As one of the 1,200-plus signatories to the full-page ad that appeared in The New York Times, calling for the closure of Guantanamo, I was disappointed in President Barack Obama’s speech Thursday on counterterrorism, drones and Guantanamo.

Torture and Indefinite Detention at Guantanamo

In a carefully crafted – at times defensive, discourse, Obama said, “In some cases, I believe we compromised our basic values – by using torture to interrogate our enemies and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law,” adding, “We unequivocally banned torture.” But Obama failed to note that the United Nations Human Rights Commission determined in 2006 that the violent force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo amounted to torture and that he has continued that policy.

More than half the remaining detainees are refusing food to protest their treatment and indefinite detention, many having been held for more than a decade with no criminal charges. In only a brief, but telling, mention of his administration’s violent force-feeding of hunger strikers at Guantanamo, Obama asked, “Is that who we are? Is that something that our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that.”

One would hope that Obama’s sense of justice would prevent him from allowing the tortuous force-feeding of people like Nabil Nadjarab, who has said, “To be force-fed is unnatural, and it feels like my body is not real. They put you on a chair – it reminds me of an execution chair. Your legs, arms and shoulders are tied with belts. If you refuse to let them put the tube in, they force your head back . . . [it is very risky] because if the tube goes in the wrong way, the liquid might get into your lungs. I know some who have developed infections in the nose. They now have to keep tubes in their noses permanently.” British resident Shaker Aamer reported being subjected to sleep deprivation and being dragged around like an animal at Guantanamo. David Remes, who represents two detainees, reported “shocking” genital searches “designed to deter” detainees from meeting with their lawyers. The “new military policy,” said Remes, “is to sexually abuse them in searches.”

And Obama asks, “Is that who we are?”

Obama did not say he would close Guantanamo. He criticized Congress for placing restrictions on transferring detainees who have been cleared for release, although he signed the legislation Congress passed. To his credit, Obama lifted the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen and appointed a new senior envoy at the State Department and Department of Defense to oversee detainee transfers to third countries. But Obama did not pledge to use the waiver provision contained in Section 1028(d) of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that would allow the Secretary of Defense to authorize transfers when it is in the national security interest of the United States. Nor did he promise to stop blocking the release of detainees cleared by habeas corpus proceedings.

The Non-War Terror War

Obama explained how he plans to continue his war on terror without calling it a war on terror. He stated, “Under domestic law and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban and their associated forces.”

While also saying, “Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America,” Obama listed Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Mali as places the United States is involved in fighting terror. Because, he said, “we are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first,” Obama concluded, “This is a just war – a war waged proportionally, in last resort and in self-defense.”

Obama understands that not all wars are just wars. He was referring to, but misapplied, three principles of international law that govern the use of military force. Proportionality means that an attack cannot be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage. Yet when drones are used to take out convoys, large numbers of civilians will be, and have been, killed.  Last resort means that a country may resort to war only if it has exhausted all peaceful alternatives to resolving the conflict. By assassinating rather than capturing suspected terrorists and bringing them to trial, Obama has not used military force as a last resort. And self-defense is defined by the leading Caroline Case of 1837, which said that the ”necessity for self-defense must be instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation.” The Obama administration has provided no evidence that the people it targeted were about to launch an imminent attack on the United States.

New Rules for Drone Strikes?

Although he defended the use of drones and targeted killing, Obama proclaimed, “America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists – our preference is always to detain, interrogate and prosecute them.” Yet, 4,700 people have been killed by drone strikes, only two percent of whom were high-level terrorist suspects. And Obama has added only one person to the detention rolls at Guantanamo since he took office. “This [Obama] government has decided that instead of detaining members of al-Qaida [at Guatanamo] they are going to kill him,” according to John Bellinger, who formulated the Bush administration drone policy.

Obama referred to the killing of Osama bin Laden as exceptional because “capture, although our preference, was remote.” Yet it was clear when the US soldiers arrived at bin Laden’s compound that the people there were unarmed and bin Laden could have been captured. Obama admitted, “The cost to our relationship with Pakistan – and the backlash among the Pakistani public over encroachment on their territory – was so severe that we are now just beginning to rebuild this important partnership.” Indeed, in light of Pakistan’s considerable arsenal of nuclear weapons, Obama took a substantial risk to our national security in breaching Pakistan’s sovereignty by his assassination operation.

Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, said the drone strikes in Pakistan violate international law. “As a matter of international law, the US drone campaign in Pakistan . . . is being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people or the legitimate government of the state,” he noted. Obama said we are “narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us.” He did not address his administration’s policy of using drone strikes to kill rescuers and attendees at funerals after the original strike killings.

The day before his speech, Obama signed a Presidential Policy Guidance, which he said, provides “clear guidelines, oversight and accountability.” As Obama delivered his speech, the White House issued a Fact Sheet regarding policies and procedures for counterterrorism operations, but did not release the policy guidance itself. That Fact Sheet says, “The policy of the United States is not to use lethal force when it is feasible to capture a terrorist suspect.” It provides that “lethal force will be used outside areas of active hostilities” only when certain preconditions are met. But it does not define “areas of active hostilities.”

Preconditions for using lethal force include:

  1. The requirement of a ”legal basis” for the use of lethal force. It does not define whether ”legal basis” means complying with ratified treaties, including the UN Charter, which prohibits the use of military force except in self-defense or when approved by the Security Council.

  2. The target must pose a ”continuing, imminent threat to US persons.” The Fact Sheet does not define “continuing” or ”imminent.” The recently leaked Department of Justice White Paper says that a US citizen can be killed even when there is no ”clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

  3. There must be ”near certainty” that the terrorist target is present. Neither the Fact Sheet nor Obama in his speech addressed whether the administration will continue ”signature strikes” (known as crowd killings),  which don’t target individuals but rather areas of suspicious activity.

  4. There must be ”near certainty” that noncombatants will not be injured or killed. This is apparently a departure from present practice, as numerous noncombatants have been killed in US drone strikes. The Fact Sheet changes the current policy of defining noncombatants as all men of military age in a strike zone “unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”

  5. There must be an assessment that ”capture is not feasible” at the time of the operation. It is unclear what feasibility means. The White Paper appears to indicate that ”infeasible” means inconvenient.

  6. There must be an assessment that relevant governmental authorities in the country where the attack is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the ”threat to US persons,” which is left undefined.

  7. There must be an assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the ”threat to US persons,” also left undefined.

Finally, the Fact Sheet would excuse these preconditions when the president takes action “in extraordinary circumstances” which are “both lawful and necessary to protect the United States or its allies.” There is no definition of “extraordinary circumstances.”

A few days before Obama’s speech, Attorney General Eric Holder publicly acknowledged the killing of four US citizens, only one of which – Anwar Awlaki – was actually targeted, in 2011. That means 75 percent were “collateral damage,” including Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman. In his speech, after affirming that a US citizen cannot be targeted and killed without due process (arrest and trial), Obama claimed that Awlaki was involved in terrorist plots in 2009 and 2010; this is long before Obama ordered that he be killed by drone strike in 2011, which would appear to violate the “imminence” requirement. Indeed, Lt. Col. Tony Schaefer, a former Army Intelligence officer, said on MSNBC that Awlaki could have been captured but the administration made a decision to kill instead of capture him.

The use of drones and targeted assassination and the continuing existence of Guantanamo engender hatred against the United States. Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni man who testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, spoke about how his friends and neighbors reacted to a recent drone strike in his neighborhood. “Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the fear they feel at the drones over their heads. What the violent militants had failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant.”

The Unanswered Questions

During Obama’s speech, Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin yelled out several questions before being escorted out of the room.

She asked the President:

* What about the indefinite detention?

* What about the 102 hunger strikers?

* What about the killing of 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki? Why was he killed?

* Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives?

* Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities?

* Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed?

* Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer here at home.

* Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA?

* You are commander-in-chief. You can close Guantanamo today! You can release those 86 prisoners [cleared for release]. It’s been 11 years.

* I love my country. I love the rule of law.

* Abide by the rule of law. You’re a constitutional lawyer.

Obama responded, “I’m willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack because it’s worth being passionate about.  . . . The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to.”

But he went on to say he obviously doesn’t agree with much of what she said. One wonders what parts he does agree with.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and the editor of The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse. She is working on a book about drones and targeted killing.

“We are in the midst of the pre-history of historic transformational change that will end the rule of money.”

This was a week that exemplified the historic moment in which we live.  We will look back at these times and see the seeds of a national revolt against concentrated wealth that puts profits ahead of people and the planet. Not only were there a wide array of resistance actions, but activists against the Guantanamo prison and drone strikes scored partial victories on which we much continue to build challenges to US empire and militarism.

Mike Lux, who authored a history of the movements of the 1960s, wrote this week that when he researched his book he “was struck by the fact that so many big things happened so close together.” Comparing that moment to today he writes, “We are living in such a moment in history right now, that organizers and activists are sparking off each other and inspiring each other, that there is something building out there that will bring bigger change down the road.”

That is how we felt as we watched and participated in this week’s unfolding.  We began the week prepared to focus our attention on the amazing teacher, student and community actions that were occurring in defense of schools.  In Philadelphia, there was a giant walk-out of schools last Friday as students demanded their schools remain open and be adequately funded.  The photos of young people fighting for the basic necessity of education were an inspiration.

That was followed by three days of protests in Chicago that were equally inspiring, students organized and communities came together to fight for education.  Though corporate-mayor Rahm Emanuel’s carefully selected board voted to close 50 elementary schools and one high school (while the city funds the building of a new basketball stadium), the Chicago activists say they are not done. They are just getting started.  It is that kind of persistence that wins transformation.  These school battles are part of a national plan to replace community schools with corporatized charter schools. The battles of Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities are all of our battles.

Then there were the college students, who inspired us with their bravery especially because they were not fighting for themselves but for the students who come after them.  At Cooper Union, students are in their second week of occupying the school president’s office. As the sit-in grew to more than 100, they garnered increasing community support.  The school is about to begin to charge tuition, ending the nearly two century mission of its founder for free higher education. The students protesting will get free tuition; they are protesting for the students who follow. While they are sitting in, they are painting the president’s offices black and will continue to do so until he resigns his $750,000 a year job. Thousands have signed a “no confidence” petition against the president and board chairman.

We believe that a country that really believed in its youth and was building for its future would provide free post-high school education, college or vocational school, to young adults rather than leaving them crippled by massive debt.

As the week went on, more Americans stood up and showed their power.  On Monday, people who have lost their homes to foreclosure or are threatened with foreclosure, along with their allies, began an occupation of the Department of Justice. Some of them joined us first as guests on our radio show on We Act Radio. Afterwards, we went to Freedom Plaza where they rallied.  The coalition was a great mix of people of different ages, races and regions who were angry, organized and prepared.  They marched down Pennsylvania Ave. to the Department of Justice to demand that Attorney General Eric Holder prosecute the bankers who collapsed the economy and stole their homes.

They blocked the doors at the Department of Justice and put up tents emblazoned with “Foreclose on Banks Not on People,” put up a home with “Bank Foreclosed” over it and blocked the streets with orange mesh saying “Foreclosure and Eviction Free Zone.”  As evening came, they moved their tents onto DOJ property, brought in a big couch and prepared to stay the night – and some did.  By the third day of protests, they moved to Covington and Burling, the corporate law firm that spawned Eric Holder and where the DOJ official in charge of prosecuting the banks, Lenny Breuer, who did not prosecute a single big bank now gets a $4 million annual salary. In Congress the DOJ could not justify their claim that prosecuting the big banks would hurt the economy.

The Home Defenders League/Occupy Our Homes actions broke through in the media as you can see at the end of this photo essay.  We particularly enjoyed the coverage in Forbes – someone claiming to be Jamie Dimon was arrested in DC – reporting on protesters who gave the name of banksters when they were arrested. The police responded aggressively, which often attracts media coverage, including the tasering non-violent protesters. And, we were pleased to see local groups, like Occupy Colorado, highlighting the efforts of their colleagues who came to DC.

But, action in the nation’s capital did not end there.  There was also a massive walkout of food service workers across the city.  The strike began at the building named for the famed union-destroying president, the Ronald Reagan Building, and then moved on, with a particular focus on Obama – the largest employer of low-wage workers.  Obama could end poverty federal wages with a stroke of the pen.  Will he?

DC is the sixth city to see low-wage workers striking, New York, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee, came before the Capital.  Communities have stood with the workers  when employers threatened their jobs and people now need to do the same for the DC workers who are being threatened with job loss, please take action to support them.  And, coming up is the Wal-Mart workers’ “Ride for Respect” to the annual shareholders meeting on June 7 which emulates the Freedom Riders.

Actions are happening throughout the country. In Illinois, so far two people have been arrested at a sit-in in the capitol building to support a ban hydro-fracking. And, the reaction to the call for a fearless summer by front-line environmental groups has been very strong. They are working together to plan major actions throughout the summer escalating resistance against extreme energy extraction. Pressure is building in the environmental movement which now recognizes Obama is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Groups like 350.org that avoided protesting Obama, are now protesting his “grass roots” group, Organizing for America.

And, more is coming.  At the end of the week people who have been marching to Washington, DC from Philadelphia as part of “Operation Green Jobs” will arrive to protest at the corporate bully of the capital – the US Chamber of Commerce – uniting the masses in opposition to the corporate lobbyists.  Their long walk to DC echoes a walk last week by people from Baltimore seeking jobs and justice.

This Saturday will be the worldwide March Against Monsanto in 41 countries and nearly 300 cities.  We published an article in Truthout that explains why we should all protest Monsanto on May 25.  This is a great example of non-hierarchical organizing as this protest was called by young grass roots activists and supported by Occupy Monsanto.

One of the things that let us know the popular revolt is more powerful than we realize is the reaction of the power structure.  The Center for Media and Democracy issued a report this week that examined thousands of pages of documents which showed how the national security apparatus against terrorism combined with corporate America to attack the occupy movement.  And, in Chicago one of the undercover police involved in the NATO 5 case, is still spying, now on students and teachers protesting school closures.  If they did not fear the people, would the power structure be behaving this way?

But, when you read reports about police acting in this undemocratic way, don’t forget that many of them do not like doing what they are ordered to do and that pulling them to join the popular revolt is part of our job. A mass movement needs people from the power structure to join it in order to achieve success. We highlight one this week, Officer Pedro Serrano of New York who took the great personal risk of taping his superiors as part of an effort to end the racist ‘stop and frisk’ program of the NYPD.

And, it is great to see people planning ahead.  We got notice this week from activists in Maine planning for an October Drone Walk.  The anti-drone movement and Guantanamo protests have had very positive effects. This week, President Obama had to admit that he killed four Americans with drones, mostly by accident – even though the DoD claims drones are accurate.  Also this week, activists filed a war crimes complaint against Obama, Brennan and other officials seeking their prosecution.  And Thursday, Obama was forced to make a public speech at the National Defense University about both the drone program and Guantanamo Bay Prison. Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, interrupted the speech several times such that the President had to acknowledge her and she asked powerful questions as she was escorted out by security. [See video and transcript.] As she was escorted from the room Obama acknowledged: “The voice of that women is worth paying attention to.” Guantanamo activists responded to the president saying “no more excuses” and vowed to keep the pressure on!

So, just as author Mike Lux saw in the 60s, there is a lot going on, lots of issues coming to a head at the same time and people taking action to confront them.  How do we get to the next phase of popular resistance?

Long time writer on movements and transformational change, Sam Smith, the editor of Progressive Review wrote “The Great American Repair Manual in 1997,” we reprinted a portion of it this week: A Movement Manual.  The essence: movements are “propelled by large numbers of highly autonomous small groups linked not by a bureaucracy or a master organization but by the mutuality of their thought, their faith and their determination.” He recommends: organize from the bottom up, create a subculture, create symbols, develop an agenda and make the movement’s values clear. He also recommends becoming what you want to be – become an existentialist – writing “existence precedes essence. We are what we do.”  As far as building community power, we recommend this video from “The Democracy School” on how to use local governance to challenge corporate power.”

Do not despair when the media says there is no popular resistance.  We have been covering the actions of the movement with weekly reports since 2011 and even before the occupy movement began, we saw Americans beginning to stand up. We knew it was the right time for occupy and we now see it is the right time for a mass  popular resistance.

We will be announcing a new project in mid-June to help bring the movement to a new level.  Sign up here to hear about it and how you can help. To create the transformative change we want to see, we need people to get involved.

We agree with Mike Lux who writes: “just as it took several years for the seeds planted in those 18 months in the early ’60s to take root and begin to bring about the changes of the years to come in terms of civil rights, women’s rights, and the environment, it will take several years for the seeds being planted now to fully take root. But I believe more and more that it will happen.”

The government responds with police force and ignores the demands of the people. Super majorities of Americans agree with the views of the popular resistance, even if they are not yet acting. This is a recipe for a mass eruption of movement activity.  We are in the midst of the pre-history of historic transformational change: a transformation, which will end the power of money to ensure that the people and planet come before profits.

(For a listing of upcoming protests see last week’s newsletter.)

This article is produced in partnership with AlterNet and is based on a weekly newsletter for October2011/Occupy Washington, DC. To sign up for the free newsletter, click here. If you have actions you want to promote or report on write us at [email protected].

Kevin Zeese, JD and Margaret Flowers, MD co-host Clearing the FOG on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC, co-direct Its Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DCRead other articles by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers.

From the 16th to the 20th of May, in the National School Florestan Fernandes, municipality of Guararema, State of São Paulo, Brazil, with the participation of more than two hundred delegates from women’s, campesino, urban, indigenous, student and youth movements, unions and agroecological organizations from twenty-two countries, the First Continental Assembly of Social Movements towards ALBA was celebrated.

We came here as part of a historic process that brought us together in forums, campaigns, international networks, social sector groupings and various struggles within each of our countries, raising the same battle flags and sharing dreams of a real social transformation.

In Our America, we find ourselves in a new epoch which has found expression in recent years through diverse mobilizations and popular rebellions, the search for overcoming neoliberalism and the building of an alternative society based on justice and inclusion, because this is now both possible and necessary.

The defeat of the FTAA in 2005 witnessed the resistance of social movements and a new hemispheric geopolitical configuration, characterized by the rise of popular governments that have dared to confront the Empire. The greatest commitment towards this, launched in 2004 by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, is what is now called The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA: Spanish acronym for Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra America).

ALBA is an essentially political, anti-neoliberal, anti-imperialist project, based on the principles of cooperation, complementarity and solidarity, that seeks to accumulate popular and institutional forces for a new declaration of Latin American independence, a movement of peoples and for peoples, for people’s integration, for life, justice, peace, sovereignty, identity, equality, for the liberation of Latin America, through an authentic emancipation that envisions Indo-Afro-American socialism.

 

Nevertheless, the Empire continues to mobilize reactionary forces against the reorganization of popular forces and the rise of new autonomous projects for the integration of the Patria Grande.  After the first anti-neoliberal rebellions, the USA has begun to take a new direction in foreign policy in order to recover their hegemony over the Continent in various aspects including the economic, military, regulatory, cultural, mass media, political and territorial dimensions.

The explosion of the capitalist crisis on Wall Street in 2008 reinforced these designs. From that moment we saw an even greater imperialist counter-offensive in the hemisphere, expressed in the increase in transnational presence in different territories, the plundering of our natural resources and the privatization of social rights; militarization of the hemisphere; criminalization and repression of popular protest; US participation in the coups d’état in Honduras and Paraguay; the on-going destabilization of progressive Latin American governments; the attempt to regain political and economic influence through such initiatives as the Pacific Alliance and other international agreements.

In this context, marked by imperialist initiatives on the one hand, but also by the opening of new possibilities with the perspective set out by the project launched by the governments of ALBA, the Coalition of Social Movements in the continent is needed more than ever before. We must meet the historical challenge to coordinate resistance and move to the offensive with original ideas and new proposals for models of civilization, which can recover the best traditions of our peoples.

We ratify the principles, guidelines and objectives of our first Charter of Social Movements, of building hemispheric integration from below and from the left, promoting ALBA and the solidarity of our peoples in the face of the imperialist challenge.

We declare our commitment to the project of Latin American integration, to continue our anticolonial, anticapitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-patriarchal struggles, based on principles of permanent and active solidarity among our peoples, through concrete action against all forms of power that oppress and dominate us.

We reaffirm our commitment to achieve the self-determination of our peoples and popular sovereignty in every dimension: be it territorial, food, energy, economic, political, cultural or social.

 We shall defend the sovereignty of our peoples to make their own decisions concerning territories, natural resources, together with a commitment to defend the rights of Mother Earth.

 We, social movements of Our America, call for:

 ·         The promotion of unity and regional integration based on an alternative, sustainable, supportable model, marked by solidarity, where the modes of production and reproduction are at the service of our peoples.

·         Re-launching the struggles of the masses and the class struggle at the national, regional and continental levels, in order to halt and to dismantle programmes and projects of neoliberal capitalism.

 ·         Establishing networks and effective coordination of popular communication, which will equip us to engage in the struggle of ideas, and to curb the manipulation of information on the part of corporations and the mass media.

·         Deepening our processes of political and ideological formation in order to strengthen our organizations, and moving forward with processes of unity that are consequent and consciously in accord with needed transformations.

At the same time,

We affirm our support and solidarity with the people of Colombia in this crucial moment in the process of dialogue and negotiation towards the signing of a peace agreement characterized by social justice, an agreement that would truly resolve the problems that gave rise to the armed conflict. We are monitoring the development of this process, and ready to collaborate and accompany the process in any way that the Colombian people need.

We affirm our support for the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, headed by Comrade President Nicolás Maduro, who represents the unequivocal popular will of the Venezuelan people as reflected in the elections of April 14 2013, in the face of continual attempts to destabilize the country on the part of forces on the right, who seek to overturn the sovereign decision of the people and create a political, institutional and economic crisis in the country.

This Continental Coalition of Social Movements towards ALBA is part of an emancipatory process, reaching from the Haitian Revolution to our own time, seeking to create a more just and profoundly human society. Our commitment is to continue the legacy of millions of revolutionary people such as Bolivar, San Martin, Dolores Cacuango, Toussant L’Ouverture, José María Morelos, Francisco Morazán, Bartolina Sisa and many others who in solidarity committed their lives to these ideals.

 Reaffirming our own history, our Assembly is named after one of them, our Commander Hugo Chávez, whom we honour by taking up his struggle for unity and brotherhood among all the peoples of this Great, Free and Sovereign Fatherland.

 ”The unity and integration of Our America is our horizon and is the path that we follow!”

 (Translation: Jordan Bishop. Canada)

Puerto Rico’s Colonial Status and the U.S. Invasion

May 24th, 2013 by Timothy Alexander Guzman

Puerto Rico was a Colony of the Spanish Empire for more than 400 years.  After the Spanish-American War of 1898 instigated by the ‘Remember the Maine’ incident, the United States declared Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the Philippines and Guam as its territories.  During the Spanish-American War, the invasion of Puerto Rico took place on July 25, 1898 with the United States Navy landing at Guanica led by General Nelson A. Miles. When Spain lost the war it ceded Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam to the United States under the Treaty of Paris for $20 million dollars. Spain also relinquished its political power over Cuba.  Cuba eventually gained its independence from the United States on May 20, 1902.

From 1898 to 1900, Puerto Rico was ruled by four consecutive US military dictatorships.  The governors and other officials in the Puerto Rican government were all appointed by the President of the United States. The US government wanted to bring ‘American Style Democracy’ to Puerto Rico with military governors who were involved in massacres during the Indian wars in North America.  The first US installed governor was General Nelson A. Miles who fought in the American Civil War, the American Indian wars and the Spanish-American War.  An interesting note is that General Miles led the war campaign against Geronimo and the Apaches.  Eventually General Miles troops negotiated with Geronimo and the Apaches to go to a Florida reservation with a promise to return to their native lands.  It never happened because the US government planned to keep the Apaches in the reservations.  Then the US government appointed Major General John R. Brooke followed by Major General Guy Vernon Henry, both took part in the Wounded Knee Massacre.  Then Major General George Whitfield Davies, a Civil War veteran was also appointed governor.  All ruled Puerto Rico as a military dictatorship.

The Foraker Act of 1900 allowed Puerto Rico a limited civilian popular government that included US appointed and first civilian governor Charles Herbert Allen, an executive council with more than 11 members, the House of Representatives, a judicial system modeled after the US judicial system, a non-voting resident commissioner in congress and of course a United States District Court in Puerto Rico.  The executive council, the Supreme Court, the Chief of Police were all appointed by the US government.  Voting rights were limited to those who could read and write and paid taxes.  The Foraker Act was a law intended for the US government to control Puerto Rico politically.

By 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act was passed so that Puerto Ricans would become American citizens which allowed the US government to draft Puerto Ricans for World War I.  The Jones Act of 1917 paved the way for what was to become the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico which was eventually signed into law through a series of amendments and previous laws including Public Law 600 another law that allowed for a democratic referendum that would allow Puerto Ricans to draft their own constitution if they desired with congressional approval.  The law led Puerto Rico into “Commonwealth” status written by then resident commissioner Luis Munoz Marin himself, “The Architect of the Commonwealth.”

In an article titled “Let Puerto Rico Decide How To End Its Colony Status” by Rosalinda Dejesus quoted United States Secretary of the Interior when he said

“The bill (to permit Puerto Rico to write its own constitution) merely authorizes the people of Puerto Rico to adopt their own constitution and to organize a local government…The bill under consideration would not change Puerto Rico’s political, social, and economic relationship to the United States.”

A compelling fact by Chapman states the fact that Public Law 600 was seen as a tool to continue Puerto Rico’s colonial status by the Nationalist party.  It was one of the main reasons that resulted in the uprisings throughout Puerto Rico.  Various political parties in Puerto Rico had mixed reactions to Public Law 600.  The Statehood party was divided and the Socialists supported Public Law 600.  Commonwealth status is subject to US Federal Law.  The Commonwealth status became law on the anniversary of the US invasion on July 25th, 1952.  Not only Commonwealth status became law which led Puerto Rico to become more dependent on the US government, it became a permanent colony.

Having overthrown the Governments in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, the U.S. government has sought to topple the Syrian government during the past two years. The CIA has been the coordinating agency for massive weapons shipments from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to armed groups fighting to topple the Syrian government.

The conflict in Syria that began more than two years ago was fueled by a wide range of grievances, some legitimate, some reactionary. But the armed rebellion inside the country is today inextricably bound to imperialism and the most reactionary regimes in the Arab world. Its aim is to destroy a secular, nationalist government that U.S. leaders view as an obstacle to their goal of dominating the entire Middle East.

The United States, Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been funneling vast quantities of arms, money and supplies to the Syrian opposition, and training thousands of anti-government fighters in Turkey, Jordan and elsewhere. On May 5, Israel heavily bombed an area close to the capital, Damascus.

Israeli air strikes on May 5 near Damascus (right)

Harsh economic sanctions have been imposed on Syria. The United States and its allies have waged a worldwide campaign to isolate and demonize the Syrian government.

Outside support has sustained the opposition, but not brought it victory. Thus, the leaders of the U.S.-organized “National Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces” and the “Free Syrian Army” have been making repeated and urgent appeals for more direct imperialist intervention, including an air war against their own country. Those appeals have become even more urgent due to losses suffered by the splintered opposition forces in recent weeks.

“Friends of Syria”: another face of imperialism

Stepping up the imperialist-led campaign, on May 22, the so-called “Friends of Syria” met in Amman, Jordan. Led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the other “Friends” at the meeting were the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The open aim of the “Friends” is the overthrow of existing government in Syria. Its concluding statement speaks of “supporting the legitimate rights of the Syrian people” and “a new Syrian constitution with equal rights for all.”

This supposed concern for “human rights” in Syria is nothing but the crassest cynicism.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Jordan are all police-state, absolute monarchies, sustained in power by U.S. support. Saudi Arabia has never had an election, women are forbidden to drive cars and public beheadings are a frequent occurrence. Britain and France are the former colonizing powers in the region, striving to retain their influence today. Germany and Italy shared in the colonial division of Africa; half the population of Libya died under Italian rule during World War II. Turkey has long repressed the Kurdish population inside its borders, as well as unions, leftist parties and other progressive organizations. The Egyptian government is suppressing the opposition as it seeks to consolidate its power.

As the dominant world power over the past 70 years, the United States has carried out genocidal wars from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq, leaving tens of millions dead, wounded and displaced. In addition, U.S. military and intelligence forces have intervened hundreds of times in countries around the world, and today the United States maintains more than 900 military bases on every continent. Death by U.S. drone is today a regular and terrorizing feature of life for people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.

The “Friends” are in reality a criminal gang who have no concern whatsoever for the interests of the people of Syria – or any people anywhere, for that matter.

Say no to U.S./NATO and Israeli intervention

An international peace conference on Syria has been jointly proposed by Russia and the United States, and is tentatively set to take place in Geneva, Switzerland, in June. It is not clear yet whether it will actually take place.

Regarding the proposed conference, the “Friends of Syria” statement ended by threatening, “[U]ntil such a time as the Geneva meeting produces a transitional government, they [the “Friends”] will further increase their support for the opposition and take all other steps as necessary.” By “transitional government,” the “Friends” mean one absent the present leadership. In other words, until there is “regime change,” they will escalate the war.

The anti-war movement in the United States has a duty to unequivocally oppose all forms of intervention by the United States, the other imperialists and their clients, and to support the right of the Syrian people to determine their own future, free from imperialist intervention.

Mexico has gone public about military coordination with Israel in Chiapas, home to the Zapatistas liberation movement.  (Image: Omar Torres / AFP/Newscom)

Earlier this month, Jorge Luis Llaven Abarca, Mexico’s newly-appointed secretary of public security in Chiapas, announced that discussions had taken place between his office and the Israeli defense ministry. The two countries talked about security coordination at the level of police, prisons and effective use of technology (“Israeli military will train Chiapas police,” Excelsior, 8 May [Spanish]).

Chiapas is home to the Zapatistas (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional), a mostly indigenous Maya liberation movement that has enjoyed global grassroots support since it rose up against the Mexican government in 1994. The Zapatistas took back large tracts of land on which they have since built subsistence cooperatives, autonomous schools, collectivized clinics and other democratic community structures.

In the twenty years since the uprising, the Mexican government has not ceased its counterinsurgency programs in Chiapas. When Llaven Abarca was announced as security head in December, human rights organizations voiced concerns that the violence would escalate, pointing to his history of arbitrary detentions, use of public force, criminal preventive detentions, death threats and torture (“Concern about the appointment of Jorge Luis Llaven Abarca as Secretary of Public Security in Chiapas,” Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas (Frayba) Center for Human Rights,14 December 2012 [PDF, Spanish]).

Aptly, his recent contacts with Israeli personnel were “aimed at sharing experiences,” Abarca has claimed. This may be the first time the Mexican government has gone public about military coordination with Israelis in Chiapas. Yet the agreement is only the latest in Israel’s longer history of military exports to the region, an industry spawned from experiences in the conquest and pacification of Palestine.

Weapons sales escalate

The first Zionist militias (Bar Giora and HaShomer) were formed to advance the settlement of Palestinian land. Another Zionist militia, the Haganah — the precursor to the Israeli army and the successor of HaShomer — began importing and producing arms in 1920.

Israeli firms began exporting weapons in the 1950s to Latin America, including to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic under the Somoza and Trujillo dictatorships. Massive government investment in the arms industry followed the 1967 War and the ensuing French arms embargo. Israeli arms, police, military training and equipment have now been sent to at least 140 countries, including to Guatemala in the 1980s under Efraín Ríos Montt, the former dictator recently convicted of genocide against the Maya.

Mexico began receiving Israeli weaponry in 1973 with the sale of five Arava planes fromIsrael Aerospace Industries. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, infrequent exports continued to the country in the form of small arms, mortars and electronic fences. Sales escalated in the early 2000s, according to research that we have undertaken.

In 2003, Mexico bought helicopters formerly belonging to the Israeli army and Israel Aerospace Industries’ Gabriel missiles. Another Israeli security firm, Magal Security Systems, received one of several contracts for surveillance systems “to protect sensitive installations in Mexico” that same year, The Jerusalem Post reported.

In 2004, Israel Shipyards sold missile boats, and later both Aeronautics Defense Systems and Elbit Systems won contracts from the federal police and armed forces for drones for border and domestic surveillance (“UAV maker Aeronautics to supply Mexican police,”Globes, 15 February 2009). Verint Systems, a technology firm founded by former Israeli army personnel, has won several US-sponsored contracts since 2006 for the mass wiretapping of Mexican telecommunications, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly.

Trained by Israel

According to declassified Defense Intelligence Agency documents [PDF] obtained via a freedom of information request, Israeli personnel were discreetly sent into Chiapas in response to the 1994 Zapatista uprising for the purpose of “providing training to Mexican military and police forces.”

The Mexican government also made use of the Arava aircraft to deploy its Airborne Special Forces Group (Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales, or GAFE). GAFE commandos were themselves trained by Israel and the US. Several would later desert the GAFE and go on to create “Los Zetas,” currently Mexico’s most powerful and violent drug cartel (“Los Zetas and Mexico’s Transnational Drug War,” World Politics Review, 25 December 2009).

Mexico was surprised by the Zapatistas, who rose up the day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The Mexican government found itself needing to respond to the dictates of foreign investors, as a famously-leaked Chase-Manhattan Bank memo revealed: “While Chiapas, in our opinion, does not pose a fundamental threat to Mexican political stability, it is perceived to be so by many in the investment community. The government will need to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and of security policy.”

Marketing “stability”

Today, faced with a people in open rebellion against their own annihilation, the perception of stability continues to be an important modus operandi for the Mexican government. For Israel, the Oslo “peace process” and the Palestinian Authority’s neoliberal turn has similarly helped cultivate an illusory perception of peace and stability while the colonization of Palestine continues.

Indeed, “creating an atmosphere of stability” was the stated goal of the recent Mexico-Israel contacts, and the desire for at least the perception of it might help explain why an Israeli presence in Chiapas is now going public, or rather, according to journalist Naomi Klein, is being “marketed.”

Yet managing perceptions can only remain the short-term goal of governments whose shared ambition is to annihilate. And just as Israel shares with Mexico its military experiences against Palestinians, it is equally likely that Israel could apply some of Mexico’s counterinsurgency tactics to its oppression of the the Palestinian people.

The military relationship between Israel and Mexico is how the Zapatistas themselves have long recognized their connection to the Palestinian struggle.

This message was underscored by Zapatista spokesman Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos when Israel was bombing Gaza in early 2009 (“Of sowing and harvests,” My word is my weapon, 4 January 2009). Despite the distance between Chiapas and Gaza, Marcos stressed that their experiences made the people of the two territories feel close to each other.

It is worth recalling Marcos’ words: “Not far from here, in a place called Gaza, in Palestine, in the Middle East, right here next to us, the Israeli government’s heavily trained and armed military continues its march of death and destruction.”

Linda Quiquivix is a critical geographer. She can be reached at www.quiqui.org.

Jimmy Johnson is an organizer in Detroit. He can be reached at johnson [dot] jimmy [at] gmail [dot] com.

Stock markets posted significant losses worldwide, led by a one-day 7.3 percent drop in Japan’s Nikkei stock index, amid signs of a growing global slump and demands for increasing attacks on the working class in Japan.

The Nikkei fell 1,143 points to 14,483.98, after which major indices across Europe and Asia all fell two percent or more. The Sydney stock market fell two percent to 5062, and Hong Kong fell 2.5 percent to 22,669.

The leading European stock markets—the London FTSE-100, France’s CAC-40, and Germany’s DAX—all fell 2.1 percent, to 6697, 3967, and 8352, respectively.

After an initial selloff amid fears of a global stock market collapse, the major US stock market indices closed down only marginally.

The fall in the Nikkei was accompanied a brief spike in long-term Japanese interest rates. This highlighted the risks facing the Japanese economy, which would be highly vulnerable to such an interest rate spike, if it were prolonged. After two decades of deficit spending in a failed attempt to revive its stagnating economy, Japan’s gross public debt is projected by 2014 to hit 240 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—substantially higher than even such distressed European economies as Greece.

If banks demand higher interest payments on Japan’s large debts, even only 2.5 to 3 percent, Japan would face a “financial stability problem,” commented University of Pennsylvania Professor Franklin Allen.

The sudden movements in Japanese stock and debt markets followed the publication of economic data showing a contraction of Chinese industrial production, in line with deepening recession in Europe—stoking concerns over the global slump hitting Japanese exports. Uncertainty over whether US “quantitative easing” policies would continue fed into questions over the viability of similar monetary policies in Japan, backed by recently-elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In China, a key trading partner for Japan, the flash HSBC Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) fell to 49.6, coming in under the 50-point reading, demarcating growth from contraction, for the first time since October. HSBC chief China economist Qu Hongbin said, “The cooling manufacturing activities in May reflected slower domestic demand and ongoing external headwinds.”

China’s critical export sector is reeling from the impact of falling consumer spending—notably in the advanced economies of North America and Europe, where workers face millions of job losses, wage reductions and continuing cuts to government social spending.

Yesterday, composite PMI indices for euro zone manufacturing and services industries came in at 47.7 in May. German figures indicated a slight contraction, at 49.9, and French figures showed a deep contraction at 44.3.

Amid a mild uptick in US industrial production, US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke indicated that the United States might consider scaling back quantitative easing.

Under this policy, the Federal Reserve now regularly prints $85 billion per month, or $1.02 trillion per year. The Fed uses these funds to purchase stocks or real estate, artificially propping up the paper values of investors’ portfolios and boosting the major banks’ bottom line. Similarly, since Abe’s election, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) has pledged to print 60 to 70 trillion yen (US$683 billion) to boost the country’s money supply.

However, Bernanke said, “If we see continued improvement and we have confidence that that is going to be sustained, then in the next few meetings, we could take a step down in our pace of purchases. If we do that, it does not mean that we are automatically aiming towards a complete wind-down.”

The “quantitative easing” policy has inflated massive financial bubbles, aiming to preserve the wealth of the super-rich. To the extent that governments attempted to return the productive economy to profitability, it was by imposing deep austerity on the working class.

This has produced a perverse and unsustainable situation: US stock markets have hit record highs, and the Nikkei has risen 39 percent this year, despite falling living standards and a deeply depressed world economy. According to AP business reporters, yesterday’s recovery in US stock markets was based largely on the understanding in US financial markets that concerns about Bernanke withdrawing this quantitative easing policy were “overdone.” That is, the Fed would avert a stock collapse by printing more money.

The adoption of such policies in the United States and Japan not only reflects the economic desperation and disorientation of the ruling elites, but is producing increasingly deep tensions on both sides of the Pacific and demands for attacks on the working class.

East Asian economies have come to depend on the infusion of massive amounts of cash. Bank of Korea Governor Kim Choong Soo said yesterday criticized US moves to exit from quantitative easing, warning it could spur a dangerous increase in interest rates worldwide.

At the same time, financial markets are increasingly complaining that Abe’s government is using the availability of easy money to delay carrying out unpopular social cuts. Such calls come both from Japanese business circles, and US and European financiers investing in Japan and looking for quick, high returns. AP business writer Elaine Kurtenbach noted that the “verdict is still out” on Abe’s policies.

A recent report of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) laid out its demands for social cuts in Japan. It wrote, “Given the unprecedented size of its debt ratio and the risk of higher interest rates, Japan needs a detailed and credible medium-term plan of spending cuts and tax increases, accompanied by improvements in the fiscal policy framework.”

As examples of such “improvements,” the report proposed increasing the retirement age, a further increase in sales taxes, and increases in environmental taxes.

These demands were echoed by Hiromasa Yonekura, the chairman of Sumitomo Chemical Co. and the head of Japan’s Keidanren business lobby, who demanded that Abe demonstrated his “commitment to achieve fiscal health.”

In fact, the right-wing Abe government is eager to attack the workers. If it is not moving faster, it is because it fears provoking popular opposition. The government is simultaneously making social cuts and unpopular moves to eliminate the pacifist clause in the Japanese constitution—in line with US demands that Japan re-arm and step up its confrontation with China, as part of the US “pivot to Asia.”

Credit Suisse’s chief market strategist in Tokyo, Shinichi Ichikawa, said: “The incentive to carry out structural reforms is weakening … It requires a lot of strength for the prime minister to change the constitution. And of course a lot of power is needed to start the structural reform of the economy. I don’t believe that one prime minister can achieve both at the same time.”

Global finance circles are intensifying pressure for immediate social cuts inside Japan to boost profits available to international capital—while warning that otherwise Japan’s policy would be seen simply as a hostile effort to improve Japanese competitiveness by pushing down the value of the yen.

Former Goldman Sachs vice chairman Ken Courtis commented that if Abe did not accelerate pro-business austerity policies, all Abe’s monetary policy “really amounts to is a big devaluation. That’s the monetary equivalent of Pearl Harbor.”

According to a report Tuesday in the New Yorker, the Obama administration’s investigation into a State Department leak to James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent of Fox News, extends well beyond what was originally thought and includes seizing the phone records of the reporter’s parents and dozens of other individuals, including White House staffers and other Fox News reporters.

United States Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen, Jr., the prosecutor in the case of alleged leaker and former State Department weapons expert Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, has seized records associated with more than 30 different phone numbers.

Because the last four digits of all of the phone numbers have been redacted by court order, only the three-digit area codes and exchange codes are available. Five of these numbers have area codes and exchange codes registered to Fox News. Two of the numbers have area code 202 and exchange code 456, which belong to the White House, whose switchboard number is (202) 456-1414.

The US attorney also seized records which correspond to James Rosen’s personal cellular phone, and another set of records which may be from a number registered to Time magazine.

These revelations come to light after the Washington Post reported Monday that FBI agent Reginald Reyes filed an affidavit in support of a warrant request alleging that Rosen himself engaged in criminal activity in receiving classified information from Kim about North Korea. A judge granted the search warrant, and the Justice Department seized Rosen’s personal emails and phone records and tracked his movements.

Rosen was never charged with any crime, while Kim faces a possible 10-year prison term under the reactionary Espionage Act of 1917. Kim has filed a plea of not guilty.

The New Yorker report relied on a discovery document, in this case, a list of attached electronic documents related to the prosecution of Kim, filed in court on October 13, 2011. The document is a letter from US Attorney Machen to the attorneys defending Kim. It makes reference to 2,111 pages of unclassified information subpoenaed in the investigation, including several sets of bank and credit union records, several sets of Yahoo! Email records and one set of Gmail email records–the latter appearing to belong to Rosen–, IP address records and wireless phone records.

Also listed is surveillance video from the American Red Cross, other surveillance video and security badge information from Kim and media personnel, apparently including Rosen, though his name is not specified. The letter indicates that much more documentation of subpoenaed information, including classified information, will be forthcoming in the case.

The latest report reveals that the investigation into Kim’s supposed leak was even broader than was initially thought, and this too comes on top of last week’s reports that the DoJ seized phone records for some 21 phone lines registered to the Associated Press in an investigation of a leak of information on US intelligence operations in Yemen.

Last Tuesday, the director and legal defense directors of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press issued a protest letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General and copied Machen. The letter denounced the subpoena of AP phone records as being overly broad, secretive and illegal. Some 52 press organizations endorsed the letter, including CNN, Dow Jones and Company, Forbes Inc., The New York Times Company and Reuters America LLC.

The Department of Justice is engaged in at least two other leak investigations at present. One involves the leak of information to the New York Times about the infamous “Kill Lists” of targets for drone assassination reviewed by president Obama. The other concerns an attempt by the United States and Israel to infect the computer systems of Iranian nuclear facilities with the Stuxnet worm, information which was also leaked to the Times. The administration has indicted six current and former officials under the Espionage Act of 1917, more than all previous administrations combined.

While denunciations of Obama and the Department of Justice abound in editorials and blogs from news sources all over the political spectrum, the hostility they express to the president’s attack on the free press is by no means universally held.

Several commentators have come out in defense of “plugging leaks” by virtually any means.

Jack Shafer, writing an opinion column for Reuters, makes the case that perhaps Eric Holder was right, and the leak for which AP phone records were subpoenaed could really have been “very, very serious.”

Shafer wrote last Tuesday:

“Journalists gasp and growl whenever prosecutors issue lawful subpoenas ordering them to divulge their confidential sources or to turn over potential evidence, such as notes, video outtakes or other records. It’s an attack on the First Amendment, It’s an attack on the First Amendment, It’s an attack on the First Amendment, journalists and their lawyers chant.”

The Washington Post’s veteran national security writer, former CIA informant Walter Pincus, went so far as to state that whoever leaked the information around the AP story “not only broke the law but caused the abrupt end to a secret, joint U.S./Saudi/British operation in Yemen that offered valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”

He says later, “It was inevitable that the leak to the AP would generate an FBI probe. Given past leak investigations in the Bush and Obama administrations, journalists at the AP and elsewhere know they could face scrutiny. Like it or not, they are part of a crime. The leaker or leakers had taken an oath under the threat of prosecution to protect the information.” (Italics added)

Most significantly, the New York Times on Monday lent space in its pages to a statement by three former Department of Justice officials: Jamie Gorelick, deputy attorney general under Bill Clinton; William P. Barr, attorney general from 1991 to 1993; and Kenneth L. Wainstain, assistant attorney general for national security from 2006 to 2008. The statement, titled “Stop the Leaks,” made a crude and legally untenable case for the actions of the Justice Department.

“As former Justice Department officials who served in the three administrations preceding President Obama’s, we are worried that the criticism of the decision to subpoena telephone toll records of A.P. journalists in an important leak investigation sends the wrong message to the government officials who are responsible for our national security.”

Apologizing for the Obama administration’s gross violations of the First Amendment, the authors continue:

“But after eight months of intensive effort, it appears that they still could not identify the leaker. It was only then—after pursuing ‘all reasonable alternative investigative steps,’ as required by the department’s regulations—that investigators proposed obtaining telephone toll records (logs of calls made and received) for about 20 phone lines that the leaker might have used in conversations with A.P. journalists. They limited the request to the two months when the leak most likely occurred, and did not propose more intrusive investigative steps.”

The authors do not address the requirement that the DoJ must first ask for the records in question from the media outlet itself before issuing a subpoena. They presume that the unsubstantiated assertion by attorney general Holder that asking for the records would have jeopardized the investigation: i.e., evidence would have been destroyed.

The letter is significant in its expression of a consensus within the ruling class that the methods of suppressing any leaks are beyond reproach. Journalists who would communicate leaks should likewise be prosecuted, if necessary to protect national security.

Media Disinformation and the Conspiracy Panic Phenomenon

May 24th, 2013 by Prof. James F. Tracy

To posit that one’s government may be partially composed of unaccountable criminal elements is cause for serious censure in polite circles. Labeled “conspiracy theories” by a corporate media that prompt and channel emotionally-laden mass consent, such perspectives are quickly dispatched to the memory hole lest they prompt meaningful discussion of the political prerogatives and designs held by a global power elite coordinating governments and broader geopolitical configurations.

Cultural historian Jack Bratich terms such phenomena “conspiracy panics.” Potentially fostered by the coordinated actions of government officials or agencies and major news organs to generate public suspicion and uncertainty, a conspiracy panic is a demonstrable immediate or long-term reactive thrust against rational queries toward unusual and poorly understood events. To be sure, they are also intertwined with how the given society acknowledges and preserves its own identity—through “the management and expulsion of deviance.”[1]

In the American mass mind, government intelligence and military operations are largely seen as being directed almost solely toward manipulation or coercion of unfortunate souls in foreign lands. To suggest otherwise, as independent researchers and commentators have done with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the CIA-Contra-crack cocaine connection, and 9/11, has been cause for sustained conspiracy panics that act to suppress inquiry into such events by professional and credentialed opinion leaders, particularly journalists and academics.

At the same time a conspiracy panic serves a subtle yet important doctrinal function of manifesting and reproducing the apt ideational status quo of the post-Cold War, “War on Terror” era. “The scapegoating of conspiracy theories provides the conditions for social integration and political rationality,” Bratich observes. “Conspiracy panics help to define the normal modes of dissent. Politically it is predicated on a consensus of ‘us’ over against a subversive and threatening ‘them.’”[2] These days especially the suggestion that an official narrative may be amiss almost invariably puts one in the enemy camp.

Popular Credence in Government Conspiracy Narratives

The time for a conspiracy panic to develop has decreased commensurately with the heightened spread and availability of information and communication technology that allows for the dissemination of news and research formerly suppressed by the perpetual data overload of corporate media. Before the wide access to information technology and the internet, independent investigations into events including the JFK assassination took place over the course of many years, materializing in book-length treatments that could be dismissed by intelligence assets in news media and academe as the collective activity of “conspiracy buffs”—amateurish researchers who lack a government or privately-funded sinecure to overlook or obscure inquiry into deep events.

Not until Oliver Stone’s 1991 blockbuster film JFK, essentially an adoption of works by author Jim Marrs, Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty, and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, did a substantial conspiracy panic take shape as a response to such analysis thrust upon the public in popular narrative form. This panic arose from and centered around Hollywood’s apt challenge to traditional journalism’s turf alongside commercial news outlets’ typically deceptive  interpretation of the event and almost wholly uncritical treatment of the Warren Commission Report.

Shortly thereafter investigative journalist Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series for the San Jose Mercury News demonstrated the internet’s capacity to explain and document a government conspiracy. With Webb’s painstaking examination of the CIA’s role in the illicit drug trade hyperlinked to a bevy of documentation and freely distributed online, the professional journalistic community and its intelligence penumbra fell silent for months.

In the interim the story picked up steam in the non-traditional outlets of talk radio and tabloid television, with African Americans especially intrigued by the potential government role in the crack cocaine epidemic. Then suddenly major news outlets spewed forth a vitriolic attack on Webb and the Mercury News that amazingly resulted in the Mercury‘s retraction of the story and Webb’s eventual departure from the paper and probable murder by the US government.[3]

Criticism of Webb’s work predictably focused on petty misgivings toward his alleged poor judgment—specifically his intimation that the CIA intentionally caused the crack epidemic in African American communities, an observation that many blacks found logical and compelling. So not only did Webb find himself at the center of a conspiracy panic because of his assessment of the CIA’s role in the drug trade; he was also causing mass “paranoia” within African American communities allegedly predisposed toward such thinking.

Since the mid-1990s conspiracy panics have increasingly revolved around an effort by mainstream news media to link unorthodox political ideas and inquiry with violent acts. This dynamic was crystallized in Timothy McVeigh, the principal suspect in the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing,  who through the propaganda-like efforts of  government and major news media was constructed to symbolize the dangers of “extremist” conspiratorial thought (his purported fascination with white supremacism and The Turner Diaries) and violent terrorist action (the bombing itself). Conveniently overlooked is the fact that McVeigh was trained as a black ops technician and still in US Army employ at the time of his 2001 execution.[4]

Through a broad array of media coverage and subsequent book-length treatments by the left intelligentsia on the “radical right,” the alleged lone wolf McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing became forever coupled in the national memory. The image and event seemingly attested to how certain modes of thought can bring about violence–even though McVeigh’s role in what took place on April 19 was without question one part of an intricate web painstakingly examined by the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee [5] and in the 2011 documentary A Noble Lie: Oklahoma City 1995.

The Quickening Pace of Conspiracy Panics

Independent researchers and alternative media utilizing the internet have necessitated the rapid deployment of conspiracy panic-like reactions that appear far less natural and spontaneous to neutralize inquiry and bolster the official narratives of  momentous and unusual events. For example, wide-scale skepticism surrounding the May 1, 2011 assault on Osama bin Laden’s alleged lair in Pakistan was met with efforts to cultivate a conspiracy panic evident in editorials appearing across mainstream print, broadcast, and online news platforms. The untenable event supported only by President Obama’s pronouncement of the operation was unquestioningly accepted by corporate media that shouted down calls for further evidence and alternative explanations of bin Laden’s demise as “conspiracy theories.”

Indeed, a LexisNexis search for “bin Laden” and “conspiracy theories” yields over five hundred such stories and opinion pieces appearing across Western print and broadcast media outlets for the week of May 2, 2011.[6]

“While much of America celebrated the dramatic killing of Osama bin Laden,” the Washington Post opined, “the Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists still had questions. For them and a growing number of skeptics, the plot only thickened.”[7]

Along these lines retired General Mark Kimmitt remarked on CNN, “Well, I’m sure the conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this, about why it was done? Was it done? Is he still alive?”[8]

“The conspiracy theorists are not going to be satisfied,” Glenn Beck asserted. “Next thing you know, Trump is going to ask for the death certificate, and is it the real death certificate? And then all hell breaks loose.”[9]

Like 9/11 or the Gulf of Tonkin, the narrative has since become a part of official history, disingenuously repeated in subsequent news accounts and elementary school history books—a history handed down from on high and accepted by compromised, unintelligent, or simply lazy journalists perpetuating nightmare fictions to a poorly informed and intellectually idle public.

