was brought to justice after the savings-and-loan debacle in the late 1980s?

After first swatting away the excuses put forward by prosecutors to date, Judge Jed Rakoff of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, has put forward his own answer to this quandry that might not be easy to swallow.

Rakoff argues in an essay in the latest issue of The New York Review of Books that government prosecutors have been leery of bringing Wall Street bosses to trial because high-level government officials might be dragged into the mix.

Rakoff, who has previously made a name for himself as being a thorn in the side of both Wall Street and Washington, said he was not suggesting that the government participated in any fraud.

“But what I am suggesting is that the government was deeply involved, from beginning to end, in helping create the conditions that could lead to such fraud, and that this would give a prudent prosecutor pause in deciding whether to indict a CEO who might, with some justice, claim he was only doing what he fairly believed the government wanted him to do,” Rakoff said.

It was the government that repealed Glass-Steagall, encouraged deregulation and weakened oversight of the watchdog agencies, Rakoff noted.

The Office of Thrift Supervision ran a successful campaign to preempt state regulation for thrift underwriting and then terminated its own mortgage underwriting regulations entirely, he said.

And if mistakes were made and liabilities not disclosed during the “shotgun marriages” of Bank of America with Merrill Lynch and J.P. Morgan with Bear Stearns, was it not partly the government’s fault? he asked.

Another factor which Rakoff calls maybe the most important, is that there has been a shift over the past 30 years from focusing on prosecuting individuals to prosecuting companies.

He said that this practice “has led to some lax and dubious behavior on the part of prosecutors, with deleterious results.”

Companies are happy to enter into deferred prosecution agreements under which they agree to pay fines and accept prophylactic measures.

“But perhaps happiest of all with this trend are the executives or former of the companies who committed the underlying misconduct for they are left untouched,” he said.

 Follow Greg on Twitter @grobb2000,  Follow Capitol Report @capitolreport

Who Owns the World’s Biggest Bitcoin Wallet? The FBI

December 20th, 2013 by Global Research News

By Robert Mcmillan 

In September, the FBI shut down the Silk Road online drug marketplace, and it started seizing bitcoins belonging to the Dread Pirate Roberts — the operator of the illicit online marketplace, who they say is an American man named Ross Ulbricht.

 The seizure sparked an ongoing public discussion about the future of Bitcoin, the world’s most popular digital currency, but it had an unforeseen side-effect: It made the FBI the holder of the world’s biggest Bitcoin wallet.

The FBI now controls more than 144,000 bitcoins that reside at a bitcoin address that consolidates much of the seized Silk Road bitcoins. Those 144,000 bitcoins are worth close to $100 million at Tuesday’s exchange rates. Another address, containing Silk Road funds seized earlier by the FBI, contains nearly 30,000 bitcoins ($20 million).

 That doesn’t make the FBI the world’s largest bitcoin holder. This honor is thought to belong to bitcoin’s shadowy inventor Satoshi Nakamoto, who is estimated to have mined 1 million bitcoins in the currency’s early days. His stash is spread across many wallets. But it does put the federal agency ahead of the Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who in July said that they’d cornered about 1 percent of all bitcoins (there are 12 million bitcoins in circulation).

In the fun house world of bitcoin tracking, it’s hard to say anything for certain. But it is safe to say that there are new players in the Bitcoin world — although not as many people are buying bitcoins as one might guess from all of the media attention.

 Satoshi stores his wealth in a large number of bitcoin addresses, most of them holding just 50 bitcoins. It’s a bit of a logistical nightmare, but most savvy Bitcoin investors spread out their bitcoins across multiple wallets. That way if they lose the key to one of them or get hacked, all is not lost.

“It’s easier to keep track of one address, but it’s also most risky that way,” says Andrew Rennhack, the operator of the Bitcoin Rich List, a website that tracks the top addresses in the world of bitcoin.

According to Rennhack, the size of the bitcoin universe has expanded over the past year, but the total number of people on the planet who hold at least one bitcoin is actually pretty small — less than a quarter-million people. Today, there are 246,377 bitcoin addresses with at least one bitcoin in them, he says. And many people keep their bitcoins in more than one address. A year ago, that number was 159,916, he says.

 Although some assume that the largest Bitcoin addresses are held by bitcoin dinosaurs — miners who got into the game early on, when it was easy to rack up thousands of bitcoins with a single general-purpose computer — almost all of the top 10 bitcoin addresses do not fit that profile, says Sarah Meiklejohn, a University of California, San Diego, graduate student.

She took a look at how many transactions in these wallets seemed to match the profile of early-day miners and found that only one of them really fit the bill.

The rest seem to belong to what Meiklejohn calls Bitcoin’s “nouveau riche”: People who are accumulating bitcoins from non-mining sources. “What you’re seeing is this influx of a different kind of wealth,” she says.

 Because most bitcoin addresses haven’t been publicly identified — like the FBI’s — it’s hard to say exactly makes up the new Bitcoin top 10. Meiklejohn says that they’re likely to include wallets created by up-and-coming Bitcoin exchanges or businesses. One of them is the wallet that’s thought to contain 96,000 bitcoins stolen from the Silk-Road successor, Sheep Marketplace.

Copyright Robert McMillan Wired, 2013

What’s the U.S. congressional response to the safety issues with the 485-mile southern half of TransCanada‘s Keystone XL pipeline raised by Public Citizen‘s Texas office? Mostly what Simon & Garfunkel called “The Sound of Silence” in their famous song.

DeSmogBlog contacted more than three dozen members of the U.S. Congress representing both political parties to get their take on Public Citizen’s alarming findings in its November investigation (including dents, metal that had to be patched up and pipeline segments labeled “junk”), but got little in the way of substantive responses.

Set to open for business on January 22approved via an Executive Order by President Barack Obama in March 2012 and rebranded the “Gulf Coast Pipeline Project” by TransCanada, the southern half of the pipeline has garnered far less media coverage than its U.S.-Canada border-crossing brother to the north, Keystone XL‘s northern half.

Over two dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote a letter to President Obama on December 12 expressing concern over the conflicts-of-interest in the U.S. State Department’s environmental review process for the northern half of the line.

But none of them would comment on concerns with the southern half of the line raised in the Public Citizen report after multiple queries via e-mail from DeSmogBlog.

Two to Tango

Only two out the dozens contacted offered somewhat substantive comments.

And one of them, U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) (Left), did not respond to the meat and bones of the question at hand. He did offer some oft-used industry talking points, though.

“The Keystone pipeline will create jobs and help reduce dependence on oil supplies from unfriendly nations,” Hall told DeSmogBlog. ”The State of Texas has a proven track record of successful oversight of the oil and gas industry, including pipelines, and I am confident that they will be diligent in ensuring the pipeline’s safety.”

Hall — who took $59,500 from the oil and gas industry before the 2012 elections and has already taken $12,500 for the upcoming 2014 elections — is far from a neutral stakeholder in the debate over anything pertaining to the petroleum industry. 

“Since 2010, Hall has earned as much as $1 million from a company that holds mineral rights along the Barnett Shale,” explained a March 2013 Sunlight Foundation article. “The money was disclosed as dividends from a company called North & East Trading Co. (N&E).”

On the other side of the aisle, U.S. Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) (Right) also responded to DeSmogBlog‘s request for comment, offering more cautious words of support for the southern half of the pipeline’s commencement.

“Over the past decades, our interstate and intrastate pipeline systems have had remarkable safety records, unmatched by rail or highway modes of transportation,” Green stated.

“To address the anomalies cited by the Public Citizen report, the operator, in agreement with PHMSA, has placed special conditions for evaluating and addressing the alleged issues. I have confidence that our federal agencies will effectively oversee projects under their jurisdiction and ensure that the Agency’s record of safety continues throughout the entirety of the project.”

Green received $96,700 from the oil and gas industry before the 2012 elections and has taken another $31,100 from these industries in the run-up to the 2014 elections.

“Isn’t Really That Interested In It”

Others offered even less in the way of comments. Asked if U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) had any response to Public Citizen’s findings, Press Secretary Bill Silverfarb — formerly a reporter for the San Mateo Daily Journal — simply said, “No.”

U.S. Rep. John Culberson’s (R-TX) communications director Stephen Worley told DeSmogBlog, “I’m going to have to pass. Thanks though,” in response to the query. Culberson took $99,850 from the oil and gas industry before the 2012 election and has taken another $39,500 from the industry in the months leading up to the 2014 elections.

And a staffer from U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson’s (D-FL) (Right) office told DeSmogBlog his “boss isn’t really that interested in it” in response to being shown Public Citizen’s findings.  

“Dollarocracy”

So what does Public Citizen have to say when asked about the Congressional response — or lack thereof — to its findings in its November report?

“Our report documented 125 excavations dug by TransCanada because of possible problems with welds, dents, unsupported pipe and other issues that could cause leaks and spills,” said Tom Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “So far, we have no information from either the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) or TransCanada about those excavations.”

 ”We do not know if there have been repairs or if those repairs have been inspected. Between our report and PHMSA’s own documentation in warning letters to TransCanada, there is evidence of hundreds of problems that could lead to leaks or spills in a pipeline that crosses 631 Texas streams and rivers and comes within miles of towns and cities.”

With just about a month to go until it opens for business, Smith says Congress needs to launch an investigation, which looks unlikely given the responses of congressional members. 

“This is unacceptable and demonstrates why Congress needs to step in and review whether PHMSA is protecting the pipeline or the people,” said Smith.

“Unacceptable” is one way of putting it. And another is what John Nichols and Bob McChesney called “Dollarocracy” in describing the U.S. political system in their recent book, an apt description of the state of play for the soon-to-be-open southern half of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Barack Obama: A Black Wolf in Corporate Clothing

December 20th, 2013 by Global Research News

by Snoopman News

Amid the propaganda in Barack Obama’s speech at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Soweto on December 10, was an encoded signal. Obama’s so-called eulogy was really intended to reaffirm a well-advanced plan to construct a transnational empire.

This article explores how an emergent transnational capitalist class ensured that the South African uprising would result in a false solution that appeared to end apartheid, and why this story has been covered-up by the Global Media Complex.

Obama telling a freedom-themed fable in SowetoSpooky spin: Obama telling a freedom-themed fable in Soweto

Befriending a legacy of ‘freedom’ in a bank-sponsored sports stadium

At a memorial service held for Nelson Mandela, United States President Barack Hussein Obama said, “We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again”.

These spooky words, spoken with an intonation that cringingly mimicked Bill Clinton’s signature oratory, were slipped in among hyper-rhetoric about the efficacy of direct action, well-reasoned arguments and the power of the human spirit.[1]

Mandela, who died on December 5 2013 aged 95, had been leader of the African National Congress (ANC) party, which led a resistance and armed struggle against the racist fascists that ruled South Africa’s apartheid regime from 1948 to 1994.[2] Also known by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, from 1963 to 1990, after the CIA assisted in his arrest by passing on his travel plans to the South African Security Service, as James Sanders revealed in his book Apartheid’s Friends: The Rise and Fall of South Africa’s Secret Service (SASS).[3]

 In 1994, when Mandela became the first black president of the Republic of South Africa the world hoped that true freedom would come to a people who had been suppressed on the basis of racial prejudice. Tragically, this hope has yet to manifest into reality.

With feigned humility, Obama audaciously asserted, “I will always fall short of Madiba’s example. He makes me want to be a better man.”[4] This emotively loaded line provoked a standing ovation at the packed First National Bank sports stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg. Among those drawn to their feet were former United Nations’ Secretary–General Kofi Atta Annan, and two former Commander-in-Chiefs of the United States, George Walker Bush and William Jefferson Clinton, and former United States’ Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Obama’s categorical assertion that there is never to be someone like Mandela again is spooky, not simply because the Orwellian Obama regime carries out extra-legal executions by drone attacks,[5] and kidnaps ‘enemy combatants’ or ‘enemy belligerents’ for torturing.[6] Neither is it simply because of the US National Security Agencies’[7] mass surveillance technologies,[8] international spy network[9] and its largely hidden collaborations with transnational corporations[10] that investigators such as James Bamford have written about for years, before the brave Edward Snowden became a hunted whistleblower.[11]

What is deeply spooky about Obama saying that the world “will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again” is that the global news media did not even raise a single metaphorical eyebrow.

This failure occurred because to do otherwise would mean investigating why exactly the man who once wrote a book called The Audacity of Hope made this sweeping assertion, with all its inferred global geographical coverage and permanence.

Obama’s categorical statement is foreboding because it implies that the transnational capitalist class has learned much from suppressing uprisings, regardless of where they spring from, no matter the pigment of their freedom-fighting skins. And, because the Global Media Complex, which is a fraction of the transnational capitalist class,[12] has learned to deploy more sophisticated, Orwellian propaganda since Mandela was initially imprisoned.[13]

C is for Compromise

To understand why Mandela ‘chose’ reconciliation, it is crucial to know about the power structure that underpinned the white Afrikaner elite and the pressures brought to bear on them from the emerging transnational capitalist class.

A white supremacist brotherhood called the Afrikaner Broederbond (Afrikaner Brotherhood), which formed in 1918, controlled the apartheid regime.[14] This secret society was comprised of descendants from mostly Dutch-settlers who were bitter about losing the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).[15] Modeled on Freemasonry and the Sons of England clubs, the Afrikaner Brotherhood resolved to regain control of the Republic of South Africa from British rule through influence, indoctrination, infiltration, intimidation and intrigue.

To this end, the secret network of the Afrikaner Brotherhood came to occupy key positions of the state apparatus, including parliament, the police, military, judiciary and penal systems, universities, schools, and the state-controlled broadcasting monopoly. The Broeders also held top posts in private sector institutions such as law and accountancy firms, and cartelized industries including banking, mining, and communications.

Under their regime, they spied on native Africans and ‘sympathizers’. The Afrikaner Broederbond covered-up their systematic repression that included kidnapping, beatings, torture, and serial murdering such as ‘disappearing’ people by dropping them from aircraft over the ocean.[16] In addition to this full-spectrum state-sponsored terrorism, the regime isolated the indigenous population into shanty-towns, where most were unemployed or working essentially as low-paid wage slaves.

 Amid pressure from a global anti-Apartheid campaign, some in the Afrikaner Broederbond began to realize that ‘the writing was on the wall’. As John Pilger reports in his article “Mandela’s Greatness May be Assured – But Not His Legacy”[17] and in his 1998 documentary Apartheid Did Not Die,[18] the Afrikaner elite pursued a strategy to divide the black resistance in the late 1980s, while Mandela was still behind bars. The Broederbond’s goal was to ensure that they did not go to jail for genocidal crimes, otherwise the Afrikaner Brotherhood would be unable to enjoy their wealth, power and egotistical lifestyles under the façade of a post-political apartheid South Africa.

According to Michael Schmidt in his article “The Dictatorial Roots of Neo-liberal Democracy in South Africa and Chile”, a meeting took place in September 1985 between the African National Congress (ANC) party leadership at its headquarters at Lusaka, and white businessmen and newspaper editors.[19] ANC president Oliver Tambo and the Anglo-American Corporation’s Gavin Reilly lead each side. There was symbolic value in having the head of the Anglo-American Corporation lead the white delegation, because it was primarily the British and American capital class that were moving in to take control of the Republic. To apply pressure to the Broeders, Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan Bank recalled a $500 million loan to South Africa in 1985 and other banks followed suit.[20]

The chairman of the Afrikaner Broederbond, Pieter de Lange, who had met with the ANC’s Thabo Mbeki in New York, urged his fellow Broeder, prime minister P. W. Botha, in mid-1986 to negotiate with the ANC.[21] The same year, the United States joined the economic warfare started by the Chase Manhattan Bank and imposed sanctions against the regime.[22]

 In 1987, a meeting took place in Senegal between 17 ANC members and 61 Afrikaner intellectuals, including the leader of the Progressive Federal Party, Frederick van Zyl Slabbert.[23] A dozen other meetings took place between November 1987 and May 1990, at a mansion called Mells Park House, near Bath in western England, as Patti Waldmeir reported in her over-enthusiastically titled 1997 book, Anatomy of a Miracle. At Mells Park House the Afrikaner elite met with an inner circle of the exiled ANC leadership, led by Mbeki, where they discussed a probable transition to a non-apartheid democracy, constitutional protections for whites, and the kind of economic system South Africa might have.[24] (Mbeki would later succeed Mandela as president).

 On 5 July 1989, Botha met with Mandela in prison. After Botha suffered a stroke in 1989, F. W. de Klerk speed up the process of secret negotiations with the exiled African National Congress party.[25] This ‘speed politics’ essentially isolated the 3 million members of the newly formed United Democratic Front, whose most famous spokesman was Bishop Desmond Tutu.[26]

As Michael Schmidt points out, against the backdrop of the civil war, there was a sequence to the transformation: “first the spies, then the businessmen, then the commissars, then the intellectuals, then the politicos.”[27]

Few today realize that when Mandela was released from prison, the American establishment was not thrilled. [28] It was not until Mandela gave-up and resigned himself to a decision that had already been arrived at by others while he was still in jail, that he was treated as a darling of American political and media elites (for whom, making-up freedom-themed fables is a sacred daily ritual). Thabo Mbeki was the one who talked Mandela around to sucking up the big ‘C-word’ of Compromise. If there were a book called the Alphabet of International Affairs with a special edition for the apparent end of apartheid in South Africa, the ‘C-word’ would mean going along with the transnational capitalists’ favoured path of reconciliation.

 In 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) gained nominal political power only. Despite promises made by Mandela that the ANC would dismantle the apartheid economy through massive land redistribution, and nationalize “mines, banks and monopoly industries”,[29] the Afrikaner Broederbond were able to maintain their alliances with the power interests of international capital.[30] Cronyism became rampant between the newly wealthy black businessmen, the heads of the ANC, the old wealth among established Broeders and coalitions of transnational capitalists.[31]

 Supposed ‘technical’ and ‘administrative’ functions of the economic apparatus were placed in the hands of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, and the soon-to-be-established World Trade Organization, that together serve the interests of international capital. Land reform became all but impossible without a constitutional change, since a clause had been written into the Republic’s new constitution preventing the redistribution of vast tracts of land held by the white minority population.[32]

Reconciliation meant the Afrikaner Broederbond never faced trial for the atrocities of their apartheid regime.[33] In their 1989 book entitled “A Crime Against Humanity: Analysing the Repression of the Apartheid State”, the Human Rights Committee reported that in just an eight-year period between 1981 and 1989, the genocide meted-out by the Afrikaners took the lives of an estimated 1.5 million people, through military violence and economic repression.[34]

Gallingly, when the authors of The Super-Afrikaners: Inside the Afrikaner Broederbond, Ivor Wilkins and Hans Strydom were investigating the Afrikaner Brotherhood, insiders of this secret society whined that the Freemasons and the Sons of England had used their secret networks to gain and maintain power too.

 It is a cliché that the Afrikaners failed to learn deep lessons of the bitter blow dealt to them in the Second Boer War by the coalition mustered by the British Empire. Due to a European Superiority Complex that they had in common with the British ruling class, the Afrikaners lacked compassion toward the native tribes with which they had refused to share land, wealth and power.

 Despite the authors of the book The Super-Afrikaners publishing the names of 7,500 of the estimated 17,000 members in 1978, the Broeders were ultimately protected by other powers of the world that were complicit in these crimes against humanity. The world community’s complicity was due to their long-held silence, either because of their ties to the Broederbond’s apartheid regime, or due to submission to stronger capitalist states with such bonds.

In other words, a transnational capitalist class led by the British and Americans, managed the outcome of the South African native uprising, partly so that they would benefit from the outcome. This managed process to a ‘free-market’ neoliberal democracy also prevented the threat of a ‘bad example’, or true political and economic autonomy spreading to other jurisdictions. It also suppressed the danger of justice being served to the perpetrators and igniting the imaginations of oppressed peoples the world-over. Consequently, the propagandist value of western leaders rubbing shoulders with the Global Media Complex’s newly lionized ‘freedom fighter’, Nelson Mandela, was capitalized on to maximum effect!

