The Obama administration’s budget released on Wednesday is a historic milestone. The Democratic Party administration is taking direct aim at the two core federal social programs established in the United States in the 20th Century, Social Security and Medicare.

The consequences of Obama’s proposals are not hard to predict: millions more people, particularly the elderly, will be thrown into poverty or be cut off from life-preserving medical care.

The corporate and financial elite that runs the United States has long complained of the “unreasonable” sums of money spent on preserving the health and well-being of the elderly. In the minds of the Wall Street speculators and corporate executives that control both political parties, broad sections of the population simply live too long.

While the administration and the corporate media have sought to downplay the significance of the attack, the cuts proposed are a significant step in dismantling the programs altogether. The $400 billion in Medicare cuts, when combined with the $500 billion already included as part of the administration’s health care overhaul, add up to 13 percent of total spending on the program over the next decade.

As for Social Security, by modifying the way the government calculates inflation, the program will be cut by $130 billion. According to one analysis, for a worker retiring at the age of 65, this will amount to a loss of $650 a year in benefits by the time the worker reaches 75, and a loss of $1,130 by the time he reaches 85. About 70 percent of seniors depend on the already meager benefits for at least half of their income, with 40 percent depending on it to keep them above the poverty line.

The administration’s proposal, with a raft of other cuts in key social programs, is only the starting point for negotiations with Congressional Republicans, a process that will drive the whole discussion even further to the right. The dog and pony show of American politics will enter a new phase, as the two big business parties, united on all essentials, conspire to gut and eliminate programs that have the overwhelming support of the American population.

To the extent the American ruling class had a policy of social reform, it is embodied in the two targets of Obama’s budget. Social Security was established in 1935, while Medicare came into being in 1965.

Both were byproducts of mass social struggle and represented attempts to contain social conflict. Social Security was part of a series of reforms implemented by the administration of Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression, in the midst of insurrectionary class battles (including a series of general strikes throughout the US). The political backdrop was the Russian Revolution, which inspired working class struggles and provided the ruling class with a portent of its own future.

Medicare came in the midst of the mass civil rights movement and the wave of strikes of the 1960s. Enacted as part of the Great Society program of Lyndon B. Johnson, it was the last gasp of social reform in America.

In those periods, the ability of the ruling class to implement reform measures ultimately reflected the strength of American capitalism. The situation today is vastly different. The financial aristocracy that runs the United States has presided over a steady erosion of the country’s economic foundations. It has amassed its wealth primarily though looting and speculation.

For four decades, the American ruling class has been engaged in an unrelenting attack on the working class, a social counterrevolution that has produced an enormous increase in inequality. Up until the present, however, it has been deemed politically impossible to directly attack Social Security and Medicare. Obama has taken up this task.

Obama’s assault on health care programs began with the 2010 overhaul, hailed by the “left” supporters of the Democratic Party as a major social reform. Such attempts to cover up the reactionary character of the administration have now been thoroughly exposed.

To the ruling class, Obama has made clear that, in the defense of their wealth, everything is “on the table.” There are no “sacred cows,” he wrote in a letter to Congress. In a move that has both immense symbolism and practical implications, the administration said it was also considering the sale of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the largest publicly-owned US power company, and the most significant public entity set up during the Great Depression to provide electricity to large parts of the American South.

Earlier this week, Obama took the occasion of the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to associate his administration with the policies initiated by Thatcher in Britain and by Reagan in the United States during the 1980s, including efforts to “roll back” everything that detracted from corporate profits or restricted wealth accumulation.

“Here in America,” Obama declared in a press release, “many of us will never forget [Thatcher] standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history—we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will.”

The “iron will” that Obama is emulating is the will to ensure that trillions can continue to be handed to Wall Street, and that corporate profits can continue to soar, through an increasingly frontal attack on every social right of the working class.

All of this has consequences, for the Obama administration and the political establishment as a whole.

In 2008, Obama was brought forward by sections of the ruling class seeking a facelift for its reactionary policies. He replaced George W. Bush, the most hated president in US history. The fact that he was the first African American president was used to promote the illusion of change, with the assistance of the upper middle class proponents of identity politics who orbit around the Democratic Party.

The “transformative president” hailed by the liberal establishment and pseudo-left has become the most reactionary administration in American history. This will not dissuade the professional promoters of the Democratic Party, who will do everything they can to maintain political illusions in the two-party capitalist system, though with increasing difficulty.

The United States is heading toward a social explosion. By its own actions, the ruling class is demonstrating the necessity for revolution. The immense anger and opposition that is building up in the American working class must and will increasingly be directed against the Democratic Party.

During a pre-trial hearing for Army private Bradley Manning Wednesday, a military judge ruled that government prosecutors can call witnesses to testify anonymously and in secret against the accused whistleblower. The ruling exposes the case for the frame-up that it is.

Army colonel Denise Lind, the judge overseeing the hearings at Fort Meade in Maryland, cited national security in her decision to allow testimony in closed sessions during the court martial, scheduled to begin June 3. Prosecutors for the Obama administration are attempting to cobble together a case linking Private Manning and WikiLeaks to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Lind stated on Wednesday that the prosecution would be required to prove that Manning had “reason to believe” the information he provided to WikiLeaks “could be used to the injury of the US or the advantage of any foreign nation.”

The crux of the government’s argument is the assertion that because WikiLeaks made publicly available on the Internet thousands of sensitive official documents, which Manning has already admitted to submitting to the whistleblower organization, the soldier is guilty of “aiding the enemy.” Prosecutors contend that because Manning must have known that anyone, including a terrorist, could access the material once published, he understood that his actions were inherently harmful to US interests.

Manning, who faces 22 charges under the Espionage Act and life in prison if convicted, said in a statement that he provided the information to WikiLeaks because he wanted to “spark a domestic debate on the role of our military and foreign policy in general.” Among the material Manning admitted to transmitting was a video of an American helicopter gunship attack on Iraqi civilians, including children, first responders, and journalists. Other material documented far higher Afghan and Iraqi civilian death tolls than admitted by the US government, conditions at Guantanamo and other military prisons, corruption and diplomatic double-dealing. While offering to plead guilty to 10 of the lesser charges related to transmitting sensitive data, Manning entered a plea of not guilty to “aiding the enemy.”

Late last year, Lind issued a ruling that stripped Manning of a whistleblower defense, declaring that the young private’s motives and conscience—and by extension, the crimes exposed in the leaked material—were irrelevant to the case.

Among the prosecution witnesses Lind ruled on Wednesday to allow is a member of the Navy Seals team that raided Obama bin Laden’s home in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011 and killed the Al Qaeda figure. The witness will be named only as “John Doe” during testimony, which he will give from an undisclosed location via remote hookup during a closed session.

Absurdly, Lind ruled the soldier will be allowed to wear a “light disguise” to obscure his identity. The judge was at pains to insist that the defense team would still be able to adequately detect “body language, eye movements and demeanor” in spite of the disguise.

Manning’s defense team will not be allowed to question the witness on anything related to the Abbottabad raid, or “John Doe’s” background. The defense is limited to a predetermined list of questions related to the charges Manning faces. Lind also suggested the court may have “practice runs” during examination of the witnesses, to see if problematic material emerges.

Obama administration prosecutors have said the Navy Seal will recount seizing digital devices from bin Laden’s living quarters, one of which was later found to have contained information that had been published by WikiLeaks.

David Coombs, Manning’s civilian lawyer, argued in a motion that whether bin Laden saw the documents was immaterial, since anyone could freely access WikiLeaks, and that invoking the Al Qaeda figure would be inflammatory to public opinion and a distraction from the facts of the case. In response, Lind ruled that the “evidence of the path of the intelligence” may be “relevant to whether the accused knew or did not know he was dealing with the enemy.”

By “enemy,” Lind added, she meant “any hostile body such as a rebellious mob or a band of renegades.” This definition leaves the door open to classifying popular uprisings—such as those at least partially triggered by WikiLeaks publications in Tunisia, Bahrain, and elsewhere in 2011—as enemies of the US.

Significantly, Lind referred in her ruling to Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and a third “enemy” identified only as a “Classified Entity.” The Obama administration has evidently determined a threat, that it is not willing to publicly name, that is at least as dangerous to US interests as the specter of terrorism.

At least three other government witnesses will testify anonymously in closed sessions. The Obama administration has requested that a further 24 witnesses be allowed to similarly testify in secret. Many are officials from the State Department, Defense Department, CIA and FBI. Lind has not yet ruled on the request, commenting that there was a need to balance “state secrets” with “the appearance of fairness” that an open trial would give.

The same day, military public affairs officers at Fort Meade were cracking down on the scant reporters present for the proceedings. While court was in session, the base would turn off wireless Internet in the media center where reporters viewed the courtroom via closed-circuit television. Use of cell phones and air cards were banned during session. The crackdown is in response to an unauthorized recording of Manning’s courtroom statement in February that was released by the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

“To date I have not ordered persons to be screened for phones and recording devices,” Lind declared Wednesday morning as the court convened. “I hope I won’t have to. I trust you will all follow the rules and we will not have any additional violations of the court’s rules.”

Journalists on hand, including independent bloggers and activists, were told they must be credentialed press reporters and “abide by the journalist ethics rules.” Few US media outlets have reported on the case at all, let alone sent reporters for exclusive coverage. Much of the news that is available online consists of Twitter updates, hasty blog reports, and the efforts of Manning supporters.

According to the British Guardian ’s Ed Pilkington, an officer warned, “This media facility is a privilege not a right. Privileges can be taken away.”

Via Twitter, Pilkington commented, “There’s a great machine in the press room at #Manning hearing that keeps bleeping ‘cell phone detected!’ Kafka lives!” In another tweet, he asked, “Can sniffer dogs detect digital recorders? TWO dogs scour our cars.”

The new restrictions come atop unprecedented censorship of Manning’s hearings, which the Center for Constitutional Rights has said have been “more restrictive than military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay.” Though the hearings have produced tens of thousands of pages of court transcripts and documents so far, no court rulings or motions have been made available to the public or the press, compelling journalists to type rush transcripts of proceedings as they happen.

The US-NATO military curtain has fallen the length and breadth of Africa. “Zimbabwe and tiny Eritrea are among the few nations on the African continent that have not yet been absorbed into the AFRICOM matrix.”

Imperialism with a Black face has been fantastically successful, in Africa.”

At present, nothing stands in the way of the militarization and occupation of Africa by the United States and its junior imperialist partners. Every global and multinational organization of any consequence on the continent has been suborned to the service of the neocolonial military project. AFRICOM, the United States Military Command in Africa, has become the headquarters of recolonization, augmented by the militaries of NATO and legitimized by the African Union, itself, and the global credentials of the United Nations.

It is vital to note this great feat of imperialism and international white supremacy reached its zenith during first term of the Obama administration, which roughly coincides with the birth of AFRICOM, in 2008. Imperialism with a Black face has been fantastically successful, in Africa. In fact, Africa is U.S imperialism’s only generalized success story of the 21st century, to date.

Bizarrely costumed in the garb of “human rights” interveners, the greatest genociders and enslavers in human history – Europe and its superpower offspring, the United States – have nearly completed their reconquest of the African continent. Only a few patches of land are free of their military entanglements and treaties – notably, Zimbabwe and tiny Eritrea, among the few nations on the African continent that have not yet been absorbed into the AFRICOM matrix.

The United Nations and the African Union have become mere annexes of the AFRICOM military complex, under the fictitious banner of human rights.

Only a few patches of land are free of their military entanglements and treaties.”

The African Union definitively sold itself to the Devil in Somalia, where an AU-accredited force of almost 20,000 troops fights a U.S. and European Union-armed and -financed war to subjugate the Somali nation. The greatest crime of the late 20th and early 21st centuries is now in the process of being sanitized, globalized, and Pan-Africanized in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 1996, under Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, the United States has armed and financed the de facto annexation and bloody depopulation of the mineral rich eastern Congo. U.S. client states Uganda and Rwanda turned the eastern provinces of Congo into a vast killing field that has, so far, claimed the lives of 6 million people – the greatest holocaust since World War Two. All the while, successive U.S. administrations shielded their Ugandan and Rwandan hirelings from international censure – even as nearly 20,000 United Nations troops were stationed in the killing fields.

But eventually, Rwanda and Uganda’s role in the carnage could no longer be hidden. Now the United States – the superpower overlord of the Congolese genocide – drapes itself in the clothing of humanitarian savior of the Congo. It has pushed through the United Nations Security Council the creation of a new, 3,000-man force to aggressively intervene in Congo. Like the United Nations-African Union force in Somalia, the UN Congo “intervention brigade” will not move an inch without U.S. arms, training, and supervision. The U.S., which has choreographed the Congolese genocide for the past 17 years, will now pose as the great peacemaker and life-giver, through the offices of the United Nations and participating African countries. And the bought and paid for governments of the continent will bow, and applaud, and then bow again.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].

How the West Fueled the Ever-Growing Carnage in Syria

April 12th, 2013 by Nicolas J. S. Davies

The actions of the United States and its allies in Syria have only led to escalating violence and chaos. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has committed serial aggression, isolating, demonizing, dividing and destroying Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria.  In each case, it has cited higher motives and good intentions, even as it concealed its own covert role in igniting, fueling and militarizing internal conflicts.

On Tuesday March 27th 2013, Kofi Annan gave  a speech at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.  In his usual careful and diplomatic tone, Annan spoke firmly against Western calls for more direct military intervention in Syria.

