A federal district judge today, the newly-appointed Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York, issued an amazing ruling: one which preliminarily enjoins enforcement of the highly controversial indefinite provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last December. This afternoon’s ruling came as part of a lawsuit brought by seven dissident plaintiffs — including Chris Hedges, Dan Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, and Birgitta Jonsdottir — alleging that the NDAA violates ”both their free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

The ruling was a sweeping victory for the plaintiffs, as it rejected each of the Obama DOJ’s three arguments: (1) because none of the plaintiffs has yet been indefinitely detained, they lack “standing” to challenge the statute; (2) even if they have standing, the lack of imminent enforcement against them renders injunctive relief unnecessary; and (3) the NDAA creates no new detention powers beyond what the 2001 AUMF already provides.

As for the DOJ’s first argument — lack of standing — the court found that the plaintiffs are already suffering substantial injury from the reasonable fear that they could be indefinitely detained under section 1021 of the NDAA as a result of their constitutionally protected activities. As the court explained (h/t Charles Michael):

In support of their motion, Plaintiffs assert that § 1021 already has impacted their associational and expressive activities–and would continue to impact them, and that § 1021 is vague to such an  extent that it provokes fear that certain of their associational and expressive activities could subject them to indefinite or prolonged military detention.

The court found that the plaintiffs have “shown an actual fear that their expressive and associational activities” could subject them to indefinite detention under the law,and “each of them has put forward uncontroverted evidence of concrete — non-hypothetical — ways in which the presence of the legislation has already impacted those expressive and associational activities” (as but one example, Hedges presented evidence that his “prior journalistic activities relating to certain organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban” proves “he has a realistic fear that those activities will subject him to detention under § 1021″). Thus, concluded the court, these plaintiffs have the right to challenge the constitutionality of the statute notwithstanding the fact that they have not yet been detained under it; that’s because its broad, menacing detention powers are already harming them and the exercise of their constitutional rights.

Significantly, the court here repeatedly told the DOJ that it could preclude standing for the plaintiffs if they were willing to state clearly that none of the journalistic and free speech conduct that the plaintiffs engage in could subject them to indefinite detention. But the Government refused to make any such representation. Thus, concluded the court, “plaintiffs have stated a more than plausible claim that the statute inappropriately encroaches on their rights under the First Amendment.”

Independently, the court found that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the NDAA violates their Fifth Amendment due process rights because the statute is so vague that it is virtually impossible to know what conduct could subject one to indefinite detention. Specifically, the court focused on the NDAA’s authorization to indefinitely detain not only Al Qaeda members, but also members of so-called “associated forces” and/or anyone who “substantially supports” such forces, and noted:

Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on their vagueness challenge. The terms upon which they focused at the hearing relate to who is a “covered person.” In that regard, plaintiffs took issue with the lack of definition and clarity regarding who constitutes an “associated forces,” and what it means to “substantially” or “directly” “support” such forces or, al-Qaeda or the Taliban. . . .

The Government was unable to define precisely what ”direct” or “substantial” “support” means. . . .Thus, an individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an associated force without even being aware that he or she was doing so.

Perhaps most importantly, the court categorically rejected the central defense of this odious bill from the Obama administration and its defenders: namely, that it did nothing more than the 2001 AUMF already did and thus did not really expand the Government’s power of indefinite detention. The court cited three reasons why the NDAA clearly expands the Government’s detention power over the 2001 AUMF (all of which I previously cited when denouncing this bill). 

First, “by its terms, the AUMF is tied directly and only to those involved in the events of 9/11,” whereas the NDAA “has a non-specific definition of ‘covered person’ that reaches beyond those involved in the 9/11 attacks by its very terms.” Second, “the individuals or groups at issue in the AUMF are also more specific than those at issue in § 1021″ of the NDAA; that’s because the AUMF covered those “directly involved in the 9/11 attacks while those in § 1021 [of the NDAA] are specific groups and ‘associated forces’.” Moreover, “the Government has not provided a concrete, cognizable set of organizations or individuals that constitute ‘associated forces,’ lending further indefiniteness to § 1021.” Third, the AUMF is much more specific about how one is guilty of “supporting” the covered Terrorist groups, while the NDAA is incredibly broad and un-specific in that regard, thus leading the court to believe that even legitimate activities could subject a person to indefinite detention.

The court also decisively rejected the argument that President Obama’s signing statement – expressing limits on how he intends to exercise the NDAA’s detention powers — solves any of these problems. That’s because, said the court, the signing statement “does not state that § 1021 of the NDAA will not be applied to otherwise-protected First Amendment speech nor does it give concrete definitions to the vague terms used in the statute.”

The court concluded by taking note of what is indeed the extraordinary nature of her ruling, but explained it this way:

This Court is acutely aware that preliminarily enjoining an act of Congress must be done with great caution. However, it is the responsibility of our judicial system to protect the public from acts of Congress which infringe upon constitutional rights.

I’ve been very hard on the federal judiciary in the past year due to its shameful, craven deference in the post-9/11 world to executive power and, especially, attempts to prosecute Muslims on Terrorism charges. But this is definitely an exception to that trend. This is an extraordinary and encouraging decision. All the usual caveats apply: this is only a preliminary injunction (though the court made it clear that she believes plaintiffs will ultimately prevail). It will certainly be appealed and can be reversed. There are still other authorities (including the AUMF) which the DOJ can use to assert the power of indefinite detention. Nonetheless, this is a rare and significant limit placed on the U.S. Government’s ability to seize ever-greater powers of detention-without-charges, and it is grounded in exactly the right constitutional principles: ones that federal courts and the Executive Branch have been willfully ignoring for the past decade.

VIDEO: What Americans can learn from the Euro Crisis

May 18th, 2012 by Michael Hudson

 

Transcript

Headlines around the world greeted the election results in Greece and France as a rejection of austerity programs by the electors of those countries. Well, what can Americans learn from the results of these elections and from the crisis in the eurozone?

Now joining us to talk about all of this is Michael Hudson. Michael is a former Wall Street financial analyst, and he’s a distinguished research professor of economics at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. He has a new book coming out soon called The Bubble and Beyond. Thanks for joining us, Michael.

MICHAEL HUDSON, RESEARCH PROFESSOR, UMKC: Thank you, Paul.

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN:: So what should Americans take away from the European elections?

HUDSON: The same thing is happening in Europe that’s happening here. Left-wing parties, socialist parties, labor parties all say that they’re going to preserve the social contract, and as soon as they get into power, they sell out to their financial backers, they double cross labor. The socialist party in Greece fell from 44 percent to 14 percent because the last party simply [incompr.] the most vicious anti-labor measures in Europe. Same thing in France now. Hollande of the French socialists, before the election, said he was going to beg, ask Europe, will you please not insist that we roll back our social programs. And just this morning he said, well, I asked and they said no. I’m afraid that in order to preserve Europe, in order to preserve the idea of a political harmony, we’re going to have to go ahead and impose more austerity on the people. I’m terribly sorry. But if you don’t like it, you can vote for another party in four years. But there’s going to be austerity, and we’re going to have to lower wages here, and there’s nothing to do. If you don’t lose our campaign contributors, the banks could lose, and we couldn’t have that, because if the banks lose, they say that that’s intolerable to them.

JAY: So one of the arguments that’s made is that whatever Hollande, for example, or even Obama in the United States—but let’s talk about Hollande—whatever he may want to do, if he wanted to kind of defy the austerity programs more resolutely, that he really can’t, because the levers of power of the banks and the financial institutions and in European situation the German elite and German banks, they have so much power that if you actually really try to defy these austerity policies, they can simply—you know, they raid the currency, they drive up interest rates. They have so many levers of power that someone like a Hollande really can’t stand up to them. So unless there’s kind of a really major transformation of capitalism as we know it in Europe, there’s not a heck of a lot Hollande can do. Now, that’s an argument. What do you make of that argument?

HUDSON: The banks really have no power at all except the power to bribe, and in Europe—in South America, the power to assassinate, which they do quite frequently. All they can do is bribe. Remember, we had the same argument over here about three years ago, when Sheila Bair wanted to take over Citibank, and she said, look, we can foreclose on Citibank, we can close down all these big banks on Wall Street anytime. They’re insolvent. We can pay all the depositors. There’s no problem at all. It’s very much like the sheriff in Blazing Saddles saying, I’m going to shoot myself in the head if you don’t do what I want. If the government were to take over the banks, they can pay all the depositors. The only people who would lose would be the very wealthy, who have more money in the banks that are insured. Sheila Bair said the bank bondholders would suffer, the counterparties would suffer. The banks have no power at all. The problem is the corruption of the politicians, who are just demagogues pretending to oppose the banks while actually being in their pocket. The banks don’t have any [incompr.] power. They don’t have any economic power, except they can bribe politicians.

JAY: Now, that would be a start for really transforming or changing the course of things, because most of the banks, certainly American banks, and European, for that matter, as well, if it hadn’t been for the public bailout, goes the argument, they wouldn’t be around anyway.

HUDSON: That’s right. The government became the major shareholder of the insolvent banks here, like Citibank and Bank of America. The same thing in Europe. If Europe banks caused the crisis, the governments can simply say, okay, we’re taking over the banks. Now we own them. Now that we own the banks, we’re going to write down the mortgages to the price that people can pay, which is [incompr.] We’re not going to pay other rich people. But financial reform and tax reform have to go together. And they’d say, we’re actually going to roll back all the tax cuts for the 1 percent, and we’re going to the begin taxing real estate again, we’re going to tax monopolies, we’re going to reintroduce progressive taxation just like we had for 30 years ago. If capitalism worked 30 years ago with higher taxation, with strong labor power, with a good property tax, and with affordable houses, it can work again. All of this is unnecessary, except if they can [incompr.] the banks and their politicians can convince people that there is no alternative. So that’s really the banks’ argument.

JAY: And when you go, why did capitalism change to this extent over the last 30 years, I mean, isn’t it because in fact the finance sector has become that much more powerful, that much more dominant in the economy, somewhat as it was in 1932-33 when it was very dominant? And we know the consequences of that.

HUDSON: The change over the last 30 years has been a drive by the finance sector to become more dominant steadily. So the finance sector has started a lot of think tanks, they’ve funded the research institutes, and they’ve bought control of the public media, so that they’ve been able to convince people that there really isn’t an alternative, and only talk about whether there is more austerity or chaos. But, of course, the alternative to austerity isn’t chaos; its economic democracy, it’s progressive taxation, it’s taxing the rich, it’s writing down the debts. There are many alternatives. And what they’ve done is make sure that none of these alternatives get discussed in the public press or in the media. That’s why we’re on The Real News Network talking about it, not in The New York Times or the Fox media.

JAY: Now, in one of your recent pieces, you wrote that the kind of grab, wealth grab, I guess, that’s going on right now is something akin to the way feudalism developed. What did you mean by that?

HUDSON: The—1,000 years ago, it took a military army to come in and conquer a country and grab the land and charge the people rent, to take control of the monopolies and charge people huge markups from the monopolies, and to essentially shift the taxes off the wealthy, onto the population that was conquered. Now, in today’s world, they can’t afford an army anymore. The Vietnam War showed that no country can afford a military occupation anymore. So finance today is the means of conquering a country and getting what in the past took an army. Financial conquest is how you shift the taxes onto the population to pay the financial sector, how you load a population down with debt and make a population pay interest and amortization and penalties on debt service, you make a population pay for schooling instead of getting it free or a low price as used to be the case, you make a population take on a lifetime of debt in order to get a home that used to be affordable, you make the governments go into debt for the banks, so that in Europe governments can’t—don’t have a central bank to monetize their own deficits but actually have to borrow money from banks. You achieve—you essentially empty out an economy, and you take its economic surplus financially without an army, just by trying to promote what really is junk economics and junk politics, if the economics of Rubinomics in America under Clinton and Rubenomics in America under George Bush, and now with a vengeance under Obama—.

JAY: Just to conclude, let’s come back to America. What do you make of these elections? I’m a little perplexed how this goes. I mean, as critical as we are of President Obama and his policies and his connection to Wall Street and his neoliberal model and such, at least at a certain level he promises something that would be better for people’s well-being. He’s—more than the Republicans, would be on the side of some stimulus, extending unemployment insurance, certain kinds of benefits. You can say at least there’s some modicum of something there. My question is, from the Republican side, if you’re an ordinary person, I don’t understand how there’s anything in it for you. On the other hand, Romney is polling neck-and-neck with Obama. I mean, what’s your understanding of this?

HUDSON: I think the people who vote for Romney are the same people who voted in Europe for, essentially, throw the rascals out. When people are unhappy with an economic situation, they simply vote for the other party, whoever it is, and it’s a flip-flop back and forth. The Republicans very much want—the backers of the Republicans are the same backers who backed Obama. They’re the Wall Street people. They want Obama to come in for a second term and then really move against Social Security.

Obama’s the only person—only a Democratic president can swing a Democratic Congress or Senate over to the right wing. So you need the Republicans to make—go so far on the right that Obama, who in the past would have been looked at as a right-winger or Republican, you need to make him look reasonable. And if you can push the crazies, as the Republicans are doing, then Obama seems less bad than the alternative. In fact, he gave a campaign speech a month ago, and he said, well, look at the alternative. I’m better.

JAY: Well, there is some truth to that, in the sense that from the point of view of an ordinary person, if you look at Republican state governments, the Republicans state governments are worse. Even if the Democratic state governments aren’t good, the Republicans are—governments are—in terms of the interests of ordinary people, is, it seems, a heck of a lot worse.

HUDSON: Yup. Isn’t that crazy choice, to have to choose between these two, between an absolute terrible alternative and just a bad alternative? That’s the choice we have. Yes, please, or yes, thank you, to a choice that—you know, where is the left in America? Where is the left in Europe? Where is what used to be the left? I don’t see it anymore anywhere.

JAY: Well, there’s some left, I think, in America, but what—I think the question that needs to be asked is: where the heck are the leaders of the trade union movement in America? Not all but most of the main leadership are just—simply go out and campaign for whoever the Democratic Party leader is, and even though they get nothing—next to nothing when they’re elected, they’re back there out stumping for them again.

HUDSON: Oh, you’re such an young guy. Back in the 1950s, I used to go to socialist meetings, and people would say, why do the trade union people keep thinking they’re locked into the Democrats? And the answer is: well, that’s the two-party system. There isn’t really room for a third party here. And all the Republicans have to do is say, no, we’re worse, and it just scares people to actually vote for the Democrats. But people have been asking that question for 60 years, and nobody’s come up with a better answer since.

JAY: Well, what’s your answer?

HUDSON: I think you need a third party or you need to break away from the Democratic Party for people like Dennis Kucinich or the more progressive people. You need what was called 50 years ago realignment. And that realignment that people saw even then was necessary hasn’t occurred, and it hasn’t occurred in Europe either. That’s why everybody is so frustrated. In France and Greece and everywhere else in Europe, they’re equally frustrated. There doesn’t seem to be any alternative. And that’s exactly what Mrs. Thatcher liked to say, there is no alternative. And it’s just amazing when there really are so many alternatives that people can be convinced that there aren’t and become so dispirited they just give up. So the fact is that most Americans are going to vote with their backsides. They’re just not going to vote this November.

JAY: Right. Thanks for joining us, Michael.

HUDSON: Thank you, Paul.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

The media war with the West was lost the day the Syrian uprising began, President Assad told a Russian broadcaster. The authorities appear ready to start another round by showing to the world the foreign mercenaries captured in Syria.

A number of key questions have arisen since Assad gave his last interview over half a year ago. Assad answered them all in a new interview with Rossiya-24 TV channel.

 

‘West outplayed Syria on media battlefield’

Assad admits that Syria is losing the media war against the West, but says “the reality is what really matters” and not “the illusions” created by the media. He said that the media outplayed the Syrian government in the very beginning of the conflict by making up stories and spreading rumors. But in the long term the media cannot beat the reality, he added, and eventually the circumstances have changed because what is really happening is very much different from what the media reports. Assad also said that the Syrian government repeatedly tried to express its point of view to numerous international journalists, but the agencies kept sending to Syria only those people who would stick with the same lies and false picture created in the first days of the conflict.

Not so Free Syrian Army

Assad says that the Syrian National Council, an “opposition” operating from abroad, has from little or no influence on what is happening in Syria and does not have any kind of significance within Syria. Though on the ground the Free Syrian Army is widely considered to be the core of the armed and organized opposition movement, Assad believes the FSA has not much to either with freedom or the organized army.

“First of all they are not free,” the head of state said, explaining that they will never be free while they are supplied with guns and funded from abroad. He described the Free Syrian Army as a crowd of convicted criminals, comprised among other things of Al-Qaeda type religious fanatics, extremists and terrorists and to some extent of foreign mercenaries, predominantly from other Arab states.

Assad revealed that Syrian forces had captured a number of foreign mercenaries who were fighting for the opposition. He explained the authorities had not advertised the fact until now because they did not have enough evidence to prove the fighters were indeed mercenaries.

“Some [of the mercenaries] are still alive,” he said. “They are being detained and we are preparing to show them to the world. Many of them have been killed.” Syrian rebels are also known to have gone to Kosovo to study partisan warfare tactics, Assad added. “There is information that a group of people who call themselves opposition went to Kosovo to train in organizing military intervention by NATO into Syria,” he told Rossiya-24.

Western sanctions and UN mission – both one-sided

At the moment there are 212 military observers and 68 civilian staff working for the UN observer mission in Syria monitoring the implementation of Kofi Annan’s peace plan. Assad says that a decrease in direct military confrontation with the opposition due to the redeployment of the military was the only positive result of the mission’s arrival. At the same time, he says, the number of terror attacks targeting civilians has sharply increased and is now at its highest level since the beginning of the crisis. The West keeps talking “about violence, but violence from the side of the government, not a word about the terrorists,” the Syrian leader said. “Mr. Annan will come to Syria this month, and I will ask him about this matter.” Slapping Syria with all sorts of sanctions and embargoes is another one-sided decision by the West, Assad believes. “Sanctions affect only ordinary people, not the government,” Assad explained. He said that the world is wide enough not to focus only on the US and Europe. “We are finding alternatives to overcome these difficulties,” he said. “We have wonderful relations with the greater part of the world, except for the West.”

Not a regime but a form of government

President Assad believes that what Russia and China, who repeatedly expressed their support for Syria and backed the country in the UN Security Council, are in fact supporting is neither the regime (Assad prefers the expression “form of government”) nor Assad as the head of state, but international stability. Both Russia and China have a good grip on the geopolitical situation in the region and they understand that without their support not only Syria but a lot of its neighbors will plunge into chaos, Assad explained. “It is not a question of Syria, it is a question of international stability,” Assad said.

NATO is strengthening its positions in Central Asia, for the first time inviting Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to its Chicago summit on May 20 and 21 in hopes of expanding partnerships with the countries. Now, NATO has only cargo transit deals in the region but is eyeing new military bases to compete with Russia and China.

The summit will deal with the alliance’s new policy on Central Asia. The above-mentioned countries were invited to the Afghanistan meeting as they provide transit for alliance forces in the country.

NATO openly speaks about its plans to deploy its troops in Central Asia and the invited countries are perfectly aware of it. Now they are thinking of how to get the most out of this situation, says political analyst and chief editor of Ferghana.ru web portal, Daniil Kislov:

“NATO’s so-called Northern Distribution Network involves mainly Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. I think those countries will be discussing the cost and benefits they can get from NATO in exchange for their transit services.”

Formally, NATO invited the countries’ Presidents – Nursultan Nazarbayev, Almazbek Atambayev, Emomalii Rahmon and Islam Karimov – to Chicago, but they are sending their foreign minister instead. This is a certain political strategy. On the one hand, the US will not be blamed for cooperating with “dictators” while the presidents will not take part in a summit arranged by the alliance – a competitor, as the Central Asian nations are part of the CSTO [Collective Treaty Security Organization] and SCO [Shanghai Cooperation Organization] .

NATO’s aspirations may cause negative reactions from Moscow and Beijing, as they venture into traditional Russian and Chinese zones of influence, says the head of the Center for Strategic Forecast Sergey Grinyaev:

“NATO showed its interest in Central Asia already 10 year ago by deploying its bases in the region, and now plans to make this cooperation more formal to pave the way for Central Asian countries’ membership.”

NATO seems to be irritated with the latest CSTO summit as it conflicts with its interests.

Experts believe that NATO’s intentions are not just security in Central Asia but also deterring Russia’s and Chin’s growing influence in the region. So let’s wait and see how Central Asia will react to Brussels’ proposals.

The Elite Financial Players Are Manipulating the Game So that They Get the Stimulus … and the Little Guy Gets the Austerity

Liberal economists and financial wonks say that we need to stimulate more to avoid falling back into an economic abyss.

Conservative economists and financial gurus say that we need to tighten our belts and live within our means, or the tsunami of debt will wipe out our prosperity, and that of our children and grandchildren.

We’ve repeatedly noted that neither stimulus or austerity can ever work … unless and until the basic problems with the economy are fixed.

But stimulus and austerity are not only insufficient … they are actually 2 sides of the same coin.

Specifically, the central banks’ central bank warned in 2008 that bailouts of the big banks would create sovereign debt crises. That is exactly what has happened.

Remember, it is not the people or Main Street who are getting bailed out … it is the giant banks.

A study of 124 banking crises by the International Monetary Fund found that propping up banks which are only pretending to be solvent hurts the economy:

Existing empirical research has shown that providing assistance to banks and their borrowers can be counterproductive, resulting in increased losses to banks, which often abuse forbearance to take unproductive risks at government expense. The typical result of forbearance is a deeper hole in the net worth of banks, crippling tax burdens to finance bank bailouts, and even more severe credit supply contraction and economic decline than would have occurred in the absence of forbearance.

Cross-country analysis to date also shows that accommodative policy measures (such as substantial liquidity support, explicit government guarantee on financial institutions’ liabilities and forbearance from prudential regulations) tend to be fiscally costly and that these particular policies do not necessarily accelerate the speed of economic recovery.

***

All too often, central banks privilege stability over cost in the heat of the containment phase: if so, they may too liberally extend loans to an illiquid bank which is almost certain to prove insolvent anyway. Also, closure of a nonviable bank is often delayed for too long, even when there are clear signs of insolvency (Lindgren, 2003). Since bank closures face many obstacles, there is a tendency to rely instead on blanket government guarantees which, if the government’s fiscal and political position makes them credible, can work albeit at the cost of placing the burden on the budget, typically squeezing future provision of needed public services.

In other words, the “stimulus” to the banks blows up the budget, “squeezing” public services through austerity.

But instead of throwing trillions at the big banks, we could give some stimulus to Main Street. It would work much better at stimulating the economy.

And instead of imposing draconian austerity, we could stop handouts to the big banks, stop getting into imperial military adventures and stop incurring unnecessary interest costs (and see this).  This would be better for the economy as well.

Why aren’t we doing this?

Underneath the false left-versus-right puppet show, this is not a financial crisis … it’s a bank robbery.

As we wrote last year:

Economists note:

A substantial portion of the profits of the largest banks is essentially a redistribution from taxpayers to the banks, rather than the outcome of market transactions.

Indeed, all of the monetary and economic policy of the last 3 years has helped the wealthiest and penalized everyone else. See this, this and this.

A “jobless recovery” is basically a redistribution of wealth from the little guy to the big boys.

***

Economist Steve Keen says:

“This is the biggest transfer of wealth in history”, as the giant banks have handed their toxic debts from fraudulent activities to the countries and their people.

Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz said in 2009 that Geithner’s toxic asset plan “amounts to robbery of the American people”.

And economist Dean Baker said in 2009 that the true purpose of the bank rescue plans is “a massive redistribution of wealth to the bank shareholders and their top executives”.

The money of individuals, businesses, cities, states and entire nations are disappearing into the abyss …

… and ending up in the pockets of the [super-elite].

Passionate liberal Keynesians and committed fiscal conservatives might both want to guard against being manipulated into seeing only part of the picture. If the powers-that-be are manipulating the game so that they get the stimulus the little guy gets the austerity, then neither stimulus or austerity as currently being implemented are for the greater good.

Quebec premier Jean Charest announced May 16 that he will introduce emergency legislation to end the militant student strike, now in its 14th week, that has shut down college and university campuses across the province. The students are protesting the Liberal government’s 75 per cent increase in university tuition fees, now slated to take place over the next seven years.

The special law, Charest said, will suspend the current session for the striking students and impose harsh penalties for those who in the future attempt to block physical access to campus premises or “disrupt” classes. It will not include the terms the government offered following a 22-hour marathon negotiating session May 4-5 – although, as we shall see below, we have not heard the last of some of those provisions. That offer was rejected overwhelmingly by the students in mass meetings held during the past week. In all, 115 associations representing 342,000 of Quebec’s 400,000 college and university students voted to reject it. Of these, more than 150,000 students are still on strike.[1]

The law will effectively end the present strike, but without resolving any of the underlying issues. The immediate goal of the strike was to stop the tuition hike, but the strike also revived a major public debate over long-standing proposals in Quebec to expand access to university education through abolition of fees and to roll back the increasing subordination of higher education to market forces and private corporate interests. The government turned a deaf ear to the students on all these questions.

Repressive and Authoritarian Law

“The Liberals have spit on an entire generation,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a spokesman for the CLASSE,[2] the largest student association. “It is a repressive and authoritarian law. It restricts the students’ right to strike, which has been recognized for years by the educational institutions.” The CLASSE has called for a massive march of students and their supporters, to be held May 22 in Montréal. It hopes the numbers mobilized in the streets will be comparable with the estimated 200,000 who came out on March 22 and the even greater number who assembled on April 22, Earth Day.

Equally outraged was the president of the national teachers union, the FNEEQ-CSN,[3] Jean Trudelle. “They talk of accessibility as if it was simply a question of opening the doors,” he said. The president of the university professors’ union, Max Roy, likewise denounced the government for failing to take the students’ concerns seriously.

Charest’s announcement came less than two days after education minister Line Beauchamp suddenly resigned not only from the cabinet but from her seat in the National Assembly, admitting that she was no longer “part of the solution” to a crisis that has shaken the government. Arrogant and obdurate to the end, Beauchamp said she had “lost confidence in the willingness of the student leaders to search for solutions and… a genuine way out of the crisis.” Premier Jean Charest promptly replaced her with Michèle Courchesne, a former education minister.

“The problem for us has never been Ms. Beauchamp,” said CLASSE spokesman Nadeau-Dubois. “The problem is the hike in tuition fees. And it is not by changing the minister… that the present crisis will be solved. The crisis will be solved when they agree to talk about the reason why the students are on strike, that is, the increase in tuition fees.”

Charest’s Self-Imposed Crisis

The minister’s resignation underscored the depth of the crisis the Charest government has brought upon itself. For months it tried to trivialize the strike, ignoring the students’ demands, refusing to negotiate, evidently hoping the movement would exhaust itself, especially as the current spring session approached its end with no resolution in sight. But even as they faced loss of their session credits if the strike continued, the students for the most part held firm, successfully mounting defiant mass pickets at many campuses and frustrating more than 30 court injunctions to reopen the institutions, often in the face of massive police violence and multiple arrests. Well over one thousand students have been arrested – a total that far exceeds the previous record arrests in the 2010 G20 protests in Toronto – and many face criminal charges for disruptive tactics or defiance of police orders to disperse.

In recent weeks they have marched each night, usually in the thousands, through the streets of Montréal, in colourful impromptu demonstrations that play cat-and-mouse with police attempts to control their route. It is the “Printemps érable” – the “maple spring” that is the Quebec version of the Occupy movement – in this case occupying the streets of the province’s metropolis.

Although the government and the corporate media have worked relentlessly in recent months to turn public opinion against the students, there were signs that the students’ militant resistance was opening breaches in this strategy. A Léger Marketing poll published May 11 reported that 71 per cent of those interviewed think the government has “mismanaged” the conflict. Another Léger poll found that Francophones (more than 80 per cent of the province’s population) and those under 55 years of age tended to hold the government and not the student associations responsible for the failure to settle the crisis.[4]

The portrayal of the students’ struggle as a self-serving attempt to avoid paying “their fair share” of education expenses is falling flat on its face. Le Devoir columnist Michel David was simply stating the obvious when he concluded: “If so many young people are prepared to sacrifice their session, it is manifestly because they feel they are defending a cause that goes beyond their individual interests.”

As David noted, the strike is showing signs of becoming one of those epochal moments in Quebec’s evolution, a “catalyst,” as he put it, for a burgeoning movement of protest challenging the current direction of the society. His take on this is worth quoting at some length:

“Any society periodically experiences a conflict that captures the imagination and then becomes a sort of landmark. In recent decades Quebec has been marked by the asbestos strike, the strike of the Radio-Canada producers, or the strike by the United Aircraft workers.[5]

“The student strike could well become one of these landmarks. What was initially claimed to be a mere budgetary item has had a catalytic effect on the frustrations of those who are fed up with hearing the ‘lucides’ associate the social-democratic values inherited from the Quiet Revolution with opposition to change or the status quo. [...][6]

“It is true that the gradual rehabilitation of the ‘solidaire’ discourse in public opinion began before the student conflict. The world financial crisis, which has spectacularly enhanced the role of the state, the movement of the ‘indignés,’ and the right-wing policies imposed by the Harper government have disturbed people, but the red square [the red felt flash worn by striking students] has clearly favoured the link with what was once called the ‘forces vives,’ the living forces of the society.”

Like any mass struggle of such scope, the student strike has also challenged the existing political forces in Quebec society to declare where they stand. The only party strongly supporting the students, the left-wing Québec solidaire, calls for free education from kindergarten to university.[7] Responding to Charest’s announcement May 16, Amir Khadir, the QS member of the National Assembly, declared his party’s solidarity “more than ever, on the side of the students” and promised to fight any attempt to criminalize dissent. And he added:

“Québec solidaire strongly believes that … the student movement in Quebec has won, in that it has changed Quebec. The movement has won through its intelligence, its unity, by putting a freeze on tuition fees and even free university education at the centre of the debate on education, and education at the centre of political debate.

“Whatever the decision of the student movement on its conduct in the face of the special legislation, we are going to respect it. We are going to accompany this movement and defend it as best we can. Whatever happens in the coming months, the students’ struggle is not finished, and will enter new stages, and our party will be in solidarity with it.”

Ranged solidly against the students are not only the Liberals but the new right-wing Coalition Avenir Québec led by former Parti Québécois minister François Legault, who has been calling for increased police repression and other measures to break the strike.

Somewhere in the middle is the official opposition party, the PQ, which appears to be caught between two stools. PQ members of the National Assembly sport the red square badge of support for the students, to the obvious irritation of Premier Charest and his ministers. But PQ leader Pauline Marois calls only for an “indexed freeze” on current tuition fees – somewhat less than what the PQ congress of April 2011 demanded: a restoration of the freeze at 2007 levels until a summit on higher education is held and legislation is adopted governing tuition fees and incidental fees.

However, at the opening of the PQ national council in early May, Marois said that in the forthcoming elections Québécois will have to choose between “everyone for himself” and the “culture of mutual assistance.” Could she be looking over her left shoulder at Québec solidaire?

Doing Unionism Differently?

Also tested in this struggle have been the major social institutions of the 99%, Quebec’s trade unions, which continue to represent almost 40% of the province’s workers and a substantial majority of its public and parapublic sector employees. The union centrals are coming under increasing criticism for their approach to the strike – one of lukewarm and largely symbolic support to the students, but at crucial points of doubtful assistance. Details are now emerging of the role played by the leaders of the major union centrals in the May 4-5 negotiations between the students and government, to which they were invited as “advisors” to the students.

Although all three (FTQ, CSN and CSQ[8]) told the ministers they supported the student demands – the CSN said it had supported free tuition for 40 years – it appears from the CLASSE account[9] that the union leaders

  • accepted the government move to focus a “solution” to the strike on reduction of university expenses, possible reductions in incidental fees, but not tuition fees;
  • counselled the students more than once not to “go too far” in their demands;
  • joined with the government negotiators in rejecting a student request after more than 12 hours of meeting for a break in which to get some rest and consult mutually on details of the proposed agreement;
  • later lauded the government offer – while the government termed it an “agreement,” the unions termed it a “road map” toward a settlement – as “good news” for the people of Quebec.

Writing in the left-wing online journal Presse-toi-à-gauche, a publication not in the habit of criticizing the union leadership, René Charest noted the similarity between this “road map” and the sweetheart public sector union agreement negotiated by the union leadership in 2010. The latter agreement made a possible wage increase – mainly at the end of the contract, five years later – contingent on the union’s ability to demonstrate sufficient growth meanwhile in Quebec’s GNP.

“The negotiated agreement on the tuition fee hike, for its part, said it would have to be demonstrated that there were possible savings in order to decrease the incidental fees. In both cases, these agreements acknowledge that the financial framework is insufficient to meet the requirements of the contending parties. … [T]he Liberal government’s device was to tell the students: Pay up or help us rationalize the university: either way, it’s win-win for the entrepreneurial state. You could say the same thing about the union movement in the public sector: ‘If you want to earn more help us reorganize the public finances.’ […]

“What is the role of the union movement in this social struggle being led by the student movement? We don’t really know what happened in the corridors, although some journalists have begun to publish some interesting facts. One thing is clear, however. There has been no real dialogue between the student movement and the union movement since the beginning of this strike, or else we would not have had this tragicomic episode. Yet a strategic dialogue could have begun two years ago when the Coalition contre la tarification et la privatisation des services publics began the battle against the [first] Bachand budget. […]

“And this strategic dialogue could have taken place after the CSN congress last spring. We recall that a member of the Montreal hospital union came to defend a proposal for a social strike against the neoliberal measures of the Charest government. She hadn’t even finished her speech when the hall erupted. A standing ovation, no less! Two or three delegates from the CSN apparatus (central council and FNEEQ) spoke in favour. Then Pierre Patry, a member of the executive, spoke in support, along the following lines: we will support the students and then debate the mandate for the social strike. The next day the new president Louis Roy called for discussing the need for the social strike in the workplaces. Since then, we have heard no echo of this call for a social strike.

“It is not too late to do the right thing. The student movement has no need for mediators or facilitators. It needs the solid support of the union movement as a whole. Perhaps it is time to think of doing unionism differently. That is, to lead a union struggle that is plugged into the social struggles and vitality of the mobilization, and not to the fossilized bureaucratic structures of the entrepreneurial state.”

Professors Join in Denouncing May 5 ‘Agreement’

It should be noted that, contrary to what I reported previously[10] on the basis of press reports, the university professors’ union was excluded from the May 4-5 negotiations and did not support the government “agreement.” In a news release published on May 9, the FQPPU[11] complained that it was therefore prevented from expressing the views of the professors, “whose work will nevertheless be indispensable when courses resume.” And it concludes: “In view of the absurdity of this situation and the trivializing of the issues that has appeared in recent months, the FQPPU does not support the agreement announced on May 5.”

An op-ed commentary on the terms the government had offered, co-signed by FQPPU president Max Roy, published in Le Devoir May 9, gave a “fail” grade to “this travesty,” and called the proposed provisional council “a bad joke” that would “trade off problems of university mission and orientation as simple problems of management.” Furthermore, it would “completely obliterate the meaning of what we do, the preservation of a university that is a genuine collective good, a genuine public service for our entire community.” The proposal as a whole, the authors noted, “offers an accounting solution to a problem that must be resolved in terms of a ‘societal choice’.”

Given the social polarization that resulted, many have questioned why the Charest government has held so stubbornly to its decision to hike the fees – even while advertising repeatedly that the increase, spread over seven years and minus a tax credit, would add only “50 cents a day” to the student bill. In fact, even free post-secondary education, as demanded by many students and professors, would cost barely 1 per cent of the total government budget, according to most estimates.

It seems that shifting the costs of higher education increasingly to the students is as much a principle for the government’s post-secondary education planners as abolishing those fees is a principle for many students and professors. Why is this? Some indication may be gained from articles by Pierre Dubuc, editor of L’aut’journal, who draws on research by Philippe Lapointe, a leader of the CLASSE.[12] Dubuc summarizes the research in an article in the May 17 on-line issue of L’aut’journal.

Richard Fidler is an Ottawa member of the Socialist Project. This article first appeared on his blog Life on the Left.

In a historic ruling handed down by the Kuala Lumpur (KL) War Crimes Tribunal in Malaysia last week, former-US President George W. Bush was found guilty of war crimes along with his associates, Richard Cheney, former U.S. Vice President, Donald Rumsfeld, former Defense Secretary, Alberto Gonzales, then Counsel to President Bush, David Addington, then General Counsel to the Vice-President, William Haynes II, then General Counsel to Secretary of Defense, Jay Bybee, then Assistant Attorney General, and John Choon Yoo, former Deputy Assistant Attorney-General.



Image: A scene from the Kuala Lampur War Crimes Tribunal, Malaysia. If the global elite can contrive the International Criminal Court to provide cover for real crimes against humanity, why can’t the people of the world create courts to convict them? Unlike the ICC which depends on military power to enforce its rulings, courts of the people, when convicting the global elite, can simply boycott the corporations and institutions involved, starving them of both legitimacy and resources. While it falls short of deserved jail sentences, the reality of the current global balance of power makes “jail sentences” unrealistic until actions like sanctions and boycotts equalize that balance. 
….

According to a report from Mathaba.net, Bush and his associates were found guilty as charged and convicted as war criminals for “Torture and Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment of the Complainant War Crime Victims.” The article would go on to enumerate the charges, the definitions used to define the criminal acts the accused parties were tried for, and the legal precedence used, set by the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

While critics claim the KL War Crimes Tribunal holds no legitimacy, readers should be reminded that the International Criminal Court (ICC) itself is contrived by corporate-financier interests, for corporate-financier interests. And all courts worldwide, in a truly free and “democratic” society, should be of, for, and by the people. The tribunal held in Malaysia this month in fact represents a much wider spectrum of interests and individuals than even the ICC. And in a world where corporate-financier oligarchs enjoy exercising the “might makes right” doctrine, that the KL War Crimes Tribunal has been able to hold a professional hearing, well attended, covered globally by independent media outlets, and able to get its historic ruling read by millions, in and of itself makes it “legitimate” by the global elite’s own standards.