Unfortunately, when the ANC settled on the reconciliation compromise, most of the global anti-apartheid movement bought into the fanfare. Little did the native bantu resistance movement of South Africa realize how close to real victory they were if they had not let their leaders give into logically fallacious arguments, the lure of centralized power, and fear.

 Following Mandela’s death, the former National Chairman of the New Zealand anti-apartheid group, Halt All Racist Tours (HART), that protested against the ‘whites only’ South African Springbok rugby team playing against the New Zealand All Blacks in 1981, weighed in with an opinion piece, “A great man, but not a great president”. In this opinion piece, John Minto argued that Mandela failed to hold fast to the principles laid out in the ANC’s 1956 ‘Freedom Charter’.[35] This charter, which stipulated land redistribution to landless people, living wages, free education, public ownership of the banks and other monopoly industries, and for commerce to serve the needs of the people, was written after 50,000 volunteers scoured the country for the views of oppressed bantu (or native) and Indian populations.[36] “In Mandela’s new South Africa”, wrote Minto, “oppression based on race morphed into discrimination based on social class and life went on as “normal”.”

 Unfortunately, the ANC’s negotiator’s fell into a ‘horse-trading trap’ wherein they gave away concessions to control of key institutions, without apparently fully realizing the ramifications, as journalist Naomi Klein reported in her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. These organizations included: the treasury and the central bank; the pro-globalization, pro-wealthy, job out-sourcing body, the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was the forerunner to the World Trade Organization (WTO); and even the new parliament (with the clause in the constitution that prevented land redistribution added at a late stage). Evidently, the ANC fell under the spell of Thabo Mbeki, who it appears had fallen for the intoxicating black magic of ‘free-market’ zealotry, which included new wealth and power for elites willing to exploit a naïve base of constituents, while living in England during the neoliberal era of Thatcherism.

 As Minto pointed out, John Pilger seems to be the only journalist who took Mandela to task over the reign of the status quo that suited the propertied class. In Pilger’s 1998 documentary Apartheid Did Not Die, Mandela is visibly annoyed with Pilger, who was simply doing his job properly, by challenging South Africa’s president for not doing his job properly. In recalling this documentary, Minto states that Mandela failed as a president (and after) because he refused to confront the continued economic apartheid meted-out to the indigenous and Indian population groups of South Africa under ‘free market’ capitalism.

 Spooky Spin: The politics of skin colour performed by a corporate wolf

By imposing neoliberal ‘free market’ economic shock treatments on countries all over the world – including South Africa – a transnational capitalist class has been able to deepen their political control, as Naomi Klein compellingly shows in her book, The Shock Doctrine [37] Their objective in South Africa, as in so many far-flung places, was to keep the mass native populace in a poverty-stricken state, so that they would continue to have only their ‘skins’ to trade for their survival, as Karl Marx could have predicted. Mandela, Mbeki and the rest of the ANC leadership complied, either out of egotistical ambitions for power, or a variation of the Stockholm Syndrome (wherein some appeared to develop an affection for their psychopathic ‘rulers’), or a failure to anticipate the balkanization of the economy by the de Klerk regime and the transnational capitalists.[38] Thus, the native population of South Africa is yet to achieve an end to economic apartheid and therefore a true end to political apartheid, since any group can only control their politics once they gain control over sufficient economic resources – especially land.[39]

Therefore, Obama’s speech was spooky because the US president was able to trade on the colour of his skin when he claimed he drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela as a young man, without the global media missionaries pointing out this audacious manipulation. At the same time, Obama omitted the fact that he is not simply the Commander-in-Chief of a nation, but also of a transnational financial-military empire.[40]

This transnational empire advances the agenda of war on behalf of its core clients, the wealthy owners of vast transnational corporations. The wars that the American government’s Department of ‘Defense’ wages on behalf of its transnational capitalist class clients, are about asserting and maintaining control over the world’s resources, its banking systems, territories and, ultimately, the mass populaces of whole societies.

This permanent war is even waged on a domestic front, as the suppression of the peaceful Occupy Movement by the American state-apparatus demonstrated.[41] So when Obama audaciously said, “There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people”,[42] the bulk of the applauding crowd unwittingly demonstrated that the global media propaganda system stills holds currency for the more elusive, brazen ‘Transnational Brotherhood’.[43]

Thus, even as Obama was pulling on the heart-strings of the naïve, he was also signaling to ears attuned to such propaganda that as a front-man for the Transnational Brotherhood, he will play his part to ensure that no one ever threatens their domination again. In other words, as Obama was shamelessly encouraging the ‘hope of freedom’, he also offered an encoded commitment to advance ‘the game’ to his fraternal friends in the transnational capitalist class, lest they doubt his solidarity with their global neocolonial project.[44]

It is therefore, crucial to de-indoctrinate those who still believe in the false ‘freedom’ marketed by well-groomed wolf-puppets in corporate clothing such as Obama. Their obliviousness to the hidden mechanisms and objectives underpinning this deceitful hope is keeping us all under the rule of a class of people who have more in common with the Afrikaner Broederbond than they are willing to admit. When, not if, such naïve people en masse correctly see the Transnational Brotherhood as cowards who use subterfuge to hide their crimes against humanity, a long-overdue day of reckoning – the likes of which the world has never seen – will become inevitable.

By day, Snoopman works undercover as an ordinary mortal, editing news at a television station. By night, Snoopman researches the wicked deeds of the powerful, and is Editor-in-Chief at Snoopman News. (See Snoopman News for sourced references)

References

[1] Barack Obama’s tribute to Nelson Mandela at memorial service – video. (2013, December 10). The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/dec/10/barack-obama-nelson-mandela-memorial-service-video

[2] Global Research News. Nelson Mandela: Beyond Prisoner, Beyond President. (2013, July 17). Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/nelson-mandela-beyond-prisoner-beyond-president/5342978

[3] Sanders, James (2006). Apartheid’s Friends: The Rise and Fall of South Africa’s Secret Service (SASS). John Murray; Becker, Brian. (2013, July 20). It was the CIA that helped Jail Nelson Mandela. Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/it-was-the-cia-that-helped-jail-nelson-mandela/5343409

[4] Barack Obama’s tribute to Nelson Mandela at memorial service – video. (2013, December 10). The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/dec/10/barack-obama-nelson-mandela-memorial-service-video

[5] Everest, Larry. (2013, November 5). The Illegality, Illegitimacy and Immorality of U.S. Drone Strikes. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-illegality-illegitimacy-and-immorality-of-u-s-drone-strikes/5356886; Confronting the American People: Thousands of military drones to be deployed over US mainland. Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/confronting-the-american-people-thousands-of-military-drones-to-be-deployed-over-us-mainland/?print=1

[6] Lendman, Stephen. (2013, November 12). America’s Global Gulag: Challenging Wrongful Convictions Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/americas-global-gulag-challenging-wrongful-convictions/5357796?print=1; Lendman, Stephen. (2013, July 19). US Courts Approve Indefinite Detention and Torture. Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-courts-approve-indefinite-detention-and-torture/5343269

[7] World Socialist Web Site. (2013, December 18). “Almost Orwellian”: US Judge indicts NSA spying. Retrieved from http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/12/18/pers-d18.html

[8] WashingtonsBlog. (2013, December 18). Former Top NSA Official: “We Are Now In A Police State”. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/12/former-top-nsa-official-now-police-state.html

[9] Burghardt, Tom. (2013, July 13). ECHELON Today: The Evolution of an NSA Black Program. Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/echelon-today-the-evolution-of-an-nsa-black-program

[10] Burghardt, Tom. (2013, November 10). The U.S. Secret State and the Internet: “Dirty Secrets” and “Crypto Wars” from “Clipper Chip” and ECHELON to PRISM. Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-u-s-secret-state-and-the-internet-dirty-secrets-and-crypto-wars-from-clipper-chip-to-prism/5357623;

[11] See for example: Bamford, James. (2002). Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency. New York: Anchor Books; Also: Hager, Nicky (1997, February 1). ECHELON: Exposing the Global Surveillance System. Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/echelon-exposing-the-global-surveillance-system/30532

[12] Carroll, W. K. (2010). The Making of a Transnational Capitalist Class: Corporate Power in the 21stCentury. London: Zed Books.

[13] Gitlin, T. (2003). The Whole World is Watching. Mass Media in Making and Unmaking of the New Left. London, England: University of California Press.

[14] O’ Malley, Padraig. Afrikaner-Broederbond (AB). Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. Retrieved from http://www.nelsonmandela.org/omalley/index.php/site/q/03lv02424/04lv02730/05lv03188/06lv03190.htm

[15] Wilkins, Ivor & Strydom, Hans. (2013 [1978]). The Super-Afrikaners: Inside the Afrikaner Broederbond.

[16] Human Rights Committee (1989). A Crime Against Humanity – Analysing the Repression of the Apartheid State. South African History Online. Retrieved fromhttp://----escape_autolink_uri:33a0725279bed363f12f48cc09bf44b5----

[17] Pilger, John. (2013, July 11). Mandela’s Greatness May be Assured – But Not His Legacy. Retrieved from http://johnpilger.com/articles/mandelas-greatness-may-be-secured-but-not-his-legacy

[18] Pilger, John. (1998). Apartheid Did Not Die. johnpilger.com Retrieved from http://johnpilger.com/videos/apartheid-did-not-die

[19] Schmidt, Michael. (2009, June 30). “The Dictatorial Roots of Neo-liberal Democracy in South Africa and Chile” Alex Constantine’s Anti-Fascist Research Bin. Retrieved from http://alexconstantine.blogspot.co.nz/2009/06/dictatorial-roots-of-neo-liberal.html

[20] Global Research News. Nelson Mandela: Beyond Prisoner, Beyond President. (2013, July 17). Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/nelson-mandela-beyond-prisoner-beyond-president/5342978

[21] Schmidt, Michael. (2009, June 30). “The Dictatorial Roots of Neo-liberal Democracy in South Africa and Chile” Alex Constantine’s Anti-Fascist Research Bin. Retrieved from http://alexconstantine.blogspot.co.nz/2009/06/dictatorial-roots-of-neo-liberal.html

[22] Global Research News. Nelson Mandela: Beyond Prisoner, Beyond President. (2013, July 17). Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/nelson-mandela-beyond-prisoner-beyond-president/5342978

[23] Schmidt, Michael. (2009, June 30). “The Dictatorial Roots of Neo-liberal Democracy in South Africa and Chile” Alex Constantine’s Anti-Fascist Research Bin. Retrieved from http://alexconstantine.blogspot.co.nz/2009/06/dictatorial-roots-of-neo-liberal.html

[24] Waldmeir, Patti. (1997). Anatomy of a Miracle: The End of Apartheid and the Birth of the New South Africa. p.78-79. WW Norton & Company

[25] Schmidt, Michael. (2009, June 30). “The Dictatorial Roots of Neo-liberal Democracy in South Africa and Chile” Alex Constantine’s Anti-Fascist Research Bin. Retrieved from http://alexconstantine.blogspot.co.nz/2009/06/dictatorial-roots-of-neo-liberal.html

[26] Pilger, John. (1998). Apartheid Did Not Die. johnpilger.com Retrieved from http://johnpilger.com/videos/apartheid-did-not-die

[27] Schmidt, Michael. (2009, June 30). “The Dictatorial Roots of Neo-liberal Democracy in South Africa and Chile” Alex Constantine’s Anti-Fascist Research Bin. Retrieved from http://alexconstantine.blogspot.co.nz/2009/06/dictatorial-roots-of-neo-liberal.html

[28] Schechter, Danny. (2013, July 1). Retrieved from How the Western Media Distorts the Historical Legacy of Nelson Mandela http://www.globalresearch.ca/how-the-western-media-distorts-the-historical-legacy-of-nelson-mandela/5341283

[29] Winter, James. (2013, December 8). Mandela’s Dream of Black Power Became a “Neoliberal Nightmare” Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/mandelas-dream-of-black-power-became-a-neoliberal-nightmare/5360825

[30] Pilger, John. (2013, July 11). Mandela’s Greatness May be Assured – But Not His Legacy. Retrieved from http://johnpilger.com/articles/mandelas-greatness-may-be-secured-but-not-his-legacy

[31] Pilger, John. (1998). Apartheid Did Not Die. [Motion Picture]. johnpilger.com Retrieved from http://johnpilger.com/videos/apartheid-did-not-die

[32] Winter, James. (2013, December 8). Mandela’s Dream of Black Power Became a “Neoliberal Nightmare” Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/mandelas-dream-of-black-power-became-a-neoliberal-nightmare/5360825

[33] Pilger, John. (1998). Apartheid Did Not Die. [Motion Picture]. johnpilger.com Retrieved from http://johnpilger.com/videos/apartheid-did-not-die

[34] Human Rights Committee (1989). A Crime Against Humanity – Analysing the Repression of the Apartheid State. South African History Online. Retrieved from http://v1.sahistory.org.za/pages/library-resources/onlinebooks/crime-humanity/apartheid%20repression.htm#anatomy

[35] Minto, John. (2013, December 10). The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved from http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11169600; See also: Patu! Mita, Merata (1983). [Motion Picture]. New Zealand: Awatea Films Production. Retrieved from http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/patu-1983

[36] African National Congress. (2011). Freedom Charter. Retrieved from http://www.anc.org.za/docs.php?t=Freedom%20Charter

[37] Klein, N. (2007). The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Camberwell, Australia: Penguin Books. See Also: Whitecross, M & Winterbottom, A. (Directors) & Eaton, A. (Producer). The Shock Doctrine 2009 [Motion picture]. A Renegade Pictures/Revolution Films Production. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iW1SHPgUAQ

[38] Gowans, Stephen. (2013, December 9). Why the West Loves Mandela and Hates Mugabe. Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/why-the-west-loves-mandela-and-hates-mugabe/5360995; Waldmeir, Patti. (1997). Anatomy of a Miracle: The End of Apartheid and the Birth of the New South Africa. WW Norton & Company

[39] Pilger, John. (1998). Apartheid Did Not Die. johnpilger.com Retrieved from http://johnpilger.com/videos/apartheid-did-not-die; Pilger, John. (2013, July 11). Mandela’s Greatness May be Assured – But Not His Legacy. Retrieved from http://johnpilger.com/articles/mandelas-greatness-may-be-secured-but-not-his-legacy

[40] Jarecki, Eugene (2006). Why We Fight. [Motion Picture]. USA: Sony Pictures Classics; Phillips, Peter & Osborne, Bradley. (2013, September 13). Exposing the Financial Core of the Transnational Capitalist Class http://www.globalresearch.ca/exposing-the-financial-core-of-the-transnational-capitalist-class/5349617; Phillips, Peter & Soeiro, Kimberley. (2012, August 14). The Global 1%: Exposing the Transnational Ruling Class. Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-global-1-exposing-the-transnational-ruling-class; Azikiwe, Abayomi (2013, May 19). Global Research. Retrieved from Africa and U.S. Imperialism: Post-Colonial Crises and the Imperatives of the African Revolution http://www.globalresearch.ca/africa-and-u-s-imperialism-post-colonial-crises-and-the-imperatives-of-the-african-revolution/5335641

[41] Grey, Barry. (2012, December 27). Occupy protests targeted by FBI counterterror units. Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/occupy-protests-targeted-by-fbi-counterterror-units/5316991; Zeese, Kevein & Flowers, Margaret. (2013, July 4). The State of Dissent in America: Flex Your Rights. Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-state-of-dissent-in-america-flex-your-rights/5341616?print=1; Bernstein, Dennis J. & Verheyden-Hilliard, Mara. (2012, December 31). How the FBI Monitored the Occupy Movement. Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/how-the-fbi-monitored-the-occupy-movement/5317536

[42] President Barack Obama. (2013, December 11). Obama: We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela Again.” Scoop News. Retrieved from http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1312/S00163/obama-we-will-never-see-the-likes-of-nelson-mandela-again.htm; Barack Obama’s tribute to Nelson Mandela at memorial service – video. (2013, December 10). The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/dec/10/barack-obama-nelson-mandela-memorial-service-video

[43] Jones, Alex. The Obama Deception: The Mask Comes Off. [Motion Picture]. USA: Alex Jones Productions; Bermas, Jason. (2010). Invisible Empire: A New World Order Defined. [Motion Picture]. USA: Alex Jones Productions.

[44] Snoopman. (2013, August 31). A Poorly Understood ‘Bargain’: How Democracy and the 60s Movements became Orphans in the ‘Free Market’ Era. Snoopman News. Retrieved from http://snoopman.net.nz/2013/

Manipulations Rule The Markets

December 20th, 2013 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

The Federal Reserve’s announcement on December 18 that beginning in January its monthly purchases of mortgage-backed financial instruments and US Treasury bonds would each be cut by $5 billion is puzzling, as is the financial press’s account of the market’s response.

The Federal Reserve conveys a contradictory message.  The Fed says that improvements in employment and the economy justify cutting back on bond purchases.

Yet the Fed emphasizes that it is maintaining its commitment to record low interest rates “well past the time that the unemployment rate declines below 6.5 percent, especially if projected inflation continues to run below the [Open Market] Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal. When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent.”

The last sentence in the quote states that the Fed does not regard its announced reduction in bond purchases as less accommodation or as a move toward tightening. In other words, the Fed is saying that tapering does not mean less accommodation.

To put it another way, the Fed is saying that the economy is doing well enough not to require the same amount of monthly bond purchases, but is not doing well enough to stand any change in the near zero nominal federal funds rate.  The implication is that the Fed either does not think that a reduction in purchases will result in a rise in long-term interest rates or that such a rise will not derail the economy as long as the Fed keeps short-term rates at or near zero. If the $10 billion decrease in monthly bond demand results in higher long-term interest rates, what good does it do to keep the federal funds rate at zero? If the $10 billion monthly bond purchases were not needed as part of the accommodation policy, why was the Fed purchasing them?

Possibly the Fed thinks that Congress has taken steps to reduce the federal deficit, which would result in a reduced supply of bonds to match the Fed’s reduced demand for bonds, but the Fed’s statement makes no reference to federal deficit reduction, which is probably a smoke and mirrors change instead of a real one. 

Moreover, the Fed’s outlook for the economy is mixed. The Fed says that “recovery in the housing sector slowed somewhat in recent months,” so why reduce purchases of mortgage-backed financial instruments?  And surely the Fed is aware that the U3 unemployment rate has declined because discouraged workers who cannot find a job are not counted among the unemployed. As all measures show, real median family income and real per capita income are lower today than in 2007, and real consumer credit is not growing except for student loans.  Without rising aggregate demand to drive the economy, why does the Fed see a recovery instead of faulty statistical measures that do not accurately portray economic reality?

The financial media’s reporting on the stock market’s response to the Fed’s announcement has its own puzzles.  I have not seen the entirety of the news reports, but what I have seen says that the equity market rose because investors interpreted the reduction in bond purchases as signaling the Fed’s vote of confidence in the economy.

Previously when the Fed announced that it might cut back its bond purchases, the markets dropped sharply, and the Fed quickly back-tracked. Everyone knows that the high prices in the bond and equity markets are the result of the liquidity pouring out of the Fed and that a curtailment of this liquidity will adversely affect prices.  So why this time did prices go up instead of down?

Pam Martens points out that there is evidence of manipulation.  http://wallstreetonparade.com  

As market data indicates, the initial response to the Fed’s announcement was a sharp move down as market participants sold stocks on the Fed’s announcement (see the chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in Pam Martens’ article). But within a few minutes the market changed course and rose on panic short-covering just as sharply as it had fallen.

The question is: who provided the upward push that panicked the shorts and sent the market up 292 points?  Was it the plunge protection team and the NY Fed’s trading floor? Was it the large banks acting in concert with the Fed? It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this was an orchestrated event that forestalled a market decline.

Short selling in the paper gold futures market has been used to protect the US dollar’s value from being knocked down by the Fed’s Quantitative Easing. Following the Fed’s December 18 announcement, another big takedown of gold was launched. 