“Further militarization of the conflict, I’m not sure that is the way to help the Syrian people,” Annan said, “They are waiting for the killing to stop.  You find some people far away from Syria are the ones very keen for putting in weapons.  My own view is that as late as it is we have to find a way of pouring water on the fire rather than the other way around.”
Like many who seek peace in Syria, Annan looks back on the “Action Group for Syria” agreement that he brokered in Geneva on June 30th 2012 as a foundation for peace that was promptly squandered by the United States and its allies.  In Geneva, all five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council signed on to a plan that would lead to free elections in Syria, with a transitional government of national unity including members of the existing government and the opposition.  The critical factor which made agreement possible was that the U.S. and its allies dropped their demand for the removal of President Assad as a precondition for the transition to begin.
As Annan wrote in a  Financial Times op-ed as he resigned his post as UN envoy a month later, “We left the meeting believing a Security Council resolution endorsing the group’s decision was assured… Instead, there has been finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council.”
A few days after the Geneva agreement,  Russia circulated a draft resolution in the Security Council as Annan expected.  But, instead of honoring the commitments they made in Geneva, the U.S., U.K. and France rejected it.   They drafted a rival resolution containing all the elements they had dropped in Geneva and which had previously prevented consensus: automatic triggers for sanctions; no commitment to pressure rebel militias to comply; and the invocation of Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter as a pretext for future military action.
With the Security Council once again deadlocked, Saudi Arabia sponsored  a version of the West’s resolution in the UN General Assembly, calling for Assad to step down and for sanctions if he did not.  The resolution seemed likely to fail, with Brazil, India, South Africa and much of the developing world lined up against it, but a watered down version was passed.
The CIA has since stepped up its support to the rebels, providing satellite intelligence on Syrian military deployments and managing  arms shipments from the Persian Gulf and Croatia via Turkey and Jordan.  Predictably, the bloodshed has only increased on both sides.  March was probably the deadliest month since the war began.  In his speech in Geneva, Kofi Annan called the current UN estimate of 70,000 Syrians killed “a gross under-estimation.”
In the early days of the conflict, UN casualty figures reflected  unsubstantiated and probably exaggerated reports from the Syrian opposition and their allies in the Western media.  Since then, the UN has held down its estimates as the killing has escalated and the real slaughter has almost certainly now surpassed the rebel propaganda, with the rebels themselves committing their fair share of it.
Norwegian General Robert Mood echoed Kofi Annan’s analysis in  a recent interview with the BBC World Service’s Hardtalk program.  Mood led the 300-member military observer mission that went into Syria in April 2012 to monitor the ceasefire that was the first step in Annan’s six-point peace plan.
Mood prematurely suspended that mission in June 2012 because the ceasefire had failed to take hold and his unarmed observer teams were being fired on and threatened by hostile crowds.  He said that the operation could only resume if all parties to the conflict were committed to the safety and freedom of movement of the observers.  “The government has expressed that very clearly in the last couple of days,” Mood said. “I have not seen the same clear statement from the opposition yet.”
Reflecting on his mission 9 months later, General Mood told Hardtalk’s Steven Sackur, “There was an opening, but that opening was not used, because… the kind of international leadership that we would need was not there.  That leadership could have been Russia, China, the U.S. coming together and at least agreeing on a joint message so that the government in Damascus and the key people in the Free Syrian Army and the opposition groups were given the same message.  That message could have been one option to both of them that we will push forward with a plan for bringing Syria out of this terrible violence and onto a political track – a strong message to both the government and the opposition that we will accept nothing else.  If such a message had come both from all of them in the P5 and the Security Council together and united, I do believe still today that it would have had a strong impact.”
Sackur asked Mood about the differences between the West and Russia and China over President Assad’s role during a political transition.  Mood explained, “This is how small and how big the differences between the parties were.  In my mind at that time, it would have been possible to lead Syria through a transition supported by a united Security Council with Assad as part of the transition.  I believe there was an opening for that and I believe there was a willingness to do that.  The insistence on the removal of President Assad as a start of the process led them into a corner where the strategic picture gave them no way out whatsoever…”
The more one studies the actions of the United States and its allies throughout this crisis, the more they seem to have been designed only to lead to ever-escalating violence.  This raises the inescapable question whether, in fact, the slaughter and chaos taking place in Syria are in fact the intended result of U.S. policy rather than the tragic but unintended result of its failure, as Western propaganda would have us believe.
In stark contrast to cautious statements by U.S. officials, their actual policy appears to have consistently fostered the militarization and escalation of the crisis and to have undermined every peace initiative.  In fact, their public statements may be only a smokescreen for a darker, more cynical policy:
- As the Arab League tried to broker a ceasefire in December 2011,  ex-CIA officer Philip Giraldi reported that unmarked NATO planes were flying fighters and weapons from Libya to a “Free Syrian Army” base in Turkey; British and French special forces were training Syrian fighters; and the CIA was providing communications equipment and intelligence.  Giraldi wrote, “Syrian government claims that it is being assaulted by rebels who are armed, trained and financed by foreign governments are more true than false.”
- As Kofi Annan launched his peace plan in April 2012, the U.S. joined France and other allies at a  series of so-called “Friends of Syria” summits, where they promised unconditional political support, weapons and money to their Syrian proxies, making sure that they would not comply with the ceasefire that was the first step in the Annan peace plan.
- After finally dropping the precondition of Assad’s departure and agreeing publicly to Annan’s “Action Group for Syria” proposal at the end of June 2012, the Western powers returned to the UN Security Council and reasserted all their preconditions, killing the plan before it could get off the ground.
- The supply of weapons and fighters to the rebels has increased steadily since then.  Saudi judges have sent  Arab Spring protesters to fight and die in Syria instead of to prison.  Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya and other Arab monarchies send weapons, money and fighters.  The Saudis fund shipments of European weapons from Croatia to Jordan to skirt the EU arms embargo.  And the  CIA provides military training to Syrian and foreign fighters in Jordan.
- Now, as if the U.S. has not been covertly fueling the conflict all along, the U.S. government is debating more open military support to the rebels.
To paraphrase an old riddle: “Are we governed by clever people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it?”  In this case, did the United States mean to open the gates of Hell in Syria, or did it just blunder into this mess?
Unfortunately U.S. policymakers have a dismal record of combining the worst elements of both.  As the U.S. Congress debated war in Iraq in 2002, there were clever people in Washington who knew that  chemical and biological weapons do not remain potent for more than ten years and that there was no evidence that Iraq had revived the banned weapons programs it dismantled in 1991.  Senator Bob Graham, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, voted against the war authorization and begged his colleagues to read the classified National Intelligence Estimate, instead of the fake summary of it that they were given “to strengthen the case for going to war“, as one of its authors, the CIA’s Paul Pillar, has since admitted.  There were other “clever” people in Washington who knew as much as Senator Graham but voted for war anyway: “clever people putting us on.”
But the “clever people putting us on” were really as deluded as the “imbeciles who really meant it”.  They saw the WMD fairy tale for what it was, but they failed to see the inevitable consequences of their own actions – not just for the people of Iraq, who they were quite prepared to sacrifice, but for the U.S. interests they hoped to advance.
As General Mood told Hardtalk, “It is fairly easy to use the military tool, because, when you launch the military tool in classical interventions, something will happen and there will be results.  The problem is that the results are almost all the time different than the political results you were aiming for when you decided to launch it.  So the other position, arguing that it is not the role of the international community, neither coalitions of the willing nor the UN Security Council for that matter, to change governments inside a country, is also a position that should be respected…”
As Mood said, “there will be results.”  The use of military force, overt or covert, will kill and injure a lot of people, because that is what modern weapons are designed to do.  And sufficient violence covertly unleashed within a society will break down law and order and turn groups of people against each other.  U.S. military leaders understand this perfectly well based on decades of experience.
But, despite catastrophic failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, the “NATO rebellion” in Libya provided the U.S. and its allies with a new model for “regime change.”  NATO, Qatar and Saudi Arabia unleashed  a war that killed at least 25,000 people and plunged the  most highly developed country in Africa into an orgy of ethnic cleansing and unending chaos.  They succeeded in butchering Colonel Gaddafi and installing a comprador regime to govern Libya’s oil industry, but  NATO-trained militias are still fighting each other for control of many parts of the country and have exported violence and militia rule to neighboring countries, including Mali, as well as to Syria.
Syria is a more densely populated, more complex country than Libya, with powerful military forces and a relatively popular government with decades of experience in managing the diverse elements that make up Syrian society.  In December 2011, as NATO flew in fighters and weapons from Libya, 55% of the population told pollsters  they still supported the government.  That has surely eroded as the Syrian military has shelled and bombed its people, but that does not mean that people now support the foreign-backed rebels.  What most Syrians want is exactly what Kofi Annan, General Mood and the current UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi have been trying to bring them: a peaceful political transition.  But U.S., British, French, Saudi, Qatari and Turkish officials could not resist the temptation to adapt the Libyan “regime change” model to Syria, knowing full well all along that this would unleash an even bloodier and more destructive conflict.  There seems to be no limit to the horror that our leaders will inflict on the people of Syria to get rid of President Assad.
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has committed serial aggression, isolating, demonizing, dividing and destroying Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria.  In each case, it has cited higher motives and good intentions, even as it concealed its own covert role in igniting, fueling and militarizing internal conflicts.   As Harold Pinter said, “It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good.  It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”
If post-war conditions permit, countries destroyed by U.S. aggression and covert war are recruited to join their more submissive neighbors as entry-level members of the U.S.-led capitalist world.  Some American politicians appear to genuinely believe that this justifies the violence and slaughter that makes it possible, even though, as General Mood said, “the results are almost all the time different than the political results you were aiming for.”
The folly and savagery of destroying country after country like this stems from a fundamental misperception of the post-Cold War world that is rooted in fantasies like  Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History” theory.  U.S. leaders imagined that, with the demise of the U.S.S.R., they stood at the threshold of a world made in America’s image.  Politics and history had passed away, to be supplanted by management, marketing and finance.  They would run the world as a giant business enterprise, of which they would be the executives and majority shareholders.
But this new global dictatorship, like all dictatorships, faced the problem of what to do with dissidents who still resisted integration into America’s informal global empire.  By 1991, this seemed to have been reduced to a tantalizingly finite number of countries that the new American “superpower” could surely marginalize and, if necessary, destroy: Albania; Angola; Burma; Cambodia; Cuba; Iran; Iraq; Laos; Libya; North Korea; Palestine; Somalia; Syria; Vietnam; Yugoslavia; and, last but not least, China.
Twenty years later, many of those resistant regimes have been dealt with.  But the United States is no closer to its cherished vision of a unipolar world.  Their places on America’s global “kill list” have been taken by newly independent governments even more solidly committed to resisting American imperialism, including popular democratic regimes in Latin America, which the U.S. has “plagued with misery in the name of liberty” for almost two centuries, as Simon Bolivar predicted: Argentina; Bolivia; Ecuador; El Salvador; Nepal; Nicaragua; Pakistan; Russia; Sudan; Venezuela.  Popular resistance movements to global capitalism keep emerging in countries around the world, from Maoists in India to Islamist groups in the Muslim world; and much of the economically resurgent global South now has closer ties to China than to the U.S.
After killing millions and squandering trillions in its futile quest for dominance, the U.S. confronts a world it has even less power to control.  But the mindset of America’s leaders seems set in stone.  Its rapacious machinery of covert war has only expanded under President Obama.  As in the 1950s, 1970s & 1980s, the CIA has exploited America’s military failures to carve out a larger role for itself, and Obama has been seduced as easily as Eisenhower, Carter and Reagan into becoming its commander, its patron and its puppet.  The U.S. political system is not designed to produce new leaders who say, “No, thank you, I don’t need a secret private army.”  True to form, Obama asked only, “What else can I do with it?”
The secrecy that makes the CIA and its JSOC foot-soldiers such attractive “tools” to President Obama is the very thing that makes them so dangerous to the rest of us, as we really should know by now.  A hidden benefit of secret U.S. military operations has always been that the deferential U.S. media will report only the cover stories, turning the press into powerful co-conspirators in these operations.  Secrecy and propaganda are mutually reinforcing.
For a consummate media manipulator like Obama, who was named  “Marketer of the Year” for 2008 by the American advertising industry, hiding a policy of covert war and assassination behind a dovish public image was an irresistibly “witty” global masquerade.  His smiling face still beams out from Shepard Fairey’s iconic campaign posters as his assassins ply their trade on  a dozen manhunts each night.
In their 2006 book  The Foreign Policy Disconnect, Benjamin Page and Marshall Bouton demonstrated that most of the crises in post-1945 U.S. foreign policy could have ben avoided if U.S. leaders had paid more attention to the views of the public.  But how can the public have any influence on secret policy-making?  U.S. leaders have responded to public alarm at their aggressive and illegal use of military force, not by restoring law and order to U.S. policy, but by moving it farther into the shadows to protect it from public scrutiny and interference.
But the more this policy succeeds in its goal of secrecy and deception, the more it fails in the real world.  Whether Presidents Bush or Obama are ever held to account for the death and destruction they have unleashed on other countries, our children and grandchildren will pay for our complicity in their crimes, as they struggle to invest what is left of our country’s resources in a belated effort to repair the damage of war, shattered international relations, looted natural resources, gutted public services and climate chaos.
China is already overtaking the United States as the  world’s largest economy, and may  overtake the U.S. in military spending by about 2030.  When will our leaders stop trying to bully a world in which they are no longer the biggest kid on the block?  And where and when will they begin the vital transition to the peaceful, cooperative world order that is essential to our children’s future?
Syria would be a good place to start, and now would be a good time to do it.
Nicolas J. S. Davies is author of Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He wrote the chapter on “Obama At War” for the just released book, Grading the 44th President: A Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

The civil war in Syria has opened opportunities for foreign mercenaries and about 20,000, financed by Afghan drug trafficking, have been fighting in that Middle East country, according to Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service Director Viktor Ivanov.

“Transnational organized crime groups can ensure an inflow of a huge number of criminals and mercenaries from certain countries to any part of the world with proceeds from heroin sales,” Ivanov was quoted by the Ria Novosti news agency as saying on Thursday.

He said 15,000 to 20,000 mercenaries were concentrated in Syria “destabilizing the situation in that country,” he said without giving any evidence to support his claims. It was transnational criminal groups and not Taliban who pose the greatest threat in Afghanistan, he added.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said earlier this month that Syria was turning into a “center of attraction” for international terrorists in the ongoing civil war between rebels and government forces.

The Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad last year had submitted to the U.N. Security Council lists of hundreds of foreign nationals killed fighting against government troops in that Arab country.

According to the U.N., about 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria since an uprising aimed at ousting Assad from power broke out in March 2011.

Deplorable Bahraini Human Rights Abuses Continue

April 12th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

In summer 2010, sporadic protests began. In mid-February 2011, major ones erupted. Bahrainis want democracy. They want King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalif’s repressive regime replaced.

They rally courageously. They defy government diktats. They brave beatings, tear gas, rubber bullets, live fire, arrests, torture and disappearances. They persist. They refuse to back down. They want freedom replacing police state terror.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) promotes civil, political and economic freedom, ending racial discrimination, disseminating human rights culture, and protecting victims’ rights.

Any Bahraini doing so risks life, limb and freedom. Al-Khalifa despots spurn human rights, justice and other democratic values. Iron-fist governance is policy.

Children and youths are treated like adults. On March 31, 17-year old Hussein Hashem Fardan was arrested. He was sought for over two and a half years. He was in hiding to stay safe. His luck ran out.

He was ambushed by plain-clothed police. He was severely beaten. He was sexually assaulted and threatened with rape. He faces detention and torture.

He’s unjustifiably charged with “detonating a bomb for terrorist purposes.” He’s denied legal representation. He’ll be imprisoned, tortured and perhaps killed.

Last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix featured state-sponsored terror. It showed up in blood in the streets. Security forces escalated violence. Protesters, activists, and journalists were targeted.

Tear gas, rubber bullets, shotguns, stun grenades, and baton beatings followed. So did arrests, torture and other abuse. Perhaps this year won’t be different. Competition is scheduled for April 21.

BCHR received numerous reports and documented evidence of house raids. Masked men in civilian clothes are involved. Arbitrary arrests followed. They continue.

Villages close to the Bahraini International Circuit are targeted. Since April 1, 10 or more children and youths were arrested. Doing so spreads fear and intimidation.

Human Rights First director Brian Dooley told Formula 1 head Bernie Ecclestone:

“One issue is whether or not human rights violations might be happening as a result of the race being there.”