This psycho-symbolic template is simultaneously evident in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and Boston Marathon bombing (BMB) events and their aftermaths. Indeed, the brief yet intense Sandy Hook conspiracy panic, and to a lesser degree that of the BMB, revolved at least partially around the “conspiracy theory professor,” who, as a credentialed member of the intellectual class, overstepped his bounds by suggesting how there are many unanswered questions related to the tragedies that might lead one to conclude—as social theorist Jean Baudrillard observed concerning the 1991 Gulf War—that the events did not take place, at least in the way official pronouncements and major media have represented them. It is perhaps telling  that critical assessments of domestic events and their relatedness to a corrupt media and governing apparatus are so vigorously assailed.

Yet to suggest that the news and information Americans accept as sound and factual on a routine basis is in fact a central means for manipulating their worldviews is not a matter for debate. Rather, it is an empirically verifiable assertion substantiated in a century of public relations and psychological warfare research and practice. Such propaganda efforts once reserved for foreign locales are now freely practiced in the US to keep the population increasingly on edge.

Still, a significant portion of the population cannot believe their government would lie to or mislead them, especially about a traumatic and emotional event involving young children or running enthusiasts. To suggest this to be the case is not unlike informing a devoted sports fan that her team lost a decisive game after she’s been convinced of an overwhelming win. Such an allegation goes against not only what they often unconsciously accept to be true, but also challenges their substantial emotional investment in the given mediated event.

In a revealing yet characteristic move the reaction by corporate media outlets such as the New York Times, FoxNews, CNN, and in the case of the BMB the New York Times-owned Boston Globe, has been not to revisit and critique their own slipshod coverage of the Newtown massacre or BMB that often bordered on blatant disinformation, but rather to divert attention from any responsible self-evaluation by vilifying the messenger in what have been acute conspiracy panics of unusual proportion.

As a disciplinary mechanism against unsettling observations and questions directed toward political leaders and the status quo, conspiracy panics serve to reinforce ideas and thought processes sustained by the fleeting yet pervasive stimuli of infotainment, government pronouncements, and, yes, the staged events that have been part and parcel of US news media and government collaboration dating at least to the Spanish-American war. Despite (or perhaps because of) the immense technological sophistication at the dawn of the twenty-first century a majority of the population remains bound and shackled in the bowels of the cave, forever doomed to watch the shadows projected before them.

Notes

 

[1] Jack Z. Bratich, Conspiracy Panics: Political Rationality and Popular Culture, Albany NY: State University of New York Press, 2008.

[2] Bratich, Conspiracy Panics, 11.

[3] Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, “Evidence Begins to Indicate Gary Webb Was Murdered,” prisonplanet.com, December 15, 2004; Charlene Fassa, “Gary Webb: More Pieces in the Suicided Puzzle, Pt. 1,” Rense.com, December 11, 2005.

[4] Death Certificate of Timothy James McVeigh, June 11, 2001, http://www.autopsyfiles.org/reports/deathcert/mcveigh,%20timothy.pdf

[5] Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, April 19, 1995, 2001. See also Oklahoma City: What Really Happened? Chuck Allen, dir., 1995.

[6] See James F. Tracy, “State Propaganda, Historical Revisionism, and Perpetuation of the 911 Myth,” memoryholeblog.com and GlobalResearch.ca, May 6, 2012.

[7] Emily Wax, “Report of bin Laden’s Death Spurs Questions From Conspiracy Theorists,” Washington Post, May 2, 20111.

[8] Gen. Mark Kimmitt on CNN Breaking News, “Osama bin Laden is Dead,” CNN, May 2, 2011.

[9] Glenn Beck, “Beck for May 2, 2011,” Fox News Network, May 2, 2011.

The Illinois Ag Dept.  illegally seized privately owned bees from renowned naturalist, Terrence Ingram, without providing him with a search warrant and before the court hearing on the matter, reports Prairie Advocate News.

Behind the obvious violations of his Constitutional rights is Monsanto. Ingram was researching Roundup’s effects on bees, which he’s raised for 58 years.  “They ruined 15 years of my research,” he told Prairie Advocate, by stealing most of his stock.

A certified letter from the Ag Dept.’s Apiary Inspection Supervisor, Steven D. Chard, stated:

“During a routine inspection of your honeybee colonies by … Inspectors Susan Kivikko and Eleanor Balson on October 23, 2011, the bacterial disease ‘American Foulbrood’ was detected in a number of colonies located behind your house…. Presence of the disease in some of your colonies was confirmed via test results from the USDA Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland that analyzed samples collected from your apiary….”

Ingram can prove his bees did not have foulbrood, and planned to do so at a hearing set in April, but the state seized his bees at the end of March. They have not returned them and no one at the Ag Dept. seems to know where his bees are.

The bees could have been destroyed, or they could have been turned over to Monsanto to ascertain why some of his bees are resistant to Roundup. Without the bees as evidence, Ingram simply cannot defend against the phony charges of foulbrood.

Worse, all his queens died after Kivikko and Balson “inspected” his property, outside of his presence and without a warrant.

Of note, Illinois beekeepers are going underground after Ingram’s experience and refuse to register their hives, in case the state tries to steal their private property on phony claims.

….

The May 14 general election in British Columbia was a setback to progressive political forces in the province and throughout Canada. The incumbent BC Liberals won a fourth straight term, winning 50 seats with 44 per cent of the vote, compared to 33 seats and 40 per cent for the opposition New Democratic Party.

NDP Leader Adrian Dix … something happened on the road to victory.

Big business scored a lucky win. Every single opinion poll before and during the campaign had the NDP comfortably winning a majority government. Somehow, the party managed to lose. Its vote count even declined, by 50,000 votes compared to the previous election in 2009. Just under half of eligible voters cast a ballot, meaning that Premier Christy Clark’s government was re-elected by 22 per cent of the adult population.

The result is a blow to the environmental movement across the continent. The central plank in the Liberals’ election platform was full steam ahead on coal and natural gas extraction in the province as well as a broader plan to make the BC coastline an export platform for the massive carbon reserves of western North America.

Serious Implications

The BC Liberal Party is a coalition of liberals and conservatives. It has a long history of overseeing the pillage of the province’s forest, fishing, mineral and water resources. Along with its federal counterparts in the Conservative and Liberal parties, its attention has shifted big-time to promoting the production and export of fossil fuels.

Production is surging in BC’s coal and natural gas fields, as in the Alberta tar sands and the coalfields of the western United States. This greatly enhances the attractiveness to Canadian and U.S. capitalists of BC’s Pacific Coast as an export outlet fed by pipelines and railways.

A new report by the Sightline Institute in Seattle describes what is at stake. The report looks at the 16 new or expanded fossil fuel transport projects to the coastlines of British Columbia, Oregon and Washington, consisting of seven coal terminals, three oil pipelines and six natural gas pipelines. Eleven of the 16 projects are in British Columbia.

“Taken together,” says the report, “these projects would be capable of delivering enough fuel to release an additional 761 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, equivalent to seven Keystone XL pipelines.” (For details on fossil fuel projections for the Pacific Northwest, including massive expansion of natural gas fracking in BC, see my recent article, “All signs point to deepening opposition to the fossil fuel industry assault in British Columbia.”)

Fossil fuel capitalism is transforming the urban framework of Vancouver. Public transit suffers while billions of dollars are being spent to expand the network of roads, bridges and railways in the region to serve commercial and commuter transport. More is to come, including a proposal to replace the Massey highway tunnel under the Fraser River with a bridge that would open the lowest reaches of the river, the largest salmon-bearing river in the world, to larger, ocean-going ships. The shallow depth of the tunnel, completed in 1959, currently limits the size of ships that can sail upriver. One of the coal proposals is for a new shipping terminal to be built on the lower Fraser.

A similar rush for spoils profoundly scarred the forests of BC and of western North America during the past century and contributed to the explosion in recent years of the calamitous mountain pine beetle epidemic. A combination of decades of destructive, clear-cut logging practices and rising global temperatures has unleashed an exponential rise in the insect’s population and range.

The battle to limit the beetle’s spread and voracious appetite is all but lost in the mountain ranges of western North America. Seventy five per cent of BC’s vast pine forests, for example, have fallen. The insect has recently jumped its natural barrier along the Rocky Mountains and entered Alberta. Canada’s boreal forest now stretches before it, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean with the only natural barrier being extremely cold winter temperatures.[1]

Public Service Workers and Their Unions

The election also has serious implications for public sector workers and the services they deliver. The Liberals have imposed harsh austerity measures, particularly during their 2001-05 term. Spending cuts have damaged education, health care and social services. Workers have suffered cuts to salaries, benefits and conditions of work, especially those tens of thousands whose jobs have been privatized or rendered “temporary.”

The province has the highest rate of child poverty in Canada. It also leads Canada in per capita injection drug use and HIV infection. A recent novelty is the rise of children injured on the job, a consequence of the changes in child labour laws in 2003 that allow children as young as 12 to work in factories, construction and resource industries![2]

Popular expectations for an NDP government were not high. NDP leader Adrian Dix specifically stated that as premier, he would not undo the Liberal legacy or even restore part of what has been lost. But labour, environmental and Aboriginal activists nonetheless saw the election of the NDP as a way to stave off further attacks on social services and perhaps slow the pace of the assault on the natural environment by the fossil fuel, forestry, mineral and fishery barons.

Joey Hartman, president of the Vancouver and District Labour Council, told Vancouver Co-Op Radio’s W2 Media Mornings, “We knew that, whoever won, we were going to really have to keep pushing the agenda. We just thought it was going to be a more receptive government.”

Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs told the same program, “Needless to say, we’re greatly disappointed. We were looking forward to a change for the better, so to speak,[3] and clearly that did not materialize.”

The NDP Campaign

The NDP went into the election campaign with an exceptionally weak platform, not very different from that of the Liberals. It ran what it called a “positive” campaign, eschewing attacks on its opponent. The party spoke little of the 12-year record of the Liberals in power.

The strategy was baffling, considering the highly unpopular actions of the Liberals. Among these was the “harmonization” of federal and provincial sales taxes immediately after the 2009 election. That imposed several billion dollars of increased taxes.

The Liberals had specifically pledged during that election not to undertake such a measure. Its deception unleashed a whirlwind of anger and organized opposition, obliging the Liberals to yield to an extraordinary mass, petition campaign and convene a referendum in August 2011.

The tax was defeated, at great cost and inconvenience to large and small businesses. Support for the Liberals sank so low amidst that debacle that Premier Gordon Campbell resigned. (He was subsequently rewarded by the federal Conservatives with an appointment as Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.)

Another Liberal stinker was the corruption and nepotism that accompanied the 2003 privatization of BC Rail, once the third largest railway in Canada. The unseemly details were eventually revealed during the third Liberal term in office, but they barely registered in this election.

What explains the lacklustre campaign by the NDP?

Adrian Dix became NDP leader in early 2011 through an insiders’ coup that ousted Carole James as leader. She was accused of softening the party’s program in order to appeal to business, thereby weakening the party’s appeal to the working-class.[4]

The May 2011 electoral breakthrough of the federal NDP then prompted a rethink among Dix and his leadership colleagues. They concurred with federal party leaders who attributed the breakthrough to the party’s ongoing moderation to the right pursued by federal leader Jack Layton. Key federal advisors, including Brian Topp, were part of managing the 2013 BC campaign.

In reality, the party’s 2011 gains were overwhelmingly a result of the huge swing of restless and disenchanted voters in Quebec against the Tories, Liberals and Bloc Québécois. The NDP was perceived as an ally in English-speaking Canada in the defense of social programs as well as sympathetic to the national aspirations of the Quebecois.

Although the Dix-led NDP was on record against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the BC coast, it was waffling on another tar sands project – the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain line to Vancouver. Dix said a “made in BC” environmental review process should decide the matter.

But in mid-campaign, he announced that the NDP now opposed the ninefold increase in oil tanker traffic that the project would bring to the port of Vancouver. This was a response to pressure from a broad array of environmental forces as well as municipal politicians in the Vancouver region.

It was also prompted by a perceived surge in popular support for the Green Party. In the end, the Green vote did not increase over 2009, but the party scored a breakthrough in southern Vancouver Island, winning its first seat ever in the Legislature and coming very close in another district.

Big business mouthpieces, including the Liberals, jumped all over what they called a “flip-flop” by Dix. They said it harkened back to the bad old days of NDP governments in the 1970s and 1990s when the NDP took moderate measures encroaching on capitalist prerogatives.

Some trade unions in the province concurred with big business. Tom Sigurdson, head of the BC and Yukon Territories Building and Construction Trade Council, says his group supports tar sands pipelines and was disappointed by Dix’s pronouncement. Steve Hunt, western director of the Steelworkers, says Dix made a “significant mistake.” Bending to the pressure, Dix told a post-election press conference on May 22 that his pronouncement “hurt our campaign.”

Voter Apathy?

In the wake of the disappointing election result, many critics on the left have objected to the “positive” pitch of the NDP campaign.

Dix and the party leadership say they wanted to counter the increasingly harsh tone of capitalist politics. They note, correctly, that it discourages and effectively disenfranchises marginal voters. The majority of discouraged voters are poor and working-class people. While right-wing voters had the option of an aggressive Liberal Party or an even more right-wing Conservative Party (it took 5 per cent of the vote), left–wing voters had only two choices: the NDP or the Greens, each of which have platforms entirely consistent with pro-capitalist, neoliberal politics.

But the problem with the NDP campaign was not the tone but the content. The party simply failed to offer a real alternative to the electorate. The result? Voter turnout in this BC election was only marginally higher than 2009′s record low, continuing a downward trend in electoral participation that has marked Canadian politics, with few exceptions, for several decades.

Marissa Lawrence of Simon Fraser University studied voter participation during the BC election with two projects – SFU Public Square and Samara. She explains in an op-ed published in the Vancouver Sun that young people are “definitely not apathetic.” But participants in her groups’ studies saw no incentive to participate in the electoral process “when elected officials appear unable or unwilling to engage constructively. They believe decisions are already made, and don’t connect change to the ballot box. BC participants have expressed their frustrations with elected officials’ lack of accountability, not only to their campaign promises, but also to their elected term.”

A recent letter writer to the Sun explained,

“We have low voter turnout because most non-voters are well aware that with our first-past-the-post electoral system, their votes are likely to amount to nothing or very little. And they’re right…. It’s patronizing to suggest that more education is needed to improve voter turnout. Our electoral system is broke and needs to change, period.”

Some observers point to the success of NDP election campaigns in the 1970s and 1990s when the party offered criticism of big-business and proposed modest reforms. However modest those may have been, they were certainly stronger than anything heard recently from the party.

Trade unions in the province, many of which are affiliated to the party, endorsed the soft-pedaling by the NDP. They agreed to remove their specific interests and concerns from the NDP campaign and not campaign independently in the electoral arena, effectively hoping that voters would sleepwalk into the election of an NDP government.

What Now?

Would a more aggressive and left wing campaign by the NDP have won this election for the party? One hopes this will be seriously debated in the unions and the environmental movement in the weeks and months to come. There is lots of anecdotal evidence to suggest the answer is “yes”:

  • Green Party support surged in southern Vancouver Island where concern over increased tar sands and coal shipments is high. The Greens took clear stands against both. (Its stand on the equally bad expansion of natural gas production and shipment was, sadly, less evident.)
  • Two NDP candidates in very tight contests in Vancouver who identified as strong environmentalists opposed to the tar sands won their seats, including David Eby, a well-known human rights advocate who toppled Premier Clark in her own riding.
  • The highest voter participation by far was scored in Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. There, a central issue was the proposed Raven coal mine. The pro-mine Liberals narrowly won the seat against a divided NDP-Green vote, but thanks to several years of hard campaigning by mine opponents, the mine project was rejected by BC’s Environmental Assessment Office on May 16.
  • Vicki Huntington, an independent candidate in South Delta (Vancouver region) who is viewed as an opponent of unfettered road, rail and port development, won re-election with a wider mandate.

Even if an aggressive left wing campaign did not win the election, it would have left progressive movements in a stronger position than now exists.

Some union and other activists in the province are beginning to speak and write about the challenges now lying ahead, including the strengths from pre-election struggles that can be built upon.

Indigenous leaders, including Art Sterritt of Coastal First Nations, note that the wall of opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline remains unbreached.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip explained in the interview cited earlier,

“As I watched the results unfold, I began to realize that we are, in all likelihood, moving toward an era of confrontation and conflict, given the fact that under Premier Clark’s leadership there was no effort to invest in any significant or genuine way in terms of building a closer with the Indigenous peoples of this province.”

Awareness and opposition is growing to the Trans Mountain pipeline and to coal expansion. Two days following the election, for example, a first information meeting took place in South Surrey to discuss and plan opposition to increased coal shipments by rail through that community. It was attended by 75 people, including a speaker from Washington state who explained that campaigners there and in Oregon have recently succeeded in blocking three of six coal terminal proposals on their coastlines.

A rally to pressure the Board of Metro Vancouver to oppose plans for increased coal shipments through the Port of Vancouver is planned for May 25.

The future of public education services will soon come to the fore as collective agreement negotiations open between the new government and the BC Teachers’ Federation. The union signed an unsatisfactory, one-year agreement last year and hoped that it would be negotiating this year with an NDP government. The key issue in dispute will be the declining conditions of public education, including large classroom sizes.

Tara Ehrcke, an education activist and current president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Federation, offered this view of the election in her blog, Staffroom Confidential:

“My greatest disappointment about this election was not the outcome, but the fact that not a single party stood up and spoke out for a radical re-evaluation of the massive inequity in our society. No political party really spoke to the need to tax the wealthy and to reinvest that money in services that benefit everyone, collectively.”

She continued,

“I am not disappointed this week. I am hopeful that those wanting genuine change will give some serious thought to reevaluating strategies that put all hope into electing a supposedly, but not actually, labour and social movement friendly government. Instead, we need to be building networks of activists on the ground and in our communities.” •

Roger Annis is a retired aerospace worker in Vancouver. Many of his writings are published on A Socialist in Canada.

Endnotes:

1. The story of the mountain pine beetle epidemic is told in Andrew Nikiforuk’s 2011 book, Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug are Killing North America’s Great Forests.

2. The law requires parental approval for 12 to 14 year olds to work in industry, but this is routinely flaunted.

3. The NDP election campaign theme was “Change for the better.”

4. Part of Carole James’ effort was to weaken the representation of trade union affiliates to the party. This was largely uncontested within the party. While that change remains in place, it is largely cosmetic and does not diminish the significant place of the unions in par

Woolwich London Killing: Terrorism or False Flag?

May 24th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Reports said two assailants hacked a British soldier to death. He’s been identified as Lee Rigby. He was killed in broad daylight. It was several hundred meters from southeast London’s Woolwich Royal Artillery barracks.

Weapons included a machete type knife. Alleged attackers remained on the scene. They did so until police arrived 20 minutes later.

Why wasn’t explained. Killers don’t usually stay around to be captured. Both assailants were shot and apprehended. They were hospitalized for treatment.

One allegedly said “(w)e must fight as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Britain’s ITV news aired an edited video clip.

Allegedly an onlooker filmed it.

The clip showed a young Black man with blood dripping from his hands saying “(w)e swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you.”

 ”The only reason reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day.”

“The British soldier is an eye for eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

ITV edited the statement. It said nothing about “do(ing) this because Muslims are dying every day.” Unedited it said:

“There are many, many ayah (religious verses) throughout the Koran that says we must fight them as they fight us, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

“I apologize that women had to witness this today but in our land women have to see the same.”

“You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don’t care about you.”

“You think David Cameron will get stuck in the street, when we start busting our guns?”

“You think your politicians are gonna die? not it’s gonna be the average like you, and your children.”

“So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back, so you can all live in peace.”

Reports called what happened the first domestic Al Qaeda-inspired attack since the July 7, 2005 underground (so-called 7/7) bombings.

A series of attacks targeted the city’s public transport system. They came during the morning rush hour. They were for maximum disruption and casualties.

At precisely the same time, an anti-terror drill occurred. It simulated real attacks. It was no coincidence.

The real attack was a false flag. It was done to heighten fear. At issue was enlisting public sentiment to keep Britain allied with Washington’s imperial wars.

At the time, AP reported that Israel’s London embassy warned Scotland Yard in advance. Israeli Army Radio said:

“Scotland Yard had intelligence warnings of the attacks a short time before they occurred.”

No action was taken. Israel’s then finance minister Netanyahu was told to skip a London economic conference. He was scheduled to speak.

Other officials were warned, not the public. Fifty-two people died. Over 700 were injured.

These type incidents automatically raise questions. Answers are needed before jumping to conclusions. The timing of Wednesday’s killing is very suspicious.

It comes when Washington, Britain, other NATO allies, and Israel head toward full-scale war on Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry’s traveling through the Middle East.

A so-called June peace conference is scheduled. It’s subterfuge. Prior peace initiatives failed. So will this one. Demanding Assad must go assures it. Washington’s proxy war was launched to do so. Expect no change of plans now.

Kerry met with foreign ministers of 11 so-called Friends of Syria countries and opposition group representatives. He discussed Syria with Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Multiple Israeli provocations preceded his visit. On May 23, Haaretz said Israel’s “maintaining intense intelligence activity in Syria and working with local villagers.”

It’s considering a covert Syrian “proxy force.” It claims doing so will protect Israeli security. Israel’s armed forces are very able on their own.

A so-called proxy force, if established, is clearly provocative. It heads things closer to full-scale intervention. Washington and Israel partner in all regional belligerence. They jointly plan and implement conflicts.

Kerry’s trip coincides with Washington’s plan to ramp up support for so-called “rebels.” He demands Assad must go. He’s uncompromising. So is Obama. Full-scale conflict could erupt any time.

Manufactured pretexts make it easier. False flags are longstanding pre-war tactics. They’re US/Israeli specialties. Britain’s an active co-conspirator.

Muslim extremism was blamed for Wednesday’s London killing. We’ve seen this all before. Expect heightened Islamophobia ahead. UK, US, other key NATO allies, and Israel benefit most. They’ll take full advantage.

British MP George Galloway said “(t)his sickening atrocity in London is exactly what we are paying the same kind of people to do in Syria.”

True enough. He omitted explaining what appears most important.

Washington and complicit allies manufacture pretexts. They did so to justify proxy war on Syria. It’s a short step to intervening full-blown.

They’ve done it before. They manipulate public sentiment. They fabricated reasons to attack Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. They’re doing so against Iran.

They want public support. Stoking anti-Muslim rage enlists it.

Post-9/11, Bush’s Afghan war was popular. Few knew what’s now more apparent. Fewer understood Washington’s imperial agenda.

Multiple wars followed. New ones are planned. The entire region and beyond may become embroiled in conflict. Advancing America’s imperium matters most.

At issue is creating pretexts to do so. Perhaps London’s incident is the latest. The fullness of time will explain more.

Prime Minister David Cameron convened an emergency meeting. Top advisors and intelligence officials attended.

UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, called an emergency Civil Contingencies Committee (COBRA) meeting. Cameron chaired it. It includes cabinet ministers and high-level security officials. It deals with terrorism and other major crises.

COBRA refers to the room where committee members meet – Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. A terrorist alert was imposed. Heightened security steps were taken.

These measures don’t commonly follow street killings. It doesn’t matter how gruesome. Most incidents get scant coverage. Many go unnoticed.

This one suggests something bigger. What happened may be pretext for what’s planned. It remains to be seen what follows.

Peter Eyre is a Middle East consultant, geopolitical analyst, investigative journalist, anti-war activist, and valued Progressive Radio News Hour guest.

He jumped on the Woolrich incident. He discussed justifiable reasons to doubt the legitimacy of official reports. They have a distinct aroma. They fall short of truth and full disclosure.

On May 23, Eyre headlined “Woolwich beheading: Security tightened at all London army barracks.” His detailed analysis includes images.

“The gruesome scene of a decapitated actor with no police or paramedics at the scene and no blood,” he said.

The “offenders are shot by armed police who are in attendance in the background but the murder scene has not been secured!!”

Many awakened “to this amazing Shakespearean play that has unfolded in Woolwich, London where all the actors were so bad they would not even qualify for an interview as an extra in some third rate movie!!”

Eyre asked if police “drag(ged) the (victim’s) body around the corner?”

“BBC stated a man wearing a Help the Hero’s T Shirt was hit by a car, then attacked and killed with a machete or sword by the cars occupants.”

(S)o much vivid violence and yet still no blood at the scene…why?”

“(B)ecause the actors had not had time to splash it around before they filmed the scene.”

“(I)t was however added later as the picture (in his article) shows…the blood is only on the pavement and not on the road!!”

“(D)o you think they attempted to copy the Boston Bombing but somehow did not get it right?”

Eyre suggested that blood on a signpost was “Tomato Ketchup!!”

Key is calling the incident Islamic terrorism. Doing so automatically raises suspicions. Most often, the usual suspects are patsies. They’re props for planned state-sponsored mischief.

Expect UK, America, Israel and imperial allies to take full advantage. Police state harshness may increase. Waging war on Islam will continue.

Doing so full-scale against Syria appears likely. What’s long planned may erupt any time.

A Final Comment

UK media reports identified one alleged attacker. Twenty-eight year old Michael Abebolajo grew up in Romford. He comes from a Christian family. In 2003, he converted to Islam.

A man who knew his family said they were very pleasant. Friends called him very quiet. In school, he was a good guy, they said. They were shocked to learn a former schoolmate faces murder charges.

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/woolrich-london-killing-terrorism-or-false-flag/

Two men armed with knives and gun(s) apparently hack to death an off-duty soldier outside an army barracks in Woolwich, London. As the soldier lies dead or dying in the road, one of the alleged attackers approaches a man filming the scene on his mobile phone and makes a political speech about the British state’s role in killing Muslims in foreign countries.

According to the attacker, what he and his associate have just done basically represented pay back for the lives taken by British soldiers on behalf of the British government. The two alleged assailants do not flee the scene, but, with weapons still in hands, talk to passers by. The police arrive and both men are shot and wounded as they quickly approach a police car. Later on in the area, English Defence League (EDL) supporters hold a protest and express their usual anti-Islam sentiments. The EDL has had some success in garnering support in recent years by tapping into working class frustrations by using Islam as a proxy for the economic and financial woes impacting Britain.

On just another day in an ordinary district, a heady mix of class, empire and retribution left their marks on a London street. But what made this particular attack so stark was the brutal nature of the incident and that the alleged perpetrators made no attempt to escape. They took advantage of the situation to tell the world why the incident took place.

Over the last couple of days since the attack, there has been much debate over what happened and why it happened. A dominant narrative via the mainstream media has been that of two crazed men (at least one spoke with a London accent), possibly acting on their own, who had been indoctrinated or radicalised by strands of Islam.

Questions are being asked about what can be done to stop this type of thing happening again. The media, politicians and commentators have been quick to talk about preventing the radicalisation of Muslims living in Britain. All well and good.

When certain acts of terror have taken place in Britain in the past, however, senior politicians have denied any link to British foreign policy. This time, one of the alleged perpetrators in Woolwich is on video explicitly stating his reasons for his actions and linking them directly to foreign policy. It doesn’t justify the attack, but it certainly helps to explain the motives.

Most politicians and commentators have tended to avoid the foreign policy issue by focusing on the horrific nature of the attack and ‘crazed, indoctrinated people’ who carry out such deeds. It has at times all been understandably quite emotive. The fact that the dead soldier was said to be wearing a ‘hope for heroes’ t-shirt at the time has further fuelled the outpouring of national grief and anger. Hope for Heroes is a charity offering support to soldiers returning from conflict zones.

Politicians and the media have been quick to shape the debate over the incident by referring to it as an act of terrorism and by asking what could be done to stop such an act ever taking place again. Perhaps they should turn to Noam Chomsky for an answer. When once asked how to prevent terrorism, he replied “stop committing it.”

Chomsky’s views on The US and NATO’s role in committing acts of terror in and on other countries are well documented. Either overtly or covertly, the British government has been involved in the ‘war on terror’ or ‘humanitarian militarism’ across the Muslim world, from Libya, Syriaand Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the same time it has been a staunch supporter of brutal, undemocratic puppet dictators throughout West Asia.

The notion that terrorism is simply a predictable consequence of an interventionist foreign policy, the propping up of dictators and the embrace of empire is downplayed by the mainstream media. The dominiant political and media message is that British military involvement in West and Central Asia is necessary to prevent terrorism reaching its shores. Without a hint of hypocrisy on their part, politicians and commentators use incidents like Woolwich to say to the public – look, this is what happens if we do not keep vigilant and do not go into these countries to root out such people.

The media likes to compartmentalise issues. Focus on the Woolwich attack, not civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Focus on one of our lads who was butchered by a couple of maniacs, not on drone attacks that terrorise whole communities. Focus on protecting ‘freedom and democracy’, not Guauntanamo, Palestine or actions or support for regimes that have nothing to do with either. Do not connect any of the dots for a comprehensive analysis, but focus on specific incidents and emotive platitudes.

And anyone who criticises British foreign policy and linking it to Woolwich, while even condemning the attack there, is regarded with a degree of suspicion, is regarded as ‘unpatriotic’, as not supporting the troops – the brave heroes ‘out there’ thousands of miles away protecting our freedoms..

Of course, you will never hear any TV news channel or political debate in parliament bring up the Project for a New Americam Century (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article1937.htm), a plan devised by US neo-cons and which sets out the underlying reasons for the West’s ongoing wars, destabilisations, covert operations, killings, murders, death squads and torture that have nothing to do with humanitarianism or ‘fighting terror’ and everything to do with securing world domination. No mention of it or Britain’s role in supporting it. Such things are not to be discussed.

Such things are beyond the scope of ‘rational political discourse’. We must keep to the ‘facts’ – the facts as designated by those who wish to bury the real facts at every available opportunity.

In the meantime, we must stick to the story about the proper way of preventing terror at home is by stopping the indoctrination or brain washing of young Muslims. Do not focus too much (if at all) on the Western-fueled barbarity and hacked to death bodies on blood stained streets in far away lands. Out of sight, out of mind, thanks largely to the media. Just who is being indoctrinated here? And who is to protect us from the real extremism?

Desde 1 de maio que o povo Xinca suporta a militarização do seu território por parte do Governo da Guatemala.

Os indígenas centro-americanos opõem-se ao projeto mineiro de uma multinacional canadiana. As organizações de solidariedade internacional realizaram uma vigília para denunciar a atual repressão que sofrem os Xincas na Guatemala. Este povo indígena opõe-se ao projeto mineiro Escobal da empresa canadiana Tahoe Resources.

O povo Xinca sofreu um estado de sítio que depois se converteu num estado prevenção. Estas medidas decretadas pelo Governo da Guatemala não garantiram o respeito dos direitos humanos da população indígena. Os grupos de defesa dos direitos humanos exigem que o Governo da Guatemala detenha a repressão ao povo XXinca, a militarização das suas comunidades e a criminalização das suas lutas sociais. Jorge Zegarra, Montreal.

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Vídeo no Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dFn2x-T40zk&noredirect=1

 

Em espanhol em: http://www.globalresearch.ca/video-solidaridad-con-los-xincas-de-guatemala-en-montreal/5335938

Traduzido do espanhol por Filipe T. Moreira

Delegates from around the world will converge on Port-au-Prince May 31 to take part in a two-day Continental Conference aimed at bringing an end to the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti or MINUSTAH, which marks its ninth anniversary on Jun. 1.

The military occupation force, which now comprises about 9,000 armed soldiers and police officers from some 50 countries and costs some $850 million per year, was deployed by the UN Security Council at the behest of permanent members U.S. and France following the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’état (which Washington and Paris fomented) against former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. At the time, the world public was told that the mission would be deployed for only six months, time enough to hold new elections. Instead, MINUSTAH is now entering its 10th year. Its latest one-year mandate ends Oct. 15, 2013.

The Continental Conference, spearheaded by a Brazilian political action committee called “To Defend Haiti Is To Defend Ourselves,” will be attended by activists from the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, France, Spain, the United States, and other countries. Over 150 delegates from all corners of Haiti will also attend the conference, to be held at the Plaza Hotel in downtown Port-au-Prince.

The Haitian organizing committee, composed of unions and popular organizations, is also organizing a public rally from 3 to 6 p.m. on May 31 in the Place Dessalines on the Champs de Mars in conjunction with the conference.

On Jun. 1, dozens of Haitians will testify before the Conference about MINUSTAH’s many alleged crimes, including thievery, rape, murder, and massacres.

From Apr. 15 to 24, outspoken Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles conducted a speaking tour in Brazil and Argentina to build support for the conference, where he will be a leading speaker. “It is an outrage that Brazil and Argentina are doing Washington’s dirty work in Haiti,” Moïse told a large public meeting held at the Legislative Assembly in Sao Paolo on Apr. 18. “Brazilian and Argentinian troops are not helping Haiti. They are merely defending U.S. imperial interests.”

Brazilian soldiers make up MINUSTAH’s largest contingent, about 2,200 soldiers. There are about 600 Argentinian troops in the force.

During the 10 day trip to the two countries, Moïse met with governement officials, parliamentarians, unionists, students, popular organizations, and the general public, in meetings both large and small.

On Apr. 16, for example, Senator Moïse met with the Foreign Relations Committee of the House of Deputies in Brasilia. Four deputies, Committee president Nelson Pellegrino and Fernando Ferro, both of the ruling Workers Party (PT), and Luiza Erundina and José Stédile, both of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), held a cordial meeting of over 90 minutes with the senator, who stressed, as he did at other meetings, that the Haitian Senate had unanimously voted a resolution in 2011 calling on MINUSTAH to completely withdraw from Haiti by October 2012. That resolution has been flagrantly ignored by the UN.

Then later that same day, Sen. Moïse met for almost two hours with students at the University of Brasilia, who asked him many questions. “Everybody knows that Brazil is heading up the UN military occupation in Haiti,” he said in response to one question. “But who is making the big money in Haiti? The Americans. Who is giving the orders? The Americans. This game of bluff has to stop.”

Senators, deputies, city councilmen, leaders from large union federations, and prominent activists from Brazil, Argentina, and around Latin America and Europe have pledged to attend the event.

In the build-up to the Continental Conference, meetings have been held in numerous countries. On May 17 in New York, a political and cultural fundraising rally was held at the Riverside Church featuring the renowned musical group Welfare Poets and several other artists. Other speakers included Dr. Fritz Fils-Aimé of the  Haitian American Veterans Association (HAVA), Dr. M. Alexendre Sacha Vington of Humanity Haiti, Nellie Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council, Ralph Pointer, the husband of jailed human rights lawyer Lynne Stewart, and Kim Ives of Haïti Liberté.

“People around the world are standing with the Haitian people in their call for UN troops to get out of Haiti,” said Colia Clark, a veteran civil rights activist who worked alongside Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King, Jr., and who organized the May 17 event. “The upcoming Continental Conference in Port-au-Prince will be the first time people and organizations from around the world will sit down together to see how we can assist our Haitian brothers and sisters in their struggle to regain their sovereignty and send MINUSTAH packing.”

Bahrainis Demand Regime Change

May 23rd, 2013 by Vladislav Gulevich

World media outlets give little attention to the events in Bahrain, a small island nation, which is a key ally of Saudi Arabia and the United States in the Persian Gulf.

On May 10 thousands of anti-government activists flocked to the streets of the Shiite village of Daih in Bahrain to protest against the torture of victims arrested by the minority Sunni-ruled monarchy and demanding freedom to 80 opposition activists held behind bars. The frustrated mob held up signs that read: «Manama, capital of torture», and waved the national flag. It’s not the first time the protests hit the streets. Just a few days before many people held a meeting demanding «Freedom to prisoners!»…

It’s a long time since Bahrain joined the zone of instability. The Sunni-ruled country is home to Shiites, making up 75% of the population deprived of rights and distanced from political mainstream.

Until recently it suited Washington as its main Middle East adversary is Iran, a country of Shiite majority, which is a cultural and political attraction for the Shiites of the world. Oppressed in their homelands, many Shiites of Bahrain, Iraq, Yemen and other countries come to Iran for getting religious teaching. The country is home to Shiite holy places: Mashhad, a shrine of Imam Raza, and Qom, the largest center for Shi’a scholarship in the world, and is a significant destination of pilgrimage.

Bahrain was under Persian rule in IV-V and XVII-XVIII. The country hosts many immigrant workers, half of them come from Iran. Tehran doesn’t impede the Iranians going to work in Bahrain, so farsi language is popular enough there. Psychologically Iranians don’t perceive Bahrain as a foreign land, they rather view Americans as guests there.

The Shiite opposition coming to power Bahrain will inevitably develop closer ties with Iran. That’s what evokes concern in Washington. Bahrain is home to the US fifth operational fleet and United States Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), the US military personnel in the country numbers 1500 servicemen. The country enjoys favorable geographical position, a causeway bridge links it with neighbouring Saudi Arabia while Iran is on the other side of the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia has an important stake here too. Shiites, predominantly living in the east, account for 8 percent of population. They were responsible for unrest in 2012, which was put down by force, resulting in victims. An idea of creating an independent Shia state on the Arab Peninsula is popular among Saudi Shiites. The eastern part of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are supposed to become parts of the new country. That’s why Riyadh and Manama quelled the Shite rebellion together. It’s important to note that the Saudi Shiites live in the oil-rich land. If it goes to Iran, all the geographical Persian Gulf plans concocted by Riyadh and Washington get stymied. So the Saudi Arabia may crack down on the Shiite opposition any way it likes, neither Europe nor the Unites States will pay attention or raise ballyhoo about «human rights».

The Bahrain’s Shiites are consolidated by al-Wifaq, the leading opposition group. The leaders stand against monarchy, the demands include the transition of power from the ruling dynasty to people. Tehran is watching closely, it calls for a dialogue between the government and the opposition. Some sources say it provides funds to Bahrain’s opposition leaders.

In April 2013 the stand off between the Shiites and Sunnis entered the phase of terrorist activities… A car explosion took place in Manama. There were no victims. The unknown before Shiite group called February 14 took the responsibility. The Al-Wifaq condemned the act and called for peaceful settlement of the conflict. No matter if the Shiite opposition was responsible or not, the incident served as a pretext for a new crack down even more powerful than before. No matter the government gets tough on the discontented (the jail terms for offending members of ruling dynasty, consecration of Bahrain’s national symbols and freedom of speech abuse), the unrest is not subsiding.

The opposition is heterogeneous, including moderates and radicals. The first ones are ready for a dialogue with the authorities while the others stay adamant demanding the ruling dynasty’s overthrow. Still, the demands of moderates are drastic enough, according to them, the agreement to hold a dialogue presupposes saying yes to the process of transition from absolute rule to constitutional monarchy, equal rights for Shiites and free parliamentary elections. Accepting the demands means political demise for Manama-based rulers, no good will gestures are to expected on their part. Still, Washington will have to study the possibility of a dialogue held with the Bahrain’s opposition to prevent it’s sliding towards the influence of Iran.

CONFÉRENCE | PUBLIC LECTURE

The School of Political Studies of the University of Ottawa,

the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Canada, and Territorio Libre


Conference & Discussion

The Legacy of Hugo Chavez

Thursday, May 23, 2013, 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Faculty of Social Sciences Building (FSS), Room 1030
120 University Private, University of Ottawa

Guest speakers:

Michel Chossudovsky, Economist, Professor (Emeritus) at the University of Ottawa;

Arnold August, Montreal-based writer, journalist and lecturer.

Public lecture presented in English. Translation will be available. A short documentary film may be presented to facilitate the discussion.

Following decades of popular discontent, Venezuelans elected Hugo Chavez in 1998. Since 1999 the country experienced a democratic revolutionary process with decisive popular support, which gradually transformed the country’s traditional power structure including the control of the state oil company PDVSA.

The control of PDVSA allowed the implementation of numerous social programs in the country and abroad which have benefited millions and the creation of international initiatives such as ALBA, Telesur and others; yet it also made Venezuela a favorite target of the animosity of powerful transnational and national interests.

What are the main challenges in the post-Chavez era? How could the narrow victory in the recent presidential elections, the first ones without Chavez in 15 years, be interpreted? Is the opposition on its way to retake power and reestablished the old order? Could the ongoing revolutionary process survive without Chavez? What would happen with ALBA and with other regional initiatives? This panel invites you to debate these issues.

This public lecture is free and open to the public. It is not required to register. For further details, please contact [email protected]

Parking is available on campus.

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Emilie Rensink
Media Facilitator
March Against Monsanto
[email protected]
(317) 643-1677

May 25 ‘March Against Monsanto’ planned for over 30 countries

SEATTLE, Wash. (May 1, 2013) – March Against Monsanto has announced that on May 25, tens of thousands of activists around the world will “March Against Monsanto.” Currently, marches are being planned on six continents, in 36 countries, totaling events in over 250 cities, and in the US, events are slated to occur simultaneously at 11 a.m. Pacific in 47 states.

Tami Monroe Canal, lead organizer and creator of the now-viral Facebook page, says she was inspired to start the movement to protect her two daughters. “I feel Monsanto threatens their generation’s health, fertility and longevity. I couldn’t sit by idly, waiting for someone else to do something.” [The full March Against Monsanto mission statement can be read here.]

An organizer for the march in Athens, Greece, Roberta Gogos, spoke about the importance of the events in austerity-impacted South Europe. “Monsanto is working very hard to overturn EU regulation on obligatory labeling (questionable whether it’s really enforced in any case), and no doubt they will have their way in the end. Greece is in a precarious position right now, and Greece’s farmers falling prey to the petrochemical giant is a very real possibility.”

Josh Castro, organizer for Quito, says he wants to protect Ecuador against Monsanto’s influence, too. “Ecuador is such a beautiful place, with the richest biodiversity in the world. We will not allow this Garden of Eden to be compromised by evil multinational corporations like Monsanto. Biotechnology is not the solution to world hunger. Agroecology is.”

Partners facilitating the organizing of March Against Monsanto include The Anti-Media, Activists’ Free Press and A Revolt – Digital Anarchy. Major sponsors include GMO Free USA, NationofChange and Films for Action. Official website: www.march-against-monsanto.com.

For media inquiries, contact Emilie Rensink at [email protected]. To schedule an interview or for general information, contact Tami Monroe Canal at [email protected]. For sponsorship inquiry, contact Nick Bernabe at [email protected].
Two members of the FBI’s elite counterterrorism unit died Friday while practicing how to quickly drop from a helicopter to a ship using a rope, the FBI announced Monday in a statement.The statement gave few details regarding the deaths of Special Agents Christopher Lorek and Stephen Shaw, other than to say the helicopter encountered unspecified difficulties and the agents fell a “significant distance.”Last month, the team was involved in the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. And in February, it rescued a 5-year-old boy held hostage for six days in an underground bunker in Alabama.“Whenever things go really wrong, the FBI calls in the Hostage Rescue Team. It’s the government’s 911,” Coulson said.

Irvin Wells, a former FBI special agent who retired in 1990 after leading the Norfolk field office for three years, stressed that the Hostage Rescue Team is different from the FBI’s regular SWAT teams.

He noted that agents assigned to a field office’s SWAT team also must perform other jobs inside the bureau, while agents assigned to the Hostage Rescue Team have no other duties.

See article  at PilotOnline.com

FBI: Agents died in fall from helicopter off Virginia Coast

http://hamptonroads.com/2013/05/fbi-agents-died-fall-helicop…

As well as the obituary

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/timesdispatch/obituary.aspx…

In related news:

Man Linked to Boston Bombing Suspect Confesses to Murder, Gets Shot by FBI

Dead men tell no tales

Infowars.com
May 22, 2013

The man supposedly linked to deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev allegedly confessed to being involved in the murder of three people just before he was shot to death today by the FBI, sources told NBC News.

“Sources say that what began as a drug ripoff ended in a triple homicide when Tsarnaev and friend Ibragim Todashev realized their victims would later be able to identify them,” reports NBC.

According to law enforcement, after confessing to the three unsolved 2011 murders, Todashev used a knife to attack an FBI agent in an apartment complex in Orlando, Florida, prompting the agent to shoot and kill him. He reportedly “became violent as he was about to sign a written statement based on his confession.”

Coincidentally, Todashev had told his friend, prior to being interrogated, he had a feeling he would be shot by the FBI.

“He felt inside he was going to get shot,” Todashev’s friend, Khusn Taramiv, said. “I told him, ‘Everything is going to be fine, don’t worry about it.’ He said, ‘I have a really bad feeling.’”

Last Thursday, it was reported Tamerlan’s brother Dzhokhar had also penned a confession to the Boston Marathon bombing on the interior of the boat he hid in.

http://www.infowars.com/man-linked-to-boston-bombing-suspect-confesses-to-murder-gets-shot-by-fbi/

Twenty-seven-year-old Ibragim Todashev was shot and killed early Wednesday morning while being interrogated by police and intelligence officials in an Orlando, Florida, apartment. Todashev, a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and, like Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen, was reportedly being questioned by a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent from the FBI’s Boston field office, along with Massachusetts state troopers and counterterrorism officials.

The FBI claims that Todashev had implicated both himself and Tsarnaev in the grisly murder of three men in Waltham, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb, on September 11, 2011. They said he then suddenly pulled a knife and tried to attack the FBI agent questioning him. The attack, according to the FBI, prompted the lethal shooting.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police four days after two bombs detonated near the finish line of the April 15 marathon in downtown Boston killed three people and wounded 264 others. His younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, alleged to have participated with Tamerlan in the bombings, is being held in a Massachusetts prison hospital, charged with the capital crime of using a weapon of mass destruction.

One of the three men killed in Waltham in 2011 was a close friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a boxer and martial arts fighter. Brendan Mess, who, like the other two victims of the attack, had his throat slit, was also a boxer and trained at the same gym as Tsarnaev.

Todashev had lived in the Boston area before moving to Florida. A martial arts fighter, like Tamerlan Tsarnaev, he had become friendly with his fellow Chechen. He reportedly last spoke to Tamerlan in April.

There is no reason to accept, as the media has uncritically done, the FBI’s version of Todashev’s death. The elimination of a witness renders even less credible the official line on the Boston bombings and the role of the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security and other police and intelligence agencies. It adds to the miasma of cover-up surrounding the Boston attack.

Khusen Taramov, 22, a friend of Todashev who was also questioned by the FBI, told several Orlando television outlets Wednesday morning that Todashev feared for his life. “He felt inside he was going to get shot,” Taramov said of his friend. “I told him, ‘Everything is going to be fine, don’t worry about it.’ He said, ‘I have a really bad feeling.’”

The events in Orlando also undermine the official story that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were “lone wolf” and “self-radicalized” individuals, with no connections to other groups. As the Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday, “FBI sources also told [Orlando television channel] WESH that Todashev has extremist friends overseas.”

From the outset, the government has been eager to portray the Tsarnaevs as lone actors in an apparent effort to limit public information about the multiple contacts between federal police and intelligences agencies and the Tsarnaev family in the months leading up to the bombings, and advance warnings of Tamerlan’s Chechen separatist and Islamic fundamentalist sympathies and connections.

Once again, as in the September 11, 2001 attacks, the alleged perpetrators were well known to US police and intelligence and were being tracked, and the authorities ignored multiple warnings of an impending terror attack. Now, as then, in lieu of any explanation or accountability for, at the very least, a staggering intelligence failure, and, more plausibly, something more sinister, the resort is to the threadbare and all-purpose mantra of a “failure to connect the dots.”

Meanwhile, the Marathon bombings were used as a pretext to carry out a day-long lockdown of Boston and its suburbs, in which civil liberties were effectively suspended and state security forces tested out techniques for imposing a military dictatorship. The supposed security “lapses” are being cited as justification for giving the police and intelligence agencies even greater powers to spy on and repress the American people.

It has been acknowledged that in 2011 the FBI and CIA received multiple alerts from Russian authorities about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and that the elder Tsarnaev brother was placed on a number of terror watch lists. There are also reports of warnings from Saudi Arabian officials.

The FBI claims it conducted an investigation into Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 in which it questioned both Tamerlan and his parents but found nothing suspicious and closed the case. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security allowed Tamerlan to travel to the volatile North Caucasus region that includes Chechnya in January of 2012 and remain for six months, then return home without being stopped for questioning by customs or security officials on either leg of the trip.

There are multiple reports that while in Russia, Tamerlan sought out and made contact with known Islamist separatists who are waging a terror campaign against Russian authorities.

And yet, according to both Boston police and FBI Director Robert Mueller, Boston authorities were never informed of any of this information regarding the Tsarnaevs in advance of the Marathon, a mass event that attracts tens of thousands of people from all over the world. Instead, the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force was reportedly tracking Occupy Wall Street activists.

The FBI’s current charge that Tamerlan, and possibly Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were involved in the triple slaying in Waltham, Massachusetts, in 2011 underscores the unbelievable character of its claim that it could find nothing suspicious about Tamerlan when it carried out its probe that year, and had no reason to reopen its investigation thereafter.

The FBI could not have failed to discover the close connection between Tamerlan and one of the victims of the triple homicide, making absurd its supposed finding of “no derogatory” information regarding him.

Far more plausible than the official story is the likelihood that US intelligence agencies, including the FBI, were using, or planned to use, Tamerlan Tsarnaev to further their operations with Islamist separatist forces in the North Caucasus, with whom they have been working for many years. These operations include Washington’s machinations in Russia and the former Soviet republics, as well as its use of Chechen Islamist terrorists in its neo-colonial wars in the Middle East, including the current US proxy war in Syria.

While ostensibly touring the Middle East to discuss a joint US-Russian proposal for peace talks between the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and Western-backed “rebels,” Secretary of State John Kerry met with US allies to prepare for region-wide war.

Stopping first in Oman, Kerry held talks with the ruling Sultan, one of the string of monarchical dictators that constitute, together with Israel, the foundation of US influence in the Middle East. The secretary of state’s visit coincided with the signing of a $2.1 billion deal between the absolute monarchy and Raytheon Corp. for the sale of advanced weapons systems, including Avenger fire units, Stinger missiles, and Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles, part of a ring of steel that Washington has sought to erect around Iran.

From there, he flew to Amman, Jordan for a meeting Wednesday of the “Friends of Syria,” a US-led “coalition of the willing” that is fomenting the war for regime change in Syria. It consists of Washington, its European NATO allies, led by Britain, Turkey, Egypt and the various sheikhdoms and sultanates of the Persian Gulf, including the major arms suppliers to the anti-Assad militias: Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

As the conference was convening Wednesday, Syria’s ambassador to Jordan held a press conference to denounce it as “a meeting of Syria’s enemies”

“Those who want to end the tragedy in Syria need to stop arming and training terrorist gangs in Syria. The war on Syria is unprecedented,” said the ambassador, Bahjat Suleiman.

Representatives of the Syrian National Coalition, the anti-Assad front cobbled together by the US State Department, were invited to the meeting only at the last minute. It appears there was some doubt if an agreement could be reached on whom the “rebels” would accept as their representative.

The US has promoted Ghassan Hitto, a Texas-based businessman linked to the Muslim Brotherhood who has lived in the US for over 30 years, as the “premier” of a transitional government. There have been increasing reports, however, that his role is strongly opposed by the Sunni sectarian militias that are fighting in Syria. It was reported that the coalition’s “acting chief,” George Sabra, a former member of the Stalinist Syrian Communist Party, would stand in for the “rebels.”

While the State Department claims that Kerry’s role in this gathering is to prepare for Syrian peace talks—dubbed Geneva 2—which Washington and Moscow have publicly agreed to support, it is evident that the real agenda occupying the US and its allies is how to salvage the war for regime change, under conditions in which the Syrian government is inflicting strategic reverses on the Western-backed forces.

This has emerged most clearly in the Syrian army’s overrunning of the city of Qusayr in western Syria, just eight miles from the Lebanese border. The town, which had fallen under control of the Western-backed militias, has served as a key pipeline for arms and foreign fighters crossing the Lebanese border. “Rebel” control of the surrounding region also threatened to separate the Syrian capital of Damascus from the city of Aleppo as well as the Syrian coast.

Speaking at a news conference in Amman at the opening of the “Friends of Syria” meeting, Kerry warned that if the Assad regime failed to negotiate a political solution, Washington would consider “growing support for the opposition in order to continue to fight for the freedom of their country.” With US officials demanding Assad’s ouster as a condition for any settlement, it appears that the proposed talks will be turned into a pretext for escalating the US intervention.

Kerry’s remark came just one day after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved by a 15-to-3 vote a proposal for Washington to directly arm the opposition militias. The CIA is already coordinating the arms flows from the Gulf states and has reportedly organized large shipments from Eastern Europe through third parties.

Kerry blamed the reversals suffered by Washington’s proxy forces in the battle for Qusayr on the role played by fighters of Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based party and militia that is aligned with the Assad government, as well as on alleged Iranian backing for the regime.

“Just last week, obviously, Hezbollah intervened very, very significantly,” said Kerry. “There are several thousands of Hezbollah militia forces on the ground in Syria who are contributing to this violence and we condemn that.”

Hezbollah has acknowledged that its fighters are in Syria, but has denied reports that they are playing any decisive role in the fighting, insisting rather that they are training Lebanese in Syrian border towns to defend themselves.

The Western media has also focused on Hezbollah’s role, while ignoring the fact that large numbers of Sunni Islamist fighters have also come across the Lebanese border to fight against the Assad regime.