William Kaye had predicted the takedown in advance. He noticed that the ETF gold trust GLD experienced a sudden loss in gold holdings as shares were redeemed for gold. Only the large Fed-dependent bullion banks can redeem shares for gold.  Possession of physical gold allows the short-selling that drives down the gold price to be covered.

http://kingworldnews.com/kingworldnews/KWN_DailyWeb/Entries/2013/12/17_Absolutely_Shocking_Developments_In_The_War_On_Gold.html

Bloomberg reports that gold is exiting the West. It has been shipped out to Asia. You explain, dear reader, how the price of gold can fall so much in the West while the supply of gold dries up. http://www.bloomberg.com/video/what-s-happening-to-all-the-gold-d33u1c23SDqA0p0e~9_INw.html  

In a few days prior to the Fed’s tapering announcement,  GLD was drained of 25 tonnes of gold by primary bullion banks, JP MorganChase, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, and Citicorp.  As Dave Kranzler pointed out to me, these banks happen to be the biggest players in the OTC derivatives market for precious metals. HSBC is the custodian of the GLD gold and JPM is the custodian of SLV silver. HSBC and JPM are two of the three primary custodial and market-making banks for Comex gold and silver.

The conclusion is obvious. QE helps the big banks, and manipulation of the gold price downward protects the US dollar from its dilution by QE.

The Fed’s reduced bond purchasing announced for the New Year still leaves the Fed purchasing $900 billion worth of bonds annually, so obviously the Fed does not think that everything is OK.  Moreover, the Fed has other ways to make up for the $120 billion annual reduction, assuming the reduction actually occurs. The prospect for tapering is dependent on the US economy not sinking deeper into depression. Massaged “success indicators” such as the unemployment rate, which is understated by not counting discouraged workers, and the GDP growth rate, which is overstated with an understated measure of inflation, do not a recovery make. No other economic indicator shows recovery.

Until a whistleblower speaks, we cannot know for certain, but my conclusion is that the Fed understands that it must protect the dollar from being driven down by QE and that the orchestrated takedowns of gold are part of protecting the dollar’s value, and perhaps also the cutback in QE is a part of the protection by signaling an end of money creation.  The Fed also understands that it cannot forever drive down the gold price and that it cannot forever pour liquidity into stock and bond markets.  To retreat from this policy without crashing the edifice requires successful orchestrations.  Therefore, we are likely to experience more of them in the days to come.

Allegedly, the US has free capital markets, and globalism is bringing free capital markets to the world.  In actual fact, US capital markets are so manipulated–and now by the authorities themselves–that manipulation cannot stop without a crash.

What American “democratic capitalism” has brought to the world is manipulated financial markets and the absence of democracy. How long this game can play depends on the outside world.

On May 25, 2013, Maoist insurgents in the Indian state of Chattisgarh wiped out almost the entire leadership of the Congress Party in that state by killing 28 of its members in an ambush. The Congress Party forms the central government in India, but is in opposition in Chattisgarh, which is ruled by the Hindu supremacist and fascist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

This attack followed an even more devastating one by the Maoists in April 2010 in the same state, which killed 76 paramilitary troops. Sonia Gandhi, the Congress Party leader, was “aghast” at the Maoist assault on her party members, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the insurgents “the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country.”

The Maoist rebellion in India is 40 years old. It started in 1967 in the town of Naxalbari in West Bengal, because of which the guerrilla group is also known as Naxalites. The state suppressed the early Naxalites, but did not completely eliminate them.  New Delhi seems unable to deal with the Maoists’ latest incarnation, which was created in 2004 with the birth of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) that united two major Maoist factions. 

Since then, the insurgency has spread like wildfire over 40% of India’s land area, encompassing 20 of the country’s 28 states, including 223 districts (up from 55 in 2003) out of a total of 640. The seven most affected Indian states in terms of fatalities are Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Orissa, Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh, in that order.  These regions comprise the “Red Corridor.” About 10,000 people have been killed in the expanding civil war since 1980. The Maoists wield about 20,000 armed fighters and another 50,000 supporters. The Indian government complains that the insurgency has crippled economic activity in Central and Eastern India.

 The long-term objective of the Maoists is the armed overthrow of the Indian state and the creation of a socialist-communist government. The Maoists term this a “democratic revolution, which would remain directed against imperialism, feudalism, and comprador bureaucratic capitalism.” The insurgents do not consider the Indian electoral system and governments to be democratic, but rather tools that benefit the landlord and capitalist classes. 

     The insurgency stems from the Indian government’s turn to neoliberal capitalism that began in 1991 and which has massively increased poverty and inequality in the country, especially to the detriment of farmers and Adivasis (Indigenous tribal Indians). At the same time, this economic strategy has enriched a small élite such as the Tata, Ambani, and Jindal families, which is why India is depicted by the Western mainstream press as an economic superpower, the poster child of globalization and successful capitalism. 

   Seven hundred and fifty million Indians, about 75% of the country’s population, live in poverty while the top 5% of Indian families hold 38% of total assets. 

  India has the third highest number of billionaires in the world, after the U.S. and China. According to the prominent Indian author and ecologist, Dr. Vandana Shiva,

Four of the top billionaires of the world are now Indian, and I work at the other end of how they became billionaires because I work with the communities whose land is grabbed, city dwellers whose water bills or electricity bills jumped to ten times more. These few billionaires that have emerged, we never had this scale of billionaires — they now control one-third of the Indian economy, which means someone else lost their part of the economy. The Tatas and the Ambanis are using armed might. I think everything that happened in Latin America and Central America with the creation of Contras, the arming of society, dividing of society, is being tried in India.”

The Indian capitalist class, in league with Western multinational corporations and governments, is continuing the rapacious legacy of Western colonialism (the British ruled and exploited India for 200 years) by looting the country’s land and mineral resources to increase its wealth, while driving most of the population to destitution. As Dr. Shiva says, the Indian élite is using armed might to maximize its wealth, which is mainly the military might of the Indian state that has been thoroughly corrupted by neoliberalism both at the national and provincial levels.

The state has accelerated its grabbing of the mineral-rich land of the 84 million Adivasis (8% of the population) in India for iron and steel corporations including Tata, Jindal, Mittal and other companies. This has displaced and impoverished millions of Adivasis and driven them to join the Maoists, who claim to represent their grievances. The Adivasis, the original people of India, were among the poorest people in the country to begin with, being denied basic services by the Indian state with their land being stolen by New Delhi since 1947 when the country became independent. This thievery violates the Indian Constitution itself, which protects the land rights of Adivasis. 

Adivasis have been surviving by subsistence farming and by scraping a living from forestry. But even these precarious means of livelihood are threatened by the Indian state’s and corporations’ growing confiscation of Adivasi lands since 1991, so the tribal people “risk losing everything they’ve ever known.” The Maoist war is a resource war over land and the enormous mineral wealth under it, but also a war for the very survival of the Adivasi people. Most of the fighters among the Maoists are Adivasis, although the leaders are not.

The Indian state’s response to the Maoist challenge has been to send 81,000 paramilitary troops into the affected areas in “Operation Greenhunt,” which, by attacking Adivasis, has only driven them further into the arms of the Maoists. There is a positive development component to the state response, too, but  central and provincial governments in India are so corrupt that only about 10% of development funds trickle down to the people they are supposed to benefit. The face of government that Adivasis see is therefore usually one of wide-scale violence and corruption.

The state of Jharkhand in eastern India is a main focus of the insurgency. According to one observer, corruption is rampant in Jharkhand, which is turning away from electoral politics and “slipping into the hands of the Maoists.” During the last 12 years, not a single provincial government in Jharkhand has completed its term, and there have been eight of these during this period. India’s electricity generation is mainly dependent on coal, and Jharkhand, along with four other states in which the insurgency is strongest, accounts for 85% of India’s coal deposits. Jharkhand also contains the world’s biggest iron ore deposit.

The corrupt Jharkhand government has signed 42 Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with various large iron and steel companies, including Tata, Jindal, Mittal, and Essar. The Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), India’s top official investigating agency, has launched a probe into the giving of coal mines by the state to Jindal Steel and Power and other companies. Jindal has benefited greatly from a policy that gave away coal mines without auctions – a policy that may have cost the government $30 billion, according to the state auditor’s 2012 report. The CBI raided Jindal’s offices and the New Delhi residence of the chairman, Naveen Jindal, on June 11.

Adivasis make up 26% of Jharkhand’s population, and many depend on forests for their livelihood. These kinds of industrial projects have already ravaged the forests, and their increase will expand such damage. Jharkhand contains the Saranda forest, Asia’s largest sal tree sanctuary, for which the government has granted 19 mining licenses. Saranda is where the world’s biggest iron ore deposit is located. At present, there is one state-owned mine operating in Saranda. 

“It’s the genocide of the Adivasis,” says Xavier Dias about the opening of Saranda to mining companies. Dias is spokesperson for the Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee (JMACC), the biggest alliance of Adivasi organizations affected by mining, and the editor of a newspaper dedicated to the communities impacted by mining. He has worked in support of the rights of Adivasi communities in Jharkhand for 30 years. Dias was jailed by the Jharkhand government for his activism in November 2012, on false charges. In June 2013, he won the court case that followed his arrest.    

According to Indian journalist Sayantan Bera,

“Saranda is to eastern India what the Amazon rainforests are to the world. Its springs feed rivers like the Karo, the Baitarani, and the Sanjay. Extensive mining operations are killing these perennial streams. Wastewater from washaries of iron ore mines on the periphery has already contaminated the groundwater aquifers. Mine workers and residents in the periphery of Saranda are dying from liver disease caused by contaminated groundwater.”

State security forces have launched three major military operations in the Saranda forest, aimed at clearing the Maoist presence there for the mining companies. Says Indigenous activist Gladson Dungdung, convener of the Jharkhand Indigenous Peoples’ Forum, “The government has been helping in securing land, water, and minerals for the corporate giants through military operations.

 “In Saranda in June, July, and August 2011, there were three massive operations: Operation Monsoon, Operation Bravo Boy, and Operation Anaconda. The security forces killed two Adivasis, raped several women, and tortured more than 500 Adivasis. They also disrupted the Adivasis food grain supply, destroyed the harvest, ate livestock, and destroyed all official identification papers of the Adivasis (ration cards, voter ID, land titles). The Adivasis were forced to leave their villages and they only returned after our intervention. The end result is that the the government gave mining leases to 19 mining companies in the region including Tata, Jindal, Mittal, Rungta Mines and others.” 

Dias adds:

Today Jharkhand is a fully militarized zone. There are over a hundred bases with a total of 50,000 official paramilitary troops involved in military action. There are Indian Army bases, too, but these are not involved in direct action yet. Aside from government paramilitary forces here, we also have the mining corporations’ security forces. The government claims that its troops are there to counter the Maoists, but in actuality it is the democratic movements such as people resisting land grabs or fighting police repression that are intimidated into silence. By creating this drastic panic among the people, the corporations are free to suck out the minerals and forest resources.”

Dias points out that

Tata Iron & Steel Company’s iron ore mine lies in Noamundi, Jharkhand. It is one of their first mines in India, operational since 1907 and supplying ore to Tata’s furnace in Jamshedpur. This is the homeland of the Adivasi people of India, from whom resources were expropriated to convert the House of Tata from an opium trader to a full-fledged monopoly capitalist company, one of the first in British India.”  Tata first became prominent by handling the opium trade for the British, who forced China to buy the drug which helped destroy both the Indian and Chinese economies. The opium plant was grown in India under British orders.

“The Adivasis of Jharkhand,” says Dias, “have centuries of history of struggle against the outside colonizer. The East India Company in June 1855 got the British Crown’s army to wage a war against them and, even with no firearms, they fought back. Today, their struggle is against the Indian monopoly capitalists and the state sector corporations. They are fighting for the right to self-determination within the Indian constitution, the right to a distinct culture, economy, and existence. It boils down to having the right to their land, their forests, and their water sources.”     

 As Gladson Dungdung explains,

Today, we live in the corporate Indian state, not in a welfare state. The government makes all the laws and policies in favour of the corporate houses. For example, the Jharkhand government introduced the Industrial Policy of 2012, which clearly says that 25 kilometers of both sides of the four-lane road from Kodarma to Bahragora [towns in Jharkhand] will be handed over to the corporations as a Special Economic Zone. Where can people go from here? The state is simply not bothered about its people. See the example of [the state of] Chattisgarh, where 644 villages were forcibly vacated by Salwa Judum and handed over to corporations.”

In addition to paramilitary troops, the state has also used death squads known as Salwa Judum (SJ), meaning Purification Hunt, to spread a reign of terror and drive out Adivasis from villages for the benefit of companies — and on a massive scale, as Dungdung says. One of the Congress Party leaders killed by Maoists in Chattisgarh in May 2013 in the attack that eliminated 28 of them (see above) was Mahendra Karma, who created the Salwa Judum in 2005. Karma was stabbed 78 times by the Maoists and shot 15 times. 

 The Salwa Judum was responsible for displacing 300,000 Adivasis, killing, raping, and looting them and burning down their villages. Five hundred charges of murder, 103 of arson, and 99 of rape have been levelled by citizens against the Salwa Judum, but the Chattisgarh government has not investigated or processed a single case. According to Human Rights Watch,

“Since mid-2005, government security forces and members of the Salwa Judum have attacked villages, killed and raped villagers, and burned down huts to force people into government camps… The conflict has given rise to one of the largest internal displacement crises in India.”

  Ironically, the SJ itself was made up of Adivasis, and Karma himself was Adivasi, too. The Indian Supreme Court declared the SJ illegal in 2011 and ordered the Chattisgarh government to disband it. 

 The Maoists have also killed civilians some of whom they claim were police informers. According to Dias, in Jharkhand, the insurgents attack Adivasi villages, extort money from mining companies, and protect the ones that are grabbing land from Adivasis. He says:

No corporate boss has so far been killed by the Maoists. When the Maoists call a general strike, those companies that pay levies to them are allowed to function and the rest are attacked. I do not believe that a mining company can function here without paying levies to the Maoists. Jharkhand is the place from where Maoists finance their operations in other states, too.”

Gladson Dungdung is critical of the Maoists, too, saying that, “As far my knowledge and experience is concerned, they are not fighting for the Adivasis [in Jharkhand]. Instead, they have created more problems for the democratic people’s movement.  It’s very easy for the government to call these democratic struggles Maoist and suppress them. I think the Maoists are part of the problem, not the solution.”

Xavier Dias, however, admits that “there are places where the Maoists are providing some good services to the Adivasis, such as Bastar [a town] in the state of Chattisgarh. He also does not think that the Maoists are corrupt, but considers them “misguided.” Dias does not see armed struggle as the way to solve India’s class and Adivasi problems.

Dayamani Barla, an Adivasi activist also based in Jharkhand, says that Adivasis support the Maoists. She points out that
“New Delhi’s failure to protect the interests of the tribals has led them to lend their support to the Maoists, whom they believe are fighting for their basic rights.”

According to the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera, which has sent correspondents into Maoist-controlled areas in Jharkhand, in many of these places the insurgents

“have organized the Adivasis and taken up community projects to provide services the government doesn’t. In 2010, Al Jazeera visited one such village, Tholkobad in Jharkhand state, where, under the name of the ‘agrarian revolution,’ the Maoists were providing support to the villagers to improve farming methods. One village leader told Al Jazeera that the Maoists frequently visited their villages, and treated everyone equally.”

Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, author of the acclaimed book The God of Small Things which has sold six million copies worldwide, has also visited Maoist-controlled areas in Chattisgarh. She, too, commends the Maoists in her 2010 article “Walking with the Comrades.” Referring to the Adivasis’ and Maoists’ fight against the Indian Forest Department in the Dandakaranya area, she states: “Emboldened by the people’s participation in these struggles, the party decided to confront the forest department. It encouraged people to take over forest land and cultivate it.

“The forest department retaliated by burning new villages that came up in forest areas. In 1986, it announced a National Park in Bijapur, which meant the eviction of 60 villages. More than half of them had already been moved out, and construction of national park infrastructure had begun when the party moved in. It demolished the construction and stopped the eviction of the remaining villages. It prevented the forest department from entering the area. On a few occasions, officials were captured, tied to trees, and beaten by villagers. It was cathartic revenge for generations of exploitation. Eventually, the forest department fled. Between 1986 and 2000, the party redistributed 300,000 acres of forest land. Today, Comrade Venu says, there are no landless peasants in Dandakaranya.”

Asad Ismi is the CCPA Monitor’s international affairs correspondent and has written extensively on India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. His latest radio documentary Capitalism is the Crisis has been aired on 41 radio stations in Canada, the U.S. and Europe reaching an audience of more than 33 million people.  For his publications visit www.asadismi.ws.

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Self-regulation has failed; civil society must act to end the trade in all blood diamonds.

In November, members of the Kimberley Process (KP), meeting in plenary in South Africa, squandered what was probably their last good opportunity to ban the sale of all blood diamonds, including cut and polished blood diamonds which are an important source of funding for the nuclear armed regime in Israel which stands accused of the crime of apartheid, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The governments with a vested interest in the diamond industry, that set up and control the KP, failed to amend the definition of a “conflict diamond” which is restricted to “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments”. All other diamonds associated with human rights violations evade the KP regulations.

 The failure was well flagged in advance as key stakeholders, including South Africa which chaired the KP in 2013, had voiced opposition to reforms that would broaden the remit of the KP to embargo diamonds associated with human rights violations by government forces.

 Some jewellers refuse to sell diamonds sourced in the Marange area of Zimbabwe where government forces are reported to have killed 200 miners. However, most if not all, of the worlds leading jewellers sell diamonds processed in Israel where the industry generates about $1 billion annually for the Israeli military which is guilty of grievous human rights violations in Palestine .

 With the KP chair passed to China for 2014, and Angola in line for 2015, no one believes they will implement the changes necessary to ban the trade in all blood diamonds.

  Corporate Posturing 

 Corporate social responsibility statements – the moral beacons of wannabe ethically progressive companies – amount to little more than window-dressing unless they are supported by rigorous enforcement. No amount of charitable support for a company’s favourite worthy causes can mitigate, directly or indirectly, providing a revenue stream for rogue regimes guilty of gross human rights violations.

Anglo American plc owns 85% of De Beers making it one of the worlds leading diamond companies with interests at all stages of the supply pipe from mining to retail. De Beers promote their own “Forevermark” diamonds many of which are crafted in Israel .  Their promotional literature claims “Forevermark is committed to upholding the highest business, social and environmental standards and practices across its and its partners businesses”.

Anglo American’s Sustainable Development Policy  stipulates that suppliers are expected to uphold “fundamental human rights and fair labour practices, in line with internationally recognised standards”. Suppliers must also

“oppose corruption, bribery, fraud…. and must not tolerate any form of money laundering or participate in other illegal incentives in business”.

Despite this, De Beers continues to sell diamonds crafted in Israel even though the Israeli diamond industry is notorious for discrimination in the workplace against non-Jews – a fact confirmed by data from the Israeli Bureau of Statistics and a recent government-funded initiative to encourage ultra-Orthodox Jews to take up employment in the diamond industry without a similar initiative for non-Jews.  Furthermore, although authorities uncovered the “world’s largest illegal bank”, involving fraudulent trading worth billions of shekels, in the Israeli Diamond Exchange in 2012, Anglo American continues trading with Israeli diamond companies.

 Anglo American’s failure to abide by their own standards exposes their hypocrisy – a double-standard that permeates the jewellery industry when it comes to blood diamonds from Israel .

 The Steinmetz Diamond Group, one of Tiffany’s biggest suppliers and a “unique partner” of Sotheby’s Diamonds, through the Steinmetz Foundation, funds and supports a Unit of the Givati Brigade of the Israeli military. The Givati Brigade is guilty of the massacre of at least 21 members of the Samouni family in Gaza – a war crime documented by the UNHRC and other human rights organisations.

 Other world-leading jewellers including Harry Winston, Cartier, Ritani, Blue Nile, Zales, Brilliant Earth, Graff Diamonds, Chow Tai Fook, Chopard and many more, sell diamonds from Israel which are tarnished with Palestinian blood – one of the most recent victim being a 15 year old child, Wajih Wajdi al-Ramahi, shot in the back and killed by the Givati Brigade on 7th December.  He was the 26th Palestinian to be killed by the Israeli military this year.