“If the regime arrests people in order to intimidate others from peacefully protesting around Formula One, then the organizers, participants, and sponsors really need to say something about that.”

Last year, Al-Khalifa despots weren’t held accountable. Expect nothing different this year.

On April 1, BCHR discussed Ahmed AbdulGhani AlRayyes. He was lawlessly arrested. Earlier, his brother Hussain was shot in the abdomen with pellets. He was left bleeding. He could have died. He survived. He’s had two operations. He may need more.

Ahmed’s father inquired about him at the Budaiya police station. He heard him screaming inside. He was denied permission to see him. He was beaten, rendered unconscious, and killed.

He was dead on arrival at Bahrain’s International Hospital. Lawless crackdowns claim other victims. Pre-dawn raids terrorize innocent civilians. Families watch helplessly while parents or children are beaten and dragged away. Severe repression continues.

On March 28, three children under age 14 were abducted. They sought shelter from a nearby protest. They weren’t involved. Security forces attacked it violently. They saw the children enter a nearby house.

They stormed in, seized them, threatened them, beat them with batons and rifle butts, and inflicted cigarette burns on the arm of one child.

They were taken to a stable known unofficially as a torture center. Beatings continued. Bleeding and other signs of abuse were visible. Police reports didn’t explain.

Another Daih area youth was abducted. He was beaten and burned on his back with a lighter. Similar incidents happened in AlMuqsha village. Innocent youths and children were severely beaten and arrested.

Families fear lodging complaints. Doing so leaves them vulnerable to harassment, arrests, torture and imprisonment.

On March 29, BCHR said 16 innocent civilians (including children) were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment despite no evidence or charges brought against them.

Arbitrary injustice is policy. Anyone accused of challenging state authority faces appalling human rights abuses. No one’s safe from state repression.

On April 8, BCHR published its new report. It’s titled “Bahrain: Limited Medical Access and Breach of Medical Neutrality….A need for accountability and an end to ongoing violations.”

It updates Bahrain’s “medical situation,” the role of the Bahrain Medical Society, militarized hospitals, medical access for injured victims, and care (or lack thereof) for political prisoners.

BCHR documented systematic Geneva violations. Militarized medical services deny care. Politicized ones serve a political agenda. Overall conditions are deplorable.

Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) is Bahrain’s main facility. In mid-March 2011, it was besieged. No one was let in or out. Wounded protesters inside were arrested.

Salmaniya’s emergency unit went on complete lockdown. Severely injured patients were moved to the hospital’s sixth level. Guards monitored their rooms. Medical providers weren’t allowed in.

The entire complex was searched. Injured protesters were sought. Several doctors and other providers tried to leave. They were stopped, beaten, and forcefully returned inside. Others were arrested. Phone lines and other forms of communication were cut.

What happened began a long nightmare. It continues out-of-control. Seeking healthcare in Bahrain risks arrest, beatings, torture and imprisonment. Medical providers and patients are vulnerable.

BCHR presented a snapshot of what’s happening. Media scoundrels suppress it. Most people outside Bahrain have no idea what’s happening.

An entire country’s on lockdown. No one’s safe anywhere. Seeking medical services risks life and limb. Monarchal repression targets anyone considered a threat to state authority.

In March 2011, “medics, including doctors, nurses and paramedics, started to disappear from hospitals or during dawn house raids.”

Arrests became “enforced disappearances.” Victims were isolated. All communications were cut off. Plain-clothed security forces kidnapped doctors. Torture and abuse followed.

By May, over 170 were affected. Medical centers throughout Bahrain were targeted.

On March 16, the National Security Agency took over the Ministry of Health. Its staff was subjected to physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Arrests followed. So did appalling human rights abuses. They continue now. They include:

  • daily long hours of standing;
  • sleep deprivation;
  • denial of food and water;
  • personal hygiene denied;
  • limited bathroom use;
  • severe beatings;
  • electric shocks to the head and other body parts;
  • rape and execution threats;
  • threats of rape and torture against family members;
  • administering mock executions;
  • threatened removal to Saudi Arabia;
  • verbal abuse, including religious beliefs;
  • verbal and physical sexual abuse;
  • solitary confinement;
  • blindfolding and painful handcuffing for extended periods; and
  • forced dancing and singing the national anthem, as well as other forms of humiliation.

Victims are denied access to family members and lawyers. They’re forced to sign false confessions. They’re not permitted to read them. They’re videotaped.

Detainees are unaware of the gravity of what they face until appearing in military court. They can receive short or long sentences. Innocence is no defense. Guilt by accusation is policy.

Some medics were detained, tortured and abused without charges. Others face potentially long prison terms. What began earlier continues. Police state terror leaves no one safe.

CCTV cameras monitor everything. “To this day, health services are being used to identify protesters and target them.” Patients trying to access treatment face check points at hospital entry areas allowed to stay open.

Riot police and private security officers check names on a wanted list before letting people into hospitals. Inside, checks for injuries are made. Intelligence agents interrogate anyone thought to have suspicious ones.

In January 2012, doctors and other medical staff were ordered to report injuries thought related to protests. Failure to do so risks prosecution.

“The constant presence of armed forces in (hospitals) created an environment of fear and insecurity, and affects the psychological status of patients coming for treatment.”

Injured protesters avoid hospitals for good reason. Clinics operate secretly. They administer portable first aid. Volunteers include doctors, nurses, and others with some medical training.

Basic care only is provided. Resources are limited. Penalties for getting caught are severe. Political prisoners are denied treatment elsewhere.

According to General Assembly Resolution 44/111:

“Prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation.”

General Assembly Resolution 45/111 covers “Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners.” It states:

“All prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings.”

“There shall be no discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Al-Khalifa despots ignore international and Bahraini law. Prisoner rights are spurned. Serious injuries and illness go untreated. Police state terror is state policy.

BCHR “found evidence of continuous violations.” They include breaching fundamental Geneva principles. Militarized healthcare services reflect a Sword of Damocles threatening Bahrainis seeking treatment for protest injuries.

BCHR names officials most accountable. They include:

  • King Hamed; he rules with an iron fist;
  • Minister of Justice Khaled bin Ali Al-Khalifa; he militarized Salmaniya Hospital
  • temporary Minister of Health Fatima Al-Balushi; she bears direct responsibility for kidnapping, torturing, interrogating, and sacking medical providers given no chance for defense;
  • Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) Drugs Department head Noura Al-Khalifa; she bears similar responsibility;
  • Cleansing Committee head Baha’a Eldin Futayha for similar crimes;
  • Salmaniya’s Chief of Medical Staff Mohammed Amin Al-Awadhi for similar crimes;
  • Assistant Undersecretary for Human Resources and Services Hassan Jabir;
  • Director of Human Resources Fatima AbdulWadid Al-Ahmed;
  • head of BDF hospital administration Salman Ateyatallah Al-Khalifa;
  • Supreme Council for Health and Minister of State for Defense Affairs Lt. Gen. Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa;
  • Minister of Health and Supreme Council for Health vice chairman Sadeq Al-Shihabi;
  • SMC CEO Waleed Al-Manea;
  • Ameen Al-Sa’ati for witnessing state atrocities and concealing them;
  • Bahrain Medical Society head Nabeel Al-Ansari; and
  • CID Drug Department official Mubarak Bin Huwail.

Many Bahraini officials and external allies share responsibilities. Washington does most of all.

Bahrain hosts America’s Fifth Fleet. Generous aid is provided. A Pentagon statement said:

They “improve Bahrain’s capability to meet current and future armored threats. Bahrain will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense.”

Bahrain has no external enemies. Washington sells it advanced weapons. They include bunker buster, wire-guided and other missile systems, attack helicopters, munitions, armored combat vehicles, and more.

Western media scoundrels ignore its deplorable human rights record. Al-Khalifa despots remain unaccountable.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/deplorable-bahraini-human-rights-abuses-continue/

This appeal was previously published on the website of the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).

The ANSWER Coalition urges its members and supporters to sign this urgent petition to free Lynne Stewart. The petition can be found here.

Lynne Stewart has devoted her life to the oppressed—a constant advocate for the countless many deprived in the United States of their freedom and their rights.

Unjustly charged and convicted for the “crime” of providing her client with a fearless defense, the prosecution of Lynne Stewart is an assault upon the basic freedoms of us all.

After years of post-conviction freedom, her bail was revoked arbitrarily and her imprisonment ordered, precluding surgery she had scheduled in a major New York hospital.

The sinister meaning of the relentless persecution of Lynne Stewart is unmistakably clear. Given her age and precarious health, the 10-year sentence she is serving is a virtual death sentence.

Since her imprisonment in the Federal Prison in Carswell, Texas, her urgent need for surgery was delayed 18 months—so long, that the operating physician pronounced the condition as “the worst he had seen.”

Now, breast cancer, which had been in remission prior to her imprisonment, has reached Stage Four. It has appeared in her lymph nodes, on her shoulder, in her bones and her lungs.

Her daughter, a physician, has sounded the alarm: “Under the best of circumstances, Lynne would be in a battle of the most serious consequences with dangerous odds. With cancer and cancer treatment, the complications can be as debilitating and as dangerous as the cancer itself.”

In her current setting, where trips to physicians involve attempting to walk with 10 pounds of shackles on her wrists and ankles, with connecting chains, Lynne Stewart has lacked ready access to physicians and specialists under conditions compatible with medical success.

It can take weeks to see a medical provider in prison conditions. It can take weeks to report physical changes and learn the results of treatment; and when held in the hospital, Lynne has been shackled wrist and ankle to the bed.

This medieval “shackling” has little to do with any appropriate prison control. She is obviously not an escape risk.

We demand abolition of this practice for all prisoners, let alone those facing surgery and the urgent necessity of care and recovery.

It amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of human rights.

There is immediate remedy available for Lynne Stewart. Under the 1984 Sentencing Act, after a prisoner request, the Bureau of Prisons can file a motion with the Court to reduce sentences “for extraordinary and compelling reasons.” Life-threatening illness is foremost among these, and Lynne Stewart meets every rational and humane criterion for compassionate release.

To misconstrue the gravamen of this compassionate release by conditioning such upon being at death’s door—released, if at all, solely to die—is a cruel mockery converting a prison sentence, wholly undeserved, into a death sentence.

The New York Times, in an editorial (2/12), has excoriated the Bureau of Prisons for their restrictive crippling of this program. In a 20-year period, the Bureau released a scant 492 persons—an average of 24 a year out of a population that exceeds 220,000.

We cry out against the bureaucratic murder of Lynne Stewart.

We demand Lynne Stewart’s immediate release to receive urgent medical care in a supportive environment indispensable to the prospect of her survival and call upon the Bureau of Prisons to act immediately.

If Lynne’s original sentence of 28 months had not been unreasonably, punitively increased to 10 years, she would be home now—where her medical care would be by her choice and where those who love her best would care for her. Her isolation from this loving care would end.

Prevent this cruelty to Lynne Stewart whose lifelong commitment to justice is now a struggle for her life.

Free Lynne Stewart Now!

Ralph Poynter and Family

Sign the petition to free Lynne Stewart.

Mainstream Media Awakens to the fact that Fukushima Is Still a Total Mess

After visiting Fukushima a year ago, Senator Ron Wyden warned that the situation was worse than reported … and urged Japan to accept international help to stabilize dangerous spent fuel pools.

A year ago, an international coalition of nuclear scientists and non-profit groups called on the U.N. to coordinate a multi-national effort to stabilize the fuel pools. And see this.

A year ago, former U.N. adviser Akio Matsumura – whose praises have been sung by Mikhail Gorbachev, U.S. Ambassadors Stephen Bosworth and Glenn Olds, and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and Goldman Sachs co-chair John C. Whitehead – noted:

The current Japanese government has not yet mentioned the looming disaster, ostensibly to not incite panic in the public. Nevertheless, action must be taken quickly. *** We believe an independent, international team of structural engineers and other advisers must be assembled and deployed immediately.

Yesterday – after Fukushima reactor operator Tepco’s recklessness and nickel-and-diming cheapness in dealing with the post-accident response caused new releases of radioactivity – the New York Times reported:

Increasingly, experts are arguing that the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, cannot be trusted to lead what is expected to be decades of cleanup and the decommissioning of the plant’s reactors without putting the public, and the environment, at risk.

***

“The Fukushima Daiichi plant remains in an unstable condition, and there is concern that we cannot prevent another accident,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said at a news conference.

***

“No wonder the water is leaking,” said Hideo Komine, a professor in civil engineering at Ibaraki University, just south of Fukushima. He said that the outer protective lining should have been hundreds of times thicker.

***

Muneo Morokuzu, a nuclear safety expert at the Tokyo University Graduate School of Public Policy, said that the plant required a more permanent solution that would reduce the flood of contaminated water into the plant in the first place, and that Tepco was simply unable to manage the situation. “It’s become obvious that Tepco is not at all capable of leading the cleanup,” he said. “It just doesn’t have the expertise, and because Fukushima Daiichi is never going to generate electricity again, every yen it spends on the decommissioning is thrown away.”

That creates an incentive to cut corners, which is very dangerous,” he said. “The government needs to step in, take charge and assemble experts and technology from around the world to handle the decommissioning instead.

This is just like BP’s massive efforts to hide the extent and damage from the oil spill – even though their approach led to greater oil pollution – in order to avoid costs.  (And the big banks’ cover up of the extent and damage from criminal fraud on the U.S. economy.)

AP provides additional details:

A makeshift system of pipes, tanks and power cables meant to carry cooling water into the melted reactors and spent fuel pools inside shattered buildings remains highly vulnerable, Nuclear Regulation Authority chairman Shunichi Tanaka acknowledged Wednesday.

***

The problems have raised doubts about whether the plant can stay intact through a decommissioning process that could take 40 years, prompting officials to compile risk-reduction measures and revise decommissioning plans.

***

Just over the past three weeks, there have been at least eight accidents or problems at the plant, the nuclear watchdog said.

***

Experts suspect the radioactive water has been leaking since early in the crisis, citing high contamination in fish caught in waters just off the plant.

***

“The nuclear crisis is far from over,” the nationwide Mainichi newspaper said in a recent editorial. “There is a limit to what the patchwork operation can do on a jury-rigged system.”

As Guantánamo Hunger Strike Continues, Activists Rally Nationwide for “Day of Action to Close Guantánamo & End Indefinite Detention”

  Protests in D.C., NYC, Chicago , San Francisco , and Over 26 Cities Pressure Obama to Close the Prison

  April 11, 2013, New York and Washington, D.C. – As the hunger strike of men detained at the U.S. prison at Guantánamo began its third month, activists organized emergency rallies in over 26 cities and 19 states across the United States for a national “Day of Action to Close Guantánamo & End Indefinite Detention.”  From New York City to San Francisco, Durham to Los Angeles, Witness Against Torture, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, World Can’t Wait, and other groups demanded the closure of Guantánamo. The actions came on a day that 25 prominent human rights and civil liberties organizations sent a joint letter to President Obama urging the closure of Guantánamo.