The threat that this conflict will spill over the region’s borders into a full-scale regional war grows daily. In the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, at least 11 people have died, including at least two Lebanese army soldiers, in clashes between Sunni militias and Lebanese Alawite supporters of Assad. The clashes have seen exchanges of mortar fire and rocket-propelled grenades, bringing schools, businesses and other activities to a standstill.

The State Department issued a statement denouncing Hezbollah’s role in Syria, charging that it serves to “exacerbate and inflame regional sectarian tensions.” No such denunciations were forthcoming when the Islamist forces overran Qusayr, decapitating and shooting members of the substantial Alawite and Christian minority populations in the area and forcing thousands to flee their homes.

In one measure of the opposition’s desperation, acting National Coalition chief Sabra issued a statement on the eve of the Amman conference calling for the US and its allies to “open a humanitarian corridor” to Qusayr—in other words, to launch a direct Western military intervention on Syrian soil.

In a conference call on Tuesday, a senior State Department official acknowledged, “One of the things we’ll be talking about here in Amman tomorrow is what else needs to be done with respect to the military balance on the ground.”

In advancing its militarist agenda, Washington has stepped up a propaganda campaign charging that Iran is likewise responsible for the reverses suffered by the anti-Assad forces in Syria. A senior State Department official told the Washington Post that Iranian forces are fighting in Syria, repeating totally unsubstantiated allegations by the “rebels” as fact.

As the Post pointed out, “The US official’s allegation was a tacit acknowledgment that the two-year Syrian conflict has become a regional war and a de facto US proxy fight with Iran.”

The Post ’s columnist David Ignatius noted that while there is public talk of a peace conference in Geneva by next month, “the battling on the ground is so intense, and the demand for additional weapons [from the opposition] so vocal, that a skeptical person should ask whether the Geneva talks will take place at all.”

Washington’s ostensible agreement with Moscow on peace talks is merely another tactic to advance its strategic aims in the region, which have been prosecuted through the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria. Behind the crocodile tears about Syrian civilian casualties, its objective remains the same as that which underlay the eruption of American militarism 12 years ago: the assertion by military means of hegemonic control over strategic energy reserves coveted by its rivals, particularly in China and Russia.

As the evolution of the proxy war in Syria demonstrates, this predatory US intervention points directly toward a far wider and catastrophic conflagration that threatens not only war against Iran, but confrontation with Russia and China as well.

Today sees the launch of the “Global Rendition System” database and interactive map – the most comprehensive resource so far created illustrating the CIA’s programme of renditions and secret prisons as part of the ‘war on terror’.

On the eve of President Obama’s major speech on counter-terrorism policy, the database illuminates the transportation network used to implement the US Government’s programme of “rendition, detention and interrogation”, which traversed Asia and Europe in a string of secret prison sites, ultimately sending over 800 men to Guantanamo Bay – where 166 remain.

The database – a collaboration between Reprieve and the Rendition Project based at Kingston and Kent Universities – uses data from freedom of information requests, legal cases, published first-hand accounts, investigations by NGOs and authoritative news reporting to detail dozens of prisoner transfers between secret “black sites”. Through analysis of more than 11,000 flights by over 120 aircraft, linked to more than 50 private companies, the site reveals the roles of different countries and shows how companies tried to cover their routes by filing false flight plans or by switching aircraft halfway.

Reprieve and the Rendition Project compiled documents from Reprieve’s Renditions Inc. investigation with previous work by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Warsaw, the Human Rights Monitoring Institute in Vilnius, Access Info Europe and other NGOs and investigators worldwide. All of the site’s source material is made publicly available and search results can be downloaded for further research and analysis. The data is plotted on an interactive map – users can zoom in on countries, flight routes and known or possible prisoner transfers, and move through the network via studies of individual cases and summaries of corporate complicity.

A recent report by The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment – chaired by former Bush-era officials – heavily criticised the US’ programme of rendition and torture, pointing out the key role of European countries noting that the “CIA created its own…‘black sites’ in…Poland, Romania and Lithuania.”

Sam Raphael from the Rendition Project said: “The sheer scope of the CIA’s rendition and torture system is brought to light as never before by our work, which shows in painstaking detail how terror suspects were kidnapped and transported to secret prisons across the globe for ‘enhanced interrogation’.”

Crofton Black from Reprieve said: “This unprecedented database shows how false route filings, tarmac transfers, shell companies and the plausible deniability of executive jets masked a systematic programme of secret detention and torture run by the US with the active complicity of the UK and other European countries.”


1. For further information, please contact Clemency Wells in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8161 / [email protected]

2. The Global Rendition System database is available here: http://www.therenditionproject.org.uk/global-rendition/index.html. It is the product of a collaborative research project between Dr Ruth Blakeley at the University of Kent and Dr Sam Raphael at Kingston University, funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and accredited under the Global Uncertainties programme. Working closely with Reprieve, a legal action charity which has led the way in investigating secret prisons and representing victims of rendition and torture, the Rendition Project aims to bring together and analyse the huge amount of data on rendition and secret detention in the US-led ‘War on Terror’.

The Rendition Project aims to analyse the emergence, development and operation of the global system of rendition and secret detention in the years since 9/11. In doing so, it aims to bring together as much of the publicly-available information as possible on the detainees who have been held in secret, the detention sites in which they have been held, and the methods and timings of their transfers.
For further information on the project, please contact Sam Raphael ([email protected]) or Ruth Blakeley ([email protected]).

3. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Mission Creep: Toward Full-Scale War on Syria?

May 23rd, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

On May 20, Secretary of State John Kerry headed back to the Middle East. It’s his fourth regional visit since January.

On May 21, he met Oman’s Sultan Qaboos. An air defense system/weapons sale, Syria, and related issues were discussed.

On May 22, he met with foreign ministers of 11 so-called Friends of Syria countries. He did so in Amman. Opposition group representatives also attended.

Among other issues, they discussed the US/Russian proposed peace conference. A Geneva June 10 date is scheduled. Reports suggest both Syrian officials and opposition representatives will attend.

At the same time, mixed messages were sent. On the one hand, senior opposition members said participation’s conditional on Assad stepping down. He has no intention to do so. Syrians alone must decide who’ll lead them. It’s their right.

On the other hand, one senior opposition member said no decision on Geneva was reached.

“Both parties are taking advantage of the gray area and have decided it is right to take part” he said.

“From the regime’s point of view, this is a good starting point, especially in light of its claims of achievements on the ground.”

“At the same time, the opposition can gain strength and legitimacy and even take part in a future government if the parties reach agreement on a transition period.”

In other words, conflict resolution depends on Assad stepping down. Expect no more in June than from last year’s Geneva conference.

Failure defined it. Nothing changed except rhetoric. Washington needs conflict and instability.

Peace and stability defeat its interests. Expect nothing different this time. Assad must go remains policy. America’s proxy war rages. Full-scale intervention looms.

Kerry will remain in the region through May 27. Other stops include Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Addis Ababa. He’ll participate in the African Union Summit. He’ll return to Amman for the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa.

On May 21, an unnamed senior State Department official briefed reporters on his trip. It was done by teleconference. The official said:

According to Free Syrian army commanders, Hezbollah is “engage(d) directly in the fighting in Syria as a foreign force. We understand there are also Iranians” involved.

“I think this is an important thing to note, the direct implication of foreigners fighting on Syrian soil now for the regime.”

“There are real concerns.” He accused Syria of previous massacres. Washington-backed death squads bore full responsibility.

According to opposition representatives, he claimed liberated Al-Qusayr residents face the same threat.

They support Syria’s military. They depend of it defeating insurgents. They’re US-backed terrorists.

Syrians are grateful for outside support. Washington bears full responsibility for planning and implementing over two years of proxy war.

It’s illegitimate. It’s lawless. Syria’s a nonthreatening, nonbelligerent country.

According to international law, attacking it constitutes lawless aggression. Self-defense is a legitimate response. Volunteer participants are freedom fighters. They’re not belligerents.

The State Department official discussed the June conference, saying:

(T)he purpose of this meeting.is to discuss how to implement fully a transition governing body established with full executive authority, including over the military and the security apparatus and that will be established by mutual consent.”

“I have not heard yet from the opposition definitively that they will attend.”

Washington recognizes the so-called “opposition coalition (as) the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”

In other words, Assad must go. Syrians have no say. International law doesn’t matter. What Washington says, goes. It’s longstanding US policy.

On May 15, Lebanon’s Al Manar and other sources said the CIA expects Assad “to gain 75% of the Syrian people’s votes if he runs for” reelection next year. Polls suggest it.

Washington spurns the interests of the Syrian people. It’s own alone matter. Expect no end of conflict. Escalation appears likely.

Washington’s been arming, training and directing opposition fighters covertly. The CIA’s directly involved. US and other Western special forces likely are also.

On May 21, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 15 – 3 to send arms and munitions to opposition fighters. Allegedly it’s to so-called “vetted” ones.

Washington has a longstanding alliance with Al Qaeda. Al Nusra is an Al Qaeda affiliate. Both groups and similar ones constitute a key source of US-backed anti-Assad belligerence.

US special forces and perhaps enlisted private military contractors (PMCs) trained them in chemical weapons use. Perhaps they supplied them also.

Washington’s direct and proxy wars are dirty ones. Anything goes is policy. Civilians are fair game. They’re considered legitimate targets. Government loyalists are most vulnerable. US-sponsored death squads target them.

It’s unclear if congressional legislation will pass. Doing so would make covert support overt. Either way it continues unabated.

According to a Tuesday Reuters/Ipsos online poll, 60% of Americans oppose US intervention. Only 12% support it. Online polls aren’t statistically significant. They’re suspect. It doesn’t matter.

Obama pays no attention to public opinion. Overtly he resists arming opposition fighters. Covertly he’s been doing it all along. Hypocrisy defines his administration. He’s a war criminal multiple times over. He remains unaccountable for unconscionable crimes.

Israel’s a co-conspirator. Both countries are longstanding imperial partners. Israel’s been upping the stakes in Syria. Previous articles explained.

On May 21, Press TV said Syria destroyed an Israeli military vehicle. It crossed the Golan ceasefire line. It did so lawlessly. It headed toward Bir Ajam village. A Syrian army statement said:

“Following that, the Israeli enemy fired two rockets from the occupied site of Tal al-Faras toward one of our sites in al-Zubaydiah site; no casualties reported.”

On May 22, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) explained more.

Foreign intervention “aims at raising the terrorist groups’ collapsed moral due to the painful blows they received at the hands of our armed forces.”

“The General Command of the Army and the Armed Forces said that the blatant aggression confirms again the involvement of the Zionist entity in the ongoing events in Syria and the direct coordination with the armed terrorist gangs.”

“The statement stressed that any breach or an attempt to violate the state sovereignty will be responded.”

“It stressed that whoever thinks that he is able to test our strength, alert and readiness to maintain our dignity and sovereignty is mistaken.”

Syria’s Foreign Ministry called on the Security Council to end Israeli violations. It reiterated Syria’s right to respond immediately to any breach of its sovereignty. Under international law, doing so is legitimate self-defense.

On May 22, Israel National News headlined “(IDF chief) Gantz Warns Assad: Don’t Escalate the Situation,” saying:

If he “causes the situation in the Golan Heights to deteriorate, he will pay the price.”

“We will not allow the Golan Heights to become a comfort space for Assad,” he stressed. “If he causes a deterioration he will have to bear the consequences.”

Gantz denied clear evidence of Israel’s involvement. It’s Washington’s imperial partner against Syria. He claimed no Israeli military vehicle crossed the ceasefire line.

Israel’s been caught lying red-handed numerous times. Official statements have no credibility.

On May 22, Lebanon’s Daily Star headlined “Heavy shelling batters north Lebanon’s Tripoli.”

Fighting between Assad supporters and Salafist opponents erupted last weekend. On Tuesday into Wednesday pre-dawn, dozens of mortar bombs and rocket-propelled grenades struck Tripoli.

Since hostilities erupted Sunday, 10 deaths were reported. Over 70 others were wounded. Lebanon’s army was targeted.

Residents want it involved for protection. It’s unclear if Washington and/or Israel bear responsibility. Perhaps they spread Syria’s conflict cross-border.

Clearly it’s escalating. It remains to be seen what’s next. US/Israeli/Turkish provocations advance things closer to full-scale intervention. Kerry’s regional visit perhaps involves finalizing details.

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/mission-creep-head-toward-full-scale-war-on-syria/

Contrary to the hysteria from conservatives, health care spending continues to decline as a percentage of the provincial budget. Last year, health care accounted for 38.5 per cent of total expenditures, this year the government plans to bring it down to 38.3 per cent. This continues the trend downward since 2003/04 when health care accounted for 40 per cent of total expenditures.

[Source: Metrix X/Flickr]

The Ontario provincial Budget reports that program spending is going up an impressive sounding 2.99 per cent and health care spending is going up 2.3 per cent. Although that sounds like a larger than expected increase in these days of austerity, these figures are, unfortunately, misleading. The reason is that last year funding fell well short of the Budget plan and the government is now playing catch-up.

Austerity Redux

The 2013 Budget indicates that the government spent considerably less than it budgeted in the 2012 Budget. For example, the Ontario government spent $595-million less on health in 2012-13 than it budgeted, a 1.2 per cent reduction.

Overall, total spending was $2.4-billion less than budgeted – that is a decrease of just less than 1.9 per cent. Indeed, comparing Budgets, total interim expenditure in 2012-13 was actually $600-million less than total interim expenditure in 2011-12. This reduction is entirely accounted for by a reduction in program spending of $900-million (falling from $114.5-billion in the interim report for 2011-12 to $113.6-billion in the interim report for 2012-13).


Summary of Medium-Term Expense Outlook
$ Billions Interim
2012-13
Plan
2013-14
Outlook
2014-15
Outlook
2015-16
Health Sector 47.8 48.9 49.8 50.8
Education Sector 22.4 24.1 24.6 24.8
Post-secondary & Training 7.4 7.7 7.8 7.8
Children’s & Social Services 13.8 14.3 15 15.2
Justice Sector 4 4.1 4.1 4.1
Other Programs 18.3 17.8 17 16.1
Total Programs 113.6 117 118.3 118.8
% Increase 2.99% 1.11% 0.42%
Interest on Debt 10.4 10.6 11.1 12.2
Total Expense 124 127.6 129.5 131
Source: Budget Table 2.19

The government plans more of the same tiny funding increases in the future.

Bottom line – the 2.99 per cent increase in program spending promised for this year is catch-up. With that increase we do equal the program spending planned for this year in last year’s Budget, but, given considerably lower than expected interest on debt, the total expenditure plan is actually $600-million less than planned in the 2012 Budget for 2013-14.

The 2013 Budget sets total spending only 1.1 per cent higher for 2013-14 than the 2012 Budget planned for 2012-13. Similarly, health care spending planned in the 2013 Budget for 2013-14 is only 1 per cent higher than planned in the 2012 Budget for 2012-13.

As noted repeatedly on this blog, the government consistently (and wildly) overestimates its deficits. But it’s not just spending that it gets wrong, it’s revenue too. This year, revenue was almost $2-billion more in 2012-13 than forecast in the 2012 Budget. (They also overestimated the interest on debt by $200-million.)

[Source: fin.gov.on.ca]

Program spending is supposed to increase another 1.1 per cent in 2014-15 and then really head to the cellar with a 0.4 per cent increase in 2015-16, a miserly 0 per cent in 2016-17, and a miserable 0.7 per cent decrease in 2017-18. This is supposed to balance the budget by 2018, but will be a dead weight for the economy – something even the Budget documents quietly recognize. It will also provide sharply shrinking public services, as population, aging, and inflation will more than eat up such tiny nominal increases.

Notably, the Budget reports that Ontario already has the lowest public sector program spending per capita (see chart 1.23).

[Source: fin.gov.on.ca]

Health Care

The government sticks to its usual script on health care in the Budget:

  • They will continue to move surgeries and procedures currently conducted in hospitals to specialized “not-for-profit” clinics. The government specifically sites colonoscopies, dialysis, and vision care (citing, in particular, expanded glaucoma and retina surgery at the Kensington Eye Institute).
  • The Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) program will become less and less universal by requiring higher-income senior ODB recipients to pay a larger share of their prescription drug costs starting in August 2014;
  • Hospital base funding (i.e. funding for existing services) will continue to be frozen, but other pockets of money will be available, with a total funding increase of 1.7 per cent. The Budget adds that a 1 per cent increase in hospital funding equals $217-million, so this should equal $369-million in new hospital funding.
  • Funding for “home and community care services” (however that is defined) will increase by 5 per cent – up from a promise of a 4 per cent increase last year (although whether that was delivered, who knows?). For what it’s worth, the Budget suggests 5 per cent increases will continue for 3 years. The government says it will be investing to reduce home care wait times for nursing services and improve personal support services for clients with complex care needs.
  • Long-term care (LTC) homes will get a “two per cent annual increase in funding for direct resident care to address the increasingly complex care needs of patients.” Despite the rhetoric, there is no sign that the government will require LTC facilities to use this money to improve staffing levels through a legislated staffing standard.
  • The government continues their promise of 23 “Health Links” to encourage greater collaboration to enable high-needs patients, such as seniors and people with complex conditions, receive more responsive care in the right place.

Collective Bargaining

How does the Government see collective bargaining with public employees? And, moreover, public sector pensions?

The government claims that provincial public sector agreements are much lower than other sectors – i.e. private sector settlements, municipal settlements, and federal public sector settlements (see chart 1.24).

Indeed, the government headlines the claim “Bargaining Is Achieving Results and Protecting Services.”

The government does not say it will try to dictate results in collective bargaining (as the previous McGuinty/Duncan government tried to do), but proposes that compensation settlements should fit “within Ontario’s existing fiscal framework” and suggests that productivity improvements could be one way to achieve fiscal and service delivery goals:

“Going forward, compensation costs must be addressed within Ontario’s existing fiscal framework, which includes no funding for incremental compensation increases for new collective agreements. The government is confident that broader public sector partners can work together to achieve outcomes that remain within the fiscal plan while protecting services. In future rounds of bargaining, the government is willing to work with employers and bargaining agents to look at mechanisms such as productivity improvements as a way to achieve fiscal and service-delivery goals.” (My emphasis.)

Pensions

Aside from wages, the government also claims to have achieved huge reductions in pension expenses for employees in the broader provincial public sector. The government claims, extraordinarily, that their pension expenses will fall dramatically (see table below).


Projected Pension Expense
2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Current Forecast 3.0 3.1 2.6 2.4 2.4 2.4
2012 Budget Forecast 3.1 3.6
Difference in Forecast -0.1            -0.5
Drummond Commission 3.1 3.7 3.6 3.7 4.0 4.2
Difference in Forecast -0.1 -0.6 -1 -1.4 -1.6 -1.8
Note: Numbers may not add due to rounding. Source 2013 Budget Table 1.3 and 2012 Budget Table 4.5.

That’s $500-million savings in 2014-15 over this year’s pension expense and $700-million a year in the following years. At $700-million that is an incredible 22.6 per cent reduction in their pension expense compared with 2013-14. Indeed, compared to the pension expense they forecast in last year’s Budget ($3.6-billion in 2013-14), the annual savings by 2015-16 would be $1.2-billion. That would be a 33 per cent reduction on a $3.6-billion expense.

If the government’s figures are meaningful, even a $700-million savings would mean the government has saved about 1 per cent in compensation costs – before collective bargaining has even begun.

The Budget document also compares the current forecast with Don Drummond’s even higher forecast of pension expense – this is the same guy who suggested health care expenditures were headed to 70 per cent of spending when it has actually been heading back down to less than 40 per cent for some years. So – big surprise – Dummond’s figures are way off here as well •

Doug Allan is a health care activist and maintains a blog at Defending Public Healthcare for OCHU/CUPE, where this article first appeared.

A distinct increase of negative coverage has been forming in Western and Gulf press; this focus is specifically regarding Hezbollah’s direct involvement in the battle currently raging to take control of the Syrian town of Qusair; its overall role in Lebanon and the region, and its ties to both Syria’s President Assad, and the government of Iran.

As the Syrian conflict has gone on, Salafi/Jihaddi fighters from at least 30 different nationalities have poured through Syria’s borders, with the tacit approval of various state sponsors of the Syrian ‘opposition’. In turn, and for the best part of two years, compliant media have obliged in their attempts to subvert the Salafi/Jihaddi fundamentalist dynamic that has formed the core of the ‘opposition’s’ fighting force; finally relenting and admitting the fact not a single secular force is fighting against the Syrian Government. Contrary to this wilful ignorance or blatant subversion of facts; Western and Gulf media outlets now deem it their utmost priority to highlight not only Hezbollah’s direct involvement; but indeed, go to great lengths to highlight every single Hezbollah death, injury, movement inside Syria.

Several issues need to be addressed in this somewhat disparate state of so-called ‘independent’ media when it comes to coverage of Hezbollah. The first and most glaring point is that demonizing Hezbollah and its supporters falls straight into the propaganda program of Israel and the United States, in their attempts to block resistance to US/Israeli/GCC occupation and expansion. The reasons behind this demonization are clear: the US and Israel are not, now, or anywhere in the future willing to allow Hezbollah to operate on Israels’ northern border unimpeded, and both wish to see the resistance group annihilated. The ‘news’ media will dutifully oblige its paymasters with the required public demonization, through assumption of guilt and propaganda.

The Burgas Bombing and implicating Hezbollah.

Since the Bulgarian Government announced its findings into the bombing of a tourist bus that killed five Israeli tourists, and a Bulgarian bus driver in July 2012; the Western press, AIPAC, neo-con associated DC ‘think tanks’, and western government officials have gone into propaganda overdrive. Using somewhat vague statements from the Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, in a quite liberal manner; these parties with vested interests have determined culpability for the bombing falls on Hezbollah. One fundamental issue should be cleared before drawing any conclusion, that is, the Bulgarian Interior Minister’s statement on the issue post-investigation: (my emphasis)

“A reasonable assumption, I repeat a reasonable assumption, can be made that the two of them were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah,”

This is by no means a definitive statement, leaving room for interpretation suggests the Bulgarian minister is not so sure of his convictions. In this New York Times article ,we learn of the supposed damning ‘evidence’ that has led western officials and lackey media alike, to conclude Hezbollah’s’ guilt: (my emphasis)

With help from the United States and Israel, investigators here broke the case — and linked it to Hezbollah — using a tip from a secret source and some old-fashioned detective work, tracing the printer that had produced two forged licenses back to Lebanon….Europol determined that a fake Michigan driver’s license recovered at the scene had come from Lebanon….The identity of the Australian was the second major breakthrough. In September, a European intelligence service tipped off the Bulgarians about an Australian bombmaker of Lebanese descent, the former senior Western official said. The intelligence service said he had moved to Lebanon to join Hezbollah’s military wing. Mr. Tsvetanov said Tuesday that the Australian and the Canadian moved to Lebanon, one in 2006 and one in 2010.

These snippets of anonymous information are quite literally all the evidence that has been provided to date of Hezbollah association in the Burgas bombing. So because the fake ID’s were produced in Lebanon: that proves Hezbollah made them. And because the bombers alleged and, as yet unidentified, accomplices were from Lebanon: that also proves they are “tied to” Hezbollah. Clearly, the ‘evidence’ provided to date is circumstantial, at best. This lack of clear evidence will not stop either western, nor Israeli government officials, and, again, their lackey media and ‘think-tank’ counterparts, in apportioning sole responsibility to Hezbollah; giving the ultimate desired outcome of guilt without trial, or indeed, any public evidence.

As investigative reporter Gareth Porter noted in February, the whole Bulgarian report is based on no more than an “assumption” or, “hypothesis” for Hezbollah complicity; yet this report form’s the basis for calls in the EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group. Porter goes on to state:(my emphasis)

Major revelations about the investigation by the former head of the probe and by a top Bulgarian journalist have further damaged the credibility of the Bulgarian claim to have found links between the suspects and Hezbollah….The chief prosecutor in charge of the Bulgarian investigation revealed in an interview published in early January that the evidence available was too scarce to name any party as responsible, and that investigators had found a key piece of evidence that appeared to contradict it.

Karadzhova revealed how little was known about the two men who investigators believe helped the foreigner killed by the bomb he was carrying, but whom Tsvetanov would later link to Hezbollah. The reason, she explained, is that they had apparently traveled without cell phones or laptops…..Only two kinds of information appear to have linked the two, according to the Karadzhova interview, neither of which provides insight into their political affiliation. One was that both of them had led a “very ordered and simple” lifestyle, which she suggested could mean that they both had similar training.

The other was that both had fake Michigan driver’s licenses that had come from the same country. It was reported subsequently that the printer used to make the fake Michigan driver’s licenses had been traced to Beirut.

But Karadzhova’s biggest revelation was that investigators had found a SIM card at the scene of the bombing and had hoped it would provide data on the suspect’s contacts before they had arrived at the scene of the bombing. But the telecom company in question was Maroc Telecom, and the Moroccan firm had not responded to requests for that information.

That provenance of the SIM Card is damaging to the Hezbollah “hypothesis”, because Maroc Telecom sells its cards throughout North Africa – a region in which Hezbollah is not known to have any operational bases but where Al-Qaeda has a number of large organisations.

Morocco is also considered a “staunch ally” of the United States, so it is unlikely that the Moroccan government would have refused a request from the United States to get the necessary cooperation from Moroccan Telecom.

Clearly, anyone claiming Hezbollah was responsible for the Burgas bombing is pushing a somewhat skewed and misinformed agenda. Not only is the ‘evidence’ both flimsy and circumstantial; the chief prosecutor laid doubt on any possible Hezbollah role on live television. Why would Israel, or the US choose not to follow the SIM card? Or even bother to request the Moroccan telecoms company release the information?

Britain launches campaign in the EU.

This brings us to recent reports of the British governments renewed attempts to persuade the EU to designate Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organisation. The UK is now pushing the EU for this designation to enable possible sanctions, and the Burgas bombing is a key component in the case against the organisation; the bombing is mentioned in virtually every article on the issue, and has been cited as a reason for Germany’s apparent sway in the UK’s direction.

For Israel, the United States and their GCC partners, the timing could not be better. Again, the hypocrisy is blatant. None of the NATO states that are pushing for terrorist designations against Hezbollah, have a negative word to say on the plethora of militant Salafi/Jihaddi groups they have abetted into Syria. (*other than Jabhat al Nusra*) These groups have not only attacked Syria’s security infrastructure and Government personnel, they have also openly committed massacres, hundreds of car bombings in built-up civilian areas, extra-judicial killings, rape, torture, and looting. But these are the good guys the west are supporting in their valiant fight for democracy in Syria? Or strict Sharia?

As these western/GCC proxies start to lose more and more ground against the Syrian Army, (and Hezbollah have been a key factor in that.) Israel pursues illegal military airstrikes against supposed “game changing” weapons, and the NATO states dutifully push their “diplomatic” pressure in the UN and the EU against Hezbollah under dubious allegation’s. These dynamics are inextricably linked to the Western/Israeli/GCC efforts to block the “Shiite crescent”.

In Lebanon itself, the US/UK et al accuse Hezbollah of being responsible for current conflagration on the Syrian border, which is also flaring up in northern Tripoli; without mentioning the fact Lebanon has been a key route for opposition militants to enter Syria. Since the very start of the Syrian crisis, northern Lebanon and the town of Qusair have been a rebel transit point and stronghold; allowing the free flow of heavily armed militant Salafi/Jihaddi fighters. But this seems to be what western leaders promote, and are indeed making great efforts to support. William Hague talks of “conflict spread”, and propagates the falsehood that Hezbollah pose a threat to Lebanese internal security, while the UK and its allies arm, fund, promote, and provide diplomatic cover to the very Salafists Hezbollah is busy defending Shiite villages and Syrian civilians from. The West is supporting the very same democracy spreading Salafi/Jihaddi proxies that completely expelled all Christians from Qusair upon their arrival. Is the west and its allies, in their determination to overthrow the Assad government, and by extension destroy any resistance Hezbollah can muster against Israeli aggression: now supporting ethnic cleansing?

If Hezbollah, who up until the Syrian crisis; peacefully co-existed in a country belonging of 18 different sects no less, and being an active member of Lebanese government and its security infrastructure: are supposed terrorists. Then one has to ask: what are the extremist, sectarian militants the west is supporting supposed to represent? Freedom Fighters? Furthermore, and, considering the insurmountable volumes of evidence of western state-sponsored terror, one must also ask: what purpose, other than further ‘legal’ UN-endorsed western-led military aggression, does the designation of Hezbollah as “Terrorist” ultimately serve?.4

Phil Greaves is a UK based writer/analyst, focusing on UK/US Foreign Policy and conflict analysis in the Middle East post WWII. http://notthemsmdotcom.wordpress.com/

Monsanto.(Photo: Monsanto via The New York Times)

The common problem we face is the power of concentrated wealth and monopolistic corporate interests. This has created a crony capitalist economy that uses government to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the people, often threatening our basic necessities for life.A clear example of this is found in the behavior of the chemical and seed corporation, Monsanto.

Monsanto threatens the world’s food supply; this is a major challenge of our era. This struggle is central to the global ecosystem, economy and energy crises. Monsanto also pushes poisonous chemicals into the environment and promotes agricultural practices that exacerbate climate change.

Monsanto’s actions truly affect each of us. They put their profits over the need for healthy foods, diverse seed supplies and the stability of the agricultural economy. They employ a variety of tools to control access to seeds and aggressively push genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and toxic chemicals despite serious safety concerns about them. And they accomplish this with great help from the US government.

When President Obama appointed a Monsanto lobbyist, Michael Taylor, as the “food czar” (officially the deputy commissioner for foods) – avoiding the Senate confirmation process, which would have brought public attention to the appointment – it was one more example of how corrupted both parties have become by corporate influence.

A global grassroots movement is building to challenge Monsanto as more people realize that we are in a struggle for our survival. May 25 is a global day of action against Monsanto taking place in hundreds of cities and 41 countries. Monsanto must be stopped before its unfettered greed destroys our health and environment. We urge you to join the effort to stop Monsanto.

Monsanto: A Threat to Public Health and the Environment

Monsanto’s products increase the use of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, water and energy. At a time when the world needs to be making a transition away from the destructive impacts of energy and chemical-intensive agriculture toward local and organic food and farming, Monsanto is pulling the world in the opposite direction.

Monsanto began as a chemical company in 1901. In the 1930s, it was responsible for some of the most damaging chemicals in our history - polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCB’s, and dioxin. According to a Food & Water Watch corporate profile, a single Monsanto plant in Sauget, Illinois, produced 99 percent of PCB’s until they were banned in 1976. PCBs are carcinogenic and harmful to multiple organs and systems. They are still illegally dumped into waterways, where they accumulate in plants and food crops, as well as fish and other aquatic organisms, which enter the human food supply. The Sauget plant is now the home of two Superfund sites.

Dioxin is the defoliant used in Vietnam known as Agent Orange. It is one of the most dangerous chemicals known, a highly toxic carcinogen linked to 50 illnesses and 20 birth defects. Between 1962 and 1971, 19 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed in Vietnam. A class action lawsuit filed by Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange was settled for $180 million. And a Monsanto plant that made dioxin in Times Beach, Missouri, poisoned the area so greatly that the town has been wiped from the map. Thousands of people had to be relocated and it is now also a superfund site. Consistent with their method of operation, Monsanto has denied responsibility for the harm these chemicals have caused.

Their biggest selling chemical worldwide is the herbicide glyphosate, sold under the name RoundUp. Monsanto markets it as a safe herbicide and has made a fortune from it. Sales of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides accounted for 27 percent of Monsanto’s total 2011 net sales. Monsanto engineers genetically modified seeds, branded as “Roundup Ready,” to resist Roundup so that the herbicide is absolutely necessary for those who buy these seeds. Roundup Ready seeds have been Monsanto’s most successful genetically modified product line and have made Roundup the most widely used herbicide in the history of the world.

Roundup is toxic, known to cause cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, birth defects and infertility. A 2012 European Report found that the, “Industry has known from its own studies since the 1980s that glyphosate causes malformations in experimental animals at high doses” and that industry has known “since 1993 that these effects also occur at lower and mid doses.” This information was not made public, and both Monsanto and the European government misled people by telling them glyphosate was safe – as did the US government.

In response to Monsanto’s denial of this toxicity, Earth Open Source explicitly pointed to studies, including some funded by Monsanto, that showed “glyphosate causes birth defects in experimental animals” and also causes “cancer, genetic damage, endocrine disruption and other serious health effects. Many of these effects are found at very low, physiologically relevant doses.”

Before the use of glyphosate-resistant seeds, farmers used lower quantities of Roundup for fear of killing their own plants (since the herbicide kills anything green). But, a 2012 report found that with resistant seeds, “the herbicide can be sprayed in massive amounts, often from planes, near homes, schools and villages, resulting in massive increases in cancer and birth defects.”

In addition, farmers are discovering Roundup resistant “super weeds” that are not killed by the herbicide. An Arkansas farmer tells US News “This is not a science fiction thing, this is happening right now. We’re creating super weeds.” Indeed, there are now 24 Roundup resistant weeds that have been reported. In response to the appearance of these weeds, a report found: “farmers … use progressively more glyphosate as well as mixtures of other even more toxic herbicides.” In fact, farmers who grow genetically modified crops use about 25 percent more herbicides than farmers who use traditional seeds.

Monsanto produces a variety of pesticides that are less well known. Author Jill Richardson reports that these include “a number of chemicals named as Bad Actors by Pesticide Action Network.” They include known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and other toxins such as Alachlor, Acetochlor, Atrazine, Clopyralid, Dicamba and Thiodicarb.

Not only does Monsanto never take responsibility for the impact of its poisonous chemicals, but they do their best to prevent research showing toxic effects. For example, in 2011, Monsanto acquired Beeologics, a company dedicated to restoring the health of the bee population, amid scientific and media speculation that an overuse of pesticides was to blame for dwindling bee populations.

Monsanto also threatens the sustainability of agriculture because its products require the use of larger quantities of water and fossil fuels in farming. While genetically engineered crops are supposed to be more drought resistant, the opposite turns out to be true. Don Huber, a science expert, notes “It takes twice as much water to produce a pound of a Roundup-ready crop soybean plant treated with glyphosate, as it does with soybean plant that’s not treated with glyphosate.”

Monsanto is a major threat to climate change due to its energy-intensive agricultural model and promotion of ethanol as a fuel source. The Organic Consumers Association adds it all up: “All told, the production and processing of Monsanto’s GMO crops, from deforestation to fossil-fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers, polluting factory farms, and fuel-intensive food processing and distribution, is estimated to produce up to 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

As a result of Monsanto’s marketing, there are a lot of myths about GMOs. The truth is that GMO foods are different from traditional foods and are neither more nutritious – nor have they been proven to be safe to eat. Limited studies so far indicate that GMO foods may cause kidney and liver damage. GMO crops do not produce larger crop yields or make farmers’ lives easier, nor are they a key to feeding the world. The use of GMO seeds does environmental damage by increasing the use of pesticides, fossil fuels and water. And they make the world’s biggest environmental problem, climate change, worse.

Monsanto: A Threat to Biodiversity and Independent Agriculture

One of the keys to sustainability and durability in times of environmental stress is biodiversity. This means the existence of many varieties of plants and the insects, fungi and bacteria they require for survival so that food can be produced under different conditions. With climate change upon us, the environment is in a state of great stress: more extreme weather, new varieties of insects moving from south to north and new weeds are becoming common. This is a time when biodiversity is more important than ever.

Yet years of chemical-based agriculture have poisoned the air, water, soil and food supplies, which has killed many living things and decreased biodiversity. In addition to causing disease in humans, the use of herbicides and pesticides is contributing to a rapid species extinction of beneficial plants, insects and animals.

Monsanto is pushing agriculture toward less biodiversity by concentrating the world’s seed supply under its control. Through promotion of their genetically altered crops, contamination of traditional seeds and the practice of monopolization, Monsanto is rapidly dominating our global food system.

Monsanto’s genes are currently found in 40 percent of the crops grown in the United States. A March 2013 report found 86 percent of corn, 88 percent of cotton and 93 percent of soybeans farmed in the US are now genetically engineered (GE) varieties, making the option of farming non-GE crops increasingly difficult. As GE crops spread and infect or mix with traditional crops, it is becoming harder to preserve traditional seeds. This creates a great problem because, as we discussed above, GE crops are unsustainable for a variety of reasons.

Monsanto’s efforts to dominate the market began with buying up the competition as early as 1982. In the decade after the mid-90s, Monsanto spent more than $12 billion to buy at least 30 businesses contributing to the decline of independent seed companies. One of the big purchases that consolidated the market was a 1997 purchase of Holden Foundation Seeds and two Holden seed distributors for $1.02 billion. Holden was the country’s last big independent producer of foundation seed. The company was in the Holden family for three generations. They produced seed that was planted on about 35 percent of the acreage set aside for corn and were the biggest American producer of foundation corn, the parent seed from which hybrids are made.

Jill Richardson describes how aggressively Monsanto uses their market power “to get seed dealers to not stock many of their competitors’ products … they restrict the seed companies’ ability to combine Monsanto’s traits with those of their competitors. And, famously, farmers who plant Monsanto’s patented seeds sign contracts prohibiting them from saving and replanting their seeds.” They promised rebates to farmers who ensured that Monsanto products made up at least 70 percent of their inventory to keep competitors out of the market. As a result of this, through either purchases or forcing competitors into bankruptcy, the number of independent seed producers has dropped from 300 to under 100 since the mid-90s. Monsanto also required that their Roundup Ready seeds be used only with Roundup, thereby keeping generic, less expensive competitors out of the market.

The result has been increased prices for farmers and consumers. Since 2001, Monsanto has more than doubled the price of soybean and corn seeds and farmers have been told to expect prices to keep increasing. According to a March 2013 report, from 1995 to 2011, the average cost to plant one acre of soybeans has risen 325 percent; cotton prices spiked 516 percent and corn seed prices are up by 259 percent. The rising cost has had a deadly effect in India, where more than 270,000 farmers who grew Monsanto’s Bt Cotton committed suicide, many by drinking pesticides, because of endless growing debt. Nonetheless, the greatest threat from the loss of biodiversity in the seed markets is the ability to adapt to increasingly unpredictable climate changes. As Salon reports: “Many of the seed breeders and retailers Monsanto purchased were regional experts, familiar with the soil and adept at breeding crops suited to the vagaries of local pests and climate. That sprawling network of local knowledge and experimentation has been severely thinned.” Richardson adds, when crops are “too genetically homogenous, then they are vulnerable to a single disease or pest that can wipe them out.”

A March 2013 report, Seed Giants vs. US Farmers, found that Monsanto’s seed dominance is also shrinking the number of independent farmers. According to the report, as of January 2013, Monsanto, alleging seed patent infringement, had filed 144 lawsuits involving 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in at least 27 different states. Some of these farmers are sued because pollen brings Monsanto products onto their farms. There are so many cases it is impossible to summarize them in this article, but the Organic Consumers Association has an excellent web site for more information on this and other Monsanto controversies.

Monsanto: Leading Example of Corrupted Government Unable to Operate in the Public Interest

You would think this concentration of industry would lead to antitrust litigation. In fact, shortly after taking office, the Obama administration began an antitrust investigation, taking over from several states that were looking into the market practices of Monsanto. The investigation was announced with much fanfare, but last November, without even a press release, the Department of Justice closed the investigation, leaving us to conclude that it may have been a tactic to thwart state efforts.

At the beginning of the antitrust investigation, there was hope that a marketplace with more diverse seed sources and competition could exist in the future, but with the Obama administration’s decision to drop the investigation, Monsanto domination of the market has been given the imprimatur of legality and the abusive practices Monsanto uses to buy or destroy competition have been ratified.

Monsanto exemplifies political connections, the revolving door, bought-and-paid-for corporatist governance and so much that is wrong with the way the US government operates. Open Secrets reports Monsanto is one of the biggest spenders in Washington. It spent $6 million lobbying in DC in 2012, the biggest agribusiness spender. The next was Archer Daniel Midlands, spending just over $1 million.

Monsanto epitomizes the revolving door between industry and government. At least seven Monsanto officials have served in government positions. Michael Taylor left the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1984 to join King & Spalding, a law firm that lobbies for Monsanto. He returned to the FDA in 1991 and then left again to return to Monsanto in 1994 as their vice president for public policy, only to return to the FDA again as the current “food czar,” where he has led major advances for genetically modified foods. Taylor played the lead role in introducing rBGH (bovine growth hormone), which was used to increase cows’ milk production, into the US market in the early 90s along with two other Monsanto-FDA door revolvers, Dr. Margaret Miller and Susan Sechen, both from the Office of New Animal Drugs.

Other door revolvers include high level officials: Arthur Hayes, commissioner of the FDA from 1981 to 1983 and consultant to Searle’s public relations firm, which later merged with Monsanto; Michael A. Friedman, former acting commissioner of the FDA, who later went on to become senior vice president for clinical affairs at Searle; and Virginia Weldon, a member of the FDA’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee, after retiring as vice president for public policy at Monsanto.

It is not only the FDA where the Monsanto revolving door has influence. On the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas used to be a lawyer for Monsanto. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled against a farmer who was sued by Monsanto, ordering the farmer to pay $84,000 in damages.

But it is not only the revolving door that is the problem. It is also that some top government officials “work” for Monsanto while they are in office. One example took place during the Clinton administration when the French government was reluctant to allow Monsanto’s seeds on French soil. First the US Trade Representative Charlene Barschefsky urged the French government to allow the seeds. When that did not work, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright lobbied for Monsanto in France. When that failed, President Clinton himself took up the task of giving Prime Minister Lionel Jospin “an earful” about Monsanto. Even that did not work. Finally, Vice President Gore pushed Jospin – who finally gave in.

This is just one example of many in which the US government foreign policy apparatus operated on behalf of Monsanto. Five years of WikiLeaks diplomatic cables during the Bush and Obama administrations reveal that the State Department lobbied for Monsanto products worldwide and pushed genetically modified foods wherever it could. It is almost like the US government is a marketing arm for Monsanto and genetically modified foods. Indeed, in August 2011, WikiLeaks exposed that American diplomats requested funding to send lobbyists for the biotech industry to hold talks with politicians and agricultural officials in “target countries” in areas like Africa and Latin America.

There is no doubt that in the new massive trade agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the trade agreement being negotiated with Europe, the United States will seek to include protections for Monsanto and GMOs. Europeans involved in every aspect of agriculture or food safety are very concerned that lowered trade barriers will allow GMOs into Europe. In Europe, GMOs are currently grown on less than 1 percent of farmland.

When people try to use democratic tools to change Monsanto’s behavior, Monsanto and its allies spend millions to confuse voters and create fear. That was clear in the California initiative in November 2012 in which tens of millions were spent to prevent the requirement that foods be labeled so consumers would know whether they contained GMOs or not. Consumer groups continue to push for labeling. Another vote will be held in 2013 in Washington State, and Vermont may become the first state to pass a law requiring labeling.

Although labeling of foods that contain GMOs is required in Europe and US corporations such as Walmart and McDonald’s comply with these rules in Europe, Monsanto and its allies are taking the fight to prevent labeling in the United States to new levels. As more state-level battles and an energized grass roots develop, Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association reports Monsanto and allies are trying to subvert these efforts by getting the corrupt federal government to pass a law forbidding states to pass labeling laws.

Impossible, you think? Well, Monsanto has done the seemingly impossible before. Most recently, one legislative victory that enraged people was the Monsanto Protection Act (actually misleadingly named the Farmer Assurance Provision) which was buried in a spending bill earlier this year and which protects Monsanto from the courts. For example, under the new law, federal courts are not allowed to stop the sale or planting of controversial genetically modified seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future. There are now efforts to add a rider to the farm bill to repeal this measure.

Stopping Monsanto and Moving to Sensible Agricultural Policy

The first step to stopping the entrenchment of genetically modified foods in our food supply is labeling. As noted above, states are moving forward on that front, despite the efforts of Monsanto to stop them. This is the big battle because when foods are labeled, consumers have the power of knowledge and can choose not to buy them. Cummins reports that in Europe, the labeling of foods was the key to stopping the development of genetically modified foods.

One of the tools we must use is the boycott. Large food and beverage corporations that sell billions of dollars of organic and natural foods bankrolled the industry opposition to GMO labeling in California. Brand names like Kashi, Cascadian Farms, Bear Naked, Honest Tea, Odwalla, Naked Juice and others need to be told that we will not buy their products if they continue to fund ignorance by blocking GMO labeling.

To protect our food and health, the United States needs to adopt the precautionary principle, which means products must be proven to be safe before they are allowed on the market. The US applies a sham standard of “substantial equivalence” which avoids the need to test for safety. Applying the precautionary principle to Monsanto’s products would mean a moratorium on them until their safety can be demonstrated by independent (non-corporate-funded), long-term tests for food safety as well as safety for agriculture. Our health should come before Monsanto’s profits.

People need to be empowered not just with credible information about genetically modified foods and how to avoid them – that is, buy organic and non-processed foods – but also with access to courts to sue if agriculture, the environment or their health is damaged by GMOs. The repeal of the “Monsanto Protection Act” is a first step in that direction, but people also need to have a greater ability to sue corporations that harm them.

We advocate a two-path approach – protest what you do not like and build what you want. That means that while we encourage community-supported agriculture, organic and local gardening, preparing your own non-processed foods and working to change laws, we also urge protest. This May 25, nearly 300 protests are being held all over the world against Monsanto in the March Against Monsanto organized by Occupy Monsanto. Join these protests.

As it is with many other issues, the future of the world’s food supply boils down to the people vs. concentrated wealth and corporate power. It highlights the corruption of government and the need for a real democracy in which people are allowed to make choices for themselves on basic issues like what kind of food they eat and what kind of plants they want to grow. Popular resistance to concentrated wealth is growing as more people demand the right to control their own lives.

You can learn more and hear our interview with Ronnie Cummins, Patty Lovera and Adam Eidinger, “Reasons to Protest Monsanto” at Clearing The FOG

This article was first published on Truthout

Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-host ClearingtheFOGRadio.org on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media, co-direct It’s Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC. Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.

On the Road to Damascus: An Eyewitness Report

May 22nd, 2013 by Antonio C. S. Rosa

I participated, May 1-11, 2013 in the Mussalaha International Peace Delegation to Lebanon-Syria alongside fellow TRANSCEND member Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, from Ireland, and 15 others from eight countries. Keenly aware of my responsibility, especially to my newly made Syrian and Lebanese friends left behind, I shall try to report, describe, make sense of what I saw, heard and experienced; also offer views and insights based on interviews. However, this report will take more than one article.

First impressions first: the people, the civil society, women, men, the youth, elderly, children, workers, the Arab street, as it is called. It was disconcerting coming into the country for the first time knowing what I thought I knew and seeing a calm, positive demeanor in people, which could well be misconstrued as apathy, yet exhibiting expectant, concerned, awaiting eyes and facial expressions. After some time I noticed a striking absence of anger or negative excitement in the air; people going about their daily business as if nothing was happening, as if life were normal. No cries for revenge against their many external aggressors, no fists in the air, no demonstrations against a dictator, no pleading or denouncing slips of paper passed to me surreptitiously by nervous, fearful hands. Eye contacts revealed seriousness, curiosity, kindness, hope, hospitality, happiness in seeing strangers. No public laughs or smiles though. Heavy hearts do not allow for such frivolities. Syrian people are suffering, they are sad, stuck, against the wall, being victimized for which they bear no responsibility. They just don’t know why they are being threatened, attacked, killed, tortured, and humiliated so viciously from so many fronts. The concept of proxy war is alien to them even though they are at its core. Fear of violence can be more psychologically and emotionally damaging than the real thing. Understandably, they are afraid of talking in public and being later identified and targeted by jihadists.

But then again, that is always the case, isn’t? Who cares about unimportant people when so many more pressing factors are in play? Like the obscene profits made by the oil multinationals, the 7 sisters cartel, and the preservation of wasteful lifestyles of peoples from richer, more powerful nations that need –and will take by any means necessary– the oil that Syrians at this juncture unfortunately have underneath their feet?

Disconcerting as well was to find a country bursting with activity and life, children in playgrounds or walking to school in their uniforms, open air markets filled with people, heavy traffic, buses running, life happening in and around Damascus. Disconcerting because I had psyched myself to find a country in ruins, people fleeing for their lives from bombs, tanks on the streets, a police state massacring its own citizens, large scale suffering, buildings demolished, people resisting the government by force, and so on. Yet, I saw none of the above; quite the opposite. But you will forgive my ignorance, for I am a Westerner and that is what we hear, watch and read in our corporate media, which without a pinch of shame, honesty or humanity tell us half truths, innuendoes, straight lies, and party-line talking-points uttered by talking heads about what is happening on this part of the world. And I stand guilty of believing them like a fool. Nonetheless, the country has been as if divided by checkpoints in every strategic entrance and exit. To give an idea, our Damascus hotel was surrounded by six different checkpoints strategically located around it. Armed personnel and soldiers on the streets is a common sight that adds to a sense of security.

Mairead and Mother Agnès-Maryam Soeur (our leaders) met privately with Syrian armed fighters and we were introduced to some persons victimized by their atrocities. Audiences included: Syrian Prime Minister Mr. Wael Al Halki, Deputy PM and Minister of Economic Affairs Mr. Qadri Jameel (opposition), Minister of Health Dr. Saed Anayef, Minister of Social Affairs Ms. Kinda Al-Shammat (a pleasant and intelligent young lady), Minister of Justice Dr. Najem Hamad Al-Ahmad, Minister of Information Mr. Omran Ahed Al-Zouabi, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Walid Muallem, the Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Mr. Ali Abd Karim Ali, the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, and General Michael Aoun, an influential Lebanese party leader (who is rumored to discriminate against Palestinian refugees).

We visited the People’s Council of Syria (parliament), hospitals, refugee camps, were briefed by senior field coordinator Maeve Murphy at the UNHCR intake center in Zahleh-Lebanon, and met with a representative of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and with ambulance drivers and health workers. We were also welcomed by some ten leaders from various religions, sects and faiths, were greeted in churches and mosques, and I talked with common folks every time an opportunity presented in shops and in the streets. I talked with an active member of the political opposition to the present regime. He was in prison for 24 years, released 11 years ago, and wants changes—but without outside interference as he told to me textually. The 71 year-old kind and intelligent gentleman who declined to give his name also told me he did not marry and have children because he was in prison, and he was ashamed of that.

ACTORS AND PARTIES TO THE CONFLICT

A deeper contextual assessment and analysis within a peace studies/conflict resolution paradigm would require more time and research into the complexities of the conflicts (in the plural) vis-à-vis the newest perceptions, facts and evidences acquired herein; the majority of actors are not evident whereas the main, deadliest ones are shielded by ‘deniability.’ However, they are all known—and very active. Of one thing you may rest assured: Bashar al-Assad is not the sole culprit, THE bad guy in this saga. He is a well liked leader all over, which is evident in different cities, in talks with differing kinds of persons, and by their attitudes and actions. Body languages, eye contacts, non-verbal messages work wonders in bringing hidden messages to the surface. Billboards with his picture are spread throughout the land and they are clean, well preserved. One does not see graffiti over them, obscenities or anything like that. Syrians in general show pride in having a handsome leader, an eye doctor who is not a sanguinary dictator like Saddam Hussein was. I would assume that in the present context even those who oppose him are on his side to defend Syria’s integrity as a functioning society.

Quoting Johan Galtung [i]: “An image of the goals of some outside parties:

  • Israel: wants Syria divided in smaller parts, detached from Iran, status quo for Golan Heights, and a new map for the Middle East;
  • USA: wants what Israel wants and control over oil, gas, pipelines;
  • UK: wants what USA wants;
  • France: co-responsible with the UK for post-Ottoman colonization in the area, wants confirmed friendship France-Syria;
  • Russia: wants a naval base in the Mediterranean, and an “ally”;
  • China: wants what Russia wants;
  • EU: wants both what Israel-USA want and what France wants;
  • Iran: wants Shia power;
  • Iraq: majority Shia, wants what Iran wants;
  • Lebanon: wants to know what it wants;
  • Saudi-Arabia: wants Sunni power;
  • Egypt: wants to emerge as the conflict-manager;
  • Qatar: wants the same as Saudi Arabia and Egypt;
  • Gulf States: want what USA-UK want;
  • The Arab League: wants no repetition of Libya, tries human rights;
  • Turkey: wants to assert itself relative to the (Israel-USA) successors to the (France-UK-Italy) successors to the Ottoman Empire, and a buffer zone in Syria.
  • UN: wants to emerge as the conflict manager.

Every single statement here can be challenged and challenged again.  But let us for the sake of the mental experiment assume that this image, with 16 outside and five inside parties, is more right than wrong.”