 The imperative for all businesses to respect human rights and ensure their business relationships are not contributing to adverse human rights impacts is a well established tenet affirmed in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the UN Global Compact, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.  The fact that the diamond industry, which accounted for 31.2% of Israel ’s manufacturing exports in 2011, is a very significant source of revenue for the regime in Israel means jewellers that sell diamonds processed in Israel help fund the commission of war crimes and suspected crimes against humanity. 

  Shareholders of companies that sell diamonds linked to atrocities and bloodshed are exposed to financial and legal hazard.  The fraudulent misrepresentation of such diamonds as conflict-free leaves jewellers open to challenge by patrons angered by the fact that diamonds they purchased in good faith are de-facto blood diamonds. Companies complicit in human rights violations may be liable for reparations, which, in the case of victims of Israeli violence in Palestine , could amount to billions of dollars.  

 Despite Israel ’s record as a serial human rights offender and it’s nuclear weapons stockpile which it refuses to submit to international regulation, the leaders of the global diamond industry continue to give Israel refuge in the KP tent.

Consumer power

If consumers are to have confidence in the ethical credentials of diamonds civil society needs to regain the initiative. This can be done by putting the jewellery industry under the spotlight and demanding that jewellers guarantee the diamonds they sell are not a source of funding for, or in any way associated with, serious human rights violations – i.e. they are not blood diamonds.

 As cut and polished blood diamonds from Israel legally enter the diamond market in vast quantities (50% of the US market), diamond buyers should demand to know where a diamond was sourced, cut and polished if they want to avoid buying a blood diamond. 

  Diamond buyers should not allow jewellers to fob them off with assurances about “conflict diamonds” – the sacrificial offering which only encompasses rough diamonds that fund rebel violence against legitimate governments. This distracts from, and blinds consumers to, the extensive trade in cut and polished blood diamonds which continues unchecked and largely unreported by media.

   “Ethically sourced” are some of the buzz words hammered into the conscience of diamond buyers.  Rough diamonds at source represent but a small fraction of the value of the cut and polished diamonds sold by jewellers. Ethically sourced diamonds can still be blood diamonds if revenue they generate after sourcing is used to fund human rights violations. “The “ethically sourced” pitch is a scam – it offers zero protection from blood diamonds.

Another example of the duplicity of the jewellery industry is the widespread abuse of the term conflict-free. This is part of a bogus System of Warranties introduced by the World Diamond Council which allows sellers to self-certify diamonds as conflict-free based on the fact that they are in compliance with the discredited Kimberley Process which gives legal cover to blood diamonds that fund government forces.  

Sean Clinton is a human rights activists from Ireland with a particular interest in Israel/Palestine and the role diamonds play in funding the Zionist project in Palestine . He has authored several articles about the double-standard in the diamond industry which facilitates the trade in cut and polished blood diamonds.

Domingo de elecciones en Santiago de Chile

December 20th, 2013 by Franck Gaudichaud

Domingo 15 de diciembre, Santiago de Chile, 15 horas: el sol está en su cénit, el cielo límpido y provisionalmente libre del halo de contaminación aferrado cotidianamente a las faldas de la cordillera de los Andes que domina la ciudad. Ya ha llegado el asfixiante calor del verano austral. Frente al edificio del ayuntamiento, en el municipio del barrio de La Florida (al sur de la capital), destacan un supermercado (en manos de la multinacional Wal-Mart), un gran mercado de Navidad y el colegio «Bellavista La Florida». Al igual que durante la primera vuelta de las elecciones presidenciales del pasado 17 de noviembre, este establecimiento municipal se ha transformado en centro electoral. Las personas que pasan miran de reojo a los militares apostados a la puerta del colegio electoral. Algunos entran más raramente.

Tras una semana de trabajo que suele ser largo [i], parejas cargadas de bolsas de plástico se toman un respiro a menos de diez días de las festividades de fin de año. Hay un vaivén continuo entre las casetas con objetos traídos de China y los puestos de artesanía local o de guirnaldas de colores. Para gran desconcierto de algunas personas, continúa cerrado el Centro Comercial Américo Vespucio, justo al otro lado de la inmensa avenida Vicuña Mackenna: las autoridades han decidido cerrar los “Mall”, estos templos del consumo en este día de elecciones. No importa: al mismo tiempo, el barrio Meiggs, muy cerca del centro de la ciudad, se ve invadido de una marea humana de varios miles de personas venidas a sacar partido de los comercios de barrio. Hay buenos negocios y un récord de afluencia: «Aquí no se vota, se compra», indica un cartel en la fachada de una tienda.

Desde temprano, la página web del periódico conservador El Mercurio observaba la muy baja participación. Una vez «cumplido su deber cívico», el presidente saliente Sebastián Piñera (un riquísimo hombre de negocios que en 2010 logró hacer ganar a la derecha por primera vez desde que terminó la dictadura en 1989 [ii]) declara solemnemente« Si un chileno no quiere votar demuestra una falta de cariño hacia su país »En vano.

Se trata de las sextas elecciones presidenciales desde el inicio de la transición democrática, pero de las primeras que se llevan a cabo sobre la base del voto voluntario (con una inscripción automática en las listas). Como ocurre en varios países de América Latina, hasta entonces los electores inscritos estaban obligados a votar bajo pena de multa. Ante esto, muchos chilenos, sobre todo jóvenes y personas pertenecientes a las clases populares, no se inscribían en el censo electoral: ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente, en una palabra…

Las elecciones municipales de 2012 ya se desarrollaron siguiendo estas nuevas reglas. La abstención alcanzó el 60%, lo que provocó escalofríos en los círculos políticos. A pesar de la presencia de nueve candidatos en la primera vuelta de las presidenciales, acudió a votar menos de la mitad de los trece millones y medio de electores (de una población de más de 17 millones de habitantes). Al final de esta jornada electoral, el resultado no ofrece sorpresas: frente a Evelyn Matthei (derecha, 37,8% de los votos), Michelle Bachelet será la próxima presidenta con más del 62,2% de los votos, pero el claro triunfo de la que fuera presidenta entre 2005 y 2010 se logra con 255.000 menos que en su primer mandato [iii]. Solo han acudido a las urnas el 41% de los electores: la cifra más baja desde la transición, dato al que habría que añadir la exclusión del derecho a voto de los más de 850.000 chilenos que viven en el extranjero (una herencia del régimen militar).

Para Laurence Golborne, exministro y figura de la derecha, «es preocupante que sólo el 25% de los chilenos elija a la presidenta [iv]». Por el contrario, el director del Servicio Electoral Patricio Santa María pone de relieve que la fuerte abstención no puede en ningún caso restar la menor legitimidad a los resultados. La senadora demócrata-cristiana Ximena Rincón, a la que siguen de corazón una miríada de diputados, afirma: «El presidente Obama fue elegido con solo el 40% de los votos y nadie duda de su liderazgo». ¿Obama al rescate de la democracia chilena? Más allá del baile de cifras, el conjunto de los dirigentes políticos sabe que, desde hace varios años, el sistema político chileno padece una grave crisis de representatividad. Un sistema basado en la Constitución heredada de la dictadura (1973-1989) y consolidado durante los gobiernos de la Concertación, una coalición entre socialistas, social-liberales y demócrata-cristianos (1990-2010). En la entrada del mercado de Navidad de La Florida, un anciano de rostro marcado lanza, con sonrisa irónica: «¡Mejor aprovechar este hermoso domingo para hacer las compras de Navidad que para ir a votar! De todos modos, ¿a nosotros para qué nos sirve la política? Mañana habrá que levantarse igual para ir a trabajar».

 

Concertación 2.0

La victoria de Michelle Bachelet no ha sorprendido mucho. Al acabar su primer mandato los sondeos le atribuían un nivel de popularidad superior al 80%.Tras una estancia en Nueva York a la cabeza de una delegación de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas especializada en la defensa de la mujer (ONU-Mujer), vuelve a Chile después de una campaña de comunicación impecable. Su éxito (74,92%) en las primarias del pasado 30 de junio dejaba esperar una victoria ya en la primera vuelta. Tanto más en cuanto que ante las críticas que recordaban que la Concertación dirigió y profundizó el modelo neoliberal cuando estuvo en el poder de 1990 a 2010, Michelle Bachelet ha sabido forjar un nuevo relato destinado a volver a encandilar parte de sus electores. En primer lugar, la Coalición ha logrado integrar al Partido Comunista (PC) y a pequeñas organizaciones socialdemócratas [v], y crear así la «Nueva Mayoría». A cambio de varias circunscripciones y argumentando que ahora se trata de crear una vasta mayoría electoral , en torno a un proyecto mínimo de reformas, el PC (principal partido a la izquierda de la Concertación) se ha convertido así en un aliado importante en el momento de defender la imagen progresista de la expresidenta. Así, la organización creada hace cien años por Luis Emilio Recabarren duplica su representación parlamentaria. Entre los seis diputados comunistas, hay dos mujeres jóvenes: la exdirigente de las juventudes comunistas Karol Cariola y una de las figuras del movimiento estudiantil de 2011, Camila Vallejo (elegida con el 40% de los votos). Y a pesar del chirriar de dientes de la democracia cristiana (centro derecha , DC), el PC ofrece al futuro Gobierno unos intermediarios (limitados) en los movimientos sociales, en particular a la cabeza de la Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT) dirigida por la comunista Francisa Figueroa, que ha llamado abiertamente a votar a Bachelet. Al día siguiente de las elecciones, el presidente del PC Guillermo Teillier todavía no podía confirmar una participación en el Gobierno, pero reafirmaba « su lealtad » al programa defendido por la presidenta, al tiempo que destacaba la importancia histórica de esta victoria en las urnas: « el Partido Comunista no había ganado una elección presidencial desde el tiempo de Salvador Allende [vi]», en 1970.

Aparte del PC, el conjunto de los partidos de la Nueva Mayoría se han beneficiado de un rendimiento muy notable en las elecciones legislativas (que se celebraron a la vez que la primera vuelta de las presidenciales) y obtuvieron una mayoría bastante cómoda en el Congreso, con 21 senadores de 38 y 68 diputados de 120. Esta posición de fuerza dará al ejecutivo ciertas mayorías cualificadas para empezar a modificar unas «leyes orgánicas» e iniciar las prometidas reformas, a pesar de los múltiples candados legislativos instalados por la «Constitución Pinochet».

 

¿Un gobierno de reformas?

Michelle Bachelet, que se benefició de un pletórico equipo de expertos formado por 500 personas, organizó su campaña en torno a tres ejes principales, con gran profusión de marketing político [vii].

En primer lugar, la promesa de una reforma constitucional «participativa, democrática e institucional», que requerirá un acuerdo en el Parlamento con la derecha (para obtener el quórum de los dos tercios). La discusión podría ir precedida de una consulta a la «sociedad civil» y ser validada por referéndum: la candidata, reina de la ambigüedad que además juega con las tensiones internas de su coalición [viii], se ha negado a pronunciarse a favor -o en contra- de una verdadera asamblea constituyente y popular (AC), para gran desilusión de los colectivos que animaron la campaña «Marca tu voto AC» [ix] . El segundo eje es una reforma fiscal equivalente al 3% del producto interior bruto (PIB), destinado a aumentar (moderadamente [x]) los enormes beneficios de las principales sociedades y transnacionales del país. Y, por último, una reforma de la educación que buscará responder, en parte, a las grandes movilizaciones de jóvenes de 2011-2012 [xi].

La noche de la victoria, desde el lujoso hotel Plaza San Francisco, Michelle Bachelet dio las gracias a «la calle», en particular a los jóvenes, y reiteró su promesa de crear «un sistema educativo público, gratuito y de calidad». «Hoy, señaló, nadie duda de que el lucro no puede ser el motor de la educación». En un país donde el mercado de la educación es enorme y numerosos responsables de la Concertación son los protagonistas de este jugoso negocio, algunos dudan con cierta razón [xii]. Tanto más en cuanto que reforma que se prevé «gradual» y se hará en seis años (es decir, más allá del mandato presidencial), dirigida a permitir a los estudiantes acceder gratuitamente a las universidades por medio de subvenciones públicas… sin embargo no eliminará la hegemonía de las universidades privadas y el sistema de colegios particulares subvencionados (sistema que nació en los últimos días de la dictadura).

 

Despertar de los movimientos sociales y fragmentación neoliberal

Como señala el historiador Mario Garcés, el Chile actual se caracteriza por el «despertar de la sociedad» y la irrupción de los movimientos sociales [xiii]. El poder de las luchas estudiantiles por la educación vino precedido de grandes movilizaciones en diversas regiones (como en Magallames o Aysen), por importantes luchas ecologistas y también por la recuperación de las huelgas salariales y diversas luchas sindicales radicales.

En este marco, algunos perciben la elección de Bachelet más bien como un cortafuegos susceptible de estabilizar el modelo exportador neoliberal en una coyuntura de aumento de los conflictos sociales. Entre ellos los sociólogos Felipe Portales y Alberto Mayol. Esta último analiza la figura incombustible de Bachelet como un fenómeno «cristológico» que encarnaría en el imaginario colectivo el dolor de la dictadura (padeció torturas y su padre fue un general legalista asesinado) [xiv], señalando que esta candidatura permite a una Concertación en declive recuperar parte de su legitimidad, sin poner en cuestión los equilibrios macroeconómicos y los intereses de las multinacionales. A respeto, la candidata y su equipo reiteraron que –sin que se trate de un «acuerdo ideológico excluyente»- será imprescindible «mantener una relación activa de coordinación económica con la Alianza del Pacífico  [xv]», eje estratégico apoyado por los Estados Unidos junto a México, Colombia, Panamá y Perú. Apenas consumada la elección, el presidente boliviano Evo Morales no dudó en desafiar a la nueva presidenta insistiendo en el carácter «pro imperialista y pro capitalista» de la Alianza: «Dudo de que [Michelle Bachelet] sea socialista. Y acá voy a hablar de frente, públicamente: si Bachelet sigue en la Alianza del Pacífico, quedará definido a quién corresponde, de dónde viene y qué quiere [xvi]».

En la primera vuelta, el 17 de noviembre, algunos miembros eminentes de la clase patronal no dudaron en apoyar a la expresidenta. Empezando por un peso pesado del capitalismo local: Jorge Awad, presidente de la asociación de los bancos chilenos, que señaló hasta qué punto la reforma fiscal prevista por la candidata sería indolora y que Bachelet ya había demostrado que sería una garante eficaz de las inversiones extranjeras (particularmente mineras). Awad no es una excepción: la aportación de las grandes empresas a la campaña de la pediatra socialista representó el triple de las sumas dedicadas a Evelyn Matthei, la candidata de derecha presentada por la Alianza para Chile [xvii]

Matthei solo ha sido candidata por defecto debido a sucesivas deserciones en cadenas. Es también hija de un general, pero de los que apoyaron la dictadura. Militante de la Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI), encarna las corrientes más reaccionarias de la coalición, prometiendo gobernar «con la Biblia en la mano». En frente, el presidente saliente (Sebastián Piñera) y algunos miembros de Renovación Nacional, el otro partido de la coalición, siguen acariciando la estrategia de una renovación liberal de la derecha, con el fin de recuperar el poder en 2017. Pero el fantasma de Pinochet y de las violaciones masivas de los derechos humanos aún planean sobre la coalición y el UDI está lejos de ser liquidada: todavía representa la primera fuerza del Parlamento, especialmente gracias a prácticas clientelistas bien experimentadas en los barrios más pobres.

 

Y ahora qué…

La señora Vázquez es vendedora ambulante de ropa. Viviendo pobremente y a la cabeza de una familia numerosa, no se siente «representada ni por Matthei ni por Bachelet». Opina que la victoria de esta última anunciaría «nuevas huelgas y manifestaciones en todos los sentidos. Seguramente volverán los tiempos de la Unidad Popular y habrá destrucción y violencia. ¿Y quién pagará los platos rotos? Está claro, nosotros, el pueblo». Muchos sindicatos y colectivos militantes están efectivamente en pie de guerra, pero más bien para intentar reconstruir el tejido social y con la perspectiva de exigir más al Gobierno. En una sociedad que sigue siendo una de las más desiguales de América Latina y en la que reina la precariedad en el mundo laboral, no es tarea fácil [xviii].

Muchas señales soterradas confirman sin embargo que el año 2014 podría ser «caliente». Recientemente, la presidencia de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH) ha sido ganada por la lista libertaria «Lucha». Su dirigente, Melissa Sepúlveda, rechazó votar en la segunda vuelta de las presidenciales y se pronunció contra la «parlamentarización de las luchas», una pica a Camila Vallejo y Karol Cariola, así como a los demás diputados procedentes del movimiento estudiantil: Gabriel Boric (Izquierda Autónoma) que ha ganado su apuesta de acceder al Parlamento sin el apoyo de la Concertación, y Giorgio Jackson (Revolución Democrática), de 25 años, aliado autónomo de la Nueva Mayoría y elegido diputado por Santiago.

Por su parte, el periódico El Mercurio, después de haber hecho campaña a favor de Evelyn Matthei, ahora señala que uno de los objetivos del nuevo Gobierno será «la contención de las expectativas que se despiertan, para canalizarlas [xix]».

Franck Gaudichaud

 

Articulo publicado por Le Monde Diplomatique – France: 
http://blog.mondediplo.net/2013-12-18-Un-dimanche-de-vote-a-Santiago-du-Chili

Traducido para Rebelión por Beatriz Morales Bastos y Caty R.

 

[i] Muchas personas son asalariados que trabajan 45 horas a la semana, seis días a la semana, como permite el código laboral, heredado de la dictadura.

[ii] Véase «Au Chili, les vieilles lunes de la nouvelle droite», Le Monde Diplomatique, mayo de 2011.

[iii] Resultados oficiales : www.eleccionservel.cl/ELECCIONES2013/vistaPaisSegundaVuelta .

[iv] Cita procedente, como las que siguen, de «Abstención: El fantasma que ensombreció el contundente triunfo de Bachelet», El Dinamo , Santiago de Chile, 15 de diciembre de 2013, www.eldinamo.cl/2013/12/15/abstencion-el-fantasma-que-ensombrecio-el-contundente-triunfo-de-bachelet .

[v] Se trata de la Izquierda Ciudadana (IC), surgida de la Izquierda Cristiana y del Movimiento Amplio Social (MAS) del exsenador socialista Alejandro Navarro.

[vi] www.pcchile.cl/?p=8563 .

[vii] http://michellebachelet.cl .

[viii] Léase: http://ciperchile.cl/2013/11/22/el-arranque-de-la-segunda-vuelta-desnuda-el-precario-equilibrio-de-la-nueva-mayoria.

[ix] Algo más del 10% de los electores de la segunda vuelta marcaron su papeleta de voto con la inscripción «AC» para señalar su adhesión a la perspectiva de una asamblea constituyente ( http://marcatuvoto.cl/ ).

[x] Como señalaba el exministro de la Concertación y alto funcionario del FMI Nicolás Eyzaguirre con el fin de asegurar los «mercados»:www.latercera.com/noticia/politica/2013/12/674-556497-9-nicolas-eyzaguirre-la-reforma-tributaria-de-bachelet-es-una-reforma-moderada.shtml .

[xi] Léase, Víctor de la Fuente: « En finir (vraiment) avec l’ère Pinochet », La valise diplomatique, agosto de 2011. En español.

[xii] Los vínculos entre la Concertación y el mercado de la educación han sido confirmados por la última investigación de la periodista María Olivia Mönckeberg : Con fines de lucro: la escandalosa historia de las universidades privadas en Chile, Santiago, Debate, 2013.

[xiii] Mario Garcés, El despertar de la sociedad Los movimientos sociales de América Latina y Chile, Santiago, LOM, 2012.

[xiv] Se puede recalcar que Bachelet buscó encarnar más bien una figura mariana y maternal (mucho más que cristológica), protectora, abierta y consensual, infantilizante incluso del pueblo chileno.