Said organizers of the protests, “The vast majority of the 166 men still trapped at Guantánamo have been held for more than 11 years without charge or fair trial. The Obama administration must take swift measures to humanely address the immediate causes of the hunger strike and fulfill its promise to close the Guantánamo detention facility.”

The coalition urged President Obama to fulfill his promise to close Guantánamo and called on him to:

·         Direct Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to use his authority to issue the certifications or national security waivers required by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA 2013) to effect transfers from Guantánamo;

·         Appoint an individual within the White House to lead the effort to close Guantánamo;

·         Make the case to Congress and the American people for removing the remaining transfer restrictions and closing the detention facility;  and

·         Ensure that all detained men are either charged and fairly tried in criminal court, or released to countries that will respect their human rights.

 

Demonstrations took place across the country, all accompanied by activists dressed in orange jumpsuits to represent the men detained at Guantánamo. In Washington , D.C. , activists and speakers, including Pratap Chaterjee from the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA, rallied in front of the White House. In New York , activists rallied in Times Square where speakers included Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who just returned from visiting clients detained at Guantánamo, and Rachel Ward, Director of US Programs for Amnesty International USA.

Pardiss Kebriaei, Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Attorney, said, “I have just returned from visiting my clients at Guantánamo, and the situation there is dire. The immediate emergency, triggered by searches of the men’s Qur’ans, never should have happened given the long history of Qur’an desecration and religious abuse at the prison. But there is another emergency that is about the indefinite detention of men who will never be charged, more than half of whom have been approved for transfer. One of my clients said to me, ‘The silence of the government is what is killing us.’ It should not take another man dying for the Obama administration to realize that it cannot afford to continue wasting time by laying blame on Congress and justifying its own inaction in closing the prison. If ever there were a time to act, it is now.”

Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Security with Human Rights Campaign, said, “Death shouldn’t be the only way out of Guantánamo. The men must either be charged and fairly tried in federal court, or be released.”  In response to the hunger strikes he added, “There are even detainees cleared to leave that remain stuck in limbo – people like Shaker Aamer, cleared under both President Bush and President Obama, and whom the UK government wants released. It’s time for President Obama to get serious about closing the detention facility. Even with the Congressional restrictions on transfers, detainees can still be moved out under the certification process and the waiver provision that Congress put in place.”

Jeremy Varon, of Witness Against Torture, said: “The hunger strike at Guantánamo is the latest, tragic reminder that Guantánamo must close. Keeping men there indefinitely without charge or trial, even when they are deemed no threat by the US government itself is morally unacceptable and politically unsustainable. The Guantánamo nightmare must end now.”

For a complete list of the day’s events, see www.witnesstorture.org/events.

To learn more about the hunger strike, see http://bit.ly/GTMOHungerStrikeAction.

US President Barack Obama unveiled his budget proposal Wednesday, calling for a historic attack on Medicare and Social Security. The move, coming after the imposition of $1.4 trillion in spending cuts over the past two years, marks a new stage in the US ruling class’s offensive against the social rights of the population.

“I am willing to make tough choices that may not be popular within my own party, because there can be no sacred cows for either party,” Obama wrote in a letter to Congress included in the budget, referring to the move’s repudiation of the Democrats’ traditional association with the programs of the Great Society and New Deal.

The budget proposes to slash $400 billion from Medicare spending over ten years, and would introduce a new measure of the cost of living that would mean an effective cut of $130 billion from Social Security benefits during the same period.

Cuts to these programs are overwhelmingly unpopular, with a Pew Research poll finding earlier this year that 87 percent of the population is opposed to cuts in Social Security, while 82 percent oppose cuts in Medicare.

The budget proposal comes less than a week after a disastrous March jobs report, which showed the lowest jobs growth in nine months, with 496,000 people dropping out of the labor force last month. Obama’s budget does nothing to address the fact that four million people are soon to see their federal extended unemployment benefits slashed by 11 percent until at least October 1.

In a press conference Wednesday morning, Obama sought to downplay the attacks on Social Security and Medicare contained in the budget, seeking to palm off the socially regressive proposals as intended to defend “a rising, thriving middle class” through a “balanced and responsible” proposal.

In tacit recognition of the overwhelming unpopularity of attacks on Social Security, Obama made no mention of the program by name in his speech. Instead, he referred to these cuts indirectly, saying, “My budget does also contain the compromise I offered Speaker Boehner at the end of last year, including reforms championed by Republican leaders in Congress. And I don’t believe that all these ideas are optimal, but I’m willing to accept them as part of a compromise.”

Aside from cuts to Medicare and Social Security, the budget contains a myriad of right-wing proposals, including expanding “education reform,” tax breaks to manufacturers, and a regressive $1-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes.

The budget proposes to create an “Infrastructure Bank” that would “leverage private and public capital to support infrastructure projects,” and take “action to modernize and improve the efficiency of the Federal permitting process” for building projects, including pipelines—in other words, speed up such projects to the detriment of public health and worker safety.

Obama called for further deregulation and tax subsidies for US corporations, with Obama noting that the budget includes “initiatives to support manufacturing communities, including a new tax credit to strengthen their ability to attract investments and jobs. And it expands my Administration’s SelectUSA initiative to help draw businesses and investment from around the world to our shores.”

The introduction of a new measure of the cost of living, referred to as the “Chained CPI” will cut Social Security payments by $130 billion over ten years, as well as $35 billion from federal workers’ retirement benefits.

In addition to the sharp cuts to Medicare and Social Security, the budget proposes other benefit cuts, such as a measure that prevents disabled workers from collecting both unemployment and disability benefits at the same time, leading to a $1 billion benefit cut over 10 years.

The budget likewise forges ahead with the attack on public education, introducing competitive funding for high schools, and facilitating the phasing out of liberal arts programs and their replacement with curricula that “today’s employers seek to fill the jobs available right now and in the future.”

This policy also applies to colleges, with the budget including measures that would “ensure affordability and value are considered in determining which colleges receive certain types of Federal aid,” meaning that those that do not “reform” their curriculum to topics demanded by corporations would be defunded.

To offset the public impact of the right-wing policies being proposed, the budget includes token measures that stand little chance of being implemented. Among these is a “Preschool for All” initiative, funded with a measly $750 million in preschool development grants to the states. But even this proposal this would be paid for by a 94-cents-per-pack increase in the federal tax on cigarettes, which would overwhelmingly affect the poorest and most vulnerable section of society.

Even after the significant concessions made by Obama, the Republicans maintained their demands for more cuts. “It looks like there’s less than $600 billion worth of reduction in there—and that’s over a decade—all of it coming from tax increases. In other words, it’s not a serious plan. For the most part, just another left-wing wish list,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan likewise said that he is “disappointed by the president’s proposal because it merely ratifies the status quo.”

While Obama noted in his speech Wednesday that he has already met the Republicans “more than halfway,” it is clear that Obama’s budget represents merely the starting point of negotiations, and that the Administration will move even further to meet the Republicans’ demands.

While Obama has boasted that he has already implemented $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction, these cuts have up to this point avoided entitlement spending. Now, the ruling class, through the medium of the two big-business parties, is barreling ahead with their plans to gut the bedrock programs of the US social safety net. This drive inevitably puts the entire political system on a collision course with the demands of the population, and must lead to mass political upheavals.

Since 2008, America, Britain and other European nations force-fed austerity harshness. Neoliberal and imperial priorities take precedence.

Bankers, war profiteers, other corporate favorites, and privileged elites alone benefit. Ordinary people lose out entirely. Public needs go begging. Human misery grows. Things go from bad to worse. Nothing ahead looks promising.

Britain made things harder. Parliament imposed the largest welfare cuts in modern times. More on them below.

They come when Prime Minister David Cameron wants UK nuclear defenses upgraded. He wants billions of pounds spent doing so. He claims Britain faces threats that don’t exist. An “ultimate weapon” is needed, he says.

His Daily Telegraph op-ed headlined “We need a nuclear deterrent more than ever,” saying:

(A)s prime minister, with ultimate responsibility for the nation’s security, I profoundly disagree with” naysayers. The “nuclear threat has not gone away.”

“My judgment is that it would be foolish to leave Britain defenceless against a continuing, and growing, nuclear threat.”

Saying so defies reason. Wanting billions of pounds spent on what’s not needed reflects deception writ large. Britain’s FY 2014 budget allocates 44.7 billion pounds for defense.

Billions go for nuclear deterrence. Cameron wants billions more. It’s worth the cost, he says. No cheaper options exist, he claims.

He wants Brits to think wasteful spending will protect Britain from nuclear attacks. Estimates run up to 20 billion pounds. It reflects multi-year spending.

At the same time, he supports massive welfare cuts. They come when Queen Elizabeth got a five million pound pay increase. In FY 2013-14, she’ll receive 36.1 million pounds (around $54 million). It’s up from 31 million last year.

She gets regular pay increases. They come from the Crown Estate. Its properties are worth eight billion pounds.

She’ll now receive 15% of their profits. In 2011-12, they earned 240.2 million pounds.

The Queen claims she needs the money. Royal priorities aren’t cheap. Annual expenses keep rising. She’s having a hard time making ends meet.

She’s dismissive about ordinary people’s suffering. It’s their problem, not hers. Let ‘em eat cake doesn’t wash. A former monarch learned the hard way.

Tough times keep getting tougher. Ordinary Brits struggle to get by. Britain’s coalition government made things harder. On April 3, Russia Today headlined “UK govt imposes avalanche of cuts,” saying:

Low-income and financially vulnerable families will be hit hardest. Opposition Labour MPs called new cuts announced “the beginning of ‘Black April.’ ” It’s hard imagining why. They’re as neoliberal as Tories.

From June 2007 – May 2010, Gordon Brown was prime minister. Austerity began on his watch. Budget cuts hit ordinary Brits hardest. Brown said “Labour will cut costs, cut inefficiencies, cut unnecessary programmes, and cut lower priority budgets.”

He targeted public sector worker wages, pensions and other benefits. At the same time, Britain spent 94% of its GDP on bank bailouts. It amounted to taxing every Brit about 30,000 pounds.

Labour and Tories conspire against ordinary people. Austerity is policy. So are harsh welfare cuts. Imposed them inflicts enormous hardships. Earlier amounts totaled tens of billions of pounds. In January, another 14.2 billion were announced.

New ones are toughest of all. Britain’s Baptist Union called them “unjust (forcing) the most vulnerable (to) pay a disproportionate price.”

Methodist Church Public Issues Policy Adviser Paul Morrison said they “make April fools of us all.”

“We are witnessing what happens when we create a culture that blames poor people for their poverty.”

“It is a lie to say that most people on benefits are lazy, that they have an easy life or that they are responsible for the nation’s financial deficit.”

“When people are willing to believe those lies, poor families pay the highest price.”

At the same time, wealthy elites got a tax cut. In late March, Britain slashed its 50% top rate to 40%. Corporations got a 1% cut.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s “granny tax” left around five million middle-class pensioners up to 323 pounds worse off. It’s when they most need help. They face other harsh budget cutting measures.

Welfare benefits will be cut another 10 billion pounds by 2016. On average, around 18 million Brits will lose 500 pounds annually. Billions more welfare cuts were announced earlier. Where this ends who knows.

Cameron wants public spending cut 5.3%. Expect more cuts to follow. Since financial crisis conditions erupted in 2008, one in 10 Brits lost their jobs.

The latest measures are worst of all. They include a new “bedroom” tax. It’s on local council and housing association tenants. They get housing benefits.

Recipients claimed to have a “spare” bedroom face cuts totaling 14%. Those with two “spare” ones lose 25%. Britain calls the measure an “under-occupancy penalty.”

Imposing it seeks to encourage more efficient social housing use. It inflicts enormous harm on vulnerable households. Expect more ahead hitting them harder. It’s coming in waves. One measure leads to others. Like America, Britain’s heading for third world status.

Hundreds of thousands of people are affected. Many will become homeless. Britain’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said the new bedroom tax will “end up costing more than it saves as tenants are forced to go homeless or move into the expensive private renter sector.”

Around 90,000 households are affected. Less than 4,000 smaller homes can accommodate them. In April, “personal independence payments (PIPs)” replace disability living allowances.

Private consulting and information technology services firm ATOS will assess whether benefit claimants can work. It’ll be paid up to one billion pounds to do so. In the past, it claimed stroke victims were fit to work.

ATOS aims to remove another 500,000 claimants from benefit rolls. Doing so will throw many of them in the street. They’ll risk losing out entirely.

New Health and Social Care Act legislation affects them. Enactment reverses 1946 free, universal National Health Service care. Government no longer has a legal duty to provide it.

Newly created Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) now have a “duty to arrange” what used to be mandated. Doing so shifts costs on the backs of vulnerable Brits least able to afford them. Commercializing healthcare lets predatory private profiteers take full advantage.

Combining austerity with welfare cuts heads Britain for third world status. Poverty and unemployment will rise further. So will public anger. On March 30, protesters targeted London’s Trafalgar Square.

Unionists joined anti-poverty campaigners, the disabled, homemakers and others.

Simultaneous gatherings were held in cities and towns nationwide. Thousands turned out in Glasgow. “Axe the bedroom tax,” signs read. One protestor spoke for others, saying:

“We won’t forget what they are doing to working class people.”

Another said:

“They have just shut the soup kitchen in Waltham Forest despite having a real problem with homelessness. I’m a working single parent. Now I’ve a tiny boxroom, and I’m faced with the choice between food, heat or paying the ‘bedroom tax.’ ”

At issue are numerous other cuts. Expect new ones to follow those announced. More recent ones began last October. Dozens of imposed changes were made. They include:

  • cutting support for mortgage interest from 6.08% – 3.63%;
  • scrapping the Child Trust Fund;
  • reducing the Council Tax benefit;
  • ending the Health in Pregnancy grant;
  • abolishing the Disability Living Allowance;
  • cutting legal aid;
  • freezing the Child Benefit and Working Tax Credit for low-income workers; and
  • much more implemented from October 10 through mid-April.

Making ordinary Brits bear burdens they can’t afford is policy. Expect new imposed hardships ahead. Tories and Labour are in lockstep. It bears repeating. Britain’s heading toward third world status. It’s on a fast track toward getting there.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/force-fed-uk-austerity/

What Are We Choosing for Our Future?

Wind energy expert Paul Gipe reported this week that – for the amount spent on the Iraq war – the U.S. could be generating 40%-60% of its electricity with renewable energy:

Disregarding the human cost, and disregarding our “other” war in Afghanistan, how much renewable energy could we have built with the money we spent? How far along the road toward the renewable energy transition could we have traveled?

The answer: shockingly far.

Cost of the Iraq War

The war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion through fiscal year 2013, according to Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. That’s trillion, with a “t”. Including future costs for veteran’s care, and so on, raises the cost to $2.2 trillion.

Because the war was financed with debt, we should also include a charge for interest on the debt. The Iraq war’s share of cumulative interest on the US debt through 2053 will raise the total cost of the war to $3.9 trillion.