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs, Mr. Kadri Jameel, is a Communist Kurd elected on the opposition party platform. He came to talk to the delegation at the 5-star hotel where we stayed in Damascus. He affirmed that his electoral victory represented a foot on the door for further changes, which envisioned a multiparty political system. I talked with four members of his security detail. One of them, 26, showed me his wound: a bullet entered through his backside and exited through his neck, which had been broken as he was attacked by foreign fighters coming from Turkey at a Palestinian refugee camp in Latakia on Aug, 2011 when he was still in the army. Although army officers, they guard the leader of the opposition. I was told by them that these armed gangs of trouble makers target especially the minorities (Druze, Christians, Shia) in hopes that they turn against the government.

As the government moves to a multi-party system, a non-territorial federation with two chambers, one for provinces and the other for nations, with vetoes in matters of vital concern might be useful.” [ii]

In addition, as much as I tried, no one leader could or would answer my two basic questions: What is the source of this conflict? What are the solutions? Perhaps it was so because all our audiences, meetings, visits, and so forth were made in groups: our delegation, composed of 16 invitees from seven countries, our hosts, the press (which at times stole the whole show all for themselves), plus the heavily armed security around us everywhere around the clock, sometimes annoyingly so. Thus no conversations or even follow-up questions were ever entertained. But I got a generalized reply based and around a single theme: “The violence must stop!” Moreover, few of the leaders spoke English. Thus a lot of our ‘conversations’ was lost or truncated in the interpreting process. What stands out is that almost all of the various leaders and people in general seem to agree that the major, perhaps only problem facing the country is the (contained) violence and threat thereof. Not could be farther from the truth, though. So I will stay more at the surface in this overview of our visit.

Galtung’s bird’s eye view of the situation (in Syria, TMS 29 Apr 2013): “Over this looms a dark cloud: Syria is in the zone between Israel-USA-NATO and Shanghai Cooperation Organization-SCO [Russia-China], both expanding.

“Then, an image of the goals of some inside parties:

  • Alawis (15%): want to remain in power, “for the best of all” (Assad’s power base);
  • Shias in general: want the same;
  • Sunnis: want majority rule, their rule, democracy;
  • Jews, Christians, minorities: want security, fearing Sunni rule;
  • Kurds: want high level autonomy, some community with other Kurds.”

However, Susan Dirgham, a delegate from Australia, offers a qualification:

“Much of the propaganda in Australia that leads to young Sunni Lebanese Australians to go to Syria for jihad relies on claims that in Syria you have an Alawi minority suppressing a Sunni majority. My understanding is that most of the ministers are in fact Sunni and the business elite with the economic power in Syria is also mostly Sunni. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Ministers_(Syria):

“The Information Minister, Dr Al-Zouabi, is Sunni (not Alawi, as claimed).

“The Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, is Sunni (not Greek Orthodox, as claimed).

“The Deputy PM and Minister for Economic Affairs Qadri Jamil is Kurdish, as stated, and Communist (not Alawi as claimed).

“It is interesting that the religion of the Minister for Social Affairs Ms. Kinda Al-Shammat is not listed though one would assume she is Sunni because of her white hijab and the way she wears it.”

REFUGEES

The Syrian state and its population are being indirectly attacked by US/EU/NATO/UN; and directly by Israel,  HERE and also HERE, by the autocratic dictatorships of the GCC-Gulf Cooperation Council: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, UAE (mostly Sunni Muslims) in partnership with Turkey (secular), and by Al Qaeda plus a diversity of mercenary jihadists (by definition terrorist groups), each with its own agenda, recruited from 29 countries and paid by GCC/CIA. Syrians are also assailed by UN sanctions and an embargo, and by a foreign press bent on demonizing, lying, destabilizing the country (not merely the regime). The mercenaries fight among themselves to grab the moneys channeled from the CIA and other American institutions via GCC and/or Turkey. Weapons enter Syria hidden in Turkish ambulances posing as such. US cash provides weapons and logistics, fund mercenaries, pay for jihadists. Bands of jihadists armed to the teeth invade Syria through Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon (Tripoli). Turkey opened its Syrian borders to them and, through terror, they displace the populations forcing them to take refuge back in Turkey in an effort to destabilize Syria. Turkey, in fact, invites Syrian refugees into the country. It is documented that Syrian refugees in Turkey are mistreated, have their organs removed (stolen), children sold for forced marriage or else. There are an estimated 50,000 foreign jihadist fighters terrorizing Syria’s countryside: snipers, bombers, agitators. They torture and kill men who refuse to join them. In their religious fundamentalism they believe that any Muslim they kill will automatically and immediately achieve paradise; they are actually doing them a favor (!). There is a score of young Europeans on their ranks as well (Germans, Dutch, British, Australians).

We visited and talked with a chief of family, refugee in Lebanon and saw twenty people living in a space roughly 6×6 without ventilation, a room inside a warehouse, for which they pay the equivalent of 400 dollar/month. One filthy kitchen, one bathroom. And that is that. They are on their own to find work and everything else. Some resort to stealing and committing petty crimes to survive.  This is typical, not an exception. And he explained that in his native Homs jihadists take over their houses, rape their women, and kill young males who refuse to join their ranks. Chechens, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Lebanese, Jordanians, Turkish, Europeans compose these gangs armed, fed and maintained by the above mentioned foreign governments. He said they attach suicide vests around peoples’ bodies and threaten to explode them if they don’t do what they are told. Underneath a rather dignified posture, he was scared, terrorized. Yet we kept hearing the same mantra over and over: “I want to go back home, I don’t belong here.” It was truly heartbreaking, and I felt helpless in the face of it. Bearing witness we were.

In one of the refugee camps we visited in Lebanon (more aptly called a concentration camp) we talked with a couple from Homs–he being a pharmacist and engineer–who had their house and business blown up due to terrorist activities. Now they live by charity in the Bekaa Valley-Lebanon, under a tent and with nothing but the clothes over their bodies. They are not allowed to work, own property, have a dignified life. There is no sanitation and there are check points with armed soldiers at the gates. Multiply this by about 1.5 million and you will have an approximate dimension of the human tragedy. We visited the Sabra Palestinian refugee camp as well, of the infamous Sabra-Shatila massacre by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in September 1982, on the outskirts of Beirut. In addition we toured the UN High Commission for Refugees intake center in Zahleh, Lebanon, next to Bekaa valley and were briefed by Maeve Murphy, UNHCR senior field coordinator. She said that there is a staff of 50 workers to deal with an influx of 1,500 refugees a day.

This is how it works, according to Prime Minister Wael Al Halki himself, with whom we spent 2.5 hours and with him doing most of the talk to explain in detail and with statistics and evidences what is really happening for the last two years. Jihadists take a village by assault, kill public officials, take over private houses in which to hide, burn plantations, spread terror and devastation. Their aim is simple: to render the country as ungovernable as they possibly can, disrupt normal life, destroy institutions, livestock, people. They occupy hospitals forcing medical personnel to look only after foreign fighters, not allowing wounded locals or government soldiers to be treated. This has created a wave of refugees from a total population of 21.9 million. Internal displacement is calculated at 1.5 million people. And 600,000 external refugees according to the Minister of Social Affairs, Ms Kinda Al-Shammat (estimate). But the UNHCR provides an official estimate of 1.5 million refugees spread over the different neighboring countries as follows:

- Jordan: 471.677;

- Lebanon: 469.217;

- Turkey: 347.157;

- Iraq: 146.951;

- Egypt: 66.922.

GOVERNMENT RETALIATION

Syrian authorities on the other hand reacted to the rampant and aggressive terrorism through a policy they call ‘iron hand.’ Tanks, artillery and infantry descend in force on the places that foreign fighters keep under siege and blow up the buildings where they hide, keep armaments and snipers. However, before striking the buildings fliers are thrown from helicopters advising residents to leave the area, what is not always possible because the terrorists use them as human shields, keeping them under captivity inside their own residences. Collateral damage is high, it is a policy many consider unacceptable. But given the odds he said it is the best alternative. And this method, as brutal as it is, is bearing fruits as the terrorists are being decimated or otherwise driven farther and farther from populated areas. The minister of justice said textually: “Those who invade us to kill and destroy our country will not leave Syria alive.” But the jihadists still occupy and keep under siege many localities. If compared to the US retaliation to the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center, killing millions, invading other countries, and lingering still 12 years later through drone attacks and selective assassinations, such ‘iron hand’ policies are mild (without condoning the violence, that is). Those are, therefore, the demolished buildings shown ad nauseam and out of context, over and over on CNN, BBC, FOX and the rest of them.

According to Paul Larudee, a delegate from the USA:

“Most of the men and some of the women do not want to be photographed, but the children don’t mind.  Several people from Qusayr, a town on the Lebanese border said that when the demonstrations first began two years ago, they were nonviolent and the local officials would even clear the roads for them.  However, as they became more violent, the central government failed to act and the town was eventually overrun by armed local elements and foreign fighters from Chechnya, Azerbaijan and other places.  It was only after the population fled that Syrian troops finally came to quell the rebellion, which has apparently not yet been fully accomplished. I have no way to assess the accuracy of these stories, nor to generalize them, but at least my modest Arabic skills allow me to strike up conversations with whomever I want, and there are no government minders in Lebanon.  Nevertheless, we all want to meet with groups that have a very different story to tell, and Mother Agnès-Maryam has included such opportunities in our schedule, even Jabhat al-Nusrah, the al-Qaeda affiliate, with whom none of us expected to be able to speak.”

There is also the case of a boy shot by snipers in a street and whose body was whisked away by photographers who then made a video of his death; of his dying actually, fleeing afterwards and leaving the corpse behind. Medical personnel said afterwards that he could have been saved if taken to a hospital instead of to the killing fields’ improvised TV studio. The result of such filth is sold to TV networks for your and my robotized consumption. Yet as the PM asserted, the workers are being paid on time, schools, universities, public offices continue operating, and the government is able to maintain a somewhat normal life under such extenuating circumstances. As we toured the city or participated in meetings, we would hear loud booms at a distance, sometimes seeing clouds of black smoke rising from the bombed sites, or else, sounds of gun fights. We taped some of these with our cell phones. ‘Necessary evil,’ I was told, as I asked a gentleman in a restaurant, what he thought about such retaliatory bombings. People in fact don’t pay much attention to them. The UN says nearly 70,000 people have been killed since the foreign fighters entered the country and started the armed conflict in March 2011.

Another important point made by delegate Susan Dirgham:

“I don’t remember anyone we met supporting an arms embargo against the state.  We were reminded by the Melkite Patriarch that the selling of arms to the state is legal.  If it were stopped, the enemies of Syria would surely win.  I think what united everyone I met in Damascus was support for the state + dialogue.  This view was shared by people from different backgrounds and by those who supported the president and the current government and those who didn’t, such as the members of the “Third Current” I spoke with.  They may not have supported some of the tactics of the army or security etc, but they supported the right for Syria to defend itself from outside aggression and to remain in a position where it can defend its people and territory.  It seems as though we are being balanced and peace-loving when we support an arms embargo on both sides, but actually to support an embargo against Syria without also supporting the same for all countries in the region, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc. would not be helpful. Syria would collapse and be destroyed by its enemies if its army didn’t have the military hardware to defend the people and country, firstly against the 50,000 foreign jihadists/mercenaries, etc. and then against the states that work to destroy and dismember it.”

On one occasion an IED-Improvised Explosive Device exploded about 10 minutes after our delegation had left the Patriarchate of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (our hosts throughout), where we had attended an ecumenical prayer for peace. I was shown photos immediately after, sent by cell phone, of blood on the floor from people killed and injured from the attack. Such is life in Damascus to which, after a short 10-day visit, we were getting somewhat used to. Understanding drives away outrage and harsh judgmental assumptions and conclusions. Mairead Maguire, who talked in private with four Syrian armed combatants, said they told her they took up arms against the government because they were unemployed; one of them with five children. Al Qaida offered them money. They took the offer and started killing fellow Syrians. Moreover, three shots were fired against the car of the leader/organizer of the peace mission, Mother Agnès-Mariam Soeur, a Melkite nun, on Sat. May 11, 2013 as she traveled to her native Homs, the hotspot city where her monastery was destroyed by terrorist activities.

Delegate Paul Larudee reports:

“There was the celebrated case of a nine-year-old Christian boy named Sari Saoud, killed by rebels in Homs.  His body was taken by the rebels, but his mother, Georgina al-Jammal caught up with them, and her embrace of her dead son was captured on video by the rebels, who then falsified the account to make it appear that the boy had been killed by government forces.

I talked with Georgina, who supports the government, but blames it for leaving the area without protection. She told me that she recognized some of the rebels from the neighborhood, but that others were strangers.”

CONCLUSION

A positive note: we were gifted with a VIP visit to the famous Umayyad Mosque in the old city of Damascus, fourth-holiest place after Mecca, where is located the tomb and shrine of St John the Baptist right at the center of the huge 4,000 year-old construction that had previously been a temple of Jupiter in Roman times and the Basilica of Saint John the Baptist. This mosque is at the end of the famous Road to Damascus, of St Paul’s conversion, which we walked by foot seeing the exact spot of the event. Upon exiting the mosque complex one could see another building erected by Saladin (1174–1193), also buried in Umayyad. This was just one of many fascinating experiences afforded us by our hosts being demonized and targeted for invasion and occupation by the West. They are understandably worried that invading marines wouldn’t have what it takes to appreciate such a wealth of history, art, religious traditions, faiths, civilization, and would most probably raze it to the ground as they have done elsewhere in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan. Right they are. We were hosted by the head of Umayyad, the Grand Mufti of the Syrian Arab republic, Dr. Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun and by the Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham, who organized and hosted our whole trip along with Mussalaha.

We arrived in Lebanon during the holy week of the Eastern Orthodox Churches and spent their Easter Sunday (5 May) as guests of one of the many Christianities of the Middle East, where it all began. An added treat.

The Mussalaha International Peace Delegation to Syria issued a Concluding Declaration. Being from varying backgrounds, delegates did not agree on everything and one of them did not sign it. Therefore: no groupthink and no possibility of collective brainwashing of our group by Syrian authorities. And Mairead Maguire’s messages to the media, as the Nobel Peace laureate head of the delegation, remained impeccable and on point. She started all interviews with affirmations to the effect that,

“It is for the Syrian people to decide about their own problems, their own destiny, their own politics, their own leadership and form of government. No one has de right to interfere in their internal affairs and all foreign forces must withdraw and stay away. The flow of arms and armed fighters must be stopped, sanctions must be lifted, and if the arms embargo should remain in place, it ought to all parties involved, not just to the Syrian government that has a right to defend itself from foreign aggression. Are the foreign bands of invaders that are killing and terrorizing the population. All parties must follow the rules of international law.”

I find it disgraceful that our Western governments, led by US-EU-Israel and their client states, be full and willing partners in such atrocities perpetrated in name of ‘human rights,” “democracy,” “rule of law,” “freedom,” “liberty,” and other such meaningless, trivialized euphemisms. The present political and economic structures, embedded in the machinery of predatory militarism and capitalism, present us with only one choice, the lesser evil; but that is an artificial construct. Gandhi, Mandela, Luther King, Lula and many others are proof that changes and transformation are envisioned, given form and arise from below, from the ranks of the oppressed and minorities, from a non co-opted periphery, and not from within the belly of an empire of banks and bases seeking unlimited profits and hegemonic powers—for their own sake. Policies must again be made to endeavor the wellbeing of human beings, of life, not the perpetuation of structures and cultures that by necessity have to go. At other times in history piracy, slavery and absolute monarchy, for instance, also represented the status quo, the law; but they are no more. Nonviolent resistance and actions throughout the cultural-structural apparatus are the means to turn this tide, which is taking our planet and all its life to the abyss. We must choose life and peace by peaceful means, resist we must; and we will!

The formula is given by Galtung: Equity, Harmony, Trauma Reconciliation, Conflict Resolution:

                            + Positive Peace              Equity X Harmony

      Peace  =   ________________  =  _________________

                            – Negative Peace              Trauma X Conflict

 “For Syria, what comes to mind is a Swiss solution.  One Syria, federal, with local autonomy, even down to the village level, with Sunnis, Shias and Kurds having relations to their own across the borders.  International peacekeeping, also for the protection of minorities.  And non-aligned, which rules out foreign bases and flows of arms, but does not rule out compulsory arbitration for the Golan Heights (and June 1967 in general), with Israeli UN membership at stake. The search could be for solutions, not for the solution.  Let 1,000 dialogues blossom, in each quarter, each village, enriching the gross national idea product, GNIP.  UN-supported facilitators, with knowledge of mediation, rather than with guns and binoculars.” [iii]

Like Paul meeting the angel Ananias on his way to Damascus experienced a change of heart and became St Paul, so have I met many angels on my own Road to Damascus and, although not gone into sainthood, I have reinterpreted and upgraded my own vision of reality—which I now share with you.



[i] Johan Galtung, Syria, TRANSCEND Media Service, 29 April, 2013.

[ii] Galtung, Turkey-Cyprus-Kurds-Armenia-SYRIA, 15 Oct, 2012, TRANSCEND Media Service.

[iii] Galtung, Syria, TRANSCEND Media Service, 29 April, 2013.

____________________________

Antonio Carlos Silva Rosa is the editor of the Peace Journalism website, TRANSCEND Media Service, and the Eurolatina Convener for the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. He has a Masters (Ph.D. incomplete) in Political Science-Peace Studies from the University of Hawaii, is originally from Brazil, and presently lives in Porto, Portugal. He was educated in the USA, where he lived for 20 years, and lives in Europe for the last 20.

In April, the EU’s anti-terror chief Gilles de Kerchove told the British media that some 500 Europeans were in Syria to fight against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has said that a number of German nationals have teamed up with the foreign-backed militants in Syria.

In an exclusive interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel weekly magazine, Friedrich officially confirmed for the first time that there were German-born gunmen inside Syria fighting against the government.Friedrich particularly expressed concern about calls for those Europeans who have been trained in battle inside Syria.German officials say that 20 German nationals are currently fighting in Syria. Some have reportedly even taken their wives there and live directly on the frontlines of battle.

Unrest has gripped Syria for over two years. The file photo shows militants in Syria.

A recently published study reveals that between 2,000 and 5,500 foreign nationals are active in Syria. Senior counter-terrorism officials within the European Union have stated that at least 500 of those nationals come from the EU countries.

Pan-European police force Europol said in its annual EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report released on April 25 that Syria was the “destination of choice for foreign fighters in 2012.”

The report cited the risk that the foreign fighters pose on Europe – after their return – through using new training and knowledge that they acquired in Syria for conducting terrorist activities.

“The threat from terrorism… remains strong in Europe. It also continues to evolve from structured groups and networks to smaller EU-based groups and solo terrorists or lone actors,” the report said.

Europe has seen a rise in the number of its citizens entering Syria as ‘jihadists.’

On April 24, EU’s anti-terror chief Gilles de Kerchove told the British media that some 500 Europeans were in Syria to fight against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Kerchove said Britain, Ireland and France were among the EU countries to have the highest numbers of militants in Syria.

Unrest has gripped Syria for over two years and the Syrian government maintains that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country.

We noted even before the TARP bailout law was signed into law that bailout moneys could flow to foreign banks.

We were right. A large percentage of the bailouts went to foreign banks (and see this). And so did a huge portion of the money from quantitative easing. More here and here.

Ron Paul noted in 2011 that essentially 100% of New York Federal Reserve Bank loans went to foreign banks.

A former high-level Federal Reserve official said that the Fed is secretly bailing out Europe.

The Fed has bailed out Gaddafi’s Libyan bank, the Arab Banking Corporation of Bahrain, and the banks of Bavaria, Korea and Mexico … but has shafted normal Americans.

The Financial Times reported in February:

Foreign banks also have a striking amount of cash at the Fed, potentially aggravating the Fed’s PR problem. Analysts at Stone & McCarthy noted recently that there had been a steep increase in foreign banks placing reserves at the Fed and suggested that “US banks may have distaste for the opportunistic arbitrage”, between lower market rates and the interest on reserves, whereas overseas institutions “might not feel encumbered in the same fashion”.

Canada’s TD Bank, Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Switzerland’s UBS each have more than $12bn at the Fed.

Yesterday, Zero Hedge provided an update to this story.  ZH reports that the Fed’s quantitative easing program has injected huge sums into foreign banks:

The latest H.8 report demonstrates, as of the most recently weekly data, the Fed’s policies have led to foreign banks operating in the US holding an all time high amount of reserves, surpassing $1 trillion for the first time, or $1,033 billion to be precise.

This means that, as we expected several months ago, the only recipient of ongoing Fed money printing are not US banks, but foreign banks operating in the US. For those confused about the big picture, here is a chart showing the breakdown of cash held by big and small US banks as well as foreign banks, superimposed to total reserves created by the Fed since the start of the Great Financial Crisis. The correlation is 100%.

And just to prove that ALL the unsterilized cash from both QE2 and QEternity has essentially gone to support offshore banks, here is the conclusive chart showing the change in Fed reserves and cash held by foreign banks:

Finally, tying it all together, here is chart showing cash at US banks vs cash at foreign banks operating in the US. At $1.03 trillion in foreign cash, the Fed’s policies have once again led to more cash being held by foreign banks than all cash held by domestic banks.

We are confident that we speak for all when we say: “Thank you Ben – insolvent foreign banks appreciate your ongoing QE2 and QEternity-funded generosity

In a separate report, ZH notes that Bank of Korea Governor Kim Choong-soo said:

World may face rate risk if U.S. exits from QE

Too bad that quantitative easing doesn’t help Main Street or the average American. It only helps big banks, giant corporations, and big investors. And by causing food and gas prices skyrocket, it takes a bigger bite out of the little guy’s paycheck, and thus makes the poor even poorer.

And it’s a shame that a study of 124 banking crises by the International Monetary Fund found that bailing out banks which are only pretending to be solvent  – like most of the big banksharms the economy.

And what a farce that:

The bailout money is just going to line the pockets of the wealthy, instead of helping to stabilize the economy or even the companies receiving the bailouts:

  • A lot of the bailout money is going to the failing companies’ shareholders
  • Indeed, a leading progressive economist says that the true purpose of the bank rescue plans is “a massive redistribution of wealth to the bank shareholders and their top executives”
  • The Treasury Department encouraged banks to use the bailout money to buy their competitors, and pushed through an amendment to the tax laws which rewards mergers in the banking industry (this has caused a lot of companies to bite off more than they can chew, destabilizing the acquiring companies)

Goal Reached: Time to Restart the Economy

May 22nd, 2013 by Kevin Zeese

Finally – it’s over.  The goal of Simpson and Bowles has been met, the deficit is shrinking rapidly. And the intellectual underpinning for deficit reduction, based on the study by Rogoff and Reinhart, has been destroyed.

Phew! Glad that is behind us. Now, can we actually try to fix the economy?

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report that shows a rapid decline in the deficit, $203 billion has been cut from the deficit making it the smallest since 2008. And they project that by 2015, the deficit will be under $400 billion, less than one-third of the $1.4 trillion deficit Bush left when Obama took office and only 2.1% of the GDP. We agree with political economy writer Doug Henwood’s conclusion: “there’s no way any honest analyst could read them [the CBO report] as anything but the official end to any rational concern about red ink.”

Dave Johnson writes that since now we’ve reached the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction goal of 2.3% ratio of deficit to GDP, we can focus on the real problems – the job gap, the wage gap and the trade gap.  Unlike the deficit problem, which was always more imagined than real, these are very real problems that DC should address as it restarts its economic planning. Johnson summarizes that the real economic problem we face is, at its roots, due to jobs lost to the trade deficit, writing:

“The economy can’t recover until housing recovers. Housing can’t recover until people can afford to buy houses. People can’t afford to buy houses until they can get jobs, and those with jobs can’t afford to buy houses until wages go up. Wages can’t go up until the trade problem is fixed. And the trade problem is killing jobs.”

Let’s look at Johnson’s statement more closely. With jobs at the center of the problem, one thing that must be rethought is the sequestration. The CBO estimates sequestration will cost around 750,000 jobs in total, and forecasters think it could reduce economic growth by half a percentage point this year. In fact, the economy is adding very few jobs, floundering with just enough to keep with the growth of the workforce. The federal government has shed 8,000 jobs.

Let’s look at housing.  There has been a lot of excitement in news reports about housing in the last two weeks because prices are going up, but in reality the housing market “recovery” is a complete hoax. What is really happening is that the Federal Reserve’s very low interest rates are allowing investors to borrow money cheaply and invest in buying low-priced houses.  In addition, banks have kept 7 million houses in foreclosure off the market in order to create housing scarcity, resulting in a rise in prices.  Of course, actual families who have lost wealth and income and cannot borrow easily are unable to buy. The fake housing recovery is another way the wealthy are stealing wealth from the rest of us.

Much is the same with the stock market – the Fed’s cheap money is very likely letting the wealthy borrow money to invest.   When we look at the underlying realities of the economy – unemployment, lower income and less wealth for most Americans, high trade deficits and a government going in the wrong direction – there are no reasons for investors to be confident. But because the Fed is pumping $85 billion of newly created money into the big banks each month, there is money to invest. For some elites, the money is being used to buy up company stock in order to pump up its value. The game of chicken is – how long can they stay in this bubble before it bursts?

When it comes to trade, rather than learning the lessons from the last 20 years of corporate trade agreements – agreements that have resulted in a massive trade deficit and are a key factor in loss of jobs – President Obama is aggressively pushing more of the same,  indeed, even bigger versions of NAFTA-like agreements.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) promise to give more power to transnational corporations. Actually, they will make corporations more powerful than governments.  The only way the agreements will pass is if Fast Track, now called Trade Promotion Authority, is brought back from the dead.  Why? Because these trade agreements are very unpopular. People know these agreements threaten our sovereignty, empower Wall Street, pharmaceuticals and insurance companies at the expense of people, threaten a free and open Internet, and will undermine the environment, labor and consumer rights. For more on all of this see FlushTheTPP.org.

Related to trade is the State Department becoming a marketer of genetically modified seeds. Food and Water Watch reports that: “The U.S. State Department has launched a concerted strategy to promote agricultural biotechnology, often over the opposition of the public and governments, to the near exclusion of other more sustainable, more appropriate agricultural policy alternatives.” Our weekly Wednesday column in TruthOut goes into greater depth on Monsanto and related issues.  The good news is there is a growing revolt by people all over the world.  Demonstrations are planned for May 25 in 41 countries and nearly 300 cities by Occupy Monsanto.

How is the real economy looking?  Well, in China it is looking good.  A recent economic survey found that China was the “world’s most financially secure country.”  Their people are faring much better because “only 3 percent of Chinese households are financially vulnerable, whereas the same figure for Germany is 22 percent and 26 percent for France.” In the United States, two-thirds of Americans cannot handle a $1,000 surprise expenditure and most live paycheck to paycheck.

Another snapshot of spreading poverty in the U.S. came out this week in a report that found more of the poor in the United States now live in suburbs than in urban areas. The number of poor people living in suburbs surged 67% between 2000 and 2011. Why? The housing collapse destroyed their wealth, the job collapse resulted in lost jobs or lower incomes, and urban gentrification pushed poor people toward cheaper housing. Suburban wealth is a myth, now the reality is growing suburban poverty.

And, a college job is no guarantee of economic success. A survey of recent college graduates found that 42% currently have jobs that do not require a four-year degree.  A majority of those with jobs are underemployed working in retail or restaurant employment. This is part of the “Gradocracy” Sam Smith describes – too many degrees and not enough jobs.  The students, who are leaving school with record tuition debt, are in sharp contrast with a report this week on the pay of public university presidents.  There are now several presidents making over $1 million a year, a big increase in those making over $600,000 and the mean is $441,392.  All this while tuition rises and puts students who will go into a lousy job market deep in debt.

Smith ends his discussion of the Gradocracy pointing out that “We must not only condemn the worst, but offer witness for the better. And create places in which to live it.” That is similar to what we recommend — proceed on two tracks: protest what we do not like and build what we want.  We continue to see evidence of people building the new economy they want.

You might remember several years ago when 250 workers were laid off by a company called Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago; they arranged a sit-in to protest violations against their union agreements. The second time it happened, they decided to purchase the now-bankrupt company and operate it themselves. The new company has now opened for business as a worker-owned co-operative called New Era Windows, which opens for business today. They stopped the machine and created a new world.

In order to help solve our energy, environmental and health crises, the United States needs to shift to walkable, bike-able communities. Continued reliance on automobiles with their extreme use of oil and gas, as well as pollution of the air and water, will ensure the wasteful and unhealthy American Way Of Life (AWOL).  In September 2010, Washington, DC began the first large bike sharing program in the U.S. (Tulsa was first with a small program of two dozen bikes in 2007.) The twin cities in Minnesota and Denver also began in 2010.  This year 22 cities have bike-share programs, and next year that number is likely to double. Lots of experimentation is happening around the country.

Studies are finding that bike-shares create an economic boost, “Each ride in the Twin Cities’ Nice Ride system was found to bring $7–14 to the local economy. Forty-four percent of Capital Bikeshare riders surveyed used bike share to make a trip they otherwise would have skipped, largely for entertainment, socializing, and dining out.” The U.S. Conference of Mayors, representing more than 1,300 cities across the country, noted at its 2012 meeting that “communities that have invested in pedestrian and bicycle projects have benefited from improved quality of life, a healthier population, greater local real estate values, more local travel choices, and reduced air pollution.”

We’re also starting to see states and countries standing up to big oil as communities begin to understand how they may become a “sacrifice zone” in the interests of big oil and gas.  In the United States, Texas joined with other Gulf States to sue BP oil and Halliburton over the oil spill that did so much damage to the Gulf of Mexico and the economies of those states. They claim the companies engaged in “wanton and willful misconduct” and violated state regulations.  And, the Europe Commission carried out unannounced raids on Shell, BP and other big oil companies as part of an investigation into price-rigging that could have been going on for a decade.

Maybe there is enough going on through protest, creating the economy we want and getting government to wake up and change course, that the nation can avoid the scenario described in this article of the U.S. becoming an impoverished country.  Now there is no need to cut essential services with extreme austerity, instead there is an opportunity to invest in a new, sustainable economy based on clean energy and to correct so much of the misdirection of the nation.

The people have awakened and are protesting what they do not like and building what they want. In DC this week, homeowners who have had their homes foreclosed upon through fraudulent practices, are occupying the Department of Justice and demanding that the banks be held accountable. Fast food workers have been striking all over the country, including a large surprise strike today in DC. And unemployed families are walking from Philadelphia to DC to demand green jobs.  Students and teachers in Philadelphia and Chicago are demanding their community schools stay open.  A popular resistance is brewing and we can expect it to build throughout the summer.

 This article is based on a weekly newsletter for ItsOurEconomy.us. To sign up for the free newsletter, click here.

Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-direct It’s Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC.  They co-host Clearing the FOG on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media. Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.

Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla died May 17 at the age of 87 as the result of injuries suffered from a fall in a prison shower. He was remembered as the head of a savage military dictatorship that between 1976 and 1983 murdered and “disappeared” some 30,000 Argentine workers, socialist militants, teachers, students and others perceived as “subversives,” while torturing at least 100,000 others. In his own country, newspapers that once backed his rule condemned him as a dictator and practitioner of state terror.

Yet one cannot help but suspect that within the military and intelligence apparatus in the US and Latin America—not to mention among the ruling financial interests that he served—the aged general’s passing has been mourned.

He was, after all, a pioneer in the “war on terrorism,” writing the textbook on methods of extra-constitutional rule, repression and state violence that have been largely embraced by ruling circles in Washington and elsewhere. Undoubtedly, there are those engaged in this line of work today who see him as something of a visionary.

Three days before his death, the ex-dictator appeared as the principal defendant before an Argentine court hearing charges relating to Operation Condor, a joint endeavor by Latin America’s ruling dictatorships of the 1970s to hunt down and murder one another’s opponents, wherever they might be found.

As in previous trials, Videla claimed a loss of memory about the events of that period, while unconditionally defending the actions taken by his regime and the military as necessary in an “anti-terrorist war.”

Operation Condor involved the combined efforts of military regimes in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, with indispensable logistical support and military aid from the Pentagon and the CIA.

It resulted in the abduction and murder of a number of individuals seen as opponents of the dictatorial regimes. This included the Washington, DC car bomb killing of Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean foreign minister in the Allende government, the assassinations of former Bolivian president Juan José Torres and former Uruguayan deputies Héctor Gutiérrez and Zelmar Michelini in Buenos Aires, and the assassinations of former Brazilian presidents Joao Goulart and Juscelino Kubitschek, whose deaths were made to appear, respectively, as a heart attack and a car accident.

In official US parlance, the methods employed under Condor are known as “rendition” and “targeted assassinations.” They would be well understood by today’s CIA and special operations personnel.

All of the Condor regimes were staffed by senior military personnel who had been trained at the Army’s School of the Americas in Panama and other US military facilities, and all of them had US military advisers, received substantial US military aid, and hosted well-staffed CIA stations.

Previously secret State Department documents make it clear that Washington understood Videla’s intentions from the beginning and fully supported them. One of these documents records an exchange between then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and his assistant secretary of state for Latin America, William Rogers, two days after Videla seized power.

Rogers told Kissinger that Washington must “expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood, in Argentina before too long. I think they’re going to have to come down not only on the terrorists but on the dissidents of trade unions and their parties.”

While Rogers suggested delaying official recognition of the junta out of public relations concerns, Kissinger ordered full US support. “Whatever chance they have,” he stressed, “they will need a little encouragement from us.”

Among those involved in implementing this policy in 1976 were Richard Cheney, then the White House chief of staff, and Donald Rumsfeld, who was defense secretary. Twenty five years later, both would reemerge as principal architects of the US “global war on terror.”

With Washington’s blessing, Videla and his fellow officers set about what they dubbed the “process of national reorganization,” or el proceso.

Among its first steps was the suspension of basic democratic rights, including habeas corpus guarantees against imprisonment without charges or trials. The dictatorship outlawed unions and political parties and disbanded the legislature. Strikes and protests were turned into grave crimes against “national security.”

A network of clandestine prisons was set up, including the notorious dungeons of ESMA (the Navy School of Mechanics), the army’s Campo de Mayo, and scores of others scattered across the country. There, detainees were subjected to vicious forms of torture, including beatings, electric shocks, prolonged submersion in foul water, forced denial of sleep, extreme temperature and noise, attacks by trained dogs, simulated executions and sexual torture and humiliation.

Virtually all of these methods came into common usage at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and CIA “black sites” across the globe a quarter of a century later.

After being subjected to torture, the great majority of the victims were murdered, many of them drugged, loaded onto military aircraft and dropped naked to drown in the Rio de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean.

The positive attitude of the US military toward the junta was reflected in an article appearing in the June 1978 edition of Parameters, the journal of the US Army War College, which noted approvingly that “General Jorge Rafael Videla, who heads Argentina’s military junta, has permitted the authorities to adopt more rigorous measures” against “terrorism.” It praised Videla as a “moderate committed to returning the country to democracy once the foundations have been established for stability.”

By this time, as one of the declassified State Department documents revealed, the official estimate of the number of Argentines murdered in this crusade for “stability” stood at 22,000.

Fully 40 percent of the junta’s victims were militant workers and union members. Torture centers were set up inside some of the country’s major factories, including a Ford auto plant. The Peronist union bureaucracy collaborated in this extermination campaign, helping to form death squads even before the military took power.

The repression had definite class and economic aims. The dictatorship managed to cut wages in half within its first year, reducing workers’ share of the national income from 48.5 percent to only 29 percent. Universal health care was abolished in favor of for-profit insurance companies, and other forms of social assistance were eliminated or drastically curtailed. In essence, the junta oversaw a vast transfer of social wealth from Argentine working people to the country’s ruling class, the transnational corporations and international finance capital.

This is not merely a matter of historical interest. Faced with the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the ruling establishments in the US and internationally are attempting to effect a similar transfer of social wealth today. And, under the mantle of a “war on terror”—the same justification given by Videla—the US government, beginning with the Bush administration and accelerating under Obama, has already put in place the legal and institutional framework for Argentine-style repression.

The Obama administration has arrogated to itself the power to subject US citizens to indefinite military detention without charges or trials, i.e., to conduct “disappearances.” A White House that regularly draws up “kill lists” for assassinations and massacres abroad has specified that it can order such killings of American citizens residing within the US itself if it deems them “terrorist” enemies of the state.

Those who look at the horrors of Argentina under Videla’s junta and think, “It can’t happen here,” are only fooling themselves.

Israeli and Syrian forces exchanged fire across the cease-fire line in the Golan Heights yesterday, amid rising US and Israeli threats of intervention in the US-led sectarian proxy war in Syria, which is rapidly spreading throughout the region.

Fighting in the Golan Heights started overnight when Syrian forces fired at an Israeli vehicle that allegedly crossed into Syrian territory. Israeli forces fired rockets into Syrian territory and claimed to have destroyed the source of Syrian fire.

The border fighting came only two days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to act “with determination” to prevent the transfer of arms from Syria to the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah. Hezbollah has now intervened in the Syrian war to support the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against the US-backed Sunni Islamist opposition.

Netanyahu’s statement was widely interpreted as an Israeli threat to mount further unprovoked air strikes on Syria.

Since Obama’s reelection last November and twice this month, Israeli forces have bombed targets in Syria. This month’s bombings, hitting Syrian army targets in the capital, Damascus, were timed to coincide with an offensive by the Sunni opposition on the city. This offensive has been thrown back and forced into retreat, however, due, in part, to the intervention of Hezbollah forces in areas of southern Syria adjacent to Lebanon.

The reversals suffered by the opposition point to the minimal support it has in the Syrian population.

There are now intensifying threats of war coming from Israel as well as calls in Washington and in European capitals for stepping up the flow of arms to opposition forces or directly intervening with air strikes or a ground invasion. Speaking yesterday at the University of Haifa, Israel Defense Forces head Lt. General Benny Gantz said: “We will not allow the Golan to become a comfortable space for Assad to operate from. If he escalates the situation on the Golan Heights, he will have to bear the consequences.”

He implied that war could break out at any time, noting that “a day doesn’t go by” without the risk of a “sudden uncontrollable deterioration.”

In Washington, senators Robert Menendez (Democrat of New Jersey) and Bob Corker (Republican of Tennessee) have submitted a bill titled “Syrian Transition Support Act.” It would authorize the Obama administration to “provide defense articles, defense services, and military training” to Syrian opposition forces.

The bill bluntly spells out broader strategic calculations underlying the proxy war in Syria. It notes, “A change of government in Syria could be a significant blow to the Government of Iran and Hizballah [Hezbollah], which would lose a strong ally.”

That is, the Syrian war is in line with US imperialism’s strategic interests: isolating Hezbollah, the main threat to Israeli military hegemony in the Near East, and Iran, the main obstacle to US hegemony in the entire Middle East and to US control of the region’s oil.

In its presentation of the war, the bill advances lies and evasions similar to those with which pseudo-left forces such as the International Socialist Organization in the US, France’s New Anti-capitalist Party and Germany’s Left Party have promoted the US-backed opposition. It proposes to support opposition forces that are “protecting human rights” and “protecting the Syrian population against sectarian violence and reprisals.”

In fact, Sunni opposition militias armed under CIA supervision with funds from Washington’s Middle East allies are waging a bloody sectarian war with terror bombings and massacres. This was even recognized partially by Washington, which declared one of the main opposition forces, the Al Nusra Front, a terrorist organization responsible for nearly 600 terror bombings in the period up to December 2012.

On Monday, a spokesman for the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) threatened a sectarian genocide of Shia Muslims—including the Alawite minority from which Assad’s family is drawn—in territory still held by the opposition, as it retreats in southern Syria.

He threatened that Shia communities would be “wiped off the map,” adding: “It’s going to be an open, sectarian, bloody war to the end.”

This comes a week after an opposition commander of the so-called “moderate” Farouq Brigade filmed himself desecrating the corpse of a Syrian soldier, cutting out his organs and biting into one of them. He also called for the killing of Alawites.

Washington, its allies, and its Sunni Islamist proxies fear, in particular, the loss of the town of Qusayr. This would cut supply lines connecting opposition fighters around Homs from the majority-Sunni port of Tripoli, in Lebanon, from which they receive weapons supplies. It would also open direct land routes connecting the Assad regime in Damascus to the Alawite heartland on Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

According to AFP, Hezbollah sources confirmed that they had sent “new elite troops to Qusayr.” The Syrian state daily Al Watan reported yesterday that Syrian regime forces had retaken Qusayr’s official buildings and “raised the Syrian flag” over them.

Washington has denounced Hezbollah’s intervention, with US President Barack Obama calling Lebanese President Michel Sleiman to criticize Hezbollah’s “active and growing role” in Syria. The US State Department said Hezbollah’s actions “exacerbate and inflame regional sectarian tensions and perpetuate the [Syrian] regime’s campaign of terror.”

In fact, it is Washington and its allies that are backing forces advocating and carrying out sectarian massacres and terror attacks. By giving Turkey and the Persian Gulf monarchies carte blanche for an international campaign to arm rabid Sunni sectarian forces, overseen by the CIA, they are spreading sectarian bloodshed across the entire region.

Fighting continued in Iraq yesterday, with 19 people killed and one hundred wounded in bombings, as the sectarian tensions unleashed by US support for Sunni Islamist militias in Syria spilled over into Sunni fighting against the Shia-led Iraqi regime. Opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters also fired into Lebanon yesterday, targeting Hezbollah positions with Grad rockets from the Qusayr area in Syria. According to Iran’s Press TV, they targeted the villages of Hawsh al-Sayyed Ali and al-Qasr. The rockets targeting al-Qasr exploded close to the Zainul Abideen orphanage but caused no casualties, according to the orphanage’s director, Mohammad al-Saeed.

Israel Heads Closer to War on Syria

May 22nd, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Syria is Washington’s war. Israel’s very much involved. It abhors peace and stability. Its history reflects belligerence. It’s a direct threat. It borders Syria.

Both countries are longstanding imperial partners. The Israeli Lobby plays a key role.

Orwell once said “(w)ho controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

Saving the future requires understanding both past and present. Preventing imperial annihilation depends on it.

So-called “rebel” forces are no match against Syria’s military superiority. Al-Qusayr is a strategic western Syrian city. It’s about 18 miles southwest of Homs.

It’s located on Lebanon’s border. It links Damascus with government controlled Mediterranean coastal areas.

It’s a key smuggling route. Insurgents, weapons, munitions and supplies pass cross-border into Syria. Stopping them is strategically important.

Fighting for control continues. On May 21, Press TV said Syrian forces control over 70% of the city. According to a Syrian source:

“We managed to enter the city from several directions. We encountered heavy resistance but we overpowered them and seized control of these places and we will pursue them and eliminate them wherever they go.”

According to Voice of Russia, Syria captured the city. Russia’s Rossia-24 TV reported it. Insurgents controlled the city throughout the conflict. No longer.

Capturing Al-Qusayr prevents supplying insurgents from key parts of Lebanon.

Voice of Russia and Rossia-24 reported “mopping-up operations” around Aleppo.

According to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), “Army units restored stability and security to the full eastern area of (Al-Qusayr) in Homs Countryside after killing big numbers of terrorists and destroying their hideouts.”

“A military source added that army units dismantled a number of explosive devices, planted by terrorists in al-Souk area in the middle of the city.”

“The source added that army units are continuing hunting the remnants of terrorists in some hideouts in the northern and southern areas of the city.”

Insurgents suffered heavy losses. Leadership elements were killed or captured. “Tens of terrorist” surrendered. Others were arrested.

SANA said insurgents were routed in several provinces.

A Local journalist told Russia Today that Syria’s army “managed to make a full circle around the city, fighting the opposition fighters. The main achievement is to stop the line of supply chain between Lebanon and Syria.”

“They started from the western side of the city, in the rural areas. They control this zone with some fighters from Lebanon.”

“Some extremist groups were preparing to go into Syria to fight with the rebels, they were going to go make a bigger front in order to fight and expand the fighting line between the government and the opposition.”

America’s war of words continues. Assad’s wrongfully blamed for US-backed insurgent crimes. They’re death squads. They’re US proxy foot soldiers. They’re foreign invaders. They’re recruited from many countries.

They’re funded, armed, trained and directed. Don’t expect US government sources to explain. Nor will media scoundrels.

On May 20, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Washington “strongly condemns the Assad regime’s intense air and artillery strikes this weekend on the Syrian town of (Al-Qusayr), along the Lebanese border, where more than 90 people were reportedly killed.”

“The Assad regime deliberately provoked sectarian tensions through its assaults, which we saw recently in Sunni massacres in the towns of Bayada and Banias.”

“We reject the regime’s use of sectarian-driver war to divide the Syrian people. The Assad regime and its supporters who continue to commit crimes against the Syrian people should know that the world is watching and they will be identified and held accountable.”

Insurgents bear direct responsibility for numerous massacres wrongfully blamed on Assad. Hezbollah elements are aiding their Syrian ally. They’re doing so responsibly. They’re confronting US imperialism. Not according to Ventrell.

He “condemn(ed) Hezbollah’s direct intervention in the assault on (Al-Qusayr) where its fighters are playing a significant role in the regime’s offensive.”

“Hezbollah’s occupation of villages along the Lebanese-Syrian border and its support for the regime and pro-Assad militias exacerbate and inflame regional sectarian tensions and perpetuate the regime’s campaign of terror against the Syrian people.”

“We reject Hezbollah’s efforts to escalate violence inside Syria and incite instability in Lebanon.”

Hezbollah and Syrian forces are trying to end conflict. They want peace. They want stability restored. They want Washington’s imperial intentions defeated. Much rides on their success.

On May 20, Lebanon’s Daily Star headlined “Situation in Syria against US, Israel: Hezbollah.”

According to Hezbollah MP Nawaf Musawi, Syria’s conflict hasn’t gone according to US and Israeli plans. He warned both countries against toppling Assad, saying:

“If some were betting on weakening our ally in Syria and toppling him, he should keep in mind that two years into the (conflict) have passed while betting on delusions.”

“Those who were banking on US power and Israeli threats of war and victory of the US-Israeli attack on Syria are mistaken.”

He added that Hezbollah won’t hesitate to plunge “Israel into the abyss. If the enemy – through its aggression – is practicing brinkmanship with the resistance and its allies in this region, the resistance is not afraid to push the enemy itself into the abyss.”

“Hezbollah has enough potential to make any Israeli official aware that the threat of war applies to him, and that he will be the first to lose as a result of his behavior.”

Syria’s military displayed a captured Israeli army vehicle. It did so in Al-Qusayr. Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen television aired video proof.

Military uniforms, wiretapping and jamming equipment were found in the vehicle. Damascus called it evidence of Israel’s involvement.

Last June, insurgents were captured with Israeli weapons. Israel’s very much involved.

On May 21, SANA said

“the seizure of an Israeli military vehicle….refutes the allegations made by Israel to justify its aggression on Syria and proves the scale of Israel’s military and intelligence involvements in the events in Syria.”

“(T)he Israeli military support for the armed terrorist groups proves the involvement of Qatar, Turkey and Israel in the aggression on Syria which is waged through a single central operations room.”

“(T)he Israeli military support for terrorism in Syria proves once more that Israel was and still is adopting the policy of organized state terrorism, stressing that the world must act to confront this terrorism.”

“(T)he questions raised by the seizure of the Israeli military vehicle and the surveillance and jamming equipment….show that the armed terrorist groups with all their different names are merely headlines for a single structure led by Israel, Qatar and Turkey.”

Syria understands Washington’s key role. Partnered with Israel, other NATO countries, and rogue Arab states, they’re waging imperial war against a non-belligerent country. Doing so is lawless aggression. It’s the supreme crime against peace.

Israel escalated things further. In response to alleged cross-border gunfire, it “returned precise fire,” according to IDF officials.

Tammuz missiles were used. Twice before they targeted Syrian sites.

Incidents are easy to manufacture. Doing so provide pretexts to respond. On May 4 and 5, Israel bombed Syria. It did so preemptively. It was a joint US-Israeli provocation. It suggests further aggression ahead.

On May 21, Mossad-connected DEBKAfile (DF) claimed a “Syrian-Israeli confrontation loomed closer…”

DF alleges Damascus admitted responsibility for Monday night’s cross-border gunfire. No source was cited. Syria’s gone out of its way to avoid challenging other countries.

It hasn’t retaliated against previous Israeli and Turkish provocations. It’s unlikely to change tactics now. Doing so would be self-defeating. Assad has no death wish. DF’s allegations don’t wash.

It cites unnamed Israeli military sources claiming his “readiness for a war of attrition on Israel from the Golan….”

It says Hezbollah will be involved. On Sunday, Netanyahu sent mixed messages. On the one hand, he said Israel won’t intervene in Syria’s conflict.

On the other, he stressed it will act if its own interests are affected. He said he’ll topple Assad if he responds to Israeli attacks. He suggested further bombings may follow. Allegedly they’ll target weapons transfers to Hezbollah.

Bombings and other belligerence are willful provocations. At issue is goading Syria to respond. Doing so would provide pretext for direct US/Israeli intervention.

Assad’s not about to give them reason to attack. He’s gone out of his way to avoid it. His ability to do so depends on US/NATO/Israeli plans. Direct intervention appears likely. How and when remains to be seen.

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

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

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Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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Genocide Denial in Guatemala

May 21st, 2013 by J. B. Gerald

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court has overturned the Ríos Montt guilty verdict of May 10th, setting the legal proceedings back to April 19th – after the evidence was presented but before Ríos Montt was declared guilty.  The 3 to 2 decision relies on a technicality brought into play when Ríos Montt’s lawyers walked out of the court leaving him temporarily without representation. The New York Times reporting suggests the business federation, Cacif, brought extreme pressure to bear on the Constitutional Court.

The highest court’s nullification of the guilty verdict diminishes neither its truth  nor  effect, but undermine’s the ability of  a nation’s courts to deal with its own mass atrocities. Because this crime of genocide is a crime of policy, approved by President Reagan among others, it is an inconvenient atrocity for Washington and for business. International public opinion may simply reject the impunity of legal manoeuvres used to cover the crime so far. Because the arrogance of the privileged appears to be un-teachable – a genocide warning continues for Guatemala’s Mayan Indians.

The Guatemalan people are locked in a struggle for very basic human rights. On one side is the oligarchy, its former Kaibiles[1]  President Molina, his Kaibiles appointees, the military which serves them, the U.S. underwriting which trained, armed and advised them, the U.S. corporations which employ them, the mining interests which enrich them, the European traditions which nurture them,  and the old order of terror they once ruled by under the veneer of privilege.

On the other is a standard of what human beings must not do to each other. It is the people struggling to assert a norm shredded and manipulated since the U.S. takeover in 1954, balancing the madness of  psychotic rulers with the people’s right to live their daily lives without being murdered.

There are so many guilty, trained into lethal madness by the School of the Americas. The atrocities by the Guatemalan military as commanded by Ríos Montt presents a group and cumulative crime so overwhelming, and conclusively single-minded in denying the humanity of Ixil Indians, as well as dissidents, labour leaders, and leftists, that the crime was recognized globally, as genocide. After the guilty verdict Guatemalan President Molina, implicated in the conviction of Ríos Montt, publicly denied that the military agenda to massacre hundreds of thousands of Ixil Indians was a genocide.

The elite found the guilty verdict outrageous, putting forth numerous legal cases, procedural points as objections, threatening and publicly defaming Judge Jasmin Barrios, and proceeding with no humility before the crime which speaks for them. It is as if Ríos Montt’s supporters, the elite, the military, their defence lawyers, and business interests have no comprehension of the inhumanity of what provably happened, of the meaning of the charges themselves, of the ultimate meaning of the tribunal court’s judgement, which can’t be contained by the Constitutional Court, or the Guatemalan oligarchy or its mentors throughout the world whose objections show no contrition, humility or shame.

Tangled finally in a justice system of its own making the elite has lost its balance, as if atrocities are only a matter of spitting on the street. As if the thousands of individual lives and irreparable suffering and the lifelong fear brought on the Ixil people and those who believed in the basic rights of human beings, are of no concern to privilege. Historically, this separation of those in service to the rulers, from the victim group they would continue to strip of human value, becomes terminal.

Warning of the Constitutional court decision was offered by Mary Anastasia O’Grady, editor and writer for the Wall Street Journal who prepared business readers for a genocide denial by the Constitutional Court, with her own, upholding defence testimony to purvey the crime as a military tactic required by resistance infiltration, while the trial itself is belittled as a “leftist” way to get back (“The Left’s Cold War Revenge in Guatemala,” May 19, 2013, Wall Street Journal). With remarkable lack of concern for the murdered, Ms. O’Grady found the U.N.’s “so-called-human-rights experts” who approved the verdict “also come from places like China, Cuba and Syria.”

While the genocide under Ríos Montt may pre-date current direct authority of the International Criminal Court, impeding a genocide trial or obstructing the result of its verdict after Guatemala’s accession to the Rome Statute, may not. Rationally, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court risks contemporary complicity in the crime by overturning a verdict on the grounds of a staged technicality. It isn’t likely the world’s signatories will suddenly honour the Convention on Genocide, by charging the court’s justices, because most world leaders participate in the same elite.