While the KL War Crimes Tribunal lacks any practical means to bring to justice the convicted, in terms of a judicial sentence, the ICC itself has had only a handful of cases itself. But unlike the ICC, which is represented by a top-down hierarchy of corporations and financial institutions dependent entirely on the masses patronage to perpetuate themselves, their power, and the legitimacy of their institutions, the KL War Crimes Tribunal represents a bottom-up paradigm which can easily impose crippling sanctions on the corporations, institutions, and organizations that helped author the policies executed by Bush and his associates.

A partial list of these interests can be found here, and it is highly recommended that people incensed by the continued criminal behavior of Wall Street and London, and all of the corporate, financial, and governmental entities that gravitate around them, begin organizing themselves and their efforts to promote boycotts as well as find or create viable alternatives. Just as activists, genuine human rights advocates, and independent media organized themselves to deal Bush and his associates a well deserved conviction, we can similarly begin imposing well deserved penalties – the undermining, elimination, and replacement of the corporations, financial institutions, and organizations that facilitate their crimes.

This is a viable start that can begin with individuals worldwide simply spending their money elsewhere and disassociating themselves with those corporations and institutions connected to Bush and his associates. Conversely, the global elite in order to impose penalties, must resort to military force executed from centralized positions. It is exactly this disparity in numbers that allow the majority to penalize a criminal minority so much more effectively, and until now, it was a disparity in perceived legitimacy that has prevented us from doing so. 

ST. PETERSBURG: Military intervention in the sovereign affairs of other states may lead to outright war, including nuclear war, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday.

“The introduction of all sorts of collective sanctions bypassing international institutions does not improve the situation in the world while reckless military operations in foreign states usually end up with radicals coming to power,” he told an international legal forum in St. Petersburg.

“At some point such actions, which undermine state sovereignty, may well end in a full-blown regional war and even – I’m not trying to spook anyone – the use of nuclear weapons,” he said.

The right of nations to choose their own path of development is a universal value, he said referring to the situation in Syria and the Middle East as a whole ahead of a G8 summit.

A Kremlin aide said earlier on Thursday the Group of Eight industrial nations meeting outside Washington on May 18-19 will begin with talks on Syria and Iran.

Dmitry Medvedev, who is attending the meeting instead of President Vladimir Putin, will hold bilateral talks with U.S. President Barack Obama, Arkady Dvorkovich said.

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NATO summit to define presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014

WASHINGTON: The upcoming NATO summit in Chicago will determine its long-term presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, the top commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) told audience in the United States via video teleconference on Wednesday .

One of the major topics in the NATO summit is to “establish a vision for our enduring presence in Afghanistan, ” said General John R. Allen, commander of U.S. and NATO force in Afghanistan, as American Forces Press Service reported.

The May 20-21 summit will feature a series of bilateral agreements “that will create a network of strategic partnerships, bilaterally, around the world with Afghanistan, ” the general told attendees at the 2012 Joint Warfighting Conference held in Virginia Beach.

“The United States, and our key partner nations, including France, the United Kingdom and Italy, have already signed strategic partnerships with Afghanistan, making a long-term commitment to that country’s security, development and governance,” Allen said. “And soon, other countries will sign agreements as well.”

Foreign forces were originally scheduled to be pulled out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

However, U.S. President Barack Obama inked with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai the Strategic Partnership Agreement earlier in May during his unannounced visit to Kabul amid the first anniversary of the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The White House said the agreement provides the possibility of U.S. forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

A series of U.S. military scandals in the war-torn country this year were widely criticized, including the massacre of 17 Afghan civilians, the burning of Korans, a video of Marines urinating on dead insurgents and photos of soldiers posing with corpses and body parts of failed Afghan suicide bombers.

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May 20 and 21 the NATO-circus calls at Chicago for the biggest summit in NATO’s history, according to its secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Stakes are high, Rasmussen said, for very important decisions are to be made about NATO’s future.

Three headlines pop up: Afghanistan, capacities and resources, and reinforcing the network with international partners. The underlying real message emerges from a recent communiqué: “This implies that Allies will need to continue to invest political, military and economic capital to keep NATO strong. And in the present climate, this means allies must stay committed to NATO principles, prepared to maintain the necessary capabilities and open to developing connections with partners”. In other words, Rasmussen sends a warning that a crisis is hitting NATO. 

This summit, with a 55 million dollar reported budget, is to deal with the problem how to do more with less. The economic crisis is deeply felt. NATO standards speak of 2% of GNP for military expenditures. But with the European allies only the United Kingdom and Greece reach this threshold and the general trend shows further decline. But problems are not limited to a lack of resources. The Cold War belongs to the past and the fear to be attacked, the official primary reason of NATO’s existence, disappeared a long time ago. Now that the expensive and non-productive ISAF mission in Afghanistan appears to run not that smoothly as often described, NATO is losing its legitimacy as intervention device. The average European or American citizen looks very uninterested towards ISAF. The allied forces and their partners search to limit the costs as they are preparing their exit.

NATO was badly in need of a success and therefore took in 2011 enthusiastically the lead in the attack of a poorly armed country, Libya. Gaddafi was indeed overthrown, but the success of the whole operation is very questionable. Only 8 of the 28 NATO members really engaged in this war. Only a small number shared the French and British zeal to wage war. Germany showed openly its dissatisfaction by calling home its troops which operated under NATO in the Mediterranean.

NATO’s raison d’être has grown extremely thin and its cohesion has come under great pressure. A proof can be found in the huge disagreements on nuclear weapons; a discussion which is scrupulous hold behind closed doors. Anders Rasmussen said that the presence of nuclear weapons in Europe “was an essential part of credible deterrence”. Who can still believe such a statement? It is no secret at all that the population in Europe and various allied governments think quite the opposite. In the past, three of the five countries that host non strategic nuclear bombs on their territory – Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany – asked for their withdrawal. These nuclear arms are nothing more than militarily worthless cold war relics. In Germany, and in a more shadowy way also in Belgium, the removal of these nukes is to be found in the governmental declaration. So Rasmussen was to be careful and added that NATO gives it full support to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. Most probably Chicago will try and find consensus by linking the withdrawal to disarmament negotiations with Russia. This doesn’t mean however that all allies play the same music, as London and Paris do not want to risk that their status of nuclear power could be jeopardised. To make matters worse problems grow around the European missile shield: big delay, mounting costs and critical technical problems. Russia’s opposition to these projects is also cooling down enthusiasm with many Europeans.

In brief: NATO is confronted with a lack of enemies and a lack of resources. It is symbolic that two thirds of the Chicago budget is gathered by private corporations. The alliance offers jobs to generals, contracts to the arms industry and fully booked hotels during its meetings, but for an alliance that cannot get rid of its cold war mentality this is existentially seen rather meagre, isn’t it?

This whole situation is covered with silence. The Belgian minister of defence , Pieter De Crem, works only according to one policy line: we follow Washington without participation of parliament. In 2010 the members of the Belgian parliament didn’t have access to the text of the New Strategic Concept as it would be discussed and approved in Lisbon.

Last month the Defence Commission again was put in the dark. When minister De Crem was asked about the NATO strategy and the decrease of the global nuclear arsenal he simply stated “For security reasons the discussions and the report on the Defence and Deterrence Posture Review are classified, what does exclude a public debate”. A scandalous mockery of normal democratic rules, which passes the more easily as most members op parliament react all too softly. In the long run this will however help the public make up its mind: NATO is useless,let us get rid of it.

Read here the background paper NATO an instrument for geostrategic interests.

AMERICA SHIFTS GEAR FOR WAR ON IRAN

May 17th, 2012 by Finian Cunningham

America’s war plans for full spectrum dominance in the oil-rich Middle East and Central Asian region shifted up a gear this week with three significant and inter-related developments.

Forget about viewing events in countries as separate incidents. Syria, Iran and the Gulf monarchies are closely bound up in US-led war plans in the Middle East that are aimed at projecting American political, economic and military power across this vital region and beyond. Events today are but a continuum with US wars of conquest in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Libya as part of an unfolding agenda for hegemony.

First, this week it emerged that the purported Kofi Annan Peace Plan is all but dead. For the past four weeks, the US-led foreign powers have done everything to make sure the supposed peace plan would fail, from Western governments and media constantly excoriating Syrian President Bashar Al Assad for allegedly not abiding by the ceasefire, while these same powers have assiduously supported mercenary groups to go on a full terror assault involving no-warning car bombs and shootings.

US officials are not yet declaring the Annan ceasefire over, but actions on the ground speak volumes. An influx of more powerful weaponry is reported to now have reached the so-called Syrian rebels. The mercenaries trying to topple the Assad government are largely foreign jihadist elements from Libya, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. In weeks prior to the 12 April ceasefire, the Syrian government forces were gaining the upperhand, routing these armed groups from their base in the city of Homs.

Under the strictures of the ceasefire, which were tightly and unilaterally applied by Western governments and media to the conduct of the Syrian army, the armed opposition groups appear to have taken advantage of the respite to inflict their worse and to reorganise. Two massive car bombs in the capital, Damascus, on 10 May killed 55 and injured more than 400. The blasts were so powerful they left two large craters in the roads.

This week the foreign-backed mercenaries were reported to have killed 23 Syrian army troops in the town of Rastan, near Homs. The surge in deaths among civilians and security forces reflects the increased firepower that is now making its way into the hands of the mercenaries.

According to the Washington Post, the Gulf monarchies, mainly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are financing the new shipments of weapons. This is drawn from the war-chest of $100 million that was pledged by the US-backed Arab autocrats at the conference in Istanbul at the beginning of April. Officially, the Obama administration is maintaining a cynical fiction that it is only supplying “non-lethal material” to the Syrian armed groups. But it is the US that is now assuming the crucial lead role of overseeing the distribution and deployment of new weapons flowing into Syria.

“The US contacts with the rebel military and the information-sharing with Gulf nations mark a shift in Obama administration policy as hopes [sic] dim for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Many officials now consider an expanding military confrontation to be inevitable,” reports the Washington Post on the 16 May.

The intensified US-led assault on Syria is not merely aimed at taking out the Assad government. It is an integral part of a long-held Washington plan for imperial dominance across the entire region that has been conducted under the pretexts of “war on terror” and “responsibility to protect”. That is why two other developments this week bear wider significance. Claims disseminated in the Western media that Iran has been using a blast chamber to test nuclear explosions are aimed at elevating again the “rogue spectre” of Iran and criminalizing the government of Tehran. The latest accusations of nuclear weaponisation by Iran come ahead of the second round of P5+1 negotiations next week, which the US-led Western powers have relentlessly used to browbeat Tehran over its legitimate right to develop civilian nuclear energy.

Of course, “nuclear ambitions” – so often said in pejorative tones by the Western powers and their subservient media – have got little to do with the real agenda, which is all about trying to engineer regime change in Tehran to one that will be pliable to Western imperialist interests.

The fatuous Western media coverage on events in Syria over the past year has tried in vain to portray them as part of an heroic Arab Spring revolt by the masses seeking democratic rights. In truth, the Western powers and their Arab/Israeli/Turkish proxies have been inflaming violence in Syria with callous disregard for human rights and democracy, with the immediate goal of achieving pliable regime change in Damascus and ultimately likewise in its regional ally, Tehran.

The covert US-led war on Syria is an integral part of its covert war on Iran. When this war on Syria moves up a gear as signalled by the influx of heavy weapons now flowing into that country, then the corollary is a stepwise aggression towards Iran.

The poisoning of P5+1 negotiations, before they have even resumed, with lurid, baseless claims about Iran testing nuclear weapons is a signal of stepped-up aggression.

Finally, the third development this week pertaining to America’s permanent war ambitions in the oil-rich region was the unveiling of plans for a closer political and military union between the US-backed Gulf monarchs, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. These autocratic Sunni regimes have grown increasingly hostile towards Iran under Washington’s tutelage in recent years.

Provocatively, the Gulf union plans cited the “threat of Iran” without providing an iota of evidence to support such a tendentious allegation. Significantly, when Iran objected to the proposed hostile Sunni bloc, it was met with fiery denunciations from its Persian Gulf neighbours of “flagrantly violating” their sovereignty in what sounded like a choreographed collision course.

The idea for a closer Gulf union was previously promoted by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton when she visited the Saudi capital Riyadh at the of March on her way to the weapons fundraiser in Istanbul to support the Syrian mercenaries. On the agenda in her meeting with the Gulf dictators in Riyadh was the setting up of a joint missile system for the Persian Gulf shaihkdoms.

Taken together, the escalation of war in Syria, the imputing of casus belli against Iran, and the lining up of hostile Gulf Arab states, represent more than a sinister pattern of coincidences. It’s a plan of war.

Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa Correspondent [email protected]  

In the week Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, he  ordered bombing attacks on Yemen, killing a reported 63 people, 28 of them children. When Obama recently announced he supported same-sex marriage, American planes had not long blown 14 Afghan civilians to bits. In both cases, the mass murder was barely news. What mattered were the cynical vacuities of a political celebrity, the product of a zeitgeist driven by the forces of consumerism and the media with the aim of diverting the struggle for social and economic justice.

The award of the Nobel Prize to the first black president because he “offered hope” was both absurd and an authentic expression of the lifestyle liberalism that controls much of political debate in the west. Same-sex marriage is one such distraction.  No “issue” diverts attention as successfully as this: not the free vote in Parliament on lowering the age of gay consent promoted by the noted libertarian and war criminal Tony Blair: not the cracks in “glass ceilings” that contribute nothing to women’s liberation and merely amplify the demands of bourgeois privilege.

Legal obstacles should not prevent people marrying each other, regardless of gender. But this is a civil and private matter; bourgeois acceptability is not yet a human right. The rights historically associated with marriage are those of property: capitalism itself.  Elevating the “right” of marriage above the right to life and real justice is as profane as seeking allies among those who deny life and justice to so many, from Afghanistan to Palestine.

On 9 May, hours before his Damascene declaration on same-sex marriage, Obama sent out messages to campaign donors making his new position clear. He asked for money. In response, according to the Washington Post, his campaign received a “massive surge of contributions”. The following evening, with the news now dominated by his “conversion”, he attended a fundraising party at the Los Angeles home of the actor George Clooney.  “Hollywood,” reported the Associated Press, “is home to some of the most high-profile backers of gay marriage, and the 150 donors who are paying $40,000 to attend Clooney’s dinner will no doubt feel invigorated by Obama’s watershed announcement the day before.” The Clooney party is expected to raise a record $15 million for Obama’s re-election and will be followed by “yet another fundraiser in New York sponsored by gay and Latino Obama supporters”.

The width of a cigarette paper separates the Democratic and Republican parties on economic and foreign policies. Both represent the super rich and the impoverishment of a nation from which trillions of tax dollars have been transferred to a permanent war industry and banks that are little more than criminal enterprises. Obama is as reactionary and violent as George W. Bush, and in some ways he is worse. His personal speciality is the use of Hellfire missile-armed drones against defenceless people.  Under cover of a partial withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, he has sent US special forces to 120 countries where death squads are trained. He has revived the old cold war on two fronts: against China in Asia and with a “shield” of missiles aimed at Russia. The first black president has presided over the incarceration and surveillance of greater numbers of  black people than were enslaved in 1850. He has prosecuted more whistleblowers – truth-tellers – than any of his predecessors.  His vice-president, Joe Biden, a zealous warmonger, has called WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange a “hi-tech terrorist”.  Biden has also converted to the cause of gay marriage.

One of America’s true heroes is the gay soldier Bradley Manning, the whistleblower alleged to have provided WikiLeaks with the epic evidence of American carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the Obama administration that smeared his homosexuality as weird, and it was Obama himself who declared a man convicted of no crime to be guilty.

Who among the fawners and luvvies at Clooney’s Hollywood moneyfest shouted, “Remember Bradley Manning”? To my knowledge, no prominent spokesperson for gay rights has spoken against Obama’s and Biden’s hypocrisy in claiming to support same-sex marriage while terrorising a gay man whose courage should be an inspiration to all, regardless of sexual preference.

Obama’s historic achievement as president of the United States has been to silence the anti-war and social justice movement associated with the Democratic Party.  Such deference to an extremism disguised by and embodied in a clever, amoral operator, betrays the rich tradition of popular protest in the US. Perhaps the Occupy movement is said to be in this tradition; perhaps not.

The truth is that what matters to those who aspire to control our lives is not skin pigment or gender, or whether or not we are gay, but the class we serve. The goals are to ensure that we look inward on ourselves, not outward to others and never comprehend the sheer scale of undemocratic power, and to that we collaborate in isolating those who resist. This attrition of criminalising, brutalising and banning protest can too easily turn western democracies into states of fear.

On 12 May, in Sydney, Australia, home of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, a protest parade in support of gay marriage filled the city centre. The police looked on benignly. It was a showcase of liberalism. Three days later, there was to be a march to commemorate the Nakba (“The Catastrophe’), the day of mourning when Israel expelled Palestinians from their land.  A police ban had to be overturned by the Supreme Court.

That is why the people of Greece ought to be our inspiration.  By their own painful experience they know their freedom can only be regained by standing up to the German Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and their own quislings in Athens. People across Latin America have achieved this: the indignados of Bolivia who saw off the water privateers and the Argentinians who told the IMF what to do with their debt. The courage of disobedience was their weapon.  Remember Bradley Manning.

For more info visit: www.johnpilger.com

Veterans For Peace Calls for an End to NATO

May 17th, 2012 by Global Research

Veterans for Peace works for the abolition of war, and while that process will take many steps, one that should be taken immediately is the dissolution of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

NATO has always been a war-making institution lacking in accountability to the peoples of the nations it claims to represent. But NATO at least once claimed a defensive purpose that it neither claims nor represents any longer.

NATO has militarized the nations of Europe against the will of their people, now maintains hundreds of nuclear weapons in non-nuclear European nations in blatant violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and is threatening Russia with missile base construction on its borders.

Having fought aggressive wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, NATO remains in Afghanistan, illegally, immorally, and to no coherent purpose. The people of the United States, other NATO nations, and Afghanistan itself, overwhelmingly favor an end to NATO’s presence, while Presidents Obama and Karzai, against the will of their people, work to commit U.S. forces to at least 12.5 more years in Afghanistan.

NATO provides the United States with a pretense of global coalition and legality. Approximately half of the world’s military spending is U.S., while adding the other NATO nations brings the total to three-quarters. The head of the Pentagon, Leon Panetta, recently testified in Congress that a war could be made legal by working through either the United Nations or NATO. While no written law supports that claim, it is a claim that has served its intended purpose. NATO also serves as a false legal shield, protecting the U.S. military from Congressional oversight.

The U.S. dominated NATO holds up the past year’s war on Libya as a model for the future, with an eye on various potential victims, including Syria and Iran. In so doing, NATO serves as the armed enforcer of the exploitative agenda of the G-8, which has fled Chicago for the guarded compound at Camp David.

NATO’s interests are neither democratically determined nor humanitarian in purpose. NATO does not bomb all nations guilty of humanitarian abuses. Nor does NATO’s bombing alleviate human suffering, it adds to it. Saudi Arabia is not a target. Bahrain is not a target. Ben Ali and Mubarak were not targets. An analysis of NATO’s real motivations reveals a desire to control the global flow of oil, to support dictators who have supported U.S./NATO wars, prisons and torture operations, to back Israel’s expansionist agenda, and to surround and threaten the nation of Iran.

The killing and destruction engaged in by NATO in Libya was illegal, immoral, and counter-productive as is its aggression in Afghanistan. NATO’s wars have not brought democracy, peace, or human rights anywhere.

Libya is not a model for future NATO action. There is no model for future NATO action. NATO has lost its reason to exist if it ever had one. Veterans For Peace joins with our brothers and sisters in Europe, who are also rallying nonviolently against NATO, in calling for its elimination.

Israel’s Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons

May 17th, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

Israel’s long known open secret is its formidable nuclear arsenal. Less is known about its chemical and biological weapons (CBW) capability. More on that below.

In 1986, Dimona nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu revealed documents showing what many long suspected. Israel had been secretly developing, producing and stockpiling nuclear weapons for years.

Experts called his information genuine. They revealed sophisticated technology able to amass a formidable nuclear arsenal. Today it’s more potent than ever.

In his 1991 book titled “The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and America Foreign Policy,” Seymour Hersh discussed its strategy to launch massive nuclear counterattacks in response to serious enough threats.

In his 1997 book titled “Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies,” Israel Shahak said Israel won’t hesitate using nuclear or other weapons to advance its “hegemony over the entire Middle East.”

In 2006, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Germany’s Sat. 1 channel:

“Iran, openly, explicitly and publicly, threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel and Russia?”

Later he denied what viewers clearly heard him say. Calls for him to step down followed. So did accusations of ineptitude for acknowledging Israeli nuclear weapons publicly.

Israel always stuck to its nuclear ambiguity position. Olmert later backtracked. Damage control didn’t assuage criticism. Opposition party members called him irresponsible.

Meretz party member Yossi Beilin said:

“The prime minister’s amazing statement regarding nuclear capability indicates a lack of caution bordering on irresponsibility.”

Olmert’s approval rating plunged. Aides tried frantically to limit damage. His spokesman, Miri Eisin, said his comments didn’t mean Israel had or wants nuclear weapons.

Of course, the cat was out of the bag after Mordechai Vanunu revealed it 20 years earlier.  Damage control made things worse. Vanunu welcomed Olmert’s admission, accidental or otherwise. He hoped he said it intentionally, saying:

“For 20 years, they tried to deny me and my story, but the policy of cheating and lying didn’t succeed.”

Changes are taking place, he added. He hoped his situation would improve. It didn’t. He still chafes under repressive Israeli policies. Practically under house arrest, he’s harassed. His fundamental rights are denied. He wants his citizenship revoked and permission to leave, but Israel won’t grant either right.

He’s a legend in his own time. He only wants to live free. After what Israel put him through for decades, he deserves that much and more.

Israel refuses to discuss its nuclear capability.  Others are less reticent. On May 4, Haaretz headlined “Israel’s atomic arsenal could fall victim to a new US nuclear policy,” saying:

Visiting Hiroshima last February, escorts “drew (Israeli Defense Secretary Ehud Barak’s) attention to a map of the world listing the number of nuclear warheads in the possession of the atomic powers. There is a number next to Israel’s name, too: ’80.’ Barak did not respond.”

Most experts believe Israel has hundreds of warheads and sophisticated long-range delivery systems.

“According to a (late 1990s) secret document of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency….leaked during the period of the George W. Bush administration, Israel had ’60 to 80′ nuclear warheads in 1999.”

The Pentagon updates its data regularly. It keeps close watch on all nuclear powers and suspected ones like North Korea. 

Israel never signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). In 1969, Nixon and Prime Minister Golda Meir mutually agreed that Israel’s nuclear capability wouldn’t harm relations. In 1998, so did Clinton and Netanyahu. In 2009, Obama continued past policy.

Expect change eventually. Israel’s belligerency over Iran’s peaceful nuclear program may “boomerang” on its military one.

Israel’s Chemical and Biological Weapons (CBW)

Israel signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), but didn’t ratify it. It never signed the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Its policy is CBW ambiguity.

In 1993, the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment WMD proliferation assessment included Israel as a nation having undeclared offensive chemical warfare capabilities. In 1998, former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Bill Richardson said: 

“I have no doubt that Israel has worked on both chemical and biological offensive things for a long time. There’s no doubt they’ve had stuff for years.”

Israel tests new weapons in combat. Against Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza during Cast Lead, it used direct energy weapons, chemical and/or biological agents, and others producing injuries and symptoms medical professionals never previously saw.

For example, bodies with dead tissue had no apparent wounds. Corpses were found shrunken. Civilians had heavy lower limb damage requiring amputations. Nonetheless, unstoppable necrosis followed (death of cells and living tissue) followed by death.

Internal wounds had no trace of shrapnel. Corpses were blackened but not burned. Some badly wounded victims didn’t bleed. The Palestinian health ministry said Israel used a new type explosive in Gaza. It contained toxins and radioactive materials. They burned and tore victims’ bodies from the inside. They also left long term deformations.

A Palestinian doctor accused Israel of using chemical ammunition that burns and injures soft tissue, but can’t be traced by X-rays. Severe internal wounds were reported. Unknown gases believed to be nerve agents were used. Those affected lost consciousness for about 24 hours. They experienced high fevers and muscle rigidity. Some needed urgent blood transfusions.

In Gaza, white phosphorous was used. It burns flesh to the bone. Depleted uranium spread radioactive contamination. Close-range explosives caused severe injuries, requiring amputations. Children had legs cut off, abdomens sliced open, or died because nothing could save them.

In June 2011, CounterPunch contributor Saleh El-Naami headlined “Exposing Israel’s Most Dangerous Secret,” saying:

Only authorized personnel have access to the Israeli Institute for Biological Research (IIBR). Israel calls it “a governmental, applied research institute specializing in the fields of biology, medicinal chemistry and environmental sciences.”

Others reveal IIBR is “where Israel develops its biological and chemical weapons and prepares for any eventuality of biological or chemical warfare.” Its facility  is Israel’s “most top-secret military installation….”

Official censorship prohibits anything discussed about it. One exception only occurred after long-term employee Avisha Klein sued “for harassment and emotional abuse.”

She was part of a team developing mustard gas protective ointment. During proceedings, more information came out.

IIBR has hundreds of scientists and technicians. Its many departments specialize in chemical and biological weapons research, development and production. One is a poison used for assassinations.

In 1977, Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered Mossad to eliminate Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Wadie Haddad. He was fond of Belgian chocolates. Mossad coated some with “a slow-acting poison, and had them delivered to Haddad….”

The substance had “undetectable properties.” Haddad’s health deteriorated. Flown to East Germany for treatment, he was diagnosed with leukemia and died on March 29, 1978. Thirty-two years later, the truth came out. IIBR’s poison killed him.

Other assassinations were conducted the same way. IIBR specializes in toxic substances and protective vaccines. Anthrax research got attention. Israel feared enemies might use it.

IIBR works closely with Israeli military and intelligence operations. They list priorities. IIBR works on them.

“For example, information that has come to light during the coverage of Klein’s suit reveals that many years ago the Israeli military establishment was concerned that Arab states might use such chemical agents as mustard gas in an potential assault against Israel and, therefore, instructed the institute to develop a chemical substance to minimise the effects of the gas.”

Israeli soldiers were used to test vaccines. Some experienced “permanent physical damage.” Lawsuits for damages were filed. Victims want recognition as disabled veterans and appropriate compensation. Pressure got IDF officials to announce experiments on Israeli personnel would end.

The Nuremberg Code prohibits medical experiments without human subjects voluntarily consenting. Recruitment must exclude “coercion, fraud, deceit, and (provide) full disclosure of known risks.”

Experiments are prohibited “where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur.” Those permitted must be expected “to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study….”

In 1948, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion ordered European Jewish scientists recruited who could “either increase the capacity to kill masses or to cure masses; both are important.” 

Avraham Marcus Klingberg became a chemical and biological weapons (CBW) expert and IIBR deputy director.

Avraham Marcus Klingberg was also recruited. He became the father of Israel’s nuclear weapons program in charge of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC). Ben-Gurion was determined to have a nuclear option and other non-conventional weapons to counter numerical Arab advantage. 

In his farewell address to the Israeli Armaments Development Authority (RAFAEL), he defended the strategy saying:

“I am confident, based not only on what I heard today, that our science can provide us with the weapons that are needed to deter our enemies from waging war against us.”

He and Shimon Peres became leading forces behind Israel’s nuclear, biological, and chemicals development program. Strict secrecy was maintained. Staff were forbidden to discuss anything related to their work. Prohibitions remain strict.

Truths eventually leak out. One day much more will be known. Vanunu was harshly punished to deter other whistleblowers. Bradley Manning faces similar treatment. In his case, life in prison may result.

Nonetheless, some who know tell others. Suppressing vital truths everyone needs to know remains hard to do forever. Much is known about Israel’s nuclear program. Perhaps CBW disclosures will expose secrets too important to hide.

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

His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”

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

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

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

Obama and Gay Marriage

May 17th, 2012 by Devon DB

Many are celebrating the fact that President Obama came out in support of gay marriage. However, what many do not realize is the fact that while Obama is for gay marriage, it is only on a personal level and that this may have been done as a campaign ploy to get more money.

It has been heralded around the world that Obama had endorsed gay marriage with him being quoted as saying “At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” on ABC news. Yet, there was something Obama stated that has been ignored “The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own.” (emphasis added) 

Seeing as how Obama’s position on gay marriage is “personal,” this arguably signals that he is completely alright with bigoted legislation such as North Carolina’s recently passed Amendment One which is a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Thus, the question that we should wait to see is if Obama will actually put his money where his mouth is and stop doing things such as enforcing DOMA.

Interestingly, almost as soon as it was announced that Obama endorsed same sex marriage, a flood of money went into his campaign coffers. The Washington Post stated in an article that “Fundraisers say the donations began pouring in within minutes of the news Wednesday that Obama, who had been ‘evolving on the issue’ for months, would affirm his support for the right of gay couples to be married.” (emphasis added) There was also an increase in financial support from LGBT+ political action committees, with Opensecrets.org stating

Last fall, we counted at least 12 prominent gay and lesbian rights advocates who together had bundled at least $2.7 million for the Obama campaign. Included on the latest list of Obama bundlers, released last month, were at least two new ones: Tim Gill, a former tech executive and LGBT activist, and his husband, Scott Miller, of Denver, Colo., who bundled at least $500,000 more for Obama.

In addition to this, it was reported that Obama “changed his stance ahead of a $40,000 a plate fundraiser at the Beverly Hills home of movie star George Clooney where wealthy gay- and gay-oriented donors had threatened to withhold donations.”

This announcement came amid a general decrease in financial support from LGBT+ groups, thus one must wonder if he endorsed SSM also to gain money.

While Obama may have come out in support of gay marriage and he should be supported for it, one should keep in mind that old saying “Talk is cheap.” We need to see if Obama will actually take concrete steps to making gay marriage legal a reality for the entire country. Let’s see if Obama is cheap.

 

Once again, the practices of the “Too Big to Fail” banksters bring the financial money machine to the brink. The J.P. Morgan derivative losses and trading gambles by their “London Whale” demonstrates business as usual in the murky world of risk distortion. Even the vexing progressive Robert Reich makes an accurate assessment for breaking up the big banks and the resurrecting of Glass-Steagall.

“Word on the Street is that J.P. Morgan’s exposure is so large that it can’t dump these bad bets without affecting the market and losing even more money. And given its mammoth size and interlinked connections with every other financial institution, anything that shakes J.P. Morgan is likely to rock the rest of the Street.”

Since then, J.P. Morgan’s lobbyists and lawyers have done everything in their power to eviscerate the Volcker rule — creating exceptions, exemptions, and loopholes that effectively allow any big bank to go on doing most of the derivative trading it was doing before the near-meltdown.”

The prospects for constructive oversight and judicious safeguards on the money center banks; while, desperately needed, are highly unlikely for enactment. The existing administrative regulation is more about process than accountability.

The notice – S.E.C. Opens Investigation Into JPMorgan’s $2 Billion Loss, admits to a limited scope – “Regulators are investigating potential civil violations”.

“An important avenue for the S.E.C. investigation, the people said, is the firm’s accounting methods relating to the trades. Investigators could take a close look at a measure known as value-at-risk. The company disclosed earlier this year that it changed the way it calculates the metric, which may have masked some of the risk surrounding this trade. On a conference call Thursday, Mr. Dimon said the firm had reverted to the old way of measuring value-at-risk.”

The sociable regulatory atmosphere that turns the revolving door relationship of Wall Street and government regulation is so chummy that only insignificant fines are levied, when the major money center banks gets caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Earnest and comprehensive restructuring of the financial system is impossible as long as the banksters dictate economic policy to their favorite legislative protégés.

Fox News identifies the inadequate measures of legislation heralded as a response to prevent future bank bailouts.

“Enhanced oversight of derivatives was a pillar of the 2010 financial overhaul law, known as Dodd-Frank, but the implementation has been delayed repeatedly and will not take effect until the end of this year at the earliest.”

Both Senator Dodd and Congressman Frank took their retirement after the passage of this banker friendly diversion from reinstating a total separation of commercial banking from speculative investment banking swap instruments.

J.P. Morgan Chase, the dominating financial house behind the Federal Reserve, prescribes a coordinated government policy in every political administration. Goldman Sachs best known for supplying senior treasury officials, as Morgan keeps herd on the Fed’s Open Market Committee.

The Washington Times publishes an article, Avast, Wall Street: At J. P. Morgan, there be whales!, and describes practices in the pirate culture that ignores any reform or institutional restraint.

“From 2008 onward, taxpayers have been bailing out Jamie Dimon’s J.P. Morgan, along with Citibank, Bank of America, etc., etc., because they’re “too big to fail.” And here goes JPM four years later indulging in the same activities with the same abandon that caused at least two of their major peers to fail in 2008.

“The London whale” and his ilk have a distinctly buccaneering attitude out there that should have been tempered by the events of 2008 and the following years. But they haven’t learned a thing, apparently.”

Even a casual observer of the unstable international banking environment, knows that the banks game the system at every opportunity. The certified cynic does not need additional proof that the central banks are more important in shaping an unending economic crisis that, favor the “Too Big to Fail” money banks, than governments. If the federal government can enact the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act to close the door on offshore banking accounts, in theory meaningful revamping of commercial and investment banking should be possible.

Notwithstanding, in practice the banks refuse to allow legislation that strips away the risky trading wagers that contribute to obscene short term paper gains, while sticking the taxpayer and government bail outs when losses accrue.

Mr. Reich continues with a valuable insight on just how the fiasco operates.

“And now — only a few years after the banking crisis that forced American taxpayers to bail out the Street, caused home values to plunge by more than 30 percent and pushed millions of homeowners underwater, threatened or diminished the savings of millions more, and sent the entire American economy hurtling into the worst downturn since the Great Depression — J.P. Morgan Chase recapitulates the whole debacle with the same kind of errors, sloppiness, bad judgment, excessively risky trades poorly-executed and poorly-monitored, that caused the crisis in the first place.”

Is it possible to save the international financial system from its own greed and high risk betting patterns? From all empirical evidence and from the best business advice available, chasing the debt bubble in an attempt to make computer-generated returns is a fool’s mission. Presently, profits clear depositing banks because governments devalue their currencies and pump fresh liquidity that add to the balance sheets of money-centered banks, to keep them solvent by increasing accumulative debt.

Breaking up the oversized behemoths because whales are feeding on a red tide of poison is the rational response to continued excess. Simply put, governments are forfeiting their sovereignty to banking ministers who are beholden to the fractional reserve central banking model.

Since it is a matter of time before a financial crisis becomes uncontainable, the judicious alternative is to abandon the entire premise that banking is a debt created scheme. Any discussion that rejects this axiom is doomed to failure. Coherent oversight means designing a financial system that restricts speculation, leverage and mad risk by requirements of elevated secured capitalization.

A surplus of mediators have been around all the time, including the heavy weight Quartet of the UN, U.S., EU and Russia, as well as heaps of terms of reference of UNSC resolutions, bilateral signed accords and “roadmaps,” in addition to marathon bilateral talks that have left no stone unearthed, international as well as regional conferences were never on demand to facilitate the “peace process,” which has been lavishly financed to keep moving.
 
However the Palestinian – Israeli peace-making is still elusive as ever as Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” has been, without a glimpse of light at the end of the endless tunnel of Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territory and people.
 
Palestinian – Israeli peace-making has been for all practical reasons on hold since 2000, and bilateral peace contacts have been dormant since Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu came to power in 2009 except for a failed five-round “exploratory” talks hosted by Jordan last January.
 
The latest indirect exchange of letters between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and PM Netanyahu and the joint statement issued by their corriers pledging mutual commitment to peace are no less misleading: “No peace No War” is still the name of the only game in town, which is in fact the ideal prescription for the implosion or explosion of an unsustainable status quo in the Israeli – occupied Palestinian territories.
 
And the almost twenty-year old U.S.-led and EU-financed “peace process” is still a non-starter for any feasible, credible or sustainable peace-making in any foreseeable future.
 
Failure of the “peace process” to deliver is proof enough that it is inherently infertile, but most importantly it is proof enough that there has never been any serious mediation, or the mediators themselves were only either managing a process instead of trying to solve a conflict, were unqualified, or the parameters of their approach were the wrong ones.
 
The end result however is that all mediators have failed and it is the time to acknowledge their failure and to make room for other options, like sending back the file of the Palestinian – Israeli conflict to the United Nations, which was responsible for creating the conflict in the first place when the UN General Assembly adopted the non-binding resolution No. 181 for partitioning Palestine in 1947, which triggered a series of Arab – Israeli wars, thus undermining its own main mission as the organization created for the sole purpose of maintaining world peace.
 
Since 1947, the “two-state solution” has been on the agenda. Sixty five years on, none is closer to that end. The U.S. and EU conduct over those years has been in effect to reinforce the “one state solution”, i.e. Israel .
 
Olivia Ward speculated in the Canadian “The Star” on May 1 that the “one-state solution to Mideast peace may arrive by default,” but she might not have anticipated it to be a bi-national, bilingual and bi-religious one state for Israelis and Arab Palestinians, Arabic and Hebrew and Jews and Muslims, which is a recipe for apartheid in view of the prevailing balance of power in favor of Israeli Jews in historic Palestine.    
 
I wonder whether U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) was completely out of touch with a major foreign-policy reality or was he satirically sarcastic when he responded to a constituent last April by a letter calling for peace negotiations between deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been in a coma since 2006?!
 