To weigh what opportunities we lost, we’ll consider two conditions: the direct cost, and the direct cost plus interest.

Renewable Energy Assumptions

*** For this evaluation, I will use a mix of wind and solar.

Why a mix? Because if we want to develop an integrated system that will replace the mix of fossil fuels and nuclear power we use today, we will need a mix of renewable resources as well. Ideally, we would develop our wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass resources simultaneously. However, it is wind and solar that will provide the bulk of new generating capacity. So I’ve simplified this analysis by only considering a mix of wind and solar.

***

While the cost of solar has declined dramatically, it remains far more expensive than wind generation. Including solar as part of a mix of resources reduces the effective penetration of renewables, but is more realistic and, hence, more conservative than simply estimating how much wind could have been built.

***

Robert Freehling, a renewables consultant in California, has pointed out that these assumptions are much too conservative.

Wind Yield

***

Today, yields can range from less than 2,000 kWh per kW for inland locations like those in Germany, to more than 2,500 kWh per kW for windy locales like those in Ireland and Great Britain.

***

Freehling suggests 2,250 kWh per kW is a more representative yield.

Solar Yield & Cost

Solar yields in Germany vary from a low of 900 kWh per kW of DC capacity in the north to nearly 1,100 kWh per kW in the south.

Similarly, yields in the US vary widely from 1,000 kWh per kW in rainy Seattle to 1,800 kWh per kW in the blistering sun of the desert Southwest. Freehling believes a more representative yield for the US market is 1,200 kWh per kW.

Solar costs continue to plummet. If the US market ever becomes as competitive as the German market, we can expect that average installed cost of ground mounted and roof-mounted systems across the country will fall far below the $5,000 per kW I’ve assumed. Freehling suggests that the cost for a representative cross-section of installation types over the next decade is $3,350 per kW of DC capacity.

What We Lost in Renewable Opportunities

Based on a conservative estimate, the US could have built between a quarter-million to nearly a half-million megawatts of wind energy, and 300,000 to 600,000 megawatts of solar capacity.

For comparison, today there are only 60,000 MW of wind in the US, and a paltry 7,000 MW of solar.

If we had invested the $2.2 trillion in wind and solar, the US would be generating 21% of its electricity with renewable energy. If we had invested the $3.9 trillion that the war in Iraq will ultimately cost, we would generate nearly 40% of our electricity with new renewables. Combined with the 10% of supply from existing hydroelectricity, the US could have surpassed 50% of total renewables in supply.

However, this is a conservative estimate. If we include the reasonable assumptions suggested by Robert Freehling, the contribution by renewables would be even greater.

Freehling’s assumptions raise to as much as 60% the nation’s lost potential contribution by new renewables to US electricity supply by going to war in Iraq. With the addition of existing hydroelectric generation, the opportunity to develop as much as 70% of our nation’s electricity with renewable energy was lost.

And unlike the war in Iraq, which is an expense, the development of renewable energy instead of war would have been an investment in infrastructure at home that would have paid dividends to American citizens for decades to come.

But Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimated in 2008 that the Iraq war could cost America up to $5 trillion dollars.

And the Brown University study actually concluded that the Iraq war could end up costing $6 trillion dollars over the next 40 years.

Since $6 trillion is one and a half times as much as the $3.9 trillion estimate used by Gipe and Freehling, that means that the Iraq war money could essentially convert 100% of U.S. power to renewable energy.

True, comparing future interest payments to present renewable energy costs may be comparing apples and oranges.

But given that the nation’s top energy experts point out stunning breakthroughs in energy production, distribution, storage and conservation will drastically lower the costs of alternative energy, that $5-6 trillion could perhaps fund 100% renewable energy production:

And see this, this, this and this.

Moreover, given that war is very harmful for the economy, the costs of the Iraq war including the drag on the economy raises the price tag well above $6 trillion. So 100% of renewable energy funding may be realistic.

It is ironic, indeed, that the Iraq war was largely about oil. When we choose subsidies for conventional energy sources – war or otherwise – we sell our future down the river.

How Thatcher helped Pol Pot

April 11th, 2013 by John Pilger

The corporate media will eulogise Margaret Thatcher, and criticise those who dare use her death to point out her many terrible crimes. But among her many crimes that will go unmentioned was the support her government gave in the 1980s to the genocidal Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge.

Below is an article by independent journalist John Pilger on the support the West, including Thatcher, gave the Khmer Rouge. It was first published on April 17, 2000 in the New Statesman. Visit www.johnpilger.com for more articles. See also the archive of Pilger articles on Global Research.

On April 17 [2000], it is 25 years since Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh. In the calendar of fanaticism, this was Year Zero; as many as two million people, a fifth of Cambodia’s population, were to die as a consequence. To mark the anniversary, the evil of Pol Pot will be recalled, almost as a ritual act for voyeurs of the politically dark and inexplicable.

For the managers of western power, no true lessons will be drawn, because no connections will be made to them and to their predecessors, who were Pol Pot’s Faustian partners. Yet, without the complicity of the west, Year Zero might never have happened, nor the threat of its return maintained for so long.

Declassified United States government documents leave little doubt that the secret and illegal bombing of then neutral Cambodia by President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger between 1969 and 1973 caused such widespread death and devastation that it was critical in Pol Pot’s drive for power.

“They are using damage caused by B52 strikes as the main theme of their propaganda,” the CIA director of operations reported on 2 May 1973. “This approach has resulted in the successful recruitment of young men. Residents say the propaganda campaign has been effective with refugees in areas that have been subject to B52 strikes.”

In dropping the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on a peasant society, Nixon and Kissinger killed an estimated half a million people. Year Zero began, in effect, with them; the bombing was a catalyst for the rise of a small sectarian group, the Khmer Rouge, whose combination of Maoism and medievalism had no popular base.

After two and a half years in power, the Khmer Rouge was overthrown by the Vietnamese on Christmas Day, 1978. In the months and years that followed, the US and China and their allies, notably the Thatcher government, backed Pol Pot in exile in Thailand. He was the enemy of their enemy: Vietnam, whose liberation of Cambodia could never be recognised because it had come from the wrong side of the cold war. For the Americans, now backing Beijing against Moscow, there was also a score to be settled for their humiliation on the rooftops of Saigon.

To this end, the United Nations was abused by the powerful. Although the Khmer Rouge government (“Democratic Kampuchea”) had ceased to exist in January 1979, its representatives were allowed to continue occupying Cambodia’s seat at the UN; indeed, the US, China and Britain insisted on it.

Meanwhile, a Security Council embargo on Cambodia compounded the suffering of a traumatised nation, while the Khmer Rouge in exile got almost everything it wanted. In 1981, President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said: “I encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot.” The US, he added, “winked publicly” as China sent arms to the Khmer Rouge.

In fact, the US had been secretly funding Pol Pot in exile since January 1980. The extent of this support – $85m from 1980 to 1986 – was revealed in correspondence to a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. On the Thai border with Cambodia, the CIA and other intelligence agencies set up the Kampuchea Emergency Group, which ensured that humanitarian aid went to Khmer Rouge enclaves in the refugee camps and across the border.

Two American aid workers, Linda Mason and Roger Brown, later wrote: “The US government insisted that the Khmer Rouge be fed . . . the US preferred that the Khmer Rouge operation benefit from the credibility of an internationally known relief operation.” Under American pressure, the World Food Programme handed over $12m in food to the Thai army to pass on to the Khmer Rouge; “20,000 to 40,000 Pol Pot guerillas benefited,” wrote Richard Holbrooke, the then US assistant secretary of state.

I witnessed this. Travelling with a UN convoy of 40 trucks, I drove to a Khmer Rouge operations base at Phnom Chat. The base commander was the infamous Nam Phann, known to relief workers as “The Butcher” and Pol Pot’s Himmler. After the supplies had been unloaded, literally at his feet, he said: “Thank you very much, and we wish for more.”

In November of that year, 1980, direct contact was made between the White House and the Khmer Rouge when Dr Ray Cline, a former deputy director of the CIA, made a secret visit to a Khmer Rouge operational headquarters. Cline was then a foreign policy adviser on President-elect Reagan’s transitional team.

By 1981, a number of governments had become decidedly uneasy about the charade of the UN’s continuing recognition of the defunct Pol Pot regime. Something had to be done. The following year, the US and China invented the Coalition of the Democratic Government of Kampuchea, which was neither a coalition nor democratic, nor a government, nor in Kampuchea (Cambodia).

It was what the CIA calls “a master illusion”. Prince Norodom Sihanouk was appointed its head; otherwise little changed. The two “non-communist” members, the Sihanoukists, led by the Prince’s son, Norodom Ranariddh, and the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front, were dominated, diplomatically and militarily, by the Khmer Rouge. One of Pol Pot’s closet cronies, Thaoun Prasith, ran the office at the UN in New York.

In Bangkok, the Americans provided the “coalition” with battle plans, uniforms, money and satellite intelligence; arms came direct from China and from the west, via Singapore. The non-communist fig leaf allowed Congress – spurred on by a cold-war zealot Stephen Solarz, a powerful committee chairman – to approve $24m in aid to the “resistance”.

Until 1989, the British role in Cambodia remained secret. The first reports appeared in the Sunday Telegraph, written by Simon O’Dwyer-Russell, a diplomatic and defence correspondent with close professional and family contacts with the SAS. He revealed that the SAS was training the Pol Pot-led force.

Soon afterwards, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that the British training for the “non-communist” members of the “coalition” had been going on “at secret bases in Thailand for more than four years”. The instructors were from the SAS, “all serving military personnel, all veterans of the Falklands conflict, led by a captain”.

The Cambodian training became an exclusively British operation after the “Irangate” arms-for-hostages scandal broke in Washington in 1986. “If Congress had found out that Americans were mixed up in clandestine training in Indo-China, let alone with Pol Pot,” a Ministry of Defence source told O’Dwyer-Russell, “the balloon would have gone right up. It was one of those classic Thatcher-Reagan arrangements.” Moreover, Margaret Thatcher had let slip, to the consternation of the Foreign Office, that “the more reasonable ones in the Khmer Rouge will have to play some part in a future government”.

In 1991, I interviewed a member of “R” (reserve) Squadron of the SAS, who had served on the border. “We trained the KR in a lot of technical stuff – a lot about mines,” he said. “We used mines that came originally from Royal Ordnance in Britain, which we got by way of Egypt with marking changed . . . We even gave them psychological training. At first, they wanted to go into the villages and just chop people up. We told them how to go easy . . .”

The Foreign Office response was to lie. “Britain does not give military aid in any form to the Cambodian factions,” stated a parliamentary reply. The then prime minister, Thatcher, wrote to Neil Kinnock: “I confirm that there is no British government involvement of any kind in training, equipping or co-operating with Khmer Rouge forces or those allied to them.”

On 25 June 1991, after two years of denials, the government finally admitted that the SAS had been secretly training the “resistance” since 1983. A report by Asia Watch filled in the detail: the SAS had taught “the use of improvised explosive devices, booby traps and the manufacture and use of time-delay devices”. The author of the report, Rae McGrath (who shared a joint Nobel Peace Prize for the international campaign on landmines), wrote in the Guardian that “the SAS training was a criminally irresponsible and cynical policy”.

When a UN “peacekeeping force” finally arrived in Cambodia in 1992, the Faustian pact was never clearer. Declared merely a “warring faction”, the Khmer Rouge was welcomed back to Phnom Penh by UN officials, if not the people. The western politician who claimed credit for the “peace process”, Gareth Evans (then Australia’s foreign minister), set the tone by calling for an “even-handed” approach to the Khmer Rouge and questioning whether calling it genocidal was “a specific stumbling block”.

Khieu Samphan, Pol Pot’s prime minister during the years of genocide, took the salute of UN troops with their commander, the Australian general John Sanderson, at his side. Eric Falt, the UN spokesman in Cambodia, told me: “The peace process was aimed at allowing [the Khmer Rouge] to gain respectability.”

The consequence of the UN’s involvement was the unofficial ceding of at least a quarter of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge (according to UN military maps), the continuation of a low-level civil war and the election of a government impossibly divided between “two prime ministers”: Hun Sen and Norodom Ranariddh.

The Hun Sen government has since won a second election outright. Authoritarian and at times brutal, yet by Cambodian standards extraordinarily stable, the government led by a former Khmer Rouge dissident, Hun Sen, who fled to Vietnam in the 1970s, has since done deals with leading figures of the Pol Pot era, notably the breakaway faction of Ieng Sary, while denying others immunity from prosecution.

Once the Phnom Penh government and the UN can agree on its form, an international war crimes tribunal seems likely to go ahead. The Americans want the Cambodians to play virtually no part; their understandable concern is that not only the Khmer Rouge will be indicted.

The Cambodian lawyer defending Ta Mok, the Khmer Rouge military leader captured last year, has said:

“All the foreigners involved have to be called to court, and there will be no exceptions . . . Madeleine Albright, Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush . . . we are going to invite them to tell the world why they supported the Khmer Rouge.”

It is an important principle, of which those in Washington and Whitehall currently sustaining bloodstained tyrannies elsewhere might take note.

Yesterday’s reconvening of Britain’s parliament to mark the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a gathering of her political offspring.

Baroness Thatcher, who led the Conservative government between 1979 and 1990, died Monday of a stroke, aged 87. Her premiership was the expression in Britain of a right-wing shift in international politics aimed at removing any obstacles on the accumulation of private wealth at the expense of the working class.

In little over a decade under her rule, the social gains made by working people in the post-war period were sent into sharp reverse. By the time she left office in 1990, the proportion of wealth controlled by the richest ten percent of the population had doubled. So too had child poverty.

In the following decades, not only has social inequality become more ingrained. The processes she helped set in motion—of rampant and criminal financial speculation—are directly responsible for the global banking crisis of 2008, and the policies of mass austerity being rolled out internationally: more than £150 billion in spending cuts in Britain alone, and counting.

This social misery accounts for the massive security operation being put into place for her funeral next Wednesday, including threats that police may make “pre-emptive arrests” of potential protestors. It is why, even amid the sycophantic coverage of her passing, the media acknowledged Thatcher as a “divisive” figure. What this means is that she was widely despised by working people and remembered with fondness primarily by a much smaller number of the wealthy whom she served so well.

The parliamentary tribute to Thatcher expressed the sentiments of the rich and powerful towards their political mentor. They united to celebrate as a great stateswoman, even a national heroine, the “shopkeeper’s daughter” who “broke the glass ceiling” to become the UK’s first female prime minister.

A hagiographic presentation of Thatcher’s life and political career by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron was to be expected. He praised her agenda of privatisation and union-busting, making the absurd claim that she had “made Britain great again.”

The Britain of the 1970s had been characterised by the “disease” of industrial militancy and nationalised industries, he said. “Though it seems absurd today, the state had got so big that it owned our airports and airline, the phones in our houses, and trucks on our roads. They even owned a removal company.”