The Constitutional Court’s decision places Guatemala’s human rights community, judges, witnesses, and entire legal system at risk. So far, North American prevention-of-genocide organizations, the strongly funded and corporate NGO’s, have shown no overt support for Guatemala’s judges who dared faithfulness to the Convention on Genocide. North American anti-genocide mechanisms should be assuring the safety of the justices and prosecutors, human rights workers and witnesses, and their families currently under threat of a violence taught Guatemalan society by Kaibiles atrocities. Guatemala should be monitored by the International Criminal Court for any current encouragements to genocide against the Mayan population.

During the trial four Xinca Indian leaders opposed to a Canadian Tahoe Resources Mining project were abducted March 17th and one of them murdered.  President Molina gathered a substantial military force to protect the San Rafael Region Tahoe Resources mine from protesters. A soldier was killed. Troops were dispersed after tape recorded evidence was provided of the mining security chief, Alberto Rotondo,  giving orders to kill native protestors. He was subsequently arrested trying to leave the country. Tahoe Resources of Canada, partially owned by Goldcorp Canada, has offices in Vancouver B.C. and Reno Nevada.

The Guatemalan oligarchy is not an isolated or singular elite. The United States is directly challenged by war crimes trials in the Americas since the crimes are often committed under the covert influence of American advisors. The worst atrocities have become a signature of training by the School of the Americas (WHINSEC). Court cases in Argentina, Chile and Guatemala so far have stopped short of the inevitable next step which is to call the U.S. government to account.

In Argentina the elite’s former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla was recently returned to trial among 25 charged with the excesses of Operation Condor, a multi-government effort to kill dissidents, communists, trade unionists, wherever they were, in a program  with some  parallels to U.S. policies in the current “war on terror.”

Videla was previously imprisoned for life by his country’s courts due to atrocities / war crimes, then pardoned, then charged and convicted for his policy of kidnapping children of his murdered prisoners and raising them in a manner the Argentine elite deemed proper. After a recent court appearance Videla called the trial illegal, much as Ríos Montt has in Guatemala,  and threatened Argentina with a military uprising if the trial continued.

Yet the Operation Condor trial in Argentina has resumed despite the inherent obstacles, and among them: the U.S. provided military assistance to all the countries involved in Operation Condor; the proceedings fell from international news pages as Francis of Argentina became the new Pope and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands was crowned;  the wife of the new King is from Argentina’s elite and her father’s service to the Videla dictatorship both as a junior minister and from 1979 to 1981 as Videla’s Minister of Agriculture, proves an ongoing embarrassment. There is an unset compound fracture at the interface with a regime where privilege claims the right to atrocity. On May 17, Videla is reported to have died in prison of natural causes.

Within this context, Efrain Ríos Montt has been well cared for by the  Guatemalan people. A victor’s military court would have shot him after conviction. A Nuremberg court would have had him hung. The restraint of those in Guatemala who are not of the elite is admirable and should assure honour and safety to all who have attempted justice through law. Beyond the oligarchy’s understanding they want justice rather than revenge, and they teach endurance until justice is done, as we consider the crimes of our own elites.

Note

[1]The Kaibiles are an elite Guatemalan commando unit known for extremes of atrocity and degradation of  their victims.

 Partial online sources for this article:

“Guatemala Awaits Constitutional Court’s Rulings Following Rios Montt Guilty Verdict.” Raquel Aldana, May 15, 2013, Open Society Justice Initiative; “Efraín Ríos Montt Found Guilty of Genocide!” Caso Cerado, School of the Americas Watch; “Human rights groups welcome Guatemala genocide ruling,” May 17, 2013, Vatican Radio; “Argentine Dictator Jorge Videla, 87, Dies in Prison,” Shane Romig, May 17, 2013, Wall Street Journal; “Willem-Alexander becomes Dutch king after Beatrix abdicates,” AP, April 30, 2013, CBC News; “Argentine junta casts shadow over new Dutch Queen,” Agence France-Presse, April 30, 2013, GlobalPost; “Bad education: U.S. training of Guatemalan military leaders is just one example,” Palmer Legare, current, SOA Watch; “Tahoe Resources Mining executive in Guatemala gives direct orders to kill protestors,” The Guatemala Times, May 9, 2013, upsidedownworld.org; “State of Seige: Mining Conflict Escalates in Guatemala,” Sandra Cuffe May 2, 2013, Upside down World.; “Guatemalan Court Overturns Genocide Conviction of Former Dictator,” Elisabeth Malkin, May 20, 2013,  The New York Times online; “Guatemala ex-leader Rios Montt’s genocide conviction overturned,” May 21, 2012, BBC News.

Image: Wendell Polynice/Haïti Liberté

Well over 15,000 people poured out from all corners of Haiti’s capital to march alongside the cortege of cars that carried former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to his home in Tabarre from the Port-au-Prince courthouse he visited on May 8.

Thousands more massed along sidewalks and on rooftops to cheer the procession on, waving flags and wearing small photos of Aristide in their hair, pinned to their clothing, or stuck in their hats.

Led by Fanmi Lavalas party coordinator Maryse Narcisse through a gauntlet of jostling journalists, Aristide had entered the courthouse (the former Belle Époque Hotel) at exactly 9:00 a.m., the time of his appointment to testify before Investigating Judge Ivickel Dabrésil. Aristide had waited with Narcisse in a car outside the court’s backdoor for about 45 minutes. It was only the second time that Aristide had left his home (and the first time publicly) since returning to Haiti on Mar. 18, 2011 from a seven-year exile in Africa following the Feb. 29, 2004 Washington-backed coup d’état which cut short his second government.

Lawyer Mario Joseph said that he was “very satisfied” with the reception given by Judge  Dabrésil, who is investigating the April 2000 murder of radio journalist Jean Dominique and his radio’s caretaker Jean-Claude Louissaint, for which Aristide is one of many prominent Haitians, including former President René Préval, interviewed for testimony. Joseph said the three hour deposition was very “cordial and relaxed.”

But many Haitians feared that the summoning of Aristide – even if only for testimony –  was a trap set by President Michel Martelly, who, as the former vulgar konpa musician “Sweet Micky,” was the principal cheerleader of both the 1991 and 2004 coups d’état against Aristide.

“This summoning of Aristide is a political act remote-controlled by the Martelly government, the same as the now discredited legal suits brought a few months ago by Ti Sony [a former resident of the Lafanmi Selavi orphanage who claimed that Aristide had “exploited” him and other orphans] and some who lost money when the cooperative banks went bust [while Aristide was in power in 2002 and 2003],” said outspoken Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles. “Those previous efforts to smear and destroy Aristide failed, so now they are trying this.”

Many Haitian radio commentators point to Judge Dabrésil’s postponement of Aristide’s deposition from its original date of Apr. 24 as proof that there is a political hand in the judge’s proceedings. The deposition, and the expected anti-Martelly pro-Aristide outpouring, would have taken place during the 5th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) from Apr. 23-26 held in Pétionville and attended by many regional leaders.

Furthermore, on Mar. 7, the Defend Haiti website reported that “Presidential Adviser Guyler Delva admitted, earlier this week, to giving Judge Ivekel Dabrésil a car, and Senator John Joel Joseph said on Radio Scoop FM on Wednesday [Apr. 30] that the administration had purchased a house in Florida for the judge.”

Another impetus for the massive turn-out came on the evening of May 7 when Haitian National Police (PNH) Director General Godson Orélus took to the airwaves to announce that the PNH had “received no formal notification of the demonstration” as required by law and that therefore “any demonstration is formally forbidden” along the route between Aristide’s house and the courthouse.

“The police don’t want any demonstration,” he concluded, throwing down a gauntlet which the Haitian people took up the next morning.

Lavalas leaders, including Narcisse, responded that the march was not a “demonstration” but an “accompaniment” of Aristide by the Haitian people. Many Lavalas leaders came to the courthouse to show their solidarity including Senators Moïse Jean-Charles, John Joel Joseph, Francky Excius, and Jean Baptiste Bien-Aimée; Deputy Saurel Hyacinthe; former senator Gérard Louis Gilles; former deputies Jacques Mathelier and Lionel Etienne; former Justice Minister Calixte Delatour; activists Farah Juste, Claudy Sidney, and Volcy Assad.

About 100 people had spent the night in a vigil across the street from Aristide’s home. At 6 a.m., hundreds more joined them to mass on the sidewalks in front of Aristide’s house.

But the real “accompaniment” began after the hearing. Leaving the courthouse at noon, Aristide’s ride home took five hours, passing slowly through downtown Port-au-Prince, the Champ de Mars, the hillside slum of Belair, Delmas 2, then the roads through the old military airport and past the international airport.

Parallel solidarity demonstrations were held in Cap Haïtien, Aux Cayes, and Petit Goâve.

Alongside the 20 or so cars that followed Aristide’s silver jeep, young and old walked, jogged, and ran, singing, chanting, and laughing. The river of humanity included motorcycles, bicycles, wheelchairs, and the occasional person on crutches.

Marchers also tore down pink government propaganda posters from lampposts along the way. Several posters declaring “With the Martelly/Lamothe government, Haiti is advancing” were torn up and left in pieces in the street for vehicles and marchers to pass over. (Martelly’s long-time business partner Laurent Lamothe is Haiti’s Prime Minister.)

Three times Aristide got out of his car to wave to the crowd — outside the courthouse gate, in Belair, and in front of his home — causing people to sprint toward his car and raise their arms, creating a sea of hands. Afterwards, people hugged and high-fived each other, some laughing, some crying.

One man dressed in rags moved down the line of cars following Aristide, wiping each car clean with a dirty cloth but asking for no money in return.

“Se pa lajan non, se volontè wi,” (It’s not for money, I’m here of my own free will) was the refrain of crowds which turned out for Aristide’s massive campaign rallies when he first ran for President in November and December 1990. The song was heard again on May 8, 2013 in the largely spontaneous march, which grew in size and volume as it made its way through the capital.

In contrast, when Martelly organized a carnival-like rally of a few thousand in the Champ de Mars on May 14, many participants were paid 1000 gourdes (US$24) a head to turn out. They were also given a t-shirt – either pink or white – to put on. But after taking the money, many “celebrants” discarded their t-shirts in the street, Haïti Libertéreporters observed. (A Haiti Liberté photographer was prevented from accessing a media stand at the May 14 rally after presenting his press credentials.)

Some pundits tried to banalize the historic march, saying it was merely the beginning of the electoral campaign of the Lavalas Family (FL), the party that Aristide founded in 1996. (Many Haitian political leaders, including those in the FL, strongly doubt whether free and fair elections can be held under Martelly, or whether he even wants to hold them. “No matter what, Martelly has to go” was another chant heard during the march.)

But May 8, 2013 was much more than a mere campaign rally. It was a watershed event, a popular show of force which has changed the political calculus of Haiti in the near-term. Haitian history has shown that when the Haitian people begin to move in such numbers, major political change is imminent. The weeks ahead will reveal exactly what that political change will be.

(Additional reporting was done by Haiti Liberté staff reporters Wendell Polynice and Daniel Tercier)

Desde el 1 de mayo, el pueblo Xinca soporta la militarización de su territorio por parte del Gobierno de Guatemala.

Los indígenas centroamericanos se oponen al proyecto minero de una multinacional canadiense. Las organizaciones de solidaridad internacional realizaron una vigilia para denunciar la actual represión que sufre los Xincas en Guatemala. Este pueblo indígena se opone al proyecto minero Escobal de la empresa canadiense Tahoe Resources.

El pueblo Xinca sufrió un estado de sitio que después se convirtió en estado de prevención. Estas medidas decretadas por el Gobierno de Guatemala no garantizan el respeto de los derechos humanos de la población indígena. Los grupos de defensa de los derechos humanos exigen al Gobierno de Guatemala que detenga la represión al pueblo Xinca, la militarización de sus comunidades y la criminalización de sus luchas sociales. Jorge Zegarra, Montreal.

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Billionaires with an axe to grind, now is your time. Not since the days before a bumbling crew of would-be break-in artists set into motion the fabled Watergate scandal, leading to the first far-reaching restrictions on money in American politics, have you been so free to meddle. There is no limit to the amount of money you can give to elect your friends and allies to political office, to defeat those with whom you disagree, to shape or stunt or kill policy, and above all to influence the tone and content of political discussion in this country.

Today, politics is a rich man’s game. Look no further than the 2012 elections and that season’s biggest donor, 79-year-old casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. He and his wife, Miriam, shocked the political class by first giving $16.5 million in an effort to make Newt Gingrich the Republican presidential nominee. Once Gingrich exited the race, the Adelsons invested more than $30 million in electing Mitt Romney. They donated millions more to support GOP candidates running for the House and Senate, to block a pro-union measure in Michigan, and to bankroll the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other conservative stalwarts (which waged their own campaigns mostly to help Republican candidates for Congress). All told, the Adelsons donated $94 million during the 2012 cycle — nearly four times the previous record. And that’s only the money we know about. When you add in so-called dark money, one estimate puts their total giving at closer to $150 million.

It was not one of Adelson’s better bets. Romney went down in flames; the Republicans failed to retake the Senate and conceded seats in the House; and the majority of candidates backed by Adelson-funded groups lost, too. But Adelson, who oozes chutzpah as only a gambling tycoon worth $26.5 billion could, is undeterred. Politics, he told the Wall Street Journal in his first post-election interview, is like poker: “I don’t cry when I lose. There’s always a new hand coming up.” He said he could double his 2012 giving in future elections. “I’ll spend that much and more,” he said. “Let’s cut any ambiguity.”

But simply tallying Adelson’s wins and losses — or the Koch brothers’, or any other mega-donors’ — misses the bigger point. What matters is that these wealthy funders were able to give so much money in the first place.

With the advent of super PACs and a growing reliance on secretly funded nonprofits, the very wealthy can pour their money into the political system with an ease that didn’t exist as recently as this moment in Barack Obama’s first term in office. For now at least, Sheldon Adelson is an extreme example, but he portends a future in which 1-percenters can flood the system with money in ways beyond the dreams of ordinary Americans. In the meantime, the traditional political parties, barred from taking all that limitless cash, seem to be sliding toward irrelevance. They are losing their grip on the political process, political observers say, leaving motivated millionaires and billionaires to handpick the candidates and the issues.”It’ll be wealthy people getting together and picking horses and riding those horses through a primary process and maybe upending the consensus of the party,” a Democratic strategist recently told me. “We’re in a whole new world.”

The Rise of the Super PAC

She needed something sexy, memorable. In all fairness, anything was an improvement on “independent expenditure-only political action committee.” Eliza Newlin Carney, one of D.C.’s trustiest scribes on the campaign money beat, didn’t want to type out that clunker day after day. She knew this was big news — the name mattered. Then it came to her:

Super PAC.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision is often blamed — or hailed – for creating super PACs. In fact, it was a lesser-known case, SpeechNow.org vs. Federal Election Commission, decided by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals two months later, that did the trick. At the heart of SpeechNow was the central tension in all campaign money fights: the balance between stopping corruption or the appearance of corruption, and protecting the right to free speech. In this instance, the D.C. appeals court, influenced by the Citizens United decision, landed on the side of free speech, ruling that limits to giving and spending when it came to any group — and here’s the kicker – acting independently of candidates and campaigns violated the First Amendment.

Wonky as that may sound,SpeechNow reconfigured the political landscape and unchained big donors after decades of restrictions. The lawyers who argued the case, the academics and legal eagles whose expertise is campaign finance, and the beat reporters like Carney Newlin soon grasped what SpeechNowhad wrought: a new, turbocharged political outfit that had no precedent in American politics.

Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money from pretty much anyone — individuals, corporations, labor unions — and there is no limit on how much they can spend. Every so often, they must reveal their donors and show how they spent their money. And they can’t directly coordinate with candidates or their campaigns. For instance, Restore Our Future, the super PAC that spent $142 million to elect Mitt Romney, couldn’t tell his campaign when or where it was running TV ads, couldn’t share scripts, couldn’t trade messaging ideas. Nor could Restore Our Future — yes, even its founders wince at the name — sit down with Romney and tape an interview for a TV ad.

It’s far easier, in other words, for a super PAC to attack the other guy, which helps explain all the hostility on the airwaves in 2012. Sixty-four percent of all ads aired during the presidential race were negative, up from 51% in 2008, 44% in 2004, and 29% in 2000. Much of that negativity can be blamed on super PACs and their arsenal of attack ads, according to a recent analysis by Wesleyan University’s Erika Franklin Fowler and Washington State University’s Travis Ridout. They found that a staggering 85% of all ads aired by “outside groups” were negative, while only 5% were positive.

And it will only get worse. “It’s going to be the case that the more super PACs invest in elections, the more negative those elections will be,” Michael Franz, a co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, told me. “They’re the ones doing the dirty work.” Think of them as the attack dogs of a candidate’s campaign — and the growling packs of super PACs are growing fast.

The savviest political operatives quickly realized how potentially powerful such outfits could be when it came to setting agendas and influencing the political system. In March 2010, Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s erstwhile political guru, launchedAmerican Crossroads, a super PAC aimed at influencing the 2010 midterms. As consultants like Rove and the wealthy donors they courted saw the advantages of having their own super PACs — no legal headaches, no giving or spending limits — the groups grew in popularity.

By November 2010, 83 of them had spent $63 million on the midterm elections. Nearly $6 of every $10 they put out supported conservative candidates, and it showed: buoyed by the Tea Party, Republicans ran roughshod over the Democrats, retaking control of the House and winnowing their majority in the Senate. It was a “shellacking,” as President Obama put it, powered by rich donors and the new organizations that went with them.

In 2012, no one, it seemed, could afford to sit on the sidelines. Having decried super PACs as “a threat to democracy,” Obama and his advisers flip-flopped and blessed the creation of one devoted specifically to reelecting the president. Soon, they were everywhere, at the local, state, and federal levels. A mom started one to back her daughter’s congressional campaign in Washington State. Aunts and unclesbankrolled their nephew’s super PAC in North Carolina. Super PACs spent big onabortionsame-sex marriage, and other major issues.

In all, the number of super PACs shot up to 1,310 during the 2012 campaign, a 15-fold increase from two years earlier. Fundraising and spending similarly exploded: these outfits raised $828 million and spent $609 million.

But what’s most striking about these groups is who funds them. An analysis by the liberal think tank Demos found that out of every $10 raised by super PACs in 2012, $9 came from just 3,318 people giving $10,000 or more. That small club of donors is equivalent to 0.0011% of the U.S. population.

Into the Shadows

In late April, roughly 100 donors gathered at a resort in Laguna Beach, California. They were all members of the Democracy Alliance, a private group of wealthy liberals. Over five days, they swapped ideas on how best to promote a progressive agenda and took in pitches from leaders of the most powerful liberal and left-leaning groups in America, including Organizing for Action, the rebooted version of Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign. Since the Democracy Alliance’s founding in 2005, its members have given $500 million to various causes and organizations. At the Laguna Beach event alone, its members pledged a reported $50 million.

At the same time, about 100 miles to the east, a similar scene was playing out. A few hundred conservative and libertarian donors descended on the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort and Spa in Palm Springs for the latest donor conferenceconvened by billionaire Charles Koch, one-half of the mighty “Koch brothers.” Over two days, donors mingled with politicians, heard presentations by leading activists, and pledged serious money to bankroll groups promoting the free-market agenda in Washington and around the country.

The philosophies of these two groups couldn’t be more different. But they have this in common: the money raised by the Democracy Alliance and the Kochs’ political network is secret. The public will never know its true source. Call it “dark money.”

So what is dark money? How does it wind up in our elections? Say you’re a billionaire and you want to give $1 million to anonymously influence an election. You’re in luck: you can give that money, as many donors have, to a nonprofit organized under the 501(c)(4) section of the tax code. That nonprofit, in turn, can spend your money on election-related TV ads or mailers or online videos. But there’s a catch: unlike super PACs, the majority of a 501(c)(4) nonprofit’s work can’t be political. Note, though, that where the IRS draws the line on how much politicking is too much, and even what the taxman defines as political, is very murky. And until Congress and the IRS straighten all of that out, donors wanting to influence elections have a mostly scrutiny-free way to unload their money.

This type of nonprofit has a long history in U.S. politics. The Sierra Club, for instance, has a 501(c)(4) affiliate, as does the National Rifle Association. But in recent years, political operatives and wealthy donors have seized on this breed of nonprofit as a new way to shovel secret money into campaigns. Between 2010 and 2012, the number of applications for 501(c)(4) status spiked from 1,500 to 3,400, according to IRS official Lois Lerner.

During the 2010 campaign, politically active nonprofits — “super secret spooky PACs,” as Stephen Colbert calls them — outspent super PACs by a three to two margin, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis. Take the American Action Network (AAN), run by former Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. The group purports to be an “issue-based” nonprofit that only dabbles in politics, but its tax records suggest otherwise. From July 2009 through June 2011, as Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington noted, 60% of AAN’s money went toward politics. (An AAN spokesman called the complaint “baseless.”)

Because they’re so lacking in transparency, some nonprofits have been emboldened to bend — if not break — the tax law. One of the more egregious examples was benignly named the Commission on Hope, Growth, and Opportunity (CHGO). Created in the summer of 2010, it informed the IRS that it wouldn’t spend a penny on politics. During the 2010 elections, however, it put $2.3 million into ads attacking 11 Democratic congressional candidates. Then, sometime in 2011, CHGO simply closed up shop and disappeared — a classic case of political hit-and-run. And it wouldn’t have happened without a secretive wealthy bankroller: of the $4.8 million raised by CHGO, tax records show that $4 million came from a single donor (though we don’t know his or her name).

Transparency advocates and reformers supporting more limits on spending have pushed back against the new wave of dark money. They have filed numerous complaints with the IRS and the Federal Election Commission alleging that politically active nonprofits are flouting the law and demanding a crackdown. Marcus Owens, the former head of the IRS’s exempt organizations division, which oversees politically active nonprofits, agrees that the agency needs to take action. “The government’s going to have to investigate them and prosecute them,” Owens, who is now in private practice, told me in January. “In order to maintain the integrity of the process, they’re going to be forced to take action.”

Don’t hold your breath for that. This week, a report by a Treasury Department inspector general revealed that IRS staffers singled out tea partiers and other conservative groups which had applied for tax-exempt status for special scrutiny. Now, Republicans and Democrats are howling with outrage and demanding that heads roll. One result of this debacle, ex-IRS director Marcus Owens told me, is that the IRS will certainly shy away from cracking down on those nonprofits that do abuse the tax code.

At least one politician is upset enough by the steady flow of dark money into our politics to do something about it. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, who is retiring in 2014, has made the issue of dark money one of the priorities of his time left in office. He plans to “look into the failure of the IRS to enforce our tax laws and stem the flood of hundreds of millions of secret dollars flowing into our elections, eroding public confidence in our democracy.”

Do millionaires and billionaires dominate the donor rolls of nonprofits, too? Without disclosure, it’s near impossible to know who funds what. But not surprisingly, the limited data we have suggest that, as with super PACs, rich people keep politically active nonprofits flush with cash. The American Action Network, for instance,raised $27.5 million from July 2010 to June 2011; of that haul, 90% of the money came from eight donors, with one giving $7 million. The story is the same with Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. It raised $77 million from June 2010 to December 2011, and nearly 90% of that came from donors giving at least $1 million. And while Priorities USA, the pro-Obama nonprofit, raised a comparatively tiny $2.3 million in 2011, 80% of it came from a single, anonymous donor.

Big Money Civil War

A few days after the 2012 elections, a handful of Republican politicians including Governor John Kasich of Ohio and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana met privately with Sheldon Adelson. They were officially in Las Vegas for a gathering of the Republican Governors Association, but it was never too early to court the man who, with a stroke of his pen, could underwrite a presidential hopeful’s bid for his or her party’s nomination.

Democratic candidates are no different. House and Senate hopefuls are flocking to Hollywood studio boss Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of their party’s biggest donors and fundraisers. And why wouldn’t they? Barack Obama might not be where he is today without Katzenberg. Days after Obama launched his presidential campaign in 2007, the DreamWorks Animation mogul gave the junior senator his imprimatur and prodded Hollywood into raising $1.3 million for him. Years later, Katzenberg provided $2 million in seed money for the pro-Obama super PAC that played a pivotal role in his reelection.

As 2016 nears, don’t be surprised to see the next set of Democrats clambering over each other to win Katzenberg’s endorsement and money. Paul Begala, the Democratic consultant and TV pundit, is already predicting what he calls the “Katzenberg primary.”

More than ever, a serious Senate or White House bid is dependent not on climbing the party ranks, but on winning the support of a few wealthy bankrollers. In fact, it’s no longer an exaggeration to say that while the political parties still officially pick the candidates for office, the power increasingly lies with the elites of the political donor class.

Super PACs, just three years old, are now a fixture, not a novelty. They’ve becomede rigueur for candidates running at the federal, state, and even local level. Want to scare off potential primary challengers? A super PAC with millions in the bank will help. Need to blast away at your opponent with negative ads without tarnishing your own reputation? Let a super PAC do the dirty work. Any candidate running for office begins with a to-do list, and with each month, getting a super PAC and making friends in the dark money universe rises higher on those lists.

Super PACs and their wealthy donors are also stoking civil wars within the parties. At the moment, they have been springing up to offer cover to politicians who vote a certain way, or stake out traditionally unpopular positions. For instance, Republicans for Immigration Reform, a relatively new super PAC, says it will spend millions to defend GOP politicos who take a moderate stance on immigration reform. And another super PAC, bankrolled by hedge fund investor Paul Singer, intends to spend big money to push more Republicans toward the middle on same-sex marriage. But there are also vigorous tea-party-style super PACs pushing their politicians toward the fringes. Each faction of the GOP is getting its own set of super PACs, and that means an already contentious fight for the future of the party could get far bloodier.

Democrats could find themselves in a money-fueled internal struggle, too. Tom Steyer, a former hedge fund investor worth $1.3 billion, says he’s sick of seeing climate change neglected in campaigns. He now plans to use his vast wealth to elevate it into a banner issue. In a recent primary in Massachusetts, he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking Democratic Congressman Stephen Lynch for supporting the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Lynch’s opponent, Congressman Ed Markey, a leading House environmentalist, went on to win the primary, but Steyer’s intervention raised plenty of eyebrows about possible Democrat-on-Democrat combat in 2014.

Meanwhile, as the recent Democracy Alliance and Koch retreats show, millionaires and billionaires are revving up to take ever-greater control of the political process via secretive nonprofits. In April, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg unveiled FWD.us, a quasi-dark-money outfit created to give Silicon Valley a greater political presence in Washington. It has already raised $25 million.

Right now, the best avenues for fired-up billionaires exist outside the traditional political parties. The Supreme Court could change that. In a case calledMcCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commissionthe court is considering whether to demolish the overall aggregate limit on how much a donor can give to candidates and parties. If the court rules in favor of Republican donor Shaun McCutcheon, and perhaps goes on to eliminate contribution limits to candidates and parties altogether, super PACs could go out of style faster than Crocs. Donors won’t need them. They’ll give their millions straight to the Democrats or the Republicans and that will be that.

There is an important backdrop to all of these changes, and that’s the increase in income inequality in this country. Just as the incredibly wealthy are given the freedom to flood the political system with money, they’ve got more and more money to spend. Our lopsided economic recovery affords a glimpse of that growing inequality gap: from 2009 to 2011, the average wealth of the richest 7% of American households climbed by almost 30%, while the wealth of the remaining 93% of households actually declined by 4%. (So much for that “recovery.”)

Can there be any question that this democracy of ours is nearing dangerous territory, if we’re not already there? Picture the 2016 or 2020 election campaigns and, barring a new wave of campaign reforms, it’s not hard to see a tiny minority of people exerting a massive influence on our politics simply by virtue of bank accounts. There is nothing small-d democratic about that. It flies in the face of one of the central premises of this country of ours, equality, including political equality — the concept that all citizens stand on an equal footing with one another when it comes to having their say on who represents them and how government should work.

Increasingly, it looks like before the rest of us even have our say, before you enter the voting booth, issues, politics, and the politicians will have been winnowed, vetted, and predetermined by the wealthiest Americans. Think of it as a new definition of politics: the democracy of the wealthy, who can fight it out with each other inside and outside the political parties with little reference to you.

In the meantime, the more those of modest means feel drowned out by the money of a tiny minority, the less connected they will feel to the work of government, and the less they will trust elected officials and government as an institution. It’s a formula for tuning out, staying home, and starving whatever’s left of our democracy.

I caught a glimpse of this last November, when I spoke to a class of students at Radford University in Virginia, a state blanketed with super PAC attack ads and dark money in 2012. Over and over, students told me how disgusted they were by all the vitriol they heard when they turned on the TV or the radio. Most said that they ended up ignoring the campaigns; a few were so put off they didn’t bother to vote. “They’re all bought and sold anyway,” one student told me in front of the entire class. “Why would my vote make any difference?”

Andy Kroll covers money in politics for Mother Jones magazine, and is an associate editor at TomDispatch, which he writes for regularly. He lives in Washington, D.C., the only place in America where people freely discuss campaign financing at happy hour.

Israeli Army Vehicle Enters Syria, Israel Supports Al Nusra Rebels

May 21st, 2013 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

According to the Syrian Military Command, an Israeli Armed unit entered Syria. An Israeli army vehicle which crossed the cease-fire line towards the village of Bir Ajam inside Syria was destroyed by Syrian forces:

“On Tuesday at 1:10 am (2100 GMT Monday), our armed forces destroyed an Israeli vehicle with everything it was carrying, which came from the occupied territories,”

“General Command of the Army and the Armed Forces said that our armed forces destroyed an Israeli vehicle entered from the occupied territories and crossed the cease-fire line towards the village of Bir Ajam.”

“The vehicle passed the ceasefire line and was moving towards the village of Bir-Ajam situated in the liberated Syrian zone”

The report also states that the actions of the Israeli armed forces were in support and in coordination with terrorist groups in Bir Ajam

 ”The village is located in the liberated area of Syrian territories where there are armed terrorist groups, ”

“Following that, the Israeli enemy fired two rockets from the occupied site of Tal al-Faras toward one of our sites in al-Zubaydiah village; no casualties reported, ” the statement said.

It added that the aggression aims at raising the terrorist groups’ collapsed moral due to the painful blows they received at the hands of our armed forces in more than one place, especially in al-Qsier area.

The General Command of the Army and the Armed Forces said that the blatant aggression confirms again the involvement of the Zionist entity in the ongoing events in Syria and the direct coordination with the armed terrorist gangs.

The statement stressed that any breach or an attempt to violate the state sovereignty will be responded.

It stressed that whoever thinks that he is able to test our strength, alert and readiness to maintain our dignity and sovereignty is mistaken.

On Tuesday, May 21, Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon confirmed the incident, without acknowledging that an Israeli Army unit had crossed the cease-fire line into Syria.

“Last night we destroyed a Syrian army position which fired on an Israeli patrol.”

According to Israeli military spokesman Avichai Adraee, the Syrian army “fired on an Israeli patrol, which we confirmed six hours ago, but did not destroy a vehicle or kill anyone,”

An earlier Israeli statement said “it had responded to fire from inside Syria that hit a military patrol in the Golan Heights overnight, damaging a military vehicle.”

Israeli Support to Al Nusra

In February 2013, Israel announced that it was considering “creating a buffer zone reaching within 10 miles inside Syria”, allegedly to “protect itself from fundamentalist rebels on the other side of the border.”

The plan drafted by the military was submitted to Prime Minister Netanyahu. The stated objective reported in the London Times (February 4, 2013) borders on ridicule:

“In recent months jihadist groups such as the Nusra Front, which Washington regards as a terrorist organisation linked to al-Qaeda, are reported to have infiltrated several border villages. Two of the villages, Breika and Bir Ajam, are less than a mile from the Israeli border.

“The proposal, which has been drawn up by the military and presented to Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, is intended to secure the 47-mile border against a growing Islamist threat if President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime loses control of the area. (emphasis added)

What Israeli officials are intimating is that unless president Bashar Al Assad secures the area against the terrorists, the jihadist rebels constitute a potential threat to the State of Israel: an utterly absurd proposition.

In a twisted logic, Tel Aviv claims that the US sponsored “opposition” jihadist forces which are threatening the government of Bashar Al Assad also threaten the security of Israel.

While Al Nusra is on the State Department list of terrorist organizations, it is directly supported by the US and its allies, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel.

The proposed “buffer zone” constitutes a pretext to channel Israeli support to the terrorists in liaison with Washington.

Israel is in close liaison with rebel commanders in Southern Syria, implying frequent incursions into Syria. In this regard, a  report by Debka, the Israeli intelligence news agency (May 8, 2013) confirms that wounded Al Nusra rebel fighters are being provided medical care in an Israeli hospital facility in the Golan Heights:

Israel has set up a large field hospital near the Tel Hazakah observation and military post on Golan which overlooks southern Syria and northern Jordan. There, incoming Syrian war wounded [Al Nusra rebels] are vetted and examined by Israeli army medics who decide whether to patch them up and send them back, or judge them badly hurt enough for hospital care.

The report also acknowledges that the rescue of wounded Al Nusra fighters requires the incursion of unmarked “Israeli army vehicles” into Syrian territory:

Unidentified Syria military sources vowed to attack the Israeli army vehicles crossing the line to evacuate wounded rebels in need of medical care. Our military sources say that if Israeli army vehicles, presumably unmarked, are indeed entering Syria to pick up injured rebels,they are most likely alerted by local liaison agents in the battle zones who guide them to the spots were the injured men are waiting.(Debka, op cit)

The above Israeli  intelligence news report points to “local liaison in the battlefield”, between the IDF and rebel mercenary forces. This liaison  and cooperation with Al Nusra also includes the incursion of Israeli covert special forces inside Syria as well as the inflow of weapons and supplies.

Al Nusra: Trained by the Pentagon

Al Nusra is largely made up of mercenaries recruited in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Covert (Western) special forces and military advisers have also integrated their ranks.

The Al Qaeda affiliated terrorists directly funded by Washington constitute the foot-soldiers of the Western military alliance including Israel. 

Confirmed by CNN, the Al Nusra terrorists have also been trained in the use of chemical weapons by special forces on contract to the Pentagon:

The training [in chemical weapons], which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.

The nationality of the trainers was not disclosed, though the officials cautioned against assuming all are American. (CNN, December 09, 2012, emphasis added

Yesterday, top US officials and media made unsubstantiated allegations of hacking of US computer systems by a military unit in Shanghai, escalating tensions with China.

The New York Times led this campaign, publishing an article titled “Chinese Hackers Resume Attacks on US Targets,” which served as a conduit for accusations and threats against China by US computer security firm Mandiant and top US officials. The Times claimed that the Chinese army’s Unit 61398 in Shanghai, whose existence Washington alleged this February, “is back in business.”

The Times effectively admitted that it had no evidence to support its allegations: “It is not clear precisely who has been affected by the latest attacks. Mandiant, a private security company that helps companies and government agencies defend themselves from hackers, said the attacks had resumed but would not identify the targets, citing agreements with its clients.”

The Times claimed that China had targeted several firms—including Coca-Cola, French energy firm Schneider Electric, and US defense contractor Lockheed Martin—in previous attacks. None of these firms confirmed the Times ’ allegations, however, instead declining to comment.

This complete lack of evidence notwithstanding, current and former Obama administration officials speaking to the Times unleashed a torrent of threats against China. An unnamed US “senior official” said, “This is something we are going to have to come back at time and again with the Chinese leadership.” He added that Beijing has “to be convinced there is a real cost to this kind of activity.”

On Wednesday, former Obama administration Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and Ambassador to China John Huntsman are slated to release a plan for a series of executive orders and legislative acts to threaten China over the issue of hacking. Blair told the Times: “Jawboning alone won’t work. Something has to change in China’s calculus.”

The Obama administration mooted similar plans last month in a Wall Street Journal article, which described a “potentially rapid escalation” of tensions with China. According to the Journal, Washington is considering imposing “trade sanctions, diplomatic pressure, indictments of Chinese nationals in US courts and cyber countermeasures—both attack and defense.”

These unsubstantiated US accusations against Beijing over hacking drip with cynicism and hypocrisy. The US itself maintains the largest and most destructive cyber warfare apparatus in the world. It announced this March the formation of 13 offensive cyber war teams, writing malicious computer code to disable or destroy computers or computerized infrastructure, part of a multi-billion-dollar US cyber war program.

The Obama administration already claimed the right this February to wage pre-emptive cyber-attacks, transposing onto the Internet the illegal methods of aggression most infamously used by the Bush administration against Iraq. This came after the US and Israel worked together to disable Iran’s nuclear program, by putting the Stuxnet virus into Iranian computer systems running nuclear centrifuges. This was accompanied by a series of bombings and assassinations inside Iran, targeting Iranian scientists.

Significantly, as elements of the US foreign policy establishment have admitted, what is driving Washington’s vague accusations of Chinese cyber-warfare is not primarily whatever hacking may be occurring, but the rising military tensions between the United States and China.

As Richard Falkenrath of the US Council on Foreign Relations said in February, describing US accusations of Chinese cyber-war hacking, “While this is all described in neutral terms—what are we going to do about cyber-attacks—the underlying question is, ‘What are we going to do about China?’”

Military and diplomatic relations between the world’s two largest economies have worsened dramatically since Washington’s aggressive “pivot to Asia,” aimed at containing China, announced during Obama’s first term. Last month, Washington escalated military exercises with South Korea into a full-blown war scare with neighboring North Korea. It demonstratively deployed nuclear-capable B-2 Stealth bombers to the Korean peninsula, only a few hundred kilometers from China.

Cyber warfare looms large as an issue in US-China military relations, as electronic communications become ever more central to coordinating far-flung military forces, detecting them, and targeting them with precision-guided munitions. Such forces include not only traditional ones like US naval task forces built around aircraft carriers and troop transports, but also newer weapons such as US or Chinese remote-controlled or computer-operated drones.

Last week, the US Navy tested the X-47B—its first fully autonomous, computer-guided drone aircraft—on the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush. The Times noted that “to offset China’s numerical advantage and technological advances, the US Navy is betting heavily on drones—not just the X-47B and its successors, but anti-submarine reconnaissance drones, long-range communications drones, even underwater drones.”

The paper noted the rising risk of accidental conflict, as the US fills the Pacific Ocean with “thousands” of drones, and China deploys its own drones so as not to fall too far behind.

The issue of cyber warfare is closely bound up with the accelerating arms race in the Pacific. The Pentagon’s recent report to the US Congress on Chinese military capabilities stressed the role of Chinese cyber warfare planning as part of broader plans to deter a possible US intervention against China. One can only suppose that US preparations for cyber warfare against China are similarly or even more advanced.

The Pentagon wrote that China’s “sustained investment” in cyber-warfare, guided missile, and space warfare capabilities “appear designed to enable anti-access/area-denial missions (what PLA [Chinese People’s Liberation Army] strategists refer to as ‘counter-intervention operations’). … China continues to develop measures to deter or counter third-party intervention, particularly by the United States. China’s approach to dealing with this problem is manifested in a sustained effort to develop the capability to attack at long ranges military forces that might deploy or operate within the Western Pacific.”

The combination of US threats and unsubstantiated accusations and preparations, both Chinese and American, for what would be a cataclysmic Sino-American conflict, point to the profound crisis of world capitalism.

The industrial infrastructure underlying US-China trade, which totals one-half trillion dollars per year, is at the heart of the world economy. Yet under capitalism and the nation-state system, it must base itself on international financial and military relations which are now in an advanced state of collapse.

On the one hand, crisis-ridden American banks have accumulated trillions of dollars of debts to China, which they are ever less inclined to repay. On the other, while China’s industrial growth has not pulled the Chinese working masses out of poverty, it has shaken US imperialism’s geo-strategic hegemony, which underlay international relations in post-war Asia.

What is emerging is, as the great Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky wrote in 1914 at the beginning of World War I, the “revolt of the forces of production against the political form of nation and state.” Then as now, the critical task is mobilizing the working class in a common international struggle for socialism and against imperialist war.

It is a sure sign of the systemic breakdown of the global capitalist system that the very measures put in place to try to prevent a crisis are creating the conditions for a financial meltdown beyond even the scale of 2008.

For almost five years the world’s major central banks have pumped an estimated $7 trillion into financial markets with the stated aim of trying to spark an economic recovery. Economic data from around the world indicate that it has been a manifest failure.

The statistics on price levels are among the most significant. These show that rather than prices increasing—a sign of recovery in so-called “normal” conditions—deflationary pressures are intensifying.

In the US, consumer prices fell by 0.4 percent in May, the biggest decline since late 2008, following a 0.2 percent decline in April. In Europe, excluding food and energy costs, consumer prices in the 17-member euro zone rose by just 1 percent in April from a year earlier.

The downtrend has far-reaching implications. Confronted with falling prices for their products, major firms and corporations seek to make profits not by investing and expanding production, as they would seek to do if a recovery were underway, but by savage cost-cutting coupled with financial speculation. The consequent cuts in pay and jobs lead to a reduction in consumer demand, further fueling the deflationary trend.

Other economic data highlight this process. Last month, US industrial production fell by 0.5 percent, compared to a projected decline of 0.2 percent, prompting predictions that results for the second quarter would be even worse than the last quarter of 2012, when the US economy showed virtually no expansion.

In the euro zone, unemployment has risen for the 23rd consecutive month and now stands at 12.1 per cent, a 1.1 percent increase over the level a year ago. The euro zone economy contracted by 0.2 percent in the first quarter, meaning the current contraction has lasted longer than that experienced in 2008-2009.

Since the onset of the breakdown in 2008, the prospect has been held out that China could provide the basis for the long-term expansion of the global economy. But while industrial production and retail sales both showed a significant rise last month, pointing to economic growth of about 7.5 percent this year, these hopes are being dashed.

In a recent article pointing to the absence of “a strong source of demand growth” anywhere in the global economy, the Financial Times noted that “worries” about the Chinese economy were “widespread.” In the long term it was clear that the double-digit growth of the past decade was a thing of the past, while in the short term, despite an expansion of credit the rise in GDP produced by this lending was near its lowest level for a decade.

In contrast to the trends in the real economy, financial markets are experiencing an unprecedented boom. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up by 15 percent since the Fed launched its third round of quantitative easing last September. In Japan, the Nikkei index has climbed 44 percent since last December and the election of the Abe government, which demanded that the Bank of Japan boost the money supply. In the UK, the FTSE index has gained 20 percent in the last six months on the back of quantitative easing by the Bank of England, despite the fact that the British “recovery” is weaker even than that experienced in the Great Depression, while European stock markets have gained 30 percent since last July.

These increases are being fuelled entirely by the trillions of dollars being pumped into the financial system by the major central banks.

But rather than expressing a “recovery,” the booming share markets are a fever chart of the deepening crisis of the capitalist system. Never in the history of world capitalism has there been such a divergence of financial markets from underlying economic processes.

The unprecedented rise in global markets has sparked concerns that the conditions are being created for a crash. As Financial Times columnist Gillian Tett noted, “[W]hile the flood of central bank liquidity is enabling the system to absorb small shocks, it is also masking a host of internal contradictions and fragilities that could surface if a shock hits” with the “potential for… future violent instability rising apace.”

While any rational analysis points to the fact that the present conditions are preparing the way for a disaster, the frenzy of speculation continues according to its own mad logic. As the then-chief executive of the US banking giant Citigroup, Chuck Prince, famously remarked in July 2007: “As long as the music is playing, though, you’ve got to get up and dance.” Little more than a year later, the global financial system plunged into its worst crisis since the 1930s.

Today the situation is potentially even more explosive than five years ago. This is because, unlike 2008, the central banks, having bought up trillions of dollars worth of government and other financial assets, are key market players themselves, and so will be directly impacted by a collapse of financial markets.

Increasingly, they are being caught in a trap of their own making. Withdrawal of the financial stimulus measures threatens to collapse the bubble. At the same time, the pumping out of still more money draws them deeper into the mire.

Last week, economists at the International Monetary Fund published an analysis warning that ending easy money policies could result in the central banks suffering severe losses as interest rates spiked and bond prices fell. The Federal Reserve could experience a loss equivalent to as much as 4 percent of GDP ($628 billion), the Bank of Japan could lose 7.5 percent of GDP, and the Bank of England almost 6 percent.

In other words, a new financial shock could call the stability of the central banks themselves into question. Unlike the situation in 2008-2009, they would be unable to mount a rescue operation.

The deepening global crisis of capitalism has the most far-reaching political implications.

The past five years have seen the pumping of hundreds of billions of dollars into the coffers of the banks and speculators, and the financial elite that benefits from their activities, while the impoverishment of ever broader sections of the population has continued unabated.

These measures, far from producing an economic “recovery,” have prepared the way for even bigger disasters.

The Caring Facade of French Imperialism

May 21st, 2013 by David Cronin

The “public relations” accompanying wars has become wearily predictable. Whenever one of its governments or allies conducts a military action, there is a near certainty that the European Union will host or participate in a “donors’ conference”.  

One of these grotesque events has been dedicated to Afghanistan each year since it was invaded by the US in 2001.  After Gaza was bombed for three weeks in late 2008 and early 2009, the EU rushed to foot the bill for damage caused by Israel (often to infrastructure previously built or equipped with Western aid).  And now the European taxpayer is expected to pick up the tab for destruction wrought by France during its military expedition in Mali.

Let me be absolutely clear:  I’m fully in favour of increasing aid to healthcare and education in Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries.  Yet this Wednesday’s donors’ conference – jointly organised by France and the EU – is not really designed to reduce hardship in Africa.  Rather, its purpose is to cover French imperialism with a veneer of benevolence.

At this juncture, there can be no doubt that France’s “intervention” was motivated primarily by its determination to control natural resources in Mali and Niger.  An analysis published in February by in-house researchers at the defence ministry in Paris points out that these two neighbouring countries possess 60% of global uranium reserves. While exploitation of these reserves by Areva, the French nuclear firm, is “certain,” according to the researchers, “instability in the Sahel has an impact on economic projects in the whole region”.

Less than a month after he was sworn in as president last year, François Hollande hinted that he regarded this uranium as effectively Areva’s property.  Following talks with Mahamadou Issoufou, his counterpart from Niger, Hollande said that Areva must be allowed to extract uranium from the giant mine of Imouraren at the earliest possible date.

As the former colonial power, it was France which set the border between Mali and Niger.  The Touareg people who straddle this artificial frontier have been striving for autonomy since the 1960s. Hollande has been eager to quell the recent resurgence in the Touareg struggle and to bolster the Malian authorities.

His efforts have been sold as being part of a fight against “terrorism”. A more plausible explanation is that he wishes to make sure that the uranium in this area doesn’t fall into the “wrong” hands. It is no accident that French troops were deployed earlier this year in both Mali and around the Arlit mine – a key source of uranium for Areva – in Niger.

There is a fundamental dishonesty behind this week’s donors’ conference. Briefing material prepared by its organisers gives the impression that it is part of the EU’s overall development aid activities.  The objective of development aid is  defined in the EU’s Lisbon treaty as reducing and eventually eliminating poverty (indeed, the inclusion of this principle is one of the few positive things in a treaty that has a right-wing ideological orientation).  Raiding the aid budget to help a resource grab in Mali runs counter to that objective. It can, therefore, be considered as illegal.

This is not the first time that the EU is violating its own law.  A 2011 EU strategy paper on the Sahel  blurs the distinction between military and development aid.

The pretext cited is that security is a prerequisite for progress.  This ignores how it is poverty and oppression that beget conflict.

With some rare exceptions, the EU’s governments have reneged on a decades-old commitment to earmark at least 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) for tackling global poverty.  Diverting some of the already inadequate development aid budgets to military training exercises is tantamount to blowing raspberries at the hungry.

Apart from tiny Luxembourg, all of the EU’s governments spend a higher proportion of GDP on the military than on international development.  Not content with that manifest injustice, corporate-funded think tanks have pounced on the French intervention in Mali to advocate that Europe’s military expenditure should be even higher.

Nick Witney, the first head of the European Defence Agency – a body tasked with boosting military cooperation between both private firms and nations – has written an especially opportunistic tract for his current employer, the European Council on Foreign Relations. Witney laments that the “crisis in Mali once again exposed the hollowness of Europe’s military pretensions”. France was “left to do the job alone,” he writes, because of the lack of a “shared strategic culture in Europe”.

His proposed solution is to have a similar level of scrutiny for the military spending of EU governments as that introduced for other types of expenditure over the past few years.  This is despicable: the scrutiny to which he refers enables the Brussels bureaucracy to insist that countries eviscerate their schools and hospitals in the name of deficit reduction. Witney advocates that the same bureaucracy can simultaneously demand greater expenditure on drones.

Meanwhile, a pamphlet by Notre Europe – an institute headed by one-time European Commission chief Jacques Delors – labels many of the EU states as “free-riders” because they did not deploy fighter jets in Libya during 2011 or help France in Mali this year.

These pamphlets have been produced as part of a concerted effort to step up the pace of the EU’s militarisation. You can be sure that they won’t be allowed gather dust.

 

History reinventors support despots. Social democrats are vilified. Crimes of war, against humanity and genocide are sanitized. They’re whitewashed. They disappear in plain sight.

Washington tolerates no independent governments.  Left of center democratic ones are most vulnerable.

In 1953, the CIA’s first coup deposed Iran’s Mohammad Mosaddegh. At the time, The New York Times called him “the most popular politician in the country.” Reza Shah Pahlavi replaced him. A generation-long reign of terror followed.

In 1954, Washington ousted Guatemala’s Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. In 1952, Truman authorized CIA action. Eisenhower followed through.

Paramilitary subversion and psychological warfare forced him out. Carlos Castillo Armas replaced him. Death squad justice followed. So did decades of genocide. More on that below.

On May 10, a three-judge Guatemalan panel found former dictator/General Efrain Rios Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity.

From March 23, 1982 – August 8, 1983, he was Guatemala’s president. He seized power the old-fashioned way. Coup d’etat force installed him.

Less than 17 months later, Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores replaced him. He did it the same way. In 2003 presidential elections, Montt ran unsuccessfully. In 2007, he returned to public office in Congress.

Until January 14, 2012, he remained immune from prosecution. Eight days later, he was indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity. His record is well documented. It’s indisputable. More on that below.

He’s now aged 86. Judge Yasmin Barrios said “(w)e are completely convinced of the intent to destroy the Ixil ethnic groups.”

He was sentenced to 80 years imprisonment. His co-defendant, Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, served as intelligence chief during his tenure. He was acquitted on the same charges.

The trial lasted five weeks. Over 100 witnesses testified. They included psychologists, military experts, and Maya Ixil Indian survivors. They explained Montt’s scorched earth policy. He slaughtered tens of thousands. He destroyed hundreds of villages. More on that below.

Mary O’Grady is Wall Street Journal Americas columnist. Her commentaries reinvent history. Fiction substitutes for indisputable facts.

On May 20, she headlined “The Left’s Cold War Revenge in Guatemala: The history behind an absurd court ruling that Gen. Rios Montt is guilty of genocide.”

Convicting him for genocide “is not supported by the facts,” she claimed. Doing so “is more a score-settling exercise by the international left than a search for truth and justice.”

She called indigenous areas “havens from which terrorists planned, prepared and executed attacks on the rest of the country.”

She admitted that some army units committed massacres. “But it was ‘in no way’ ” state policy. A convoluted version of history followed.

She claimed testimonies of survivors and prosecution experts didn’t prove genocide. “The absurdity of this has not been lost on many Guatemalans,” she said.

“Ixil people and others from the region  view Montt as a hero,” she claimed.

Some hero! Over 70,000 corpses on his watch prove otherwise. So do around 200,000 throughout decades of conflict.

In 1996, Guatemala’s 34-year genocidal war ended. In February 1999, a detailed report followed. The Historical Clarification Commission (aka truth and justice reconciliation commission) headlined “Guatemala, Memory of Silence.”

It documented decades of genocide, torture and other atrocities. Most victims were indigenous Mayans. Guatemalan and US officials bore full responsibility.

Around 9,200 witnesses on all sides of the conflict provided evidence. The commission concluded that Guatemala’s military, security forces, and paramilitary units were responsible for 93% of human rights abuses and deaths.

Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union guerrillas were involved in only 3%. In another 4% of cases, responsibility couldn’t be determined.

According to the report:

“The massacres that eliminated entire Mayan villages are neither perfidious allegations nor figments of the imagination, but an authentic chapter in Guatemala’s history.”

“The majority of human rights violations occurred with the knowledge or by order of the highest authorities of the state.”

“The responsibility for a large part of these violations, with respect to the chain of military command as well as the political and administrative responsibility, reaches the highest levels of the army and successive governments.”

Massacres were politically motivated. “Believing that the ends justified everything, the military and state security forces blindly pursued the anti-Communist struggle, without respect for any legal principles or the most elemental ethical and religious values, and in this way completely lost any semblance of human morals.”

The worst atrocities occurred on Montt’s watch. In 1982, he launched Operation Sofia. Military and security forces committed hundreds of massacres.

Around 600 Mayan villages were destroyed. Systematic genocide was policy. During his short tenure, around 70,000 civilians were murdered or disappeared. Hundreds of thousands were internally displaced.