The UN option is obviously what President Abbas is left to try now as the only option available for a man of peace like him, and this is exactly the door which the U.S. administration is determined to close; for this purpose, according to Esther Brimmer, the Assistant Secretary for International Organizations Affairs, in Miami on April 24 this year:
 
Over the past several months, we have engaged in a global diplomatic marathon to oppose the Palestinian” option, “because, … the United States strongly opposes efforts to address final status issues at the United Nations rather than in direct negotiations,” which Brimmer’s country failed to mediate, revive and resume through the terms of the last three presidents who collectively failed to deliver on their promises to the Palestinians to conclude negotiations on final status issues in 1999 (Bill Clinton), in 2005 (George W. Bush), in 2008 (G.W. Bush again) and within two years of his assuming office (Barak Obama).
 
Not to honor U.S. promises and pledges to Palestinians could only be interpreted as out of bad faith, bad management of the “peace process” or failure to deliver, which all dictate, as another option, a change of course and that the US monopoly of the sponsorship of peace-making should be discarded and replaced by more efficient peace makers, or that the current U.S.-led peace mediators should be replaced by peace enforcers.
 
Aaron David Miller of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars noted on May 11 that, “The only three breakthroughs in the history of Arab-Israeli peacemaking – involving Israeli deals with the Egyptians, Jordanians, and Palestinians – came about through secret diplomacy in which Washington wasn’t even involved.” Miller stopped short of saying that the U.S. and Quartet mediation is no more needed.  
 
The International Crisis Group, in an executive summary on May 7, 2012, concluded that the U.S.-led mediation efforts have “become a collective addiction, … And so the illusion continues,” adding: “All actors are now engaged in a game of make-believe: that a resumption of talks in the current context can lead to success; that an agreement can be reached within a short timeframe; that the Quartet is an effective mediator, …” On April 26, the American Jewish newspaper “Algemeiner” described the “Middle East Quartet” as “An Institutionalized Failure.”
 
Israel, U.S. and the Quartet mediators are all winners in this “make-believe” non-delivering mediation; the Palestinian people are the only losers.
 
Palestinians have had enough and now saying enough is enough: Peace is a mirage, peace-making is a failure, peace process is a sham, peace mediators are a fake, and if all the parties involved can enjoy the luxury of “addiction” to the status quo, Palestinians cannot; their survival is at stake.
 
Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
[email protected]
 

Just a few days after a senior US counter-terrorism expert warned  that US drone strikes were turning Yemen into the “Arabian equivalent of Waziristan”, US drone strikes yesterday aped the tactic of ‘follow up’ strikes used by the US in Pakistan.

According to CNN, a strike in which seven  suspected Al-Qaeda militants were killed was followed by a strike on local residents rushing to the scene to help the injured.  Local sources said that between eight and twelve civilians were killed in the second, follow-up strike.  A Yemeni security officials expressed regret for the civilian casualties and injuries. “The targets of the raids were not the civilians, and we give our condolences to the families of those who lost a loved one.”

Over the past few weeks US drone strikes and other military activity has been ratcheted up in Yemen as the White House has given ‘greater leeway’ to the CIA and JSOC to launch attacks.  Micah Zenko at the US Council on Foreign Relations estimates there will be more US strikes this month in Yemen than there has ever been in a single month in Pakistan.  For details see the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s excellent database of US covert activity in Yemen.

Drone strikes continue in Pakistan of course and no doubt in Afghanistan although almost no details of these are released.  Last week the US apologised after a strike killed a mother and her five children in Afghanistan but it was not revealed if the strikes was from a drone or a manned aircraft.

Drone fatalities continue to spread around the globe.  As we reported last year, US drones from Iraq were moved to Turkey to help the Turkish military “monitor” Kurdish separatists.  Today (16 May) it was revealed by the Wall Street Journal that information from one of these drones led directly to a Turkish military attack in which 38 civilians were killed last December.   Last week an engineer  working for an Austrian company was killed and two others injured when a drone they were demonstrating to the South Korean military crashed.

Meanwhile preparations aimed at  enabling the use of unmanned drones to fly  in civil airspace continues at a brisk pace both in the US and the UK.

In mid May the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it had met the deadline for the first changes demanded by the new FAA Act aimed at allowing drones to fly in US civil airspace by September 2015.  The Act mandated that the FAA must streamline the process for government agencies to gain Certificates of Authorization (COA) to fly drones  within US civil airspace within 90 days.

Meanwhile in the UK BAE Systems has begun a series of flight tests over the Irish Sea as part of a programme aimed at allowing  unmanned drones to fly within UK civil airspace. BAE Systems is one of a number of military aerospace companies funding the ASTRAEA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment) programme.  According to the  ASTRAEA website it is “a UK industry-led consortium focusing on the technologies, systems, facilities, procedures and regulations that will allow autonomous vehicles to operate safely and routinely in civil airspace over the United Kingdom.”

According to The Engineer, BAE has fitted an “autonomous navigation system” on a Jetstream 31 passenger aircraft to enable it to fly without a pilot – although a pilot was on board in case of problems.

A BAE spokesperson told the Guardian that the tests “will demonstrate to regulators such as the Civil Aviation Authority and air traffic control service providers the progress made towards achieving safe routine use of UAVs [unmanned air vehicle] in UK airspace.”  Further flights  will take place over the next three months  testing infra-red systems as well as ‘sense-and-avoid’ systems.

VIDEO: Pilots For 9/11 Truth: Intercepted

May 16th, 2012 by Global Research


The Globalization of War: The “Military Roadmap” to World War III
ONLINE INTERACTIVE READER
- by Michel Chossudovsky, Finian Cunningham – 2012-07-14

The Pentagon’s global military design is one of world conquest. The military deployment of US-NATO forces is occurring in several regions of the world simultaneously.


Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War: The Unspoken Crisis of Worldwide Nuclear Radiation
ONLINE READER
- by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky – 2012-05-28

The dumping of highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean constitutes a potential trigger to a process of global radioactive contamination… Eventually all major regions of the World will be affected.


Down but Not Defeated: Why the Truth Must be Told
- 2012-05-23


America’s “War on Terrorism”: The Truth will Prevail
- by Michel Chossudovsky – 2012-05-18


VIDEO: Syrian Opposition Studies Terror Tactics in Kosovo
Learn what’s happening on GRTV
- by Benjamin Schett – 2012-05-16


ISRAEL’S “INDEPENDENCE”, ERASING THE HISTORY OF PALESTINE: The Nakba: Before and After
- by Stephen Lendman – 2012-05-16


WAR CRIMINAL GEORGE W. BUSH WANTED IN CANADA: Canada in breach of Convention against Torture by failing to prosecute Bush
- by Lawyers against the War – 2012-05-16


Homelessness and Despair in New York City
Survey: 23 % rise in street homelessness in NYC
- by Ali Ismail – 2012-05-16


The Obama campaign and “vampire” capitalists
- by Patrick Martin – 2012-05-16


CHICAGO: Rick Rozoff Challenges NATO’s ‘Endless Wars’ Agenda
- by Curtis Black – 2012-05-16


OSCE to monitor anti-NATO protests at Summit in Chicago
- by John Robles, Rick Rozoff – 2012-05-16


Obama, Labor, and Marriage Equality
- by Mark Vorpahl – 2012-05-16


The Global Economic Crisis: Impoverishing Europe
- by Thomas Sablowski – 2012-05-16


THE IRAN WAR PATH HAS RESUMED: With Another ‘Colin Powell Moment’?
- by Finian Cunningham – 2012-05-16


LIBYA UNDER PENTAGON-NATO RULE: Corruption, internecine conflict and the “fruits” of imperialist warfare
- by Abayomi Azikiwe – 2012-05-16


Beware of Global Strategies of Tension
Balancing power with an informed, active, pragmatic citizenry is key to thwarting neo-imperialism in all its forms.
- by Tony Cartalucci – 2012-05-16


The Truth About JP Morgan’s $2 Billion Loss
- by Washington’s Blog – 2012-05-16

Japan to purchase F-35 stealth fighters despite price hike
- 2012-05-15


VIDEO: Spain’s “Indignados” Mobilize Against Austerity
Find out what’s happening on GRTV
- by Noah Gimbel – 2012-05-15


Ron Paul Has Dropped Out of the Presidential Race … Or Has He?
- by Washington’s Blog – 2012-05-15


The US-Israeli Special Relationship
- by Stephen Lendman – 2012-05-15


“Terrorist Expertise” and the KLA: Russia Warns Against Training Syrian Rebels in Kosovo
- 2012-05-15


The Case of the Missing Terrorists
- by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts – 2012-05-15


Fighting Erupts in Lebanon: US, Israeli, and Saudi-funded terrorists destabilizing Syria now under fire in Lebanon
- by Tony Cartalucci – 2012-05-14


Towards a North American Police State and Security Perimeter: US-Canada “Beyond the Border Agreement”
- by Dana Gabriel – 2012-05-14


AMERICA: Desperate Times Demand Revolutionary Measures
Towards Sociopolitical-environmental Collapse
- by Prof. Peter Phillips – 2012-05-14


In the Wake of the Elections: Political Crisis and Social Unrest in Serbia
- by Stephen Karganovic – 2012-05-14


VIDEO: Kuala Lumpur War Tribunal Finds Bush Guilty of War Crimes‎
Hear the statements on GRTV
- 2012-05-14


The Israel Lobby Never Sleeps
H.R.4133 — United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012
- by Philip Giraldi – 2012-05-14


Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal. Bush Convicted in Absentia: IT’S OFFICIAL – George W Bush is a war criminal.
- by Yvonne Ridley – 2012-05-14


“It will Lead to War”, Statement on H.R.4133, The US-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012
It more likely will lead to war against Syria, Iran, or both.
- by Rep Ron Paul – 2012-05-14

No Mayan Apocalypse in 2012
Archeologists Discover Mayan Hieroglyphs Showing the World Continuing for Thousands of Years Past 2012
- by Washington’s Blog – 2012-05-14


Mass protests in Spain mark indignados anniversary
- by Alejandro López – 2012-05-14


U.S. government smear campaign against reporters exposing the drone wars
- by John Hanrahan – 2012-05-14


The Spread of Islamophobia is Part of America’s Imperial Design
- by Ralph Schoenman – 2012-05-14


Drugs, Terror and the Mlitarization of Mexican Society
Washington is ‘Arming’ Mexico’s Intelligence with Advanced Intercept Technologies
- by Tom Burghardt – 2012-05-14

New study: raw milk promotes health in Amish children
- by Rady Ananda – 2012-05-14


GLOOMY ECONOMIC PROSPECTS: Why U.S. Politicians Are Quiet About Europe’s Meltdown
- by Shamus Cooke – 2012-05-14

Romney the Bully
- by Prof. Marjorie Cohn – 2012-05-14


VIDEO: The Chicago NATO Summit: Preview and Perspective
Find out more in this week’s GRTV Backgrounder
- by James Corbett, Rick Rozoff, Julio Rausseo – 2012-05-12


BREAKING: HISTORIC JUDGMENT. Bush & Associates Found Guilty of Torture
- 2012-05-12

A solid case for the prosecution of Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld, Cheney, their legal counsel and others, for war crimes, crimes against the peace, torture, and crimes against humanity …


CHICAGO: Don’t Believe the NATO Hype: Alternatives Exist to War, Economic Crises
- by Dr. Joseph Gerson – 2012-05-12


Chicago Police Prepare For NATO Summit With Riot Gear, Sound Cannon
- 2012-05-11


Suicide bombs claim 55 lives in Damascus
- by Chris Marsden – 2012-05-11


IRAN ACCUSED OF BEING BEHIND 9/11 ATTACKS.
U.S. Court Judgment, December 2011 (Havlish v. Iran)
- by Julie Lévesque – 2012-05-11

U.S. Court Judgment, December 2011 (Havlish v. Iran)

BREAKING: Tribunal finds Bush, seven others guilty of war crimes
- 2012-05-11

Chossudovsky: Taking a Stand against Nuclear War. Book Launched in Kuala Lumpur
- 2012-05-11

Al Qaeda Linked French, Belgian and British Mercenaries involved in terrorist attacks in Syria
- 2012-05-11

The Axis of Indifference In The Media World
- by Danny Schechter – 2012-05-11


SYRIA: NATO’s Next “Humanitarian” War?
ONLINE INTERACTIVE I-BOOK
- by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky – 2012-05-11

ONLINE INTERACTIVE I-BOOK. The insurgency in Syria is based on the “Libya Model”: it is integrated by mercenaries and Al Qaeda affiliated paramilitary brigades supported by British, French and Turkish Special Forces…


NATO Heads for Chicago
- by Stephen Lendman – 2012-05-11


The Political Uses of the Latest “Terror Plot”
- by Bill Van Auken – 2012-05-11


VIDEO: Big Oil Is Gaming the System to Keep Domestic U.S. Prices High
- by Washington’s Blog – 2012-05-11


Indentured Servitude for Seniors: Social Security Garnished for Student Debts
- by Ellen Brown – 2012-05-11


U.S. Military Taught Officers: Use ‘Hiroshima’ Tactics for ‘Total War’ on Islam
- by Noah Shachtman, Spencer Ackerman – 2012-05-11

Syria: British, French and Belgian “Grass Roots Activists”
- 2012-05-11

The Military Impacts in Hawai’i should be a Warning to Koreans about the Threat to Jeju Island
- by Kyle Kajihiro – 2012-05-10


Syrian Rebels Admit Terrorist Bombing Campaign
Then Deny Actual Bombings
- by Tony Cartalucci – 2012-05-10


THE NEW TYRANNY: Does The West Have A Future?
- by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts – 2012-05-10

Living in America is becoming very difficult for anyone with a moral conscience, a sense of justice, or a lick of intelligence


VIDEO: Fukushima: Hot Particles and Measurement of Radioactivity
A closer look at Fukushima Daiichi on GRTV
- by Arnie Gundersen, Marco Kaltofen – 2012-05-10


Haiti to be Fleeced of its Riches by Canadian Corporations
- by Dady Chery – 2012-05-10


VIDEO: Whistleblower: US Government Needs to Keep Fear Factor Alive
FInd out more on GRTV
- by Sibel Edmonds – 2012-05-10


University Told To Prepare For “Evacuees” During NATO Summit
Dozens of institutions readying emergency shelters
- by Paul Joseph Watson – 2012-05-10


AFRICAN UNION: Instrument of Imperialist Rule
- by Thomas C. Mountain – 2012-05-10


The Al Qaeda Underwear Bomber: Another Foiled False Flag
- by Stephen Lendman – 2012-05-10


American Politics: “Freedom” to Choose Between Two “Acceptable” Choices
- by Washington’s Blog – 2012-05-10


Obama’s jobs program: A laundry list of corporate handouts
- 2012-05-09


SYRIA: The Kofi Annan “Peace Plan” is a Ploy. The Unspoken Objective is “Regime Change”
Brookings Announces Next Move in Syria: War
- by Tony Cartalucci – 2012-05-09


The Children of Iraq: “Was the Price Worth It?”
- by Bie Kentane – 2012-05-09


VIDEO: Pentagon Policy is NATO Encirclement of Russia
Learn more about US/Russia relations on GRTV
- by F. William Engdahl – 2012-05-09

May 15 marks Israel’s 64th independence day. This year’s Jewish calendar commemorated it on April 25. 

For Palestinians, May 15 represents 64 years of Nakba suffering. Survivor testimonies bare witness. No words adequately explain their catastrophe. An unnamed Jew said:

“I am writing through tears. I wept when I saw the photo of the ruined village of al-Sanbariyya because it was my former brother-in-law who helped destroy the village and the lives of those who lived there.” 

“My now deceased brother-in-law was born in Los Angeles and after World War II decided he wanted to live in Palestine. He met his wife-to-be at a training camp somewhere in the midwest.” 

“While at the camp many of the people decided they wanted to build a kibbutz in then Palestine. I am not sure that they gave a thought to the fact that they would be taking the lands of others. But then, I don’t know. I wasn’t there.”

“As a Jew who was raised to believe in justice for all peoples, I believe that it is my obligation to speak out about Israel and to try in whatever way possible to bring about a better life in Palestine for the people who belong there… The people who were so cruelly evicted from their lands.”

A Palestinian also shared memories, saying:

“I cannot forget three horror-filled days in July of 1948. The pain sears my memory, and I cannot rid myself of it no matter how hard I try.”

“First, Israeli soldiers forced thousands of Palestinians from their homes near the Mediterranean coast, even though some families had lived in the same houses for centuries.”

“My family had been in the town of Lydda in Palestine at least 1,600 years. Then, without water, we stumbled into the hills and continued for three deadly days.” 

“The Jewish soldiers followed, occasionally shooting over our heads to scare us and keep us moving. Terror filled my eleven-year-old mind as I wondered what would happen.” 

“I remembered overhearing my father and his friends express alarm about recent massacres by Jewish terrorists. Would they kill us, too?”

        
“We did not know what to do, except to follow orders and stumble blindly up the rocky hills. I walked hand in hand with my grandfather, who carried our only remaining possessions-a small tin of sugar and some milk for my aunt’s two-year-old son, sick with typhoid.”

Survivors remember Deir Yassin. On April 9, 1948, Israeli soldiers entered the village violently. They machine-gunned houses randomly. Many inside were slaughtered. 

Remaining villagers were assembled and murdered in cold blood. Among them were children, infants, the elderly and women who were first raped. Estimates place the death toll up to 120. 

An eyewitness said:

“I was (there) when the Jews attacked….(They) closed on the village amid exchanges of fire with us. Once they entered the village, fighting became very heavy in the eastern side and later it spread to other parts, to the quarry, to the village center until it reached the western edge.”

“The Jews used all sorts of automatic weapons, tanks, missiles, cannons. They enter(ed) houses and kill(ed) women and children indiscriminately. The (village) youths….fought bravely.”

The ensuing fighting killed dozens more. Many other villages met the same fate. It was well planned, systematic slaughter. It was about seizing as much land as possible, leaving behind the fewest number of Arabs.

In December 1947, Palestinians outnumbered Jews more than two to one. David Ben-Gurion ordered them removed, saying:

“Every attack has to end with occupation, destruction and expulsion.”

He meant slaughter, displace, and depopulate. Erase a proud history. Replace it with a Jewish one. 

Mass killing, dispossession, and destruction followed. From Jerusalem, Lifta ruins are visible. Rubble piles only were in Dayr Aban. Except for two houses, Barqa was destroyed. 

Jura became Ashqelon. In al-Faluja, only wall fragments and the village mosque foundation remain. Hundreds of other Arab villages met similar fates. Jewish-only development replaced them.

Across Palestine, survivors recounted gruesome horrors. Arabs were shot in cold blood. Women were raped. Hundreds of thousands were displaced. One day they hoped to return. Those alive still wait.

The Nakba’s untold story reflects a cultural catastrophe. More on it below.

On May 15, Haaretz called Nakba “part of Israel’s history,” saying:

Netanyahu doesn’t understand that Israel’s national anthem “addresses only one people, the Jewish one.”

Few Israelis know or remember the Nakba catastrophe. For Palestinians, it reflects “the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of refugees and their millions of relatives, for whom May 15 – the day the establishment of the State of Israel was announced – symbolizes the day they lost their land, property and status.”

Israelis never accepted responsibility for Palestinian suffering. “But washing our hands….should not mean revoking the right to remember it. Nor is it supposed to prevent us from empathizing with the suffering of the other nation living in Israel.”

The effort put into “wiping out the Nakba’s memory is astonishing and outrageous.” It’s suppressed in textbooks. Israel’s Nakba Law bans commemorations.

Enacted as the Budget Foundations Law, Israel’s finance minister may reduce or eliminate funding for any institution or entity engaging in activities contrary to Israel’s definition as a “Jewish and democratic” state. 

It also prohibits mourning Israel’s Independence Day. In other words, Arab history, culture, and right to express, teach, or disseminate it freely is violated. Discrimination faces anyone not Jewish.

Palestinians won’t forget. Neither should Jews. Something this important can’t be swept aside or forgotten. Nor can those with painful memories be denied the right to remember and mourn.

Nakba remains embedded in Palestinian consciousness. Israeli laws and ruthlessness won’t erase it.

On May 15, AFP headlined “Palestinians Mark NAKBA with protests, strike,” saying:

Early Tuesday, clashes broke out between police and demonstrators. Ramallah held a large rally. Others followed throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

“The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee (representing Israeli Arab communities) called for a general strike and for Arab-Israelis to visit the sites of former Palestinian villages.”

Extra Israeli security forces confronted demonstrators. In 2011, clashes caused deaths and injuries. 

Maan News followed events throughout the day. Regular updates were posted. In Ramallah’s Clock Square, sirens commemorated the day. Thousands throughout the Territories demonstrated and marched. Palestinian flags were prominently displaced.

Israeli extremists clashed with Tel Aviv University students. They held a Nakba day memorial service in commemoration. On Sunday, efforts to stop it failed.

Hamas released a statement, saying:

“Countries which contributed to the Nakba of Palestine, namely Britain, must do penance for their sin by stopping Israeli aggressiveness.”

Clashes erupted outside Ofer Prison. Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Over 80 injuries were reported.

Nakba’s Untold Story

On May 15, the Palestine News Network published “Nakba – the Untold Story of a Cultural Catastrophe.” It remains an unhealed wound. Palestinians lost more than homes, land, and personal possessions. They lost their homeland and way of life. 

Collective memory recalls pre-1948 days. Palestine’s culture thrived. Its economy was one of the region’s most prosperous. Tourism flourished. In 1944 and 1945, the Arab Bank paid shareholders a 24% dividend.

In 1919, Falastin became a daily newspaper. The same year, Miraat Al-Sharq was established. It was published until 1939 when British authorities shut it for printing an “inciting poem.” The Palestine Broadcast Service was relied on. By the mid-1940s, Jerusalem had 24 bookshops.

From 1911 to 1948, 161 newspapers, magazines, and other publications covered news, literary topics, the arts, humor, sports and medicine.

In 1914, Palestine had 379 private schools, including 95 elementary and three secondary ones. During the 1919-20 school year, 10,662 Palestinian students were enrolled in public schools. In 1922-23, it was 19,331.

By 1942, Palestine had the second highest regional elementary school enrollment. Lebanon ranked first. In 1947-48, 868 Palestinian schools, staffed by 4,600 teachers, taught 146,883 students.

Except for a law school and teacher’s college, Palestine had no universities. Instead, students went abroad for higher education. Thousands took advantage.

In 1927, 23 printing establishments published dozens of books. Topics included literature, history, economics, politics, the sciences, and other fields.

Palestinian musicians and singers performed. So did other regional ones and theater groups. In 1896, the French Lumiere brothers produced a film in Palestine. Other European filmmakers followed them.

In 1937, the Arab Cinema Company offered shares to the public. In 1945, Ibrahim Sirhan founded the Palestine studio. He and Mohamad Kayali established the Arab Film Company.

In 1935, the first Palestinian film was produced. It was a 20-minute documentary about the Saudi Arabian king’s visit to Palestine. Other productions followed.

From 1922 – 1948, at least 43 theater companies performed dozens of plays. So did schools. Jerusalem alone had around 30 theater groups.

Palestinian drama, literature, poetry, literary criticism, other writing, and arts productions flourished.

The Nakba catastrophe destroyed a vibrant, prosperous way of life. Besides slaughter, displacement, and destruction, soldiers, militias and civilian volunteers collected books and other culturally significant items. 

The National Library of Israel documented them as AP (Abandoned Property). Access to them requires special permission. For Palestinians, it’s not easily obtained.

A project called “The Great Book Robbery” sought to include them in a virtual library. A documentary recounted the tragedy. It covered a 100 years from the mid-19th to 20th century. Topics include history, literature, poetry, language, religion, foreign books, technology, medicine, and a government report on the 1947 school curriculum.

For Palestinians, the Nakba reflects an ongoing journey of pain, loss and injustice. Collective memory remains. Fundamental rights weren’t restored. Daily life replicates a tortured past.

Assaulting Palestinian culture continues. In March and April 2002, Israeli forces destroyed at least 30 libraries and other information collections. Lost were government archives, public and academic libraries, and others belonging to NGOs and private institutions.

Palestinians once lived in peace with neighbors. Britain and Zionist extremists changed what’s so far not restored. A collective dream never died. It won’t until fulfilled.

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


His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”


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


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


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

Immediate Release

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

 
George W. Bush

Canada in breach of Convention against Torture by failing to prosecute George W. Bush for torture

Lawyers against the War (LAW) filed a report with the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) alleging that Canada repeatedly violated the Convention against Torture by allowing George W. Bush to enter Canada and then failing to arrest and prosecution him for torture. LAW states that Canada has also violated Convention obligations by failing to educate those in charge of law enforcement including police, civil servants and elected officials, about Canada’s duty to prosecute torture suspects—wherever and against whomever the torture occurred—when either the victim is a citizen or the suspect is in Canada. 

On May 21-22, CAT will review Canada ’s compliance with Convention obligations to prevent and punish torture, for the first time since 2005.  During the review which takes place in Geneva during CAT’s 48th session, CAT will consider reports from LAW and other groups.  The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Canadian Centre for International Justice in a joint report to CAT say that by failing to arrest, investigate and prosecute Bush for torture once he entered the country, Canada violated Convention obligations, undermined the efficacy of the Convention and denied remedies to victims of torture authorized by the Bush administration. 

LAW recommends:

1.   Amendments to the Criminal Code to restrict the power of the Attorney General of Canada to prevent prosecutions of Bush and other foreign nationals for torture;

2.    Education and training for law enforcement authorities about legal obligations under the Convention and Canadian law;

3.    Investigations to determine how and by whom decisions were made to allow George W. Bush to enter Canada and then to thwart his prosecution for torture. 

View Online:

The CAT review will be live online at http://www.treatybodywebcast.org/ 

All reports can be accessed at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/sessions.htm (à48th sessionà Canada)

Contacts

For interviews or more information, contact:

Gail Davidson, LRWC
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.lrwc.org
 
Gavin Magrath
Magrath O’Connor
73 Richmond St. West, Suite 306 Toronto , ON , Canada, M5H 4E8
Phone: 416-931-0463
Email: [email protected]
 

Homelessness and Despair in New York City

May 16th, 2012 by Ali Ismail

The number of homeless people living on the streets of New York City increased by 23 percent in one year according to an annual survey conducted by the city’s Department of Homeless Services.

On January 30, volunteers for the organization counted an estimated 3,262 people living on the streets— a 23 percent increase from the 2,648 counted in 2011. The 2,925 volunteers walked approximately 15,000 miles while surveying the city. The largest numbers of homeless people living on the streets were found in Manhattan and Brooklyn. About half of the total number of people accounted for in the survey were living inside the city’s subway system.

When the results of the survey were released late last month, Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond said in a statement that the greatest challenge facing the agency was finding more housing options for people without homes.

In a cynical attempt to limit press coverage of the survey, the agency released the data late on a Friday afternoon. This was in stark contrast to a year earlier, when the city’s survey had shown a 30 percent decrease in the street homeless population since 2008. The results for that survey were announced with great fanfare, complete with an elaborate news conference attended by volunteers, formerly homeless people and Linda Gibbs, the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human services.

While the latest survey shows a significant increase in street homelessness, advocates for the homeless believe the actual number of people sleeping rough in the city is much higher and have criticized the survey for failing to count large numbers of homeless individuals, especially those sleeping in non-visible areas like abandoned buildings or alleyways. The Department of Homeless Services itself acknowledges that it only surveys a portion of the city’s surface area (about 20 percent) and only a portion of subway stations.

While many homeless individuals sleep on subway trains, particularly in the winter months, the agency does not survey the subway trains themselves. In 2007, a study by researchers at Columbia University and New York University showed that 32 percent of unsheltered homeless people in Manhattan slept in non-visible places, and nearly half (49 percent) of unsheltered individuals in the other boroughs slept in non-visible places. The Department of Homeless Services has also been criticized for refusing to reveal how many homeless people are actually counted and for failing to adjust for survey error.

The New York-based advocacy group Coalition for the Homeless, which has frequently criticized the city’s annual street homelessness survey, cast doubt on the city’s findings when they were released last month. “Today’s release of the City’s street homeless survey estimates a 23 percent increase in street homelessness from last year and confirms what we already know – there are more and more New Yorkers sleeping on the streets and in the subway system each night,” Patrick Markee, Senior Policy Analyst for the Coalition said in a statement. “Sadly, even this estimate understates the severity of the problem given that the City’s survey consistently fails to count many unsheltered homeless people. More needs to be done to provide appropriate housing and services to the growing number of homeless New Yorkers—especially the record numbers of homeless children.”

Last November, the Coalition for the Homeless released a report documenting how New York City’s homeless shelter population had grown to over 41,000 people—including 17,000 children—by the end of October 2011, the highest number ever recorded. According to that report, homeless families are staying in the municipal shelter system for longer periods, and the percentage of families entering the shelter system who’ve been homeless before has nearly doubled since 2005, when Mayor Bloomberg ended permanent housing programs for the homeless.

While Bloomberg set a goal in 2004 of reducing both the number of people who sleep on the streets and use the shelter system by two-thirds by 2009, the report released by the Coalition for the Homeless last November found that the total homeless shelter population was 33 percent higher than when Mayor Bloomberg took office; the number of homeless families was 45 percent higher.

Over the years, New York’s billionaire mayor has repeatedly demonstrated his indifference to the plight of the city’s homeless population and his contempt for the working class as it has been battered by the financial crisis unleashed by Wall Street. Refusing to implement any initiatives to address the underlying causes of homelessness such as poverty, housing costs, unemployment and mental illness, Bloomberg’s policies have been directed entirely towards forcing homeless individuals off the streets and out of sight.

Last Spring, the city eliminated the Advantage rent subsidy after it lost state funding for the program. The program was for low-wage workers, who had to pay 30 to 40 percent of their income for housing, with the subsidy making up the rest. Advocates for the homeless warned of a spike in homelessness after the Bloomberg administration immediately stopped admitting new participants. Their warnings proved correct. The Coalition for the Homeless report released last November, showed a 10 percent increase in the number of children in the shelter system between May and October of 2011.

Last year, the Bloomberg administration had also proposed a new policy of asking single adults seeking space in homeless shelters to prove they had no alternative housing in what was clearly a reactionary attempt to discourage homeless individuals from seeking space in the city’s shelters. However, last February, a State Supreme Court judge ruled that the administration could not impose the new regulations, siding with the City Council which had filed a lawsuit to block their implementation.

In another failed attempt to limit the number of people in the city’s shelters, the administration considered a plan earlier this year that would have required single adults currently living in shelters to return to their last place of residence. In return, the city would have offered furniture and possibly food stamps to residents who agreed to take the individuals back.

According to the proposed policy, if homeless single adults did not return to their former location, they would have been forcibly removed by an officer before becoming eligible for shelter again. And if family members or friends had refused to take back the individuals, homeless shelters would have had the authority to deny them space.

Bloomberg released a budget earlier this month that includes a proposal to cut 160 of the city’s youth shelter beds in order to save $7 million. This is despite the fact that there are only 250 youth shelter beds available in a city with an estimated 4,000 homeless youths.

The Obama campaign and “vampire” capitalists

May 16th, 2012 by Patrick Martin

With a display of cynicism that is hard to top, the Obama reelection campaign on Monday launched a public attack on Republican Mitt Romney’s role as a job-destroying asset stripper at Bain Capital, the same day that Obama raised more than $2 million from equally rapacious private equity sharks at a reception in New York City.

The Obama campaign released a two-minute advertisement that will run in five closely contested states—Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia—beginning Wednesday. It focuses on Bain Capital’s 1993 purchase and eventual closure of a steel mill in Kansas City, Missouri.

The company, GST Steel, went bankrupt in 2001 and was closed down, with all 750 workers losing their jobs, while Bain walked away with a $12 million profit. One of the fired steelworkers interviewed for the Obama commercial calls Bain a “vampire” that “came in and sucked the life out of us.”

This description of Romney—CEO of Bain Capital at the time of the takeover—is certainly appropriate. But the term “vampire” could be applied with equal justice to most of those who gathered at the Manhattan home of Hamilton “Tony” James, president of Blackstone Group, a private equity firm that dwarfs Bain Capital in size and destructiveness.

Sixty people from Wall Street attended and donated $35,800 each to the Obama reelection campaign and the Democratic National Committee, for a total of more than $2 million.

Romney’s record at Bain Capital is a demonstration of the parasitic role of finance capital, which mobilizes vast resources to take over, reorganize and downsize companies. It is part of a process, extending over more than three decades, in which Wall Street has garnered an ever-larger share of corporate profits through financial manipulations unrelated and inimical to the development of the productive forces.

The Obama campaign’s critique of Romney is completely hypocritical, however, since the Democratic Party is just as beholden to the financial aristocracy as the Republicans. As deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter told the Wall Street Journal, in attacking Romney, Obama was not “questioning private equity as a whole.”

Blackstone Group is a good example. Its co-founders, Steven Schwartzman and Peter Peterson, amassed personal fortunes far in excess of Romney’s. They garnered $3 billion to $4 billion each, compared to $250 million for the former Massachusetts governor. Not only is Blackstone a far more influential player on Wall Street, its top executives wield a vast, and reactionary, influence in Washington.

Peterson in particular has long been identified with the program of budgetary austerity, focused on massive cuts in social spending, including entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He has personally funded Washington think tanks to develop policy recommendations along these lines and lobby for them among Democratic and Republican politicians.

The Wall Street fundraiser Monday night came only hours after Obama offered his personal endorsement of the performance of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, after the Wall Street bank acknowledged a $2 billion loss from speculative trades in derivatives by its London office. “JPMorgan is one of the best managed banks there is,” Obama gushed. “Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we’ve got.”

Obama tapped another key figure in private equity, Steven Rattner, to serve as his auto industry czar, overseeing the bankruptcy reorganization of General Motors and Chrysler that restored the two companies to profitability at the expense of the jobs, living standards, health benefits and pensions of auto workers and retirees. The auto bailout centered on an across-the-board 50 percent cut in starting pay for new-hires that set the pace for wage-cutting throughout American industry.

Rattner publicly criticized as “unfair” the Obama campaign ad attacking Romney and Bain Capital. “Bain Capital’s responsibility was not to create 100,000 jobs or some other number. It was to create profits for its investors,” Rattner said. “I don’t think there’s anything Bain Capital did that they need to be embarrassed about.”

The demagogic claims of Obama and the Democrats to defend the interests of “working families” and “Main Street” against Wall Street are absurd on their face. As they collect cash from the likes of Blackstone and issue fawning tributes to social criminals like Jamie Dimon, one can only say: by their friends ye shall know them.

By hosting a self-proclaimed “nuclear alliance” like NATO, Chicago is violating the spirit if not the letter of the city’s status as a nuclear free zone, passed unanimously by the City Council in 1986 and signed by Mayor Harold Washington, says Rick Rozoff.

It’s one of dozens of points that came up in several wide-ranging talks with Rozoff, a Chicagoan who for 13 years has edited the Stop NATO blog, almost certainly the most comprehensive source for news and critical analysis of the alliance in the world.

On Thursday, Rozoff and a representative of Iraq Veterans Against the War will take the anti-NATO position in a debate with former Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns and NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary James Appathurai at the Pritzker Military Library.

Making war around the world

Stop NATO started in 1999, a watershed year according to Rozoff, when NATO launched its first war, a 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. That’s the point at which NATO moved beyond its posture as a strictly defensive organization protecting its members’ territories to become “an active war-making organization” – and when promises of post-Cold War demilitarization and a “peace dividend” were betrayed, he says.

Since then NATO has conducted wars in Asia and Africa – a brutal twelve-year slog with heavy civilian casulaties in Afghanistan, NATO’s first ground war, and a six-month bombing campaign in Libya.

Despite the unprecedented presence of 150,000 troops from 50 nations (including NATO members and partners) waging war in a single, relatively small country, Afghanistan is widely viewed as a defeat for the alliance. NATO claims Libya as a victory, though the nation is now dominated by fundamentalists and riven by clan wars, with instability spreading to other African nations, Rozoff points out.

Global expeditionary force

A major function of these wars, he argues, is to integrate the militaries of NATO members and scores of partner nations into a “global expeditionary force,” with small countries enlisted in efforts to ensure Western access to resources and hem in nations with independent foreign policies –notably Russia, China, and Iran.

NATO’s expanded military alliance “puts smaller countries in the position of having to respond when the major powers call for assistance,” obliges them to accept U.S. and NATO bases on their territory, and requires them to purchase advanced weaponry – which they don’t need and can’t afford – from Western nations, Rozoff says.

The Chicago summit will deal with transitioning to a new phase of involvement in Afghanistan, further integrating the forty NATO partner states that participate in the alliance’s wars, and upgrading the alliance’s military capabilities. NATO is expected to announce that its European interceptor missile system has achieved initial operational capability.

Nuclear tensions

While touted as a defense against attacks from North Korea or Iran, the missile system seems to be aimed at Russia, destabilizing the continent’s nuclear balance and ratcheting up tensions. Indeed, Rozoff says the system “is not to be construed as a defensive project whatsoever,” and ultimately could be part of a first-strike nuclear system.

Rozoff notes other developments to watch, including U.S. plans to spend $4 billion to modernize its European-based nuclear weapons, NATO’s first move to acquire drone technology, and calls for NATO to intervene in Syria and Mali. It’s all covered in detail at Stop NATO, a compilation of international news reports along with Rozoff’s trenchant commentary.

The Chicago summit “leaves us face to face with the most burning question of our era,” Rozoff told interviewer Allen Ruff on WORT-FM in Madison earlier this month. “Which is that 21 years after the end of the Cold War, we have lived through incessant warfare, there have been wars after wars after wars, in Iraq and Somalia and Bosnia and Kosovo and Afghanistan, in Iraq again, in Libya, we’re seeing bombing and missile attacks into Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen, and on and on and on.

“And it is about time that the people of Chicago, of the United States and the world, say look: there was a promise 21 years ago when the Cold War ended, that we would have peace, that we would have disarmament, we would have a peace dividend that directed funds from killing to fund human needs and human development.”

He points out that the United States spent $729 billion last year for the Defense Department — $2,400 for every person living in the country. “There are better things to do with that money than to kill people.”