More nauseating still was the glowing tribute paid to Thatcher by Labour leader Ed Miliband.

The leaders of all three official parties—Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour—“came of age in the 1980s” and were shaped by her politics, Miliband said.

What he meant, as his remarks made clear, was that on all fundamentals those leaders agree.

The former prime minister was a “unique and towering figure,” Miliband said. While one “can disagree” with some of what she had done, her achievements were to be admired. She was “someone with deep convictions, willing to act on them.”

Thatcher had also been right, according to the Labour leader, to wage war against Argentina in 1982 over the Malvinas/Falkland islands—an imperialist adventure during which the retreating ARA General Belgrano light cruiser was deliberately sunk outside the British imposed exclusion zone at the cost of 323 lives.

As MP for Doncaster, a former mining town, Miliband was obliged to pay reference to the catastrophic impact of Thatcher’s assault on the mining industry, which turned entire areas of the country into industrial wastelands.

Mining communities felt “angry and abandoned” by her actions, he said, while stressing that she was “right to recognise our economy needed to change.”

The only other difference with Thatcher that Miliband stipulated was his criticism of the legislation barring the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools put in place by her government that had made gays and lesbians “feel stigmatised”. Even then he was at pains to praise “today’s Conservative party” for repudiating the legislation.

Before the debate began, Miliband had urged Labour MPs to speak of Thatcher with “respect.” He faced no dissent on that score. A handful of Labour MPs stayed away from the tribute, while others were mute.

As for the trade unions, they have been conspicuous by their silence. No official statement has been issued by the Trades Union Congress. As for Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Mineworkers during the 1984-85 strike, he has repeatedly turned down requests for a comment on Thatcher’s death.

All that has appeared is an op-ed piece in the Guardian by TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady that says nothing about Thatcher’s union-busting, but instead criticises her government for squandering the proceeds of the privatisation of state assets on “bribing voters rather than modernising the economy.”

These events underscore the essential point made by the World Socialist Web Site that for all the portrayals of her as the “Iron Lady”, “Thatcher’s great advantage, which accounted for all her much vaunted victories, was that she only ever confronted enemies that were determined to lose.”

That verdict applies to the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union and its satellite states.

The portrayal of Thatcher in the parliamentary debate as someone who “saved” the world from communism is ludicrous. When the Soviet Union was liquidated in December 1991, one year after she left office, it was the tragic end result of decades of political betrayal by the Stalinist bureaucracy, which had determined to set out on the restoration of capitalism.

It holds true especially for the Labour Party and the trade unions. By the time of Thatcher’s confrontation with the miners in 1984, they both had already given up the ghost of opposition.

Throughout the year-long strike the miners were subject to harsh state repression, while neither Labour nor a single union lifted a finger in their defence. Having isolated and betrayed the strike, the Labour Party seized on the defeat to refashion itself as an overtly right-wing party of big business in Thatcher’s image.

When Cameron boasted that the parties might argue about tax, but “none of us is arguing for a return to [the 1970s] tax rates of 98 percent,” he was on safe ground.

Above all, the parliamentary leaders and parties are united in sharing Thatcher’s visceral hatred of the working class—epitomised by her description of miners fighting to defend their jobs and communities as “the enemy within”—and their determination today to make working people pay for the crisis of global capitalism.

As Danny Finkelstein, executive editor of Rupert Murdoch’s Timesnewspaper, set out in a BBC Newsnight programme on Thatcher’s legacy, the 2008 economic crisis meant there is “massive work to do, cutting expenditure” which will “force all the political parties to ultimately accept a Thatcherite verity, which is you can’t spend what you haven’t got.”

In Wednesday’s parliamentary recall, Miliband laid down Labour’s marker for this agenda.

Time to Bell the Obama Cat

April 10th, 2013 by Norman Solomon

The story goes that some mice became very upset about the cat in the house and convened an emergency meeting. They finally came up with the idea of tying a bell around the cat’s neck, so the dangerous feline could no longer catch victims unawares. The plan gained a lot of enthusiastic praise, until one mouse piped up with a question that preceded a long silence: “Who’s going to bell the cat?”

In recent days, the big cat in the White House has provoked denunciations from groups that have rarely crossed him. They’re upset about his decision to push for cuts in Social Security benefits. “Progressive outrage has reached a boiling point,” the online juggernaut MoveOn declared a few days ago.

Obama’s move to cut Social Security is certainly outrageous, and it’s encouraging that a wide range of progressive groups are steamed at Obama as never before. But this kind of outrage should have reached a “boiling point” a long time ago. The administration’s undermining of civil liberties, scant action on climate change, huge escalation of war in Afghanistan, expansion of drone warfare, austerity policies serving Wall Street and shafting Main Street, vast deference to corporate power. . . The list is long and chilling.

So is the evasive record of many groups that are now denouncing Obama’s plan to cut Social Security. Mostly, their leaders griped in private and made nice with the Obama White House in public.

Yet imagine if those groups had polarized with President Obama in 2009 on even a couple of key issues. Such progressive independence would have shown the public that there is indeed a left in this country — that the left has principles and stands up for them — and that Obama, far from being on the left, is in the center. Such principled clarity would have undermined the right-wing attacks on Obama as a radical, socialist, etc. — and from the beginning could have gotten some victories out of Obama, instead of waiting more than four years to take him on.

Whether or not Obama’s vicious assault on Social Security is successful, it has already jolted an unprecedented number of longtime supporters. It should be the last straw, suffused with illumination.

That past is prologue. We need to ask: Do such groups now have it in them to stop pretending that each of the Obama administration’s various awful policies is some kind of anomaly?

From this spring onward, a wide range of progressive groups should be prepared to work together to effectively renounce Obama’s leadership.

We need to invigorate political options other than accepting the likes of President Obama — or embracing self-marginalization.

For progressives, there’s not a lot to be gained by venting against Obama without working to implement a plausible strategy for ousting corporate war Democrats from state power. Nor is there a useful path for third parties like the Green Party in races for Congress and other partisan contests; those campaigns rarely end up with more than a tiny percentage of the vote, and the impacts are very small.

This spring, there’s a lot of work beckoning for progressives who mean business about gaining electoral power for social movements; who have no intention of eliding the grim realities of the Obama presidency; who are more than fed up with false pretenses that Obama is some kind of ally of progressives; who recognize that Obama has served his last major useful purpose for progressives by blocking a Romney-Ryan regime from entering the White House; who are willing to be here now, in this historical moment, to organize against and polarize with the Obama administration in basic terms; and who, looking ahead, grasp the tragic folly of leaving the electoral field to battles between right-wing Republicans and Democrats willing to go along with the kind of destructive mess that President Obama has been serving up.

A vital next step is staring us in the face: get to work now to develop and launch grassroots progressive campaigns for next year’s primaries that can defeat members of Congress who talk the talk but fail to walk the walk of challenging Obama’s austerity agenda.

Who are those congressional incumbents who call themselves “progressive” but refuse to take a clear stand against slashing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits? I have a little list. Well, actually it’s not so little.

As of today, after many weeks of progressive lobbying and pleading and petitioning nationwide, 47 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have refused to sign the letter, initiated by Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano, pledging to “vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits — including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”

After all this time, refusal to sign the Grayson-Takano letter is a big tipoff that those 47 House members are keeping their options open. (To see that list of 47, click here.) They want wiggle room for budget votes on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits. Most of them represent a left-leaning district, and some could be toppled by grassroots progressive campaigns.

By itself, lobbying accomplishes little. Right now, it’s time to threaten members of Congress with defeat unless they vote against all efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. Click here if you want to send that message directly to your representative and senators.

The best way to sway members of Congress is to endanger their seats if they aren’t willing to do the right thing. In the real world, politics isn’t about playing cat and mouse. It’s about power.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He writes the Political Culture 2013 column.

New Economic Sanctions on Iran, Washington’s Regime Change Strategy

April 10th, 2013 by Timothy Alexander Guzman

Since the Nuclear talks between Iran and the Western powers have failed, new proposals to enforce stronger economic sanctions on Iran are now in the works.  Bloomberg News reported that Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) said in a phone interview that “New measures under consideration will massively intensify the economic pressure on Iran and move the sanctions regime closer to a de facto commercial and financial embargo on Iran.”

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies is a Washington affiliated think tank that is calling for an economic embargo that would cause mass starvation and poverty among the Iranian people.  Due to past sanctions Iranians are already suffering from high unemployment, inflation, medicine shortages, and even food riots.  Basic food staples have doubled in prices.  Chicken and certain meats have become scarce.  FDD has several members who are in favor of sanctioning Iran including syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer who called for ending all assistance for humanitarian aid after Hamas won democratic elections in Palestine.  In an article he wrote for the Washington Post in 2006 called ‘Palestine without Illusions’ he wrote:

“The world must impress upon the Palestinians that there are consequences for their choices. And so long as they choose rejectionism — the source of a 60-year conflict the Israelis have long been ready to resolve — the world will not continue to support and subsidize them.

And that means cutting off Hamas completely: no recognition, no negotiation, no aid, nothing. And not just assistance to a Hamas government, but all assistance. The Bush administration suggests continuing financial support for “humanitarian” services. This is a serious mistake.”

Charles Krauthammer was implying that Palestinians should be allowed to starve because they voted for Hamas.  Hamas was democratically elected, but according to Krauthammer they are a clear threat to Israel’s existence, therefore cut off food supplies and medicines that the Palestinians desperately need.  Richard Perle is another member of FDD who was one of the architects for the Project for a New American Century and is an influential member of several think tanks including American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Hudson Institute and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).  WINEP is the same think tank that employs the Director of Research Patrick Clawson who advocated for a ‘False Flag’ incident to go to war with Iran in 2012 when he said:

“One can combine other means of pressure with sanctions. I mentioned that explosion on August 17th. We could step up the pressure. I mean look people, Iranian submarines periodically go down, some day one of them might not come up, who would know why? We can do a variety of things if we wish to increase the pressure… We are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians. We could get nastier.

Richard Perle was one of the neoconservatives in the Bush administration that advocated for an invasion of Iraq but denied the accusation in an article he wrote for The National Interest in 2009:

I have digressed to describe my relationship to the Bush administration because I have been widely but wrongly depicted as deeply involved in the making of administration policy, especially with respect to Iraq. Facts notwithstanding, there are some fifty thousand entries on Google in which I am described as an “architect,” and often as “the architect,” of the Iraq War. I certainly supported and argued publicly for the decision to remove Saddam, as I do in what follows. But had I been the architect of that war, our policy would have been very different.

UNDERSTANDING BUSH’S foreign and defense policy requires clarity about its origins and the thinking behind the administration’s key decisions. That means rejecting the false claim that the decision to remove Saddam, and Bush policies generally, were made or significantly influenced by a few neoconservative “ideologues” who are most often described as having hidden their agenda of imperial ambition or the imposition of democracy by force or the promotion of Israeli interests at the expense of American ones or the reshaping of the Middle East for oil-or all of the above. Despite its seemingly endless repetition by politicians, academics, journalists and bloggers, that is not a serious argument.

In a Senate Foreign Relations Committee joint hearing with the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on May 21st, 1998, Richard Perle said that Saddam Hussein was responsible for causing the Iraqi people to starve, not US government policies:

The United States, mass-marketer to the world, is losing a propaganda war with Saddam Hussein, mass-murderer of his own citizens, over the issue of humanitarian concern. With much of the world believing that Iraqi babies are starving because of U.S. policies rather than the policies of Saddam Hussein, we are facing a political-diplomatic defeat of historic significance in the Gulf and the Administration, bereft of ideas, energy or imagination, is doing nothing to stop it.

FDD also has R. James Woolsey former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who blamed Iraq for every terrorist attack committed against the United States including the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and even the World Trade Center bombing of 1993. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies is a highly influential think tank concerning US foreign policy towards the Middle East. Their policies have influenced the Bush Administration during the US invasion of Iraq.

In a report by thinkprogress.org, ‘EXCLUSIVE: Documents Shed Light on Those Underwriting the Foundation for Defense of Democracies:

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) has been a vocal presence in Washington since its founding in the days following the 9/11 attacks as a self-described “nonpartisan policy institute dedicated exclusively to promoting pluralism, defending democratic values, and fighting the ideologies that threaten democracy.” But FDD’s position consistently fell in line with the Bush administration’s militant “war on terror” and policies espoused by Israel’s right wing Likud party. In recent years, FDD has become one of the premiere DC organizations promoting more aggressive actions against Iran.

Mark Dubowitz is advising Washington to impose harsh economic and financial sanctions on Iran.  Washington’s strategy is to create instability by declaring an economic war on the Iranian people.  In an article written by Jacob Kamaras of the JointMedia News Service (jns.org) titled ‘Do Iran Sanctions Work’ in 2012 stated US Representative Brad Sherman in a private meeting at an AIPAC conference as saying “Hard, strict sanctions that impact everyday life in Iran could encourage its people to choose between regime survival and its nuclear program.”  Washington wants to impose sanctions that will make life difficult for Iranian citizens in hopes that they can start a revolution to overthrow their government.  Washington would welcome a revolution that would overthrow the current Iranian government and replace it with one that is subservient to its interests.

In 1979, the Iranian people overthrew Washington’s puppet, the Shah of Iran, replacing him with the Ayatollah Khomeini.  It changed Iran’s government from a monarchy into an Islamic Republic.  The Bloomberg report also stated that the sanctions “would penalize foreign countries that do business with any Iranian entity controlled by the government. It also would bar Iran from using earnings from oil exports to purchase anything other than food and medicine.” Meaning Russia, China, India, Germany, South Korea, Japan, France, Italy, Cuba and others who trade with Iran would face penalties imposed by the United States.  “The draft Senate legislation, which would have to pass both houses of Congress and be signed by President Barack Obama, would target Iran’s foreign exchange holdings by cutting off its access to hard currencies, including the euro, and restricting its use of money exchange houses” the report said.

Iran will face more sanctions as the draft Senate legislation is expected to pass both houses of congress with President Obama giving his final approval with his signature by the end of this month.  Obama is following the same strategy as previous US administrations, and that is to create economic difficulties for the Iranian people with the hope that they would overthrow their government.  It is intended to create “Regime Change”.

It was the same idea that was used in Cuba in an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro by the Cuban people with an economic and financial Embargo back in 1960.  But obviously that did not work out well for every US administration since then.  It will not work in Iran either.  Expect tensions to rise in the coming months ahead.

 National Paranoia is the Irrational Fear that You’re Being Threatened   Which is the more paranoid statement?1.  AMERICAN MEDIA:  “North Korea is threatening to attack us with nuclear weapons,”or:

2.  NORTH KOREAN MEDIA:  “The United States is threatening to attack us with nuclear weapons.”

Taking recent events in the U.S. and the Korean peninsula as evidence, while mostly ignoring historical context, the drift toward another American war in Asia can be seen as clearly as the ambiguous moves and countermoves of countries with no obvious motive for war might allow, producing headlines like [1]this[1] in the New York Times of April 4:

            “North Korea Moves Missile to Coast, but Little Threat is Seen” 

According to the Times, “North Korea has been issuing a blistering series of similar threats in recent weeks, citing as targets the American military installations in the Pacific islands of Hawaii and Guam, as well as the United States mainland.”