Over half of those slaughtered were in El Quiche. Ixil Mayans lost from 70 – 90% of their villages. Washington provided generous support. Reagan was president. General Alexander Haig was Secretary of State.

From 1981 – 1983, International/European Law Professor Emeritus Christian Tomuschat called Guatemalan policy “acts of genocide against groups of the Mayan people.”

For over two decades, Washington supported it. “Up until the mid-1980s, there was strong pressure from the US government and US companies to maintain the country’s archaic and unjust economic structure,” he said.

US administrations knew about genocide, torture and other atrocities. They encouraged them.

During the 1960s, Washington equipped and trained Guatemalan security forces. Declassified US intelligence documents revealed CIA and Pentagon involvement. Montt was trained at the School of the Americas (SOA).

Instruction then and now includes ways to kill, maim, torture, oppress, exterminate poor and indigenous people, overthrow democratically elected governments, assassinate targeted leaders, suppress popular resistance, and solidify hard-right rule cooperatively with Washington.

Throughout the 1980s, close US-Guatemalan ties remained. Scorched earth dirty war targeted indigenous Mayan, resistance guerrillas, and suspected allies.

The region was embroiled in conflict. Death squad justice was policy. Washington-backed Contras battled Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. El Salvadoran fascists were supported.

Throughout the decade, weapons, munitions, training, and destabilizing covert operations supported despots over freedom. Resistance fighters and indigenous populations were targeted.

Guatemala’s conflict lasted longest. Washington fueled and supported it. All US administrations have blood on their hands. It reflects imperialism’s dark side.

State-sponsored terror is policy. It’s war without mercy. It’s longstanding. It rages globally. It targets humanity. It takes no prisoners.

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/reinventing-guatemalan-history/

On May 20, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court (its high court) overturned Montt’s conviction. It did so by a three – two majority. Montt will return to house arrest.

“Rios Montt was found guilty on May 10 of overseeing the killings by the armed forces of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil population during his 1982-83 rule. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison.”

Rios Montt’s conviction was hailed as a landmark for justice in the Central American nation, where as many as 250,000 people were killed in a bloody civil war lasting from 1960 to 1996.

However, the country’s Constitutional Court on Monday ordered that all the proceedings be voided going back to April 19, when one of the presiding judges suspended the trial because of a dispute with another judge over who should hear it.” (Times of India, May 21, 2013)

What follows is unclear. Trial proceedings weren’t invalidated. The court ordered them rolled back to April 19. At that time, a brief suspension followed another judge’s decision. Disarray and confusion resulted.

By April 19, the entire prosecution’s case was presented. So was most for the defense. Those proceedings still stand. Everything following is invalidated.

What’s next remains to be seen. A new judicial panel may be appointed. Guatemala’s attorney general may appeal.

Heavy pressure preceded the high court ruling. Business interests wanted Montt’s conviction overturned. Perhaps Washington did also. It supported the worst of Montt’s crimes.

The Bigger Story Behind the AP Spying Scandal

May 21st, 2013 by Washington's Blog

Attack on the Press

You know that the Department of Justice tapped scores of phone lines at the Associated Press.

You might have heard that the Attorney General of the United States isn’t sure how often reporters’ records are seized.

You might have learned that the Department of Justice is prosecuting a whistleblower regarding North Korea … as well as the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News who reported on what the whistleblower told him.  As the Washington Post notes:

[Department of Justice investigators] used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.

You might have read that the Department of Justice Inspector General published a new report today saying that former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke leaked a document intended to smear Operation Fast and Furious scandal whistleblower John Dodson, concluding:

We believe this misconduct to be particularly egregious because of Burke’s apparent effort to undermine the credibility of Dodson’s significant public disclosures about the failures in Operation Fast and Furious. We further believe that the seriousness of Burke’s actions are aggravated by the fact that they were taken within days after he told Deputy Attorney General Cole that he took responsibility for his office’s earlier unauthorized disclosure of a document to The New York Times, and after Cole put him on notice that such disclosures should not occur. Burke also knew at the time of his disclosure of the Dodson memorandum that he was under investigation by OPR for his conduct in connection with the earlier disclosure to The New York Times. As a high-level Department official, Burke knew his obligations to abide by Department policies and his duty to follow the instructions of the Deputy Attorney General, who was Burke’s immediate supervisor.

But there have been many similar scandals over the last couple of years.  For example:

  • The Bush White House worked hard to smear CIA officersbloggers and anyone else who criticized the Iraq war

After Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing about bad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge

In an effort to protect Bank of America from the threatened Wikileaks expose of the bank’s wrongdoing, the Department of Justice told Bank of America to a hire a specific hardball-playing law firm to assemble a team to take down WikiLeaks (and see this).

Wikileaks’ head Julian Assange could face the death penalty for his heinous crime of leaking whistleblower information which make those in power uncomfortable … i.e. being a reporter.

But – whatever you think of Wikileaks – that was the canary in the coal mine in terms of going after reporters.  Specifically, former attorney general Mukasey said the U.S. should prosecute Assange because it’s “easier” than prosecuting the New York Times.

Subsequently, Congress considered a bill which would make even mainstream reporters liable for publishing leaked information.

Journalist and former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald notes today:

The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty [says that "The alternative to 'conspiring' with leakers to get information: Just writing what the government tells you."]

That, of course, is precisely the point of the unprecedented Obama war on whistleblowers and press freedoms: to ensure that the only information the public can get is information that the Obama administration wants it to have. That’s why Obama’s one-side games with secrecy – we’ll prolifically leak when it glorifies the president and severely punish all other kinds – is designed to construct the classic propaganda model. And it’s good to see journalists finally speaking out in genuine outrage and concern about all of this.

***

Here’s an amazing and revealing fact: after Richard Nixon lost the right to exercise prior restraint over the New York Times’ publication of the Pentagon Papers, he was desperate to punish and prosecute the responsible NYT reporter, Neil Sheehan. Thus, recounted the NYT’s lawyer at the time, James Goodale, Nixon concocted a theory:

“Nixon convened a grand jury to indict the New York Times and its reporter, Neil Sheehan, for conspiracy to commit espionage . . . .The government’s ‘conspiracy’ theory centered around how Sheehan got the Pentagon Papers in the first place. While Daniel Ellsberg had his own copy stored in his apartment in Cambridge, the government believed Ellsberg had given part of the papers to anti-war activists. It apparently theorized further that the activists had talked to Sheehan about publication in the Times, all of which it believed amounted to a conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act.”

As Goodale notes, this is exactly “the same charge Obama’s Justice Department is investigating Assange under today,” and it’s now exactly the same theory used to formally brand Fox’s James Rosen as a criminal in court.

Indeed, this is not a partisan issue.  Bush was worse than Nixon on unlawful spying and harassment of reporters … but so is Obama.

Whistleblower Witch Hunt

But Obama has gone after whistleblowers more viciously than Bush, Nixon, or any president in history.  Indeed, the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined.

And the government goes out of its way to smear whistleblowers and harass honest analysts.

Even high-level government employees are in danger. For example, after the head of the NSA’s spying program – William Binney – disclosed the fact that the U.S. was spying on everyone in the U.S. and storing the data forever, and that the U.S. was quickly becoming a totalitarian state, the Feds tried to scare him into shutting up:

[Numerous] FBI officers held a gun to Binney’s head as he stepped naked from the shower. He watched with his wife and youngest son as the FBI ransacked their home. Later Binney was separated from the rest of his family, and FBI officials pressured him to implicate one of the other complainants in criminal activity. During the raid, Binney attempted to report to FBI officials the crimes he had witnessed at NSA, in particular the NSA’s violation of the constitutional rights of all Americans. However, the FBI wasn’t interested in these disclosures. Instead, FBI officials seized Binney’s private computer, which to this day has not been returned despite the fact that he has not been charged with a crime.

Other NSA whistleblowers have also been subjected to armed raids and criminal prosecution.

After high-level CIA officer John Kiriakou blew the whistle on illegal CIA torture, the government prosecuted him for espionage.

Even the head of the CIA was targeted with extra-constitutional spying  and driven out of office.

The Most Gagged Person in the History of the United States

One example of the extreme gagging of whistleblowers is former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds.

The ACLU described Edmonds as:

The most gagged person in the history of the United States of America.

Edmonds has been deemed credible by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, several senators (free subscription required), and a coalition of prominent conservative and liberal groups.

Edmonds’ allegations have been confirmed by numerous Pentagon, MI6 and FBI officials, including 18-year FBI counter-intelligence expert John Cole.

Famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg says that Edmonds possesses information “far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers”.

Ellsberg also said that the government has ordered the media not to cover 9/11:

Ellsberg seemed hardly surprised that today’s American mainstream broadcast media has so far failed to take [former FBI translator and 9/11 whistleblower Sibel] Edmonds up on her offer, despite the blockbuster nature of her allegations [which Ellsberg calls "far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers"].

As Edmonds has also alluded, Ellsberg pointed to the New York Times, who “sat on the NSA spying story for over a year” when they “could have put it out before the 2004 election, which might have changed the outcome.”

“There will be phone calls going out to the media saying ‘don’t even think of touching it, you will be prosecuted for violating national security,’” he told us.

* * *

“I am confident that there is conversation inside the Government as to ‘How do we deal with Sibel?’” contends Ellsberg. “The first line of defense is to ensure that she doesn’t get into the media. I think any outlet that thought of using her materials would go to to the government and they would be told ‘don’t touch this . . . .‘”

Indeed, the mainstream British newspaper the Sunday Times started publishing a series of articles exposing the scandal which Edmonds had uncovered.   But U.S. State Department pressure killed the series.

What are Edmonds’ allegations … that the media is too cowardly to report … that the most famous whistleblower in history calls “more explosive than the Pentagon Papers”?

Among other things, Edmonds says that the U.S. government worked with Bin Laden and his top lieutenant 3 months after 9/11 … as part of an ongoing operation of launching war under false pretenses.

Now that would be a big story if true, wouldn’t it?

The mainstream media is finally awakening to the fact we are flirting with tyranny … and is finally starting to push back.

The best defense is a strong offense, and it is use it or lose it time for the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The press should shake of its sleepiness and start talking to the whistleblowers (like Edmonds)  it’s been ignoring for years … to find out what the government is working so hard to hide.

South Africa’s main industry, mining, is facing tremendous uncertainty with workers threatening strikes over the recent announcement that thousands of employees would be laid-off. The industry has been the scene of protracted struggles since mid-2012 when a series of wildcat and protected work stoppages crippled production throughout the country.

In a recent move by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), an affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), a wage demand was put forward on May 17 to the Chamber of Mines calling for a 60 percent pay increase. The bosses have reacted with shock over this demand and financial consultants have claimed that this escalating tension between the mining unions and the owners has deepened the already unstable situation involving the South African economy.

The escalating conflict between labor and management in South Africa is making the system vulnerable, said George Glynos, who is the managing director at financial consultancy ETM Analytics. “Commodity prices are retreating, you have wage negotiations which look like they are turning pear-shaped even before they have begun, and all that on top of a fragile economy,” he said. (Reuters, May 17)

In a press release issued by NUM it states that “The union demands that surface workers should receive a minimum amount of R7000 ($750) and underground and opencast workers minimum should be set at R8000 ($850) per month. For all other categories, the NUM has put a demand of 15%. Furthermore, the union demands that Rockdrill Operators job categories be rolled up to category 8 whilst other categories are rolled up to category 7. (NUM Press Release, May 17)

“These demands are informed by many studies which have revealed that cash wages received over time has indeed been growing but, the disposable wage has been under severe strain due to the effects of inflation and other expense incurred to maintain a worker’ modest lifestyle” says Frans Baleni, the NUM General Secretary.

Also NUM has placed other demands involving housing, transportation and insurance before the mine owners. They are currently awaiting a response prior to the beginning of negotiations in June.

As of May 20, these demands are being attributed as a cause for the decline in the value of the South African rand which dropped to a four-year low of 9.5 percent against the United States dollar. Share prices for gold producers AngloGold Ashanti and the rival Gold Fields have also fallen over the last eight seasons. (Reuters, May 20)

Lonmin Unrest Continues

In the platinum industry where at least 50 workers were killed last year both at the Marikana massacre where 34 died at the hands of provincial police and in other incidents before and after the massacre, unrest is continuing. The African National Congress (ANC) government established the Farlam Commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the police killings on August 16.

There has been a major challenge to the NUM dominance in the platinum mines in the area. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is seeking recognition as the principal bargaining unit for the Lonmin Mines at Marikana. At present NUM is still the official representative of the workers.

AMCU is claiming that it has more workers than NUM at the Marikana mines. The NUM it saying even if this is true it should still be allowed to represent its supporters within the mines as a minority unit.

A policy of 50 percent support plus one has guided official representation in the mines. AMCU is saying that NUM should leave the Lonmin mines around Marikana and allow them to lead.

“We admit that for many years on the issue of threshold, it was 50 plus one,” said NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka.

“As a union we have lost the majority at Lonmin,” he said. “We are prepared to give Amcu the opportunity to lead. But they must give us the space to exist, as we did when they were a minority.”

This situation is complicated due to the fact that NUM through COSATU maintains its alliance with the ruling ANC government. National elections are scheduled for 2014 and traditionally the ANC has relied on its majority support from the trade unions in order to secure large margins of victory.

With problems continuing in the mining industry, the ruling party is concerned that the loss of control of the workers in the platinum industry around Rustenburg could place a serious dent in its base of political support. A recent call for a two day strike at Marikana was attributed to an unofficial show of strength by AMCU even though it did not publically organize the work stoppage.

There were mixed evaluations of the outcome of the recent wildcat strike. Some sources say that the stay-at-home was not successful while others claim that it was.

With the overall decline in prices and earnings within the gold and platinum sectors in South Africa, the bosses will continue to pressure the workers through threats of downsizing and the closing of production facilities. Until the mining industry is taken over by the workers through a process of nationalization under employee control, the bosses will remain obstinate in their responses to the demands for higher wages and better living conditions.

 Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Given the prevailing research interest on the transition from anti- to alter- globalization, this paper examines where the World Social Forum is situated in the spectrum of movements against neo-liberal globalization. I argue that the progression of the anti/alter-globalization movements, while not linear or mutually-exclusive, can be traced along a continuum, marking the transition from condemnation, to advocating for change, to articulating means by which such change can be brought about.

Employing a historical sociological analysis and examining the context of its emergence, I suggest that the Forum, in addressing some of the aforementioned limitations, marks a transition from anti- to alter- globalization. Under the slogan of ‘another world is possible’, there is an emphasis on reforming rather than rejecting the dominant global economic system. However, at the same time, one must acknowledge that such a distinction is far from clear-cut, linear, or mutually exclusive.

The Forum has united the expression of a multitude of opinions, perspectives, and most importantly, strategies, linking representatives embracing both radical revolutionary thought emblematic of anti-globalization, and moderate reformers representing alter-globalization. This polycentric nature thus makes it difficult to posit with certainty the location of the World Social Forum

“If Seattle was…the coming-out party of a resistance movement, then…Porto Alegre (the site of the World Social Forum) is the coming-out party for the existence of serious thinking about alternatives” (Naomi Klein, activist, 2002: 158, emphasis added).

After a decade of neo-liberalist indoctrination that there is no feasible substitute to the capitalist system, a significant back-lash emerged in the 1990s. Activists representing the global civil society were intent on exposing the failures and internal contradictions inherent in a system which justified the exacerbation of global stratification. The concepts elucidated by Antonio Gramsci contribute to a cogent understanding of the emerging anti-globalization movement, which can be seen as an effort to create a counter-hegemony to challenge the prevailing neo-liberal discourse.

While anti-globalization activists were effective in their condemnation of power-wielding financial institutions, many scholars assert that the protestors’ legitimacy was undermined as a result of their inability to articulate an alternative form of global governance. In response, the alter-globalization movement is depicted as a reaction to address these limitations in terms of positing alternatives. The World Social Forum (WSF), with its origins in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre in 2001, is emblematic of alter-globalization, uniting a diversity of movements under the slogan, ‘another world is possible’.

Given the prevailing research interest on the transition from anti- to alter- globalization, this paper examines where the World Social Forum is situated in the spectrum of movements against neo-liberal globalization. I argue that the progression of the anti/alter-globalization movements, while not linear or mutually-exclusive, can be traced along a continuum, specifically, marking the transition from condemnation, to advocating for change, to articulating means by which such change can be brought about. Employing a historical sociological analysis and examining the context of its emergence, I suggest that the Forum, in addressing some of the aforementioned limitations, marks a transition from anti- to alter- globalization, with an emphasis on reforming rather than rejecting the current and predominant global economic system. However, at the same time, one must acknowledge that such a distinction is far from clear-cut, linear, or mutually exclusive. The Forum has united the expression of a multitude of opinions, perspectives, and most importantly, strategies, linking representatives embracing both radical revolutionary thought emblematic of anti-globalization, and moderate reformers representing alter-globalization. This polycentric nature thus makes it difficult to posit with certainty the location of the World Social Forum.

An overview of key concepts elucidated by theorist Antonio Gramsci will be first examined, followed by an explanation of the process of historical sociology. This theoretical perspective reinforces the importance of examining the context leading up to the emergence of the World Social Forum which will shed light on its proposed location in the trajectory of movements. I will also explore the profile of activists who have embodied the various facets of the movement throughout its development. Such an examination is essential in order to study the evolving structure of the Forum and determine whether it has met its objectives of facilitating the inclusion of grassroots organizations, how its internal evolution has affected subsequent policies, goals, strategies of resistance and the very actors involved, and whether representation has been democratized since its inception.

Theoretical Frame of Reference
Gramsci and Counter-Hegemony: The Transformatory Potential of Civil Society

Many scholars, including Mittelman and Chin (2000), Cox (1999 and 1993) and Worth (2002 and 2004), have drawn on Antonio Gramsci’s writings to understand the “hegemony of neo-liberalism that has provoked a series of crises and a counter-movement that seeks redress” (Amoore 2005: 4). The transnational drive to disprove the claim of free trade enthusiast and former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, of TINA or There Is No Alternative, evidences such a movement. Of most relevance to the present paper are Gramscian concepts of counter-hegemony, the comparison between wars of movement and wars of position, the idea of transformismo, and his assertions on the transformatory potential of civil society.

Antonio Gramsci’s (1891-1937) most cogent ideas are consolidated in the Prison Notebooks composed in 1929 and 1935 during his incarceration by the fascist regime in Italy. His position as general secretary of the Communist Party evidences the influences of Marxist thought which permeate his work. In particular, Gramsci was intrigued not only by the asymmetrical power and social relations which were upheld and perpetuated by a dominant group, but also the omnipresent “expressions of counter-hegemonic consciousness” at the collective level among those in a subordinate position. Such hegemony pertained not only to pervasive inter-class strife, but also that of international power relations, such as British supremacy during the First World War (Cox 1993: 41-3; Worth 2002: 300). The concept of hegemony is here applied to understanding the inordinate emphasis placed on neo-liberalist trade policies and relations as well as the positing of feasible, necessary, and desirable alternatives manifested in the emergent transnational nature of the counter-hegemonic movement. Catalyzed and embodied in the World Social Forum, the movement served to “bind[] disparate voices” into a coherent program demanding change (Mittelman and Chin 2000: 18-19). One can argue that TINA was soon contested and ousted by her sister, TARA, representing There Are Real Alternatives.

The pertinence and applicability of Gramcian theory is further extended when examining the polycentric nature of the Forum’s internal makeup. Indeed, divergent forms and strategies of resistance to hegemony and the perpetuation of inequities are subsumed under the rubric of counter-hegemony and can be divided into wars of movement and wars of position. The former, which is alternatively referred to as wars of maneuver, consists of direct assaults against the state which can take the form of labor strikes or military action (Gramsci 1971: 28). In contrast, wars of position constitute confrontations such as boycotts which disrupt and impede the everyday functioning of the state (Mittelman and Chin 2000: 18). A cursory glance can align the two strategies of the dichotomy of overtly disruptive wars of movement with its subtler counterpart of wars of position with the anti- and alter-globalization movements respectively; a distinction which will soon reveal its complexity in the context of the World Social Forum. Such a difference is particularly relevant when examining the myriad of activists and strategies represented at the WSF’s annual gatherings.

In the same theoretical vein, Gramsci’s notion of transformismo greatly contributes to an analysis of the counter-hegemonic movements against globalization. Transformismo refers to the cautioning against co-optation by those who are intent on preserving hegemonic forces. Having been a criticism unleashed by revolutionary activists on their seemingly more moderate counterparts at the Forum, such warnings were exemplified by the Mumbai Resistance fighters who, in the 2004 WSF, re-injected an element of violence into the roster of strategies used by WSF activists to offset or counterbalance what they perceived to be weakening of protestors’ demands (Worth 2002: 314). Gramsci also stressed the transformatory potential of civil society, a concept to which he ascribed the properties of both an “agent of stabilization and reproduction” of the status quo, as well as providing a potential realm in which a new social order could be founded (Cox 1999: 103-4). Similarly, the emphasis placed on the necessity of involving insurgence from below was a critical guiding principle for the organizers of the WSF to maximize representativeness and effectiveness of demands. Indeed, in light of the frequent exclusion and uneven and undemocratic trade policies incurred on the Global South in the context of the global economy, Forum coordinators emphasized that the “emancipator role” of a “bottom-up civil society” could only be incubated if the Forum itself took place in the Global South. Consequently, the first three Forums were situated in Porto Alegre, Brazil. This selection was predicated with the anticipation that a more democratic and inclusive roster of Southern activists would follow suite to voice their dissatisfaction and seek alternatives (Cox 1999: 108-9).

Historical Sociology

While scholars have effectively used Gramscian theories in the context of movements against globalization, a corresponding and complimentary theoretical stance which guides the thrust of this paper is the method of historical sociology. The emphasis on diachronic analysis prioritized by this methodology points to the importance of recognizing how key societal phenomenon are grounded in the context of their emergence, and how their structure is shaped by complex social processes. Indeed, a longitudinal study of key influential factors leading up to the conception of the World Social Forum in 2001 is critical in order to trace parallels, and recognize both inspirations and divergences from the original blueprints. Given the parameters of the paper, the examination of case studies is limited to those which contributed to the emergence and development of the Forum. The historical sociology methodology is thus apt in contributing to the query of the position of the WSF in the transition of counter-hegemonic movements against globalization. [Note 1]

The Global Scene: Contextualization of the World Social Forum

If the 1980s were characterized by the unquestioned adherence and imposition of neo-liberal ideology, a feature which dominated the 1990s was a backlash at the local and international levels against the overt inequalities justified by this method of economic development. Indeed, the World Social Forum, the combined brainchild of the French ATTAC anti-globalization group and the Brazilian Worker’s Party, followed in the footsteps of revolts orchestrated by the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico in 1994, as well as the famed ‘Battle in Seattle’ of 1999. The two philosophies which guided the demands, critiques, and internal structure of the Forum were first a reaction against the seemingly solitary method of globalization aggressively promoted by the likes of Reagan and Thatcher; and second, the paucity of democratic inclusion in the decision-making practices of the predominant financial institutions. Each of these will be examined in turn.

There Is No Alternative (TINA) vs. ‘Another World is Possible’

The aftermath of the Great Depression led to an adherence to Keynesian principles which legitimated state involvement in the economy to mitigate the worst effects and inevitable inequalities of capitalist industrialization (Smith et al. 2008: 5). However, radical global economic restructuring in the 1980s retracted almost fifty years of the welfare state, replacing the Keynesian era with neo-liberalist ideology embodied in the Washington Consensus (Li 2008; Smith et al. 2008; Worth 2002). Touted as the much-needed impetus to economic development, former US president Ronald Reagan and his British counterpart Margaret Thatcher were the two most vocal proponents of this system of financial austerity. Among the different ‘ingredients’ outlined in this ‘recipe’ for economic fortification was liberalized trade and investment, deregulation, and the privatization of state-owned industries. These recommendations were accompanied by drastic cut-backs to governmental involvement and the provision of services (Ayres 2004: 12). In response to critiques of the ubiquitous inequities stemming from such harsh imposition and the withdrawal of a state safety net, advocates of neo-liberalism retorted with assertions of ‘trickle-down’ economics, claiming that the overall economic benefits would offset the temporary inevitable pain (Smith et al. 2008: 6; Fisher and Ponniah 2003).

Thatcher popularized the phrase There Is No Alternative or TINA to justify the global expansion of capitalism through the reformulated Bretton Woods ideology manifested in the financial institutions of the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) (Smith et al. 2008). A dichotomy was made between two worlds; that of Davos, the Swiss location of the World Economic Forum and the site of consolidation of global liberalization, with one of ‘chaos’, affirming the perceived lack of credible or feasible alternatives (Amin 2006). Skeptics assert that such policies only serve to reinforce the polarization of the world in what world systems analyst Immanuel Wallerstein would characterize as the core and the exploited periphery. [Note 2] Samir Amin (2006), member of the International Committee of the World Social Forum, condemned the perceived ‘senility’ or selective memory of a neo-liberalist economic system which disregards the adverse and polarized effects stemming from its imposition.

Insistence of trade über alles has had devastating effects in both Third World countries reeling from a legacy of colonialism, as well as Communist nations experiencing the transition from socialism after the implosion of the Soviet Union. Financial liberalization provided attractive breeding ground for transnational corporations. Unregulated economic activities accelerated the ‘race to the bottom’, wherein countries feel compelled to eliminate labor and environmental standards regardless of the devastation and social repercussions that ensued in order to ensure continual financial investment. As Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, Brazilian president and active supporter of the World Social Forum noted, “if the Amazon is the lungs of the world, then debt is its pneumonia” (George 1992: 1). Indeed, foreign debt is wielded as a political means of maintaining dependency through compelling developing nations to comply with the financial dictates in order to be eligible for continual monetary assistance (Keet 2000: 473). [Note 3]

The severe social dislocation which took place in the absence of state provided services had devastating impacts in Third World nations. Many were beset by violent financial crises, starting with Mexico, which declared bankruptcy in 1982 (Li 2008). The situation which McNally (2002) terms “the global loss of democracy,” came to a climax with the collapse of the East Asian ‘Tigers’ in 1997. The ‘Asian Miracle’ of the (draconian) fiscal austerity program imposed in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and the Philippines prompted some short-term successes with massive inflows of foreign investment, and provided fodder for neo-liberal enthusiasts who claimed the benefits of their program. However, the rapid economic growth was not sustainable. Investors fled at the first sight of a weakening economy (Rupert 2000). Currencies drastically fell, and unemployment rates skyrocketed in countries lacking a state safety net (McNally 2002). As the Asian countries had become dependent on injections of ever higher doses of financial investment, the retraction of monetary assistance led to a severe ‘crash’ and dramatic withdrawal symptoms.

As neo-liberalism consistently failed to deliver promises of enhanced economic and social wellbeing, resistance percolated in the South, accompanied by a growing awareness in the North of the many contradictions inherent in this ‘inevitable’ economic system (Li 2008; Drainville 2002). One could say that this served as the incubation grounds of the transnational counter-hegemony, capable of challenging and even reversing the trends of neo-liberalism (Worth 2002).

The Counter-Hegemonic Discourse of Anti-Globalization: Another World is On Its Way

Political economist Karl Polanyi was intrigued by the emergence of an increasingly unregulated market, documenting how it would spiral out of control and subordinate all in its path. However, one of his most important contributions was his assertion that such a situation contained the seeds for a double- or counter-movement which would restrict its unhindered acts (Falk 1998; Polanyi 2001 [1944]). As his seminal book, The Great Transformation (1944), was published at the end of the Second World War, Polanyi assumed that the state would be the actor taking the reins to lead this counter-movement in the form of protectionist state policies. However, in a context of Reagonomics and drastically reduced governmental presence and clout characterizing post-World War Two society, such responsibility fell on the shoulders of an increasingly transnational civil society.

As evidence of what former World Bank (WB) chief economist, Joseph Stiglitz, condemned as the ‘misguided policies’ of IMF and WB-imposed neo-liberalist credo became more apparent, the rumble of dissent began to percolate from below. Frustration of powerlessness, awareness of increasing inequalities, and exasperation with an impotent government coalesced into what Gramsci (1971) referred to as counter-hegemony (in Mittelman and Chin 2000). Anti-globalization activists challenged assertions of the inevitable nature of an exploitative, top-down model of globalization. Taking to the streets, they voiced their dissatisfaction in an effort to create a counter-hegemony to the prevailing neo-liberalist discourse pervading economic ideology (Worth and Kuhling 2004). The Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, and the so-called Battle of Seattle served as catalysts to this framework of counter-hegemony and opened the possibility for the World Social Forum to emerge as an alternative political body (Smith et al. 2008: 19; Worth and Kuhling 2004).

While the Eurocentric slant of global media often point to the 1999 ‘taking back the streets’ in Seattle as the pinnacle event which launched the anti-globalization movement, it can be argued that it was in fact the Zapatista insurgency in Chiapas which catapulted this issue onto the international agenda, as a force to reckon with (Teivainen 2002). On January 1st, 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) took up arms to protest their governments’ acceptance of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The direction of this target was due to NAFTA’s role as an arm of neo-liberalism in which explicit double standards were evident, and which further disempowered the Mexican people (Curran 2008; Smith et al. 2008: 20). Coinciding their protest with the signing of this trade agreement set a critical precedent which ensuing anti-globalization protests followed. Namely, subsequent counter-events synchronized their protests with meetings of the global elite in order to both enhance their symbolism and relevance, as well as garner media attention.

The Zapatista uprising also significantly contributed to the framework and structure of the World Social Forum. The ‘open-space’ model of decentralized discussion and the exchange of ideas in an informal setting which Forum organizers adopted harkened to an earlier precedent established by the Mexican activists (Curran 2007). [Note 4] The WSF was born in this spirit of an ‘open space’ in which a “constellation of activists and communities around the world” networked, shared experiences, and built alliances, united by the shared desire to challenge the hegemonic neo-liberal discourse (Curran 2007: 8).

Furthermore, the Zapatista insurgency contributed to the transnational nature of the World Social Forum. Indeed, far from being an uprising limited by political borders, the Zapatistas’ avowed enemy was not the Mexican state, which many acknowledged was coerced into signing the accord. Rather, the thrust of criticism was directed against neo-liberalism’s hegemony. This distinction made such a struggle not nationalist, but one of a universal and even transnational nature (2002: 160). [Note 5] In the context of acknowledging the clear influence of the Zapatista movement in the configuration of the Forum, it is essential to note how they were thereafter excluded from Forum participation as a result of their avowed stance which included violence as a strategy for demanding change. This fact will be elaborated shortly, and evidences the complexity of pinpointing the proposed position and stance of the polycentric World Social Forum in the counter-hegemonic movements against globalization.

The Battle in Seattle: “And the World Listened”

While the Zapatista insurgency had veritable impact on the counter-hegemonic discourse that was driving resistance around the world, Leite and Gil (2005) replicate the view of many researchers who locate the inception of the anti-globalization movement in its embodiment in a North American context: Seattle (Fisher and Ponniah 2003). The year 1999 documents activist protests surrounding the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Ministerial Conference. The “recalcitrant voices” of dispersed resistances including the Zapatistas are seen as but “isolated dissonances in an enormous choir tuned to the idea of globalization…An idea which would remain unchallenged” until a “new actor” arrived on the scene at the end of the 1990s (Leite and Gil 2005: 16). In spite of this perspective, which directed inordinate attention onto this singular event, the United States’ overt role as a leading proponent advocating for the global expansion of the neo-liberal paradigm made this unlikely location all the more significant (Ayres 2004: 20; Leite and Gil 2005). An unprecedented unity was achieved between a multitude of social movements, in which the “new commonality” of counter-hegemonic consciousness served to bind disparate voices into advocating for a coherent and shared vision of change (Mittelman and Chin 2000: 19; Leite and Gil 2005: 16). Beyond the more visible challenges to the tranquil atmosphere which hitherto surrounded such meetings of the global elite, the Seattle protest epitomized a counter-hegemony in the form of transformed consciousness and awareness in the Global South. Southern delegates attending the World Trade Organization meeting seemed to internalize the condemnations which were loudly being vocalized by the activists in the streets. [Note 6] In particular, they challenged the process by which they were denied access to the “Green Room” meetings in which the nations wielding power and wealth effectively excluded their developing counterparts from participating in economic decisions which would ultimately affect their countries’ domestic policies (McNally 2002).

The Seattle protests served as a forerunner for other events in the so-called Global North; “kick[ing] off an increasingly vigorous protest cycle that consolidated the global movement”, as well as coinciding condemnations as counterpoints to meetings of the global hegemonic elite (Leite and Gil 2005: 67; Drainville 2002). Among the numerous “transnational communities of resistance” which garnered media attention were the protests in Washington, DC against the IMF in 2000, and the demonstration in Prague, Czech Republic in the same year condemning a combined meeting of the IMF and World Bank. The year 2001 has gone down in social movement history as a year of prolific protests. Among the many events that is testimony to the growth of a counter-hegemonic consciousness and movement against globalization included the Quebec City ‘People’s Summit’ against the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement (FTAA), the subsequent demonstration conducted against an assembly of the G-8 in Genoa, Italy, and finally, the protests in the Middle Eastern city of Doha, Qatar against the WTO (Brooks 2004; Drainville 2002: 179). The active and often violent ‘taking back the streets’ of anti-globalization protestors harkens back to Gramsci’s ideas of wars of movement impeding the daily functioning of state and society in the verve to challenge neo-liberalism’s perceived hegemony (Cox 1999; Doucet 2008; Drainville 2002).

As 2001 was also the year in which the World Social Forum was inaugurated, it is instrumental to examine Brooks’ (2004) selection of the far from comprehensive list of the above mentioned counter-events as epitomizing the anti-globalization movement. The reasoning behind this concentration is fourfold. Firstly, the progression of the protests coincided with September 11th; an event which shook the confidence of the neo-liberalist world. This watershed date also reinforced former President George Bush’s assertion of the need to expand such economic policies to counter further acts of terrorism, which presumably, took place in contexts of economic backwardness and poverty, and not as a reaction to American imperialist policies. In what would prove significant in the WSF’s configuration, this context resulted in waning governmental tolerance for protests, with labels of disloyalty and terrorism being attributed to the activists, and significantly undermining the legitimacy or demands of the anti-globalization movement.

Secondly, just as the WSF was created as a counterpoint to the World Economic Forum, the succession of protests surrounding the various meetings of economic power-holders resulted in such elitist gatherings taking place in ever remote locations, such as Qatar, in the hopes of dissuading and deterring protestors’ attendance [Note 7]. Thirdly, a focus on the protests from Seattle to Qatar is warranted, noting how each subsequent demonstration escalated in protest tactics. As a result of exhibiting anarchist elements, such tactics led to increased police presence and violent repression leading to the ultimate “ineffectiveness” of these anti-globalization protests (Brooks 2004: 563).

In spite of former US President Bill Clinton’s apparent willingness to incorporate the concerns of the Seattle protestors in his proposals for ‘globalization with a human face’, subsequent counter-events seemed to be met with increasingly repressive measures rather than an exhibited inclination to compromise (Rupert 2000: 199-203). This is in light of the fact that many concessions made by Clinton and the World Economic Forum were dismissed as efforts to co-opt the enraged civil society by making neo-liberalist economic expansion more palatable. Gramsciists would refer to the perceived attempts to dilute activist verve as transformismo or the absorption of potentially counter-hegemonic ideas, making them consistent with the hegemonic doctrine, in this case, neo-liberal ideology (Cox 1993: 45; Doucet 2008; Gill 2000; Rupert 2000).

Indeed, it was this recognition of waning governmental tolerance in ceding to the demands made by the increasingly aggressive activists that spurred the organizers of the World Social Forum to restrict participation to non-violent protestors. As alluded to earlier, this decision resulted in the exclusion of the avowedly revolutionary Zapatistas, in spite of the former having set many precedents that the WSF organizers would implement. The anti-violence stance can also be seen as indicating a transition from anti- to alter-globalization, suggesting where the Forum can be positioned in this spectrum of activism.

A final factor which unites the aforementioned protests pertains to their involvement of “insurgents from below” (McNally 2002: 25). This is an interesting statement which will be analyzed in conjunction with criticisms that the World Social Forum solely represents the ‘elites’ of activists and NGOs. Street demonstrations coincided with public forums for networking and discussion; a distinction that Ribeiro (2006) equates with anti-globalization and alter-globalization, respectively. Similarly, adherents of Gramscian thought would attribute this dichotomy to the overtly disruptive wars of movement on the one hand, and its counterpart of the more subtle protests exhibited in wars of position, on the other (Cox 1999; Ribeiro 2006:4; Worth 2002).

“We Know What You Are Against, But What Are You For?”

“Being anti-something can be politically useful, but only up to a point” (Teivainen 2002: 621). It was in response to allegations and criticisms such as this that the World Social Forum was conceived. Indeed, the inability to articulate a credible alternative to neo-liberalism has become a problem impeding the legitimacy of the anti-globalization movement (Teivainen 2002: 628). As McNally (2002) asserts, “a favorite pastime of globalizers has been to label their opponents ‘anti-trade’” (29). In addition to lacking a unified sentiment of shared goals and demands, negative and disabling labels have dismissed such activists as terrorists, anarchists, radicals and communists intent on overthrowing the dominant capitalist system (Brooks 2004; McNally 2002). While anti-globalization protestors, their affiliations, and preferred strategies of resistance do span across this spectrum, the dispersive nature and lack of appointed leaders has impeded the ability to speak on behalf of the divergent voices and multitude of views in this umbrella movement. The media has subsequently gravitated to and harped on the more radical and violent elements and activists, framing such views as being representative of the movement’s aspirations and demands as a whole.

A microcosm of the “hotly contested [collective] framing debate” emerged in the midst of the Seattle protests in the form of journalistic dialogue (Ayres 2004: 22). In an article entitled ‘Senseless in Seattle’, New York Times reporter Thomas Friedman decried the WTO protestors as “a Noah’s ark of flat-earth advocates, protectionist trade unions and yuppies looking for their 1960s fix” (Ayres 2004; McNally 2002). An ardent supporter of the benefits and inevitability of neo-liberalism, Friedman provided fodder for pro-globalizers by characterizing protestors as advocates of ‘anti-globalization’. In response, noted Canadian activist Naomi Klein contested such a dismissive and overarching label. Clarifying that the activists were not in opposition to the globalization of economies, technologies and culture but were rather incensed by the current WTO-dominated neo-liberalist system, she argued that this condemnation centered around a system which facilitated the unfettered economic pursuit of power and unrestricted extension of the tentacles of transnational corporations, yet remained passive in the face of overt human rights violations and ecological degradation (Ayres 2004; McNally 2002). Klein (2002) contended that in light of this clarification, the World Social Forum gave much needed structure to a hitherto decentralized movement (160).

This shift from ‘opposition to proposition’, or what I call, ‘from reactive to proactive’, is epitomized in how the advent of the World Social Forum spurred the more popular use of the term, ‘global justice movement’. This modification in terminology was to signal “what it was for as well as against, and to shake off the negative ‘anti’ identity that misrepresented its goals” (Curran 2007: 7, emphasis added). Such a sentiment led to the adoption of the French alter-mondialisation or alter-globalization, reflecting the recognition that in addition to organizing protest events, activists were increasingly being compelled to formulate alternatives to the currently dominant and exploitative form of globalization (Curran 2007; Doucet 2008: 33; Klein 2002).

From ‘Anti-Davos’ to Porto Alegre: The Emergence of the World Social Forum

As aforementioned, one of the foremost criticisms that have undermined the credibility and potential effectiveness of the anti-globalization movement is the lack of proposed alternatives to the inequalities inherent in economic-driven globalization. Such a concern makes propositions as to the location of the WSF in the continuum of movements an intriguing question. Ayres (2004) reiterates the need to go beyond “diagnostic attribution” or identifying the source of the problem as embodied in neo-liberalism, to “prognostic attribution” which is concerned with the resolution of the perceived dilemma through the proposal of alternatives (14). Critics of the Free Trade of the Americas need to “move beyond protest” to elucidate what would constitute a more just world (Doucet 2008: 21).

The organizers of the World Social Forum addressed this limitation by providing “an opportunity for an emerging movement to stop screaming about what it is against and start articulating what it is for”; a significant change which can be argued to mark the transition from anti- to alter-globalization (Klein 2002: 158, emphasis added). As proponents of outra globalização (“another globalization”) delineating a vision of a desired and mutually beneficial future, the WSF was billed as a ‘movement of movements’, integrating the varied objectives outlined by a multitude of social movements, including indigenous and women’s rights and the sustainable use of the environment (Doucet 2008: 18; Teivainen 2002: 628). Under the banner of ‘another world is possible’, the WSF provided a platform where activists could voice their challenges to the pervasive stratified and undemocratic nature of economic globalization, create networks with similarly committed individuals, and articulate their visions for an alternative form of a global economic system.

A microcosmic representation of the evolution of movements against globalization, albeit not a linear or mutually exclusive one, can be seen in the early development of the World Social Forum itself. As alluded to earlier, the WSF was created as a counterpoint to the World Economic Forum (WEF) which took place annually in Davos, Switzerland. In 1999, two years before the official launching of the Forum, various organizations demonstrated in an “anti-Davos” counter-event condemning the exclusive and undemocratic nature which characterized financial institutions and bearers of neo-liberal ideology. Among the various participants who were discouraged with the difficulty of organizing such an event were the French journal, Le Monde Diplomatique, and the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens (ATTAC); two French organizations which would play instrumental roles in the creation of the WSF (Teivainen 2003).

In February of 2000, Bernard Cassen, chair of ATTAC and director of Le Monde Diplomatique, met with Oded Grajew and Francisco Whitaker, coordinator of the Brazilian Business Association for Citizenship and member of the Brazilian Justice and Peace Commission respectively. It was at this meeting whereupon the idea of the World Social Forum was conceived. As an annual “global gathering of social movements, NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and other civil society organizations opposed to neo-liberal globalization, [the participants are all united and] motivated by the conviction that ‘another world is possible’” (Curran 2007: 7, emphasis added). The proposals created in such a global meeting would emphasize the need to go beyond the growing condemnation epitomized by protest activities against the neo-liberal model (Hammond 2005 in Curran 2007).

The first Forum was projected to take place in 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. It would serve as “a space for civil society groups to coordinate actions and articulate shared visions for global change”. Thus, it was in direct response to the criticisms impeding the anti-globalization movement (Smith 2004: 413). While the first World Social Forum would be in direct contrast to the WEF, subsequent gatherings reinforced its more autonomous development. The indication of both a transition from being ‘anti’ to providing an alternative counter-event, as well as the increased self-confidence in the movement itself is epitomized in the organizers’ claim that “from now on, Davos will be the shadow event of Porto Alegre”; a significant shift from the ‘Davos vs. chaos’ dichotomy earlier posited by Margaret Thatcher (Teiveinen 2003: 13).

Three overarching criteria would ultimately guide the philosophy and structure of the World Social Forum. First, as a direct counter to the World Economic Forum, the organizers of the WSF changed only one key word from its adversary’s name to enhance its symbolism as well as demonstrate its more humane concern and affiliation. The second principle followed the path forged by counter-events initiated by the Zapatista insurgency, in that the annual gathering would be organized on the same dates as the WEF to both maximize the symbolic potential and also attract media attention.

Finally and most importantly was the criteria outlining that the Forums would always be hosted by a country in the South in order to address the perceived scarcity of democratic representation of Southern voices advocating for ‘change from below’ (Teivainen 2002: 623). To reiterate, adherents of Gramscian thought emphasize the importance of this principle in order to truly engage and launch the transformatory potential of civil society (Mittelman and Chin 2000). Such a decision was not only in response to the frequent and intentional exclusion of Southern nations in trade talks, but also was in recognition of the fact that media coverage of events like the Seattle protests overshadowed other significant changes that were taking place in the South (McNally 2002: 21)[Note 8]. Specifically, the founders decided that the Forum should take place in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. This selection can be attributed to the Workers Party (PT) having an influential political presence in that city as well as the willingness of the government to cover the expenses of hosting such an event bringing together activists from around the world. Moreover, Porto Alegre epitomized a model that ‘another world’ was indeed possible as a result of the participatory democracy and strong citizen participation which was instituted by the PT (Teivainen 2002). The latter rationale provided a critical influence to the demands, critiques, and internal structure of the WSF.

‘This is What Democracy Looks Like’

Charles Tilly (2004), noted social movements scholar, notes that there is broad correspondence and often mutual influence between social movements and democracy. As was previously mentioned, this fact may have influenced the selection of Qatar as a meeting place for the WTO in 2001, specifically as a result of governmental intolerance for any form of dissent (Brooks 2004). In giving a voice to the hitherto disenfranchised, the anti-/alter-globalization movement epitomized in the WSF worked to enhance the democratic attributes of the resistance, as well as that of globalization itself. Furthermore, Doucet (2008) notes the centrality of the “democratic imaginary” in the aspirations, condemnations and structure of the alter-globalization movement, in which activists again focused on the widespread and intentional exclusion of Southern delegates and the double standards inherent in trade talks among the global elite (18). In light of the “democratic deficit” of neo-liberal globalization, the horizontal and inclusive nature of the WSF has attempted to circumvent and remedy this perceived paucity. Democracy is seen here as a process as well as an end, facilitating and encouraging open and participatory forms of representation (Doucet 2008: 20-30). Echoing strategies adopted by the people of Porto Alegre, participatory democracy and decentralized decision-making has been integrated as foundational structures in the WSF.

However, despite such efforts, skeptics of the World Social Forum have condemned it of in fact taking on an undemocratic nature. For example, the first Forum of 2001 was criticized as being overwhelmingly ‘white’, both alluding to the racist nature of Brazil as well as the under-representation of African or Asian delegates; countries which had been hardest hit by neo-liberalist policies (Hardt 2002; Teivainen 2003). Instead of hindering the continuation or verve of the movement, such claims have served as the impetus which has spurred the self-reflection, self-reform and transition evident in the successive Forums (de Sousa Santos 2006). Acknowledging the challenges of a desire to be globally representative of those frustrated with neo-liberalism’s unfulfilled promises, the Forum’s organizers prioritized the need for a democratic and representative population by relocating subsequent Forums in the Asian and African continents. The fourth WSF took place in Mumbai, India in 2004, and WSF 2007 was hosted by Nairobi, Kenya, in the hopes that such proximity would enhance local and grassroots representation (Curran 2007; see Appendix C).

The World Social Forum seemed to be taking a turn towards representative ‘insurgency from below’. Such a goal was largely achieved in Mumbai, particularly in the vocal and energetic presence of the Dalits or untouchables, who insisted that pervasive caste inequalities be put on the Forum’s agenda. The instantaneous translation in a variety of languages and dialects in the various hosting cities of the Forums also points to the emphasis placed on democracy and intentional inclusion. Moreover, the “polycentric” Forums of 2006 which took place simultaneously in Caracas, Venezuela; Bamako, Mali; and Karachi, Pakistan, attempted to diffuse the Latin American concentration by attracting activists in the Americas, Africa, and Asia (World Social Forum). Similarly, a proliferation of regional and thematic forums, such as the Asian Social Forum and that of the Americas, has broadened the base of participants and topics covered. Significantly, indigenous concerns have been placed on the global agenda (Conway 2007; de Sousa Santos 2006; Leite and Gil 2005; Smith 2004; Buckman 2004).

While the limitations of the World Social Forum will be elaborated upon shortly, another daunting problem has been how to consolidate and embody the goals of a myriad of divergent social movements in terms of a platform of alternatives. Such a focus harkens back to the question which has guided this paper; that of where the WSF can be situated in the spectrum of movements against the exploitative nature of globalization. The dearth of WSF publications beyond the guiding Charter of Principles (see Appendix A) has been condemned by some as evidence of the ineffectiveness of the Forum to move beyond articulating alternatives to identifying clear goals and means by which they could be materialized. Indeed, even activist Naomi Klein (2002) criticizes the “opaque”, chaotic and dispersive nature of the Forums in hindering coming to concrete decisions (Hardt 2002: 191).

However, it is critical to underline that a delicate balance must be reached between the diversity of representation and the synthesis of a document, which to many would substantiate the success of the Forums. The “gigantism” of the Forum has precluded such an act or attempt to consolidate the divergence of views into a presumably representative document. Interestingly, this is a feature which the organizers see as constituting a strength in diversity, rather than a flaw inherent in a lack of unity, again alluding to an emphasis on a democratic and decentralized rather than vertical or hierarchical structure (Doucet 2008: 22; Teivainen 2003: 8).

Combating ‘Globalization-From-Above’ With…‘Globalization-From-the-Middle’?

The politics of exclusion and inclusion have pervaded the Forums, undermining organizers’ efforts to create a truly democratic and ‘globally representative’ arena. Indeed, the cost of attending such counter-events has stratified the profile of interested activists, resulting in the wary perception of the Forums being a meeting for the ‘elites’ of counter-hegemonic globalization (de Sousa Santos 2006: 90, 95; Ribeiro 2006: 16). Accusations of being Caucasian and male-centric have peppered the media, alluding to what de Sousa Santos (2006) terms the paradox of “globalization from the middle”; a feature which significantly undermined claims of global representation (70). In response, conscious efforts to relocate the Forums and integrate a comprehensive inclusion of new themes covered in subsequent meetings have indicated how the organizers have internalized such criticisms and have actively sought to remedy them (see Appendix C).

The selection of Porto Alegre as the location for the first three Forums was astute but had its limitations. In addition to being overwhelmingly ‘white’, concerns were of a more political nature. While the presence of the Workers Party ensured consistent state funding from the Brazilian government, this criteria conflicted with one of the mandates outlined in the Charter of Principles which precluded the attendance of political parties or state representatives to the WSF on the basis that the Forum is an apolitical space (de Sousa Santos 2006; Leite and Gil 2005). However, the doctrine has its own internal contradictions which were perhaps penned with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in mind. At the onset of the WSF, da Silva was the avid leader of the Workers Party, one of the Forum’s founding groups, but was in 2002 elected to become President of Brazil (Teiveinen 2003). The ‘loophole’ that permitted his continual attendance at the annual Forums is reflected in Principle 9, which indicates that such leaders may be invited to participate in a “personal [and apolitical] capacity” (World Social Forum; see Appendix A).

Moreover, Janet Conway (2007) conducted a feminist analysis of participation at the WSF, arguing that despite the presence of many female activists, feminism as a discourse was “muted” (49). While women composed almost half of the attendants, they were “woefully under-represented as speakers in the major panels and conferences” (Conway 2007: 55, emphasis added; de Sousa Santos 2006). This deficit was significantly overturned with the decision to relocate the Forum to Mumbai, India in 2004, whereupon a proliferation of female activists representing the poor people’s movements attended to contribute to the Forum discussion on women and globalization (de Sousa Santos 2006). Noted activists and speakers, including eco-feminist Vandana Shiva, reinforced the call to place patriarchy, caste inequality, grassroots organizations, environmental exploitation, and the need to secure food sovereignty on the Forum’s agenda (Conway 2007; Smith 2004).

The Mumbai World Social Forum in 2004 was a “decisive step towards the globalization of the WSF process” (de Sousa Santos 2006: 86). The first Forum to be situated away from its Brazilian origins, it served as an important precursor to remedy the internal inconsistencies and flaws of its predecessors. Indeed, the success of drawing large numbers of Asian activists encouraged the relocation of the WSF 2007 to Nairobi, Kenya. The pinnacle event which overturned the overwhelmingly Latin American presence, the Mumbai Forum provided an opportunity for issues of women’s concern to be articulated and prioritized, and offered a location in which grassroots activists found a greater venue for expression. Finally, as will be elaborated, Mumbai is significant as the site in which the confrontational Mumbai Resistance took place, challenging the assertion or perception that the Forums indicate the linear evolution of demands and tactics from ‘anti’ to ‘alter’.

While the Forum which immediately followed the Mumbai convention returned to its Brazilian headquarters, 2006 was a year which featured an innovative polycentric WSF. Taking place simultaneously in Bamako, Mali; Caracas, Venezuela; and Karachi, Pakistan, it drew representatives hailing from Africa, the Americas, and Asia (de Sousa Santos 2006). The succession of WSFs after the comparatively more homogenous Porto Alegre events indicates that Mumbai was a watershed date which compelled the organizers to actively apply the guiding principles of “democratic imaginary”; an avowedly critical strategy influencing the structure and goals of the movement (Doucet 2008). Moreover, it significantly broadened not only the topics to be addressed, but also the profile of activists present, from attracting the elitist elements of the anti-/alter-globalization movement to increasingly incorporating women and grassroots organizations [Note 9].

Historical sociology is thus a critical methodology to employ which not only indicates the context in which significant events take place, but also explores the dynamic nature of the occurrence itself through its evolution and response to pervasive internal weaknesses (Smith et al. 2008). Indeed, “the succession of [W]orld [S]ocial [F]orums has been marked by a strong internal labour of self-reflection that is guided by a desire to remedy structural and organizational deficiencies in view of rendering more faithfully democratic principles in practice” (Doucet 2008: 22). For instance, in order to circumvent the exclusive nature of the activists able to afford entrance, a collective fund was set up to sponsor activists from the South (de Sousa Santos 2006). As de Sousa Santos (2006) observes, the World Social Forum exemplifies an ongoing and cumulative “learning process” (57).