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Interview with Rick Rozoff, manager of the Stop NATO website and Global Research Correspondent. He will be debating NATO officials in Chicago on May 17th in a first-ever event where those opposed to NATO are allowed to voice their concerns.

I heard that on the 17th of May you are planning to debate former NATO officials and current NATO officials. This is first debate of this type in history I believe. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about that?

Thank you for asking, John. As scheduled, on Thursday evening at 6 o’clock in downtown Chicago at what’s called the Pritzker Military Library – it’s probably an apt site for a discussion of NATO – as of last heard, two spokespeople advocating the NATO position, and those are R. Nicholas Burns, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the State Department, and current NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary for Political and Security Affairs James Appathurai, are going to be presenting the NATO position.

I’ve been asked to be one of two what are identified in the Chicago media as protesters who are going to be speaking against NATO. Initially Andy Thayer, who is a leader in the Coalition Against NATO G8 War and Poverty Agenda, CANG8, for short, was to be the other speaker from the anti-NATO position. I now hear that a representative from either Iraq or Afghanistan war veterans, is going to be speaking instead of Andy Thayer, so it will be the two of us.

Can you tell me a little bit of the format?

It’s my understanding each of the four of us is going to give a presentation and then there will be questions fielded from the audience. It’s going to be a very select group, there are only going to be 100 people permitted into the library in addition to media.

Who was behind the planning of this event?

It’s sponsored by a local Chicago think tank. Though, it’s my understanding, John, that somehow, I don’t know who contacted whom, the prime mover in permitting a discussion that has both sides being heard  emanated from the White House.

You mentioned before we started something about two OSCE parliamentarians. Are they going to be in attendance?

I heard from another leader in CANG8 that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) announced that they were going to send two, perhaps three, European parliamentarians as part of a delegation to monitor the protests and the city of Chicago’s response to them, which would mark only the second time that an OSCE delegation has been sent to the United States – the only previous time was during the 2008 presidential election – and if in fact that’s the truth and that materializes, that may in part have led to the White House having to make a concession to allow some form of public debate on the issue, because to be frank with you, there has been none up until now. When the decision was made between the White House and mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel last year there was no debate, there was no discussion in the City Council of Chicago and the neighborhoods that are going to be affected pretty adversely, as no community leaders and so forth were consulted, it was dealt with as a fait accompli.

How did you become involved in this? Were you chosen?

Andy Thayer of CANG8 invited me to join him, initially, as we thought, now it looks like it may be, again, an Iraq or Afghanistan war veteran and myself presenting the anti-NATO position.

Can you tell our listeners a little bit of what NATO is doing to promote their position in the U.S. and why and where all that money is coming from? So they’ve made a huge PR campaign in the Chicago area, I believe.

There is a host committee for the NATO summit, which is headed up by former political officials, but there is corporate sponsorship that is – as a matter of fact if one goes to the website for the NATO Chicago summit, they’ll have the corporate logos of major Fortune 500-type companies that have raised an estimated $37 billion (Mr. Rozoff apologized and asked that billion be corrected to million. Robles) in corporate monies for the summit in addition to what the federal and the city governments are going to spend. The argument that many people make, including myself, that NATO is essentially the international armed wing of the 1% could not be made any more effectively or vividly than visiting the website for the Chicago Summit and looking at the corporate logos that stand behind the NATO meeting on May 20 and 21.

Recently somebody, NATO spokesman I think, said that NATO was the war machine for the one percent.

I believe that comment emanates from Ivo Daalder, who is the U.S. ambassador to NATO currently, and he is somebody who incidentally six years ago co-authored an article that was published in the Washington Post [Foreign Affairs] and also on the website of the Brookings Institution where Daalder is on leave as a senior fellow, but the title of that article is “Global NATO”. So, we are talking about somebody who in fact envisions, and keep in mind he is the envoy for the most powerful member of the military bloc, the United States, and is somebody who for several years has been touting in exactly those words the concept of an international, worldwide NATO that can intervene at will any place it chooses. Any organization that has waged war in three continents since 1999 as NATO has, in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya, is certainly a war machine.

What can you tell our listeners about G8 Summit being moved to Camp David and what’s the relation between that and the NATO Summit happening in Chicago?

The two were to have occured not simultaneously but back to back. The G8 Summit was to have occurred on the 18th and 19th of this month and the NATO Summit on the 20th and 21st. And when the news first broke in spring of last year that Chicago would host them both, the announcement was made simultaneously. It was, if you will, a package deal. Then several weeks ago the White House rather abruptly and without any explanation – the accounts in Chicago are that the mayor himself, Emanual, wasn’t even aware of the fact that it was being pulled until he heard it on the news.

I can tell you my personal supposition, which is this: that in the interim between the time it was announced that both the G8 and the NATO summits  were to be held in the United States and the announcement by the White House they were relocating the G8 summit to Camp David in Maryland, the Occupy movement sprang into existence in September of last year and I would assume that the White House was afraid that the demonstrations against both summits would be large enough to create a political embarrassment, both for the city of Chicago and for the country, certainly for the administration, and thought that by relocating the G8 summit they could take attention away from the NATO demonstration. I believe that it’s backfired. Instead there will be a large public demonstration on the 20th. I am hoping that it will be the largest counter-NATO demonstration ever held against the backdrop of a summit. If you recall in Lisbon, Portugal in November 2010, I’ve heard estimates from 10-30 thousand protesters. It would be my sincerest wish that the people of Chicago and adjoining states could turn out a force larger than that.

Larger than 30,000 people?

That would be ideal. Larger that 10,000 would be great.

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Obama, Labor, and Marriage Equality

May 16th, 2012 by Mark Vorpahl

Since President Obama made his very calculated public statement announcing that he was “personally” in favor of same sex marriage, among the many commentators who have rushed to his support have been a significant number of Labor leaders.
Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, stated “Look, I support that position. We support it as the labor movement because of discrimination.” He explained, “There are 1,128 obligations and benefits you get from being married, responsibilities and obligations, as well as some benefits. We think that everybody ought to be treated equally. So it’s marriage equality we’re looking at, and people shouldn’t be discriminated against.”

While many union members likely disagree with Trumka’s stance, support of same sex marriage and all civil rights is the only position that is consistent with the interests of working people as a whole. Though unions are generally focused on better wages, benefits, and working conditions for their membership, they cannot take effective action for these needs without building broad unity among all workers regardless of race, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation. Consequently, since the mass efforts of the LGBT community have galvanized around the issue of marriage equality, the union movement needs to get behind it. For LGBT workers, this issue is as central to their lives as their working conditions. For those workers who are currently opposed to same sex marriage, they need to learn that they are better able to struggle for improvements in their lives if they are united with their gay brothers and sisters. Given the bipartisan attacks against workers, they cannot afford to let their prejudices get in the way.

Nevertheless, the uncritical praise for President Obama’s remarks create the impression that they have been more motivated to getting him re-elected than as commitment to LGBT equality. This is because Obama’s remarks fell far short from the step forward for which they are being touted. In fact, politically they are a step backwards. The President did not say he considered marriage equality a civil right. Moreover, he made it a point of stating that he considered the matter of same sex marriage best decided on a state-by-state basis. This has been the fall back position for every two-faced faker in civil rights’ struggles from the days of slavery and Jim Crow to Roe v. Wade. In other words this means that Obama condones discrimination where bigots have the political upper hand.

President Obama’s advocating of a state-by-state approach towards marriage equality undermines the efforts of those who are fighting for it as a constitutional civil rights issue. Jim Cook, in his article “Barack Obama’s Bullshit Gay Marriage Announcement” explains:

“There are currently at least three cases winding their way toward federal courts that address the issue of whether (among other things) the equal protection clause of the constitution guarantees gay men and women the same access to marriage rights as heterosexual men and women — the Proposition 8 case, in which David Boies and Ted Olson challenged California’s ban on gay marriage, and several challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars gay men and women from receiving federal marriage benefits and allows states to refuse to recognize valid gay marriages. Obama’s Justice Department has admirably declined to defend the constitutionality of DOMA. But the position he enunciated today is in opposition to Boies and Olson: Obama is saying that if he were a judge, he would have rejected Boies and Olson’s constitutional arguments and affirmed the right of Californians to enshrine bigotry in their state constitution.”

Experience has shown that this president’s “support” for progressive measures results in, at best, political inaction. Union leaders certainly must remember Obama’s “support” for the Employee Free Choice Act (card check) and other pro-worker measures he promised during his campaign and dropped once elected. For them to uncritically line up behind Obama’s comments on same sex marriage, without clarifying that they consider it a civil rights issue in opposition to the President’s state-by-state approach, makes them look, at best, foolish, at worst, insincere.

It is perhaps hoped by those moved to uncritical support of Obama’s comments to encourage his “evolution” on same sex marriage towards political action that he currently opposes. However, in the realm of politics, such changes are more determined by the movement of social forces than by personal appeals and clever statesmanship. In other words, the LGBT community and their supporters in Labor must not blunt their struggle for marriage equality in the hope of appealing to the good conscience of corporate politicians and not making too much trouble. They must continue the fight through independent mass action and educating their worker brothers and sisters who currently do not understand the issue of marriage equality.
The best way of educating on a mass level is through common struggle. This was vividly demonstrated in 1974 in a Teamster Local 888 conflict with Coors Brewing Company.

After settling a five-month strike, Coors remained the sole distributor that refused to sign the new contract. Local 888 President Allan Baird realized that his union did not have the ability to win on their own without the active support of the LGBT community in San Francisco. He met with Harvey Milk, who was a rising openly gay activist in the city, hoping to get support for a boycott of Coors. Milk’s only condition was that the Teamsters begin to hire openly gay drivers. Baird agreed and the union began to hold true to its promise within a week, beginning a city-wide boycott that lasted three years, uniting the interests of the Teamsters and the San Francisco LGBT working class community.

This struggle demonstrates how workers are educated in mass action about the need to overcome anti-gay prejudices in order to win as a class. It also suggests, in miniature, the approach labor leaders can take today that will strengthen the fight for marriage equality. In 1974 the main issue for the Teamsters was to settle the contract fight with Coors. This lead them to start a form of union-conducted affirmative action in the hiring of openly gay workers. Today, the main issues workers are facing are the need for a real jobs program and the need to stop cuts to such public services as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and education by taxing the rich. If the labor movement conducts such a struggle through mass action, independent of the corporate two party system, the need for unity will become apparent. This will create more fertile ground for winning marriage equality for the LGBT community than any presidential campaign statements.

Mark Vorpahl is an union steward, social justice activist, and writer for Workers’ Action – www.workerscompass.org. He can be reached at [email protected].
 

The Global Economic Crisis: Impoverishing Europe

May 16th, 2012 by Thomas Sablowski

The crisis is not relinquishing its grip on Europe. From autumn 2008 to early 2009 the world market experienced the deepest slump in economic output since the Second World War. This is a global crisis. Even in emerging economies like China, Brazil or India economic growth declined and could not compensate for the recession in the North Atlantic region. For the first time since the worldwide economic crisis of the 1930s global economic output has shrunk. After a brief uptick in 2010 which barely restored the level of reproduction prior to the crisis, in 2011 growth was again in worldwide decline. In the last quarter of 2011 economic output in the EU shrunk by 0.3 per cent. In the first months of 2012 industrial production in the large EU nations of France, Italy and Spain contracted further.

From early 2010 the crisis in Europe has emerged as being one of state refinancing. In every crisis fiscal revenues take a hit while unemployment, and with it, social expenditures increase. To this is added the gigantic bank rescue packages and – in comparison to these the admittedly less substantial – stimulus packages. All this has resulted in large increases in budget deficits and state debt. A number of countries, starting with Greece, have reached the limits of their borrowing capacity. Because international investors have lost confidence that these countries can any longer service their debt, they are not able to obtain any new credit from the capital markets, or if so only at an intolerably high rate of interest. Some investors are also betting with credit default swaps on the bankruptcy of individual countries – a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Neoliberal ‘Competition State’

Before the current crisis, and when considered separately from debt service, countries such as Spain, Italy and Ireland exhibited a positive primary balance in their public budgets. That is to say, state revenues exceeded expenditures. In these cases the particular problems regarding finances clearly developed only with the onset of the latest crisis. In other countries such as Greece and Portugal the primary balances of state budgets were indeed negative before the current crisis, which indicates structural problems with state financing. That the state, as for example in Greece, tolerated large-scale tax evasion must be understood as an element of a specific mode of capitalist development and a particular constellation of class interests. Phenomena such as high inflation, clientelism, corruption and tax evasion are characteristics of states that occupy a more peripheral position in the international division of labour. These states exhibit a high degree of internal structural heterogeneity in forms of production and class relations in which the distribution of the value of the social product is fiercely contested between different classes and class fractions.

Furthermore, neoliberal fiscal policies have repeatedly created budget shortfalls, even before the current crisis. This is also the case for Germany. Due to the reduction in the top tax rate on high incomes and in the inheritance tax, the elimination of the wealth tax and the stock transfer tax, a tax exemption on the sale of subsidiaries of joint stock companies, and other measures, reductions in tax receipts have come to be accepted. The capitalist state has developed into a ‘competition state.’ Competing internationally for investment, it seeks to attract and bind businesses to locations within its jurisdiction, by means of selective reductions in taxes for firms and investors, as well as with subsidies. The wide mass of wage earners in contrast, had to endure increases in taxation and simultaneous reductions in social welfare benefits. The state has thus contributed to a redistribution of wealth from wage earners to the owners of capital.

Alongside the crisis of state indebtedness the banking crisis has also returned. Since government bonds are an important source of profits for banks and other owners of capital, the financial crisis also strikes back at financial institutions. Because state bankruptcies in Greece and elsewhere threaten European banks with collapse, financial houses hesitate to extend credit to one another. Already in 2007/08, as a result of the collapse of the subprime mortgage market in the United States, the so-called interbank loan market dried out. Banks now prefer to park their money with the European Central Bank (ECB) rather than to make it available to their peers. As in the autumn of 2008, this credit crunch also impacts upon the circuit of industrial capital.

Uneven Development

The global dynamics of the crisis are superimposed on the contradictions of European integration, which in turn further intensify them. The unequal development of capital accumulation in the Eurozone became starkly evident in the crisis. Germany and a few other countries achieved large current account surpluses and are simultaneously capital exporters (creditors). In contrast most Eurozone countries are capital importers (debtors) and have current account deficits. The balance of payments imbalances in Europe increased substantially in recent years. In the critical discussions taking place regarding this relationship several explanations are on offer.

First, increasing international indebtedness is linked to the hierarchical structures of the international division of labour and the uneven development of productive capacities. Germany, for example, is equipped with a greatly diversified industrial structure, particularly in the production of means of production (machine tools, chemicals, etc.). Countries such as Greece in contrast have much less to offer to the world market. This unequal development has always been an immanent characteristic of the capitalist world economy. The further the productive force of labour progresses, that is, the more commodities that can be produced with the same deployment of labour, the more the concentration and centralization of capital develops, and the more the tendential geographic concentration of production also takes place.

Secondly, uneven development is related to diverging unit labour costs. The relation between wages and productivity that is expressed in unit labour costs is crucial for the price competitiveness and profitability of capital. It should be noted that in no other EU country have unit labour costs increased as little in the past ten years as in Germany. German companies have procured competitive advantages for themselves through wage restraint. The actuality of German export surpluses means of course that Germany must also play the part of international creditor in order to be able to sell its commodities abroad. Conversely, countries with current account deficits such as Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, France etc., must logically take on debt to be able to pay for their excess imports.

The third explanation for uneven development in the EU seems to contradict the second, and is based on the observation that rates of growth in the peripheral EU nations were previously higher than in Germany. The higher rates of growth and the capital imports of the peripheral nations are not indications of an absent competitiveness. On the contrary, from a Marxist perspective, capital flows as a rule to where profit rates are higher. It may indeed be the case that in the last decade unit labour costs increased much more in Greece than in Germany. But the question to pose is: based on what level? Wage levels in any case are much lower in Greece than in Germany.

The differing rates of growth are also correlated to the diverging real rates of interest in the Eurozone, which result from the difference in the nominal interest rate and the inflation rate. Through the ECB a uniform nominal base rate is prescribed, yet in light of different rates of price increases from country to country, this leads to divergent real interest rates. Because the rate of inflation is higher in Greece than in Germany, the corresponding real rates of interest are lower there. This being the case, it is thus attractive for investors to take on debt there. From this perspective the causality in the balance of payments is exactly the reverse of that in the first explanation: It is not the surplus commodity exports of Germany that have led to the accumulation of debt in the periphery, rather the export of capital from the imperialist centres has led to the higher rate of growth and the increase in commodity imports in the peripheral countries. In the first case the trade balance (current account) determines the capital account; in the second case this is reversed.

Does merchandise trade dominate over capital movements, or vice versa, do capital flows dominate the trade in goods? In my view the question of causality in the balance of payments cannot be answered in general but only through more concrete analysis on a case-by-case basis.

Regardless of how one interprets the causality in the relationship between commodity and capital flows, there is agreement that the problems in the Eurozone cannot be reduced to the financial crises of states. Not only has the indebtedness of the respective states in the Eurozone greatly increased, but so too has private debt. It would be mistaken in each case to comprehend the financial crisis of the state in isolation from developments in the economy as a whole.

Intensified Competition

The common currency is in any case intensifying competition and the problem of uneven development within the Eurozone. Countries with slipping competitiveness in the Eurozone cannot use their own monetary policy, the devaluation of their own currency for example, to defend their competitiveness. Pressure to adjust bears down above all on countries in the position of net debtors, that is, countries with a current account deficit and a capital import surplus. This pressure to adapt leads ultimately to wage reductions as is currently being implemented in an intensified form in Greece and Portugal by the austerity policies of the troika of the European Commission, the ECB and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The rigidity of the German government with regard to the management of the European crisis appears at first sight to contradict certain material interests of capital. It is not only Anglo-American investors who have long demanded that the ECB should purchase government bonds without limit in order to reduce interest rates for the EU countries affected by the refinancing crisis and restore confidence in their state securities. There has also been a demand in other European states for a more flexible position on the part of the ECB, and for the introduction of euro bonds. At the same time it is obvious that the brutal austerity policies that have been forced on Greece and other states in response to the economic turbulence by the German government only push these countries even deeper into crisis. Hence it needs to be asked whether the prevailing crisis policies are themselves irrational from the perspective of the reproduction of capital.

The austerity measures and the demands for monetary state financing or the supranational socialization of debt appear at first to contradict each other. While austerity policies appear to have the reduction of state indebtedness as their aim, an expansion of the role of the ECB as lender of last resort for the states of the Eurozone or a socialization of their debt by means of euro bonds would create the preconditions for an even greater expansion of state debt. However, there exists only a superficial contradiction between these measures. In the end, policies of cutbacks will also not lead to a reduction of state indebtedness, but at best will create the preconditions for the reestablishment of confidence for investors in European government bonds. Even the IMF expects that average indebtedness in the Eurozone, which in 2010 was at 85.8 per cent of GDP, will be at 86.6 per cent in 2016. Austerity policies, as well as the much-discussed socialization of debt, serve to prevent an even greater devaluation of fictitious capital, which is what government bonds embody. What is of concern here is not the reduction of state debt but rather its sustainability. As a sphere of investment, government debt, which has been growing faster globally in recent years than the global social product, is indispensable for global financial firms.

Intensification of Exploitation

Yet, if austerity policies and the socialization of debt, and monetary state financing by the ECB, respectively, are just different ways to restore confidence in European government bonds and guarantee a ‘sustainable’ debt, why then are the governments of the Eurozone states not taking the more comfortable path and relaxing austerity measures and concentrating on the socialization of debt? Certainly, without austerity policies state indebtedness would grow even quicker. But why would that be so problematic? Italy maintained levels of state indebtedness for decades in excess of 100 per cent of GDP. Why did it suddenly become a problem? Even the USA could afford a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 100 per cent, and Japan of even more than 200 per cent. What explains the rigidity of German and European austerity policies?

Their goal is not only to reduce state expenditures or to increase tax revenue. It is also a matter of reducing wage levels in the private sector and of increasing working hours, in short, of increasing the overall exploitation of labour. Austerity policies don’t resolve the crisis but they help to realise traditional demands of capitalists that up to now had not been achievable due to the relation of forces. Austerity measures serve not only the bank rescues (which could also be carried out by the ECB buying out the banks’ government bonds), but serve above all industrial capital, in particular export-oriented industrial capital, whose profitability can be increased in this way.

To add to this: It is not just about defending the euro but, above all, its international role. The common currency functions not only as a means of circulation and payment within the Eurozone, but also has a global function, even if as an international reserve currency it takes second place behind the American dollar. The importance and prominence of the euro would be endangered if international investors lost confidence in the government bonds of Eurozone countries and withdrew their capital. The euro would hence lose value against the currencies of other capitalist centres. It is precisely in the competition between currencies that the stability of the euro, as a measure of value, and as a means of circulation and payment, as well as a medium of accumulation, is of importance. Internationally active banks and transnational corporations, which are based in the Eurozone, profit in particular when they can offer credit in their own currency and when their business partners can pay in euros. This reduces their currency risks.

In this regard it is of interest to these banks and corporations the extent to which actors outside of the Eurozone are prepared to use the euro as a currency. This becomes of even greater importance the more financial linkages with actors outside of the Eurozone increase. For Germany, exports to nations outside of the Eurozone in recent years increased faster than exports to those within the Eurozone. The defence of the euro through policies of austerity is not simply the result of the European strategies of German capital but above all of its globalization strategies. Nevertheless, the German government does not play the role of Europe’s disciplinarian solely in the interests of German capital but also in the interests of dominant fractions of capital in other Eurozone countries. Only this convergence of interests can explain why Sarkozy largely swung into line behind Merkel and why the Greek governments under no circumstances considered exiting the Eurozone although austerity policies were and are wrecking the internal market, and are damaging the fraction of capital dependent on this market.

Resistance

In the coming months several countries must refinance huge portions of their state debts that are coming due. That is, they must replace them with new loans. It remains to be seen to what extent this will be possible with sustainable interest rates. Currently under discussion is whether the ‘rescue packages’ which have covered the EU countries with the temporary European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and more permanently with the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) are sufficient, if the refinancing of larger countries like Italy and Spain through capital markets will no longer be possible. A further expansion of the mutual liability for the public debt of individual nations will confront yet greater political resistance than we have until now experienced. When this happens the forces demanding the exit of individual countries from the Eurozone, or the Eurozone’s bifurcation, will further gain in prominence.

In this situation the Left must mount a two-front struggle. One the one front, it must organize the defence of the working and popular classes against the ruling classes’ policies of immiseration, and fight against the fiscal pact which is leading to a further intensification of the neoliberal orientation of European financial and economic policies and a further hollowing out of democracy. One the other, it must combat the nationalist, racist, and fascist forces opposing European integration. The Left must make clear that a different, democratic and solidaristic Europe is possible and necessary. The protest actions involving a broad section of participants and allies, set to take place in Frankfurt on 16 to 19th of May, offer the opportunity to articulate just such a position. (See: Bullet No. 634 and blockupy.frankfurt.org.) •

Thomas Sablowski works at the Institute for Critical Social Analysis of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. He is also a member of editorial board of the journal PROKLA and a member of the scientific advisory board of ATTAC Germany.

This article originally appeared in Junge Welt, 5 May 2012. Translation by Sam Putinja.

You know when Western powers are getting trigger happy towards Iran again because the mainstream media propaganda machine starts cranking out lurid scare stories.

The latest wheeze is based on “computer-generated drawings” allegedly depicting a nuclear explosion blast chamber that Iran has allegedly been using to test mini nukes. The drawings were provided “exclusively” to the Associated Press news agency by an unnamed official from “a country tracking Iran’s nuclear program, who said it proves [sic] the structure exists”.

Don’t you just love the way “unnamed sources” are quoted, who go on to “prove” their own unverifiable claims?

The AP story has since been picked up, predictably, by all and sundry Western media [1].

Not only are the stories illustrated with computerised images of the alleged blast chamber, there are also mathematical details of chamber dimensions, design and structure.

A good rule-of-thumb is that when western media and unnamed “diplomats” assiduously provide “details” on suspect installations, then it is a sure sign of desperation to convince the wider public about otherwise dubious claims.

The template for this kind of disinformation stunt was the presentation by former US Secretary of State Colin Powell in February 2003 before the United Nations Security Council. Then, in a contrived performance that smacked of sheer theatre, Powell presented audio recordings and satellite images to testify that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. This was a piece with then British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s hysterical assertion that Iraq had the capability of launching such weapons “within 45 seconds”.

In sonorous tones, Powell declared to the world: “My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”

All of the supposed “solid sources” claimed by Powell (and Blair and George W Bush) were later shown to be fabrications or spurious. Powell for one lied through his teeth. But based on his performance, the US and Britain launched a nine-year war of aggression on Iraq that claimed over one million lives and bequeathed that country with a heinous legacy of ongoing internecine violence, poverty, destruction and widespread cancer-causing depleted-uranium contamination.

Incredibly, far from being shamed over committing war crimes and being complicit in war crimes, Western governments and media continue to repeat the same cynical charade of weapons of mass destruction on Iran.

Less than three years after Colin Powell’s disgraceful moment of mendacity before the eyes of the world, the New York Times ran a story alleging that Iran had nuclear warheads. The claim was based on images obtained by unnamed American intelligence officials allegedly from a stolen Iranian laptop. That story was later exposed by investigative journalist Gareth Porter to be a ludicrous fabrication because the images were actually of redundant North Korean missiles.

It is with this kind of track record of war crimes and blatant fabrication that the latest “exclusive” story of a secret Iranian nuclear blast chamber must be assessed – a story based on computer drawings supplied yet again by ubiquitous unnamed sources. Debunking such disinformation is not enough. Given the seriousness of consequences from publishing this disinformation, Iran or some international citizen body should be filing a legal case against Western mainstream media for inciting illegal wars.

It should be noted that the latest nuclear allegation against Iran comes only days ahead of the second round of the P5 + 1 negotiations set to take place on 23 May in Baghdad. Ominously, it is being mooted in the Western media that if Iran does not make a major concession, that is stop its legally entitled civilian nuclear energy programme (a highly unlikely concession), then the Western powers or their Israeli subcontractor of terror will move to a military option. In this context, of concern is the recent build-up of military forces by the US and its proxy autocratic monarchy states in the Persian Gulf.

The move this week by Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states to form a closer military union – citing Iran as a regional threat – can be seen as an American closing of ranks in advance of a possible attack.

The dissemination by Western media of “evidence” of Iranian nuclear weaponisation takes on an even more sinister purpose, with shadows of the “Colin Powell moment”.

Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa Correspondent

[email protected]  

Notes

[1] http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/05/13/drawing-may-provide-insight-into-iran-nuclear-intentions/  

WWIII Scenario 

Some 200 disgruntled rebels who fought with the Pentagon and NATO in the regime-change military mission against the Jamahiriya government in Libya during 2011, made an effort to assassinate the interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib on May 8. The rebels were supposedly angry over the cancellation of monthly payments to the militiamen who served as ground troops in the campaign that overthrew the martyred leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi.

The compensation program for the rebels, which distributed $US1.4 billion, has been riddled with fraud and consequently was suspended in April. There were reports that people were paid who were dead and that those who never joined the anti-Gaddafi efforts also received monies. In addition to these problems with public funds being turnover to rebel fighters, others were sent on trips abroad for medical treatment but were not injured.

The militia groups served as the ground forces in the imperialist war against Libya that resulted in an arms embargo against the Gaddafi government, a naval blockade, sanctions, foreign assets seizure and bombing missions involving 26,000 sorties and 10,000 airstrikes. Corruption has been endemic to the so-called National Transitional Council (NTC) since its inception during the war last year. After being placed in power in Tripoli in late August 2011 and throughout the country after the brutal murder of Gaddafi on October 20, billions of dollars have gone missing from the national treasury. With the exposure of the widespread corruption in Libya, the interim finance minister Hassan Ziglam announced on May 11 that he would soon resign.  The reason for his departure is the “wastage of public funds.” (Reuters, May 11)

The interim prime minister al-Keib, who was the target of the assassination attempt, called those responsible for the shooting that left at least one person dead, “outlaws.” The various militia groups scattered throughout the capital of Tripoli and other parts of the country have never been brought into a national army. Ziglam, the outgoing finance minister, said of the incident on May 9, that “They came with weapons. How can you work in such an environment.” (Reuters, May 11)

Other allegations of corruption over the last several months have included irregularities with the Libyan Investment Authority where some $US2.5 billion in oil revenues that were supposed to be transferred to the national treasury remains unaccounted for. Also the foreign assets that were frozen by the imperialist states in the early stages of the war on Libya remain a source of dispute in regard to the actual value of these funds. In the eastern oil-producing region of the country, the Arabian Gulf Oil Company has been hampered by work stoppages by employees who are demanding accountability from the executives running the firm. Although oil production has reportedly increased to a million barrels a day, there are questions about the utilization of revenue and the compensation of workers.

Human Rights Violations Ignored by the Imperialists and Their Surrogates The rationale for the imperialist war on Libya during 2011 was that the Gaddafi government was violating the human rights of its citizens during an armed rebellion that was financed and coordinated by foreign interests. Despite the fact that no concrete evidence of mass killings and imprisonment were uncovered, this same narrative is being maintained as a justification for what transpired.

Yet under the current NTC regime reports indicate that at least 7,000 people are still being detained inside the country with many of them suffering torture and extrajudicial killings. Even the United Nations, which through Resolutions 1970 and 1973 provided a pseudo-legal basis for the bombing of Libya and the overthrow of its government, has spoken out against the unjust incarceration by the Libyan rebels. According to Ian Martin, who heads the UN mission to Libya, “Cases of mistreatment and torture of detainees continue. Addressing these practices should be a top government priority in pursuit of a new culture of human rights and the rule of law.” (AFP, May 11)

In April there were claims that three people were tortured to death in a prison in the coastal central city of Misrata. This prison has been notorious for its mistreatment of detainees and there are allegations that another seven people have been murdered there as well. The detainees are accused of fighting with the Libyan military in defense of the country that was being attacked internally and from the air and sea during 2011. Another method of arresting people is by outlawing any “glorification” of the former leader and government of Col. Muammar Gaddafi. The NTC government has passed a law that orders the militias to round up for prosecution anyone in support of the former political system that ruled the country for 42 years. Consequently the upcoming elections will bar political interests that still remain supportive of the Jamahiriya. Threats against supporters of the former Gaddafi government also extend outside of Libya.

The previous oil minister and Prime Minister Dr. Shokri Ghanem, was found dead in Vienna in late April floating in the Danube River. Ghanem was being pressured to return to Libya by the NTC to provide evidence for the further persecution of former members of the government. In a Reuters interview in December 2011, the Boston University graduate told a reporter in regard to the NTC rebels, “One man they were interviewing, they threw him out of the window.” (Reuters, May 13) Noman Benotman, an analyst and a long-time opponent of the Gaddafi government, said of the death of Ghanem that “It was a professionally executed crime. It is the global energy mafia. It’s to do with corruption, secret deals. People wanted to make sure he is not around anymore to talk.” (Reuters, May 13)

The son of Muammar Gaddafi, Seif al-Islam, is still being held in a secret prison in Zintan and is not being allowed to have legal representation of his choice. An International Criminal Court (ICC) representative visited him recently for an interview in which it was witnessed that two of his fingers were severed and a tooth was missing. ICC prosecutors are allowing the detention of Seif al-Islam inside Libya although the NTC government claims that it is not in control of the facility where he is being held. Under such conditions and with overall political chaos inside the country, it will be impossible for him to have any semblance of a fair trial. Elections Will Inevitably Be a Sham There is no way that the elections scheduled for June 19 can be considered free and fair.

The former officials of the Gaddafi government and their supporters have been criminalized and many of them remain outside the country. The entire registration process has been marred by confusion and inconsistencies.
 
One Libyan who was quoted by the BBC said of the process that “We don’t understand elections. There are some who don’t know anything at all! There’s nothing on TV even about how elections work, how to vote, what to do.” (BBC, May 11) Meanwhile the secessionist elements in the eastern part of the country where the anti-Gaddafi rebellion began in February 2011, the so-called Barqa Council, has rejected the election process and is calling for a boycott. The leadership within the region, which is calling itself the Council of Cyrenaica, is pushing for autonomous status outside the authority of the NTC in Tripoli.

At the same time in the southern region of Libya reports of ongoing sectional conflict continues. Many have been killed in fighting over the last several months between what is described as the Toubou people and Arab tribesmen. On May 14 the French Press Agency (AFP) reported that “A candidate in the upcoming poll for a constituent assembly was murdered in Libya’s southern desert on Sunday shortly after submitting his registration. ‘Khaled Abu Saleh was murdered 30 kilometers (22 miles) from Ubari.” Mohammed Saleh, who is described by AFP as the deputy chairman of the High Security Commission, said that “An armed gang traveling in five cars followed him after he registered with the electoral commission. They surrounded and killed him.”

The Fruits of Imperialist War in Africa The situation in Libya represents the outcome of imperialist wars that have been waged by the U.S. and other Western countries over the last decade. Initiated on the basis of humanitarian concerns, these interventions always result in the worsening of conditions for the masses within the respective countries. In the U.S. itself, the economic crisis is causing the destruction of the cities and the rise in racist violence. The runaway military spending has not created any job growth for the tens of millions of unemployed workers. In Canada, which ostensibly led the NATO operations in Libya, a scandal is emerging over the cover-up of the cost of the war. Conservative government Defense Minister Peter MacKay took to the airwaves on May 13 in a damage control effort amid allegations of misrepresentation of funding in the war. Press reports say that the actual cost of the Libya bombing campaign for Canada was 700 percent higher than what has been stated publically. MacKay said “The interventions are expensive. In my view, this was money well spent.”

Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of Pan-African News Wire , an international electronic press service designed to foster intelligent discussion on the affairs of African people throughout the continent and the world.

Beware of Global Strategies of Tension

May 16th, 2012 by Tony Cartalucci

As the financial oligarchs of the West push forward in their year-long global geopolitical reordering of North Africa, the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia, the globe is being divided into two primary camps. Those behind the West, or the “Washington-London consensus,” and those behind what might be described as a combination of the BRICS nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Ideally, what the countervailing forces against the West claim to represent is a multipolar world order built upon mutual benefit and solidarity, preserving the traditional concept of the nation-state rather than one of neo-imperial domination and supranational-consolidation under a one-world financier oligarchy.

However, the people of the world in general must recognize corruption, monopolies, and imperialism in all of its forms, regardless of what flag is being flown and be ever vigilant against these dangers. While geopolitical analysts today may consider BRICS and the SCO as essential for maintaining a multipolar balance of power against the West, the risk of a strategy of tension creating increasingly centralized supranational blocs “facing off against each other” may leave whomever prevails with the capacity to carry out global despotism on an even grander scale. 

File:Dnepr inside silo.jpg
Image: A Russian nuclear missile. It was mutually assured destruction – the ultimate balance of power – that prevented catastrophic war from breaking out between East and West. Balancing power, offering deterrence against aggression and exploitation has been the study of tacticians for thousands of years and is a subject the global elite are well versed in. The masses must also familiarize themselves with such concepts and formulate their own means of balancing power locally and nationally to keep in check powers both foreign and domestic that seek domination through exploiting economic, social, and tactical disparity. (source: Wikipedia)  
….
Worldwide, people must begin identifying national and international special interests, and rejecting them all entirely. They must begin devising local alternatives by leveraging technology and collaboration where possible, and realizing that nationalism, localism, and borders in general represent indispensable protective bulkheads with which to stop the spread of abuse of power, exploitation, military aggression, corruption of all kinds, and both social and financial dysfunction. 

Like a fleet of compartmentalized ships, a world of nation-states is able to cooperate, communicate, and collaborate efficiently, “traveling together” when desired, but maintains the option of changing course to avoid collisions, and “sealing off” sections internally to prevent a single hole from compromising an entire vessel. Global cooperation, communication, and collaboration does not require “globalization” and foolish interdependencies that leave all nations vulnerable and at risk when any single point falters or if globalization’s centralized institutions become corrupted. We need not pick between “isolationism” and “globalization,” we can meet in the middle and enjoy the benefits of both, afforded to us by the modern nation-state and traditional diplomacy, while hedging against the risks each option represents individually.

An Informed, Active, & Vigilant Citizenry Is Needed 

The world must perform a careful balancing act to ensure Western financier oligarchy is kept in check, or ideally rolled back, while ensuring in our haste or zeal we do not create its replacement in the process. An international, multipolar balance of power requires that each nation-state acquires, maintains, and continuously expands a certain degree of independence in terms of economics and defense. Within a nation and its provinces, to achieve such balance, a certain degree of independence amongst individuals and their communities is required. To enhance individual and local independence, we can do everything from being responsible firearms owners, growing a garden, patronizing local businesses and industry, learning a trade, and simply learning how to organize and work with our neighbors to solve our own problems.

While we are faced with immense, overwhelming global problems stemming from monolithic powers – these powers are fed by each and every one of us individually when we pay into multinational corporations and their contrived institutions, laws, and regulations. If our collective actions can create and compound these problems, surely they can solve them.

It is disparity that is used to sell globalization; disparity in climate, in the resources present within one’s borders, of the quality and education of one’s work force, and the disparity between nations in their ability to defend themselves. These are all factors that govern the form globalization takes, including all of its supposed benefits and the serial exploitation it leaves behind. We are told that globalization’s interdependent relationships governed by centralized international institutions are the keys to solving these disparities. This is not true.

Policy never has and never will solve our problems as a species. Instead, it is through technological research and development, innovation and invention, investment in defense, infrastructure, and education that these disparities can truly be reduced or all together eliminated, creating stronger communities and in-turn a stronger nation-state while deterring aggression and exploitation at our borders. Trade and collaboration with one’s neighbors becomes a supplement to a strong independent nation, not a necessity and certainly not a liability in a time of crisis.