One reason such threats are not always seen as threatening is that North Korea has no missile that can reach the U.S. mainland, [2]and[2] quite likely not even Alaska, Hawaii, or Guam, never mind whether they have any long range missile that can hit anything with any accuracy.

North Koreans Move Missile Closer to U.S.! 

The South Korean defense chief reported April 4 that the North Koreans had moved one longish-range missile to its east coast, maybe 200 miles closer to the U.S., but that missile was still not close enough to come close to the U.S. west coast.  Nevertheless, American bases in South Korea and Japan are still presumably reachable targets, as are Korean and Japanese civilians.  Most of China and eastern Russia are also within range.  [Later reports said the North Koreans had moved two mobile missiles to the coast.]

The U.S. recently deployed a land-based anti-missile missile system to Guam, which is beyond the range of North Korea’s operational missiles. The U.S. has also moved at least two Aegis-class missile-cruisers to patrol waters close to North Korea.   While the Aegis system [3]has[3] the capability of attacking targets on land, in the air, and under water, its most notable exploit to date was the 1988 downing of an Iranian passenger plane, killing 290 civilians.

On March 29, CNN reported somewhat breathlessly that “North Korea has entered a ‘state of war’ with neighboring South Korea,” which ignores the reality that the state of war between the two countries has existed since 1950, although an armistice [4]was[4] agreed to in 1953.  Fitful efforts to negotiate a formal peace treaty have continued for 60 years, leaving the United Nations Command in place to the present.  North Korea has previously rejected the armistice at least five other times, in 1994, 1996, 2003, 2006, and 2009.

 Americans Should Be Afraid of Missiles that Can’t Reach America

Exaggerating the CNN story, the Newsweek/Daily Beast editors gave [5]it[5] this scary headline — “North Korea Prepares Strike on U.S.’  – that had no meaningful basis in reality.  Amplifying the fear the next day, NBC News [6]ran[6] a disappointingly low-key story under the ramped-up headline:

North Korea puts rockets on standby asUS official warns regime is no ‘paper tiger’ 

 Peter Hart of FAIR [7]has[7] explored the one-sidedness of American media coverage and its reality-distorting effect in detail.

One reason the North Koreans moved their missile was in response to the March 28 U.S. fly-bys along the South Korean border with B-2 bombers quite capable of carrying enough nuclear weapons to obliterate North Korea and set off nuclear winter around the world.   Just because these fly-bys with B-2s, B-52s and other potentially nuclear-armed aircraft were part of military exercises the U.S. and South Koreans put on every year (sometimes using a pretend scenario of invading the North), the U.S. maintains the North shouldn’t think of them as in the least provocative.  The B-2s flew from a base in Missouri.

Another North Korean reason for moving their missile might have been the American plans to conduct missile defense drills with Japan and South Korea on an on-going basis.  This plan follows the “signal” sent earlier in the winter when the U.S. announced plans to increase its anti-missile missile deployment in Alaska and along the Pacific west coast.

China Votes for Sanctions, but Remains Wild Card

On March 7, the United Nations Security Council unanimously (15-0) approved a resolution brokered by the U.S. and Chine, imposing new economic sanctions on North Korea as punishment for its announcement on February 12, confirming [8]its[8] third nuclear weapons test.  While many nations detected seismic activity that they interpreted to be an underground nuclear explosion, and while the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty monitors said the tremor had “clear explosionlike characteristics,” there was no detection of radiation sufficient to confirm that the explosion was nuclear.

North Korea’s admission that it had used a “miniaturized nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously” was seen by some as defiance of Chinese advice against such a test.  The Chinese had promised that North Korea would “pay a heavy price” if it went ahead with the test.   That price apparently includes China’s cooperation with the U.S. on setting sanctions.

Complicating the response to the test announcement, there are few sanctions left to apply to North Korea, perhaps the world’s second most-sanctioned country after Israel [the U.N. has voted 66 sanctions against Israel, all or most of which Israel ignores with little consequence].  The new North Korea sanctions [9]bar[9] all nations from selling the North expensive jewelry, yachts, luxury automobiles, and racing cars.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said that, “taken together, these sanctions will bite, and bite hard.”

That will depend on China, which has previously helped North Korea get around sanctions, seeming to have less concern for the country across the border having nuclear weapons than having it devolve into instability and chaos.  So the current round of sanctions, like earlier ones, will have limited impact unless China should decide to limit its oil shipments, banking services, and other ongoing aid to North Korea.

Anyone Ready for an Act of War, like a Naval Blockade?

Another factor limiting the effectiveness of sanctions has been the unwillingness of the U.S. and other nations to enforce sanctions with a naval blockade, which would be an act of war.   And it would be an act of war against a Chinese ally, enforced in the waters off the Chinese mainland.

The announced nuclear test in February came a few weeks after the Security Council had voted unanimously for a resolution in favor of tightening sanctions on North Korea for launching a three-stage rocket in December.

At this point, no one is claiming that North Korea actually has any nuclear warheads, or any actual capacity to deliver one anywhere.

But North Korean [DPRK] bristling continued on April 4, as an unnamed army official suggested [10]that[10]:

“…the moment of explosion is approaching fast.  No one can say a war will break out in Korea or not and whether it will break out today or tomorrow….  The responsibility for this grave situation entirely rests with the U.S. administration and military warmongers keen to encroach upon the DPRK’s sovereignty and bring down its dignified social system with brigandish logic.” 

Anonymous U.S. Official Wonders About U.S. Over-reacting

The same day, at the Pentagon, an unnamed Defense Department official, took a look in the mirror and referred to U.S. bellicosity about its own military actions, saying:

“We accused the North Koreans of amping things up, now we are worried we did the same thing…. We are trying to turn the volume down.  We are absolutely trying to ratchet back the rhetoric.  We become part of the cycle. We allowed that to happen.”

In South Korea, which would likely suffer most from an outbreak of hostilities, one observer there considered the North Korea news reporting “all hype.”  Adam Hogue graduated from Keene State College in New Hampshire in 2011 and has been living and working in South Korea ever since.  On April 2, [11]he[11] wrote:

There is a need to create a culture of panic in the United States and, arguably, everywhere else where the major media conglomerates have established news outlets…. 

 “As I have heard from my mother, father, sister, friends, the New York Times, CNN and NPR, North Korea is suddenly big news. They are now something to fear. They are something threatening, mysterious and suddenly worthy of all the news headlines in the western-world. There is an urgent message being told that now is a time to panic and react…. 

 “But, that message is not coming from my co-workers at school or from the Korean news or from my neighbors; it is a message from the media.” 

American Paranoid Policy Heightened since 9-11

So it seems, in answer to the paranoia question at the beginning of this piece: the U.S. appears to have a comfortable lead in maintaining delusions of being threatened.

While the threats to North Korea are real and existential, that doesn’t preclude some paranoia at the same time:  consider the suggestion [13]that[13] the 2010 torpedo-sinking of a South Korean ship – blamed on North Korea and raising war fears – was actually a false flag operation by the Israeli navy using a state-of-the-art German submarine [Israel [12]has[12] a small fleet, armed with nuclear-warhead missiles].

On January 29, 2002, in his first State of the Union address, President George Bush declared that North Korea was part of  “an axis of evil” along with Iraq and Iran – nations that, while not an axis in the usual sense, got grouped by President Bush’s belief that they were all developing weapons of mass destruction with which “to threaten the peace of the world.”

Still searching for those weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. has [14]now[14] offered to sell South Korea 60 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter stealth bombers at a discount price of $180 million per plane.  If the North Koreans are paying attention, they will not feel immediately threatened by this possible sale of a plane that is at least five years from being operational and still struggling in its test phase.

The F-35 may be more of an economic threat to South Korea.

Notes

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/05/world/asia/north-korean-missile-moved-to-coast.html?hp&_r=1&

[2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/04/04/map-this-is-how-far-those-north-korean-missiles-can-actually-reach/

 [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aegis_Combat_System

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Armistice_Agreement

[5] http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2013/03/29/north-korea-prepares-strike-on-u-s.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=cheatsheet_morning&cid=newsletter%3Bemail%3Bcheatsheet_morning&utm_term=Cheat Sheet

 [6] http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/29/17513218-north-korea-puts-rockets-on-standby-as-us-official-warns-regime-is-no-paper-tiger?lite

[7] http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/16789-north-korea-rattles-sabres-us-pretends-to-drop-nuclear-bombs-on-them-

[8] http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/03/07/north_korea_vows_preemptive_nuclear_strike_against_us_ahead_of_un_vote.html

 [9] http://www.globalpolicy.org/security-council/index-of-countries-on-the-security-council-agenda/north-korea.html

 [10] http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/04/politics/koreas-u-s-/index.html

[11] http://www.policymic.com/articles/32263/north-korea-news-is-all-hype

[12] http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/israel-deploys-nuclear-weapons-on-german-built-submarines-a-836784.html

[13] http://abundanthope.net/pages/Political_Information_43/ISRAEL-S-SECRET-WAR-AGAINST-NORTH-KOREA.shtml

[14]  http://www.defenseworld.net/news/8160/U_S_Offers_Korea_F_35_Aircraft_At_Subsidized_Rates – .UV8FwavwLB8

Germany’s One-Party System

April 10th, 2013 by Oskar Lafontaine

On September 22, 2013, Germany will hold general elections. These elections will be observed with special attention given what it will mean for the austerity policies of the Merkel government and the ‘Euro crisis.’ From an anti-austerity and socialist perspective, the elections are also important with regard to the situation for the new German Left Party Die LINKE. Despite growing economic and social inequality, the Left Party stands at just 8 per cent in opinion polls. The party faces the challenge of presenting itself as a genuine alternative in an unfavourable and even hostile political environment in Germany. In this article, published exclusively in the left-wing daily newspaper Junge Welt, Oskar Lafontaine reflects on the current conjuncture for the party.

Lafontaine started his career as Willy Brandt‘s most politically talented ‘son’; became the most popular leader of West Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) during its years in opposition between 1982 and 1998; was deemed “the most dangerous man in Europe” by the British press for his financial market regulation plans as the Finance Minister of the first coalition government of SPD and Greens in 1998, but stepped down when he realized the lack of support for his left-Keynesian policies within the coalition.

In the early 2000s Lafontaine was a prominent critic of the new government’s neoliberal course and in 2004 he joined the new West German party Election Alternative for Work and Social Justice (WASG) formed by trade unionists, left-wing economists, SPD dissidents and radical leftists, on the condition that it would merge with the East German Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) to form a united German Left Party. In the 2005 national elections Lafontaine led the new party formation into the Bundestag with 8.7 per cent and in 2009 with 11.9 per cent of the popular vote. For health reasons Lafontaine stepped down from his leadership positions nationally and decided to concentrate on the role of opposition leader in his home state of Saarland. His voice nevertheless remains influential within the Left Party and calls for his return to the national stage are frequent.

In the forthcoming German elections the Left Party (Die Linke) can only be successful if it refuses to become another wing of the ‘German Unity Party.’

In the coming months a comedy will be staged in Germany. The piece is called ‘Electoral Battle of the Political Camps.’ The leading actors are Angela Merkel and Peer Steinbrück. In supporting roles we’ll see Horst Seehofer, Sigmar Gabriel, Philipp Rösler, Jürgen Trittin and the other respective leaders of the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Green Party. An appearance by Die Linke is not envisaged for this revue. With the help of the intelligence service, the corporate media and public broadcasters, everything possible is being done to banish this inconvenient party from the catwalks of capitalism.

Years ago the sharp-tongued American author Gore Vidal observed, “Democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.” For Vidal, the USA does not have two, but only one political party, “with two right wings,” which campaigns for the interests of major corporations. He considered the media to be instruments of propaganda for the preservation of social power relations.

One might dismiss Gore Vidal’s view as the literary embellishment of a writer, but the transferability of his assessment of American politics to the looming German national election is confirmed by journalist Heribert Prantl in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “The campaign of the political camps is an electoral campaign that actually no longer exists… a campaign of the political camps is an inappropriate term … There [once] were opposing positions on basic policy issues: foreign, economic, energy and immigration policies… The fundamental differences between the parties (with the exception of Die Linke) have disappeared.”

The Americanization of German politics has undoubtedly led to the fact that today, even in Germany, we have a one-party system with four wings – to stay with Gore Vidal’s image. The wings call themselves the CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP or the Greens, and they campaign, sometimes more, sometimes less, in the interests of banks and major corporations – as the tax policies of recent years and the many bank rescue packages demonstrate. They endorse without any reservations an economic system which results in an unequal distribution of prosperity, wealth and power; a system that allows a minority to have the majority work for it and then withhold from this majority the fully entitled proceeds of their labour, in the form of wages and employee shares.

In contrast to the German Unity Party, Die Linke believes property should only be the result of one’s effort; it should result from one’s own labour and not from the fact that someone has appropriated the labour of others. So long as great fortunes and the accompanying social power structures are created in such a way that a minority “exploits” the labour of the majority, the interests of the majority cannot logically prevail. In other words, a democracy; that is to say, a social order in which the interests of the majority are asserted, flounders upon the power structure reinforced by the German Unity Party.

So long as this remains unaffected phony struggles will be waged and fierce conflicts can be conducted on peripheral battlefields. The less that fundamental political positions differ from one another, the louder the shouting must be to maintain the appearance of a contest between the political camps. As Heribert Prantl once more points out, “There probably are, despite the fuss that is made about retirement policies, only one thousand people in Germany, who could spell out the difference between the CDU/CSU and the SPD. It’s the same with other issues.” Even the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung talks about a “phoney” campaign between the political camps.

Neoliberalism, German Style

Nor should we let ourselves be blinded by the SPD-Green “plagiarism scandal.” With great effort the Social Democrats and the Greens have copied and modified policy proposals from Die Linke in order to make us forget the social dislocations caused by their coalition policies – precarious working conditions, low wages, seniors living in poverty, and the destruction of the social security system. This applies also to other policies: a minimum wage, modest improvements to pensions, an increase in Hartz IV benefits, medical fees, tuition fees, temporary work, work contracts, top tax rates, a wealth tax, a withholding tax, a financial transaction tax, rent control, energy price limits, a cap on interest rates for consumer credit, Eurobonds, the revocation of bank licenses, the abetting of tax evasion, separation of commercial and investment banking, limits to execute salaries, creditor liability, and debt haircuts, to name but a few examples.

This theft of ideas cannot hide the fact that when it matters the SPD and Greens, as well as the CDU/CSU and FDP, show themselves to be loyal fractions of the German Unity Party. The unanimous approval for the balanced budget amendment to the constitution, for the European fiscal compact, and for the various rescue packages, shows that the “left camp,” consisting of the SPD and Greens, have not detached themselves from their Hartz IV and Agenda 2010 policies. The fiscal compact represents the consolidation of these brutal austerity policies for all of Europe. The only reason the SPD and Greens have the chutzpah to call themselves European parties is because they have internalized a Europe of free markets and corporations as the only possibility.