[xv] http://diario.latercera.com/2013/08/17/01/contenido/reportajes/25-144112-9-la-propuesta-del-comando-de-bachelet-para-rree.shtml .

[xvi] www.diarioregistrado.com/internacionales/84204-evo-morales–dudo-que-bachelet-sea-socialista.html .

[xvii] El Mercurio , 18 de noviembre de 2013.

[xviii] A pesar de un crecimiento anual de más del 5% del PIB, el 5% de la población más rica gana 275 veces la renta del 5% de los más pobres. Ver las encuestas de la fundación Sol : www.fundacionsol.cl .

[xix] El Mercurio , 16 de diciembre de 2013.

 

Franck Gaudichaud es académico de la Universidad de Grenoble (Francia) y miembro del colectivo editorial de Rebelión. Su último libro es: Chili, 1970-1973. Mille jours qui changèrent le monde, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, Coll. Des Amériques, 2013 ( www.pur-editions.fr/detail.php?idOuv=3265 ).

Intelligence Director Clapper Is In Big Trouble

December 20th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

Senator: Clapper’s Crimes More Harmful to America than Snowden’s

Director of National Security James Clapper is in trouble. For example:

  • The author of the Patriot Act and former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee – Congressman James Sensenbrenner – says that Clapper should be prosecuted for lying to Congress and the American people about NSA spying

And a huge majority of Americans agree that Clapper should be prosecuted for perjury.

Sarraj founded and headed Gaza’s Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP). He called its mission: “Healing the Spirit. Instilling Hope.”

He said “(i)f you’re not enjoying human rights, then you’re definitely not enjoying sound mental health.”

Friends and associates called him indefatigable. After Israel’s 1967 occupation, his father and brother were arrested. They were brutally tortured and abused.

In the mid-1990s, he became Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights Commissioner General. He took full advantage.

He denounced Israeli and complicit Palestinian Authority human rights abuses. Three times PA authorities arrested him. They imprisoned him.

He was isolated, beaten and tortured. He was punished for defending right over wrong. He refused to remain silent.

He was outspoken to the end.

Defending Palestinian human rights became his “major obsession.” They’re victims of Israeli state terror.

They endure daily humiliations. They’re denied fundamental rights. They’re unjustifiably arrested, imprisoned, and tortured.

Their homes are maliciously destroyed. Their land is stolen. They’re ethnically cleansed to make way for exclusive Jewish development.

They’re murdered in cold blood. They lost loved ones. They’re longstanding victims of Israeli injustice.

Sarraj wanted Palestinian suffering ended. He served their mental health needs. He helped traumatized children and torture victims.

On December 17, he succumbed. He lost his long struggle with multiple myeloma (plasma cells cancer). He was 69.

He was a renown and respected psychiatrist. He pioneered mental health in Palestine. He was an important human rights defender.

During the First Intifada (1987 – 1993), he was appalled at how Israelis treated Palestinians. He did what he could to help.

He ignored imposed curfews. He paid no attention to other military orders. He went where he was needed. He made no attempt to avoid patrolling Israeli forces.

He defied occupation harshness. He managed best he could. He did so because it mattered.

He felt the same way throughout his professional career. He was determined to make a difference. He proved everyone can in some way.

He established refugee camp clinics. He developed training and crisis intervention programs. He began various other initiatives.

 

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) called him a “great national struggler.”

 

“He dedicated his life to defending human rights and democracy, supporting the civil society and pioneering mental health in Palestine.”

 

“His illness did not prevent him from performing his patriot duty and persistent work to heal the Palestinian fragmentation.”

 

“He successfully represented the Palestinian cause on international levels and became an example of a successful psychiatrist and a politically creative figure.”

 

PCHR remembered “his honest national efforts to defend the right of Palestinians to live in freedom and dignity.”

 

Thousands who got to know him understood. He gained international prominence. He did so by focusing on the devastating effects occupation harshness has on children.

 

In January 2009, he headlined a New York Times op-ed “A 14-year old’s question: Why?”

 

He discussed “a lovely girl of 14, a talented writer in English and Arabic…” He name is Noor. She’s “my stepdaughter,” said Sarraj.

 

She asked tough questions. She looked forward to higher education in America. She was unsure it could happen.

 

During Cast Lead, “Israeli fighter bombers flattened her school.”

 

Her friend Christine was killed. So were many others, said Sarraj. Israel considers children fair game like adults.

 

It calls civilians justifiable military targets. Noor asked “why Israel would destroy her school. She asked why Palestinians don’t have air defenses,” and why Americans aren’t fair.

 

Sarraj said good ones aren’t in power. Noor asked why Arabs are impotent? Why don’t Russia and China help?

 

She’s “not alone in her pain,” said Sarraj. “Many children in Gaza are wetting their beds, unable to sleep, clinging to their mothers.”

 

Worst of all are severe longterm traumatic consequences, Sarraj explained. “Israel will eventually stop the war and we may be saved, but who will save Israel from itself,” he asked?

 

On December 30, 2008, Israel bombed GCMHP’s headquarters. It was heavily damaged. It was rebuilt. It resumed operating.

 

GCMHP’s Nancy Murray remembered Sarraj, saying:

 

For him, “human rights and mental health work went hand in hand.” He was Gaza’s first practicing psychiatrist. He began treating Palestinians in 1977.

 

“His courage, decency, independence of mind, and vision of a better world made him a beacon of moral conscience and hope for those Israelis seeking peace with Palestinians, and Palestinians struggling with both the occupation and their own ruinous political divisions.”

 

He “leaves behind a bereaved Palestine, a grieving family, and friends around the world who will miss him deeply.”

 

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called him “a meeting point for all Palestinian people. (H)e was born and lived for them.”

 

UN special Middle East peace process coordinator Robert Serry called him “someone who persistently stood on the side of human rights, peace and justice.”

 

Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza director Issam Younis said he reflected “gentlemanly antagonism.” Failure to reconcile Palestinian differences “left his heart aching.”

 

He explained what it’s like living under occupation harshness, saying. “Among other things, it means:

 

  • an identity number and permit to live as a resident which will be lost if one leaves the country for more than three months;

 

  • a traveling document which specifies that the holder is of an undefined nationality;

 

  • being called twice a year by intelligence for routine investigation and persuasion to work as an informer on ‘your brothers and sisters,’

 

  • leaving your home in the refugee camp in Gaza at 3 am, going through road-blocks and checkpoints to do the work that others won’t, and returning home in the evening to collapse in bed for a few hours before getting up for the following day;

 

  • losing respect from one’s own children when they see their father spat at and beaten before their own eyes; (and)

 

  • seeing the (name of the) Prophet being spat on by Israeli settlers in Hebron.

 

We were exhausted, tormented and brutalized.”

 

Sarraj gained international respect and recognition. His awards include:

 

  • the Physicians for Human Rights Award;

 

  • the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders;

 

  • the Olof Palme Prize for his “self-sacrificing and indefatigable struggle for common sense, reconciliation and peace between Palestine and Israel;” and

 

  • the Juan Jose Lopez-Ibor Prize in Psychiatry.

 

He was born in Beir-al-Saba. Israel changed its name to Beersheva. He was four years old when his family was forced to flee.

 

It was during Israel’s so-called War of Independence. Palestinians were viciously targeted. Mass slaughter and ethnic cleansing followed.

 

Unspeakable crimes of war and against humanity were committed. They never stopped. They continue today.

 

World leaders able to make a difference turn a blind eye. Israel gets away with murder and much more. Sarraj struggled to change things. He’s an inspiration for others to continue his work.

 

He grew up in Gaza. At the time, Egypt controlled it. He studied medicine in Egypt. He continued at London’s Institute of Psychiatry. He spent his entire professional life doing what he loved best.

 

He worked tirelessly for peace, human rights, justice, and victims of Israel’s occupation. He did it because it matters.

 

In 1990, he founded GCMHP. Its administrator Husam El-Nounou said:

 

“Our commitment to Dr. Sarraj is to continue his message and his struggle for respect for human rights.”

 

He’s survived by his second wife, Nirmeen, their son Ali aged 7, and sons from his first marriage.

 

In 2010, he was “proud and happy to receive” the Olof Palme Prize, he said. Palestine’s “real heroes are the victims of violence, torture and war,” he explained.

 

“This prize gives me hope and encourages me to continue to fight to defend those rights have been abused, and to work for justice and peace.”

 

He devoted his life to achieving them. He’s gone to his just reward. He leaves a huge void to fill. Hopefully others are up to the challenge. His struggle for human rights, justice and peace continues.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

http://www.dailycensored.com/remembering-eyad-el-sarraj/

US Academics Approve Boycott of Israeli Universities

December 20th, 2013 by Bill Van Auken

Members of the American Studies Association (ASA) approved by more than a two-thirds majority Monday a boycott of all Israeli academic institutions.

The association, which has 5,000 individual members and 2,200 library and other institutional subscribers, describes itself as the “oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history.”

It is by far the largest US academic group to join in the global boycott campaign. The Association for Asian-American Studies endorsed the academic boycott last April, while the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association announced December 15 that it is recommending the boycott to its members. Next month, the Modern Language Association, with 30,000 members, is set to discuss such a resolution at its convention.

The ASA resolution begins with a denunciation of the US government for its “significant role in enabling the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the expansion of illegal settlements and the Wall in violation of international law, as well as in supporting the systematic discrimination against Palestinians, which has had documented devastating impact on the overall well-being, the exercise of political and human rights, the freedom of movement, and the education opportunity of Palestinians.”

The statement goes on to charge that “Israeli institutions of higher learning are a party to Israeli state policies,” while adding that there are “Israeli scholars and students who are critical of Israeli state policy” and as a consequence face “isolation and threat of sanction.”

The international Boycott, Disinvestment Sanction campaign against Israel has until now had limited effect in terms of Israel’s economic relations, recording largely symbolic successes in the field of academic boycotts. These boycotts, initiated in Britain in 2002, until now, had not spread to the US.

There is no doubt that the overwhelming support for the resolution by the ASA membership reflects broader sentiments in the population as a whole as it has become more conscious of, and repulsed by, the crimes of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people.

It is for this reason that the ASA has come under intense attack for its resolution. Two universities—Brandeis and Penn State, Harrisburg—have already announced that they are severing ties with the association.

Appearing on PBS television’s Charlie Rose show, Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard University and treasury secretary in the Obama administration, denounced the resolution as “abhorrent,” “beyond outrageous” and “anti-Semitic in its effect.” Having in the same breath expressed his supposedly principled opposition to all academic boycotts, Summers went on to call for an effective boycott of the ASA, expressing the hope that university administrators would stop having their institutions’ “funds used to finance faculty membership and faculty travel to an association that is showing itself not to be a scholarly association but really more of a political tool.”

Similarly, Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor and outspoken defender of torture, denounced the ASA “for singling out the Jew among nations,” “applying a double standard to Jewish universities” and “complicity with the oldest and most enduring prejudice.” The substance of his argument consisted of pointing his finger at China, Russia and Iran and asking why they were not boycotted.

These attacks merely repeat the well worn slanders of anti-Semitism that are employed ceaselessly by the Israeli government and its Zionist supporters to silence any discussion of Tel Aviv’s violence and oppression against the Palestinians and its relentless acts of military aggression in the region.

According to ASA members, the attacks have been backed up with hate mail, threats and talk of legal action against the association.

It is evident that Jewish members of the ASA played a prominent role in supporting the resolution. In a statement endorsing the action, Eric Cheyfitz, Cornell University professor of American Studies, wrote: “I am a Jew with a daughter and three grandchildren who are citizens of Israel. I am a scholar of American Indian and Indigenous studies, who has in published word and action opposed settler colonialism wherever it exists, including of course the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.”

The initiative came under implicit criticism from what on the surface may seem a surprising source. Speaking at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, while saying that the PA backs a boycott of products made in the Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank, declared: “But we do not ask anyone to boycott Israel itself. We have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel.”

The comment drew heated denunciations from Palestinian activists. It reflects, however, the political standpoint of the PA, which serves as a police agency of the US and Israel against the Palestinian masses, in return for the wealth and privileges that a statelet on isolated bits of the West Bank can provide to a thin layer of Palestinian officials and politically connected businessmen.

There is no doubt that those within the ASA who supported the boycott resolution have done so out of genuine outrage against the brutal and illegal US-Israeli policy and feelings of solidarity with the Palestinian people. They must be defended against their right-wing and Zionist attackers. However, the issue of how to fight Israeli oppression raises fundamental questions of political principle. From this standpoint, however sincere the sentiments underlying the resolution, its thrust is ultimately misguided.

The World Socialist Web Site has for over a decade opposed academic boycotts against Israel and continues to do so. In a statement issued in July of 2002 in response to the initiation of the boycott movement by British academics, the WSWS explained:

“Measures targeting ordinary Israeli citizens serve to reinforce Zionism’s efforts to inculcate the fatalistic and deeply pessimistic idea that the entire world is against the Jewish people and that the state of Israel offers their only sanctuary.

“A correct course of action for academics opposed to Israeli aggression against the Palestinians would be the very opposite of such a boycott: to strive for maximum engagement with their Israeli and Arab counterparts, to encourage a serious dialogue on the issues posed that cuts across national divisions rather than reinforces them.”

Such boycotts, in the end, are exploited by the Sharons and Netanyahus for their own efforts to create a siege-like environment to reinforce nationalist sentiment. They serve to obstruct the development of opposition to the Israeli government and Zionism among Israeli academics, intellectuals and the population as a whole, and undermine the effort to build a unified struggle of Jewish and Arab workers against their common oppressors.

Supporters of the ASA resolution affirm that it is directed not against Israeli “individuals” but against Israeli institutions of higher learning. However, it is not at all clear how this intention would be realized in practice, or how it would be understood among Israeli scholars, much less working people.

Israel, like all societies, is sharply divided between a ruling financial and corporate oligarchy that controls its government, and a working class that is exploited and oppressed, without any political voice. The lack of an alternative working class leadership armed with a socialist program opposed to Zionism is what allows the Israeli government to continue its unending repression of the Palestinians and militarist provocations, despite the desire of large sections of the population for an end to the conflict.

A boycott of Israeli academics begins from the standpoint of collective guilt, that average Israelis are responsible for the government that rules over them. The same argument could be used to call for a boycott of US universities, which are every bit as much “a party to” crimes of US imperialism that are considerably more massive than (and in fact include) those of the Israeli state. What of Harvard University and its notorious Kennedy School of Government, which has trained so many scoundrels who have implemented the predatory policies of US imperialism? There is hardly a university that does not allow CIA recruiters free reign, and many of them are parties to major Pentagon contracts.

While the universities in the US are politically and financially tied to a state that bears central responsibility for the oppression of peoples all over the world, holding American academics, including the members of the ASA, responsible for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, torture and worldwide spying would be deeply reactionary and undemocratic.

The decisive question is the necessity to distinguish between a government and the broad mass of the population. While methods that attack the Israeli government, as well as its imperialist backers in Washington, are entirely legitimate, those that lump together that state with ordinary people, including many who loathe the Netanyahu government and are victims of its economic and social policies, are not.

Underlying this form of boycott is an outlook of liberal outrage combined with pessimism, a conviction that it is not possible to win Israeli working people, the great majority of the population, away from the policies of the state’s rulers and from Zionism.

This is bound up with the politics of nationalism and support for the so-called “two-state” solution, i.e., the creation of a Palestinian statelet on some portion of occupied territories alongside Israel. The idea is that the Zionist regime will be shamed into accepting such a policy. Twenty years after the Oslo Accords, the unviability of this so-called “solution” has become manifest for ever-growing layers of the Palestinian population.

The alternative that must be fought for is that of uniting Arab and Jewish workers in a common struggle to create a society that provides unrestricted democratic rights and social equality for all. This means a struggle against the entire imperialist setup in the region and for the creation of the United Socialist States of the Middle East. This requires not the isolation of Israelis, but a maximum struggle among them against Zionism and for the development of socialist consciousness to prepare this united revolutionary struggle.

US Steps Up the Drumbeat on Sri Lankan Human Rights

December 20th, 2013 by W.A. Sunil

The Obama administration is stepping up its pressure on Sri Lanka on “human rights,” with discussions taking place on another resolution critical of its record to be put to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meeting next March. The US and its allies are using the threat of a probe into Sri Lankan war crimes and human rights abuses to press the Colombo government to align more strongly with the West.

In previous years, the US has already pushed two resolutions through the UNHRC on Sri Lanka. The one passed last March called on Colombo to implement the recommendations of the government’s own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) into the island’s protracted civil war, which ended in 2009 with the military defeat of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The LLRC report was a sham that whitewashed the war crimes carried out by the Sri Lankan government and military, and made limited proposals that are yet to be carried out. A UN study estimated that at least 40,000 people were killed during the final weeks of the war, the majority innocent civilians.

In the past few days, US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal and State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf have both issued statements calling on Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government to take the necessary steps to investigate human rights abuses in the country.

On December 4, Biswal warned that the patience of the international community “will start to wear thin … if there is no real progress in this regard.” Two days later, Harf said the US continued to be concerned over accountability issues for human rights abuses and also the erosion of the rule of law, violence against religious minorities and restrictions on press freedom.

US foreign relations committee staff member Damien Murphy visited Sri Lanka last week. According to the Colombo-based Sunday Times, he and American officials held a wide range of discussions with government officials and Tamil leaders in preparation for a new UNHRC resolution.

Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Hugo Swire this week raised the possibility that the UK could also press for a new UNHRC resolution if the Sri Lankan government failed to carry out its own “independent and credible” investigation into human rights abuses. Last week, the European Parliament passed a motion threatening a full UN inquiry if Colombo failed to implement the LLRC recommendations in full.

Japan’s special envoy to Sri Lanka Yasushi Akashi concluded a visit last Friday by telling the media there were international concerns over the government’s delay in acting on the LLRC report. “There is a notion that the Sri Lankan Government has taken too much time appointing commissions and then shelving their reports without taking any action,” he said. Akashi warned that listening to “the international community is a prerequisite” for closer collaboration.

This “human rights” campaign is completely hypocritical, not least because the US and its allies all backed Rajapakse’s war against the LTTE and covered up its war crimes, right up to the final few weeks. Just as the US has exploited “human rights” to justify illegal and predatory wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, so it is using the same phony banner to pursue its imperialist interests in Sri Lanka.

Washington is focussing on Sri Lanka as part of Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” aimed at undermining Chinese influence throughout the region and encircling China militarily. The US began to point to the Sri Lankan military’s atrocities only as the war was drawing to a close. Its real concern was that China enhanced its position in Colombo during the conflict by providing military and financial aid to the Rajapakse government.

A bipartisan initiative, the US Congressional Caucus on Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka, last month held a panel discussion on the topic: “What is next for Sri Lanka—progress or back-pedaling—and the US-Sri Lanka relationship?” Panelists included Ashley Wills, the former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and Lisa Curtis from the right-wing think tank, the Heritage Foundation.

The invitation letter noted “continued concerns about the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities” but drew attention to “the broader context of worrisome political trends in Sri Lanka [that] threaten to undermine stability in Sri Lanka and the region, as well as prospects for a comprehensive, forward looking US-Sri Lanka partnership.”

As reported by Reuters, Curtis declared that since 2009 US-Sri Lanka relations had been in a “downward spiral” and called for the US to reverse the trend through a combination of “carrots and sticks.” She explained what she meant by “downward spiral” in a September Heritage Foundation article. “There are increasing geostrategic reasons to care about Sri Lanka, particularly because the island nation is strategically located in the Indian Ocean and is increasingly being wooed by China,” she wrote.

The same message was spelled out in a document in December 2009, just months after the end of the Sri Lankan war. US Secretary of State John Kerry, then chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, co-authored a review of US interests in the island. After outlining China’s growing influence in Colombo, and the island’s strategic location across important shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean, it concluded that the “US cannot lose Sri Lanka” and proposed a strategy to bring it firmly within the US orbit.

China has continued to side with Sri Lanka against the US-led “human rights” campaign. Its embassy in Colombo recently stated: “China supports the Sri Lankan government’s efforts to safeguard independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.” It added that “the international community, instead of taking measures that may complicate the issue” should allow the Sri Lankan government to choose its own path in addressing human rights.