We must ask our elected representatives why these obvious measures are not being taken to address these disparities. Why are we exploiting poorly educated workforces for cheap labor instead of leveraging technology and education to create the same products domestically, better and cheaper? Why are we importing certain goods instead of devising ways to produce them locally? Why are we struggling for fuel abroad instead of making a serious effort to develop alternatives at home? The questions could go on ad infinitum and illustrate just how globalization has been sold as a ready-made solution to artificially created and/or perpetuated problems. It also illustrates the necessity for regular people to boycott the corporations and institutions perpetuating such flawed policy, and devise solutions themselves. 

 
Photo: Neil Gershenfeld of MIT’s “Fab Lab” project seeks to provide modern manufacturing technology to people around the world to solve local problems with local, technological solutions. Fab Labs and “maker spaces” are turning up in communities around the world, literally putting the means of production into the masses’ hands, and are a good place to start for people interested in organizing locally, sharing knowledge, and collaborating on projects that leverage technology to the benefit of everyone. Balancing power need not involve weapons of mass destruction or violent uprisings – an informed, educated, technically competent self-sufficient population starves the forces of parasitic elitism out of existence.
….
It is essential to examine the state of modern technology today, from communication and education, to manufacturing technology, to see what can be leveraged by people on a local level so that communities can not only devise their own programs to address their problems, but so that they can begin implementing solutions on their as well. As communities grow stronger, their ability to influence pragmatic positive change provincially and nationally will increase and a balance of power may be struck.

Demanding change from a position of weakness, without even the means of sustaining one’s existence without the very corporations, institutions, and governments change is being demanded from, is strategically untenable. Individuals and local communities must build-up their capacity in terms of education, economics, politics, and their ability to provide for themselves adequate order and security (through effective Constitutional sheriffs for instance). Only then will the people possess a sufficient deterrence against exploitation, as well as possess the leverage needed to make demands or simply achieve on their own what they desire.

 Conclusion

There is already the European Union and the African Union. There exists an informal North American Union and a transatlantic partnership. The excuse of a rising China has spurred Southeast Asia into forming the ill-advised ASEAN bloc, complete with European Union-style institutions, ready to fail just as spectacularly both politically and economically. Even the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation comes with it the potential of consolidating the “other side” of the world into a growing supranational bloc.

People must inform themselves of the differences between international cooperation, and recklessly lashing their ships together while gutting the watertight compartments within their own hulls. Generally, such self-defeating exercises are coordinated by piratical elements who find such consolidation and the removal of obstructions convenient for subsequent plundering – as the banks in America and Europe are currently doing to Western nation-states.

Recent tensions with Russia herald the rise of not individual superpowers this time, but the rise of “superpower blocs.” We must ensure we do not fall for a strategy of tension that leaves us all at the mercy of a terribly powerful, supranationally-consolidated victor, be it East or West. Alliances that pose as anti-fascism or anti-imperialism must make the appropriate assurances that a multipolar world order will prevail, strengthening the nation-state and the individual, not undermining them.

Simultaneously, we as individuals must be resolved to taking our fates into our own hands, taking back the responsibilities demanded of a free citizenry that we have long ago traded in for the convenience offered by monopolies of all kinds. It has been our collective negligence that has led to a world of such disparities – it must be our collective resolve that rectifies them.
 
For more information on solutions, please visit the Land Destroyer Report’s “Solutions” archives.

The Truth About JP Morgan’s $2 Billion Loss

May 16th, 2012 by Washington's Blog

Before we can understand what’s really going on with JP Morgan’s loss (which will probably end up being a lot more than $2 billion), we need a little background.

JP Morgan:

  • Essentially wrote the faux “reform” legislation for derivatives, which did nothing to decrease risk, and killed any chance of real reform
  • Has had large potential exposures to credit default swap losses for years
  • Has replaced the chief investment officer who made the risky bets with a trader who worked at Long Term Capital Management … which committed suicide by making risky bets
  • … and again in 2007  ( and was saved both times by the government at taxpayer expense)

In addition, JPM’s CEO Jamie Dimon:

  • Is a Class A Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which is the chief bank regulator for Wall Street (including JPM).  Indeed, Dimon served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at the same time that his bank received emergency loans from the Fed and was used by the Fed as a clearing bank for the Fed’s emergency lending programs. In 2008, the Fed provided JP Morgan Chase with $29 billion in financing to acquire Bear Stearns.  At the time, Dimon persuaded the Fed to provide JP Morgan Chase with an 18-month exemption from risk-based leverage and capital requirements. He also convinced the Fed to take risky mortgage-related assets off of Bear Stearns balance sheet before JP Morgan Chase acquired this troubled investment bank
  • Has a reputation of being the “golden boy” and smartest guy on Wall Street
  • Jokes about a new financial crisis happening “every five to seven years”

What Does It Mean?

Pundits and consumers alike are reacting to JP Morgan’s loss like a startled herd of sheep.

They somehow believed that the “best of the breed” bank and CEO – the biggest boy on the block – was immune from losses.  Especially since JPM has been so favored by the Feds, and Dimon was so favored that he was being groomed for Secretary of Treasury.

And the fact that the head cheerleader for letting banks police themselves has egg on his face is making a lot of people nervous.

And that the biggest of the too big to fails could conceivably fail.

The government says its launching a criminal probe into JPM’s trades.

Ratings services have downgraded JPM’s credit, and many commentators have noted that other banks may be downgraded as well.

Elizabeth Warren is calling for Dimon to resign from the New York Fed:

 
Even CNBC is now calling for Glass-Steagall to be put back in place.

Banking expert Chris Whalen writes:

Someone at the Fed should have at least secondary accountability for the JPM losses if the VaR model/process was faulty. Is there any accountability for incompetent, badly managed federal bank regulators? As our colleague Janet Tavakoli wrote in the Huffington Post: “The U.S. can count on JPMorgan to continue both long and short market manipulation and take its winnings and losses from blind gambles. Shareholders, taxpayers, and consumers will foot the bill for any unpleasant global consequences.”

We think that the loss by JPM is ultimately yet another legacy of the era of “laissez-faire” regulation and even overt Fed advocacy for the use of OTC derivatives by US banks. Fed officials such as Pat Parkinson, who retired as head of the Fed’s division of supervision and regulation in January, were effectively lobbyists for the large banks and their derivatives activities. It seems a little ridiculous for the same Fed officials who caused the problem over the years to now be tasked with investigating JPM, much less regulation of large bank dealings in OTC instruments.

And Reuters correctly notes:

JP Morgan Chase’s loss is the perhaps inevitable result of the interaction of two policies: too big to fail and zero interest rates.

***

Too big to fail, the de facto insurance provided by the U.S. to financial institutions so big their failure would be disastrous, provides JP Morgan and its peers with a material advantage in funding and as counterparties. Depositors see it as an advantage, as do bondholders and other lenders. That leaves TBTF banks flush with cash.

At the same time, ultra-low interest rates make the traditional business of banks less attractive, naturally leading to a push to make money elsewhere. [See this.] With interest rates virtually nothing at the short end but not terribly higher three, five or even 10 years out, net interest margins, once the lifeblood of large money center banks, are disappointingly thin. Given that investors are rightly dubious about the quality of bank earnings, and thus unwilling to attach large equity market multiples to them, this puts even more pressure on managers to look elsewhere for profits.

Investors believe, rightly, that the largest banks won’t be allowed to fail; what they also appear to believe is that they very well may not be able to prosper and that to the extent they do shareholders won’t fairly participate.

What would you do if you had a built-in funding advantage but little demand for your services as a traditional lender, i.e., one which borrows short and lends long? If you are anything like JP Morgan Chase appears to be you will put some of that lovely liquidity to work in financial markets, hoping to turn a built-in advantage into revenue.

JP Morgan stoutly maintains that the purpose of the trades was to hedge exposure elsewhere, as opposed to being proprietary trading intended to generate profits. That’s contradicted by a report from Bloomberg citing current and former employees of the chief executive office, including its former head of credit trading. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-14/dimon-fortress-breached-as-push-from-hedging-to-betting-blows-up.html

The Volcker Rule, now being shaped, is intended to stop such speculative trades, though in practice debating what is a hedge and what isn’t is a sort of angels-dancing-on-the-heads-of-pins argument which makes effective regulation almost impossible.

***

The keys are motive, opportunity and ability. Profits – and the investment office is reported to have made considerable ones in the past – provide a more believable motive than simple hedging. Opportunity is afforded by the combination of a privileged funding cost combined with poor alternative places to put money to work elsewhere in the banking business. While there may be some active borrowers, and TBTF banks enjoy an unfair advantage in serving their needs, the trans-Atlantic balance-sheet recession means households and businesses are showing a preference for paying back loans rather than taking them out.

Bruce Lee, chief credit officer of Fifth Third Bancorp, which isn’t TBTF, was frank about this recently, saying that the value of deposit funding was now at its lowest in his career.

Finally there is ability, and like common sense all bankers believe they have the ability to trade successfully despite the wealth of historical evidence to the contrary.

While events show clearly that JP Morgan wasn’t able to adequately manage its own business, an attack on it engaging in speculation doesn’t actually hinge on that.

There is clearly a public policy outrage here because should JP Morgan find itself in difficulties due to speculation the taxpayer will end up paying the freight. That’s probably not even the worst of it. All of the profits that TBTF banks make through speculation have been subsidized and enabled by the taxpayer. It is obvious that managers and employees have an incentive to take risks because, after all, TBTF may not be forever but they will capture 35 or 40 percent of the inflated takings so long as it lasts. Even if JP Morgan never blew up speculative trades, we should still oppose them so long as they are made possible and profitable by government policy.

Raising interest rates in order to remove an incentive to speculation probably wouldn’t work; low rates are the result of too much debt as well as a palliative for that disease.

The Volcker Rule won’t be effective; it is impossible to distinguish hedges from speculation and either can blow up banks.

The better alternative is to end the policy of too big to fail, preferably while at the same time forcing all banks out of the business of market speculation through a revival of the kind of Glass-Steagall-like policy which encouraged a small and useful financial sector for decades, forcing those that want government insurance to act like utilities, taking deposits, processing payments and making simple loans.

Let the investment banks take their risks, take their chances and suffer their losses – as separate entities.

Japan planned to sign a contract with the United States next month for the purchase of four F-35 stealth fighter jets despite a price increase for the aircraft, local media reported Monday.

The fighter jets are set to be delivered before the end of fiscal year 2016 and may cost about 138 million U.S. dollars per unit. The Japanese government is making arrangements with the U.S. for the purchase as part of the budget in the current fiscal year which ends next March, Xinhua reported.

The Japanese government decided in December to choose the F-35 stealth jet, developed by the United States and eight other countries, as the country’s next-generation fighter jet.

The government originally estimated the price of the jet to be about 9.9 billion yen (about 123 million U.S. dollars) per aircraft. The price rose after the U.S. decided to postpone its purchase of the jets due to its defense budget cuts.

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter, which had been reviewed along with Boeing’s FA-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon, will replace the country’s 40-year-old fleet of F-4s.

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Una delle capacità dell’Arte della guerra del XXI secolo è quella di cancellare dalla memoria la guerra stessa, dopo che è stata effettuata, occultando le sue conseguenze. I responsabili di aggressioni, invasioni e stragi possono così indossare la veste dei buoni samaritani, che tendono la mano caritatevole soprattutto ai bambini e ai giovani, prime vittime della guerra. L’Italia – dopo aver messo a disposizione della Nato sette basi aeree per le 10mila missioni di attacco alla Libia, e avervi partecipato sganciando un migliaio di bombe e missili – ha varato un «progetto a favore dei minori colpiti da traumi psicologici derivanti dal recente conflitto». Il progetto, del costo di 1,5 milioni di euro, prevede l’invio di una task force di esperti che opererà a Bengasi, Tripoli e Misurata, collaborando con le «autorità libiche». Le stesse che perfino il Consiglio di sicurezza dell’Onu chiama in causa per «le continue detenzioni illegali, torture ed esecuzioni extragiudiziarie». In Afghanistan, dove ogni anno muoiono migliaia di bambini per gli effetti diretti e indiretti della guerra, gli aerei italiani non lanciano solo bombe e missili, ma viveri, indumenti, quaderni e  penne per i bambini, così da «integrare l’azione operativa con l’attività di supporto umanitario». Un centinaio di fortunati bambini ha ricevuto, in una base militare italiana, un pacco dono, frutto di «una raccolta spontanea durante le celebrazioni delle Sante Messe». «Con l’occasione», alcuni sono stati perfino visitati da un ufficiale medico pediatra. E quando la piccola Fatima ha avuto un braccio maciullato da un ingranaggio, c’è stata la «corsa generosa e disperata» verso l’ospedale, effettuata con un Lince, il blindato usato dagli italiani nella guerra in Afghanistan. In Iraq, l’Italia è impegnata in un «progetto comune contro la tratta di esseri umani», di cui sono vittime soprattutto  ragazze e ragazzi, costretti alla prostituzione e al lavoro forzato nelle monarchie del Golfo. Nascondendo il fatto che tale fenomeno è uno degli effetti della guerra, cui ha partecipato anche l’Italia. Le vittime dirette sono state, nel 2003-11, almeno un milione e mezzo, di cui circa il 40% bambini, documenta il Tribunale di Kuala Lumpur sui crimini di guerra. Molti altri bambini sono morti per le armi a uranio impovertito,  che hanno contaminato il terreno e le acque. A Fallujah, le malfomazioni cardiache dei neonati risultano 13 volte superiori alla media europea, e quelle del sistema nervoso superiori di 33 volte. A mietere un maggior numero di vittime è il collasso della società irachena, provocato dalla guerra. Circa 5 milioni di bambini sono orfani e circa 500mila vivono abbandonati nelle strade,  3,5 milioni sono in povertà assoluta, 1,5 milioni di età inferiore ai cinque anni sono denutriti e in media ne muoiono 100 al giorno. Sono queste le prime vittime della tratta di esseri umani: bambine di 11-12 anni sono vendute per 30mila dollari ai trafficanti. A provocare questo immenso dramma contribuisce l’Italia, partecipando alle guerre camuffate da missioni internazionali di pace. Anche se il presidente Napolitano, rivolgendosi ai militari in missione, assicura: «Voi oggi, e altri prima di voi, avete dato un grandissimo contributo a un rinnovato prestigio e alla credibilità dell’Italia».   

Ron Paul Ends His Campaign In New Primary States … What Does It Mean?

The corporate media is abuzz with headlines saying that Ron Paul has finally seen the light, thrown in the towel, and ended his campaign.

However, Ron Paul supporters believe that – while he won’t be campaigning in the primary states – Paul is still in the race, and will be focusing on winning delegates in caucus states.

For example, Policy Mic argues:

Ron Paul announced today in a letter to supporters that he will not campaign for the popular vote in states that have yet to held their primaries.

In his under-reported IDD strategy (“It’s the Delegates, Dummy”), Paul has focused on the fact that presidential nominees are chosen by delegates, not by popular vote. Paul’s campaign has focused to date especially on states that allow committed Republican Party members to have a greater voice in the process. States like Iowa, Nevada, Maine, Louisiana, Washington, and Colorado have been states where Paul supporters have made tremendous inroads in winning party leadership positions and being influential in the national delegate selection process. While many states have yet to finish the delegate selection process, it increasingly looks like Paul could dominate the nationwide delegate process called long ago in Romney’s favor.

Paul’s announcement today fits that same vein, but will no doubt surprise many of his supporters. Not only is Paul saying “It’s the Delegates Dummy” to Mitt Romney and the national media, he is taking it a step further and saying that spending his supporters’ money on winning the popular vote is of such little importance to the campaign that they aren’t going to waste time or money on that any longer.

Does that mean Paul has dropped out? Quit the race? Suspended his campaign? Packed his bags? Returned home to lil ole Lake Jackson, Texas? No, it means quite the opposite. It means that Paul will have more ability to focus on delegate selection instead of the many upcoming winner take all states.

As has been the case from January 3 – the night of the Iowa Caucus – this is a two man race. It’s Mitt Romney v. Ron Paul. Paul, the seasoned campaigner, will be on Romney’s heels through to the RNC in August. If Romney makes 1,144 delegates on the first ballot, Romney becomes the Republican nominee. If Romney slips, the man on his heels will gladly take his place. That’s been the story since Iowa and remains the story today. The decision remains in the hands of 2,286 Republican delegates, many of whom have yet to be chosen. Will it be more of the same or will it be the man who’s spent some 40 years standing on his principle against the GOP establishment both inside DC and out?

The following videos show that passionate Paul supporters believe that Paul is still in the race:

 
Is this wishful thinking by Paul supporters … or for real?

Certainly, the timing will strike Paul supporters as odd, given that Paul has picked up a huge number of delegates in recent weeks, and the fact is starting to be known that delegates pledged to Romney can switch their vote at will.

But mixed messages are coming out of the Paul camp … even as they claim that Paul is still in the race.

As senior Paul adviser Doug Wead writes today:

“We are absolutely not dropping out of this race! We are focusing our efforts squarely on winning delegates and party leadership positions at state conventions.”

- Jesse Benton, Campaign Chairman

Ron Paul announced today he would not be competing in the upcoming primary states, saying that he would focus, instead, on his delegate strategy. A strategy that is working, by the way, and transforming the Republican Party. It is something he has said many times since the February 11, 2012 caucus in Maine.

Only this time, the main stream media gave the announcement full attention and treated it like the end of his campaign. Drudge ran it as a front page headline “Ron Paul is out.”

***

For the last two years the national media has been saying that Ron Paul is out. So how could that possibly be news? One might ask, “When has the mainstream media ever thought that Ron Paul was in?”

Bracing for a Ron Paul win in Iowa, major new outlets last January announced that if he won, the Iowa Caucus, itself, would be discredited. According to the New York Times and the Associated Press, Ron Paul is still listed as the recipient of one, count em, one delegate from Iowa, a state that he now dominates.

Likewise, the fact that Ron Paul supporters took a big chunk of the delegation of Mitt Romney’s home state of Massachusetts was not big news.

***
By ending the primary battles, Ron Paul is signalling to the field that this is the end of hostilities. In primaries you end up tearing each other down. It is millions of dollars spent on negative advertising. In caucuses, as brutal as they may be, you change the Republican Party, you empower the new and challenge the established.

The delegate strategy is working. That is the way we will impact the platform in Tampa. That is the way we will begin the process of change. It is through the caucuses that we are attracting youth, like the twenty-one year old woman recently elected to the national committee from Maine or the Ron Paul Hispanics or the Independents who have never been involved in party politics.

***Our people have been punched, yelled at, lied to and worked until they can hardly stand. But on they come, fighting for their children, fighting for their future, angry at the corruption of the banks, of Wall Street, of the lobbyists, of the congress, of the White House. The battle for liberty is not over. It has just taken on a new phase. It cannot be stopped by the national media. If that were the case it would never have been born in the first place.

And some will say that it is a lost cause, which I will not concede but it does remind me of Clarence Darrow’s famous line, “Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.”

The US-Israeli Special Relationship

May 15th, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

Strategic interests largely benefitting Israel, not shared values, are at issue. Washington doesn’t provide the Jewish state more aid than all other nations combined because of historic binding ties.

On March 25, 1948, Harry Truman met secretly with Chaim Weizmann (Israel’s first president). He pledged support for the future Jewish state. Minutes after midnight on May 15, 1948, America was the first country to extend recognition.

A special relationship began. Thereafter it’s grown financially, politically, militarily, diplomatically, and counterproductively. Israel clearly benefits. America loses more than it gains. Serious reassessment is long overdue. 

On many issues mattering most, the Israeli tail wags the US dog, whether or not Washington’s interests are served.

Both countries threaten world peace. United they endanger humanity. On February 9, 2010, an Intelligence Squared debate resolved: “The US should step back from its special relationship with Israel,” saying:

“Israel believes America’s special relationship is vital. It is, certainly, to Israel. But what about for the US? Israel has no oil, enemies in many places, and a tendency to defy Washington when it perceives its own interests to be threatened, which is not infrequently.”

Does America’s relationship do more harm than good? Is it time to step back and reconsider? These and related issues weren’t resolved. Raising them publicly served a purpose. 

A packed New York University student union showed people want answers they haven’t gotten. Together these pariah states menace humanity. Breaking up is long overdue.

In their book titled “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,” John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argue that Israel is “increasingly a strategic liability….It is time for the United States to treat Israel not as a special case but as a normal state, and to deal with it much as it deals with any other country.”

Doing so “means no longer pretending that Israel and America’s interests are identical, or acting as if Israel deserves steadfast US support no matter what it does.”

James Petras said “(t)he US-Israeli relationship is the first in modern history in which the imperial country covers up a deliberate major military assault by a supposed ally.”

He referred to the 1967 USS Liberty attack. Israel bombed and strafed it. Dozens of US seamen were killed. Around 170 were wounded. The vessel was heavily damaged. Israel got away with murder. It wasn’t the first or last time.

From then to now, the relationship strengthened. Today more than ever it threatens world peace. Managed news perceptions conceal it from public view. It’s time to reveal what’s been denied too long. It’s time to cut ties and move on.

On May 9, greater cause emerged. The US House passed HR 4133: United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012. It went to the Senate for consideration.

It “express(es) the sense of Congress regarding the United States-Israel strategic relationship, to direct the President to submit to Congress reports on United States actions to enhance this relationship and to assist in the defense of Israel, and for other purposes.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R. VA) introduced it. He had 304 co-sponsors. It passed 411 – 2. Nine didn’t vote. Another nine voted present.

John Dingell (D. MI) voted “Nay.” So did Ron Paul. Passage “will lead to war,” he said. More on his comments below.

On May 9, US sovereignty lost another round. Netanyahu is a global menace. HR 4133 facilitates his belligerence. Chances for war on Syria and Iran increased.

Israeli weapons aid insurgents against Assad. Its satellite images claim Iran’s developing nuclear weapons. Known facts belie contentions. Netanyahu hypes the threat. Congressional allies support him. More ammunition came on May 9.

AIPAC praised the bill’s passage. Rising regional threats warrant it was claimed. “America and Israel must further enhance their strong security relationship in this dangerous environment.”

“Cooperation with Israel strongly supports American security interests.”

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) also “strongly praised” the bill’s passage.

“This bipartisan legislation reaffirms and strengthens the deep military and security relationship between the United States and Israel, and reflects the bi-partisan consensus of the US Congress that this relationship must continue to thrive.” 

“It also reaffirms Israel’s right to defend itself against threats and reiterates America’s unshakable commitment to Israel’s security, recognizing that a secure Israel will always be in America’s national interest.”

Ron Paul disagreed. On the House floor, he said:

“Mr. Speaker: I rise in opposition to HR 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, which unfortunately is another piece of one-sided and counter-productive foreign policy legislation.” 

“This bill’s real intent seems to be more saber-rattling against Iran and Syria, and it undermines US diplomatic efforts by making clear that the US is not an honest broker seeking peace for the Middle East.”

“The bill calls for the United States to significantly increase our provision of sophisticated weaponry to Israel, and states that it is to be US policy to ‘help Israel preserve its qualitative military edge’ in the region.”

Sovereign nations should handle their own security issues. US taxpayers shouldn’t underwrite others. Neither should America’s military.

The bill states US policy “reaffirm(s) the enduring commitment of the United States to the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.”

America’s committed to protect its own security, not “guarantee the religious, ethnic, or cultural composition of a foreign country.”

“More than 20 years after” Soviet Russia dissolved, HR 4133 seeks new reasons to maintain NATO’s “anachronistic alliance: the defense of Israel.”

The bill wants Israel more involved in NATO, “including an enhanced presence at (its) headquarters and exercises.”

It’s a “dream” act “for interventionists and the military industrial complex.” Paul wants NATO “disbanded not expanded.”

“This bill will not help the United States, it will not help Israel, and it will not help the Middle East.” It facilitates greater regional interventionism at a time there’s already too much. “It more likely will lead to war against Syria, Iran or both.”

Paul urged House colleagues to vote Nay. Only John Dingell agreed and did so.

The stronger US/Israeli ties bind, the more likely global war approaches. Israel’s a strategic liability for America, the region and world. 

Neither reflects democratic values. Allied with Israel, the US is more vulnerable to attack and more likely to embroil the world in conflict. Both reflect the worst of the other. With these type allies, who needs enemies.

Each lacks moral standing. Neither respects human rights. Both are the world’s main offenders. Pointing fingers elsewhere can’t hide truths too glaring to deny.

Successive administrations in both countries have abusive track records enough to make some despots blush. Destructiveness between them made the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

What’s in it for America by giving Israel more? How do US people benefit? They’ve got a right to rage about lavish aid to Israel at a time they’re asked to sacrifice.

Middle East polls reflect hostile Arab street US sentiment. When asked how best Washington can improve its standing, responses overwhelmingly say change regional policies and stop supporting Israel.

Growing numbers of Jews oppose Israeli policies. American ones want a relationship this destructive ended. 

So do millions of people worldwide. An alliance based on militarism, belligerence, racism, and human rights abuses is crucial to end, not support. Doing it before it’s too late matters most.

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

His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”

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

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

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

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday urged international bodies operating in Kosovo to prevent the region from turning into a training ground for Syrian rebels.

A delegation from the Syrian opposition visited Kosovo in April to allegedly make a deal on exchanging experience in guerilla warfare against ruling authorities.

So far, the fractured Syrian opposition has been unable to form a steady front against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Russian ministry said in a statement that the talks covered not only the ways of organizing armed resistance against authorities but also the training of Syrian militants in Kosovo.

“There are plans to use the areas [in Kosovo] that resemble the terrain in Syria. The possibility of setting up training camps at the former bases of the Kosovo Liberation Army [KLA] is also being discussed,” the statement said.

“Transforming Kosovo into an international training ground for armed militants may become a serious destabilizing factor that could extend beyond the Balkans,” the document said. “We urge international bodies operating in Kosovo to take all necessary steps to prevent these plans.”

The ethnic Albanian KLA fought a separatist war against the regime of President Slobodan Milosevic in 1998-99. About 10,000 people died in the Kosovo conflict.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008.

Both Serbia and Russia have refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence.

The Case of the Missing Terrorists

May 15th, 2012 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

If there were any real terrorists, Jose Rodriguez would be dead.


Who is Jose Rodriguez?  He is the criminal who ran the CIA torture program.  Most of his victims were not terrorists or even insurgents.  Most were hapless individuals kidnapped by warlords and sold to the Americans as “terrorists” for the bounty paid.

If Rodriguez’s identity was previously a secret, it is no more.  He has been on CBS “60 Minutes” taking credit for torturing Muslims and using the information allegedly gained to kill leaders of al Qaeda. If terrorists were really the problem that Homeland Security, the FBI and CIA claim, Rodriguez’s name would be a struck through item on the terrorists’ hit list. He would be in his grave. 

So, also, would be John Yoo, who wrote the Justice (sic) Department memos giving the green light to torture, despite US and International laws prohibiting torture. Apparently, Yoo, a professor at the Boalt School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, was ignorant of US and international law. And so was the US Department of Justice (sic).

Notice that Rodriguez, “The Torturer of the Muslims,” does’t have to hide. He can go on national television, reveal his identity, and revel in his success in torturing and murdering Muslims.  Rodriguez has no Secret Service protection and would be an easy mark for assassination by terrorists so capable as to have, allegedly, pulled off 9/11.

Another easy mark for assassination would be former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who staffed up the Pentagon with neoconservative warmongers such as Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, who in turn concocted the false information used to justify the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Rumsfeld himself declared members of al Qaeda to be the most vicious and dangerous killers on earth.  Yet Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Richard Perle, together with neoconservative media propagandists, such as William Kristol and Max Boot, have been walking around safe for years unmolested by terrorists seeking revenge or bringing retribution to those responsible for as many as 1,000,000 Muslim deaths. 

Condi Rice, Colin Powell, who delivered the Speech of Lies to the UN inaugurating the invasion of Iraq, and Dick Cheney, whose minimal Secret Service protection could not withstand a determined assassination attempt, also enjoy lives unmolested by terrorists.

Remember the deck of cards that the Bush regime had with Iraqi faces?  If terrorists had a similar deck, all of those named above would be “high value targets.”  Yet, there has not been a single attempt on any one of them.

Strange, isn’t it, that none of the above are faced with a terrorist threat. Yet, the tough, macho Navy Seals who allegedly killed Osama bin Laden must have their identity kept hidden so that they don’t become terrorist targets.  These American supermen, highly trained killers themselves, don’t dare show their faces, but Rodriguez, Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice can walk around unmolested. Indeed, the Seals’ lives are so endangered that President Obama gave up the enormous public relations political benefit of a White House ceremony with the heroic Navy Seals.  Very strange behavior for a politician.  A couple of weeks after the alleged bin Laden killing, the Seals unit, or most of it, was wiped out in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. 

If you were a Muslim terrorist seeking retribution for Washington’s crimes, would you try to smuggle aboard an airliner a bomb in your underwear or shoe in order to blow up people whose only responsibility for Washington’s war against Muslims is that they fell for Washington’s propaganda? 

Before some reader accuses me of giving terrorists ideas, ask yourself if you really think people so clever as to have allegedly planned and carried out 9/11 couldn’t think of such simple tactics, plots that could be carried out without having to defeat security or kill innocent people?  My point isn’t what terrorists, if they exist, should do. The point is that the absence of easy-to-do acts of terrorism suggests that the terrorist threat is more hype than reality. Yet, we have an expensive, intrusive security apparatus that seems to have no real function except to exercise power over American citizens.

In place of real terrorists carrying out easy plots, we have “terrorist” plots dreamed up by FBI and CIA agents, who then recruit some hapless or demented dupes, bribing them with money and heroic images of themselves, and supplying them with the plot and fake explosives. These are called “sting operations,” but they are not.  They are orchestrations by our own security agencies that produce fake terrorist plots that are then “foiled” by the security agencies that hatched the plots. Washington’s announcement is always: “The public was never in danger.”  Some terrorist plot!  We have never been endangered by one, but the airports have been on orange alert for 11.5 years.  

The federal judiciary and brainwashed juries actually treat these concocted plots as real threats to American security despite the government’s announcements that the public was never in danger.

 

The announcements of the “foiled” plots keep the brainwashed public docile and amenable to intrusive searches, warrantless spying, the growth of an unaccountable police state, and endless wars.

The “War on Terror” is a hoax, one that has been successfully used to destroy the US Constitution and to complete the transformation of law from a shield of the people into a weapon in the hands of the state.  By destroying habeas corpus, due process, and the presumption of innocence, the “War on Terror” has destroyed our security.

For a detailed discussion of the destruction of the protective features of law as a shield of the people against arbitrary government power, see Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence Stratton, The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

According to a 2007 New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh, “The Redirection,” the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia had been assembling a region-wide army of extremist-mercenaries to battle Hezbollah in Lebanon, destabilize and overthrow Syria, and create a united front against Iran. The forces recruited for this effort would come from the ranks of the CIA-created “Arab foreign legion,” Al Qaeda itself – extremist groups fresh back from fighting US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, including listed terror organizations like the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) from Libya.

Hersh’s 2007 report exposed the groundwork for the very violence unfolding in Syria today, and now Lebanon. Forces to destabilize Syria were primarily to be staged in northern Lebanon, as explained in the article, and indeed the heaviest fighting over the last year has been seen in the Syrian city of Homs, just across the border from northern Lebanon. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his government have been, since the beginning of the violence, attempting to illustrate just this – explained in detail in 2007, and demonstratively being carried out today, with responsibility for deadly bombings being claimed by terrorists, the Pentagon itself admitting Al Qaeda is present in Syria, and reports indicating foreign fighters, weapons, and cash are flowing over Syria’s borders.

Lebanon’s Turn?

Now, the very staging ground in northern Lebanon being used to destabilize neighboring Syria has erupted into violence. Not by Syrian troops crossing the border, but by indigenous Lebanese factions facing off against each other. News is trickling out slowly and the Western media appears intent on keeping the violence as nebulous and confused as possible, but initial information indicates that extremist groups backed by the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia are fighting factions connected to Hezbollah. Extremist leaders across the region are attempting to frame the violence as “Sunni verses Shi’ia,” a ploy Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned against back in 2007:

“Nasrallah accused the Bush Administration of working with Israel to deliberately instigate fitna, an Arabic word that is used to mean “insurrection and fragmentation within Islam.” “In my opinion, there is a huge campaign through the media throughout the world to put each side up against the other,” he said. “I believe that all this is being run by American and Israeli intelligence.” (He did not provide any specific evidence for this.) He said that the U.S. war in Iraq had increased sectarian tensions, but argued that Hezbollah had tried to prevent them from spreading into Lebanon. (Sunni-Shiite confrontations increased, along with violence, in the weeks after we talked.)” -The Redirection, Seymour Hersh

Far from genuine sectarian violence, it was planned since 2007, to use terrorist proxies in a battle stretching from Lebanon to Iran with Arab nations from North Africa to the Middle East aiding the effort, dominated by freshly installed US proxies (Tunisia & Libya) and the Muslim Brotherhood, stated in Hersh’s 2007 article to be wards of the West.

Violence has raged for nearly a week, in and around Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli. While being depicted as violence “spilling over” from Syria, it is clear that the violence is indigenous, sectarian in nature, and directly related to the larger conflict envisioned by US-Israeli-Saudi machinations in 2007 – pitting Sunnis against Shi’ia. An editorial from NOW Lebanon reveals the “sectarian” nature of the violence in Lebanon and how both sides identify as either supporters or opponents of the neighboring Syrian government.

This prevailing “sectarian” aspect reveals what has been stated by geopolitical analysts since the beginning of unrest in Syria – that the violence was driven not by “pro-democratic” aspirations, but by sectarian violence exploited for the sole purpose of advancing the agenda of foreign meddlers – sectarian violence that has now manifested itself in attacks on Christians, Druze, and Alawites, as well as moderate Sunnis across Syria in the midst of this so-called “democratic revolution.” 

The sectarian violence now unfolding in Tripoli is not unheard of in Lebanon. The Lebanese military has already been reportedly deployed but is sitting on the sidelines as factions war in the streets. The violence may ebb, as it has in the past, but with the Syrian unrest reaching a critical point and foreign powers desperate to change momentum that’s been working against them, foreign-backed terrorist forces could try to ignite a wider sectarian battle in Lebanon. This could be to paralyze Hezbollah ahead of either a coup de grâce delivered to Syria by Turkey, or to simply inflame the entire region in conflict, making the movement of weapons, cash, and foreign support to proxy forces easier to move around, as well as grease the skids for introducing a Kosovo-style intervention.

Regardless, “sectarian” differences between Sunni and Shi’ia Muslims were planned for exploitation since at least as early as 2007 by the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, for the sole purpose of advancing their self-serving hegemonic agendas throughout the region. The violence that both sides are playing into will deprive their communities of the security and stability needed for all to prosper and progress, and ultimately leave them at the mercy of foreign dominion.

Through the Beyond the Border agreement released in December 2011, the U.S. and Canada are quietly implementing initiatives that are working towards establishing a North American security perimeter. This includes expanding trusted traveler programs, as well as enhancing integrated law enforcement and information sharing cooperation which has raised many privacy concerns that have yet to be properly addressed.

There are questions surrounding the Conservative government’s Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Act that also contains changes related to the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border action plan. This includes ratifying and making the Shiprider a legal and permanent program which will require amending the Criminal Code, along with the RCMP and Customs Act. The joint initiative officially known as the Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations first began as a pilot project. It allows RCMP and U.S. Coast Guard officers to operate vessels together and pursue criminals in the waters of both countries. The Council of Canadians reported that the NDP is demanding that the Shiprider policing program be taken out of budget implementation bill. Brian Masse, the NDP border critic is pushing for separate legislation and pointed out that, “it’s totally irresponsible to have it as part of the Budget Implementation Act.” He added, “There’s significant policing issues that really warrant a standalone bill. If it was so important that they did all the fanfare for it, why doesn’t it warrant its own process?” The proposed changes could have serious sovereignty implications with regards to accountability, due process and civil rights and therefore, need to be fully scrutinized.

The U.S. and Canada are also scheduled to deploy a land-based version of the Shiprider program at some point this summer. As part of the security perimeter deal, both countries will, “implement two Next-Generation pilot projects to create integrated teams in areas such as intelligence and criminal investigations, and an intelligence-led uniformed presence between ports of entry.” In September 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed plans that would allow law enforcement officers to operate on both sides of the border. He announced that, “the creation of ‘NextGen’ teams of cross-designated officers would allow us to more effectively identify, assess, and interdict persons and organizations involved in transnational crime.” Holder went on to say, “In conjunction with the other provisions included in the Beyond the Border Initiative, such a move would enhance our cross-border efforts and advance our information-sharing abilities.” Both countries continue to expand the nature and scope of joint law enforcement operations, along with intelligence collection and sharing.

On April 20 of this year, the Red River Integrated Border Enforcement Team’s (IBET) joint intelligence office was opened in Altona, Manitoba. The facility will house representatives from the RCMP, U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The IBET is a binational partnership designed to, “enhance border integrity and security along the shared Canada/U.S. border through identification, investigation and interdiction of persons, organizations and goods that threaten the national security of both countries or that are involved in organized criminal activity.” The specialized teams have been, “established in strategic regions to ensure more effective border enforcement capability between ports of entry, based on intelligence-led policing.” The new joint headquarters could serve as a model for other IBETs along the northern border.

On May 8, the CBP and the CBSA announced that, “they are delivering on key commitments under the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border Action Plan for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness—increasing benefits to NEXUS members, streamlining the NEXUS membership renewal process and launching a plan to increase NEXUS membership.” Under the NEXUS program, pre-screened travelers are granted expedited access across the border, by air, land or sea. Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews explained that, “The Border Action Plan is designed to speed up legitimate trade and travel, and improve security in North America by aligning the entry of people and goods at the perimeter while streamlining processes at the Canada-U.S. border. With these commitments to retain and increase NEXUS membership, Canada and the United States will increase efficiency to better focus their resources and examination efforts on travellers of high or unknown risk.” NEXUS is part of the process of implementing equivalent biometric standards across North America which could be used to restrict, track and trace our movements.