If Another World is Possible, How Will We Get There?

To recapitulate the guiding question of interest, debates have surrounded the question of where the WSF is located in the trajectory of movement against globalization. I propose the use of a time-line depicting the anti-/alter-globalization movement as three concentric and overlapping circles. As Diagram A indicates, the suggested direction goes from condemnation; to advocating for alternatives; to finally articulating means by which such substitutes to prevailing and unequal neo-liberal globalization can be brought about, and rendered widespread and applicable. Interestingly, such a trajectory echoes what noted Grasmcian scholar Owen Worth (2002) terms the “stages of transformation” of the “passive revolution”. He proposes that the tranformatory role of the civil society is nurtured and “starts with a current [hegemonic] order that is then challenged by both contrasting social forces and alternate ‘ideologies’… [T]hese serve as counter-hegemonic forces against the existing order” (Worth 2002: 299). The dominant perception has been that anti-globalization activists epitomize the first stage, with the World Social Forum embodying the alter-globalization slant in the second phase, and attempting to pass into the third stage. However, the lack of clear guidelines delineating how such aspirations can be materialized has been seen as a flaw inherent in anti-globalization and in the Forum in particular (Hardt 2002; Teivainen 2002).

[Figure 1. Diagram A: Proposed Time-Line of the Anti/Alter-Globalization Movement and the Location of the World Social Forum (Source: Author)]

Before delving into such an argument, three points bear mentioning. Of primary importance is that while the WSF represents the transition in objectives, advocating for alternatives rather than continual condemnation of those wielding exclusive economic influence, an internal structure predicated on open and democratic goals results in a myriad of opinions. A diversity of preferred strategies of resistance is represented under the rubric of a shared desire for ‘another world’. Secondly, the time-line ideology, while constructive and revealing, is perhaps inappropriate when positing about changes within the anti-/alter-globalization movement. While proponents of the Forum have advocated for the more proactive name of ‘global justice movement’ rather than its reactive counterpart of ‘anti-globalization’, the goals of both persist in tandem. Diachronic analysis reveals that the transition has been anything but linear; a feature which will be exemplified with the “Mumbai Resistance” case study.

Finally, as mentioned previously, neo-liberal enthusiasts have dismissed many of the suggestions and demands articulated by representatives and activists of the World Social Forum by pointing to a weak publication record. Many assert that the inability to collaborate on a shared document and a lack of tangible output in the form of published and disseminated papers is indicative of the decentralized and indeed chaotic nature of the movement. This latter feature will be examined shortly, as well as the question of whether such criticisms are justified.

It must be noted that far from reveling in an unstructured and utopian vision of ‘another world’ which is perpetually out of reach, the WSF organizers have compiled a ‘Porto Alegre Manifesto’ encompassing the diversity of views under the umbrella of the Forum (see Appendix B). The Porto Alegre ‘Consensus’ is a direct counterpoint to the Washington Consensus which has guided and legitimated neo-liberal extension and predominance. The ‘Consensus’ thus provides a counter-hegemonic discourse embodied in a doctrine which rivals its hegemonic counterpart (Ribeiro 2006; Buckman 2004).

Divided into three themes of economic measures, mandates for peace and justice, and democratic objectives, many parallels can be made with anti-globalization predecessors. For instance, the document includes demands for the cancellation of debilitating debts restraining Third World countries on a perpetual debt treadmill, harkening back to Jubilee 2000 and implementation of the Tobin Tax. [Note 10] The latter progressive taxation system would charge corporations and governments fees which would then be reallocated towards addressing societal needs. It is an effort articulated by the French ATTAC organization with the aim of “social democracy” and the objective of bolstering the power of the state, reminiscent of the Keynesian era (Falk 1998: 133). Penned in 2005, the Porto Alegre Consensus points to the influence of the Mumbai WSF which took place a year earlier, with food security and protection against environmental degradation being prominent elements of the ‘Manifesto’ (de Sousa Santos 2006). Moreover, the insistence on participatory democracy alludes back to the model exemplified in the city of Porto Alegre, as well as the overarching goal of inclusiveness in the WSF (Klein 2002).

As an arena in which a multitude of views representing diverse social movements can be expressed, the World Social Forum accommodates activists who can be grouped as either revolutionaries or reformers; a microcosm of the anti-/alter-globalization movement (Curran 2007; McNally 2002). The divergence of participants can be illustrated with the comparison between those who advocate for the complete destruction of the capitalist system, asserting that inequality is an inherent feature of this ‘midwife’ of neo-liberalism, and those who prefer to remedy and, importantly, democratize the existing global economy (Smith et al. 2008). It is instructive to again look at the parallels with Gramsci’s dichotomy of wars of movement, or frontal and often aggressive assaults challenging the hegemony, legitimacy and functioning of the state, and its non-violent counterpart of collective resistance embodied in wars of position (Cox 1993; Gramsci 1971; Mittelman and Chin 2000). As Gill (2000) notes, activists affiliating themselves with the anti-capitalist goals of the Zapatistas argued against such perceived co-optation or Gramscian transformismo of their more moderate counterparts, insisting that “fundamental reform means rules that empower the people of the world to make the decisions about how they live their lives – not the [renamed] transnational CEO’s or their purchased political leaders” (155, emphasis added). Interestingly, while a diversity of both ‘anti’ and ‘alter’ opinions have been voiced at the Forum, representing views and strategies at both ends of the spectrum, elements of the Porto Alegre Manifesto such as the Tobin Tax on corporations seem to more firmly align the Forum with the reformist or ‘alter’ perspective (Smith et al. 2008; Worth 2002). For example, the last principle, “reform international institutions based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and incorporate the World Bank, IMF and WTO into the United Nations” appears to be the only tangible idea which indicates the means by which corporate accountability and institutional transparency can be achieved under the governing body of the United Nations. It is this vigorous debate on the best ways of achieving such ambitious goals that divides Forum participants and again obscures the location of the Forum in the suggested diagram (Curran 2007; see Appendix B).

Can a dichotomy be then posited between revolutionary and reform, repudiation and regulation, and anti- and alter-globalization respectively (Falk 1998)? The Mumbai WSF of 2004 might suggest this perception. Splits over the perceived ‘correct’ and most effective way of bringing about significant and economic challenges to the hegemonic discourse fueled the ‘Mumbai Resistance’; a parallel meeting of more radical activists who condemned the WSF position as offering too limited a critique of capitalism. Over three hundred grassroots organizations participated in this alternate forum, many espousing violence as a political tactic, the latter which has been rejected on grounds of the WSF Charter. The Mumbai Resistance warned about co-optation by President Clinton’s hollow promises of “globalization with a human face”, the World Economic Forum’s desire to make economic expansion more ‘palatable’ through “global governance”, and Joseph Stiglitz, former World Bank chief economist who now condemned the ‘misguided policies’ of the IMF (Drainville 2002: 174; Research Unit for Political Economy 2003; Rupert 2000; Smith 2004) . The transition between confrontational methods associated with adherents of anti-globalization and the more moderate methods of the global justice movement which have been disparaged of harboring co-optation elements is thus far from linear. Parallel struggles persist between those affiliating with Zapatista tactics and the reformist method of the WSF, with the Mumbai Resistance being a case in point.

Has such a diversity of opinions precluded the effectiveness of the World Social Forum? In the words of Charles Tilly (2004), has the objective and desire for internationalist expansion to give voice to the disenfranchised backfired, with transnationalization bringing about “dedemocratization”, resulting in not only a hierarchy of opinions, but also the inability to produce a document that encompasses its goals (131-2, 143)? As a plural, inclusive, and diversified component of the anti/alter-globalization movement, the WSF does not speak with one voice nor does it profess to represent the goals and demands of the participants as a whole (Charter of Principles, World Social Forum; de Sousa Santos 2006). While critics have argued that the avowedly democratic structure of the Forum which has encouraged the participation of a myriad of social movements is the WSF’s ‘Achilles heel’ and a “wasted opportunity”, organizers counter that this diversity is actually the strength of the Forum (Smith 2004: 418).

The time-line metaphor of knowing where to position the WSF either between the first and second, or the second and third concentric circles is again beset by difficulties when examining the issue of concrete output in the form of a document. In line with the diversity of views articulated at the Forums, WSF organizers have purposely avoided disseminating documents which would profess to represent or consolidate the diversity of views present. Short of the guiding principles enshrined in the WSF Charter and the alternatives suggested in the Consensus, it is not the production of documents to which the organizers attribute success, but the fostering and incubation of ideas which indicate a less tangible, but arguably more revealing measure of effectiveness. Thus, such condemnations on the part of skeptics is unwarranted, as while alternative ideas can be generalized, it is unfeasible and indeed irrelevant to attempt to produce a document that could even hope to make overarching recommendations devoid of context-specific conditions to alleviate pervasive problems exacerbated by economic globalization. The World Social Forum is thus a world public sphere. Perhaps a more appropriate and instructive illustration of the proposed location of the World Social Forum would take the shape of a Venn’s Diagram, in which overlapping ideas and strategies take place concurrently (see Diagram B). To recapitulate, the goal of the WSF is not to act as a publishing house; the publication of documents it leaves to individual participants and organizations. Its avowed raison d’être is rather to serve as a venue for the enlightened exchange of ideas.

[Figure 2. Diagram B: Proposed Time-Line of the Anti/Alter-Globalization Movement and the Location of the World Social Forum (Source: Author)]

Conclusion: Is Anti to Alter what Action is to…Talking?

Many debates have surrounded the World Social Forum; is it a political space or a political movement (Curran 2007)? Is it an arena or actor (Teiveinan 2003)? Such dichotomies can be extended to the alter- and anti-globalization movements, which may be disconcerting to some to note the perceived impotence of the former. However, the structure of the Forum was designed as such to facilitate the networking, sharing of experiences and strategies to expose activists to their counterparts who are equally committed to bringing about change. In a similar relationship of a teacher guiding students, the Forum is designed to foster impetus, enthusiasm and awareness, and impart such knowledge onto the activists on whom the onus is then directed to construct their own (transnational) networks to demand change. Thus the effectiveness of the World Social Forum should not be measured by whether a transition has been made between “talking shop” and “talking power”, nor whether it has generated uniform proposals, documents or political statements that profess to represent the opinions of all involved. Nor should its role be evaluated on the basis of whether it has provided a manual or panacea for change, but rather whether activists have emerged emboldened with the need to take action. As Teiveinan (2003) argues, “political action is the responsibility of each individual and the coalitions they form, not an attribute of the forum” (9). As a ‘movement of movements’, it is thus possible to be an arena and actor simultaneously.
Notes

1. For more information, see Charles Tilly. 1980. “Historical Sociology”. In Current Perspectives in Social Theory. Eds. Scott G. McNall & Gary N. Howe. Vol. I. Greenwich, Connecticut: JAI Press.

2. The manifestation of the neo-liberalist credo is best embodied in Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), which critics have condemned as neo-colonial means of economic extraction.

3. It is revealing to note that the amount of funds allocated to servicing or repaying the interest as well as the debt itself often exceeds that spent on education and healthcare. Indeed, the “lost decade” of the 1980s witnessed an unprecedented transfer of money from the South to the North, and predominantly to the financial institutions (George 1992:14; Black 2002:24). Once they had been integrated into the neo-liberalist system, countries were relegated to a treadmill of perpetual debt.

4. In 1996, Subcommandante Marcos, leader of the EZLN, issued an invitation to activists and social movements around the globe to participate in the First Intercontinental Meeting for Humanity and Against Neo-liberalism. Despite the fact that the Encuentro or global meeting of like-minded thinkers took place in the depths of the Mexican jungles, the location did not dissuade the thousands of activists who participated in this “hand-crafted conference” (Curran 2008; Smith 2004: 414).

5. The transnational nature of this counter-hegemonic movement was furthered by Jubilee 2000. This event was largely spearheaded by Northern activists who argued that the ‘odious debts’ were relegating such countries to a perpetual status of underdevelopment (Goldstein, Pevehouse and 2008: 479). Southern anti-debt groups have chimed in, arguing that the debts have already been repaid, “in the incalculable terms of social and environmental damage, political unrest, conflict and wars and profound human …suffering” incurred in the pursuit of Structural Adjustment Programs (Keet 2000: 463). This North-South partnership would also prove to be significant in the structure of the World Social Forum, in an effort to be globally representative of those burdened under the yoke of neo-liberalism.

6. As if emboldened by the protestors shouting “this is what democracy looks like”, the representatives from the South became more assertive, denouncing the frequent ‘closed-door policies’ and manipulations of their wealthier counterparts. As the “protests in the streets became more defiant, so the attacks on lack of transparency and accountability inside the conference grew louder” (McNally 2002: 24).

7. The city of Dohar, Qatar is a revealing example. Its selection as the ideal location for the WTO conference in 2001was predicated not only on desires to forge improved economic alliances between the Middle East and post-9/11 United States, but also because the monarchical government had “little tolerance for public protests of any sort” and was willing to impose repressive measures to ensure the success of its hosted meeting (Brooks 2004: 572). Indeed, it ended up being one of the most productive rounds of WTO negotiations.

8. This included the successful Indonesian demands for the resignation of President Suharto in 1997 in the aftermath of economic crises brought about by neo-liberal adherence (McNally 2002: 21).

9. For instance, the Guyanese Red Thread Women’s Development Organization was able to network and gain exposure for the struggles on behalf of women in Caracas during the polycentric Forum (Trotz 2007: 77).

10. Jubilee 2000 refers to the international coalition movement which took place in over 40 countries that called for the cancellation of Third World debt by the year 2000.
Marian Pinsky is a Sociology Masters student at Concordia University. Her research focuses on local and women-led responses to the food crisis in India and the struggle against the corporate control of the global food system. Being interested in community empowerment, she has remained committed to the ideas of social activism in numerous volunteer ventures to materialize the belief that true and sustainable change requires tangible action over mere talk. Her most recent endeavour was co-ordinating a successful public workshop series with the Social Justice Committee of Montreal on the topic of social activism; a conference which was entirely sustainable, and truly epitomized ‘social justice in action’. Marian can be reached at [email protected].

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank my supervisor Dr. Satoshi Ikeda, Richard Hinton, and Randy Pinsky for their invaluable help and support.

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Appendix A

World Social Forum Charter of Principles

The committee of Brazilian organizations that conceived of, and organized, the first World Social Forum, held in Porto Alegre from January 25th to 30th, 2001, after evaluating the results of that Forum and the expectations it raised, consider it necessary and legitimate to draw up a Charter of Principles to guide the continued pursuit of that initiative. While the principles contained in this Charter – to be respected by all those who wish to take part in the process and to organize new editions of the World Social Forum – are a consolidation of the decisions that presided over the holding of the Porto Alegre Forum and ensured its success, they extend the reach of those decisions and define orientations that flow from their logic.

1. The World Social Forum is an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and interlinking for effective action, by groups and movements of civil society that are opposed to neo-liberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a planetary society directed towards fruitful relationships among Humankind and between it and the Earth.

2. The World Social Forum at Porto Alegre was an event localized in time and place. From now on, in the certainty proclaimed at Porto Alegre that “another world is possible”, it becomes a permanent process of seeking and building alternatives, which cannot be reduced to the events supporting it.

3. The World Social Forum is a world process. All the meetings that are held as part of this process have an international dimension.

4. The alternatives proposed at the World Social Forum stand in opposition to a process of globalization commanded by the large multinational corporations and by the governments and international institutions at the service of those corporations’ interests, with the complicity of national governments. They are designed to ensure that globalization in solidarity will prevail as a new stage in world history. This will respect universal human rights, and those of all citizens – men and women – of all nations and the environment and will rest on democratic international systems and institutions at the service of social justice, equality and the sovereignty of peoples.

5. The World Social Forum brings together and interlinks only organizations and movements of civil society from all the countries in the world, but it does not intend to be a body representing world civil society.

6. The meetings of the World Social Forum do not deliberate on behalf of the World Social Forum as a body. No-one, therefore, will be authorized, on behalf of any of the editions of the Forum, to express positions claiming to be those of all its participants. The participants in the Forum shall not be called on to take decisions as a body, whether by vote or acclamation, on declarations or proposals for action that would commit all, or the majority, of them and that propose to be taken as establishing positions of the Forum as a body. It thus does not constitute a locus of power to be disputed by the participants in its meetings, nor does it intend to constitute the only option for interrelation and action by the organizations and movements that participate in it.

7. Nonetheless, organizations or groups of organizations that participate in the Forums meetings must be assured the right, during such meetings, to deliberate on declarations or actions they may decide on, whether singly or in coordination with other participants. The World Social Forum undertakes to circulate such decisions widely by the means at its disposal, without directing, hierarchizing, censuring or restricting them, but as deliberations of the organizations or groups of organizations that made the decisions.

8. The World Social Forum is a plural, diversified, non-confessional, non-governmental and non-party context that, in a decentralized fashion, interrelates organizations and movements engaged in concrete action at levels from the local to the international to build another world.

9. The World Social Forum will always be a forum open to pluralism and to the diversity of activities and ways of engaging of the organizations and movements that decide to participate in it, as well as the diversity of genders, ethnicities, cultures, generations and physical capacities, providing they abide by this Charter of Principles. Neither party representations nor military organizations shall participate in the Forum. Government leaders and members of legislatures who accept the commitments of this Charter may be invited to participate in a personal capacity.

10. The World Social Forum is opposed to all totalitarian and reductionist views of economy, development and history and to the use of violence as a means of social control by the State. It upholds respect for Human Rights, the practices of real democracy, participatory democracy, peaceful relations, in equality and solidarity, among people, ethnicities, genders and peoples, and condemns all forms of domination and all subjection of one person by another.

11. As a forum for debate, the World Social Forum is a movement of ideas that prompts reflection, and the transparent circulation of the results of that reflection, on the mechanisms and instruments of domination by capital, on means and actions to resist and overcome that domination, and on the alternatives proposed to solve the problems of exclusion and social inequality that the process of capitalist globalization with its racist, sexist and environmentally destructive dimensions is creating internationally and within countries.

12. As a framework for the exchange of experiences, the World Social Forum encourages understanding and mutual recognition among its participant organizations and movements, and places special value on the exchange among them, particularly on all that society is building to centre economic activity and political action on meeting the needs of people and respecting nature, in the present and for future generations.

13. As a context for interrelations, the World Social Forum seeks to strengthen and create new national and international links among organizations and movements of society, that – in both public and private life – will increase the capacity for non-violent social resistance to the process of dehumanization the world is undergoing and to the violence used by the State, and reinforce the humanizing measures being taken by the action of these movements and organizations.

14. The World Social Forum is a process that encourages its participant organizations and movements to situate their actions, from the local level to the national level and seeking active participation in international contexts, as issues of planetary citizenship, and to introduce onto the global agenda the change-inducing practices that they are experimenting in building a new world in solidarity.

Approved and adopted in São Paulo, on April 9, 2001, by the organizations that make up the World Social Forum Organizing Committee, approved with modifications by the World Social Forum International Council on June 10, 2001.

Source: http://www.forumsocialmundial.org.br/

Appendix B

Porto Alegre Manifesto/Consensus

Summary of Twelve Proposals

Economic Measures
1. Debt cancellation for southern countries.
2. Implement international tax on financial transactions, i.e. Tobin tax.
3. Dismantle all tax havens and corporate havens (described as “paradises”).
4. Universal right to employment, social protection and pensions.
5. Promote fair trade and reject all free trade agreements and WTO laws, emphasizing the importance of education, health, social services and cultural rights over commercial rights.
6. Guarantee of food security to all countries by promoting rural, peasant agriculture.
7. Outlaw patenting of knowledge on living things and privatization of “common goods for humanity,” i.e. water.

Peace and Justice
8. Use public policies to fight discrimination, sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and racism and fully recognize the political, cultural and economic rights of indigenous peoples.
9. Take steps to end environmental destruction and the greenhouse effect using alternative development models.
10. Dismantle all foreign military bases and the removal of troops from all countries except those under the explicit mandate of the United Nations.

Democracy
11. Guarantee the right to information and the right to inform through legislation that would end concentration of media ownership, guarantee the autonomy of journalists, and favor alternative media.
12. Reform international institutions based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and incorporate the World Bank, IMF and WTO into the United Nations. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porto_Alegre_Manifesto

Appendix C

Chronology and Location of World Social Forums

World Social Forum 2001 – Porto Alegre, Brazil
World Social Forum 2002 – Porto Alegre, Brazil
World Social Forum 2003 – Porto Alegre, Brazil
World Social Forum 2004 – Mumbai, India
World Social Forum 2005 – Porto Alegre, Brazil
World Social Forum 2006 – Polycentric Forum, taking place simultaneously in Bamako, Mali; Caracas, Venezuela; and Karachi, Pakistan
World Social Forum 2007 – Nairobi, Kenya
World Social Forum 2009 – ‘Global Call for Action’
World Social Forum 2009 – Belem, Brazil

The Latin American Revolution scored another victory on February 17 when Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s socialist leader, won his third successive election as President. Correa amassed close to 58% of the vote, leaving his closest rival 34 percentage points behind.  Alianza Pais, Correa’s political party, also won two-thirds of the seats in Ecuador’s National Assembly. 

Celebrating the sweeping triumph of his socialist economic program which he calls “the citizens’ revolution,” the popular President declared to his supporters:

In this revolution the citizens are in charge, not capital. This victory belongs to each of you. No one and nothing is stopping this revolution, my friends. We are making history.

Correa promised to radicalize the Citizens’ Revolution with free public education and health care. Up to now, his government has significantly expanded public access to both benefits.  Given his domination of the legislature, Correa vowed to push through reforms that will make his socialist model permanent. 

Ecuador is a South American country with a population of 14.6 million people, 37% of whom lived in poverty seven years ago. Since he was first elected in 2007, Correa had cut the poverty rate to 28% by 2011, a 27% reduction. He also more than doubled spending on education, halved unemployment to 4.1%, added 95,000 jobs, and greatly increased government spending on health care and subsidized housing. These impressive welfare achievements have ensured his popularity and given him a public approval rating of 85%.            

The key to Correa’s success has been his building of a strong, independent, democratic socialist state which controls the economic system and the financial sector. The state now sets economic policy, not the Ecuadorian economic élite in league with U.S. imperialism, as was the case before. And the main aim of this progressive state is the redistribution of income to the poor Ecuadorian majority, a project that has made Correa highly popular.     

Before Correa, Ecuador had been one of the most politically unstable countries in South America, with seven Presidents going in and out of office in a period of 10 years. The reason for this turmoil was the enactment of neoliberalism by these corrupt leaders, their refusal to implement progressive economic reforms demanded by their people, and their subservience to the dictates of the United States. The Washington Consensus, as neoliberalism was termed, decreed that the government leave the economy in the hands of private corporations, mainly U.S. multinationals, and Ecuadorian land-owners. This repressive system impoverished and marginalized most Ecuadorians, fueling the public revolt that brought Correa to power.                    

Once in office in 2007, Correa re-regulated the financial system, enacting “possibly the most comprehensive financial reform of any country in the 21st century.” The government took control of the central bank and brought back $2 billion of reserves it held abroad. This money was then used by the public banks to make loans for infrastructure, housing, agriculture, and other domestic investment. Correa also refused to pay $3.9 billion in foreign debt (one-third of the total) when an international commission found this amount to have been “illegally contracted.”

Correa then taxed money leaving the country and made banks keep 60% of their liquid assets in Ecuador. He reduced interest rates and increased bank taxes. His government also renegotiated contracts with multinational oil corporations when oil prices soared. About 40% of Ecuador’s official revenue comes from oil production, and oil prices increased by more than 80% after Correa took power. Government revenue rose from 27% of GDP in 2006 to over 40% in 2012. In 2009, Correa implemented a massive fiscal stimulus amounting to 5% of GDP. A large portion of that stimulus money went into construction, with the government increasing housing loans by $599 million in 2009.

Correa’s reforms, as the Washington D.C.-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) concludes,

“played a major role in bringing about Ecuador’s strong economic growth [5% a year since 2007], increased government revenue [and] a substantial decline in poverty and unemployment,” while minimizing the effect of the global recession which started in 2008.  As Mark Weisbrot, an economist at CEPR, describes it, “The end result of these and other reforms was to move the financial sector toward something that would serve the interests of the public, instead of the other way around (as in the U.S).”

The CEPR report adds:

“What is most remarkable is that many of these reforms were unorthodox or against the prevailing wisdom of what governments are supposed to do in order to promote economic progress. Taking executive control over the central bank, defaulting on one-third of the foreign debt, increasing regulation and taxation of the financial sector, increasing restrictions on international capital flows, greatly expanding the size and role of government – these are measures that are supposed to lead to economic ruin. The conventional wisdom is also that it is most important to please investors, including foreign creditors, which this government clearly did not do. While not all of Ecuador’s reforms went against orthodox policy advice, many of them did – and they succeeded. It should be no surprise that Correa [is so] popular.

“Ecuador’s success shows that a government committed to reform of the financial system can — with popular support —confront an alliance of powerful, entrenched, financial, political, and media interests, and win. The government also took on powerful international interests in its foreign debt default, its renegotiation of oil contracts, and its refusal to renew the concession for one of the United States’ few remaining military bases in South America. This success indicates that developing countries may have more and better policy options than is commonly believed to be the case.”

Ecuador’s liberation from the dominance of its own élite and that of the United States is a truly revolutionary act for which Correa must be given the credit. The U.S. military base referred to above was the one at Manta on Ecuador’s Pacific coast, the lease for which Correa refused to renew when it expired in 2009. “We can negotiate with the U.S. about a base in Manta,” Correa jibed, “if they let us put a military base in Miami.” This flat rejection of U.S. military might signified that Ecuador was no longer a U.S. puppet, an amazing achievement given Ecuador’s long history under Western neocolonialism.

Throughout its modern history, Ecuador had been dominated by Washington, which has ruled the country in league with its economic élite and multinational corporations that have looted Ecuador’s oil wealth. The country’s rich control banana exports and are also involved in oil production, now Ecuador’s main source of wealth. Ecuador has the third largest oil reserves in South America, with 20 foreign corporations, including Texaco and Chevron, dominating its hydrocarbon sector. The top 20% of Ecuadorians possess 50% of the nation’s income while the bottom 20% account for only 5% of it.

The extent of CIA penetration of Ecuadorian society has been massive, as Philip Agee, the former CIA operative who was posted by the Agency to Ecuador, has detailed in his classic book CIA Diary. Agee documents daily activities by the CIA to subvert, dominate, or destroy important Ecuadorian institutions, including the government, military, political parties, the media, labour unions, and universities.

William Blum, author of Killing Hope, the best book on the CIA, adds that in Ecuador the agency had “infiltrated, often at the highest levels, almost all political organizations of significance, from the far left to the far right.” According to Blum, “In virtually every department of the Ecuadorian government could be found men occupying positions high and low who collaborated with the CIA for money. At one point, the agency could count among this number the men who were second and third in power in the country.”

Any government that was not neoliberal enough would be forced out of power by Washington through the CIA, leading to perpetual political and economic trouble. Ecuador was subject to the structural adjustment programs of the U.S.-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which cut public spending on health care, education, and welfare, enormously impoverishing most Ecuadoreans. Poverty rates shot up to 60% and unemployment reached 80%. This led to two decades of protests, including demonstrations and strikes led by social movements and labour unions, which finally brought Correa to power in 2007.

Rejecting the Washington Consensus, Correa has instead enthusiastically embraced the Latin American Revolution as the ideal vehicle for regional integration. Ecuador is a member of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), the progressive eight-nation trade alliance created by Venezuela and Cuba, as well as that of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which includes a regional parliament and military alliance. Correa dedicated his re-election to President Chavez of Venezuela before that heroic leader passed away in March.

While taking significant steps away from capitalism, Correa has not moved far enough to satisfy Ecuador’s indigenous organizations such as the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), the largest such group comprising 14 native peoples. Indigenous peoples constitute 25% of Ecuador’s population. CONAIE and similar native organizations support Correa in his opposition to neoliberalism and U.S. military involvement, but disagree with his plans to open up Ecuador further to foreign oil and mining companies (including Canadian firms such as Kinross). These plans entail corporate invasions of native territories that threaten the survival of indigenous culture and independence.

In November 2012, the Correa government started an international oil auction for 13 oil blocks that encompass 10 million acres of “untouched south-central Amazonian territory.”  CONAIE protested this auction, and five indigenous groups located in south-central Amazon called for its immediate suspension. “We totally oppose this auction,” declared native leader Franco Viter. “The encroachment of oil into our territories represents the end of our way of life and could mean the end of our very lives themselves.”

Correa is looking to oil and mining ventures to raise money for the Ecuadorian state’s welfare policies, but for many Ecuadorians this is clearly not the direction to take for any progressive government. Having accomplished a considerable part of his socialist agenda, Correa is now being pressed to come up with constructive alternatives to corporate extractive exploitation, which has spread so much destruction around the world. And he is urged to do this in consultation with Ecuador’s indigenous peoples, who have also participated fully in the two decades-long campaign against neoliberalism.

Asad Ismi is the CCPA Monitor’s international affairs correspondent. He is author of the radio documentary “The Latin American Revolution” which has reached a global audience of about 33 million people. This is the 19th in a series of articles on this subject. For his publications visit www.asadismi.ws.

 

 By Andy Xie

The G-7 summit brought up too-big-to-fail (TBTF) financial institutions as a systemic risk to be addressed. The odds are low that any real reform will materialize. Removing this flaw could trigger a big global downturn. No major government has the stomach to go through with it.

The flawed global financial system essentially holds all major governments hostage. Whenever a crisis happens, the policy priority is to stabilize the financial system for short-term economic stability. This tends to favor TBTF financial institutions. Every crisis makes the problem bigger.

The vicious cycle between short-term economic stability and long-term financial risk begins with central banks easing monetary policy to stimulate growth. The systemic distortion of the price of money rewards speculation, which tends to make some financial institutions bigger and bigger over time.

True global stability will only come when major governments are willing to sacrifice short-term growth for long-term stability. That threshold will only be reached when the short-term situation is beyond repair. An inflation crisis is what it takes to change the policy dynamic.The situation needs to get worse before it gets better.

Too big to fail grows up

TBTF financial institutions were considered a key factor contributing to the 2008 global financial crisis. Five years later, the problem is worse.

While one too big to fail problem remains, another is rapidly growing. Some of the players in the shadow banking system, like hedge funds, non-bank lenders and insurance companies, have also become TBTF. If some of these players fail, the cascade effect on their investors and borrowers could lead to a systemic breakdown. Governments and central banks may be forced into bailing out some speculative outfits in the next crisis.

The surviving banks account for bigger shares of the global financial system. The lesson of Lehman Brothers is that even a mid-sized financial institution can’t be allowed to go bust. Hence, it would be unimaginable to allow any of the big banks to fail now.

While one TBTF problem remains, another is rapidly growing. Some of the players in the shadow banking system, like hedge funds, non-bank lenders and insurance companies, have also become TBTF.

If some of these players fail, the cascade effect on their investors and borrowers could lead to a systemic breakdown. Governments and central banks may be forced into bailing out some speculative outfits in the next crisis.

How could the TBTF problem become bigger? It has been in the spotlight for a long time. Most governments have been talking about reforms aimed at it. The main reason is that today’s policy goal is dominated by short-term economic impact.

Short-term economic growth has become the primary political objective in all major economies. Monetary policy is considered the cheapest instrument available. Hence, since the crisis, policies backing near zero interest rates and quantitative easing have gone mainstream.

The artificially low price of money promotes speculative activities. As speculation is highly scalable — one person could manage up to $10 billion with the same work — prolonged super-loose monetary policy inevitably leads to the rise of some successful speculators.

The scalability applies to banks too. The TBTF banks receive low-cost funding.

When the policy interest rate is 5% and the credit risk premium is 1% for big banks and 3% for small banks, the cost difference between the two isn’t too big to overcome in market competition. When the policy rate is zero, the difference becomes too big for customers to ignore. Hence, an environment of low interest rates favors TBTF banks.

So many TBTF shops

Throughout modern economic history, finance has been a fragmented business. Even the biggest names in the business had assets tiny compared to gross domestic product.

The reason is that it is a labor-intensive business. Understanding the credit risk of a borrower takes close following. Someone has to keep an eye on the borrower all the time. Hence, financial players like banks and stockbrokers tend to be regional, deriving advantage from local knowledge.

In the past quarter century, some financial institutions have become huge, qualifying as TBTF. The top ten banks in the world have assets close to one-third of global GDP.

It is unthinkable that any of the top banks would go bankrupt. If one is allowed to fail, the global economy would go into recession. Indeed, if any one of the top 100 fails, it would take down a country or two. It is difficult to see that any government or governments would tolerate that.

The shadow banking system may be more dangerous. A hedge fund can leverage up ten to twenty times through derivative instruments. Hence, a fund with $10 billion could rival the impact of one of the top 100 banks in the world. There are numerous hedge funds with over $10 billion.

The original sin

Optimal business size is in theory due to economies of scale. The automobile industry tends to have large companies because the development cost for a car is big. The big size gives a car company the ability to launch multiple models to spread risk.

Companies in the oil industry have become much bigger than before because it takes so much more to discover and develop an oil field. It is possible that some changes could turn a fragmented industry into a concentrated one. Could such changes explain the rising concentration of the financial industry?

The rise of information technology has had a big impact on the financial industry. Many top banks spend billions of dollars on information technology. Some mergers of financial institutions could be justified in cutting IT costs.

Technology is a significant contributing factor, but not the decisive one. The most important factor is Alan Greenspan. His style of monetary policy-making favored the bigness of financial institutions.

Greenspan is the father of today’s financial industry. He pioneered the policy-making of cutting interest rates aggressively in a downturn, but increasing them slowly in a recovery. The asymmetry increased money stock to GDP ratio, allowing more and more assets to be liquid and tradable. The asymmetry also subsidizes debtors with low average interest rates. Taking on debt is profitable in the Greenspan world.

Take the S&P 500 index (SNC:SPX)  as an example. It rose above 1,500 in 2000 and collapsed by half, rose above that in 2007 and collapsed by half, and has risen above that again recently. Is this normal market behavior or policy-induced fluctuation?

I think the latter. If the Fed had maintained a sensible and neutral monetary policy, the S&P 500 would have climbed slowly and now be above 1,500 without the two crises in between. The U.S. economy would be quite healthy today.

But, when Greenspan was making the economy recover quickly in a downturn, he was praised as a maestro. His policy was short-term gain, long-term pain.

Greenspan is the father of today’s financial industry. He pioneered the policy-making of cutting interest rates aggressively in a downturn, but increasing them slowly in a recovery. The asymmetry increased money stock to GDP ratio, allowing more and more assets to be liquid and tradable. The asymmetry also subsidizes debtors with low average interest rates. Taking on debt is profitable in the Greenspan world.

Unnecessary volatility leads to wealth redistribution. When 100 people engage in a game of flipping coins to determine a reward, eventually one guy gets all the money.

When asset markets fluctuate like the S&P 500, it has the same effect. This is the main reason that wealth inequality has increased so rapidly and so many wealthy people are from finance.

What’s worse is that Greenspan’s volatility isn’t random. The people who understood him had an advantage. These are the big banks and hedge funds. Every cycle made them bigger.

Ben Bernanke has followed Greenspan’s policy, putting short-term economic performance above long-term financial and economic stability. No wonder that TBTF has become worse under his reign. A quarter of a century after Greenspan started, not just the United States, but the whole world trembles before the TBTF institutions.

Short-term fixes won’t work

The accepted remedy for TBTF is to increase regulations, sort of turning big banks into semi state-owned banks. China is already there. If the government takes on the downside, why not become the owner to get the upside too.

What Western governments are doing is to decrease the downside risk, not taking the upside. Neither is likely to work. Financial institutions tend to work for employees, not shareholders, customers or governments.

The U.S. government is trying to limit what banks can do. European governments try to limit bankers’ compensation. The Chinese government is trying to tell banks who to lend to. All have limited effectiveness and have incentivized shadow banking.

It is widely believed that U.S. banks have deleveraged, which is touted as one benefit of the Fed’s policy of low interest rates. But, the total debt outstanding for U.S. financial institutions, though down from the crisis level in 2008, is similar to that in 2006 when America’s housing bubble peaked.

When the interest rate is near zero, what would be the incentive for banks to decrease leverage? It should be the opposite.

The euro zone banking system is over three times GDP in asset size. Any conceivable speed of deleveraging would take a decade or two to bring it down to a safe level. Regardless of what euro zone banking policies are, the TBTF problem will remain for the conceivable future.

In the past five years, banks in emerging economies have grown at two to three times nominal GDP due to cheap liquidity inflow from developed economies.

TBTF has become a big risk to their financial stability. Indeed, due to the rapid growth of credit, emerging economies may see financial troubles within two years. Some sort of emerging market crisis is a distinct risk to the global economy.

Talk is cheap

Every year, world leaders gather multiple times to discuss major problems facing the global economy. The G-7, G-20 and International Monetary Fund/World Bank are some examples. Good sound bites come out of every meeting.

But, five years after the global financial crisis, the world is stuck with the same problems. How could that be? Aren’t these leaders supposed to be powerful and in a position to make changes?

The problem is that political leaders are incentivized by short-term impact. For the global economy to move beyond the crisis and establish a foundation for long-term prosperity, serious structural reforms are required. TBTF is one of the issues.

However, such reforms will necessitate some short-term dislocation. All political leaders promise a speedy economic recovery. They can’t stomach another downturn. They aren’t incentivized to enact tough reforms for long-term good.

The reform talk is just talk, hoping that its psychological impact would do some good. Multinational companies are reluctant to invest due to their view of sluggish growth ahead.

One of the reasons for the bearish view is that the structural problems aren’t being addressed. If they believe that reforms are coming, they should invest to prepare for higher growth ahead. Hence, the talk might lift growth, if people believe. But, few are taking the bait.

Short-term orientation is why monetary policy is so loose everywhere. Too much debt drove the global economy into the financial crisis. The zero interest rate incentivizes taking on more debt. It can’t be a solution to the global malaise. It may well worsen it.

Bubbles are happening again. The junk bond market is an obvious example. The property bubble has revived in London and New York. Stock market valuation is close to bubble territory. Whatever benefit monetary policy brings, it is through the so-called wealth effect, a euphemism for a bubble effect. The short-term gain will be paid with long-term pain, when these bubbles burst.

An inflation crisis

Political incentives won’t change any time soon. As long as there are short-term measures to prolong the status quo, no serious reforms will follow.

A zero interest rate hides the troubles of debtors and supports the economy through bubbles. It seems painless in the short term. This is why politicians will always support monetary stimulus.

The status quo will only change with an inflation crisis. It will change the political incentive from short-term growth to price stability. The current global inflation rate is about 50% higher than real GDP growth rate. The gap could become 100% in two years. Would that be enough to change the incentive?

I think that the tipping point is likely a 5% inflation rate in developed economies and 10% in emerging economies. It may take five years to get there. Before then, global economy will remain stuck. Reforms will just be talk.

You know that gold bear market that the financial press keeps touting? The one George Soros keeps proclaiming? Well, it is not there. The gold bear market is disinformation that is helping elites acquire the gold.

Certainly, Soros himself doesn’t believe it, as the 13-F release issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 15 proves. George Soros has significantly increased his gold holding by purchasing $25.2 million of call options on the GDXJ Junior Gold Miners Index.(see bullmarketthinking.com)

In addition, the Soros Fund maintains a $32 million stake in individual mines; added 1.1 million shares of GDX (a gold miners ETF) to its holdings which now stand at 2,666,000 shares valued at $70,400,000; has 1,100,000 shares in GDXJ valued at $11,506,000; and 530,000 shares in the GLD gold fund valued at $69,467,000. [values as of May 17]

The 13-F release shows the Soros Fund with $239,200,000 in gold investments. If this is bearish sentiment, what would it take to be bullish?

The media reports that Soros had sold his gold holdings came from misinterpreting the reason Soros’ holdings in the GLD gold trust declined. Soros did not sell the shares; he redeemed the paper claims for physical gold. Watching the gold ETFs, such as GLD, being looted by banksters, Soros cashed in some of his own paper gold for the real stuff.

The giveaway that Soros is extremely bullish on gold comes not only from his extensive holdings, but also from his $25.2 million call option on junior gold stocks. This is a highly leveraged bet on the weakest gold mines. With high production costs and falling gold price from constant short selling in the paper market, Soros’ bet makes no sense unless he thinks gold is heading up as the short raids concentrate gold in elite possession.

In previous articles I have explained how heavy short-selling triggers stop-loss orders and margin calls on investors in gold ETFs. Scared out of their shares or forced out by margin calls, investors’ add to the downward price pressure caused by the shorts. Bullion banks and prominent investors such as Soros are the only ones who can redeem GLD shares for physical metal. They purchase the shares that are sold in response to the falling gold price, and present the shares for redemption in gold metal.

Insiders familiar with the process describe it as looting the ETFs of their gold basis.

In my last column I described how the orchestration of a falling gold price in the paper market protects the dollar’s value from the Federal Reserve’s policy of printing 1,000 billion new ones annually. The other beneficiary of the operation is the financial elite who buy up at low prices the ETF shares sold into a falling market and redeem them for gold. Like all other forms of wealth in the West, gold is being concentrated in fewer hands, while the elite shout “bear market, get out of gold.”

The orchestrated decline in gold and silver prices is apparent from the fact that the demand for bullion in the physical market has increased while short sales in the paper market imply a flight from bullion. As a hedge fund manager told me, it is a Wall Street axiom that volume follows price. Bull markets are characterized by rising prices on high volume. Conversely bear markets feature declining prices on low volume. The current bear market in gold consists of paper gold declining steadily while demand has escalated rapidly for physical metal. This strongly indicates that demand for physical gold continues to be in a bull market despite the savage attacks on paper gold.

If the orchestration is apparent to me, a person with no experience as a gold trader, it certainly must be apparent to federal regulators. But don’t expect any action from the Commodities Future Trading Corporation. It is headed by a former Goldman Sachs executive.

And don’t expect any investigation from the financial press. The financial press sees a bear market while supplies of bullion decline, premiums over spot rise, and even publicly declared bears such as George Soros make highly leveraged bets that will fail in the absence of a bull market in gold.

CIA Troublemaking in Caucasus

May 20th, 2013 by Wayne Madsen

It is clear that Russia’s arrest and expulsion of two CIA agents who were trying to recruit members of the Russian intelligence service fighting against Salafist separatists in the Caucasus is part of a Russian mopping-up operation directed at the CIA’s decades-long covert support for terrorists operating in the Northern and Southern Caucasus.

Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (FSB) recently arrested Ryan Christopher Fogle, a CIA «official cover» U.S. embassy Third Secretary, who was trying to recruit an FSB counter-terrorism officer for the CIA. A Russian phone intercept of Fogle’s conversation with the targeted counter-terrorism officer revealed the following offer by the CIA agent: “You can earn up to $1 million per year and I’ll give you $100,000 up front, but only if we meet right now. Yes or no?» Earlier this year, the FSB nabbed another CIA agent, yet unnamed, and quietly deported him.

The list of key U.S. Foreign Service officers, dated April 1, 2013, does not contain Fogle’s name on the list of key U.S. diplomats assigned to the Moscow embassy. Traditionally, the CIA prefers to operate under the official cover of “Political Officer” at large embassies like Moscow. In smaller embassies, the CIA presence can often be found in the deputy chief of mission. The Political Officer in Moscow is Michael Klecheski, formerly with the CIA-connected RAND Corporation and the National Security Council, who was assigned to the Moscow embassy during Soviet times. There is a good chance that Klecheski was Fogle’s local supervisor. The FSB revealed publicly that the CIA station chief for the embassy is Stephen Holmes. Another embassy Third Secretary, Benjamin Dillon, was expelled in January for activities similar to those of Fogle.

According to Turkish sources, the Jamestown Foundation’s operations in the Caucasus are tied in directly with those of the CIA. Accused Boston Marathion bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, according to documents from the Georgian Interior Ministry, attended training sessions in Tbilisi, Georgia last year sponsored by Jamestown. The foundation was set up as an anti-Soviet organization by CIA director William Casey in the early 1980s. Its board of directors have included the author Tom Clancy who gained fame by penning thrillers that pitted the United States against the Soviet Union in Cold War skirmishes.

Jamestown president Glen E. Howard is fluent in Turkish and Azerbaijani. Tamerlan’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni (aka Tsarnaev) had been a business associate of former CIA Turkish specialist Graham Fuller, who has participated in a number of Jamestown events.

Jamestown has two major missions on behalf of the CIA: 1) to ensure the flow of energy, including oil and natural gas, from the Caspian through pipelines in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey and 2) prop up or topple governments in the region to ensure U.S. predominance. The latter is accomplished through organizing the political opposition, setting up conferences, and gaining influence in universities through non-governmental organizations established to veil the CIA’s financing of the operations. The NGOs ensure the CIA has a cadre of academics, politicians, former bureaucrats and diplomats, and intelligence agents to support its efforts through participation in «joint studies,» many of which are conducted by Jamestown. In return, the CIA provides its interlocutors with secret cash payments through the electronic transfer of funds to their bank accounts.

Howard has publicly revealed the U.S. bases of operations are in West Azerbaijan and Georgia and the target is the South and North Caucasus.

Turkish sources also report that the key Jamestown interlocutor between the organization and the Caucasus Emirate of Salafist guerrillas, among whom Tamerlan Tsarnaev made contact, is Fatima Tlisova, a former Russian national of Circassian ethnicity and a journalist. Granted political asylum by the United States, Tlisova reportedly met, shortly before his death, the head of the Salafist Caucasus Emirate branch in Kabardino-Balkaria, Anzor Astemirov, aka «Emir Sayfullah,» who was killed in a shootout with police on March 24, 2010 in Nalchik, the Kabardino-Balkaria capital. Tlisova now travels on a U.S. passport, according to Turkish sources. Astemirov was on record stating that he did not support a global jihad against countries such as the United States and had asked the United States for assistance in the Islamic Emirate’s war against Russia. The Caucasus Emirate is known to receive substantial financial support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

A Circassian Russian named Ali Berzeg also operates under Jamestown’s umbrella, according to Turkish sources and he is active in the «No Sochi» campaign to boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics next year. Berzeq participated in the November 19-21, 2010 Jamestown conference in Tbilisi on Circassian nationalism in the Adygea and Karachay-Cherkessia autonomous republics of Russia. He also spoke of support for Jamestown’s Circassian adventurism by the governments of Estonia and Lithuania, particularly that offered by Estonian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Indrek Tarand. Berzeg also revealed in Tbilisi that the Circassians were supported by diaspora communities based in New York, Istanbul, Antalya, Munich, and Haifa.

Jamestown, through its links with Fuller, and through, him, with Tsarni, had two Chechen organizations circling its orbit: the Congress of Chechen International Organizations, located at Fuller’s home in Maryland, and the United States-Chechen Republic Alliance Inc., located at the home of Alavi Tsarnaev, Ruslan Tsarni’s brother. Jamestown is also linked, according to Turkish sources, with the Cerkes Society of New Jersey, the New Jersey Circassian Association, and the Circassian Cultural Institute (CCI), all, like their Chechen counterparts, taking full advantage of the Internal Revenue Service’s 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt provisions.

Jamestown was instrumental in founding the Circassian Cultural Center of the Republic of Georgia, authorized by a special decree of President Mikheil Saakashvili on October 12, 2011.

Jamestown uses Ilia State University in Tbilisi to hold many of its Caucasus secessionist conferences. The group also supports the activities of Iyad Youghar, the head of the International Circassian Council. Youghar spoke at a Ilia-Jamestown seminar at the school’s campus on May 24, 2012, during the time Tamerlan Tsarnaev was said to be at Jamestown training in Tbilisi. One of the conference speakers was Walter Richmond, author of The Northwest Caucasus: Past, Present, Future a professor at Occidental College, a prime recruiting ground for the CIA and Barack Obama’s old alma mater.

Jamestown’s Howard was also in attendance, as was, more interestingly, Professor Brian Glyn Williams, professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Williams said he received an email from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in May 2011, asking about Chechnya and that he helped him with a high school paper on his home country. Turkish sources reports that Williams has consulted for the CIA and Scotland Yard and is an expert on Turkish Volunteers in Chechnya and «Al-Qaeda Turka.» The Chechen-Ichkeria Republic separatist flag was on clear display at the Ilia-Jamestown seminar in Tbilisi on May 24, 2012.

Jamestown has rightly been referred to by the Russian Foreign Ministry as “singing the services of supporters of terrorists and pseudo-experts.” The ministry charged that Jamestown seminar speakers were “given carte blanche to spread extremist propaganda, incite ethnic and inter-religious discord.” Based on the circumstantial but important links between the organization and Fuller, Uncle Ruslan Tsarni and Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Jamestown has always skirted the edges of aiding and abetting terrorists, from its “Chechen Project” and its liaison with Chechen guerrillas from the Pankisi Gorge who would later turn up fighting American and NATO troops in Afghanistan and Iraq to Caucasus Emirate terrorists who constantly commit attacks on Russian military, police, and civilian personnel.

It is clear that the CIA requires reforming if not outright abolishment. It was the sincere wish of the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to see the CIA abolished with its analysis division rolled into the U.S. State Department. Since that will not happen anytime soon, reforming the CIA could start with cutting out its fringes, such as the Jamestown Foundation and similar tax-exempt groups that carry out covert operations while fleecing the American taxpayers.

The 87-year-old ex-Argentine dictator Jorge Videla died Friday in prison where he was serving sentences for grotesque human rights crimes in the 1970s and 1980s. But one of Videla’s key backers, the late President Ronald Reagan, continues to be honored by Americans.

The death of ex-Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, a mastermind of the right-wing state terrorism that swept Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, means that one more of Ronald Reagan’s old allies is gone from the scene.

Videla, who fancied himself a theoretician of anti-leftist repression, died in prison at age 87 after being convicted of a central role in the Dirty War that killed some 30,000 people and involved kidnapping the babies of “disappeared” women so they could be raised by military officers who were often implicated in the murders of the mothers.

The leaders of the Argentine junta also saw themselves as pioneers in the techniques of torture and psychological operations, sharing their lessons with other regional dictatorships. Indeed, the chilling word “disappeared” was coined in recognition of their novel tactic of abducting dissidents off the streets, torturing them and then murdering them in secret – sometimes accomplishing the task by chaining naked detainees together and pushing them from planes over the Atlantic Ocean.

With such clandestine methods, the dictatorship could leave the families in doubt while deflecting international criticism by suggesting that the “disappeared” might have traveled to faraway lands to live in luxury, thus combining abject terror with clever propaganda and disinformation.

To pull off the trick, however, required collaborators in the U.S. news media who would defend the junta and heap ridicule on anyone who alleged that the thousands upon thousands of “disappeared” were actually being systematically murdered. One such ally was Ronald Reagan, who used his platform as a newspaper and radio commentator in the late 1970s to minimize the human rights crimes underway in Argentina – and to counter the Carter administration’s human rights protests.

For instance, in a newspaper column on Aug. 17, 1978, some 2½ years into Argentina’s Dirty War, Reagan portrayed Videla’s junta as the real victims here, the good guys who were getting a bad rap for their reasonable efforts to protect the public from terrorism. Reagan wrote:

“The new government set out to restore order at the same time it started to rebuild the nation’s ruined economy. It is very close to succeeding at the former, and well on its way to the latter. Inevitably in the process of rounding up hundreds of suspected terrorists, the Argentine authorities have no doubt locked up a few innocent people, too. This problem they should correct without delay.

“The incarceration of a few innocents, however, is no reason to open the jails and let the terrorists run free so they can begin a new reign of terror. Yet, the Carter administration, so long on self-righteousness and frequently so short on common sense, appears determined to force the Argentine government to do just that.”

Rather than challenge the Argentine junta over the thousands of “disappearances,” Reagan expressed concern that the United States was making a grave mistake by alienating Argentina, “a country important to our future security.”

He mocked U.S. Ambassador Raul Castro who “mingles in Buenos Aires plazas with relatives of the locked-up suspected terrorists, thus seeming to legitimize all their claims to martyrdom. It went unreported in this country, but not a single major Argentine official showed up at this year’s Fourth of July celebration at the U.S. Embassy – an unprecedented snub but hardly surprising under the circumstances.”

The Cocaine Connection

Reagan’s Argentine friends also took the lead in devising ways to fund the anti-communist crusade through the drug trade. In 1980, the Argentine intelligence services helped organize the so-called Cocaine Coup in Bolivia, deploying neo-Nazi thugs to violently oust the left-of-center government and replace it with generals closely tied to the early cocaine trafficking networks.

Bolivia’s coup regime ensured a reliable flow of coca to Colombia’s Medellin cartel, which quickly grew into a sophisticated conglomerate for smuggling cocaine into the United States. Some of those drug profits then went to finance right-wing paramilitary operations across the region, according to U.S. government investigations.