Rajapakse government has awarded $US4 billion in projects to Chinese companies during the past four years. Investment Promotion Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardhana last month told reporters that the government would sign $2 billion worth of investments before the end of the year, of which $1.3 billion was from China.

Speaking in parliament last week, External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris insisted that the “direction the country needs to go can, and will, be decided by Sri Lanka and no other country. The government is not prepared to pass on that responsibility to another country at any cost, despite threats and intimidation.”

However, the Rajapakse government’s room for manoeuvring is narrowing as the Obama administration ratchets up the pressure on countries throughout Asia to fall into line with its aggressive “pivot.” The constant drumbeat on “human rights” abuses in Sri Lanka carries the menacing threat that Rajapakse and other political and military leaders could find themselves the target of war crimes proceedings—unless they fall into line with Washington’s strategic requirements.

“The biggest problem is not to get people to accept new ideas, but to get them to forget the old ones.”—Nassau Senior

When I was a boy, about 75 years ago, maxims about the legal system were commonly known. As children we were taught that it was better that guilty persons should go free than the innocent be convicted. Children were also taught that it was wrong to take the law into their own hands. These were lofty principles that have somehow tumbled from their high perches. Today, those associated with the Innocence Project have proven conclusively that the innocent are routinely convicted, and stand your ground laws have made taking the law into your own hands legal whenever the miscreant can plead that s/he feared for her/his life. Of course, no one can ever disprove that claim. How can a claim of I was afraid be disproved? Insects make some people fear for their lives. Even police can make that claim successfully. In Arkansas a SWAT team, more heavily armed that the troops that landed on the beaches of Normandy in 1944, killed a 107 year old man it was called upon to help. The special prosecutor hired to investigate the incident exonerated the squad, saying the killing was justified because the members of the squad feared for their lives. Sure they did!

How can convicting the innocent and taking the law into your own hands have become so acceptable and so prevalent? How could Americans become so antagonistic to one another? Well, it took some time, but it is a logical consequence of the way the American legal system was developed and how it works. People are told that the law ought to be respected and obeyed, but if you read this piece to its end, you may never again respect the law, the legal system, or anyone in it.

It all began in England. (So many of the world’s wrongs began in England!) Known as the Common Law, it began sometime after William conquered Harold in the Battle of Hastings. Before then, disputes were settled by local bishops and sheriffs in ecclesiastic courts. Ecclesiastical courts had scholastic philosophy and the Bible to guide decisions. Then Henry II began sending judges from his court throughout the country to adjudicate disputes according to their own notions of right and wrong. They had no principles of justice to guide their judgments; nor were they especially upright men. Many were openly corrupt, and judgments to benefit the monarchy were common. When these judges returned to the king’s court, they discussed their cases with each other. In time, a practice, known as precedent, was developed by which judges agreed to follow the decisions of other judges. When judges began to respect each other’s decisions, a system of law common throughout the whole of England, the common law, came into being. Much of this practice exists in America today.

Common law judges were the primary source of law until Parliament acquired legislative powers. This kind of legislating from the bench was asserted to be the primary source of law in the U.S. by the Supreme Court in 1803 under John Marshall.

John Marshall did two things in Marbury v. Madison that fundamentally changed the newly created nation. First he assumed the court’s power to overrule acts of Congress by asserting the common law principle that “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” While true in common law, that principle was lost when Parliament acquired legislative power in 1649. The American Constitution gives the Congress alone, not the judiciary, the power to say what the law is. The responsibility of the court is only to say if the law has been broken. This assumption of power by the Court from which there is no appeal possible by the Congress, the President, or even the people made the nation into an oligarchy of judges with absolute authority. The United States of America was no longer an incipient, enlightenment democracy although it retained democratic trappings.

The second thing Marshall did was provide the legal system with a paradigm for promoting injustice. Marshall writes that Marbury was entitled to his commission but refused to grant it saying the Court lacked jurisdiction just after having said the Court had the duty to say what the law is. He could have merely claimed jurisdiction. American courts have been promulgating unjust decisions ever since. They merely assert that the law says something it doesn’t say, as, for instance, that the Bill of Rights applies to corporations. The faults of this system have become evident and their disastrous consequences indisputable.

In the absence of any commonly recognized standards of justice, the legal system has become replete with bad (unjust) decisions. Except for errors made by jurors in jury trials, these decisions serve as precedents which means that they propagate themselves spreading injustice everywhere.

As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court of the United States is infamous for making bad decisions. Numerous lists of them are on the Internet. Progressives post lists, moderates post lists, conservatives post lists, professors post lists, and journalists post lists. What these lists prove is that the Court has made a vast number of bad decisions, and while Justices of the Court issue opinions based on their personal predilections, those who post the lists use their personal beliefs too. So when asked, “When it comes to Supreme Court cases, what do you think were some of the most damaging to the cause of liberty?,” Judge Napolitano replied, “Almost all of them.” I suspect that there is not a single opinion issued by the court that has the concurrence of all people. Yet it appears that no one in the legal profession, especially in law schools, cares or wants to fix this abominable situation. No members of the Court has ever expressed and shame over being on a Court that regularly issues bad decisions. Apparently the Court’s members like being wrong or at least are not disturbed by it.

If this were not bad enough, the Court’s decisions exacerbate social conflicts and make it certain that this nation will never be domestically tranquil which is something the Constitution cites as a goal of the nation. Why? Because appellate court decisions are made by tribunals instead of single persons, and the decisions are rarely unanimous. If the concurring members of a court cannot even convince their dissenting colleagues that their decision is right or just, how can anyone expect them to convince the general public?

This inability to convince critics is a result of the way the Court operates. When the Court accepts a case, its members read various briefs submitted by interested parties and hears oral arguments. Then the case is decided by a vote of its members. At that point, the case is over even though no opinion has yet been written. So what function does the opinion have? It is certainly not written to convince anyone of anything. It becomes obvious upon reflection that the opinion’s sole purpose is merely to document its sequence of precedents so subsequent jurists can cite the case in deciding similar cases. No one member of the Court need care whether anyone agrees with a decision, because the decision is absolute; only a Constitutional amendment can overture it, and passing an amendment is both time consuming and burdensome.

That decisions of the Court often do exacerbate disputes among the citizenry can easily be demonstrated.

When Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote the opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) he believed he was resolving the issue of slavery in America but all he did was inflame the passions of those who advocated freedom. The result ultimately was the Civil War in which upwards of 750,000 people were killed. The war freed the slaves, but did not resolve the problem which still exists today as racism. The Court continued to prolong the problem by refusing to enforce Constitutional amendments 13, 14, and 15 which allowed “Jim Crow” practices to continue in the South for 125 years. This issue has still not been resolved. Many people believe that America still is a racist country today.

In 1973 the Court issued its opinion in Roe v. Wade giving women the right to have abortions under certain conditions. The decision only antagonized lifers so that the issue remains unresolved to this day, becoming a major issue in every election since.

There are many other decisions that could be cited, but these, one conservative and one liberal, were cited to show that ideology, while important, is not the cause of bad decisions. The issue of bad decisions is systemic, caused by the system itself. American judges are not selected for their Solomonic wisdom but for political reasons. All judges act the same way. By the rules of the game, they search for precedents that support their personal preferences. With a history of two hundred years of decisions, precedents that support every inclination can be found. To have any confidence in such a legal system is impossible. If united we stand, divided we fall has any validity at all, America is a doomed nation. The people will never enjoy equality under the law.

Troubles with trial courts are equally severe. Almost any other attempt at solving problems is preferred to trials, which have gotten much too expensive, take much too long, and yield much to uncertain results. Corporations prefer out of court settlements or arbitration, which because of how arbitrators are selected, has become worse that trials by jury. Defendants and prosecutors prefer plea agreements. The results of trials are far too uncertain for anyone to rely on them. And now if a person has a gun, the dispute is often settled in the street.

But s/he goes to jail, you say! Maybe, maybe not. In criminal trials, the state bears the cost of uncertain trials, not the defendant who has become a law unto her/himself, and the outcome is always uncertain. And just as with appellate court decisions, judges who render what the public considers to be inappropriate sentences cause raucous disagreement among the people and diminishes respect for the legal system.

Americans are often told that this is a nation of laws rather than men. But is it? If a tribunal of nine old men (and women) have the authority to “say what the law is,” isn’t that a nation of old men (and women)? How can it be otherwise? And the law, what function does it have anyhow?

Well it provides society with some semblance of order some say. Yes! But look at that order carefully. When a woman is arrested for driving an automobile in Saudi Arabia, a woman who has done nothing morally wrong or injured anyone, is that a law that provides order? When a person is arrested in America for possessing marijuana, a person who has done nothing morally wrong or injured anyone, is that a law that provides order? If a person is arrested in China for advocating democracy, a person who has done nothing morally wrong or injured anyone, is that a law that provides order? I suspect not! These people have merely broken the saw! Such laws are instruments of repression. All laws are essentially instruments of repression, and as such are not worthy of respect.

Of course, some repression is necessary in all societies. The repression of violence, actions injurious to others, dishonesty in transactions are among them. But nonviolence, actions not injurious to others, and honest actions in transactions are not. But because something is sometimes necessary doesn’t necessarily make it worthy of respect.

When the Chinese incarcerate those who advocate democracy and Americans incarcerate those who are caught possessing marijuana, people are being incarcerated merely for doing something the established in control of society disapprove of. Law always functions that way. It defines what the established approves and disapproves of, and people are expected to conform. Being told that the law ought to be respected and obeyed is nothing more than an attempt to get people to conform to what the status quo desires. So if you’re a critic of society and advocate any kind of change, the law is an instrument to be used against you. In a society like America’s. “liberty and justice for all” is impossible. These are impossible in most other societies too. That is what Tacitus meant when he wrote, “laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt.” Law does not set one free; it’s always repressive. Calling a person a justice doesn’t make her/him just, and people do not become honorable by calling them “your honor.” Desiderius Erasmus called lawyers jackals; was his view correct?

If united we stand, divided we fall means anything, it means that a large degree of conformity must exist in society. But conformity is brought about in two different ways—by wise laws that people obey willingly or by unwise laws that people obey in fear. The latter kind of conformity is apparent only, is not real. In that kind of society, disunity lurks in the shadows and expresses itself in widespread criminality. The huge number of incarcerated Americans proves that shadows are everywhere.

What passes for justice in America is very odd. Being schooled in what the law is rather than what the law should be, American lawyers look to the past rather than the future, so they tend to be conservative, to maintain the status quo. They tend to want to retard and even reverse human progress. They favor corporations over consumers and the working class, no member of which has ever been a federal judge. The Court overturned minimum-wage laws, workers’ compensation statutes, utility regulations, and child labor laws. In the early 1930s, it struck down New Deal legislation. It struck down a statute that made the financial industry fair, rejected a suit by women against a woefully discriminatory company, shielded the makers of drugs from lawsuits by patients who had been harmed, rejected lawsuits against mutual fund cheaters and liars, and disallowed a suit by inmates even though prosecutors failed to reveal exculpatory evidence. Blatant injustice! Is it any wonder that American society is disintegrating?

The system of Common Law is an eleventh century phenomenon. It didn’t mesh with the Constitution of 1789. Jefferson wrote after the Supreme Court’s decision in Marbury v. Madison that the Constitution was “a thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.” The judiciary has shaped it poorly.

Various sessions of the Supreme Court are often identified by naming them after their chief justices, for instance, the Marshall Court, the Warren Court, and now the Roberts Court. But the Court is really just a Robbers Court. It deserves no one’s respect!

As the American government seeks to destabilize nations in far off places, the legal system is destabilizing the country from the street to the halls of Congress. Absolutely nothing good can come of it.

John Kozy is a retired professor of philosophy and logic who writes on social, political, and economic issues. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he spent 20 years as a university professor and another 20 years working as a writer. He has published a textbook in formal logic commercially, in academic journals and a small number of commercial magazines, and has written a number of guest editorials for newspapers. His on-line pieces can be found on http://www.jkozy.com/ and he can be emailed from that site’s homepage.

Why is Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe not a Hero?

December 20th, 2013 by Global Research News

by Shenali D Waduge

Robert Mugabe has to be one of the West’s worst nightmares. He is certainly one  amongst the handful remaining Africans that is open against white oppression. Africa needs African leaders rooted in Africa not African leaders that the West hero worships because they are ready to continue white supremacy. This was the difference between Mugabe and Mandela. Robert Mugabe is fighting to reverse the legacy of colonialism, Mandela was prepared to continue Apartheid economy in exchange for black political power that really meant nothing for the blacks. How wrong can Mugabe be when he says the land and natural resources belong to Zimbabwe and not to white colonialists? Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980. Mugabe is the only native leader who ever repossessed territory that was usurped by foreign colonisers. And he did so while they were in full occupation and while they were actively farming and prospering. No other African leader has ever re-possessed land while the purloined real estate was actively occupied by the usurpers. Mugabe did it! And he did so single-handedly! That surely must judge his heroism.

Zimbabwe was formerly known as Rhodesia named after Cecil Rhodes – the only Rhodes memory today is that of the Rhodes Scholarship. Cecil Rhodes was defeated but the British were quick to appoint Idi Amin to look after their interests. The Heroes of the whites are those willing to ensure that no blacks will touch any of the land the whites had stolen. They loved Mugabe when he like many other white appointed leaders were ready to dance to the white tune. That however did not last long.

Mugabe was in fact given knighthood in 1994 by the British Government! Sir Robert Mugabe Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath of course he was stripped of the title 7 years later. Lord Doughlas Hurd was foreign secretary when Mugabe was given knighthood and when questioned he said the knighthood may have been given because Mugabe hosted the Commonwealth. Lets hope President Rajapakse is not fooled into this possibility by his advisors!

When these leaders started to shift allegiance, the heroes soon became villains. We all know how Osama, Saddam, Gaddafi fell from grace. BBC wrote glowing reports on Mugabe for 25 years up until the time Mugabe started introducing land reforms. Thereafter the white media started to promote Morgan Tsangvirai’s MDC party after the West started to pumping cash. MDC was no different to South African ANC – both ready to allow the whites to continue the economic hold on their respective countries.

Sanctions became the best way the West knew to deal with Zimbabwe. US froze credit against Zimbabwe and this was how Zimbabwe’s economic troubles started and not during the land reclamation. The white media was quick to relay about whites being forced off the land. Every story will refer to create a false scenario that Zimbabwe’s problem are because the whites lost their land and had to leave and not because the credit was removed. Reclaiming lands did not cause starvation – sanctions against Zimbabwe did. Robert Mugabe has not committed any action against the US, nor supported any terror but he remains on the terror list. Mugabe was wise to strike up alliances that would protect Zimbabwe and protection came. China blocked moves for military intervention that US and Britain was attempting to achieve through the UN.

 Mandela is a hero because he was ready to dance to the tune of the imperialists. 65% blacks in South Africa remain unemployed while 90% of whites remain rich and in possession of over 90% of South Africa’s wealth because Mandela was quite prepared to keep it that way and for maintaining the status quo Mandela remains their hero. Let us not forget that none of the Whites ever confessed to any crimes before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Blacks remain very poor in a very rich nation with white South Africans still very rich. This is narrative of reconciliation appears nothing but a bogey to avoid coming down to real terms to discuss violations and the redress of these violations

The whites possessed the title deeds for the finest agricultural land upon which they established 70.000 mega-farms. And they farmed the land for 110 years. The physical labour was provided by the natives of the country. And these people were virtually enslaved.

Mr Mugabe said he embarked on the land-grab programme in 2000 to address the expropriation of land from blacks during white rule that ended after a civil war in 1980. 

 Zimbabwe’s land reforms are an envy to most. Of course we need to always keep in mind that there are sanctions and limitations. But given that the land is now under ownership of Zimbabweans who are slowly putting the land to use, with proper investments and if treated as co-partners instead of mere employees of western foreign governments Zimbabwe would surely prosper. This is a good lesson for other Third World countries ever ready to dole out land to foreign investors and leaving their own people mere employees in lands that belong to the natives.

 The indigenisation policies in the mining sector have added to the land-owning middle class by creating mining entrepreneurs. These are people who have taken advantage of the availability of state shares in foreign owned companies. The state owns 51% of the mineral resources part of which belongs to the community, another percentage is due to the employees.

Another is availed to the entrepreneurs who can purchase them. The rest is used by the state for the benefit of the country. The minerals under Zimbabwean soil belong to Zimbabwe and anyone who needs them must join Zimbabweans on that basis. The West must therefore stop the silly regime change programs that are being replicated the world over simply to put white men on indigenous ground or get indigenous men who would work on behalf of the whites – only a thin line sets both apart.

Let us remind ourselves that it was only after the British were confident that they had created enough ‘Yes Brown/Black Men’ that they decided to give independence and bumped off the real nationalists who would have stood in the way of their outsourced domination.

Animal Rights: The Collapse of England’s Badger Culls

December 20th, 2013 by Lesley Docksey

These pilots are not on our land, but the ways the culls are being carried out is increasingly worrying and we are now concerned for the credibility and usefulness of the exercise.  This sense of shifting scientific sands is a real issue for us, particularly if faced with any future proposition for wider culling.” Patrick Begg, National Trust rural enterprise director. 

The beach-loads of sand that the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and Natural England have shifted in pursuit of killing badgers over the last year or two (and in the case of the National Farmers Union (NFU), for many more years than two) have little to do with science.  And the UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s bucket and spade are bigger than most.  In the Westminster Hall debate on the pilot badger culls on 10 December MP Chris Williamson called him ‘gung-ho’ in his desire to pursue the cull route.  A polite way to describe his statements on the cull would be “giving a positive spin”. Perhaps “propaganda” would be more accurate.  However you name it, his “science-based” utterances appear to come from an alternative Paterson universe where facts are simply what you decide them to be.

 In his statement  to Parliament on 23 October 2012 (announcing that the badger cull would be postponed to 2013, due to a little local difficulty with estimated badger numbers, although bad weather and the Olympics were also to blame), Paterson said “Last year TB led to the slaughter of 26,000 cattle in England at a cost of nearly £100 million”.  According to Defra’s bovine TB statistics, the total number of cattle slaughtered in England in 2011 came to 22, 589.  But what’s an extra 3000 or more when you’re trying to sell an unpopular and unjustified cull to MPs?

 And the £100m?  Again, the Defra figures state that bTB has cost £500m over the last 10 years, or roughly £50m per year.  Defra also states that this figure is ‘estimated’ to rise to £1billion over the next decade if nothing is done.  However, no figures are provided by Defra for justifying the doubling of the costs, and it makes no sense when one looks at their statistics for the incidence of bTB over the last 6 years.  The number of cattle slaughtered because of TB since 2008 has dropped from  39,677 in 2008 to a projected 33,000 in 2013.  In the West, which is the TB hotspot, the number of slaughtered cattle dropped from 21,585 in 2008 down to a projected 18,436 in 2013.  Is it possible that the awful, out of control epidemic of  bTB is a fantasy?

 I am not suggesting that TB in cattle isn’t a very real and distressing problem for those farmers with cattle, but I would like to put Defra’s £50m per year into perspective.  Dairy cattle in particular, because of  modern farming practices, have for years suffered from chronic lameness, mastitis and fertility problems, all inter-related and all of which can lead to unnecessary and early slaughter of valuable animals.  In 1983 (that is 30 years ago), lameness alone cost the taxpayer £35 million.  What would that cost now?

 It is worth remembering that two days after Paterson’s statement postponing the cull, a 7-hour-long and very heated debate about the cull resulted in MPs voting to abandon plans to shoot badgers by 147 votes to 28.  But then, what does majority opinion matter to our Environment Secretary?  Not that he was there for much of the debate having apparently walked out muttering “I can’t stand any more of this!”  Nor – and this is quite outrageous – has this vote any power to prevent the government (aka Paterson, Defra and the NFU) from slaughtering badgers.