Last month, Canada’s federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, along with her provincial and territorial colleagues urged transparency and respect of Canadian privacy standards with regards to the perimeter security agreement. A joint resolution recommended that, “Any initiatives under the plan that collect personal information should also include appropriate redress and remedy mechanisms to review files for accuracy, correct inaccuracies and restrict disclosures to other countries; Parliament, provincial Privacy Commissioners and civil society should be engaged as initiatives under the plan take shape; Information about Canadians should be stored on Canadian soil whenever feasible or at least be subject to Canadian protection; and Any use of new surveillance technologies within Canada such as unmanned aerial vehicles must be subject to appropriate controls set out in a proper regulatory framework.” According to a self-imposed deadline, the U.S. and Canada are supposed to release privacy provisions associated with the perimeter security deal by May 30.

The perimeter agreement is also getting the attention of provincial and state leaders. B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Washington Governor Chris Gregoire have signed, “a joint letter to President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper commending the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border Action Plan and committing British Columbia and Washington to support and expedite federal commitments to improve the flow of people, goods and services across the border.” When the perimeter security deal was first released last year, Premier Clark issued a statement which welcomed the announcement. In addition, Washington’s state Legislature passed a joint memorial which also acknowledged its support. The backing of governments at all levels will further assist in implementing some of the Beyond the Border initiatives. Not to mention the fact that state and provincial regional integration is already being achieved in areas of trade, the environment and energy.

As the U.S.-Canada action plan implementation process continues, there still remains many concerns with the further integration and militarization of the northern border. This includes the loss of sovereignty and risks to privacy rights related to more cross-border sharing of personal information. While there have been online consultations surrounding the perimeter security agreement, there has yet to be any open public hearings or congressional and parliamentary debates.   
 
Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: [email protected]. Visit his blog at beyourownleader.blogspot.com

 

 

“Don’t waste any more time or energy on the presidential election than it takes to get to your polling station and pull a lever for a third-party candidate-—just enough to register your obstruction and defiance—and then get back out onto the street. That is where the question of real power is being decided.” Chris Hedges, May 2012

Runway capitalism is moving unrelentingly towards sociopolitical-environmental collapse—cheered on by a two-headed single party machine known as the US Congress. Activists, who see the coming disasters as catastrophic, are seeking revolutionary change through non-cooperation, and occupy disruptions. Yet, many are the still delusional hopefuls desperately fumbling with traditional responses; including “Kum ba yah” marches, and the futile support for progressive left-leaning candidates seeking positions of influence inside the Washington beltway.

Do we understand that habeas corpus is no longer a legal protection in the US or that the US president can torture and kill American citizens, let along anyone in the world?

How can we ignore the inconvenient truths of warrentless wire taps and electronic monitoring for everyone?

Why do we tolerate that US-NATO forces killing people in over one hundred countries in the world using special service operatives, private assassins and drones—a million civilians deaths in Iraq alone?

How can we be so blind as not to see our corporate media is a propaganda fog machine for the one percent?  These questions, reflecting the reality of America today, are so far from the values of our traditions that accepting any aspect of authority from Washington DC is a sacrilege to our honor. We are in desperate times.

In Congress, wealth begets membership, and wealth is the reward for correct action. The members in the House and Senate have a collective net worth of $2.04 billion, up from $1.65 billion, in 2008.  While at the same time, Americans’ household net worth has continued to declined and the number of people living in poverty has risen for the fifth year in a row.

The American Congress is in reality an artificial organization serving as cheerleader to the transnational corporate class of the world. Congress offers its members little more than a transitional path into the good life of corporate affluence as long as the members remain loyal to party discipline. 

Our legitimate electoral process has been completely usurped by the Supreme Court ruling that a corporation’s free speech rights allow unlimited campaign spending, and congressional lobbying knows no bounds. Any candidate willing to serve in the Democrat or Republican parties in the US congress today, even as a gadfly of resistance, is stepping beyond the pale of constitutional government.

Even if a Progressive Democrat of America—Moves On into the congressional circle, the magnitude of compromise demanded makes effective action impossible other than occasional symbolic votes of resistance. Those stepping out of party lines will invariably result in orchestrated opposition during the next selection cycle—Just ask Cynthia McKinney.

Reform is not an option. The only action possible is a complete and total return to the social justice values of our US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

We cannot allow extrajudicial killings, privacy invasions into our homes, and police state interceptions in the commons. We cannot allow global capitalism to continue to kill and impoverish billions of people and destroy the planet

Protecting and even rewriting our Constitution and our Bill of Rights will require revolutionary acts. We must retool our elections and eliminate/ignore the dark clouds of corporate media. A mass movement at this level requires grass roots action by a core of at least ten percent of our population. Getting one out of ten people actively involved is not at all impossible; this is where our traditional values meet human rights. We are a people of hope that only need to overcome our fears and find the voice of our values by using radical democracy for human betterment for all.

The right to vote is a long held value. We are often asked, “Why waste your vote on an independent third party candidate, who will never has a chance to win.” Can voting for a candidate who reflects your own political values and beliefs be a wasted vote? It seems that voting for your true beliefs is a self-actualizing act, and compromising one’s values to pick the lesser of two evils is self-alienating. Therefore, we urge all to continue to vote, but find candidates outside of the two party oligopoly. Maybe someday, self-actualized voting will be fashionable.  

Peter Phillips is a professor of political sociology and social movements at Sonoma State University. He is the president of Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored, and co-host with Mickey Huff of the weekly Project Censored Show on KPFA. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

It appears that Serbia’s presidential and parliamentary elections on May 6 were tainted with massive vote fraud, Chicago-style. What made the returns suspicious from the start is that parties aligned with the unpopular government were awarded an overwhelming 75% victory, while many opposition parties either failed to reach the parliamentary threshold altogether or just barely made it over the top with reduced representation. Another telltale sign was the bloated voting list which contained just 250,000 fewer names than the total population of Serbia, leading to the obvious conclusion that by the government’s reckoning everybody above kindergarten age was deemed fit to vote in this election.

No sooner did the polls close than reports of brazen irregularities began to pour in. For several days government spokesmen and State Electoral Commission officials tried to stonewall the issue. Serbian law gives dissatisfied parties a very short period, just three days after results are announced, to investigate irregularities and file their complaints. When activists of the mostly youthful anti-globalist movement Dveri (which according to official results remained just half a percentage point short of the minimum necessary to enter parliament) rushed to exercise their legal right to check voting materials, they were shocked. In numerous locations, voting protocols and ballots were clearly mismatched, ballots for Dveri and other opposition groups were invalidated although they had no apparent defects, and dead voters were massively backing government parties.

While the dimensions of the fraud are a very pertinent issue, it is more important to consider who is slated to be the beneficiary of the growing unrest in Serbia which is being provoked by the blatant dishonesty of the election process.

Vote theft might have been the primary issue if the elections had been structurally honest, which was not the case. There was no “equality of arms” between the slick and well funded government campaign and the opposition’s pathetic attempts to be heard, the media were almost entirely monopolized by the government, large sections of the voting public were brainwashed by pro-EU and NATO propaganda for years before these elections, and there was no focused public debate on any significant issue. Even if the votes had been counted honestly, morally and politically the election would have been a farce.

Both main contenders in the election, President Boris Tadic and Serbian Progressive Party leader Tomislav Nikolic, and their parties, are deeply beholden to Western interests. Tadic is under the wing of the current US ambassador to Serbia, Mary Warlick, while Nikolic’s chief mentor and political adviser is the former US ambassador, William Montgomery. There is little doubt that both Serbian politicians under the guidance of ultimately the same policy centre from abroad.

So the fundamental question is: what is the foreign sponsors’ basic interest in Serbia at this moment?

It is, first of all, to ensure the continuity of the present system which guarantees them the exercise of full political, economic, and strategic domination over the country. Next, when necessary, it has an interest in proactively eliminating threats to the stability of the system. Finally, it aims to prevent unanticipated and uncontrolled changes and to that end it always maintains at least one reserve team capable of taking over in an emergency.

Given current catastrophic social and economic conditions in Serbia, and negative trends all around, the situation is highly problematic. The next couple of years promise to be highly turbulent and the capacity of the current team around Tadic to hang on to the end of their next mandate is very dubious. The inevitable deterioration of internal conditions on all fronts and growing tensions which will accompany it could lead not just to the downfall of the regime (which is a minor point) but to the collapse of the system (which is major). The prospect of uncontrolled internal commotion could result in a fundamental shift in Serbia’s political orientation, which is unacceptable. That is why it is necessary to act pro-actively, and as quickly as possible. These elections are as good an occasion for that as any.

The two key components of that pro-active agenda are: manufacturing the illusion of change that could lead to tangible improvement in people’s lives, and the installation of an alternative loyal team tasked with nurturing that illusion while it continues to toe the line. It is desirable that this team be untainted with the excesses of the soon to be former regime. Among its main missions is to inject the appearance of integrity and a dose of optimism which could help to prolong the life of the system.

It was probably a correct assessment that Tadic has no remaining tricks in his bag to successfully keep the system going. That is why the choice apparently fell on his rival Tomislav Nikolic, until a few years ago an ardent nationalist and leader of imprisoned Vojislav Seselj’s Serbian Radical Party who broke with Seselj in 2009 under unexplained circumstances to form his own party and steadily move it into the EU/NATO globalist orbit. The now cooperative Nikolic has been integrated into the “mainstream” political process under the careful tutorship of his new Western mentors.

Although clear evidence at this point is lacking, the hypothesis should not be excluded that during election preparations Tadic and his team were led into a political trap similar to the one that set the stage for the first Gulf war. There is little doubt that in their desperate straits they would have found it difficult to resist the temptation of organizing election fraud. But the apparent brazenness and scope of the abuses discovered so far goes far beyond normal expectations. Did Tadic receive a green light to engage in fraud va banc because he received assurances that the guardians of democracy and the “rule of law” would overlook his indiscretions and not call him to account? Indeed, two days after the announcement of election results Tadic received warm congratulations on his “victory” from the head of the foreign diplomatic mission in Belgrade from which he is the most eager to take his instructions.

But just as these reassuring maneuvers were taking place, things were rapidly unraveling for the regime on the vote fraud investigation front. Spearheaded by Dveri, the protest movement was gradually reinforced over the rest of the post-election week not just by other opposition parties and regime critics but – significantly – by a number of political groups and individuals who would normally be regarded as Tadic’s allies and who draw their political sustenance from close strategic ties to the regime’s Western sponsors. By the weekend, there was an unmistakable impression of a rising tide of popular indignation and rebellion over the fraudulent elections in Serbia which put Tadic and his government’s spin doctors clearly on the defensive.

As the controversy was gathering momentum, Tadic’s principal rival, Tomislav Nikolic, kept his distance from the fray. It was almost a week after the elections when he and his party finally joined the election rebellion. On parliament steps, they dramatically showed a sack full of what they claimed were stuffed ballots and threatened to suspend their participation in the second round on May 20 unless fraud allegations were clarified. In the meantime, they promised mass public demonstrations as a form of pressure on the regime to cancel the official election results.

It is unlikely that Belgrade’s main square will come to resemble Cairo’s Tahrir because so far the attitude of the Serbian public has been marked by an extraordinary degree of docility and apathy. But there is little doubt that a commotion may be triggered sufficient to facilitate change in the ruling cadres. A significant indicator of the background and future course of this “Serbian election rebellion” will be the behavior of “Otpor”, the Western-trained regime change outfit that was instrumental in the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic and whose political condottieri are now subcontracting their services “color” revolutionaries worldwide. If they join the unrest in Serbia and assume a prominent role in directing it, that will help to connect many dots.

Another telltale sign will be if, when the protest movement expands and assumes a more “professional” character, Dveri and other politically unsophisticated forces are swept aside. Indications abound already that although they gave the initial impetus, they are now increasingly marginalized. It is to be expected that, like in Egypt, in the first phase all discontents will be unleashed and given maximum facilities to push the figure slated for political oblivion off the stage. In the following phase, as unrest grows, foreign sponsors will scold their domestic protégés for their errors and increasingly distance themselves from their politically isolated and discredited erstwhile allies. At the same time, deftly maneuvering its way, the newly anointed and equally loyal team will neutralize its no longer useful tactical partners from the dilettantish opposition. As the reserve leader is installed in the position vacated by his predecessor, the system is stabilized and it temporarily overcomes the crisis.

What awaits Serbia is cosmetic change with the subservient semi-colonial system remaining intact and the credulous masses receiving another dose of anesthetic.

As they say in America: the fix is in.

The Israel Lobby Never Sleeps

May 14th, 2012 by Philip Giraldi

There has been no media reporting on H.R.4133 — United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 introduced into the House of Representatives of the 112th Congress on March 5th “To express the sense of Congress regarding the United States-Israel strategic relationship, to direct the President to submit to Congress reports on United States actions to enhance this relationship and to assist in the defense of Israel, and for other purposes.” The sponsors include Eric Cantor, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Howard Berman (all of whom are Jewish) and also Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who is Norwegian but might as well be Jewish given his frequently expressed love for Israel. The bill provides Israel with a blank check drawn on the US taxpayer to maintain its “qualitative military superiority” over all of its neighbors combined. It is scheduled for passage on a “suspension of the rules,” which means it will not actually be voted on and will be approved by consent of Congress.

It is perhaps no coincidence that on Monday the Republicans in the guise of the redoubtable Howard “Buck” McKeon released their proposal for increased defense spending (yes, increased) for 2013. It includes a cool $1 billion for Israel to upgrade its missile defenses. That’s on top of the $3 billion it already receives plus numerous co-production programs that are off the books and defense spending that is not considered to be part of the annual grant. Perhaps “Buck” should consider changing his sobriquet to “Warbucks.” Buck is not Jewish but he is a Mormon, perhaps a sign of what will be coming if we are so unlucky as to vote into office the born again Hawk Mitt Romney. Mitt has a foreign policy team consisting of more than thirty stalwarts, mostly drawn from the Bush Administration, and nearly all of whom are neocons. It features Robert Kaplan, John Bolton, and Dan Senor.

Israel and its partisan hacks in Congress are utterly shameless. At a time when the country is screaming for some measure of restraint in government spending, Israel is the one budget line that only sees increases.

Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues.

In what is the first ever conviction of its kind anywhere in the world, the former US President and seven key members of his administration were today (Friday) found guilty of war crimes.

Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their legal advisers Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee and John Yoo were tried in absentia in Malaysia.

The trial held in Kuala Lumpur heard harrowing witness accounts from victims of torture who suffered at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They included testimony from British man Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantanamo detainee and Iraqi woman Jameelah Abbas Hameedi who was tortured in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

At the end of the week-long hearing, the five-panel tribunal unanimously delivered guilty verdicts against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their key legal advisors who were all convicted as war criminals for torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

Full transcripts of the charges, witness statements and other relevant material will now be sent to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as the United Nations and the Security Council.

The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission is also asking that the names of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Yoo, Bybee, Addington and Haynes be entered and included in the Commission’s Register of War Criminals for public record.

The tribunal is the initiative of Malaysia’s retired Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who staunchly opposed the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

He sat through the entire hearing as it took personal statements and testimonies of three witnesses namely Abbas Abid, Moazzam Begg and Jameelah Hameedi. The tribunal also heard two other Statutory Declarations of Iraqi citizen Ali Shalal and Rahul Ahmed, another British citizen.

After the guilty verdict reached by five senior judges was delivered, Mahathir Mohamad said: “Powerful countries are getting away with murder.”

War crimes expert and lawyer Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law in America, was part of the prosecution team.

After the case he said: “This is the first conviction of these people anywhere in the world.”

While the hearing is regarded by some as being purely symbolic, human rights activist Boyle said he was hopeful that Bush and Co could soon find themselves facing similar trials elsewhere in the world.

“We tried three times to get Bush in Canada but were thwarted by the Canadian Government, then we scared Bush out of going to Switzerland. The Spanish attempt failed because of the government there and the same happened in Germany.”

Boyle then referenced the Nuremberg Charter which was used as the format for the tribunal when asked about the credibility of the initiative in Malaysia. He quoted: “Leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit war crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any person in execution of such a plan.”

The US is subject to customary international law and to the Principles of the Nuremberg Charter said Boyle who also believes the week-long trial was “almost certainly” being monitored closely by both Pentagon and White House officials.

Professor Gurdial Singh Nijar, who headed the prosecution said: “The tribunal was very careful to adhere scrupulously to the regulations drawn up by the Nuremberg courts and the International Criminal Courts”.

He added that he was optimistic the tribunal would be followed up elsewhere in the world where “countries have a duty to try war criminals” and he cited the case of the former Chilean dictator Augustine Pinochet who was arrested in Britain to be extradited to Spain on charges of war crimes.

“Pinochet was only eight years out of his presidency when that happened.”

The Pinochet case was the first time that several European judges applied the principle of universal jurisdiction, declaring themselves competent to judge crimes committed by former heads of state, despite local amnesty laws.

Throughout the week the tribunal was packed with legal experts and law students as witnesses gave testimony and then cross examination by the defence led by lawyer Jason Kay Kit Leon.

The court heard how

· Abbas Abid, a 48-year-old engineer from Fallujah in Iraq had his fingernails removed by pliers.
· Ali Shalal was attached with bare electrical wires and electrocuted and hung from a wall.
· Moazzam Begg was beaten, hooded and put in solitary confinement.
· Jameelah was stripped and humiliated, and was used as a human shield whilst being transported by helicopter.

The witnesses also detailed how they have residual injuries till today.

Moazzam Begg, now working as a director for the London-based human rights group Cageprisoners said he was delighted with the verdict, but added: “When people talk about Nuremberg you have to remember those tried were all prosecuted after the war.

“Right now Guantanamo is still open, people are still being held there and are still being tortured there.”

In response to questions about the difference between the Bush and Obama Administrations, he added: “If President Bush was the President of extra-judicial torture then US President Barak Obama is the President of extra judicial killing through drone strikes. Our work has only just begun.”

The prosecution case rested on proving how the decision-makers at the highest level President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld, aided and abetted by the lawyers and the other commanders and CIA officials – all acted in concert. Torture was systematically applied and became an accepted norm.

According to the prosecution, the testimony of all the witnesses exposed a sustained perpetration of brutal, barbaric, cruel and dehumanising course of conduct against them.
These acts of crimes were applied cumulatively to inflict the worst possible pain and suffering, said lawyers.

The president of the tribunal Tan Sri Dato Lamin bin Haji Mohd Yunus Lamin, found that the prosecution had established beyond a “reasonable doubt that the accused persons, former President George Bush and his co-conspirators engaged in a web of instructions, memos, directives, legal advice and action that established a common plan and purpose, joint enterprise and/or conspiracy to commit the crimes of Torture and War Crimes, including and not limited to a common plan and purpose to commit the following crimes in relation to the “War on Terror” and the wars launched by the U.S. and others in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

President Lamin told a packed courtroom: “As a tribunal of conscience, the Tribunal is fully aware that its verdict is merely declaratory in nature. The tribunal has no power of enforcement, no power to impose any custodial sentence on any one or more of the 8 convicted persons. What we can do, under Article 31 of Chapter VI of Part 2 of the Charter is to recommend to the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission to submit this finding of conviction by the Tribunal, together with a record of these proceedings, to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as the United Nations and the Security Council.

“The Tribunal also recommends to the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission that the names of all the 8 convicted persons be entered and included in the Commission’s Register of War Criminals and be publicised accordingly.

“The Tribunal recommends to the War Crimes Commission to give the widest international publicity to this conviction and grant of reparations, as these are universal crimes for which there is a responsibility upon nations to institute prosecutions if any of these Accused persons may enter their jurisdictions”.

Statement on H.R.4133 – United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, May 9, 2012

Mr. Speaker: I rise in opposition to HR 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, which unfortunately is another piece of one-sided and counter-productive foreign policy legislation. This bill’s real intent seems to be more saber-rattling against Iran and Syria, and it undermines US diplomatic efforts by making clear that the US is not an honest broker seeking peace for the Middle East.

The bill calls for the United States to significantly increase our provision of sophisticated weaponry to Israel, and states that it is to be US policy to “help Israel preserve its qualitative military edge” in the region.

While I absolutely believe that Israel – and any other nation — should be free to determine for itself what is necessary for its national security, I do not believe that those decisions should be underwritten by US taxpayers and backed up by the US military.

This bill states that it is the policy of the United States to “reaffirm the enduring commitment of the United States to the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.” However, according to our Constitution the policy of the United States government should be to protect the security of the United States, not to guarantee the religious, ethnic, or cultural composition of a foreign country. In fact, our own Constitution prohibits the establishment of any particular religion in the US.

More than 20 years after the reason for NATO’s existence – the Warsaw Pact – has disappeared, this legislation seeks to find a new mission for that anachronistic alliance: the defense of Israel. Calling for “an expanded role for Israel within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including an enhanced presence at NATO headquarters and exercises,” it reads like a dream for interventionists and the military industrial complex. As I have said many times, NATO should be disbanded not expanded.

This bill will not help the United States, it will not help Israel, and it will not help the Middle East. It will implicitly authorize much more US interventionism in the region at a time when we cannot afford the foreign commitments we already have. It more likely will lead to war against Syria, Iran, or both. I urge my colleagues to vote against this bill.

Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

No Mayan Apocalypse in 2012

May 14th, 2012 by Washington's Blog

A new Reuters-Ispos poll shows that 10% of the global population believe the following statement:

The Mayan calendar, which some say ‘ends’ in 2012, marks the end of the world.

Of course, the Mayans themselves didn’t believe the world would end in 2012.

Indeed, archeologists have just found a cache of Mayan calendars which goes thousands of years past 2012:

I guess the flaky new age writers and Mexican tourist agencies will have to come up with another angle.

Mass protests in Spain mark indignados anniversary

May 14th, 2012 by Alejandro López

By 14 May 2012


The march in Granada last Saturday [Photo: Alejandro Garcia Montoro]

Hundreds of thousands of people took part in mass demonstrations in more than 80 cities and towns throughout Spain Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the eruption of the indignados or 15-M movement.

One year ago, thousands of youth occupied public squares in 162 towns and cities around Spain protesting unemployment, the corrupt political system and government austerity measures imposed by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE). Since then, conditions of life have only gotten worse.

In just the first three months of the year, 365,900 people lost their jobs. Unemployment now stands at 24.4 percent of the active population. Youth unemployment is at 50 percent, the highest figure of the 17 countries in the euro zone.

The current right-wing Popular Party (PP) government has so far imposed austerity measures totaling €50 billion (US$64 billion), a labour “reform” facilitating sackings and an increase in the VAT. Regional governments have continued the offensive against health care and education.

Another Spanish demonstration Saturday [Photo: Pollobarba]

Last week the government announced the partial nationalization of the country’s fourth largest bank, which holds €32 billion in distressed property assets. It also declared an independent audit of all of Spain’s banks in an attempt to restore confidence and stave off a possible collapse.

Under these conditions, the government mobilized 2,000 riot police in Madrid alone to prevent protesters from setting up camps as they did last year.

In Madrid tens of thousands marched from different neighbourhoods into the centre of the city. Some columns had started to march a day before from the towns in the outskirts of the capital. No exact figures are known. The regional government said that there were 30,000, but the main square, Puerta del Sol, holds 40,000 and was full to overflowing. Adjacent streets were also full.

According to the Diagonal newspaper:

“The four blocks [of protesters] of the Madrid demonstration had to advance the arrival time by an hour to the Puerta del Sol to make way for people waiting in the plazas of Atocha, San Bernardo, Cibeles and Ópera. The demonstration in Sol lasted until the early hours of the morning.”

The protesters occupied Sol and ignored the midnight deadline to disperse, shouting, “No, No, No, they don’t represent us.”

It was only at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, when the great majority had left, that the police violently dispersed the remaining demonstrators, making 18 arrests. Shouts could be heard against the police saying, “Now they are blue, before they were grey.” This was in reference to the National Armed Police created by the fascist regime of General Francisco Franco.

In Barcelona the regional police estimated 45,000 attending the demonstration. However, according to Directa there were at least 136,000 and a maximum of 155,000 protesters.

The most widely heard chants were directed against the banks, the monarchy, police repression and the cuts in health care and education. There were also chants for the liberation of trade unionist Laura Gómez, in prison for strike actions during the last general strike.

The usual flags of trade unions, political parties and the national flag of Catalonia were not to be seen. Many protesters held handmade banners such as, “Let’s end this dictatorship”, “Bailout of Bankia? Not with my money,” “They don’t represent us,” and “Bankers to the bench.”

In Valencia, where Mayor Rita Barberá ordered the police to cordon off the main square in front of City Hall to prevent it being taken over by the demonstrators, 20,000 took to the streets. Similar protests took place in Seville, Málaga, Córdoba, Alicante and Valladolid, where thousands demonstrated.

Why is the New York Times enabling a U.S. government smear campaign against reporters exposing the drone wars?

The Times let government officials anonymously attack a group of journalists and a lawyer who have uncovered evidence that belies the White House’s claim that drones aren’t killing many civilians. Was their rationale for that justified?

A human rights lawyer and a group of investigative journalists who have exposed the extensive civilian casualties from CIA drone strikes in Pakistan are being smeared by anonymous U.S. government officials, who have even accused them of being sympathetic to al Qaeda.

Two of the anonymous accusations came in articles in The New York Times, despite the paper’s own rules against personal attacks by unnamed sources.

Pakistani human rights attorney Shahzad Akbar and the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) say the campaign is intended to deter mainstream news organizations from reporting that the White House is lying about how many innocent people are being killed by the drone strikes.

President Obama’s top terrorism adviser John O. Brennan recently contended that civilian deaths were “exceedingly rare.” The BIJ, though, puts total drone deaths in Pakistan since 2004 at between 2,440 and 3,113, and they say between 479 and 821 of the dead were civilians, including 174 children. Drone attacks in Pakistan have dramatically increased since Obama took office: President Bush was responsible for 52; Obama for 270 and counting.

Relying on the BIJ’s comprehensive research and his own investigations in support of a number of clients who are drone victims or families of victims and who are suing the CIA, Akbar has for the last two years sharply challenged U.S. government assertions regarding civilian casualties, most recently by filing two lawsuits in Pakistan, demanding a criminal investigation into the killings by Hellfire missile of some 50 people, including tribal elders in Waziristan in March 2011. (See Niemanwatchdog.org’s May 10 story, Civilian drone victims, unrecognized by the U.S. government and public, seek justice.)

Akbar’s public criticisms of the program, including naming the CIA station chief in Pakistan and calling for his trial on murder charges for drone killings of civilians, has made him a particular thorn in the side of U.S. officials.

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism is a not-for-profit organization made up of former editors and reporters for major U.K. news organizations that undertakes investigations on a variety of subjects for various print and broadcast outlets in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Akbar and BIJ senior reporter Chris Woods both spoke recently at an international drone conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the peace group Code Pink, the U.K.-based human rights group Reprieve, and the Pakistan-based Foundation for Fundamental Rights, which Akbar heads.

Woods told the conference audience that his organization had been subjected to an anonymous smear campaign by the CIA. The agency, he said, has attacked his organization’s findings aggressively “and has asked our partners” — newspapers and broadcasters who have collaborated with BIJ — not to use BIJ’s reports.

Two of the anonymous smears came from unnamed U.S. government sources quoted in two separate New York Times articles reporting on Akbar’s and BIJ’s findings. The writer of both stories was the Times’s highly regarded national security reporter, Scott Shane.

Brennan, in June 2011, asserted that in the preceding 12 months, “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop.”

In an August 11, 2011 Times article, Shane reported Akbar and BIJ’s evidence to the contrary. But he also wrote: “American officials accuse Mr. Akbar of working to discredit the drone program at the behest of the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, the Pakistani spy service. Mr. Akbar and others who know him strongly deny the accusation.”

Shane quoted another human rights lawyer who worked with Akbar in Pakistan and who described the anonymous charges of ISI connections as “not credible at all.” But the article also allowed unnamed officials to take a shot at BIJ: “American officials said the Bureau of Investigative Journalism report was suspect because it relied in part on information supplied by Mr. Akbar, who publicly named the C.I.A.’s undercover Pakistan station chief in December when announcing his legal campaign against the drones.”

More recently, on February 8, the Times reported the BIJ’s findings that the CIA’s drone attacks in Pakistan “have repeatedly targeted rescuers who responded to the scene of a strike, as well as mourners at subsequent funerals.” But after highlighting BIJ’s report, the article then allowed a “senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity” to not just question the report’s findings, but to state: “One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let’s be under no illusions — there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help al Qaeda succeed.”

That latter direct quote essentially allowed the anonymous source to declare critics of the drone program as traitors and dupes.

Shane, in written responses to a number of questions that Nieman Watchdog posed to him about the two articles, said he believes this particular quote was not necessarily directed at BIJ, calling it “ambiguous, and I wish I had been able to clarify it.” He added: “Based on all my reporting over the last couple of years, I believe U.S. government officials have in mind not BIJ or other journalists as sympathizers of Al Qaeda but militants and perhaps ISI officers who supply what they consider disinformation on strikes to journalists.”

The Times’ own “Confidential News Sources Policy,” in an effort to stop the overuse or unfair use of anonymous sources, states, among other things: “We do not grant anonymity to people who use it as cover for a personal or partisan attack.”

But Shane defended the use of the anonymous quotes in the two articles, saying that he and his editors agreed that the quotes were needed to give “some voice from the other side” — that is, the government — in articles reporting allegations of civilian deaths. Until the drone-strike program is made overt and government officials can talk more freely about it, Shane said, “journalists often have a choice of quoting anonymous officials or writing stories about accusations of bad strikes and innocent deaths and including no response at all. I feel it’s important to include some voice from the other side, and my editors have agreed. In addition, it seems to me important to citizens to know what the government says, even if some citizens find the statements unpersuasive or worse.”

The problem, though, with the U.S. government as the anonymous “voice from the other side,” is that the real unrepresented “voice from the other side” in the mainstream news media is that of the civilian victims. Their voices and names seldom appear in the mainstream media.

Shane should be credited for writing the two articles that gave headlines and space to the drone-strike critics. But those government officials are not so oppressed that they should be allowed to anonymously trash their critics’ reputations and motivations. Readers might reasonably assume that the Times wouldn’t run such quotes anonymously and without proof unless there were some truth to them.

Because the drone strikes occur in remote, inaccessible areas, Akbar said at the conference, “The CIA is the only source as to what’s happening on the ground in Waziristan,” so U.S. officials always tell western reporters that only armed “militants” were targeted and killed. Relying on that as the truth would be comparable, he said, to reporters relying on only the Taliban’s or other militants’ version of events when they “administer horrible punishment on citizens.” His goal, Akbar said, is to publicize cases of drone killings of civilians, using the names of the civilian dead, to force the “American president to admit that he is klling children and women in your name” and to show that the drone attacks “are not making America safer, because you are only creating more enemies.”

* * *

Since Shane’s response sheds light on what he describes as the dilemma of dealing with government officials on programs that are classified, but nevertheless very public, here is his response in full to our questions:

“The drone program, as I have written, is in the strange category of classified but public information, which creates difficulties both for government officials and for journalists. Many outsiders and some government officials think the situation is untenable and that the program should be made overt, so that real debates could take place on Congress and the public on these issues.

“In the meantime, journalists often have a choice of quoting anonymous officials or writing stories about accusations of bad strikes and innocent deaths and including no response at all. I feel it’s important to include some voice from the other side, and my editors have agreed. In addition, it seems to me important to citizens to know what the government says, even if some citizens find the statements unpersuasive or worse.

“In the first [August 11] story you mention, read carefully everything about Shahzad Akbar. The story subjects to scrutiny the claim that he’s an ISI tool and presents evidence to the contrary. The quote in the second story is ambiguous, and I wish I had been able to clarify it. Based on all my reporting over the last couple of years, I believe US government officials have in mind not BIJ or other journalists as sympathizers of Al Qaeda but militants and perhaps ISI officers who supply what they consider disinformation on strikes to journalists.

“It’s interesting and useful to criticize journalists struggling with such dilemmas — it’s a sport I have often enjoyed myself — but for a reporter this story poses real challenges without easy choices.”

John Hanrahan is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for The Washington Post, The Washington Star, UPI, and other news organizations. 

Interview with Ralph Schoenman, author and commentator, from Berkeley

Essentially, US imperialism, which is the primary sponsor of the Israeli state, incorporated that notion of the necessity to demonize Islam and to create a rationale for permanent war in the region, and adopted it as the entire rationale for US capitalism and for imperialism itself in its military projects.”

In another instance of promoting Islamophobia in the United States, the US military has been offering a course which teaches the trainees that their enemy is Islam in general.

The course, titled “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism,” was offered five times a year since 2004, with about 20 students having taken part in the course each time – meaning roughly 800 students have taken the course over the years – before it was removed in late April after protests.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Ralph Schoenman, an author and commentator, from Berkeley, to further discuss the issue. The following is an approximate transcription of the interview.

Press TV: First of all, I’d like to get your opinion on the institutionalization of Islamophobic teaching techniques that are being employed all across the US.

Schoenman: It’s rooted in the false flag operation of 9/11 itself. The underlying politics are very straightforward. The rationale for US imperialism, for its wars of predation, had been at the time that the Soviet Union was still in existence — the supposed danger of international communist terrors and subversion.

This was the constant propaganda concerning the putative menace of the Soviet Union as a rationale for maintaining U.S. hegemony over subject peoples in the over-exploited world of Africa, Asia and Latin America, as it was for sustaining a permanent, ever expanding U.S. military capacity and for projecting US ruling class power over the planet.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, this entire rationale for the trillions of dollars allocated to the Pentagon and to the military over decades, the largest constant factor in the entire capitalist economy, had been removed.

So the putative rationale for the constant preparation for war, for the maintenance of this huge missile arsenal and ever enhanced nuclear capacity in preparing for nuclear war, and for imperial war generally, was no longer available.

Consequently, the ideological rationale for imperialism became something else, namely the “war on terror.” It was, in some respects, borrowed, as it were, from the Mossad. There was an important document published by a man named Oded Yinon an academic with ties to the Mossad, which projected a “strategy” for Israel in the1980s.

This document put forward the proposition that the fundamental task was to break up the various countries of the region into their ethnic and religious components, ad seriatim. This was first projected as targeting Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and so on.

Essentially, US imperialism, which is the primary sponsor of the Israeli state, incorporated that notion of the necessity to demonize Islam and to create a rationale for permanent war in the region, and adapted it as the ideological cover for US capitalism and imperialism itself in the projection of military and imperial hegemony globally.

It did not begin with 9/11 as such. I should point out that in 1993, the World Trade Center was attacked, and this was immediately attributed to the blind Egyptian cleric, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, and presented as a “terrorist act” motivated by Islam.

In fact, the entire plan for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and for a concomitant “plan” known as the Landmark Plot, namely a plot to blow up the United Nations’ building, the George Washington bridge, the Lincoln tunnel, the Holland tunnel, the Statue of Liberty, to assassinate the then-Secretary General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and to assassinate the then senator from New York, Alfonse D’Amato, all these things, called the Landmark Plot, were imputed to the blind Egyptian Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman.

It was, in fact, organized out of the FBI office in New York through an Egyptian intelligence operative under FBI mandate named Emad Ali Salem. The organizing of the undertaking included the Mossad figure Guzie Hadas.

I’d written an article documenting this at the time called “Who bombed the World Trade Center”, evidence points to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Mossad.

Press TV: Would you say that such hostile policies toward Islam and Muslim countries are a fundamental part of the US “defense strategy?”

Schoenman: It’s the entire … rationale for imperialism; for perpetual war on the peoples of the region; to seize their oil; to destroy their sovereignty; to fragment nations into their ethnic and religious components.

It is a model of the wars on in Iraq, a template of what is taking place in Afghanistan and a predicate for what is projected in Iran even as it guided what Israel and the U.S. coordinated and inflicted upon Lebanon – This the ideological cover and rationale for imperialism at the moment.

Concomitant to that is the state propaganda, of course, reflected in the Joint Chief of Staffs and the indoctrination of the U.S. military. You’re addressing specifically Lieutenant Colonel Mathew Dooley who conducted a course in Norfolk, Virginia, for the Joint Forces Staff College of the Army Chiefs of Staff in which the rationale for these wars was being inculcated.

That is the root of this particular Islamophobia, as it’s been described, preparing specifically these officers for the prospect of obliterating Mecca and Medina, and for the utilization of nuclear weapons in the devastating expansion ofUS control of the oil riches of the region, particularly, but not only, of the Arab East and of Central Asia.

Press TV: To be fair, this course that is being taught by Lleutenant Colonel Mathew Dooley has been suspended following an uproar; but you think it’s not enough?

Schoenman: Dooley, after all, is but a mouthpiece, He is simply implementing, according to his instruction, an overall ideological mantra. Right as we speak, you’re well aware, that the CIA and the entire apparatus of rule in the US is claiming that there was a new “underwear bomb plot” that has been “discovered” and “thwarted”. This, by the way, is a replica of another such farcical charade that the U.S. intelligence authorities put in place rather recently.

In the current operation it has been disclosed that the supposed perpetrator was, in fact, a Central Intelligence Agency operative working with Saudi intelligence. U.S. rulers and compliant media have sought to spin this embarrassing revelation by asserting ‘Oh, he was a double spy, and that’s how we entrapped the terrorist,” acknowledging, after the fact, that the operation was, in reality an official undertaking.

This is actually what has been exposed. What the data shows is that this was a US operation from the beginning to the end – as all these fake false-flag operations are.

These so-called terrorist acts, including that of the young man from Nigeria who was supposedly going to ignite his underwear on an airplane, if you recall – the absurdity of this intelligence farce consisting in that when the young Nigerian – approached the airplane, he had no visa to come to the US; he approached the airplane to get on board but was first refused, inasmuch as, he didn’t even have a passport with him, let alone a visa! The young intelligence plant said to airline personnel: “Oh, do you need one?”