For instance, Bolivian cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez invested more than $30 million in various right-wing paramilitary operations, according to U.S. Senate testimony in 1987 by an Argentine intelligence officer, Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse. He testified that the Suarez drug money was laundered through front companies in Miami before going to Central America, where Argentine intelligence helped organize a paramilitary force, called the Contras, to attack leftist-ruled Nicaragua.

After defeating President Carter in Election 1980 and becoming President in January 1981, Reagan entered into a covert alliance with the Argentine junta. He ordered the CIA to collaborate with Argentina’s Dirty War experts in training the Contras, who were soon rampaging through towns in northern Nicaragua, raping women and dragging local officials into public squares for executions. Some Contras also went to work in the cocaine-smuggling business. [See Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

Much as he served as a pitch man for the Argentine junta, Reagan also deflected allegations of human rights violations by the Contras and various right-wing regimes in Central America, including Guatemala where another military junta was engaging in genocide against Mayan villages.

The behind-the-scenes intelligence relationship between the Argentine generals and Reagan’s CIA puffed up Argentina’s self-confidence so much that the generals felt they could not only continue repressing their own citizens but could settle an old score with Great Britain over control of the Falkland Islands, what the Argentines call the Malvinas.

Even as Argentina moved to invade the islands in 1982, the Reagan administration was divided between America’s traditional alliance with Great Britain and its more recent collaboration with the Argentines. Reagan’s U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick joined the Argentine generals for an elegant state dinner in Washington.

Finally, however, Reagan sided with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher whose counterattack drove the Argentines from the islands and led to the eventual collapse of the dictatorship in Buenos Aires. However, Argentina only slowly began to address the shocking crimes of the Dirty War.

Baby Snatching

The trial of Videla and co-defendant Reynaldo Bignone for the baby snatching did not end until 2012 when an Argentine court convicted the pair in the scheme to murder leftist mothers and farm their infants out to military personnel, a shocking process that was known to the Reagan administration even as it worked closely with the bloody regime in the 1980s.

Testimony at the trial included a videoconference from Washington with Elliott Abrams, Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs who said he urged Bignone to reveal the babies’ identities as Argentina began a transition to democracy in 1983. Abrams said the Reagan administration “knew that it wasn’t just one or two children,” indicating that U.S. officials believed there was a high-level “plan because there were many people who were being murdered or jailed.”

A human rights group, Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, says as many as 500 babies were stolen by the military during the repression from 1976 to 1983.

General Videla was accused of permitting – and concealing – the scheme to harvest infants from pregnant women who were kept alive in military prisons only long enough to give birth. According to the charges, the babies were taken from the new mothers, sometimes after late-night Caesarean sections, and then distributed to military families or sent to orphanages.

After the babies were pulled away, the mothers were removed to another site for their executions. Some were put aboard death flights and pushed out of military planes over open water.

One of the most notorious cases involved Silvia Quintela, a leftist doctor who attended to the sick in shanty towns around Buenos Aires. On Jan. 17, 1977, Quintela was abducted off a Buenos Aires street by military authorities because of her political leanings. At the time, Quintela and her agronomist husband Abel Madariaga were expecting their first child.

According to witnesses who later testified before a government truth commission, Quintela was held at a military base called Campo de Mayo, where she gave birth to a baby boy. As in similar cases, the infant then was separated from the mother.

What happened to the boy is still not clear, but Quintela reportedly was transferred to a nearby airfield. There, victims were stripped naked, shackled in groups and dragged aboard military planes. The planes then flew out over the Rio de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean, where soldiers pushed the victims out of the planes and into the water to drown.

According to a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Argentine military viewed the kidnappings as part of the larger counterinsurgency strategy.

“The anguish generated in the rest of the surviving family because of the absence of the disappeared would develop, after a few years, into a new generation of subversive or potentially subversive elements, thereby not permitting an effective end to the Dirty War,” the commission said in describing the army’s reasoning for kidnapping the infants of murdered women. The kidnapping strategy conformed with the “science” of the Argentine counterinsurgency operations.

According to government investigations, the military’s intelligence officers also advanced Nazi-like methods of torture by testing the limits of how much pain a human being could endure before dying. The torture methods included experiments with electric shocks, drowning, asphyxiation and sexual perversions, such as forcing mice into a woman’s vagina. Some of the implicated military officers had trained at the U.S.-run School of the Americas.

The Argentine tactics were emulated throughout Latin America. According to a Guatemalan truth commission, the right-wing military there also adopted the practice of taking suspected subversives on death flights, although over the Pacific Ocean.

Spinning Terror

Gen. Videla, in particular, took pride in his counterinsurgency theories, including clever use of words to confuse and deflect. Known for his dapper style and his English-tailored suits, Videla rose to power amid Argentina’s political and economic unrest in the early-to-mid 1970s.

“As many people as necessary must die in Argentina so that the country will again be secure,” he declared in 1975 in support of a “death squad” known as the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance. [See A Lexicon of Terror by Marguerite Feitlowitz.]

On March 24, 1976, Videla led the military coup which ousted the ineffective president, Isabel Peron. Though armed leftist groups had been shattered by the time of the coup, the generals still organized a counterinsurgency campaign to wipe out any remnants of what they judged political subversion.

Videla called this “the process of national reorganization,” intended to reestablish order while inculcating a permanent animosity toward leftist thought. “The aim of the Process is the profound transformation of consciousness,” Videla announced.

Along with selective terror, Videla employed sophisticated public relations methods. He was fascinated with techniques for using language to manage popular perceptions of reality. The general hosted international conferences on P.R. and awarded a $1 million contract to the giant U.S. firm of Burson Marsteller. Following the Burson Marsteller blueprint, the Videla government put special emphasis on cultivating American reporters from elite publications.

“Terrorism is not the only news from Argentina, nor is it the major news,” went the optimistic P.R. message. Since the jailings and executions of dissidents were rarely acknowledged, Videla felt he could count on friendly U.S. media personalities to defend his regime, people like former California Gov. Ronald Reagan.

In a grander context, Videla and the other generals saw their mission as a crusade to defend Western Civilization against international communism. They worked closely with the Asian-based World Anti-Communist League and its Latin American affiliate, the Confederacion Anticomunista Latinoamericana [CAL].

Latin American militaries collaborated on projects such as the cross-border assassinations of political dissidents. Under one project, called Operation Condor, political leaders — centrist and leftist alike — were shot or bombed in Buenos Aires, Rome, Madrid, Santiago and Washington. Operation Condor sometimes employed CIA-trained Cuban exiles as assassins. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Hitler’s Shadow Reaches toward Today,” or Robert Parry’sSecrecy & Privilege.]

For their roles in the baby kidnappings, Videla, who was already in prison for other crimes against humanity, was sentenced to 50 years; Bignone received 15 years.

Earlier in May, Guatemala’s ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt, another close ally of Ronald Reagan, was convicted of genocide against Mayan Indians in 1982-83 and was sentenced to 80 years in prison. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ronald Reagan: Accessory to Genocide.”]

Yet, while fragile democracies in places like Argentina and Guatemala have sought some level of accountability for these crimes against humanity, the United States continues to honor the principal political leader who aided, abetted and rationalized these atrocities across the entire Western Hemisphere, the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.

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).

Media sources confirm the seizure of an Israeli military vehicle in Al Qseir inside Syrian territory.

The vehicle’s licence plate corresponds to that of the Israeli military with a black background and the letter Tsade (צ) (see image below)

Al Qseir is a strategic border town on the Northern frontier of Lebanon. Occupied by rebels, it was taken back by Syrian forces on Monday.

Al-Qseir  controls the highway which runs from the Lebanese border to Homs. It is through this border city that weapons and foreign mercenaries have entered Syria.

According to SANA, quoting (unconfirmed) media source:

“The seizure of an Israeli military vehicle which terrorists had been using in al-Qseir refutes the allegations made by Israel to justify its aggression on Syria and proves the scale of Israel’s military and intelligence involvements in the events in Syria.”

The source said that the Israeli military support for the armed terrorist groups proves the involvement of Qatar, Turkey and Israel in the aggression on Syria which is waged through a single central operations room.

The source pointed out that the Israeli military support for terrorism in Syria proves once more that Israel was and still is adopting the policy of organized state terrorism, stressing that the world must act to confront this terrorism.

The source said that the questions raised by the seizure of the Israeli military vehicle and the surveillance and jamming equipment in al-Qseir show that the armed terrorist groups with all their different names are merely headlines for a single structure led by Israel, Qatar and Turkey.”  (SANA, May 20, 2013)

According to Press TV quoting Lebanese TV Station Al Mayadeem

The Lebanese channel al-Mayadeen broadcast the video of the confiscated vehicle on Monday.

The report also said that military uniforms as well as wiretapping and jamming equipment were found in the vehicle, but it did not display the items.

The Syrian army has restored security in al-Qusayr in the central province of Homs, after taking back control of 50 percent of the city from foreign-backed militants.

The army said it has killed two militant commanders during the operation in the strategic city, which is located near the border with Lebanon.

Fierce battles are still going on in the city as the Syrian army continues its operations there, while large numbers of militants abandon their weapons and flee the city.

The Syrian army entered the strategic city from every front on Sunday following weeks of battle.

The Syrian army says it has also found Israeli-made rockets in a weapons cache seized from militants in Homs province.(Press TV, May 20, 2013)

The issue of the vehicle requires confirmation.

The capture of an Israeli military vehicle does not in itself confirm the involvement of Israeli forces.

Israeli registered military vehicles would not normally be used in covert operations by Israeli special forces.

Michel Chossudovsky contributed to this report.

By Eric London

A series of pro-business decisions announced by the US Supreme Court in recent weeks marks a continuation of the judicial branch’s steady movement to the right. The rulings further enshrine the power of corporate behemoths to exploit workers, defraud consumers, and damage the environment with legal impunity. The decisions also serve as an indictment of the right-wing character of the court’s liberal wing.

Last Monday, the court in Bowman v. Monsanto forced Vernon Bowman, a 75 year-old small farmer, to pay over $84,000 in damages to the Monsanto Company, the agribusiness giant with assets totaling $19.8 billion.

In a unanimous decision delivered by Obama appointee Elena Kagan, the court expanded the scope of Monsanto’s patent on genetically modified Roundup Ready soybeans, which account for 90 percent of soybeans planted in the US. The court ruled that farmers who purchase Roundup Ready seeds, plant them, and harvest them for use in future crop seasons are liable for having violated Monsanto’s product patent and can be sued even if their patent agreement had been exhausted.

The ruling shows more than the pro-corporate unanimity of the members of the court. It also reveals the irrationality of the for-profit system of production. Despite a global crisis of food scarcity which has left hundreds of millions malnourished and starving, to protect a multi-billion-dollar corporation’s profit margin the Supreme Court has ruled illegal a millennia-old farming practice of using seed yield to produce the next season’s crop.

In April, the Supreme Court in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell also ruled unanimously that Nigerian citizens could not bring suit in the US against Royal Dutch Shell for the company’s role in killing, torturing, and terrorizing peaceful activists protesting against Shell’s oil development plans in the Ogonia Niger River Delta. In its ruling, the court erased decades of jurisprudence and employed the pseudo-legal argument that Shell was immune to suits brought against it in the US under the Alien Tort Statute because the mega-corporation’s ties with the US were not sufficient enough for the ATS to apply.

The court also decided in Comcast v. Behrend last month that 2 million NBC/Comcast subscribers in Pennsylvania were not eligible to sue the telecommunications monopoly for $875 million in damages for violation of federal anti-trust law. On a hollow technicality, the court ruled that the 2 million co-plaintiffs to the action would be forced to sue individually because they could not show that they had enough in common with one another to win class certification. Because of the cost of bringing suit individually, almost none of those seeking damages will be able to afford to bring suit and the company will see little or no loss.

A similar decision was reached in the 2011 case Pliva Inc. v. Mensing, in which the court ruled that individuals harmed by unsafe generic drugs cannot sue manufacturers for failure to issue health-related warnings.

The Behrend decision is the latest in a string of cases where the court has restricted class action suits in order to protect corporate parties from paying damages to those they have injured. Class action lawsuits give large groups of injured individuals the right to sue as a single party without each person being required to pay for expensive legal representation.

However, the Supreme Court has made it extremely difficult for groups of injured persons to win class action status.

In Wal-Mart v. Dukes, for example, the court in 2011 invented a similar technicality in order to prevent over 1.6 million female Wal-Mart employees from suing the company for well-documented discriminatory hiring, payment, and promotion policies. That same year, in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, the Supreme Court gave corporations the right to force customers to sign arbitration agreements that prevent them from bringing class action suits at any time in the future.

The rightward trend is in no way limited to class actions, the Alien Tort Statute, or corporate patents. In fact, these issues are relevant insofar as they relate to a general shift to the right—one that is gaining recognition amongst the bourgeois legal community.

A study published last month in the University of Minnesota Law Review found the present Supreme Court is the most pro-corporate court in nearly 70 years, and this by a significant margin. The study, which analyzed 2,000 Supreme Court decisions since 1946, ranked all Supreme Court justices from that period and found that five current justices rank in the top ten most business-friendly justices of the post-war period. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito are the first and second most pro-corporate justices during the period covered by the study, respectively.

Also telling is a list published recently on SCOTUS Blog noting that the most active filer of amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs, is the US Chamber of Commerce. The Supreme Court agreed to hear a remarkable 32 percent of the cases for which the Chamber of Commerce filed an amicus brief from 2009 to 2012. Not a single liberal organization appeared on the list of the 16 most active amicus curiae filers.

The New York Times noted the recent studies in an article titled “Corporations Find a Friend in the Supreme Court.” Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine law school, was quoted in the Times article as saying, “The Roberts court is the most pro-business court since the mid 1930s.”

It is significant that these comparisons are being drawn, but there are important distinctions between the Roberts court and the Taft and Hughes courts of the 1920s and 1930s.

In that earlier period of ascendant American industrialism, and when the lessons of 1917 were fresh in the memories of the ruling class, a segment of the liberal elite responded to the growing militancy of the working class by adopting a reform agenda.

The arch-reaction, represented by then-chief justice and former president William Taft, hoped to stamp out “the leviathan, the People” in order to “prevent the Bolsheviki from getting control.” Those like him, including Justice Edward Sanford, feared that “a single revolutionary spark may kindle a fire that, smouldering for a time, may burst into a sweeping and destructive conflagration.”

But at that time and at that stage of the development of American capitalism, the prominent liberal members of the court like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis believed that private property could best be protected by placing limits on the reaction.

When Brandeis and Holmes dissented in the 1927 case Whitney v. California, where the Taft court upheld California’s criminal syndicalism statute that made the Communist Party illegal, Brandeis wrote: “Only an emergency can justify repression. Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards … they did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty…”

Today, no such words will be found in the rare dissents from the liberals appointed by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to the Supreme Court. Absent from the liberals of the Supreme Court is any principled opposition to the unprecedented abrogation of democratic rights being carried out under the auspices of the “global war on terror.”

The liberals are silent on the illegal assassination programs, the torture of prisoners, the National Defense Authorization Act, and the expansion of the national security apparatus. Today, the liberals are leading the attack on the social rights and living conditions of the working class. Hand in hand with the conservatives, they are drawing the court rightward at a pace unmet since before the Second World War.

According to a report yesterday in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, the European Union (EU) is directly funding US-backed Sunni Islamist terrorist groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. These groups are looting oil in parts of eastern Syria that they control and then re-selling it to EU countries at rock-bottom prices.

The Guardian writes:

“The EU decision to lift Syrian oil sanctions to aid the opposition has accelerated a scramble for control over wells and pipelines in rebel-held areas and helped consolidate the grip of jihadist groups over the country’s key resources.”

According to the Guardian, the main beneficiaries of the EU’s lifting of sanctions are the Al Nusra Front and similar Islamist terrorist groups. “Jabhat al-Nusra, affiliated with Al Qaeda and other extreme Islamist groups, control the majority of the oil wells in Deir Ezzor province, displacing local Sunni tribes, sometimes by force. They have also seized control of other fields from Kurdish groups further to the north-east, in al-Hasakah governorate.”

The EU’s decision to resume trade with oil fields held by Al Nusra explodes the lie that the imperialist powers are waging war in Syria to change the repressive character of the Syrian regime. In fact, they are building up and backing deeply reactionary and oppressive forces.

These events also expose the so-called “war on terror”—the claim that Washington and the EU are fighting Al Qaeda, which served as the justification for US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as a lie. Imperialism is arming and financing Al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups that commit terrible crimes against the Syrian population, handing over its wealth to the EU and Washington.

Germany’s Spiegel Online magazine recently reported how the Islamists dump Syrian oil on world markets at ultra-low prices: “Since February the Islamist rebel group Liwa al-Islam has controlled the al-Thaura oil-field in the ar-Raqqah governorate… The rebels in al-Thaura sell ten fuel truck cargos each day. They make good money and charge around $13 US for a barrel. On the world market, however, a barrel is traded for $100 US, but this is not of particular interest here.”

Abu Saif, an Islamist fighter of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Ahrar Brigade, gives another account of how Islamists militias loot Syria: “Jabhat al-Nusra is investing in the Syrian economy to reinforce its position in Syria and Iraq. Al-Nusra fighters are selling everything that falls into their hands from wheat, archaeological relics, factory eq uipment, oil drilling and imaging machines, cars, spare parts and crude oil.”

To secure the oil, the terrorists murder everyone who gets in their way. In one widely reported case, Al Nusra fighters levelled the village of al-Musareb near Deir Ezzor, murdering 50 of its residents after a conflict with local tribesmen over an oil tanker. The mass killings through which terrorist groups control the territory needed to supply oil to European imperialism are documented in videos posted on YouTube.

The imperialist powers rely on terrorist groups as part of their strategy to control the vast energy resources of the Middle East and Central Asia. This fundamental interest underlies the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and on-going war preparations against Shiite Iran—to which the Alawite-dominated Assad regime has close ties. Like Syria, Iran has long been on imperialism’s hit list,” since Washington and its European and Middle Eastern allies see it as one of the main obstacles to controlling the oil trade of the Persian Gulf, and thus of the entire world.

This rape of Syria exposes the cynical decision by middle class pseudo-left organizations—such as the International Socialist Organization (ISO), the German Left Party, the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) in France, and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Britain—to package the Syrian war as a “revolution.” Their class position emerges clearly in this point: they hail the looting of Syrian oil to boost the oil corporations’ profit margins as a “revolution,” and the looters as “revolutionaries.”

Increasing foreign support for the Sunni Islamist forces is accompanied by new threats by US imperialism and its allies to oust Assad, and increasing preparations for direct military intervention.

At a press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan last Thursday in Washington, US President Barack Obama promised “to keep increasing the pressure on the Assad regime and working with the Syrian opposition. We both agree that Assad needs to go.”

On Friday, CIA chief John Brennan met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Israel Defence Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, and Mossad head Tamir Pardo to discuss Syria. In a cabinet meeting the next day, Netanyahu threatened more Israeli air strikes against Syria, saying Israel would act “with determination… to ensure the supreme interest of the State of Israel [and] prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah and to [other] terrorist elements”.

Israel has already bombed Damascus two weeks ago, ostensibly to prevent arms being transferred from Syria to Hezbollah. The Lebanese Shia militia is a close ally of Syria and Iran and regarded as a main obstacle to Israeli military dominance in the Near East.

On Saturday Syrian president Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to the Argentine newspaper Clarin and the Argentine state news agency Telam, from his palace in the Syrian capital, Damascus. He vowed to keep power, accusing Israel and other “foreign powers” of supporting the Islamist opposition. “Israel is directly supporting the terrorist groups in two ways, firstly it gives them logistical support, and it also tells them what sites to attack and how to attack them,” he said.

He denied that his government had used chemical weapons, saying that “the West” might orchestrate an intervention based on false accusations: “The West lies and falsifies evidence to engineer wars; it is a habit of theirs.”

He called intervention “a clear probability, especially after we’ve managed to beat back armed groups in many areas of Syria.” However, he added that “we are willing to talk to anyone who wants to talk, without exception.”

Assad made clear that he hopes to keep power by convincing Washington that he is a stronger and more reliable custodian of US interests in the region than Al Qaeda: “America is pragmatic. If they found out they were defeated and the regime is the winner, the Americans will deal with the facts.”

This subservience to Washington exposes the bankruptcy of Arab nationalism. In fact, as the Guardian report makes clear, Washington and its European imperialist allies are funding and backing the Islamist opposition to break up the Syrian regime.

The Obama administration is also increasing its efforts to reach an agreement with Moscow, Syria’s main ally. Last weekend, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed with his American counterpart John Kerry to set up a so-called “peace conference” in June, supposedly to negotiate an end to the Syrian war. During such a conference, Washington would press for a “negotiated” ouster of Assad and his replacement with a more pliable stooge regime approved by Moscow.

Lavrov is also trying to calm US and Israeli concerns about potential Russian missile sales to Syria. He stressed that these weapons would “not in any way alter the balance of forces in this region or give any advantage in the fight against the opposition.”

Russia is reportedly only supplying SS-N-26 coastal defense but not SA-21 air defense missiles, as part of a weapons deal already concluded in 2011. Lavrov also pledged that Russia would not sign any new deals with Syria.

Guantanamo Force-Feeding Constitutes Torture

May 20th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Guantanamo detention constitutes torture, abuse and ill-treatment. Long-term detention compounds it.

Force-feeding increases unconscionable pain and suffering. Doing so violates core rule of law principles.

Around 130 of 166 Guantanamo detainees refuse food. They’re hunger striking for justice. They began in February. They passed 100 days. They’d rather die than endure injustice. Their only escape route is death.

Pentagon officials at first maintained silence. Belatedly they admitted what’s well-known. They consistently downplayed it. Now they admit 102 detainees refuse food. At least 130 are involved.

Obama dismissively said nothing. His belated acknowledgement reflected disdain for their pain and suffering.

Thirty or more hunger strikers are being force-fed. Doing so constitutes torture. A previous article explained.

Detainees are restrained in chairs. They’re called “padded cells on wheels.”

Tubes are forced painfully through their noses and throats to their stomachs. It’s done abrasively. It draws blood.

Liquid nutrients are pumped into their stomachs. Doing so causes excruciating pain. No sedatives or anesthesia are given. Men are kept strapped under restraints up to two hours.

It’s done to prevent purging. The procedure’s repeated twice daily. Tubes are reused. They’re covered in blood and stomach bile.

Reportedly they’re passed from one inmate to another. Proper sanitation is non-existent. One detainee called the procedure “torture, torture, torture.”

Those refusing force-feeding are brutally beaten. Injuries occur. Hospitalization at times follows.

The World Medical Association says force-feeding violates fundamental medical ethics. When accompanied by “threats, coercion, force, and use of physical restraints, (it’s) considered inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Al Jazeera obtained a 30 page Pentagon document. It’s dated March 5, 2013. It’s titled “Standard Operating Procedure (SOP): Medical Management of Detainees on Hunger Strike.”

It explains updated force-feeding methods. Medical personnel are involved. Doing so violates core ethical standards and guidelines.

Strikers are shackled in restraint chairs. They’re held up to two hours. Masks cover their mouths. Tubes 61cm or longer snake through their nose and throat to their stomachs.

The procedure continues until a chest x-ray or test dose of water confirms it’s properly in place. The process is excruciatingly painful.

When feeding ends, detainees are placed in “dry cells.” No running water’s permitted. Guards observe them up to an hour. They do so “for any indications of vomiting or attempts to induce vomiting.”

If it occurs, the detainee’s returned to a restraint chair. The process repeats. The updated SOP replaces 2003 policy. In 2005, it was revised. With redactions, it was declassified.

On March 5, the new unredacted policy took effect. It was one month after hunger striking began. It was implemented to handle mass striking.

According to the Pentagon’s document:

“Just as battlefield tactics must change throughout the course of a conflict, the medical responses to GTMO detainees who hunger strike has evolved with time.”

“A mass hunger strike was successfully dealt with in (2005) by utilizing procedures adopted from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the approach delineated in this SOP.”

“However, the composition of the detainee population, camp infrastructure, and policies has all undergone significant change since the initial version of this SOP.”

“Much of the original instruction has been retained in the form of enclosures. In the event of a mass hunger strike, these enclosures can be utilized as they have proven efficacy under mass hunger strike conditions.”

“(I)n the event of a mass hunger strike, isolating hunger striking patients from each other is vital to prevent them from achieving solidarity.”

On April 13, guards implemented a pre-dawn raid. Over 100 prisoners were isolated. Doing so tried to break their morale. It didn’t work.

Leonard Rubenstein’s a human rights and medical ethics advocate lawyer. He’s a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School for Public Health visiting scholar. He serves at its Center for Public Health and Human Rights and Center for a Livable Future.

He reviewed the Pentagon document. He called it troubling. It prohibits medical professionals from acting responsibly. They’re “adjuncts of the security apparatus.”

It’s “very frightening,” he said. “The clinical judgment of a doctor or a nurse is basically trumped by this policy and protocol.”

“Doctors are not acting with (ethical) professional medical independence. It’s clear that, notwithstanding references to preservation of detainee health in the policy, the first interest is in ending the protests.”

Detainee needs and welfare aren’t addressed. Ways to treat mental health problems are ignored.

Guantanamo’s commander alone decides who’s force-fed. Medical personnel have no say. They’re told to follow orders.

According to the document:

“In the event a detainee refrains from eating or drinking to the point where it is determined by the medical assessment that continued fasting will result in a threat to life or seriously jeopardize health, and involuntary feeding is required, no direct action will be taken without the knowledge and written approval of the Commander.”

With or without consent, “medical procedures that are indicated to preserve health and life shall be implemented…”

According to the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment:

“(A)t least some federal prisons handle hunger strikes very differently, and far less coercively, than at Guantanamo.”

“The written federal guidelines for force-feeding make no mention of restraints, and include several safeguards that are not in place in Guantanamo.”

“Prison guidelines require the warden to notify a sentencing judge of involuntary feeding, with an explanation of the background of and reasons for involuntary feeding, as well as videotaping of force-feeding.”

“BOP requires that ‘treatment is to be given in accordance with accepted medical practice.’ ”

It “requires an individualized assessment of the patient’s situation that appears to be absent at Guantanamo. It also requires individualized counseling of the detainee…”

“(T)he BOP’s written policy on the use of restraints also conflicts with the restraint-chair protocol at Guantanamo.”

“Federal prisons are known to use restraint chairs for inmates who are physically dangerous to themselves, other inmates, or guards – but at most federal prisons, the chairs are apparently not used for forced feeding.”

At times, several attempts are needed to assure correct force-feeding tube placement. Once down a detainee’s throat, breathing difficulties may occur.

Prisoners get a choice at mealtime. “Eat a hot meal, drink the nutrient, or receive an enteral feed.”

On May 4, The Lancet headlined “Guantanamo: hunger strikes and a doctor’s duty,” saying:

” ‘It can’t go on like this’ is a common response to a desperate situation: yet too often it can, and it does.”

“Military doctors asked to force-feed individuals on hunger strike will experience divided loyalties.”

“The demands of the state may clash with the politically neutral opinion of the international medical community.”

“(F)orce-feed(ing) infringes the principle of patient autonomy.” Standards of humanity and dignity are violated.

On April 24, American Medical Association (AMA) president Jeremy Lazarus wrote Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

He stated AMA’s longstanding position. Physician participation in force-feeding violates core medical professional ethics.

“Every competent patient has the right to refuse medical intervention, including life-sustaining interventions,” he stressed.

“We urge you to ensure that this matter receives prompt and thorough attention and to address any situation in which a physician may be asked to violate the ethical standards of his or her profession.”

Physicians for Human Rights senior medical advisor Vincent Iacopino has extensive knowledge of Guantanamo detainees’ abuse. He examined them. He testified in court on their behalf.

“Hunger strikes shouldn’t be confused with the intent to commit suicide,” he said. “Hunger strikes are a form of protest, an attempt to shame detainee authorities into action by individuals who are desperate to have some control over their lives.”

Confrontational responses fuel protests, he added. “There’s no therapeutic relationships between (detainees) and medical personnel and doctors.” Mitigating hunger strikes requires having a clinician who will respect your autonomy. That doesn’t exist at Guantanamo.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights applauded the AMA’s condemnation. In response, Executive Director Vincent Warren said:

“In reaffirming its long-standing opposition to force feeding Guantanamo prisoners, the country’s most prominent medical association has delivered a stinging rebuke to the Obama administration’s wholly inadequate response to the hunger strike.”

“The AMA’s condemnation comes on the heels of reports that the Department of Defense has ordered additional military doctors to report to Guantanamo to deal with the hunger strike – presumably to facilitate a practice that the AMA considers contrary to established medical ethical standards.”

“The administration cannot force feed its way out of this growing medical emergency. The only true solution is to resume transfers of prisoners and close Guantanamo.”

Uncharged detainees should be freed. They should have been long ago. They never should have been detained and tortured in the first place.

Appalling abuses continue. Doing so violates core international, constitutional, and US statute provisions. Obama bears full responsibility.

The ACLU condemned force-feeding. It called doing so “a brutal, degrading experience.”

“Of course, the military should be doing far more than ending cruel, inhuman, and degrading force-feeding and any abuse of the men.”

“It should be working diligently and urgently to release Guantanamo prisoners, starting with the 86 men already long cleared to leave the prison. The ACLU will continue to press on all these matters until the rule of law is restored and ill-treatment in Guantanamo ends.”

On May 13, 19 organizations wrote Chuck Hagel. They included:

The ACLU

Asylum and Human Rights Program, Boston University School of Law

Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center on National Security at Fordham Law

Coalition for an Ethical Psychology

Council on American-Islamic Relations

Defending Dissent Foundation

Global Justice Clinic, NYU School of Law

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights First

International Justice Network

Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights

Physicians for Human Rights

Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Reprieve

The Center for Victims of Torture

Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture

Witness Against Torture

The letter states:

“We write to request that you intervene to end the force-feeding of competent hunger-striking prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, which constitutes cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.”

“We also urge you to investigate and address recent allegations of the use of excessive force, isolation, temperature manipulation, and forced sleeplessness in Guantanamo, which could also constitute cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and which raise even greater concerns if applied in combination with force-feeding.”

“At least 100 of the 166 men currently held at Guantanamo are on hunger strike, including many who have long been approved for release from the prison.”

“By all accounts, the root cause of the hunger strike is the prisoners’ belief that they will be indefinitely imprisoned and likely die in Guantanamo. At the most recent count, 29 of the men are being force-fed.”

“The force-feeding process is inherently cruel, inhuman, and degrading. The prisoner is strapped into a chair with restraints on his legs, arms, body, and sometimes head, immobilizing him.”

“A tube is inserted up his nostril, and snaked down his throat into his stomach. A liquid nutritional supplement is then forced down the tube. The prisoner is restrained in the chair for upwards of two hours to prevent him from vomiting.”

“As Guantanamo hunger-striker Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel explained recently: ‘I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before.’ ”

“Debilitating risks of force-feeding include major infections, pneumonia, collapsed lungs, heart failure, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological trauma.”

Because of force-feeding’s invasive nature, the World Medical Association (WMA), the preeminent international organization in the field of medical ethics and practice, has repeatedly condemned force-feeding of competent prisoners.”

“The WMA’s Tokyo Declaration, adopted in 1975, states that doctors shall respect a competent prisoner’s right to refuse artificial feeding.”

“And, in its Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers, adopted in 1991 and revised in 2006 in large part due to developments in Guantanamo, the WMA states that ‘(f)orcible feeding is never ethically acceptable.’ ”

” ‘Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment.’ ”

“The American Medical Association, a member of the WMA, has endorsed these unequivocal principles, as evidenced by its April 25, 2013 letter to you.”

“The International Committee of the Red Cross has similarly stated: ‘The ICRC is opposed to forced feeding or forced treatment; it is essential that the detainees’ choices be respected and their human dignity preserved.’ ”

“Force-feeding as used in Guantanamo violates Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which bar cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment.”

“It also could violate the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits the ‘cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment’ of prisoners ‘regardless of nationality or physical location.’ ”

“Indeed, a 2006 joint report submitted by five independent human rights experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council (formerly the UN Commission on Human Rights) found that the method of force-feeding then used in Guantanamo, and which appears to remain in effect today, amounted to torture as defined in Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the United States ratified in 1994.”

“The report also asserted that doctors and other health professionals authorizing and participating in force-feeding prisoners were violating the right to health and other human rights, including those guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the United States ratified in 1992.”

“Those concerns were reiterated this month by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and three UN Special Rapporteurs.”

“In light of the above, we urgently request that you order the immediate and permanent cessation of all force-feeding of Guantanamo prisoners who are competent and capable of forming a rational judgment as to the consequences of refusing food.”

“We request that you allow independent medical professionals to review and monitor the status of hunger-striking prisoners in a manner consistent with international ethical standards. We also request that you investigate and rectify any abusive conditions and treatment in addition to force-feeding.”

Obama promised to close Guantanamo. He’s done nothing to do so. No closure plan exists. Detainees are held indefinitely. Most or perhaps all committed no crimes.

They’re lawlessly held. Their only escape route is death. Obama bears full responsibility. He’s unaccountable. He’s guilty of multiple crimes of war and against humanity. Justice remains denied.

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/guantanamo-force-feeding-constitutes-torture/

European countries are piling more pressure on the US to allow them to buy armed Predator and Reaper drones.  As we have previously reported Germany wants to buy armed Reaper drones from the US and France too has reported this week that it ‘expects’ the US to allow it to acquire unarmed Reapers as a step towards it aim of acquiring armed drone capability.

Italy meanwhile is getting frustrated with a lack of response from the US to its request to arm the unarmed Reaper that it currently operates.  According to the Aviation News article,  Italy says that it is “looking for alternatives” including supporting a European black (secret) armed drone project.  There are already a number of known drone programmes  under  development within Europe including BAE System’s Taranis, Dassault’s Neuron and EADS’ Talarion (although the future of the latter is far from clear).  However these are all at an early stage of development with possible in-service dates being many years off and hence the desire of European countries to purchase Reaper and Predator drones.

EuropeFlagsThis week Germany also announced it was cancelling the Euro Hawk project.  Unveiled with such fanfare in 2011, Euro Hawk was a German version of the Northrop Grumman’s surveillance drone, the Global Hawk.  Various reasons were given this week to the press for its cancellation but German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière simply called the project “a horror without end” in his Bundestag statement.  Cancellation of this project, even though it has already cost Germany 500 million Euros, apparently ‘saves’ a further 500 million Euros which can now be spent on alternative drone developments.

Meanwhile the UK continues to operate its armed Reapers acquired from the US in 2007.  The UK is now testing the British-made Brimstone missile on its Reapers as an alternative to the US-made Hellfire missile.  This will  no doubt make it easier for the UK to continue operating its Reaper drones  after the Afghanistan ‘drawdown’.

X47b takes off from US aircraft carrier

New figures from SIPRI show that Israel has been the biggest proliferator of drone technology over the past decade with just over 40% of drone exports  originating from Israel.  Many of these small to medium unarmed drones have gone to European countries but also to Latin America and Africa. YnetNews also reported that sales of drones now nets Israel $400 million per year.

While other countries seek to catch up with the drone wars, the US this week undertook a significant test of its new autonomous X-47B drone.  For the first time an unmanned drone has taken off from an aircraft carrier, flown a pre-programmed mission and landed all by itself.  As many commentators reported, this is a major step forward.

Ominously, in the same week senior Pentagon officials told a Senate hearing on drone strikes that the war on terror is one without end or boundaries and that it is expected it to continue for another ten to twenty years.

An editorial in the LA Times this week summarised what can be seen as mainstream US opposition to US drone strikes, calling for the Obama administration to “reconsider the scope and utility of the [drones] policy.”  The key demand of this challenge is for the elimination of so-called signature strikes and for the CIA’s drones to be shifted back under military control.

Possibly in response to this call, unnamed sources told Defense News this week – incidentally giving some new interesting tit bits on CIA drone operations – that the latter is unlikely to take place as “the shift would be difficult to implement and would make little difference” as military officers actually operate the CIA’s drones.   Those urging the shift to military control argue that there would at least be potentially more scrutiny  and accountability over US military as opposed to CIA use of drones, but as Jeremy Scahill has pointed out in his excellent  new book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield there is in fact very little scrutiny and public accountability over US military operations.

In  an important legal ruling this week a Peshawar High Court judge stated  that US drone strikes in Pakistan were criminal offences. Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan ordered Pakistan’s government to insist to the US that it must end drone strikes, using force if necessary.  He also called on the UN Security Council to intervene.

A great panel of experts (Chris Woods of TBIJ, Jen Gibson of Reprieve and Dan Carey of Public Interest Lawyers) addressed the various legal aspects of the use of drones at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in London this week.  Thankfully the session was recorded and is available here.  It’s a really useful summary of the issues and highly recommended listen.

As Colorado, California and Washington including 16 other states enjoy freedom under state law to operate legal medical marijuana-cannabis businesses the owners are often faced with arrests and constant harrasment by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Though some states have legalized the sale of marijuana for medical purposes, the practice remains a felony crime under federal law.

Even if marijuana operators avoid arrests the almighty Feds inflict more damage by imposing astronomical “high taxes” on a state-sanctioned marijuana-cannabis, taxes as high as 75-80 percent. Some dealers, unable to pay employees and overhead, combined with the burden of extra high taxes, must shut down, thus preventing sick patients, preferring cannabis treatment, from getting the care they desperately need.

Cannabis dealers argue that “high taxes” imposed upon their businesses is the Feds political goal: to run them out of business and the bigger picture is to eliminate competition against the giant pharmaceutial industry which makes billions selling drugs to treat illnesses at a higher cost.

But evidence has proved that a person can purchase cannabis from a state legalized operator and receive effective treatment at a much lower cost.

With billions of dollars in the bank, the pharmaceutial companies pay millions for anti-marijuana lobbying efforts to sway Congress not to legalize marijuana under federal law. The smoking gun in this drama has raised the curtain on the pharmaceutial inustry now marketing an FDA approved cannabis medicine to undercut the growing market dominated by the states.

As the battle over taxation take center stage, a tax expert insists there is a loophole under 501(c)(4), that if used properly, the technique may eliminate excessive tax burdens,
threatening to ruin the medical cannabis businesses.

“If these state-legal businesses were treated as any other legal business, these industries could realize its’ full potential to create many, many more living wages, like retail, manufacturing and agriculture jobs that cannot be outsourced,” says Betty Aldworth, a deputy director with National Cannabis Industry Association. “An industry that can provide thousands of jobs is being held back by these crazy tax rates.”

How is this number game legally possible? Thanks to a 1982 provisional tax code known as 280E, a federal law created as result of a drug dealer’s successful atempt to reclaim his yacht, weapons and even the illegal bribes he paid off as business expenses. 280E prohibit individuals involved with selling narcotics from deducting expenses expenses if federal income taxes are filed. Legal marijuana sellers have vigorously tried to avoid the draconian 280E law by arguing their businesses were charities promoting health benefits and should be exempt from income tax under section 501(c)(3).

IRS lawyers bullishly oppose 501(c)(3) status given to state sanctioned marijuana sellers by issuing a counter-point argument that because of a rule called the “public policy doctrine”. This doctrine disqualify dispensaries as a charity because the Feds say these kind of businesses exist for illegal purposes under federal law.

Professor Benjamin Leff, a tax law expert at American University Washington College of Law, thinks he has a clever solution to free legit marijuana dealers from
the Feds insane tax laws.

“I don’t know if anyone has applied or not but marijuana sellers should run their business as a social welfare organization under 501(c)(4).”

To qualify under this statute, Leff said, “A social welfare organization must have as its primary purpose the promotion of the common good and general welfare of the people in neighborhoods or communities.”

Leff wrote a compelling report on the practice that was hosted at a Harvard University seminar titled: Tax Planning For Marijuana Dealers.

In a email sent to this Chronicle contributor, Professor Leff said, “It occurred to me the primary obstacle to tax-exempt status for marijuana sellers under 501(c)(3) called “public policy doctrine” is that it just doesn’t apply to social welfare organizations and the basic reasoning is this: “Because of a provision that applies only to people trafficking in controlled substances under 280E. Marijuana dispensaries are required to pay taxes not on their profits(like other businesses) but pay IRS based on gross revenue after substracting the cost of marijuana they sell.”

Leff further said under this theory,

“legal marijuana dealers have to pay more taxes than they would have if they were selling other products. And it is possible, the professor adds, a dealer would have to pay more taxes than they earn!”

“So when taxes get too high, it’s possible to drive compliant dispensaries out of business.”

In 2009, the global pharmaceutical market was worth an estimated $837 billions and by 2014, the amount expected to rise at least $1 trillion dollars. What helps to keep state-sanctioned cannabis dealers in business so far is the fact the Big Pharma cannot legally patent the plant that makes marijuana. Medical marijuana is often referred as the world’s wonder drug, a simple substance which provides effective treatment for pain, cancer, nausea, PMS, Lyme disease, ADD and other major ailments.

In a study conducted by Reiman, 66 percent of patients used cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs while 68 percent used cannabis as a subsitute for prescription drugs to treat chronic illness. And 85 percent of patients reported that cannabis had fewer side effects than other prescribed medicine.

Just how many other drugs are more effective?

“There’s nothing in our current pharmacopedia that comes close,” says Michael Backes, owner of the Cornerstone Research Collectivee, an L.A. California-based medical marijuana dispensary.
Political Battles: Pharmaceutial Industry Competes With Marijuana Dispensaries By Marketing Prescription-based Cannabinoid Medicine?

Medical marijuana activists pinpoint the giant pharmaceutical industry as a driving force in helping the Feds overthrow their businesses. This theory may seem more of an overreacted imagination but there is substantial evidence that pharmaceutal companies are aggressively marketing cannabis products which is the backbone for marijuana dispensaries. Activists cite the fact that the cannabis they sell much cheaper to ailing patients as the reason the pharmacies are concerned this could easily cut into their high profits of selling similar conventional cures.

As mentioned earlier pharmaceutial companies has already marketed FDA-approved prescription-based cannabinoid medicines. Therefore it doesn’t take a Harvard genius to realize that state-sanctioned marijuana dispensaries are competitive.

For instance, according to opensecrets.org, major pharmaceutial companies contributed millions of dollars during presidential and senate races. In 2004, pharmaceutial companies contributed $16 million into federal elections amongst Democrats and Republicans. In 2011, the industry spent $150 million on lobbying in Washington D.C. President Barack Obama received $1.2 million dollars from the pharmaceutial industry in 2008, a triple amount when compared to funds given to John McCain.

Research shows that since Obama took office, federal agents conducted more than 200 raids of medical marijuana operations nationwide. Around October 2012, the Feds sent over 300 letters to landlord’s that dispensaries rented from, threatening property owners with criminal charges if they did not evict their tenants. Research shows that the top five special interest groups lobbying to keep marijuana illegal are police unions, private prison corporations, alcohol and beer companies, prison guard unions and of course the pharmaceutial industry.

Professor Leff outlines his strategy for marijuana sellers to possibly avoid the Feds “public policy” draconian tax law:

(1) Leff suggests the dispensaries employ persons who may be hard to employ (like former marijuana sellers) and provide career training and mentorship for those people.

(2) Marijuana stores should operate to improve the business conditions of a distressed neighborhood. That means both are trying to bring business into a neighborhood with less retail as well being a good neighbor to other businesses and residents. Ideally, Leff further says, marijuana sellers should partner with an existing organization that is already seeking to improve the neighborhood.

(3) The second restriction may also be a big one. A 501(c)(4) organization(social welfare) cannot be owned by anyone and cannot distribute its profits to anyone. So, if you have an exisitng financially invested dispensary, a person need to get legal advice to determine how to transform that investment into a type allowable for non-profits.

When asked if expenses are deductible if a dispensary run a business as a caregiver, Leff points out, “Even without doing any of the nonprofit stuff that I’m talking about, a court has held that the costs incurred by a dispensary in providing caregiving services is not subject to 280E(which denies deductions for cost incurred in selling marijuana).”

“But a dispensary that sells marijuana and also provides care giving services still must allocate its expenses between the two activities, and keep records sufficient to justify
its allocation.”

“So it’s not the case that a dispensary providing care giving services can deduct all of its expenses.”

Meanwhile, Congress Jared Polis(D-Colorado) and Earl Blumenauer(D-OR) introduced a bill to end the federal prohibition on marijuana and allow it to be taxed. This much needed legislation will remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act.

Bottom line: Until the tax code and the law governing federal controlled substances are firmly modified by lowering taxes and have dispensaries legally sanctioned under federal law, then the current marijuana businesses will continually face the onslaught of high taxes and possible arrests by the federal government, a tactic seemingly designed to undermine committed efforts of dealers selling legal weed to patients who use the substance to mitigate their pain and suffering.

Is EVERY Market Rigged?

May 20th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

European Union Launches Investigation Into Manipulation of Oil Prices Since 2002

CNN reports:

The European Commission raided the offices of Shell, BP and Norway’s Statoil this week as part of an investigation into suspected attempts to manipulate global oil prices spanning more than a decade.

None of the companies have been accused of wrongdoing, but the controversy has brought back memories of the Libor rate-rigging scandal that rocked the financial world last year.

***

A review ordered by the British government last year in the wake of the Libor revelations cited “clear” parallels between the work of the oil-price-reporting agencies and Libor.

“[T]hey are both widely used benchmarks that are compiled by private organizations and that are subject to minimal regulation and oversight by regulatory authorities,” the review, led by former financial regulator Martin Wheatley, said in August . “To that extent they are also likely to be vulnerable to similar issues with regards to the motivation and opportunity for manipulation and distortion.”

***

In a report issued in October, the International Organization of Securities Commissions — an association of regulators — said the ability “to selectively report data on a voluntary basis creates an opportunity for manipulating the commodity market data” submitted to Platts and its competitors.
Responding to questions from IOSCO last year, French oil giant Total said the price-reporting agencies, or PRAs, sometimes “do not assure an accurate representation of the market and consequently deform the real price levels paid at every level of the price chain, including by the consumer.” But Total called Platts and its competitors “generally… conscientious and professional.”

***

“Even small distortions of assessed prices may have a huge impact on the prices of crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels purchases and sales, potentially harming final consumers,” the European Commission said this week.

USA Today notes:

The Commission … said, however, that its probe covers a wide range of oil products — crude oil, biofuels, and refined oil products, which include gasoline, heating oil, petrochemicals and others.

***

The EU said it has concerns that some companies may have tried to manipulate the pricing process by colluding to report distorted prices and by preventing other companies from submitting their own prices.

***

Unlike oil futures, which set prices for contracts, the data used in the MOC process is based on the physical sale and purchase of actual shipments of oil and oil products.

***

According to Statoil, the EU investigation stretches back to 2002, which is when Platts launched its MOC price system in Europe. The suspicion is that some companies may have provided inaccurate information to Platts to affect the oil products’ pricing, presumably for financial gain.

Fox notes:

At issue is whether there was collusion to distort prices of crude, refined oil products and ethanol traded during Platts’ market-on-close (MOC) system – a daily half-hour “window” in which it sets prices.

But the European Commission also is examining whether companies were prevented from taking part in the price assessment process.

The Guardian notes:

The commission said the alleged price collusion, which may have been going on since 2002, could have had a “huge impact” on the price of petrol at the pumps “potentially harming final consumers”.

Lord Oakeshott, former Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, said the alleged rigging of oil prices was “as serious as rigging Libor” – which led to banks being fined hundreds of millions of pounds.

He demanded to know why the UK authorities had not taken action earlier and said he would ask questions of the British regulator in Parliament. “Why have we had to wait for Brussels to find out if British oil giants are ripping off British consumers?” he said. “The price of energy ripples right through our economy and really matters to every business and families.”

***

Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said: “These are very concerning reports, which if true, suggest shocking behaviour in the oil market that should be dealt with strongly.

“When the allegations of price fixing in the gas market were made, Labour warned that opaque over-the-counter deals and relying on price reporting agencies left the market vulnerable to abuse.

“These latest allegations of price fixing in the oil market raise very similar questions. Consumers need to know that the prices they pay for their energy or petrol are fair, transparent and not being manipulated by traders.”

Shadow financial secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie said: “If oil price fixing has taken place it would be a shocking scandal for our financial markets.

The Telegraph reports:

97 per cent of all we eat, drink, wear or build has spent some time in a diesel lorry,” said a spokesman for FairFuel UK, the lobbyists. “If it is proved, they have been gambling with the very oxygen of our economy.”

***

Platts – to determine the benchmark price – examines just trades in the final 30 minutes of the trading day. A group of half a dozen analysts gather round a trading screen and decide on the final price. As with much that goes on in the City, it is a surprisingly old-fashioned method, reliant on gentlemanly conduct. Critics say it leaves the market open to abuse, and the price can suddenly spike or fall in the final minutes of the day.

The New York Times notes of agencies like Platt and Argus Media:

Their influence is extensive. Total, the French oil giant, estimated last year that 75 to 80 percent of crude oil and refined product transactions were linked to the prices published by such agencies.

The Observer points out that manipulation of the oil markets has long been an open secret:

Robert Campbell, a former price reporter at another PRA, Argus – he is now a staffer at Thomson Reuters, which also competes with Platts and others on providing energy news and data – said this a few days ago in a little-noticed commentary: “The vulnerability of physical crude price assessments to manipulation is an open secret within the oil industry. The surprise is that it took regulators so long to open a formal probe.”

Reuters reported yesterday that the probe may be expanding to the U.S.:

In Washington, the chairman of the Senate energy committee asked the Justice Department to investigate whether alleged price manipulation has boosted fuel prices for U.S. consumers.

“Efforts to manipulate the European oil indices, if proven, may have already impacted U.S. consumers and businesses, because of the interrelationships among world oil markets and hedging practices,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

Wyden also asked Justice to investigate whether oil market manipulation was taking place in the United States.

Not only are petroleum products a multi-trillion dollar market on their own, but manipulation of petroleum prices would effect virtually every market in the world.

For example, the Cato Institute notes how many industries use oil:

U.S. industries use petroleum to produce the synthetic fiber used in textile mills making carpeting and fabric from polyester and nylon. U.S. tire plants use petroleum to make synthetic rubber. Other U.S. industries use petroleum to produce plastic, drugs, detergent, deodorant, fertilizer, pesticides, paint, eyeglasses, heart valves, crayons, bubble gum and Vaseline.

The India Times reports that:

The price variation in crude oil impacts the sentiments and hence the volatility in stock markets all over the world. The rise in crude oil prices is not good for the global economy. Price rise in crude oil virtually impacts industries and businesses across the board. Higher crude oil prices mean higher energy prices, which can cause a ripple effect on virtually all business aspects that are dependent on energy (directly or indirectly).

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco notes:

When gasoline prices increase, a larger share of households’ budgets is likely to be spent on it, which leaves less to spend on other goods and services. The same goes for businesses whose goods must be shipped from place to place or that use fuel as a major input (such as the airline industry). Higher oil prices tend to make production more expensive for businesses, just as they make it more expensive for households to do the things they normally do.

***

Oil price increases are generally thought to increase inflation and reduce economic growth.

***

Oil prices indirectly affect costs such as transportation, manufacturing, and heating. The increase in these costs can in turn affect the prices of a variety of goods and services, as producers may pass production costs on to consumers.

***

Oil price increases can also stifle the growth of the economy through their effect on the supply and demand for goods other than oil. Increases in oil prices can depress the supply of other goods because they increase the costs of producing them. In economics terminology, high oil prices can shift up the supply curve for the goods and services for which oil is an input.

High oil prices also can reduce demand for other goods because they reduce wealth, as well as induce uncertainty about the future (Sill 2007). One way to analyze the effects of higher oil prices is to think about the higher prices as a tax on consumers (Fernald and Trehan 2005).

The Post Carbon Institute notes (via OilPrice.com) that high oil prices raise food prices as well:

The connection between food and oil is systemic, and the prices of both food and fuel have risen and fallen more or less in tandem in recent years (figure 1). Modern agriculture uses oil products to fuel farm machinery, to transport other inputs to the farm, and to transport farm output to the ultimate consumer. Oil is often also used as input in agricultural chemicals. Oil price increases therefore put pressure on all these aspects of commercial food systems.

Figure 1: Evolution of food and fuel prices, 2000 to 2009
Sources: US Energy Information Administration and FAO.

Economists Nouriel Roubini and Setser note that all recessions after 1973 were associated with oil shocks.

Interest Rates Are Manipulated

Unless you live under a rock, you know about the Libor scandal.

For those just now emerging from a coma, here’s a recap:

Derivatives Are Manipulated

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

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

Gold and Silver Are Manipulated

The Guardian and Telegraph report that gold and silver prices are “fixed” in the same way as interest rates and derivatives – in daily conference calls by the powers-that-be.

Everything Can Be Manipulated through High-Frequency Trading

Traders with high-tech computers can manipulate stocks, bonds, options, currency and commodities. And see this.

Manipulating Numerous Markets In Myriad Ways

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

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