 A bare two weeks after the Somerset pilot cull finally started (27 August 2013), Paterson’s department Defra was insisting that a badger found by a wounded badger patrol couldn’t have been shot by the official marksmen because “All badgers killed as part of the pilot culls have been shot cleanly and killed instantly.”  How did they know?  Because, as a Freedom of Information request put in by Care for the Wild revealed – and I do hope you are sitting down – the two (yes, two) independent monitors (presumably one overseeing the West Somerset cull and the second the West Gloucestershire cull) of the planned killing of up to 5000 badgers would be doing their monitoring by phoning the guns!  “How’s it going?”  “Fine!  Some of them squeal a bit but, hey….”

 Come the official end of the Somerset cull, the failure to achieve the numbers demanded by the government’s own criteria for the cull, and Paterson’s infamous remark that it was “the badgers that moved the goalposts”, he topped it two days later with a rant about the appalling, disgusting anti-cull protesters who were condemning badgers to a horrible death because their cosy pictures of black and white animals don’t relate to “these miserable, emaciated sick animals spewing out disease”.  But Paterson’s remarks don’t “relate” to the truth.   As Chris Williamson pointed out in the Westminster Hall debate:

 “According to Farming Monthly International, “Out of nearly 1200 badgers caught in Wales for vaccination, none showed any signs of illness.”  That is revealing, given that the Secretary of State said that badgers are “spewing out disease”. When he was probed on that claim, it turned out to be anecdotal hearsay from the National Farmers Union, which represents only 18% of farmers, and the people who were employed to do the culling. There is no evidence for his claim.”

Further, there was, and presumably is, no proof that any of the culled badgers from the ‘bTB hotspot areas’ were infected because they were not being tested for it.

 Following the end of the extended West Somerset cull when the guns still hadn’t achieved the required 70% target, Paterson expressed “great confidence that Somerset’s controversial badger cull will eradicate bovine tuberculosis from the area.”  This despite everyone, or at least those who still believe that killing 70% of the badgers would reduce (reduce, not eradicate, Mr Paterson) bovine TB in cattle, saying the culls will probably make matters worse.

On 29 November Natural England announced it was revoking the extended licence it had granted to the West Gloucestershire pilot badger cull, and the cull would end 3 weeks early.   The guns were simply not killing enough badgers – in fact on some nights no badgers were seen or killed.  The original minimum number of kills for Gloucester was 2856, an estimated 70% of the total badger population in that area.  After the failure of both pilot culls to kill anything near the original target figures the figures were swiftly revised downwards.  Gloucester’s target became 1650 but the six week cull had only achieved 30% of that total – hence the extension.  Desperate times call for measures of desperation, so the target was now not 70% but 58%.  And they couldn’t even achieve that.

 Natural England’s initial statement said that the decision was “based on the decreasing number of badgers seen by contractors over recent weeks which makes achieving a further significant reduction in the coming weeks unlikely.  Following discussions with the NFU, the cull company and Natural England, the licence for the extension of this year’s pilot cull will stop with effect from noon on Saturday.”  The full statement they issued later said that they had chosen to end it on the Saturday to coincide with the end of the open season for trapping badgers.

 Owen Paterson’s written statement to Parliament on the following Monday (he has been somewhat physically absent from the House since the “goalpost” fiasco) claimed that the ending of the Gloucestershire cull was purely so it would coincide with the ending of the trapping season.  The numbers were absolutely fine.  “The decision to extend has been shown to be the right one, with significant numbers of badgers removed….  The extension in Gloucestershire has therefore been successful in meeting its aim in preparing the ground for a fully effective four year cull.”  He also made it clear that by the time the public and Parliament see the report from the panel of experts, he will already have made his decision on the roll-out of further culls:

 “The Independent Panel of Experts will now consider the information collected during the pilots on the safety, effectiveness and humaneness of controlled shooting. This will inform my decision on the wider roll-out of badger control in those parts of England most severely affected by this disease. The Independent Panel of Experts report will be made available to Parliament and the general public at that time.”

 The Westminster Hall debate produced two clear demands from MPs: that the government should not proceed any further with badgers culls without a full debate and vote by MPs – to do otherwise would be undemocratic; and that the independent panel evaluating the effects of the pilot badger culls should be augmented by the presence of more scientists and wildlife experts in order to produce a balanced and properly informed report.  There is now an obvious distrust of the “facts and figures” MPs are being presented with.

 The Farming Minister George Eustice stood in for Paterson at the Westminster Hall debate.  In his closing statement he claimed that the “randomised badger cull” (the Krebs study) contributed to a significant reduction in disease (he failed to mention the rise in bTB cases outside the cull areas because of perturbation) – such significance having already been correctly described by another MP as ‘miniscule’.  But such is the way the pro-cull ministers overstate their case and twist science and fact.  As MP Tracy Crouch pointed out, “It is a bit of a cheek for the Government to say that the pilot culls have been a success, when those of us who are anti-cull have been told not to leap to conclusions until the independent panel has concluded.”  For this was precisely the message I got from my MP when I wrote about the misuse of science to justify the culls:

 “I think we need to wait for the full evaluation of the Somerset and Gloucestershire trials before coming to a conclusion about what has worked, and what has not worked.  When we have the results of that evaluation, we shall be able to learn the lessons and take appropriate action for the future.”

 The fact that the culls were based on a lack of science escaped him.

 But how can these culls be honestly evaluated, when so little evidence will be presented to the independent panel?  Only around 150 badger carcasses will be subject to autopsy and that solely to establish if the badgers have been killed with one clean shot.  Those bodies will have been selected by the marksmen who will not be exactly impartial in their selection.  Any other evidence verbal or written will mostly come from the guns, and any “reduction” (or indeed increase) in disease will not be apparent for some time, and certainly not until well after Paterson has taken his decision to roll out more culls.  And you can rest assured that he will not mention the slow but steady decrease in the incidence of TB outbreaks, or the reasons why that should be so.

 What is clear from Paterson’s statement at the beginning of December, he has every intention of continuing with the badger culls.  His ‘science’ dictates it.  And just to prove how good that is, here’s an example:

 In his October 2012 statement he claimed that: “… because our cattle system has cattle out on the fields, and 1 ml of badger urine yields 300,000 colony-forming units of disease and it takes only 0.001% to infect an animal.”  Now, this looks as if he is trying to convince Parliament that one small pee in the grass from a badger can infect 300,000 cattle.  But…

 Has he (and I, and you) not realised that each cow produces up to 60 litres per day of slurry (which could be infected with TB) and that farmers spread millions of gallons of slurry all over their fields as fertiliser?  Or is that too down to earth to be “science”?

First published by The Ecologist 

Understanding the greater global chessboard Thailand’s political crisis is unfolding upon. 

 The history of Thailand over the past several centuries could be defined by its fending off of one European empire after the next. It is the only Southeast Asian nation that has never been colonized by a European power. This is in direct contrast to its neighbors on all sides – Myanmar and Malaysia were under the British, and Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam were under the French. Even China was carved up by Western powers.

The key to Thailand’s success was committing to a careful balancing act between projecting strength, adept geopolitical maneuvering, unwavering unity, and when necessary, making temporary concessions to preserve its greater sovereignty.

Image: Thailand’s geopolitical surroundings 1800-1900. Thailand was the only Southeast Asian country to avoid European colonization.
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“Empires” Still Exist, Still Conquer, Still Exploit 

Thailand in the 1800′s, then the Kingdom of Siam, was surrounded on all sides by colonized nations. Gunboats would eventually turn up off the coast of Siam’s capital and the Kingdom made to concede to the British 1855 Bowring Treaty. See how many of these “gunboat policy” imposed concessions sound like today’s “free trade” economic liberalization:

1. Siam granted extraterritoriality to British subjects.
2. British could trade freely in all seaports and reside permanently in Bangkok.
3. British could buy and rent property in Bangkok.
4. British subjects could travel freely in the interior with passes provided by the consul.
5. Import and export duties were capped at 3%, except the duty-free opium and bullion.
6. British merchants were to be allowed to buy and sell directly with individual Siamese.

While some may claim fears of a global superpower, a successor to the old British Empire, today doing something similar amounts to “conspiracy theories,” not only are such fears well founded, but ignoring them could cost a nation virtually everything.

We need only consider the outright military conquest of Iraq and America’s Paul Bremer’s (CFR) economic reformation of the decimated state. The Economist gleefully enumerated the neo-colonial “economic liberalization” of Iraq in a piece titled “Let’s all go to the yard sale: If it all works out, Iraq will be a capitalist’s dream:

1. 100% ownership of Iraqi assets.
2. Full repatriation of profits.
3. Equal legal standing with local firms.
4. Foreign banks allowed to operate or buy into local banks.
5. Income and corporate taxes capped at 15%.
6. Universal tariffs slashed to 5%.

Iraq is a perfect modern day example of a nation overrun by brute force and made to concede to an entire restructuring of its economy, giving foreign powers access to their natural resources, markets, and population. It was absolute subjugation, both militarily and economically. It was modern day conquest.

If the US has done this to Iraq as recently as 2003, why would anyone think any other nation today is safe from a similar fate? And if not by the US today, perhaps another potential superpower like China tomorrow? Already, the same familiar lies can be heard from the US in the lead-up to war with nations like Syria and Iran. Indeed, imperialism is alive and well – and nations that choose to ignore this ancient but still thriving menace to world peace, almost guarantee that they will be next.

The Thai Establishment Knows Imperialism 

The Thai establishment is not naive. They know the history of the world is not divided into neat little chapters with the institutions and motives that drove European colonization safely concluded stories behind us in the past. The institutions and motivations that drove European colonization in centuries past have only evolved.

The Europeans, along with the United States, have become the new empire or “superpower,” seeking extraterritorial opportunities with implied threats and installed proxy regimes when possible, and with overt force when necessary.

Thailand’s strategy has remained relatively the same – to remain neutral and fluid, to bend and bounce back when superpowers blow through. With Thailand’s unique and enduring indigenous institutions intact, it can protect the nation’s sovereignty even at times it must make small concessions to keep the superpowers at bay. However, with Thaksin Shinawatra, the superpowers have attempted to disfigure Thailand permanently – disabling its ability to resist, and erasing the institutions that have for centuries kept Thailand Thai.

What the Thai establishment said, during the rise of Thaksin Shinawatra, reveals the insight they have on the superpowers and what is necessary to protect against them. Though seemingly condemning Thailand’s Democrat Party for being too protective – the Sarasonteh blog reported on two revealing incidents. The first was in 2005 in describing a meeting between former US Ambassador to Thailand Ralph Boyce and former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai. Sarasonteh reported:

According to the Democrat Party website, US Ambassador Ralph Boyce met with former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai today. There’s no word on the substance of what a Democrat MP calls “a chat between old friends”, but if I were Mr. Boyce, I’d have courteously requested an explanation for this:

According to the Democrat Party website, US Ambassador Ralph Boyce met with former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai today. There’s no word on the substance of what a Democrat MP calls “a chat between old friends”, but if I were Mr. Boyce, I’d have courteously requested an explanation for this:

Democrat Party's security and foreign policies

2. Maintain neutrality on the world stage and cooperate only under [the authority of] United Nations resolutions.
3. Foster sovereignty [by] letting no country lease an airport or a strategic location.

Old friends don’t try to capitalize on public prejudice against one another, do they? And surely they’re not neutral toward each other.

 

This being the Democrats, their putatively internationalist “policy” no. 2, if taken literally, would indeed have the opposite meaning to the one intended. It would’ve ruled in participation in Iraq under UNSC Resolution 1511, while ruling out most other international cooperations (ASEAN, APEC, ASEM, you name it) as they’re not mandated by the UN.

This first example lays out the principles of neutrality and the maintenance of sovereignty in regards to barring foreign powers from using Thailand for strategic purposes. Of course, under Thaksin Shinawatra, neither of these principles would be observed – as Thaksin sent troops to aid in the US occupation of Iraq, and allowed the CIA to conduct its atrocious “rendition” program on Thai soil.

The next example involves “economic liberalization,” and the Democrat’s reaction to laws Thaksin Shinawatra literally changed one week, to personally profit from the next, at the cost of selling Thai infrastructure to foreign investors. In a blog entry titled “Worse than Saddam,” Sarasonteh reported:

Ong-art Klampaibul, spokesman of the “technocratic and progressive” Democrat Party, commented on the sale of Shin Corporation to Temasek Holdings by “nationalist and populist” Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra: (Matichon)

“เผด็จการซัดดัม แม้เป็นทรราชโหดเหี้ยม ก็ยังต่อสู้กับมหาอำนาจเพื่อแผ่นดินอิรัก แต่นายกฯทักษิณ ยังด้อยสำนึกกว่าซัดดัม เพียงเงิน 7.3 หมื่นล้านบาท เข้ากระเป๋าส่วนตัว นายกฯก็มอบสิทธิสภาพอธิปไตยทั้งเศรษฐกิจความมั่นคง และกรรมสิทธิ์การสื่อสารโทรคมนาคมให้ต่างชาติจนหมดสิ้น” โฆษกพรรคประชาธิปัตย์กล่าว

“Dictator Saddam, though a brutal tyrant, still fought the superpower for the Iraqi motherland. But PM Thaksin is less conscionable than Saddam. For 73 billion baht to his personal pocket, the PM gave both economic and security sovereignty and communication rights entirely to foreigners,” said the Democrat spokesman.

Of course, only a month earlier, Democrat Leader Abisit Vejjajiva implied that the prime minister was protecting Shin Corp by keeping foreigners out of the telecoms sector (which obviously didn’t have national security dimensions at the time). So he was probably worse than Bush back then. Or something.

Indeed, it is recognized that there is a struggle between independent sovereign states and the “superpower,” and that selling your nation’s infrastructure out to it is detrimental to one’s sovereignty. The blog is clearly maintained by someone who believes deeply in the concept of “globalization” at the expense of national sovereignty, someone perhaps not as well studied in history as Thailand’s establishment to see how much “globalization” resembles old world imperialism.

The same blog would also condemn Democrat Party members for suspecting the CIA’s involvement in terrorism plaguing the deep south – violence that had seen an enduring peace until Thaksin Shinawatra came into power. (more on the US’s backing of Al Qaeda)

Uprooting Thaksin is not the End

The extensive foreign ties Thaksin Shinawatra had before coming into office, while in office, and to this very day have been examined and reported on in detail. His attempts to illegally pass unpopular free trade deals, privatize and sell off the nation’s oil, its telecommunications infrastructure, and contribute to the West’s unwarranted military aggression are among the many reasons he must be removed from power. However, the empty spot he leaves, if not filled with something cultivated for and by Thais, will only serve as a growing bed for other invasive weeds like the Thaksin regime.


Image: The Thai 1000 baht banknote. Left is one of the many dams controlling floods and producing electricity throughout the Kingdom. Center is the current King of Thailand. Right is a depiction of a local garden providing food in a self-sufficient manner under the “new theory” or “self-sufficiency economy”- a blueprint for Thais to protect their nation from the grassroots up against exploitation from both foreign interests and local despots.
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While it is wise for the Thai establishment to continue seeking neutrality and guarded tolerance of the superpower’s intrusions, it may be useful for the Thai people in general to understand the true dimensions of the threat the Kingdom faces today. A nation needs not be xenophobic to guard against foreign intrusion, but rather, well informed on identifying the differences between mutual benefits and exploitation.

Iraq is the ultimate example of what can happen to a nation unable to balance, bend, and bounce back against aggressive foreign interests. Thailand, on the other hand, illustrates no matter how well you play the game of keeping foreign aggressors outside the gates, the greatest danger remains those within who would willfully undermine your defenses and let the enemy in.

It was  Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC) in the timeless “The Traitor is the Plague” who said:

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly.

But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.

A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.”

How can Thailand prevent another “Thaksin” from simply taking his place? How can Thais be sure their nation is simply playing the game in the best interests of the Kingdom, and not instead selling the nation out?

For the average Thai, the only answer is to begin building enduring, independent, and strong local institutions that reduce the Kingdom’s dependency on foreign trade. Additionally, Thais must educate themselves on the true nature of the corporate-financier interests that currently constitute the “superpowers.” Understanding this and the networks they’ve created that reach from their financial capitals of Wall Street and London, and into our very backyards, allows us to expose them and displace them with institutions, organizations, and economic activities that are truly in our best interests.

Globalization: The Fast Track To Nowhere

December 19th, 2013 by Colin Todhunter

Modern culture is an advocate of speed. From urban planning and transport systems, to the food industry and beyond, ‘fast living’ cuts deep and affects almost every aspect of life.

In terms of distances, things today are more spread out yet are more interconnected than in the past. This interconnectedness has had the effect of shrinking even the largest of distances and is ably assisted by digital communications technology and rapid transit systems. Airports and metro transport links are being extended or built, huge concrete flyovers cut through neighbourhoods and separate communities from one another and employment is being centralised in out of town business parks or city centre office blocks. Speed of communications and transport narrows the distances.

Encouraging further urban sprawl is of course highly profitable for the real estate, construction, automobile and various other industries (1). It is not that we need this type of urban planning and development, but powerful economic interests and their influence in/over governments dictate it’s the type we get.

Speed and high-energy living have become an essential fact of life. In the process, our communities have become disjointed and dispersed. We have sacrificed intimacy, friendship and neighbourliness for a more impersonal way of accelerated living. And the process continues as rural communities are uprooted and hundreds of millions are forced into cities of ever-increasing sizes to indulge in the fast life.   

In the virtual world, friends possibly half the world away are made and ‘defriended’ at the click of an icon. Likes and dislikes are but passing fads. Meaningful social activism has been trivialised and reduced to the almost meaningless clicking of an online petition. It’s more convenient and quicker than taking to the street. After the near destruction of working class movements in many countries, this is what ‘protest’ has too often become.

In the ‘real’ world, where ‘clicking’ just doesn’t cut it, how to physically move from A to B as quickly as possible dominates the modern mindset – how to get to work, the airport, to your kids’ schools, the hospital or the shopping mall, which are increasingly further away from home. Many now appear to spend half their lives in transit in order to do what was once achievable by foot or by bicycle.  

It’s all become a case of how to eat fast, live fast, consume fast, text message fast, Facebook fast and purchase fast. Speed is of the essence. And it seems that the faster we live, the greater our appetites have become. The mantra seems to be faster, quicker, better, more. In a quick-paced, use-and-throw world, speed is addictive.

But there is a heavy price to pay. We are using up the world’s resources at an ever greater pace: the materials to make the cell phone or flat screen TVs; the water to irrigate the massive amounts of grain and land required to feed the animals that end up on the dinner plate as the world increasingly turns towards diets that are more meat based; the oil that fuels the transport to get from here to there, to ship the food over huge distances, to fuel the type of petrochemical agriculture we have come to rely on, or the minerals which form a constituent part of the endless stream of consumer products on the shelves. Greed and the grab for resources not only fuels conflict, structural violence imposed on nations via Wall Street backed economic policies and death and war, but high energy, accelerated living takes a heavy toll on the environment and, if we are honest, on ourselves, in terms of our health and our relationships.

If the type of high energy living outlined above continues, we are heading for a crunching slowdown much sooner than we think. It will be catastrophic as current conflicts intensify and new ones emerge over diminishing resources, whether water, oil, minerals, fertile land or food.

The term ‘slow living’ was popularized when Carlo Petrini protested against the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in Piazza di Spagna inRome in 1986. This reaction against fast food sparked the creation of the Slow Food movement. Over time, this developed into other areas, such as Cittaslow (Slow Cities), Slow Living, Slow Travel, and Slow Design.

What was Carlo Petrini actually originally arguing against? Fast food is food that is grown quickly, eaten quickly and prepared quickly. It is convenience food of dubious nutritional quality that fits in with the belief that the ‘good life’ equates with fast living. It is food that tends to rely on petrochemical pesticides, fertilizers and transport across huge distances.

Food that is chemically processed and which relies on hormones, steroids and other similar inputs in order to ‘speed things up’ in terms of crop or animal growth and delivery to plates that may be half a world away from where it is produced by agricultural workers who themselves are undernourished or malnourished (2). It is nature speeded up, but also nature that has been contaminated and distorted and pressed into the service of big oil and agribusiness interests.