He was quickly escorted on board by an undisclosed figure in a suit who waved off airport security people and accompanied this putative “suicide bomber” on to the plane.

Every one of these so-called “terror” plots bares a similar blue print, a pattern documented and exposed over and again. Those in denial of this history suffer from what the Jesuits call “invincible ignorance,” i.e., they know but they choose not to know!

These are government ops. They are designed to create hysteria; a mindset in the public that there is a menace to our population that can only be met by this constant imperial predation upon the peoples of the region and the world by US military force, by US imperialism itself, even as our basic democratic rights are removed.

So what has been discussed here tonight, with respect to the Islamophobia taught at the Joint Chiefs of Staff War College by by Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Dooley is, in truth, the vastly orchestrated and feverish ideological rationale for US military policy, for US. foreign policy and for the power of the US ruling class itself.

It is they who are terrorizing the people of the United States and the people of the world.

Amid recent reports that the bodies of four Mexican journalists were discovered in a canal in the port city of Veracruz, less than a week after another journalist based in that city was found strangled in her home, the U.S. State Department “plans to award a contract to provide a Mexican government security agency with a system that can intercept and analyze information from all types of communications systems,” NextGov reported.

The most glaring and obvious question is: why?

Since President Felipe Calderón declared “war” against some of the region’s murderous drug cartels in 2006, some 50,000 Mexicans have been butchered. Activists, journalists, honest law enforcement officials but also ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire, the vast majority of victims, have been the targets of mafia-controlled death squads, corrupt police and the military.

Underscoring the savage nature of another “just war” funded by U.S. taxpayers, last week The Dallas Morning News reported that “23 people were found dead Friday–nine hanging from a bridge and 14 decapitated–across the Texas border in the city of Nuevo Laredo.”

The arcane and highly-ritualized character of the violence, often accompanied by sardonic touches meant to instill fear amongst people already ground underfoot by crushing poverty and official corruption that would make the Borgias blush, convey an unmistakable message: “We rule here!”

“The latest massacres are part of a continuing battle between the paramilitary group known as the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel,” the Morning News averred. “The violence appears to be part of a strategy by the Sinaloa cartel to disrupt one of the most lucrative routes for drug smugglers by bringing increased attention from the federal government.”

According to investigators the “two warring cartels are fighting for control of the corridor that leads into Interstate 35, known as one of the most lucrative routes for smugglers.”

But as Laura Carlsen, the director of the Americas Program pointed out last month in CounterPunch, “In a series of ‘Joint Operations’ between Federal Police and Armed Forces, the Mexican government has deployed more than 45,000 troops into various regions of the country in an unprecedented domestic low-intensity conflict.”

The militarization of Mexican society, as in the “Colossus to the North,” has also seen the expansion of a bloated Surveillance State. Carlsen averred that when the Army and Federal Police are “deployed to communities where civilians are defined as suspected enemies, soldiers and officers have responded too often with arbitrary arrests, personal agendas and corruption, extrajudicial executions, the use of torture, and excessive use of force.”

But expanding the surveillance capabilities of secret state agencies as the State Department proposes in its multimillion dollar gift to the Israeli-founded firm, Verint Systems, far from inhibiting violence by drug gangs and the security apparatus, on the contrary, will only rationalize repression as new “targets” are identified and electronic communications are data-mined for “actionable intelligence.”

Indeed, The New York Times reported last summer that “after months of negotiations, the United States established an intelligence post on a northern Mexican military base.”

Although anonymous “American officials” cited by the Times “declined to provide details about the work being done” by a team of spooks drawn from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the CIA and “retired military personnel members from the Pentagon’s Northern Command,” they said that “the compound had been modeled after ‘fusion intelligence centers’ that the United States operates in Iraq and Afghanistan to monitor insurgent groups.”

Such developments are hardly encouraging considering the role played by “fusion centers” here in the heimat. As the ACLU has amply documented, “Americans have been put under surveillance or harassed by the police just for deciding to organize, march, protest, espouse unusual viewpoints, and engage in normal, innocuous behaviors such as writing notes or taking photographs in public.”

In Mexico, the results will be immeasurably worse; with corruption endemic on both sides of the border, who’s to say authorities won’t sell personal data gleaned from these digital sweeps to the highest bidder?

Only this time, the data scrapped from internet search queries, emails, smartphone chatter or text messages grabbed by bent officials won’t result in annoying targeted ads on your browser but in piles of corpses.

Guns In, Drugs Out: Iran/Contra Redux

While Obama administration officials hypocritically washed their hands of responsibility for failing to clamp-down on what journalist Daniel Hopsicker christened The New American Drug Lords, an old boys club of dodgy bankers, shady investment consultants, defense contractors and other glad handers, the violence following drug flows north like a swarm of locusts is fueled in no small part by arms which federal intelligence and law enforcement allowed to “walk” across the border.

Indeed, as Hopsicker pointed out in MadCow Morning News: “Ten years ago Miami Private Detective Gary McDaniel, a 30-year veteran investigator for both Government prosecutors and attorneys for major drug traffickers, educated me on the basics of the drug trade.”

“‘Every successful drug trafficking organization (DTO) needs four things to be successful,’ he said. He ticked each one off on his fingers: ‘Production, distribution, transportation, and–most important of all–protection’.”

To McDaniel’s list we can add a fifth element: intelligence gleaned from the latest advances in communications’ technologies.

If all this sounds familiar, it should.

During the 1980s, as the Reagan administration waged its anticommunist crusade across Central and South America, the CIA forged their now-infamous “Dark Alliance” with far-right terrorists (our “boys,” the Nicaraguan Contras), Argentine, Bolivian and Chilean death-squad generals and the up-and-coming cocaine cartels who had more on their minds than ideological purity.

By the end of that blood-soaked decade, with much encouragement from Washington, including a get-out-of-jail-free card for their dope dealing assets in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department, the region was on its way towards becoming a multibillion dollar growth engine for the well-connected.

Does history repeat? You bet it does!

As Narco News investigative journalist Bill Conroy reported, “A top enforcer for the Sinaloa drug organization and his army of assassins in Juarez, Mexico–responsible for a surge in violence in that city that has led to thousands of deaths in recent years–may well have been supplied hundreds, if not thousands, of weapons through an ill-fated US law-enforcement operation known as Fast and Furious.”

But which agency has the wherewithal to guarantee that weapon flows from the United States fall into the right hands? More than a few analysts believe that Fast and Furious was an “intelligence” gambit overseen by the CIA.

Indeed, Narco News reported: “When it comes to prime intelligence targets, they don’t come much better than the leaders of Mexican drug organizations, who have their tentacles planted deep inside Latin American governments due to the corrupt reach of the drug trade. So it is not unreasonable to suspect that part of the reason that ATF’s Fast and Furious makes no sense in terms of a law enforcement operation is because it wasn’t one at all.” (emphasis added)

“In fact,” Conroy wrote, “it may well have been co-opted and trumped by a covert U.S. intelligence agency operation, such as one run by CIA, that is shielded even from most members of Congress–possibly even the White House, if it was launched under a prior administration and parts of it have since run off the tracks on their own.”

Conroy revealed that enforcer, Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, who was arrested in February by Mexican authorities, “is now the subject of a 14-count US indictment unsealed in late April in San Antonio, Texas, that also charges the alleged leaders of the Sinaloa organization (Joaquin Guzman Loera, or El Chapo; and Ismael Zambada Garcia, or El Mayo) and 21 other individuals with engaging in drug and firearms trafficking, money laundering and murder in ‘furtherance of a criminal enterprise’.”

According to officials, Marrufo was allegedly responsible for the murders of some 18 patients at a Juárez drug treatment center in 2009. However, the significance of the gangster’s arrest may be overshadowed by the additional disclosure that his close associates, Eduardo and Jesus A. Miramontes Varela “worked for the Sinaloa Cartel when they became informants for the FBI in 2009.”

“Under Fast and Furious,” Conroy wrote, “the nation’s federal gun-law enforcer, ATF, in conjunction with a task force composed of several other federal agencies, including the FBI, allowed nearly 2,000 weapons to be smuggled into Mexico.”

Amongst the firearms allowed to “walk,” according to multiple published reports, were AK-47 assault rifles, Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifles, .38 caliber revolvers and FN Five-seven automatic pistols. Most of the arms purchased with ATF and Justice Department approval went to the Sinaloa or other drug cartels and have since turned up at some 170 crime scenes in Mexico.

While field level investigators objected to the operation and voiced their opposition to higher-ups in ATF, they were smacked-down by senior supervisors David Voth.

Responding to strong objections from his own agents, Voth wrote a threatening email to disgruntled officers in March 2010: “I will be damned if this case is going to suffer due to petty arguing, rumors, or other adolescent behavior. I don’t know what all the issues are but we are all adults, we are all professionals, and we have an exciting opportunity to use the biggest tool in our law enforcement tool box. If you don’t think this is fun you are in the wrong line of work–period!”

Fun? Try telling that to the families of U.S. Border Patrol officer Brian Terry, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata or the families of hundreds of unnamed Mexican victims who turned up dead, murdered with weapons supplied by the U.S. government.

Conroy also informed us that “deadly weapons were allowed to ‘walk’ across the border, where they were put into the clutches of criminal organizations, such as those overseen by alleged Sinaloa enforcer Marrufo, so that US law enforcers could supposedly later trace the trail of those guns to the so-called kingpins of Mexico’s criminal organizations.”

There was just one small catch. “A Feb. 1, 2012, memo drafted by staff for [U.S. Senator Charles] Grassley and [U.S. Rep. Darryl] Issa, thickens the plot, indicating that there were, in fact, two FBI informants involved with purchasing weapons from [Manuel Celis] Acosta, [presumably the "main target" of Fast and Furious] and ATF had no clue that these so-called ‘big fish,’ the high-level targets of Fast and Furious, were, in fact, working for a sister agency.”

According to that Congressional memo:

“During the course of this separate investigation, the FBI designated these two cartel associates as national security assets. [essentially foreign-intelligence agents, or informants]. In exchange for one individual’s guilty plea to a minor count of ‘Alien in Possession of a Firearm,’ both became FBI informants and are now considered to be unindictable. This means that the entire goal of Fast and Furious–to target these two individuals and bring them to justice–was a failure. ATF’s discovery that the primary targets of their investigation were not indictable was ‘a major disappointment’.

Brilliant, right? If one were to fall for “conspiracy theories,” one would almost believe that U.S. secret state agencies, like their Mexican counterparts, were favoring one narcotrafficking gang (the Sinaloa cartel) over their rivals, the equally violent and sinister group Los Zetas or the Juárez cartel founded by self-described “Lord of the Heavens,” Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

In fact, it wasn’t only the ATF-DEA-FBI that allowed guns to “walk” across the border into the hands of state-connected killers. To the list of the clueless, add the Pentagon.

In an earlier, Conroy disclosed, citing State Department cables published by the secrecy-shredding web site WikiLeaks, that grenades used to attack the Televisa TV station and the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey in 2008-2009 “involved military grade explosives made in the USA that somehow found their way to Mexico.” A second cable confirms that “U.S. military munitions sold in the 1990s to a foreign military were subsequently diverted to Mexican narco-traffickers.”

Narco News also reported that the State Department cables confirm “that the U.S. government is very aware that much of the heavy firepower now in the hands of Mexican criminal organizations isn’t linked to mom-and-pop gun stores, but rather the result of blowback from U.S. arms-trading policies (both current and dating back to the Iran/Contra era) that put billions of dollars of deadly munitions into global trade stream annually.”

Indeed, “bellicose government policies, such as the U.S.-sponsored Mérida Initiative, that are premised on further militarizing the effort to impose prohibition on civil society only serve to expand the profit margin on the bloodshed.”

But what if that is precisely the goal of U.S. policy planners and their masters, corrupt American financial institutions like Wachovia Bank or the defense contractors who reap billions from the slaughter?

In that case then, the so-called “War on Drugs” is really a war over who controls the drug flow and the fabulous profits derived from the illicit trade.

Back to the Future

While Colombia continues to be the principle source of processed cocaine entering Europe and the United States, despite some $7.5 billion dispensed to that country’s repressive military and police apparatus under Plan Colombia, wholesale distribution of narcotics entering the U.S. are now controlled by Mexican DTOs.

It is a demonstrable fact that Plan Colombia failed to stop the tsunami of narcotics entering the U.S. and that “success” or “failure” in that enterprise was besides the point. As multiple analysts and investigative journalists across the decades have documented, U.S. intelligence agencies, principally the CIA, have cultivated ties and operational links to DTOs and their ruling class enablers, favoring cartels that advanced U.S. geopolitical goals whilst targeting those perceived as liabilities.

As researchers Oliver Villar and Drew Cottle pointed out in Cocaine, Death Squads and the War on Terror: U.S. Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia: “Among the compradores, short-term arrangements were made on coca production that paved the road for longer-term agreements of all kinds, one of which supported the emergence of the narco-bourgeoisie, whose business operations had remained relatively independent.”

Villar and Cottle averred: “Emerging narco-capitalism permeated Colombia’s financial system, creating financial connections throughout the Colombian economy. The active participation of banks in the cocaine industry greatly strengthened financial connections among the narco-bourgeoisie. The Cali cartel metamorphosed into numerous legitimate business enterprises such as pharmaceutical companies and real estate firms to operate the cocaine trade, whereas the Medellín cartel focused on money-laundering.”

This production and distribution system was highly unstable however, and “created fierce competition among traffickers with connections to the Colombian ruling class,” Villar and Cottle wrote. “The Medellín cartel waged a desperate battle against enterprises that refused to enter into an alliance with them. All manner of underhanded methods, from blackmail to murder, were employed in this battle. The violent liquidation of rival enterprises, many who collaborated with the CIA, provoked retaliation from the United States which declared a war on drugs that targeted Pablo Escobar.”

As with Plan Colombia, under terms of the Mérida Initiative, the U.S. Congress has authorized some $1.6 billion for Mexico and Central American states blown away by the narcotics hurricane. However, much of the funds doled out to Mexican military and police organizations never leave the United States. Instead, as with other “foreign aid” boondoggles these funds flow directly into the coffers of giant U.S. defense firms and will be used to purchase aircraft, surveillance equipment and other hardware produced by the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex.

As in Colombia during the 1990s, a similar consolidation process, accompanied by spectacular levels of violence, is currently wracking Mexican society as drug gangs vie for control over the lucrative distribution market and are said to control 90% of the trafficking routes entering the U.S.

According to some estimates, approximately $49.4 billion annually pour into the accounts of major DTOs, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported back in 2007. However, most studies of global drug trafficking fail to analyze the benefits accrued by major U.S. financial institutions–banks, the stock market, hedge funds, etc.–who have been the direct beneficiaries of the $352 billion in annual drug profits “absorbed into the economic system,” as The Observer reported in 2009.

“In a nutshell,” Villar and Cottle wrote, “the war of drugs and terror is part of a counterrevolutionary strategy designed to maintain rather than eliminate the economic conditions that allow the drug trade to thrive.” That pattern is being replicated today in Mexico. “From Reagan to Obama, U.S. covert intervention has, paradoxically, only accentuated the social violence and systematized the production and distribution of cocaine.”

Corporate grifters, profiting on everything from weapons’ sales to surveillance kit have names. In the context of the Mérida Initiative, one firm stands out, the Israeli-founded spy shop Verint Systems Inc.

Drugs, Terror, War… Whatever

Like the “War on Terror,” the “War on Drugs” is predicated on the fallacy that “persistent situational awareness” obtained through the driftnet surveillance of electronic communications will give secret state agencies a leg-up on their adversaries.

Better think again! As Villar and Cottle pointed out, “the 1994 discovery of a computer owned by members of the Cali cartel offered clues on the complexities of the system and illustrated the technological sophistication of Colombia’s narco-economy.”

Indeed, the $1.5 million IBM AS400 mainframe “networked with half a dozen terminals and monitors and six technicians overseeing its operations,” and its “custom-written data-mining software cross-referenced the Cali phone exchange’s traffic with the phone numbers of American personnel and Colombian intelligence and law enforcement officials.”

That network was “set up by a retired Colombian army intelligence officer,” a fact which the Colombian government denied despite strong evidence to the contrary. And when Colombian officials “established a toll-free hotline for information about the Cali cartel leaders,” Villar and Cottle reported that a “former high-level DEA official said: ‘All of these anonymous callers were immediately identified, and they were killed.”

By today’s standards, that IBM mainframe is a throwback to the stone age. With advanced communications and encryption technologies readily available to anyone, and with any number of dodgy spy firms specializing in everything from the mass harvesting of information from social networks to the installation of malware on personal computers and GPS smartphone tracking as the WikiLeaks Spyfiles revealed, only a fool–or a State Department bureaucrat–would believe that weaponized spy kit won’t fall into the hands of billion dollar organized crime groups. Yet that’s exactly what Washington plans to do.

In the NextGov report cited above, we were informed that the State Department’s “Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, in a contract notice published late Friday, said it will fund what it called the Mexico Technical Surveillance System for use by that country’s Public Security Secretariat to ‘continue to help deter, prevent and mitigate acts of major federal crimes in Mexico that include narcotics trafficking and terrorism’.”

The contract proposal specifies that “all awards will be based on the following criteria in order of importance for 1) Technical Approach/Understanding/Personnel, 2) Corporate Experience, 3) Past Performance and 4) Price. Technical merit (captured in the three (3) technical evaluation factors enumerated above, taken together) is significantly more important than cost/price.”

But as NextGov reported while the procurement, at least on paper, is “competitive,” the State Department “came close to ruling out any other bidder except Verint with the caveat that ‘the new equipment must function seamlessly with the existing in a single system or be entirely replaced’.”

That pretty much “levels the playing field” for the Israeli firm and the suite of surveillance tools it offers, the Reliant Monitoring System, which “intercepts virtually any wired, wireless or broadband communication network and service.” Indeed, the State Department plans to “triple the capacity of the current Verint system from 30 workstations to 107,” according to NextGov. Given the spooky nature of the company, no doubt El Chapo is drooling over the prospect.

As James Bamford pointed out in The Shadow Factory and in a series of recent articles in Wired Magazine, “Verint was founded in Israel by Israelis, including Jacob ‘Kobi’ Alexander, a former Israeli intelligence officer. Some 800 employees work for Verint, including 350 who are based in Israel, primarily working in research and development and operations.”

As Antifascist Calling disclosed back in 2008 (see: “Thick as Thieves: The Private (and very profitable) World of Corporate Spying”): “When Comverse Infosys [now Verint] founder and CEO Jacob ‘Kobi’ Alexander fled to Israel and later Namibia in 2006, the former Israeli intelligence officer and entrepreneur took along a little extra cash for his extended ‘vacation’–$57 million to be precise.”

Alexander, a veteran of Israel’s ultra-secretive Unit 8200, the equivalent of America’s National Security Agency, fled to Namibia because he faced a 32-count indictment by the Justice Department over allegations that he masterminded a scheme to backdate millions of Comverse stock options which allowed the enterprising corporate grifter to embezzle some $138 million from company shareholders.

As I wrote back then, “despite alarms raised by a score of federal law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), fearful that sensitive wiretap information was finding its way into the hands of international narcotrafficking cartels, virtually nothing has been done to halt the outsourcing of America’s surveillance apparatus to firms with intimate ties to foreign intelligence entities. Indeed, as America’s spy system is turned inward against the American people, corporations such as Verint work hand-in-glove with a spooky network of security agencies and their corporatist pals in the telecommunications industry.”

But as we know, software and the spy trojans embedded in their code are “neutral.” What can be used by law enforcement agencies such as Mexico’s Secretaría de Seguridad Pública (SSP) and the Agencia Federal de Investigación (AFI) can also be handed over by corrupt officials to their presumed targets, the Sinaloa, Gulf, Juárez, Knights Templar, Tijuana or Los Zetas narcotrafficking cartels, all of whom have ties to Mexico’s narco-bourgeoisie, police and the military.

It wouldn’t be the first time that “retired” Israeli military officers or “ex” Mossad men were exposed as trainers for some of the drug world’s most notorious killers.

Nearly a decade ago, investigative journalist Jeremy Bigwood revealed in Narco News that drug gangster and far-right political actor Carlos Castaño, the future founder of the blood-soaked Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC, “was only 18 years old when he arrived in Israel in 1983 to take a year-long course called ’562.’ Castaño, a Colombian, had come to the Holy Land as a pilgrim of sorts, but not to find peace. Course 562 was about war, and how to wage it, and it was something Carlos Castaño would eventually excel at, becoming the most adept and ruthless paramilitary leader in Latin America’s history.”

Bigwood reported that Castaño’s IDF trainers emphasized instruction in “urban strategies,” which included the use of fragmentation grenades, RPG-7s as well as “complementary courses” on terrorism and counter-terrorism.

Narco News informed us that “not all was study for Castaño in Israel, and he used his free time to meet with Colombian soldiers undergoing regular military training there–soldiers of the worst human rights violators in the western hemisphere were being trained by some of the worst human rights violators in the Middle East. But these were precisely the connections that would prove so useful in the future.”

A future that encompassed the wholesale massacre of Colombian peasants, union organizers and left-wing activists as the AUC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CIA-anointed Cali cartel, founded by Iran/Contra drug kingpins, the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers, engaged in a brutal war to the death with Pablo Escobars’ Medellín cartel in the 1990s.

According to declassified CIA, DEA and State Department documents published by the National Security Archive in 2008, “U.S. espionage operations targeting top Colombian government officials in 1993 provided key evidence linking the U.S.-Colombia task force charged with tracking down fugitive drug lord Pablo Escobar to one of Colombia’s most notorious paramilitary chiefs.”

Documents published by the Archive “include two heavily-censored CIA memos describing briefings provided by members of a ‘Blue Ribbon Panel’ of CIA investigators to members of U.S. congressional intelligence committees and the National Security Council. The Panel–which included personnel from the CIA’s directorate for clandestine intelligence operations–had been investigating the possibility that intelligence shared with the Medellín Task Force in 1993 ended up in the hands of Colombian paramilitaries and narcotraffickers from the Pepes. That investigation concluded on December 3, 1993, the day Escobar was killed.”

“The collaboration between paramilitaries and government security forces evident in the Pepes episode is a direct precursor of today’s ‘para-political’ scandal,” said Michael Evans, director of the National Security Archive’s Colombia Documentation Project. “The Pepes affair is the archetype for the pattern of collaboration between drug cartels, paramilitary warlords and Colombian security forces that developed over the next decade into one of the most dangerous threats to Colombian security and U.S. anti-narcotics programs. Evidence still concealed within secret U.S. intelligence files forms a critical part of that hidden history.”

While both the Cali and Medellín cartels have faded into history, cocaine processed on an industrial scale continues to flood out of Colombia and other “legs” of the Crystal Triangle. Control over that distribution network, worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually, much of which finds its way into U.S. banks, is the source of the bloodshed currently tearing Mexico and Central America to pieces.

Is history repeating itself when it comes to favoring one drug gang over another? The answer is yes. According to a 2010 National Public Radio report, “an NPR News investigation has found strong evidence of collusion between elements of the Mexican army and the Sinaloa cartel in the violent border city of Juarez.”

“Dozens of interviews with current and former law enforcement agents, organized crime experts, elected representatives, and victims of violence suggest that the Sinaloans depend on bribes to top government officials to help their leader, Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, elude capture, expand his empire and keep his operatives out of jail.”

Sound far-fetched? As Bill Conroy reported last year in Narco News, court pleadings in the case of accused Sinaloa capo Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla “demonstrate the insidious nature of the cooperation that exists between the US government and Mexico’s Sinaloa mafia organization.”

“According to Zambada Neibla, he and the rest of the Sinaloa leadership, through the informant [Humberto] Loya Castro, negotiated a quid-pro-quo immunity deal with the US government in which they were guaranteed protection from prosecution in exchange for providing US law enforcers and intelligence agencies with information that could be used to compromise rival Mexican cartels and their operations.”

“The alleged deal,” Conroy averred, “assured protection for the Sinaloa Cartel’s business operations while also undermining its competition–such as the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization out of Juarez, Mexico, the murder capital of the world.”

Inquiring minds can’t help but wonder why, if Zambada Neibla’s allegations are so much hot-air, would U.S. prosecutors invoke “national security” under provisions of the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) “in his trial in an attempt to assure certain sensitive and/or embarrassing evidence is not made available to Zambada Niebla’s attorneys”?

As Narco News disclosed, “Perhaps any deal that might exist between the Sinaloa leadership is limited to Chapo Guzman and Ismael Zambada, perhaps it was put in place by a US intelligence agency under the guise of law enforcement, or through some secret pact cobbled together by the US State Department that does not have to be honored by the Justice Department because it applies only in Mexico. In this case, the devil is in the details, and in all those scenarios, the cloak of national security could easily be invoked to prevent evidence of the pact surfacing in a court of law.”

With hundreds of billions of dollars at stake and a “drug war” that favors one group of cut-throats over another to obtain leverage over corrupt politicians, along with an endless source of funds for intelligence-connected black operations, the Verint deal seems like a slam-dunk.

After all, with powerful communications’ intercept technologies in the hands of the Mexican secret state, “national security,” on both sides of the border, is little more than code for business as usual.

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

An international team of researchers recently confirmed that children who drink fresh milk – unprocessed and unpasteurized – have a better immune response to allergens and are far less likely to develop asthma.

Researchers from Indiana, Switzerland, and Germany ran surveys and tests on Swiss and US children aged 6-12 years and submitted their results to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology last month. [1]

Because the Amish emigrated from Switzerland, and are thus genetically similar, the team compared Northern Indiana Amish farm children with today’s Swiss kids. Though rural kids are known to be healthier than city kids, the team found that the Amish have a superior immune response to allergens and asthma than even Swiss farm kids have. 

“Finally a health professional in America conducted research into the low incidence of allergies among farm kids,” said Kimberly Hartke, publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation in an email to Food Freedom News. “This research validates what European researchers have already discovered: Raw milk is health-promoting.”

Over the past century, the US and Europe have seen a spike in “allergic sensitization” reaching more than half the population of both regions, says lead researcher Mark Holbreich. Concurrently, studies in the last decade continue to demonstrate “that certain populations have a significantly lower prevalence of allergic sensitization and a lower prevalence of asthma.” 

“In one study, certain whey proteins in farm milk were inversely associated with asthma,” said researchers, referring to a 2011 study, which asserted: 

“Exposure to farm milk in early life and consumption of raw farm milk have been associated with a reduced asthma and atopy risk, and it has been suggested that this protection might be mediated through receptors of the innate immune system.” [2]

Atopy is “a genetic predisposition toward the development of immediate hypersensitivity reactions against common environmental antigens,” explains one dictionary.

Holbreich’s team ran a skin prick test on Amish children, most of whom drink raw milk, finding that only 7% of them showed an allergic reaction. They compared this to parental surveys of Swiss kids, both urban and rural. Over 44% of the Swiss non-farm kids suffered from allergies, the parents reported, while 25% of the Swiss farm kids did. 

This led the team to conclude that the Amish have additional protective factors, suggesting larger family size may play a role. With 5 or 6 siblings, each child will be exposed to that many more enviro-pathogens, thus gaining the opportunity to develop resistance while the immune system is still developing. 

That’s not so for most urbanites who are mostly only exposed to industrial pollutants (rather than microbial pathogens), and denied access to fresh milk beyond their nursing years. 

Most US cows are fed a daily regimen of pharmaceuticals, a practice linked directly to antibiotic resistance in humans. The Food & Drug Administration has refused to ban the practice. 

Of note, one of the researchers admitted to being funded by the pharmaceutical industry, naming Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline, among others. 

Ninety-seven percent of US milk is heated and processed to the point that all probiotics are destroyed, while some pathogens remain.

One probiotic found only in unpasteurized, fresh milk from free-range cows, Lactococcus lactis, became Wisconsin’s state microbe after legislators hailed its unique features which enable the development of cheddar, Colby and Monterey Jack cheese. In fact, when making these cheeses from pasteurized milk, the live bacterium must be added back into the mix to curdle the milk and produce the whey. [3]

As with natural L. lactis, even a genetically reengineered form of it has been shown to break down lactose, allowing those who are lactose intolerant to drink raw milk without ill effects. [4]

In addition to being drug-laden, most US milk has also been adulterated with genetically modified bovine growth hormone (rBST or rBGH), which states and the federal government refuse to disclose on labels. 

“The anecdotal evidence is mounting,” said Hartke. “But we need more scientific research to affect a change in our nation’s food policies.”

One immediate policy change demanded by 90% of the public is that all foods containing genetically modified ingredients, including milk, be labeled.

Connecticut’s Governor Dannel Malloy secretly gutted a GMO-food label bill before the legislature even voted on it. Organizers are asking residents to demand that the Governor restore Section 2 of CT HB 5117, An Act Concerning Genetically Engineered Food: 

Phone – 860-566-4840 or 1-800-406-1527
e-mail – http://www.governor.ct.gov/malloy/cwp/view.asp?a=3998&q=479082
Twitter – @govmalloyoffice
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/GovMalloyOffice

Last month, Vermont Governor Bill Shumlin promised to veto similar legislation. Taking it out of the hands of corporate-owned politicians, Californians will vote on the measure this November.

In Iowa, House Study Bill 585 proposes allowing direct farm to consumer sales of raw milk and milk products. [5]  One medical doctor posted an editorial at the Des Moines Register, calling raw milk “child endangerment.” After an opposing medical view was posted, [6] the disinformation piece was pulled down, but Dr. Daniel H. Gervich, a board-certified infectious diseases and critical care medicine doctor still practices medicine in Des Moines, despite his sloppy, irresponsible and unscientific claims about milk.

Over a dozen lobbyists have registered their opposition to the Iowa bill, including those from allopathic medicine, with its jealousy over nature’s superior ability to heal without harm. (Conventional medicine kills more people in the US than any other factor, leading to between 600,000 and 800,000 deaths each year.[7]) Other supporters represent the usual players: Big Dairy, Big Meat, grocery chains, and their government lackeys. [8]

In Minnesota, “Mothers who host ‘drop sites’ for their farm buying club are being threatened with criminal charges,” adds Hartke. “It’s a new level of intrusion into private contracts between farmers and local customers.”

But, some consumers are willing to risk arrest rather than have the state dictate their food choices.

A civil disobedience action and rally will be held next Monday, May 14, to protest the Minneapolis trial of farm buying club manager, Alvin Schlangen. Sponsored by the Farm Food Freedom Coalition, customers and supporters from around the state and country will rally for Schlangen on the first day of his criminal trial at 7:00 a.m. outside the Minneapolis courthouse. Details about the event are on the Raw Milk Freedom Riders website.

As more people join in asserting our earth-born right to eat what nature provides, keep in mind that humans have been drinking unpasteurized animal milk for at least 10,000 years. [9]  We co-evolved with these animals and their micro flora and fauna. All the chemical, nano and genetic additives found in factory foods, we did not evolve with; nor are they good for us.

As we watch industry poison our streams, air and land, as well as our foods, it’s not at all surprising that our health has declined over the past 70 years, with 54% of US citizens and their European cousins showing atopy, [1] with a spike in autism, neurological disorders and cancers for every part of the body. [10]

It’s also not surprising that nature knows better than Big Dairy, Big Pharma, or governments what does a body good.  Any laws criminalizing natural food, plants or animals have no place on the planet; they are neither valid nor sane, and need not be enforced or obeyed.

Notes:

[1] Mark Holbreich, et al. “Amish children living in Northern Indiana have a very low prevalence of allergic sensitization,” 19 April 2012. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Available at http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/0091-6749/PIIS0091674912005192.pdf

[2] Georg Loss, et al. “The protective effect of farm milk consumption on childhood asthma and atopy,” 16 July 2011. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Available at http://www.mnhlrp.org/images/RawMilkStudy.pdf

[3] Kenneth Todar, “Lactococcus lactis: nominated as the Wisconsin State Microbe,” n.d. (ca. Dec. 2009) http://www.textbookofbacteriology.net/featured_microbe.html

[4] Zhang W, et al. “Construction and expression of food-grade β-galactosidase gene in Lactococcus Lactis,” 17 Jan. 2011. Current Microbiology, 62(2): 639-44. Abstract at http://lactoseintolerance.researchtoday.net/archive/7/1/671.htm

[5] Iowa House Study Bill 585, “An Act providing that certain milk and products using milk may 1 be transferred directly by operators of dairy farms, and 2 making penalties applicable.” Proposed 1 Feb. 2012. http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?category=billinfo&service=billbook&GA=84&hbill=HSB585

[6] Sarah Couture Pope, M.D., “Health concerns from raw milk are exaggerated,” 10 Apr. 2012. http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20120410/OPINION/304100044/Another-View-Health-concerns-from-raw-milk-exaggerated

[7] Gary Null, Ph.D., and Nancy Ashley, VMD, “The Politics of Medicine,” 5 Mar. 2012. http://prn.fm/2012/05/11/gary-null-phd-and-nancy-ashley-vmd-the-politics-of-medicine/. Also see Part 2: “FDA Pimping for Big Pharma,” 12 Mar. 2012. http://www.scribd.com/doc/85046257/Gary-Null-Politics-of-Medicine-Part-II-FDA-Pimping-for-Big-Pharma; and Part 3: “Scientific Studies – Clinical Evidence or a License to Kill?” 30 Mar. 2012. http://prn.fm/2012/04/02/the-politics-of-medicine-part-3-scientific-studies-clinical-evidence-or-a-license-to-kill/

[8] Lobbyist Declarations for HSB585 (Iowa). http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=Lobbyist&Service=DspReport&ga=84&type=b&hbill=HSB585

[9] Richard P. Evershed, et al., “Earliest date for milk use in the Near East and southeastern Europe linked to cattle herding,” Nature 455, 528-531 (25 Sept. 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07180; Received 19 Feb. 2008; Accepted 19 June 2008; Published online 6 Aug 2008. Available at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v455/n7212/abs/nature07180.html; Also see: M. S. Copley, et al., “Direct chemical evidence for widespread dairying in prehistoric Britain,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 Feb. 2003, vol. 100, no. 4. 1524–1529. Available at http://www.pnas.org/content/100/4/1524.full.pdf

[10] Emmanuelle Schick Garcia, “The Idiot Cycle,” 2009. (96 mins.) http://www.japanesepopsongs.com/idiotcycle/

After the Greek elections struck fear into the hearts of the global banksters, the fallout remains uncertain. If the next Greek election produces an anti-austerity government, Greece will almost certainly make a speedy exit from the euro. If this happens — and it is looking increasingly inevitable — the consequences for the global economy are spectacularly gloomy. Yet U.S. media and U.S. politicians are largely silent on the issue, almost as if nothing were happening. 

What will happen when Greece leaves the Euro? Foreign banks hold over $90 billion in Greek debt in the public and in the private sectors. These enormous losses could very well bring down banks in Europe and abroad.

Also, the struggling Euro countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland will see their borrowing costs skyrocket, since the wealthy will be more reluctant to waste anymore investment money on risky Euro countries, guaranteeing a further downward spiral of bailouts and bankruptcy. 

How likely is a Greek euro exit? The conservative Economist magazine reports:

 ”If Greece rejects the second bail-out or falls drastically behind in its program [of debt payments and public sector cuts], its exit could become inevitable.”  

This scenario appears increasingly likely, as Greek voters have tired of supporting politicians that continue to attack the majority of voters’ living standards through massive austerity policies (cuts to jobs, social programs and the public sector in general).  

How would the U.S. be affected by a European Union meltdown? The Bank for International Settlements claims that U.S. banks have loaned $96.8 billion to the weakest European nations in the public and private sector, with an additional $275.8 billion to German and French banks, who would suffer directly if the weak nations drowned.  

Furthermore, the European Union is the U.S.’ largest trading partner; U.S. exports to the EU would instantly plummet if the above scenario were played out.   

Which brings us to the silence of the U.S. politicians on the issue. The giant austerity measures that are driving Europe to the edge of revolution have been delayed on the federal level in the U.S. until after the November elections. Then, the seldom discussed budget “sequesters” will go into effect — automatic cuts to federal spending of $100 billion, every year until 2021.  

Also, after the election federally enhanced unemployment insurance expires, as does the federal payroll tax cut. Obama’s stimulus plan that supported states and city governments petered out at the end of 2011, adding pain to the ongoing deficit crunch nationwide.   

It’s possible that the U.S. may already be re-entering an “official” recession, though the jobs recession never left; the April jobs report showed that only 63.6 percent of people in the U.S. are either employed or actively looking for work, the lowest in more than three decades. 

U.S. politicians — both Democrats and Republicans — are united in a strategy to combat the weakening economy by resorting to the European strategy of austerity. Both parties have already worked together to cut 600,000 government jobs (mostly local) since 2009, destroying the services these workers deliver in the process (education has been most targeted).  

These numbers will balloon when the effects of Europe’s plight reaches America’s shores. The political silence over this fact is a good strategy for U.S. corporate political representatives; the more unprepared working people are for austerity measures, the easier they are to implement (what Naomi Klein calls the Shock Doctrine).  

Therefore, working people in the U.S. need to learn to speak Greek, and adopt an increasingly popular slogan that rejects austerity measures: Tax the Rich! In other words, make the rich pay for the crisis they created. In practice this means that, instead of massive job reductions, cuts to education and health care, taxes on the wealthy and corporations should be raised; the banks should be put under public control rather than being bailed out with public money; the public sector should be fully funded and expanded rather than privatized and slashed.  

Austerity is when the wealthy attempt to push the effects of their recessions onto the backs of working people, who need only to collectively push back and force the 1% to pay instead. 

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)  

Romney the Bully

May 14th, 2012 by Marjorie Cohn

Last week, I was invited to speak to 40 high school freshman about human rights. When we discussed the right to be free from torture, I asked the students if they could think of an example of torture. They said, “bullying.” A major problem among teens, bullying can lead to depression, and even suicide. When most people list the qualities they want to see in their President, “bully” is not one of them.

Yet evidence continues to emerge that Mitt Romney is a bully. When he was a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School, Romney orchestrated and played the primary role in forcibly pinning fellow student John Lauber to the ground and clipping the terrified Lauber’s hair. The soft-spoken Lauber, it seemed, had returned from spring break with bleached-blond hair draped over one eye. Romney, infuriated, declared, “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” Lauber eyes filled with tears as he screamed for help. One of the other students in the dorm at the time, said, “It was a hack job . . . It was vicious.”

But instead of owning up to his stupidity and expressing regret at his bullying attack on Lauber, Romney told Fox News that he didn’t remember the incident, although he apologized for his pranks that “might have gone too far.” It’s hard to believe that Romney cannot recall an incident that others who assisted in the attack have regretted for years. Or perhaps there were so many more that he doesn’t recall this one.

Lauber wasn’t the only student Romney harassed. Gary Hummel, a gay student who had not yet come out, says Romney shouted, “Atta girl!” when Hummel spoke out in English class. Once again, Romney claims he doesn’t remember that insult.

In still another high school incident, Romney caused English teacher Carl Wonnberger, who had severe vision problems, to smack into a closed door, after which Romney laughed hysterically.

While these episodes demonstrate cruelty, one might dismiss them as the work of an immature high school prankster. But, unfortunately, Romney’s bullying didn’t end in high school. Romney is now famous for driving to Canada with the family dog caged and strapped to the roof of his car.

Moreover, Romney made a career of bullying when he was head of private equity firm Bain Capital. Bain would invest in companies, load them up with debt, and then sell them for huge profits. The companies often had to lay off workers and sometimes were forced into bankruptcy.

The Wall Street Journal found that of the 77 companies in which Bain invested while Romney headed it from 1984 to 1999, 22 percent filed for bankruptcy or went out of business. In addition, Bain hid its profits in tax havens.

William D. Cohan, a Wall Street deal-adviser for 17 years, wrote in the Washington Post: “Seemingly alone among private-equity firms,” Bain Capital under Romney’s leadership “was a master at bait-and-switching Wall Street bankers to get its hands on the companies that provided the raw material for its financial alchemy.” Cohan said Bain “did all that it could to game the system.”

For 28 years, Joe Soptic was a steelworker at Worldwide Grinding Systems. Soptic told Amy Goodman that after the company was bought out in 1993, his wife had to quit working, she didn’t have health insurance, and he couldn’t afford to buy it after his salary was reduced from $59,000 to $24,800 annually. When his wife became ill with cancer, she went to a county hospital. When she died, he said, “I had this big bill.” Soptic was forced to liquidate his 401(k)s, which are now gone. He lost his job after the company declared bankruptcy under the control of Bain. While 750 workers lost their jobs, Bain made billions of dollars in profit. Bain denied workers the severance pay and health insurance they had been promised, and their retirement benefits were reduced by as much as $400 a month.

Randy Johnson had worked for nine years at an office supply factory in Marion, Indiana, when American Pad and Paper, which had been acquired by Bain, bought out the factory in 1994. Johnson was hired back, but without a union contract. He lost his pension plan, and his wages and benefits were reduced. After an unsuccessful effort to negotiate a contract, the plant closed. Johnson and more than 250 of his fellow workers were fired. Johnson, who had tried to get Romney’s attention during the labor dispute, said, “I really think [Romney] didn’t care about the workers. It was all about profit over people.”

A bully does not care whom he may hurt by his tormenting behavior. He intimidates the vulnerable for his own benefit, or amusement. He lacks compassion. Romney fits this profile.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild. Her most recent book is, “The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse.”

Chemins de Damas : La Syrie derrière les mensonges médiatiques - par Marie-Ange Patrizio  2011-11-25


أصدقائي..
لقد عدت (يوم السبت 19 نوفمبر 2011) من رحلة دامت 06 أيام إلى سورية، بدعوة من كنائس الشرق، مرخص لها من قبل السلطات السورية، وبطلب -من جهتي- من الأم آغنس مريم دولاكروا، التي تعرفت إليها نهاية شهر افريل 2011 بعدما قرأتْ –على شبكة فولتير- ترجمتي لنص مقال د.لوزيردو: “ماذا يحدث في سورية”؟

وقد قدمت لنا التسهيلات بتعاون من تيري ميسان وشبكة فولتير.

هذا السفر، الذي كان مخصصا من اجل حوالي خمسين شخصا عند الانطلاق، وحصريا لصحافيي الإعلام الكاثوليكي، لم يحظ في النهاية سوى بـ15 شخصا، جاءوا من بلدان أجنبية: لم يكن من بينهم أي صحفي فرنسي محترف من الإعلام المكتوب أو المذاع أو المتلفز، فقط 05 بلجيكيين، صحفية أتت من مدريد، وآخر أمريكي.

ولم يستجب أي من الصحفيين الفرنسيين، ولم ينتهز أي منهم الفرصة للذهاب والاطلاع على ما يحدث ميدانيا في سورية. المفارقة الغريبة أن وسائل إعلامنا لا تفوّت أية فرصة لاتهام “الدكتاتور” الأسد و”نظامه” بعرقلة الصحفيين المستقلين عن الوصول إلى سورية.

إننا –إذن- نستطيع الإدلاء بشهاداتنا اليوم، ليس فقط كصحفيين وكمساهمين مختلفين، بإمكانهم الدخول رسميا إلى هذا البلد، ولكن للتدليل على ان هؤلاء الذين يشتكون من رقابة هذا النظام يرفضون هذه الفرصة الرائعة عندما تتاح لهم: تحت ذريعة حرية الصحافة، ألا يستطيعون الدخول عندما يستدعون؟؟.. ألا تكون الحرية مضمونة إلا بـ”التخفي” في بلد يحث الخطى نحو “الحرب الأهلية”؟؟

أعضاء الفريق الآخرون كانوا ممثلي جمعيات كاثوليكية (إيطاليا) أو مناضلين ناشطين على النت -ليسوا كاثوليكيين (جدا) في معظمهم- مع آخرين اقل ما نصفهم به أنهم ذوو مشارب سياسية متباينة.

ما أخاطبكم به اليوم متعلق بالحاجة الملحة إلى القيام بتقارير في هذا المقام، انه ليس روبورتاجا صحفيا -لأنني لست صحفية، وإنما طبيبة نفسانية ومترجمة- وإنما هو رسالة إلى الأصدقاء والزملاء، انه رسالة إلى هذا الزمن المنحاز غير الكرونولوجي، عما فاجأني في هذا البلد الجميل: ضخامة ثورة الأكاذيب غير المعقولة، التي تسوقها وسائل الإعلام هنا، حول الوضع في سورية.. أكاذيب تتعلق بـ”العمل وإخفاؤه” وكما يقال، هذه النقاط ستكون متبوعة لاحقا بقصة مفصلة حول محطات عدة من الرحلة، تبرز الوضع الحالي، وتدحض التسميم المدهش المتواصل منذ 08 أشهر بخصوص الأحداث الرامية إلى زعزعة هذا البلد.

قبل كل شيء، أشير إلى ان المنظمين أعدوا لنا أجندة حافلة (ومعلنة) ولكنها ليست إجبارية، طبعا: كل فرد من الفريق كان يمتلك إمكانية الحضور بكل حرية إلى كل ما دعينا إليه، أو ترك الفريق، كي يذهب إلى ما شاء الذهاب إليه، دون ان يكون مجبرا على الإفصاح عن وجهته.

سأقول أيضا إنني لم اعرف ممن يتكون الفريق قبل ان أتواجد معهم هناك، ولم أجد أية عقبة (ما عدا الازدحام المروري الشديد، حتى في سورية، نعم حتى في هذه الأيام) بخصوص حرية التنقل، دون أية حراسة: وأقول إني اشتقت أحيانا إلى تلك الحراسة، التي كثر الحديث عنها هنا وهناك؟

لا أحسن العربية، وكنت راضية (غير خائبة أبدا) ببقائي في البرنامج المسطر (المتغير على الدوام تحت ضغط الأحداث)، بما فيه نصفا يومين استغليتهما لبعض السياحة: قمت باستغلال وقت فراغي في برنامج مكثف وشاق، ثقافيا معنويا وجسمانيا، للتجوال في مدينة دمشق، الرائعة.

لم نملك الوقت الكافي للقيام بالكثير من التجوال، في سان جاك أو القديس جاك المذبوح، بقارة، لم يكن لدينا سوى بضع ساعات خلال النهار للتنزه داخل وحول الدير، ولقد أسهمت بكل تواضع في إنهاء موسم قطف الزيتون (2 طن).

سأقول إذن في المقدمة: حرية التنقل.. نعم، خارج المركز الحدودي على طريق بيروت دمشق (الذي سأتطرق إليه لاحقا في محور “ماذا تفعل الشرطة”؟)، لم يستجوبنا احد، من ذاك الذي سمي استجوابا، ولم يتحدث إلينا عن حضورنا أو نوايانا. قد يسخر منا المتعالون.. طبعا..

أؤكد أيضا إني دفعت تكاليف رحلتي، لكني في سورية لم ادفع شيئا: صديقة سورية هناك قالت إنه لا يمكنني بأي حال من الأحوال ان ادفع فلسا، مهما كان الأمر، حسب طقوس الضيافة السورية.. مسيحية كنت أم غير ذلك.

ان حرية التنقل، بالنسبة إلى أغلبيتنا، ومن ضمننا الصحافيون المحترفون، كانت لتجد ما يحد منها، لسبب قوي وبسيط أيضا يحدث في كل مناطق العالم، وهو: أن تتكلم لغة البلد أو لا، والأمر هنا يتعلق بالعربية. إنني أتكلم انجليزية هشة، والسوريون يتكلمون الفرنسية أحيانا.

وفي كل التنقلات واللقاءات، العفوية أو المنظمة –بصفة خاصة- لم أكد أفارق موثقة جزائرية (تسكن بفرنسا)، تكرمت علينا بالترجمة، إضافة إلى عملها هناك (تصوير وتسجيل). المترجمة الأخرى –التي لم تكلّ- كانت آغنس مريم دو لاكروا. القارئ الناقد دون هوادة قد يقول إنها كانت تترجم ما تريد: بالطبع.

التسجيلات (التي قام بها صحفيون وموثقو الفريق) تمت باللغة العربية، مع ترجمة فورية، ستسمح بالاطلاع على مدى موثوقية الترجمة.

سأخبر أيضا عن تفاجئي من ان أقسام التحرير التي أرسلت بصحافييها (إلى سورية) لم تزودهم بخدمات مترجم، (كعنصر أساسي لعمل يصف نفسه بالاستقلالية..) منذ وصولهم إلى الميدان.

في الدير، وخلال بعض التنقلات، جعلت الأختان كارمل وكلير ماري، وإخوان من الجالية المسيحية -وأربعتهم فرانكوفونيون- إقامتنا أكثر راحة، لوجيستيكيا ومعنويا. شكرا لكم على تواجدكم الحار، الدائم والشجاع، الذي زيّن إقامتنا، وشكرا أيضا لسائقنا الصبور، الذي رافقنا من “قارة”، في مقاطعة حمص، حتى بانياس.

الحياة اليومية العادية، التي نلاحظها في الشارع، هي حياة شعب يتحمل عقوبات وحصارا: ليس سوى “إبادة بطيئة” على حد تعبير وابتسر تاربلاي. هذه العقوبات التي تبدو في شكل ميكانيزمات بنكية معقدة (لن اشرح هنا تعقيداتها) تؤدي إلى –من بين ما تؤدي إليه- ارتفاع سعر الوقود الضروري للتدفئة في هذا الطقس البارد الرطب هذه الأيام. هذا، دون الحديث عن الآثار الأخرى للعقوبات، التي لم يتوقف عندها محاورونا.

الناس يمضون إلى أعمالهم في هدوء كاف (أتحدث هنا عن الطريق، الأسواق، البازارات..الخ، في دمشق، وأيضا في الطرقات والمناطق الريفية)، ليجعلك تشعر بالراحة أيضا في الأزقة الخالية عند حلول الظلام، في الأسواق، أو في المعالم الجميلة، التي هجرها السياح، أو في المطاعم.

مطاعم –دون أدنى شك- اقل ارتيادا مما كانت عليه في الموسم السياحي، أو خلال اليوميات الدمشقية التقليدية (الاجتماعية أو غيرها)، لا يوجد سياح أجانب في سورية حاليا، والتجارة تتأثر بذلك بشكل معتبر.

وفيما عدا مرة واحدة تجولنا في دمشق داخل 05 سيارات ليموزين سوداء، وضعتها السلطات تحت تصرفنا، كنوع من المجاملة (وكانت تلك المرة الوحيدة التي تلقينا فيها خدمة لوجيستية من النظام)، لم يحرسنا احد ولم يراقبنا احد، كما لم يقم احد بحمايتنا. إني أؤكد ذلك على الرغم من خزعبلات قرأتها زعم كاتبوها العكس دون ان يقدموا أية تفصيلات.

سأعود لاحقا إلى قصة هذا الموكب الطريف في فقرة تحمل عنوان: “ماذا تفعل الشرطة”؟

لقد تهنا مرات عدة.. (كحراسة وحماية)، تصورت أمرا آخر (وانتظرت بسذاجة أشياء أخرى).

جو الحرب الأهلية، الذي أزعجتنا به وسائل إعلامنا، لم أجده أبدا هنا (وهذا أفضل)، واستطيع ان أقول إن بعض أعضاء مجموعتنا بحثوا عنه بجهد، وبحرية.. بحرية، كي يرضوا طلبات مسؤولي التحرير (في صحفهم).. إن كتابة أو قول هذه العبارة “لا توجد حرب أهلية في سورية” ستعتبر كذبا مبينا.

القول بأن هناك بداية لحرب أهلية يعني ان نكون على الأقل قد شاهدنا بطريقة مباشرة أو غير مباشرة، أو حصلنا على شهادات حول مواجهات مسلحة كثيفة بين مجموعات ومواطنين، أو بين مواطنين وقوى امن (شرطة، جيش..الخ).. فالحرب الأهلية ليست مواجهة بين مجموعات آتية من الخارج وقوات أمن داخلية.. الأمر في هذه الحال يسمى “عدوانا عسكريا خارجيا”.

ستكون لنا فرصة للعودة إلى تجهيزات “الثائرين”.

إن الزملاء الصحفيين الذين قاموا بتوثيق هذا السفر قد اعترفوا –بأنفسهم- بالحقيقة، المرعبة، والقاسية في أساليبها، وبهذه الاختراقات الآتية من الخارج التي تقوم بها عصابات من القتلة. واعتمادا على الشهادات التي أشيعت حول هذا الرعب، تمنيت عدة مرات ان أكون مرافقة بحماية.

كوني اكتب اليوم، رغم ان سفرنا كان بطبيعة الحال مراقبا ومتتبعا من هؤلاء الذين يصدرون الأوامر، والأجانب، وفيالق الموت، هو الدليل –حتى الآن على الأقل- على أننا تجولنا بأمن ودون حاجة إلى حماية.

السوريون الذين التقيت لديهم على درجة كبيرة من كرم الضيافة: إنه بلد يطيب فيه التجوال حتى في مثل هذا الوقت، على الأقل في دمشق.

أما خارجها، فإن الأجواء التي عشناها لم تكن نتيجة ضغط ملموس، ولكننا –بحكم البلدان التي أتينا منها- كنا نحن من يعيش على أعصابه (في حمص وبانياس): لقد كنا لا نزال تحت تأثير ما سمعناه من قبل محدثين ضحايا فيالق الموت، أو تأثير الدعاية التي يصعب الإفلات منها في فرنسا وايطاليا واسبانيا والولايات المتحدة الأمريكية وبلجيكا، حتى وان كنا ننتقد ما يصدر من وسائل الإعلام تلك.

وفي مدينتي حمص وبانياس، أين التقينا وسمعنا هؤلاء الضحايا أو أقرباءهم، مدنيين أو عسكريين، قتلوا، كان يجب بالطبع ان نكون حذرين.

المجموعة المتكونة من بعض المبعوثين الخاصين، الذين عادوا إلى حمص ثانية، مع آغنس مريم، تعطلت سيارتهم على بعد 10 كيلومترات من المدينة، عند حلول الظلام، وقد قصوا علينا ذلك في المساء، دون أية لمسة مأساوية، رغم أنهم خرجوا إلى بيت عائلة اختطف الإرهابيون رجلا منها وقتلوه.

وأثناء تنقلاتنا، كان من السهل ان نظهر كأجانب، سواء كان المارون –أم لم يكونوا- من أعوان الأمن.. هؤلاء الذين حدثونا عنهم كثيرا، والذين كان يجب ان يكونوا كتومين ومدربين جيدا.. إذا كانوا متواجدين حقا كما يقال (!) فنحن –إذن- لم نرهم ولم نسمعهم أبدا.

أو ربما كنا مخدرين، ومصابين بالعمى، بفعل التخدير الإيديولوجي !

لم نر أي سائح أجنبي طوال إقامتنا. لذلك، اعتقد –من جهتي- أننا نلنا بعض الشهرة.. خاصة وأننا كنا نتجول حاملين كاميرات وآلات تصوير ودفاتر صغيرة..الخ. طلب منا الأطفال –باحتشام- ان نأخذ معهم صورا، أما غير الأطفال، فقد يريدون ان نسجلهم، دون سابق تحضير، وبوجوه مكشوفة (هم ونحن)، وقد أعطونا (ونحن أيضا بادلناهم ذلك) أسماءهم وعناوينهم..إلخ.

وهذا عكس تماما ما أظهره روبورتاج بثته قناة “آرتي”، للسيدة صوفيا عمارة (التي أرجو منكم ان تشاهدوه على الانترنت، لتكوّنوا فكرة عن الهراء والخزعبلات التي تضمنها، قبل ان تحوله صاحبته –بانتهازية كبيرة- إلى روبورتاج حول حرب إنسانية حقيقية !!).

لقد كنا الفريق الصحفي الأول الذي يدخل سورية رسميا. وأقول “رسميا” لأشير إلى هؤلاء الصحفيين المزعومين الذين يدعون أنهم قد دخلوها بسرية (هذا ان صدقناهم، لأننا لا نملك أدلة على أنهم قضوا أياما في البلد): من حقنا –إذن- ان نتساءل ما هذه الاستقلالية التي يملكون، بالنظر إلى “فيالق الموت” التي تعيث جرما في بعض المدن، فهم الأسهل بالنسبة لها إذا كانوا قد وطدوا هناك قواعدهم الخلفية.

ويظهر المعارضون الحقيقيون للنظام أنفسهم علنا للتعريف بمطالبهم، من بينها: الانفتاح الرسمي للبلد.

ومنذ بداية محاولة زعزعة الاستقرار السوري، بدا لي أن من مصلحة النظام (العامة) ان يراقب الداخلين إلى البلاد: هناك الكثير من عصابات القتلة الذين يتوغلون، وليس غبيا كي يسمح بدخول أي كان، فقط ليثبت لأناس لا يريدون ان يعرفوا شيئا انه ليس دكتاتوريا.

أكثر الكلمات التي نسمعها عندما نلتقي بالناس هي: welcome، ويبدو أنها من التقاليد في سورية، ولكن هذا التقليد له معنى خاص هذه الأيام بالنسبة إلى الزوار، خاصة مع ما يسمعه السوريون من بلداننا: لأنهم لا يشاهدون قنوات ووسائل إعلامنا المفخخة بالأكاذيب فحسب، بل ويشاهدون ويعرفون نوايانا، ويشاهدون أيضا قنوات مستقلة ليست ملكا لـ”الممالك الحرة” في الخليج !! ولديهم وسائل إعلام يمكنها ان تكوّن لهم فكرة، سيما وأنهم متواجدون في الميدان، في البلد، على عكس صحافيين هنا (في أروبا) يلوكون ما تمليه عليهم رئاسة تحريرهم.

في الشارع، وبعد أن يقول لك الناس welcome، يقولون لك أيضا: we love el Assad، وإذا قدمتم لهم أنفسكم كفرنسيين فإنهم يقولون: SARKZY (وأحيانا آلان جوبي) bed, bed ..، مع إشارات من أيديهم بهذا المعنى بكل صراحة.

هل هذه أيضا دعاية؟ ان أغلبيتهم من الشباب، فهل خدرهم النظام وأعماهم؟ وهل إلى هذه الدرجة وهذه الشعبية؟!، في هذه الحال، فإنها ليست سوى دكتاتورية “شعبية” !

مجرد سؤال حول مستوى الوعي الإعلامي عند “المارة” في الأحياء “الدكتاتورية”..

وعندنا، أين تسود حرية الرأي والصحافة..الخ، من منكم هنا (ليس في أوساط الشارع بل بين أوساط العارفين) يعرف اسم وزير الخارجية السوري؟

بالنسبة إلى القارئ المندهش، أوضح أني أتكلم هنا ليس فقط عن أناس التقيتهم في مواعيد منتظمة، ولكن عن أناس التقيتهم طوال 06 أيام، في أحياء دمشق، مع المارة مع الناس، الذين يتسوقون، وفي الشوارع، وفي محطات لم تكن مبرمجة.. في أحياء “حمص”، حيث نزلنا إلى الشارع، بعد ان استقبلنا حاكمها، مع ممثلي المجتمع المسيحي وعضوين من المعارضة الموجودة في البلد، أعطانا كل واحد منهم اسمه ورقم هاتفه..

هل يمكن ان نقول أيضا انه سيناريو يضعه النظام؟ ربما، ولكن في هذه الحالة سنقول –إذن- إنها كوميديا منتقدة جدا ضد النظام، جديرة ان تبث عندنا في بعض البرامج الأكثر استقلالا عن الأغلبية الأخرى.

في كل الأحوال، وحتى بالنسبة إلى ممثلي المعارضة، الذين التقيناهم في حمص، هناك فرق في انتقاد النظام، إنهم يرون انه بحاجة إلى إصلاحات بشكل أوسع، وإنها إصلاحات يجب ان يقوموا هم بها إلى جانب الرئيس الأسد.

كل الأشخاص الذين التقيناهم صدفة، أو بصدفة مزعومة! وحتى وان كانت سورية كلها مراقبة بأجهزة الأمن أو بطريقة حزبية (مثلا: بعض أعضاء حزب البعث لم يصرحوا لنا بانتمائهم الحزبي، وهذا بديهي) كلهم متفقون على هذه النقطة: “المعارضة تصلح نظام الرئيس وتشاركه فيها).

ويبدو في كل الآراء التي سمعناها (بما في ذلك ما كان بيني وبين جارتي السورية في الطائرة، والتي تسكن فرنسا، منذ سنوات، واليها أرسل هذا النص) ان الرئيس بشار الأسد شخصيا بعيد عن حملة الانتقادات تلك الخاصة بالأنظمة الدكتاتورية.. وإلا، فإن نظامه ملتحم وسخي ليترك المسؤول الأول فيه بعيدا عن النقد ويتحمل هو كل ما قيل من انتقادات!!!

وأكثر ما فاجأني من الأكذوبة المفضوحة والأنانية لوسائل إعلامنا هنا هو أنها تصور بشار الأسد على انه دكتاتور وان شعبه يكرهه.

وفي كل ما سمعته عبر اللقاءات المبرمجة والعفوية من انتقادات حول النظام، وحول ما كان يتردد دائما وبقوة من بيروقراطية ورشوة وغياب حرية الكلمة..الخ، وجدت إنها كلها انتقادات يرجعوها قائلوها إلى النظام الذي وضعه والد بشار الأسد، ثم يضيفون مباشرة أنهم مستعدون للتخلي عن هذه الانتقادات بسبب الضرورة العاجلة للدفاع عن الوطن والأمة ضد عدوان خارجي، دفاعا عن مجتمعهم وحضارتهم، التي لا يتوقفون عن وصفهما بفخر بأنهما متنوعان منذ القدم، وان هذا ما يصنع صلابتهما.

لقد التقينا (بطريقة منظمة، نعم، ومعلنة ومتبناة) العديد من المسيحيين، لكن ليس هذا كل شيء.. ان الكل هنا متفق على النقطة التالية: إنهم يتحدثون أولا وقبل كل شيء كمواطنين سوريين، وليس كأفراد منتمين إلى هذا الدين أو ذاك، أو إلى تلك الجمعية أو ذلك الحزب، حتى إنهم كانوا يملكون شرف إعلان مشاربهم، وكذلك الأمر في مجالس الاكليروس (بكنائس الشرق) كان ذلك واضحا.
وما كان يتكرر دائما هو تحديدهم الدقيق لمهاجميهم الحقيقيين، الآتين من خرج الوطن: ممالك خليجية، قطر، أصوليون، رأسماليون في خدمة الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية وإسرائيل، الذين يتم تعيينهم اسميا، في تحليل سياسي منطقي.

كل الشهادات والتصريحات (ما عدا استثناءات قليلة جدا) تمت بوجوه مكشوفة.. سنعود إلى هذا الموضوع لاحقا.

صباح يوم الأحد 13 نوفمبر 2011، حضرنا مظاهرة عملاقة كانت على وشك ان تنتهي، انطلقت على اثر قرار من الجامعة العربية (ولنقل بصراحة: جامعة عرب الخليج) يوم 12 نوفمبر يقضي بتجميد عضوية سورية فيها.

كل المواطنين السوريين الذين التقيناهم كانوا منقسمين إلى مستاء وغاضب وثائر. وصلنا إلى الشارع الكبير للمدينة، عندما أوشكت المظاهرة على أن تنتهي، وبقينا جالسين على رصيف يفصل بين طريقين متعاكستي الاتجاه، حوالي ساعتين من الوقت، كانت فيها جموع الناس تغادر المكان ،من خلال واحدة من الطرق الثلاثة الموجودة.

خلال ساعتين من المظاهرة، كنا نرى أشخاصا مبتسمين في أغلب الأحيان، أو مصحوبين بعائلاتهم، أو مجموعات من الشبان يأتون ويتكلمون معنا، دائما الكلمات نفسها.. “مرحبا”.. “نحن نحب الأسد”.. ويرددون الشعارات المنادى بها خلال المظاهرات، بكل مرح، ويرقصون أحيانا، كانت الفتيات يمسكنهم من الأذرع ويتناولن مرطبات.. كل شيء كان يجري في جو احتفالي، أحيانا.

حتى دون أن نتقن اللغة العربية، كنا ننتبه بسرعة إلى ظاهرة ملفتة للانتباه: لقد كانوا يكررون عبر مكبرات الصوت، ودون ملل، الشعارات التي قيلت من قبل ناشطين داخل المظاهرات أو خارجها.. “سورية”.. (إن كلمة سيريا SYRIA تـُلفظ هنا سورية SOURYA).

لقد فاجأتني أيضا جدية الشبان عندما يقفون مستعدين لأداء النشيد الوطني السوري، ليس لأنهم ربحوا مباراة في كرة القدم، بل دفاعا عن الأمة.

هل هم مجندون؟ وإذا كان الأمر كذلك، فكم يمثلون من العدد الإجمالي الهائل للسكان الذين ينزلون إلى الشارع ويصطفون ليستمعوا إلى خطاب “دعاية”!!!

إنهم نشطون، يغنون، يرقصون، يلتقطون صورا.. أيتم ذلك بالإكراه كما يشاع؟ !!!

في يوم الأحد هذا، في دمشق، عندما وضعت سورية على هامش الجامعة العربية، تلقيت درسا، هذا مفاده: وطن.. وطنيون.. يعلنون (في أغلبيتهم الساحقة) حبهم لبشار الأسد، كل الذين هنا في أحياء دمشق (وهو ما لاحظناه في كل لقاءاتنا بصفة دائمة) هم قبل كل شيء وطنيون يدافعون عن أمتهم.

كانت تلك الموجات من الشعارات (بما في ذلك تلك “الموالية للأسد”)، بغض النظر عن واقع هذه السلطة التي لا أعرف عنها شيئا (حتى الآن)، لحظات رائعة مؤثرة من الرحلة. كان لها من القوة والجمال ما “لم نعد” نسمعه في بلداننا المثخنة بحرية التعبير، وحقوق التعبير.. وهلم جرا: إنها وحدة الشعب الواقف المتأهب، الواعي بما يهدده، وبما قد يخسره.

وسوف تستكمل هذه الانطباعات الأولية بتقارير أكثر تفصيلا ودقة حول ما رأيت وسمعت: أهي انطباعات وملاحظات منحازة؟ هل هناك من يزعم ذلك؟

وزير الشؤون الخارجية الفرنسية يريد “إنقاذ السوريين” المدنيين بإنشاء ممرات إنسانية.. إنه تدخل قد يقوده يوما ما إلى المحكمة الجنائية الدولية، مع زعماء عصابات قصر الإيليزي (مقر الرئاسة) والماتينيون (مقر الحكومة)، بتهمة التواطؤ في جرائم حرب (قتل أسرى حرب، بمن فيهم القذافي)، وجرائم ضد الإنسانية (الحصار المؤدي إلى إبادة)؟ برنار هنري ليفي؟ حسنا، سأقتصر في هذه الرسالة على فضح الكذب، ولن أتطرق إلى القذارة.

لقد قال لنا أحد معارضي النظام من حمص: “إننا، نحن السوريين من جميع الأطياف، تحت ‘غيتو’ إعلامي، تحت حصار إعلامي، ونحن نناشد هؤلاء الذين يشتغلون في مجال الإعلام، الذين يملكون ذرة من عدالة، ويحملون شيئا من المساواة في قلوبهم، أن يسعوا إلى إظهار الحقيقة.. نحن لا نريد شيئا سوى إظهار الحقيقة”.

ثم قرأت وسمعت ورأيت، منذ عودتي، بعض الروبورتاجات التي أنجزها زملاؤنا ‘المبعوثون الخاصون’، ممن كانوا معنا في سورية.. “جزء فقط من الحقيقة” قالها أحد هؤلاء، متجنبا حقيقة الحدث، ومتذرعا بأنهم لم يتمكنوا من رؤية “كل شيء” خلال هذا “السفر المعلَّـم جيدا” من قبل النظام، و”المفيد رغم ذلك”..

ألا يمكن ان نستشف من خلال هذه الكلمات القليلة أثرا للأجزاء الأخرى من الحقيقة.. متصوَّرة.. ولكنها مكتومة. سيكون لهؤلاء المحررين أسبابهم المختلفة، ولكن ألا يصنع ذلك الغموض عودة غير منتظرة للجزء الآخر من الحقيقة –من حيث لا يعلم الكاتب- محدثة آثارا ما؟

لدينا سوابق مشهورة في المنطقة.

وما دامت هناك إمكانية لذلك، فإن رؤساء تحرير وسائل إعلامنا الغربيين، الأوروبيين، الأمريكيين، الإسرائيليين، الامبرياليين، ممتلكي أسلحة الدمار الشامل، لن يخسروا شيئا إذا تمعنوا قليلا في التاريخ: لأن سورية كتاب نادر، وأظن أن سكانها يدافعون هنا عن هذا الثراء، أكثر مما يدافع هؤلاء عن آبار نفطهم.

استحضر قصتي انطلاقا مما سمعته هذا الأسبوع عن سورية في إعلامنا، وبالخصوص عن حمص: “صور مسترقة تعرض حياة ملتقطيها للخطر”.. “ما وراء البربرية”.. “ماذا بقي من المدينة؟”.. “لدينا صور عن مصر لكن لا شيء عن سورية، أو تقريبا لاشيء”.. وليس هناك شيء مهم بعد هذه الحصص والروبورتاجات.
وسوف أوضح قصتي، اليوم ومستقبلا، مستعينة ببعض الصور، دون تستر: ما يخصني منها وما يتعلق بالناس الذين صورتهم، بعد إذنهم أو بطلب منهم. وقد وضعت -طوال مراحل قصتي- التواريخ وأسماء الأماكن والناس الذين التقيتهم.. وبالنظر إلى همجية العدوان غير العقلاني ضد سورية، فإن جميع هؤلاء الشهود يعرفون أن لا شيء يمكن حمايتهم من المعتدين: يطلبون ان نقول -على الأقل- ما يحدث لهم.

أطلق عليهم تسمية “فرق الموت”، استنادا إلى المعلومات التي سمعناها جميعا (انظر تقارير صحفيينا البلجيكيين البعيدين عن شبهة التواطؤ الإيديولوجي مع النظام)، أقصد بها: مجموعات من المهاجمين القادمين من وراء الحدود، مسلحين في غالب الأحيان بأسلحة متطورة جدا ومكلفة، ويتطلبون بالتالي تدريبا عسكريا في معسكرات (لبنان، تركية) ويوظفون في الحال سوريين منجذبين إلى المال، هم: “مرتكبو جنح الحق العام” ، “مدمنو مخدرات” ، “مرضى عقليا” و”ضعاف نفسيا”.

بعض المتحدثين إلينا ذكروا أرقاما: 100 دولار للمظاهرة “السلمية” الواحدة ضد الحكومة، 400 دولار لإطلاق النار (والفظائع التي تنجر عن ذلك): ذلك يعادل متوسط الراتب الشهري للمواطن السوري.. من يدفع؟ من يدرب؟ من يصدر الأوامر؟

بعض الاقتراحات سيتم تقديمها من قبل الناس التي نلتقيها، وليس من مجهولين، وليس كما يقول د. “بوجاداس” و”مارتين لاروش جوبير”، مع صور “مسروقة” لبضع ثوان لكل منهما: “أنه صعب جدا، وخطير للغاية” التقاط الصور أو الأفلام في سورية”.. كل ذلك هراء، جميع أعضاء مجموعتنا الذين يمكنهم التحدث بحرية، أي دون رقابة أو أوامر من رؤساء تحريرهم، يمكن ان يشهدوا بذلك.

كما أنني طوال تفاصيل الرواية أعطي تفاصيل قد تبدو غير ضرورية أو غير لائقة، ولكنها تظهر على وجه الدقة إلى أي مدى كان يمكن لنا أن نلتقط الصور وأن نتحدث وأن نسجل مع المارة، وحتى التحرك في حمص وضواحيها، خلال الأسبوع الواقع بين 13 و19 نوفمبر2011. وإذا كنت لا أعطي أسماء الأماكن وأسماء الناس أحيانا بالتدقيق، فلأنني لم أتمكن من استيعاب لفظها العربي، أو لأن المعدات التي في حوزتي ليست مناسبة لعمل صحفي، أو أنها ناقصة. دفاتر وأقلام وكراسات تفي بالغرض عندما نكتب بسرعة، ولكننا بعد ذلك لا نتمكن من ان نقرأها ثانية قراءة صحيحة. يمكنكم الاستعاضة بنصوص أعمال المحررين الآخرين الذين كانوا أعضاء في الفريق.

غادرنا يوم الثلاثاء 16 نوفمبر عند نهاية الصبيحة دير القديس جاك (انظر موقع دير القديس جاك على الانترنت) للحصول على موعد على الساعة 13.00، مع محافظ منطقة حمص (ما يعادل حاكم مقاطعة عندنا). أخذنا طريق دمشق-حلب الذي يمر بحمص، طريق معبدة جيدا، توازي جزءا من جبال لبنان، المناظر الطبيعية مجدبة في ذلك اليوم المغيمة سماؤه الجميلة (كما في الصورة).

في ذلك البرد قطعنا حوالي نصف الطريق، توقفنا على الجانب، الذي يسمى هنا “ممر الطوارئ”. أخبرنا السائق أنه يمكننا شراء شيء نأكله، فهناك على حافة الطريق السريع محل صغير منزو، حيث يقوم رجل شاب بصنع البيتزا في فرن تقليدي: إنها بيتزا مطهوة على الرماد.

لقد اشترينا منها عشرة قطع بما يعادل أقل من 3 يورو.. بديع. لقد أكلناها بهدوء ونحن ندردش مع “البيتزاجي”، تعلمت يومها ان البيتزا لم تخترع في نابولي ولكن هنا في سورية. تحققنا منها، لأنه، هنا أيضا ، قد نكون ضحايا تسمم (الطعام.. النظام) ! البعض ابتعد عن الطريق بحثا عن “زاوية” صغيرة.

في الجهة الأخرى من الطريق، كان هناك نصب تذكاري للرئيس حافظ الأسد على تلة.

وصلنا حمص بعد حوالي ساعة بالسيارة، وبسرعة ثابتة وهادئة، لم يعترضنا سد واحد، ولم يكن هناك نقطة تفتيش واحدة لالتقاط صور.. وفي الساحة المستديرة، عند الدخول إلى حمص، يقف تمثال آخر لـ”حافظ الأسد”، بحجم معقول جدا بالمقارنة مع ذلك المنتصب على جانب الطريق السيار، وأخيرا” نقطة تفتيش”، ولكن مع أمر مثير للشفقة: بضع أكياس من الرمل على جانب الطريق (لكنها لا تسده)، بعلو متر واحدـ وعلم مغروس عليها، وصورة الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد موضوعة بجانبه (مع باقة صغيرة من الزهور البلاستيكية).

ثلاثة أو أربعة جنود، من الذين يفترض أن يقيموا نقطة تفتيش، أشاروا إلينا بأن نتوقف: كانت هناك سيارة تنتظرنا على الجانب الآخر الذي سيقودنا إلى موعدنا مع المحافظ. ثلاثة أو أربعة رجال، يرتدون بدلات أو معطف وربطات عنق، كانوا –ربما- مسؤولين أو أعضاء في حزب البعث، سيرافقوننا إلى جميع الأنحاء طوال فترة ما بعد ظهر اليوم في حمص.

لا حرس ليراقبونا، أو يحموننا، أو ليفتحوا لنا الطريق، التي كانت مفتوحة على أية حال: هناك حركة في مدينة حمص في مثل تلك الساعة، ولكن بلا ازدحام في حركية المرور. وعلى الرصيف، مظاهر عادية لمارة وأطفال صغار ويافعين قد يكونون في طريقهم إلى المدرسة.

ترجمة: خالدة مختار بوريجي