On the other hand, slow food tends to imply food that is grown or produced locally and with minimal bio-chemical inputs. It tends to rest on the sourcing of local foods and centuries’ old traditions and ideally sold by neighbourhood farms and stores, not by giant monopolistic retailers that are integral to the fast food industry. Slow food also implies more nourishing and healthy food and agriculture that places less strain on water resources and soil to produce better yields (3) and which does not pollute either body or environment as a result of chemical residues (4) or uproot communities or destroy biodiversity (5).

Slow food is associated with lower energy inputs. It is less reliant on oil-based factory-processed fertilizers/pesticides and oil-based transportation across lengthy distances, not least because it is organically produced and locally sourced. In their ultimate forms, slow food and living slow can arguably best be achieved via decentralization and through communities that are more self-sustaining in terms of food production/consumption as well as in terms of other activities, including localized energy production via renewables or industrial outputs such as garment making or eco-friendly house building. In this respect, slow living extends to remaking the communities and relearning the crafts and artisan skills we have often lost or had stolen from us.

Ultimately, urban planning and the ‘local’ are key to living slow. No need for the automobile if work, school or healthcare facilities are close by. Less need for ugly flyovers or six lane highways that rip up communities in their path. Getting from A to B would not require a race against the clock on the highway that cuts through a series of localities that are never to be visited, never to be regarded as anything but an inconvenience to be passed through en route to big-mac nirvana, multiplex overload or shopping mall hedonism.

Instead, how about a leisurely, even enjoyable walk or cycle ride through an environment free from traffic pollution or noise, where the pedestrian is not regarded as an obstacle to be honked at with horn, where the cyclist is not a damned inconvenience to be driven off the road or where ‘neighbourhood’ has been stripped of its intimacy, of its local ‘mom and pop’ stores, of its local theatres?

Having jettisoned the slow life for a life of fast living, we are now encouraged to seek out the slow life, not least for example through tourism. The trouble is that with more and more people seeking out the slow life for two weeks of respite, destination slow suddenly became a complete mess. Instead of genteel locals, pristine forests and refreshing air, what you experience is sprawling hotel complexes, endless buses and taxis clogging up the place along with thousands of other tourists.

And the locals – they abandoned the slow life once mass tourism arrived and jumped on the bandwagon of fastness to rent out their rooms at inflated prices, to open restaurants serving fast food that caters to fast tourism. The slow mindset suddenly became abandoned in the quest to make a fast buck from the tourists, and before you knew it, six lane highways arrived, water was gobbled up by tourist complexes and urban sprawl sprawled even further across the once pristine hillsides or beaches.

But that’s what fast living or, to be precise, the system that creates it does. It corrupts and destroys most things that get in its way. It recasts everything in its own image. Even ‘slowness’ has become a bogus, debased commodity sold to the fast living, fast consuming masses.

What can we do on a practical level that does not result in the debasement of the slow life? Is living slow nothing more than the dreamers mandate for taking us all back a century or two?

For some advocates of slow living, it is about trying to live better in a fast world, perhaps making space to enjoy ‘quality time’. For others, however, it comprises a wide ranging cultural and economic revolution that challenges many of the notions that underpin current consumption patterns and ‘globalization’.

Loosely defined, slow living is nothing new. From Buddha to the social philosopher Ivan Illich in the 1960s and 70s, the philosophy has always been around in different guises and has been accorded many labels. Whether it is anti-globalization, environmentalism, post-modernism, the organic movement, ‘green’ energy, localization or decentralization, these concepts and the movements that sprang up around them have embraced some notion of slowness in one form or another.

In India, the Navdanya organization is wholeheartedly against the destruction of biodiversity and traditional farming practices and communities and presents a radical critique of consumerism, petro-chemical farming and Western agribusiness (6). The views of Vandana Shiva, Navdanya’s founder, are well documented. Shiva advocates a radical shift of course from the one the world (and India) is currently on. Navdanya has even opened a Slow Food Café in Delhi.

On a general level, again taken loosely, slow living might involve improving the quality of life by merely slowing down the pace of living. In urban planning, for example, it may mean pedestrianising urban spaces and restricting motorized traffic, especially car use. In many European cities cycling is encouraged by offering the public the free use of bicycles. Visit any Dutch city to see that cycling is a predominant mode of transport, which certainly makes a positive contribution to the easy going ambiance.

In the UK, in part as a response to traffic congestion and the negative impacts of motorized transport on communities, a movement emerged in the early nineties to ‘reclaim the streets’, to hand them back to local residents who felt a need to claim ownership of their communities and public spaces, which had essentially been hijacked by commuters or large corporations.

Living slow may entail slowing down in order to develop some kind of spiritual connection with one’s inner self. It might also involve opting for more environmentally friendly products while shopping, living in more eco-sensitive housing, developing small cottage industries or just generally leading a ‘greener’ lifestyle as a consumer.

But it’s no good adopting a piecemeal, watered-down approach. The root of the problem needs to be addressed. The slow life, whether slow food or slow urban environments, is impossible if we fail to realize that decisions about urban planning, economic activity, investment, products and services, etc, are made through the capture of governments, regulatory agencies and courts by corporations adamant on expanding and perpetuating their dominance (8,9).

In order to achieve any semblance of genuine, lasting change towards a better, slower world, we must eradicate the material conditions that produce and perpetuate class-based exploitation and divisions on an increasingly global level. These conditions stem from patterns of capital ownership and the consequent flow of wealth from bottom to top that occurs by various means of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ (corruption, tax evasion/avoidance, bail outs, ‘austerity’,  ‘free trade’ agreements, corporate taxpayer subsidies, capital market liberalization, etc).

What we need is proper democracy achieved through, for example, common ownership of banks and key industries and a commitment to ‘green’ policies and renewable energy. This entails challenging the oligarchs and their corporations that have colonized almost every aspect of modern living, from healthcare, urban planning, food and agriculture to education and development, in order to effect change that is beneficial to their interests and thereby enslaving us all in the process.

Take action and be informed:

http://corporateeurope.org/get-involved

http://www.navdanya.org/campaigns

Notes

1)      Vidyadhar Date, 13 December, 2013, Politicians And Bureaucrats Need To Learn Basics About Urban Transport, Countercurrents: http://www.countercurrents.org/date141213.htm

2)      Vandana Shiva, 28 August, 2012, Our Hunger Games, Common Dreams: https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/28-1

3)      Arun Shrivastava, 24 March, 2012, India: Genetically Modified Seeds, Agricultural Productivity and Political Fraud, Global Research: http://www.globalresearch.ca/india-genetically-modified-seeds-agricultural-productivity-and-political-fraud/5328227

4)      Gautam Dheer, 3 Febrary, 2013, Punjab: Transformation of a food bowl into a cancer epicenter, Deccan Herald:http://www.deccanherald.com/content/309654/punjab-transformation-food-bowl-cancer.html

5)      Krishan Kir Chaudhary, July, 2012, Seed Sector in India, Ki Kisan Awaaz: http://www.kisankiawaaz.org/magazine_data/magazine_data_pdf/JULY_2012.pdf

6)      Navdanya, Food Sovereignty , Navdanya.com:http://www.navdanya.org/earth-democracy/food-sovereignty

7)      Corporate Europe Observatory, 23 October, 2013, Unhappy Meal: The European Food Safety Agency’s independence problem, CEO: http://corporateeurope.org/efsa/2013/10/unhappy-meal-european-food-safety-authoritys-independence-problem

8)      Corporate Europe Observatory, 17 December, 2013, Civil society groups say no to investor-state dispute settlement in EU-US trade deal, CEO: http://corporateeurope.org/trade/2013/12/civil-society-groups-say-no-investor-state-dispute-settlement-eu-us-trade-deal

Years ago when I described the George W. Bush regime as a police state, right-wing eyebrows were raised.  When I described the Obama regime as an even worse police state, liberals rolled their eyes.  Alas!  Now I am no longer controversial.  Everybody says it.

According to the UK newspaper, The Guardian, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, had an angry exchange with Obama in which Merkel compared Obama’s National Security Agency (NSA) with the East German Communist Stasi, which spied on everyone through networks of informers.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/17/merkel-compares-nsa-stasi-obama  

Merkel grew up in Communist East Germany where she was spied upon by the Stasi, and now that she has risen to the highest political office in Europe’s most powerful state, she is spied upon by “freedom and democracy” America.

A former top NSA official, William Binney, declared that “We (the US) are now in a police state.”  The mass spying conducted by the Obama regime, Binney says “is a totalitarian process.”

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/12/former-top-nsa-official-now-police-state.html  

Perhaps my best vindication, after all the hate mail from “super patriots,” who wear their ignorance on their sleeves, and Obama-worshipping liberals, whose gullibility is sickening, came from federal judge Richard Leon, who declared the Obama-sanctioned NSA  spying to be “almost Orwellian.”  As the American Civil Liberties Union realized, federal judge Leon’s decision vindicated Edward Snowden by ruling that the NSA spying is likely outside what the Constitution permits, “labeling it ‘Orwellian’–adding that James Madison would be ‘aghast.’”  

If only more Americans were aghast.  I sometimes wonder whether Americans like being spied upon, because it makes them feel important. “Look at me!  I’m so important that the government spends enough money to wipe out US poverty spying on me and my Facebook, et. al., friends. I bet they are spending one billion dollars just to know who I connected with today.  I hope it didn’t get lost in all the spam.”

Being spied upon is the latest craze of people devoid of any future but desperate for attention. 

Jason Ditz at the FBI spied-upon Antiwar.com says that Judge Leon’s ruling is a setback for Obama, who was going to restore justice and liberty but instead created the American Stasi Spy State.  Congress, of course, loves the spy state, because all the capitalist firms that make mega-millions or mega-billions from it generously finance congressional and senatorial campaigns for those who support the Stasi state. 

The romance that libertarians and “free market economists” have with capitalism, which buys compliance with its greed and cooperates with the Stasi state, is foolish.

Let’s move on.  It was only a few weeks ago that Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry were on the verge of attacking Syria on the basis of faked evidence that Syria had crossed the “red line” and used weapons of mass destruction against the American organized, armed, and financed “rebels,” almost all of whom come from outside Syria.

Only the bought-and-paid-for-by-Washington French president made a show of believing a word or Washington’s lies against the Assad government in Syria.  The British Parliament, long a puppet of Washington, gave Obama the bird and voted down participating in another American war crime.  That left UK prime minister, David Cameron, hanging.  Where do the British get prime ministers like Cameron and Blair?

Washington’s plan for Syria, having lost the cover of its British puppet, received a fatal blow from Russian President Putin, who arranged for Syria’s chemical weapons to be delivered to foreign hands for destruction, thus putting an end to the controversy. 

In the meantime it became apparent that  the “Syrian rebellion” organized by Washington has been taken over by al-Qaeda, an organization allegedly responsible for 9/11. Even Washington was able to figure out that it didn’t make sense to put al-Qaeda in charge of Syria.  Now the headlines are: “West tells Syria rebels: Assad must stay.”

Meanwhile, Washington’s arrogance has managed to make an enemy of India. The TSA, a component of Homeland Security, subjected a female diplomat from India to multiple strip searches, cavity searches and ignored her protestations of consular immunity.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/12/18/devyani-khobragade-reveals-how-she-broke-down-after-stripping-and-cavity-searches-as-row-between-u-s-and-india-deepens/  

There was no justification whatever for this abuse of an Indian diplomat. To indicate its displeasure, the Indian government has removed barriers that prevent truck bombs from being driven into the US embassy.  

Washington has managed to recreate the arms race.  More profits for the military/security complex, and less security for the world. Provoked by Washington’s military aggressiveness, Russia has announces a $700 billion upgrade of its nuclear ballistic missiles. China’s leaders have also made it clear that China is not intimidated by Washington’s intrusion into China’s sphere of influence. China is developing weapon systems that make obsolete Washington’s large investment in surface fleets.

Recently, Pat Buchanan, Mr. Conservative himself, made a case that  Russia’s Putin better represents traditional American values than does the President of the United States. 

http://www.unz.com/pbuchanan/is-putin-one-of-us/

Buchanan has a point. It is Washington, not Moscow or Beijing, that threatens to bomb countries into the stone age, that forces down airplanes of heads of state and subjects them to searches, and that refuses to honor grants of political asylum.

Certainly, Washington’s claim to be “exceptional” and “indispensable” and, therefore, above law and morality contrasts unfavorably with Putin’s statement that “we do not infringe on anyone’s interests or try to teach anyone how to live.”

Washington’s arrogance has brought America disrepute.  What damage will Washington next inflict on us?

But Bad Government Policies Are Making Inequality Worse By the Day

AP reported Tuesday:

The growing gap between the richest Americans and everyone else isn’t bad just for individuals.

It’s hurting the U.S. economy.

***

“What you want is a broader spending base,” says Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, a financial advisory firm. “You want more people spending money.”

***

“The broader the improvement, the more likely it will be sustained,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

***

Economists appear to be increasingly concerned about the effects of inequality on growth. Brown, the Raymond James economist, says that marks a shift from a few years ago, when many analysts were divided over whether pay inequality was worsening.

Now, he says, “there’s not much denial of that … and you’re starting to see some research saying, yes, it does slow the economy.”

As one example, Paul Krugman used to doubt that inequality harmed the economy.  As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein wrote in 2010:

Krugman says that he used to dismiss talk that inequality contributed to crises, but then we reached Great Depression-era levels of inequality in 2007 and promptly had a crisis, so now he takes it a bit more seriously.

Krugman writes this week in the New York Times:

The discussion has shifted enough to produce a backlash from pundits arguing that inequality isn’t that big a deal.

They’re wrong.

The best argument for putting inequality on the back burner is the depressed state of the economy. Isn’t it more important to restore economic growth than to worry about how the gains from growth are distributed?

Well, no. First of all, even if you look only at the direct impact of rising inequality on middle-class Americans, it is indeed a very big deal. Beyond that, inequality probably played an important role in creating our economic mess, and has played a crucial role in our failure to clean it up.

Start with the numbers. On average, Americans remain a lot poorer today than they were before the economic crisis. For the bottom 90 percent of families, this impoverishment reflects both a shrinking economic pie and a declining share of that pie. Which mattered more? The answer, amazingly, is that they’re more or less comparable — that is, inequality is rising so fast that over the past six years it has been as big a drag on ordinary American incomes as poor economic performance, even though those years include the worst economic slump since the 1930s.

And if you take a longer perspective, rising inequality becomes by far the most important single factor behind lagging middle-class incomes.

Beyond that, when you try to understand both the Great Recession and the not-so-great recovery that followed, the economic and above all political impacts of inequality loom large.

***

Inequality is linked to both the economic crisis and the weakness of the recovery that followed.

Indeed – as we noted in September – a who’s-who of prominent economists in government and academia have now said that runaway inequality harms economic growth, including:

  • Former U.S. Secretary of Labor and UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich
  • Global economy and development division director at Brookings and former economy minister for Turkey, Kemal Dervi
  • Societe Generale investment strategist and former economist for the Bank of England, Albert Edwards
  • Deputy Division Chief of the Modeling Unit in the Research Department of the IMF, Michael Kumhof
  • Former executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Policy Development, and deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department,  Bruce Bartlett

Even the father of free market economics – Adam Smith – didn’t believe that inequality should be a taboo subject.

Numerous investors and entrepreneurs agree that runaway inequality hurts the economy, including:

Indeed, extreme inequality helped cause the Great Depression, the current financial crisis … and the fall of the Roman Empire .  And inequality in America today is twice as bad as in ancient Rome, worse than it was in Tsarist RussiaGilded Age America, modern Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen, many banana republics in Latin America, and worse than experienced by slaves in 1774 colonial America. (More stunning facts.)

Bad government policy – which favors the fatcats at the expense of the average American – is largely responsible for our runaway inequality.

And yet the powers-that-be in Washington and Wall Street are accelerating the redistribution of wealthfrom the lower, middle and more modest members of the upper classes to the super-elite.

Syria use to be among the most self-reliant and economically independent states until the present crisis was sparked in early 2011. It is now a destroyed country with more than 120000 people killed – almost equal to those injured and physically damaged for the rest of their lives – and millions displaced, 2.5 million internally displaced refugees and between 6.5 and 7 million externally displaced refugees. We don’t even know how many Syrian orphans and widows there are yet.

The UN now appeals for help to deal with the refugee crisis in Syria. Two of the main perpetrators of the crisis, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been asked to provide help by theorganization. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, France, the UK and the USA are the same countries that brought death and destruction to Syria and its people. But the UN wants those with Syrian blood on their hands to help heal and rebuild Syria.

Who is the UN trying to fool? It has been complacent in the plots against Syria. The organization has done nothing to stop regional and Western interference inside Syria.

Are we to believe that the same butchers that attacked and invaded Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine via Israel, their illegitimate proxy entity, really care about the democratization of Syria and human rights for its people?

***

Obama’s administration had voted against the Palestinian November 2012 bid for “observer state status” at the UN, has threatened a war against Syria, and declared that the puppet Syrian National Coalition is the only representative for Syrian people. It has wanted nothing short of regime change in Syria.

Turkey’s Erdogan has been an underhanded player. He has acted as an agent of death under the guise of supporting democracy in Syria. This is the same Erdogan who continues to inflict death and misery on the Kurdish population in Turkey, Syria and Iraq with his F16s and tanks because they dare to ask for self-determination and equal rights. We all remember very well his response to the demands of his own citizens for democracy in Istanbul’s Taksim Square

Saudi Arabia sends tanks to Bahrain to suppress and oppress unarmed Bahrainis with legitimate demands for political reforms and equality before the law. The same Saudi Arabia crushed its own unarmed internal opposition simply because they wanted democracy and equality as well.

Qatar, the devil behind the destruction of Libya, has not been satisfied with the catastrophic outcomes there. Doha wants to duplicate Libya’s fate for Syria.

***

The “death triangle” of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, an unholy alliance, has been arming and financially supporting the “Syrian opposition” and sending murderous mercenaries who committed atrocities and extreme violent acts against Syria, its people and institution. Their deadly and direct intervention in Syria are paving the way for the “dogs of war” to be unleashed at the “cradle of civilization.”

The calamity in Syria is not contained to Syria’s borders only. It has very dangerous implications for the region as a whole and the Palestinian Question in specific. When countries are divided based on vicious sectarian lines and death imposes its toll on the people in the region, Palestine will be forgotten.

The real plan is to get Syria to submit, suffocate any resistance to American hegemony and to give Israel the upper hand to control the region. After Syria is conquered or destroyed, the next phase it to move to the next countries resisting. If successful, the war against Syria will not end with Syria. The unholy alliance of  NATO, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the fundamentalists have been trying to destroy Syria, partition it, and at least make sure that no strong government remains in place that can stand up to Israel and American hegemony. It seems that the reactionary, anti-secularists, anti-Iran and anti-resistance Gulf regimes desire to fight to the last Syrian drop of blood in order to spite Iran and to serve US and Israeli interests.

While Lebanon was burning in the summer of 2006, the USA blatant supported Israel’s brutal attacks on Lebanon and declared the beginning of the “New Middle East.” Speaking from Tel Aviv, Condoleezza Rice announced this “New Middle East” at a press conference. This call for “New Middle East” is almost entirely based on the thesis of “Blood Boarders” that was published by Ralph Peters with a proposed map redrawing the region. Interestingly enough, the map was removed from the original article, but it still exists on YouTube and other sites.

Syria is merely part of what Peters wrote about in 1997: “There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes, there will be multiple conflicts in mutating forms around the globe. Violent conflict will dominate the headlines …The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing.”

Dr. Ali Mallah is an anti-war and  community activist. He is the former Vice-President of the Canadian Arab Federation and a member of the National Steering Committee of the Canadian Peace Alliance and the coordinating committee of the Toronto Coalition Against the War.  He was a board director for Alternatives Canada, Urban Alliance on Race Relations, and Anti-Racism Task force. He has also been a member of  the  International Central Committee of the Global March to Jerusalem, the Gaza Freedom March Initiative, and is a founding member of Canadian Boat to Gaza.