If we measure social reality according to declared political objectives, it is then not too harsh a judgement to describe both ‘left-wing’ protagonists of the forthcoming ‘battle of the political camps’ as European flops. With the participation of the then SPD-Green chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the European Council resolved in Lisbon in December 2000 to make the EU, “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.” That was the noble goal. But what does the reality look it?

When young Europeans – who are becoming unemployed en masse – read this today, they are fully justified in being dubious about the powers of judgment of these state leaders. When will the politicians of the German Unity Party grasp that an economic system, which has profit and wealth maximization for a minority as its goal, inevitably produces conditions such as we now observe in Europe?

Against this background it is a bad joke when the CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP and Greens wish to place social justice at the center of their “battle of the political camps.”

Because it’s inherent to the system, it is also logical that both ‘camps’ have chosen so-called wars for human rights as the central instruments of their foreign policies. In inimitable fashion Prince Harry captured the quintessence of the new era of German foreign policy on the front page of the Bild newspaper with his comment, “Take a life to save a life. That’s what we revolve around, I suppose.” It is telling in this regard that politicians from the SPD and Greens strongly criticized Merkel and Westerwelle for not letting Germany participate in NATO’s war on Libya.

Die Linke – and this is understood by the vast majority of its followers and members – has a right to exist, and can be successful in the elections only if it does not become another wing of the German Unity Party. Die Linke’s unique characteristic is its advocacy of an economic system, in which everyone receives the full proceeds of their labour. Such an economic system leads to democratic enterprises run by workers and not authoritarian economic structures with temporary work, contract work, low wages and mini-jobs. It leads to a peaceful foreign policy, which secures raw materials through negotiations and not with wars for human rights.

With this in mind it is clear why the SPD and the Greens have for years now rebuffed offers of cooperation by Die Linke. The politicians of the German Unity Party stick together. They reject structural reforms that would alter the ever-increasing unequal distribution of affluence and opportunities in Germany. The electoral programs of the SPD and Greens, in which the proposals of Die Linke have been adopted in whole or in watered-down form, serve only as a disguise. Voters are not to know that behind the proclamations no actual intent for their realization exists. Yet as Franz Müntefering, the onetime great master of social democratic campaigns said: It’s unfair to judge political parties after the election according to their campaign promises.

The fabricated battle of the political camps is a farce. Voters will have a déjà vu experience. After the election things will be the same in Germany as before the election, regardless which politicians or fractions of the German Unity Party form the government. Astonishingly, representatives of German business are quietly indicating a preference for an SPD-Green coalition government. The former head of the Federation of German Industry (BDI), Hans-Peter Keitel, recently said, “When a country needs to make political-economic reforms, it is better if the government does not have a political color that makes it suspicious of favoring business.” •

This article originally appeared in Junge Welt on March 21, 2013. Translation by Sam Putinja.

The Media Consensus Behind Militarism

April 10th, 2013 by Jeff Cohen

While the U.S. media has some spirited debate over politics and social issues – i.e. Fox News vs. MSNBC – there remains a broad consensus about foreign adversaries whose behavior is almost always cast in the harshest light, a reality that colors how America reacts to the world.

I spent years as a political pundit on mainstream TV – at CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. I was outnumbered, outshouted, red-baited and finally terminated. Inside mainstream media, I saw that major issues were not only dodged, but sometimes not even acknowledged to exist.

Today there’s an elephant in the room: a huge, yet ignored, issue that largely explains why Social Security is now on the chopping block. And why other industrialized countries have free college education and universal healthcare, but we don’t. It’s arguably our country’s biggest problem – a problem that Martin Luther King Jr. focused on before he was assassinated 45 years ago, and has only worsened since then (which was the height of the Vietnam War).

Image: The Daily Show host Jon Stewart is one of the few voices on American television who occasionally breaks with the national security consensus.

That problem is U.S. militarism and perpetual war.

In 1967, King called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” – and said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Nowadays MSNBC hosts yell at Fox News hosts, and vice versa, about all sorts of issues – but when the Obama administration expanded the bloody war in Afghanistan, the shouting heads at both channels went almost silent. When Obama’s drone war expanded, there was little shouting. Not at MSNBC, not at Fox. Nor at CNN, CBS, ABC or so-called public broadcasting.

We can have raging debates in mainstream media about issues like gun control and gay marriage and minimum wage, but when the elites of both parties agree on military intervention – as they so often do – debate is nearly nonexistent. Anyone in the mainstream who goes out on a limb to loudly question this oversized creature in the middle of the room known as militarism or interventionism is likely to disappear faster than you can say “Phil Donahue.”

I know something about mainstream journalists being silenced for questioning bipartisan military adventures because I worked with Phil Donahue at MSNBC in 2002/03 when Bush was revving up the Iraq invasion with the support of Democratic leaders like Joe Biden, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid. That’s when MSNBC terminated us for the crime of JWI. Not DWI, but JWI – Journalism duringWartime while Independent.

JWI may be a crime in mainstream media, but it’s exactly the kind of unauthorized, unofficial coverage you get from quality independent media today and from un-embedded journalists like Jeremy Scahill, Dahr Jamail and Glenn Greenwald.

Unfortunately, many liberal journalists who were vocal about war, human rights and civil liberties during the Bush era lost their  voices as Obama continued and, in some cases, expanded Bush’s “War on Terror” policies. It says something about the lack of serious national debate on so-called national security that last month one of the loudest mainstream TV news questioners of the president’s right to assassinate Americans was Sean Hannity on Fox. That’s obscene.

And it says something about mainstream TV that the toughest, most consistent questioners of militarism and defenders of civil liberties are not on a news channel – they’re on the comedy channel. A few weeks ago, I watched a passionate Jon Stewart taking on the U.S. military budget: “We already spend more on defense than the next 12 countries combined, including China, including Russia. We’re like the lady on Jerry Springer who can’t stop getting breast implants.” (On screen was a photo of the Springer guest.)

What our mainstream media so obediently call the “War on Terror” is experienced in other countries as a U.S. war OF terror – kidnappings, night raids, torture, drone strikes, killing and maiming of innocent civilians – that creates new enemies for our country. Interestingly, you can easily find that reality in mainstream media of allied countries in Europe, but not in the mainstream media of our country. Needless to say, it’s our country that’s waging this global perpetual war.

In a democracy, war must be subjected to questioning and debate. And not just on the comedy channel.

Jeff Cohen is  founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and an associate professor of journalism there. His latest book is Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media. He founded the media watch group FAIR in 1986. This column is adapted from remarks made April 6 at the National Conference on Media Reform in Denver.

Venezuelan government officials released a recorded conversation on Saturday that allegedly reveals the use of “mercenaries” by the Venezuelan opposition to create chaos in the lead up to elections next Sunday.

Interim President Nicolas Maduro made the announcement at a campaign event on Saturday, assuring that the group of “mercenaries” were already in Venezuela, and are seeking to carry out three objectives before next week’s elections: sabotage the electrical grid, increase the number of murders in the country, and assassinate Maduro.

“From Central America we have gotten information that a group of mercenaries has entered the country, with coordination from the Central American right-wing and some sectors linked to the opposition candidate,” he said.

Maduro said that US officials Roger Noriega and Otto Reich were behind the plan, together with right-wing sectors from El Salvador and Venezuela, and had paid the “mercenaries” to kill him.

“They want to kill me because they know they cannot win the elections on April 14th,” he said.

Shortly after Maduro made the accusation, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua appeared on news channel Telesur to give more details.

“Through our intelligence agencies, we have recorded conversations among right-wing groups where they discuss using Central American mercenaries to carry out destabilization plans in the country,” he said.

Jaua explained that the groups involved are led by a retired colonel of the Salvadoran armed forces, David Koch Arana, who is allegedly linked to Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, and the operation is coordinated by Salvadoran right-wing politician Roberto d’Aubuisson.

In a recorded conversation between d’Aubuisson and Koch Arana, vague plans are discussed to engage in activities inside Venezuela, and the conversation would also seem to implicate the Capriles campaign in the plans.

Jaua read a portion of the dialogue that allegedly took place between the two individuals, which went as follows:

Roberto d’Aubuisson: “How are things going down south? You haven’t given me the reports…. Are the reports we are sending you useful?”

David Koch Arana: “I have the reports, but I haven’t sent them to you yet… Supposedly they have informed the Venezuelan government that there are foreigners interfering in the political situation. Capriles has managed to find safe places so that our people can chill. The team already arrived and they are working together. One group is already working in the streets to disorient the vote.”

Roberto d’Aubuisson: “Did you tell them that it should be like we worked in the campaign here? Just be careful. Remember that they have offered their support if they win, and that would be good for us. I don’t know how the other groups that we sent from here are working, but I hope they don’t clash with each other or have conflicts, because they don’t know each other. I will talk to them to see how we should organize the operations there.

Jaua said that the full audio of the conversation would be made publicly available in the coming days.

He also assured that they were taking immediate action to find and neutralize the alleged “mercenaries”, and that intelligence forces had been deployed around the country.

“We want to tell the Venezuelan people that they can remain calm. State security forces are after these groups and we hope to identify and neutralize them in the coming days so we can prevent them from generating any turmoil,” he said.

According to Jaua, the plan is part of a larger strategy by the Venezuelan opposition to destabilize the electoral process as a way to delay next week’s elections.

“Remember that just a few days ago some opposition spokespersons suggested to the National Electoral Council (CNE) that the elections should be postponed, because they know that they can’t win on April 14th, so they are trying to buy time,” he said.

Nicolas Maduro also claimed to have evidence of a meeting between a US official and a member of opposition political party Primero Justicia in which they discussed causing blackouts in the eastern state of Bolivar, however further details were not provided.

The Capriles campaign has not commented or responded to any of the allegations.

The North last week told foreign diplomats in Pyongyang they had until April 10 to consider evacuation, fuelling speculation of a launch between Wednesday and April 15 birthday celebrations for late founder Kim Il-Sung.

It could also coincide with high-profile visits by US Secretary of State John Kerry and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who will both be in Seoul on Friday.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se told parliament the launch could take place “anytime” and warned Pyongyang it risked triggering a fresh round of UN sanctions.

South Korean intelligence says the North has prepared two mid-range missiles for imminent launch from its east coast, despite warnings from ally China to avoid provocative moves at a time of soaring military tensions.

North KoreaOn Tuesday the North reiterated a warning that the peninsula was headed for “thermo-nuclear” war and advised foreigners to consider leaving South Korea.

The South Korea-US Combined Forces Command raised its “Watchcon” status from 3 to 2 to reflect indications of a “vital threat”, Yonhap news agency said, citing a senior military official.

Watchcon 4 is in effect during normal peacetime, while Watchcon 3 reflects indications of an important threat. Watchcon 1 is used in wartime.

In a separate report, Yonhap quoted a government source as saying Pyongyang might be preparing “multiple” launches, after other launch vehicles were reportedly detected carrying shorter-range SCUD and Rodong missiles.

North Korea has completed fueling its “Musudan” medium-range ballistic missile, and is ready to launch it any moment, report Japanese media.

Earlier, Japanese military sources reported detecting up to seven mobile units mounted with various range ballistic missiles on the North Korean coast.

Meanwhile, the South Korean government has appealed to Russia and China to their influence with North Korea for defusing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The South Korean Defence Ministry has said that several more missiles of shorter ranger, Scud andNodong, are ready for launch in the same area in Kangwon Province.

Musudan missiles can reach Japan and the US Pacific island of Guam. The North Korean mass media have thus far failed to make any mention of a likely missile launch.

The media in North Korea is instead focused on preparations for the main national holiday, – Kim Il Sung’s birthday, that’s due to be widely celebrated on April 15th . Foreign Embassies and international organization offices continue working in Pyongyang as usual.

Up to seven mobile units with ballistic missiles of various range, from 300 km to over 3,000 km have been detected on the east coast of North Korea. They can be launched simultaneously or in succession over several days, starting from today, military sources said in Tokyo.

Besides the two mobile launchers with medium-range Musudan missiles detected on the east coast of the country, missile units have been moved to the coast of Hamgyong Province in the northeast of the country, with “Scud” ballistic missiles with a range of up to 500 km, and “Nodong” missiles with a 1.3 thousand kilometer range mounted on about five mobile launchers.

A key border crossing between North Korea and China been closed to tourist groups, a Chinese official said Wednesday as nuclear tensions mounted, but business travel was allowed to continue.

An official at the Dandong Border Office, who declined to give his name, told AFP: “Travel agencies are not allowed to take tourist groups to go there, since the North Korean government is now asking foreign people to leave. As far as I know, business people can enter and leave North Korea freely.”

Earlier, Pyongyang advised all foreigners to “consider leaving South Korea”, warning that the Korean peninsula was headed for “thermo-nuclear” war.

An AFP photographer at the border on Wednesday saw cars and a larger vehicle passing over the bridge crossing the Yalu River that marks the frontier, in both directions.

China is North Korea’s sole major ally and the provider of the vast majority of its trade and aid, with most of the business passing through Dandong.

NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen has been dispatched to Seoul for high level consultations.

The official disclaimer is that this has nothing to do with the ongoing US-DPRK confrontation. “The trip was long-planned and not connected with North Korean threats of nuclear war”.

Rasmussen is slated to meet the newly-elected President Park Geun-hye, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Defence Minister Kim Kwan Jin.

Although unconfirmed, Rasmussen will likely also meet up with military brass of the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command.

When asked if the trip was in any way linked with rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, a NATO official candidly responded that

“Rather than the current crisis, it would instead cover Afghanistan where non-member South Korea has contributed some 350 troops to NATO-led forces fighting the Taliban”  (NATO official statement quoted by AFP, April 9, 2013)

It is worth noting that  Rasmussen’s presence in Seoul coincides with the visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

What is at stake are high level discussions.

The presence of Rasmussen also confirms that NATO has taken on a global military mandate well beyond the confines of the so-called “Atlantic region”.

It also points to the possible military involvement at some future date of NATO member states in  the Korean Peninsula.

Obama’s War on Social America

April 10th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Obama, Republicans and most democrats are in lockstep. They claim Medicare and Social Security are going broke. They lie saying so. When properly administered, both programs are sound. Modest adjustments only are needed to assure it.

They’re federally mandated. They’re not entitlements. They’re contractual obligations. They’re for eligible recipients who qualify. Payroll taxes fund them.

Social Security provides retirement, disability, survivorship, and death benefits. It’s America’s most effective poverty reduction program. It’s worked remarkably well since inception.

It provides secure inflation-adjusted retirement or disability income. Personal savings aren’t risked. It’s not going bankrupt.

The same holds for Medicare.

It’s America’s largest health insurance program. Payroll deductions defray costs. Tens of millions rely on it. It covers eligible recipients aged 65 or older, some disabled ones under age 65, and people of all ages with end-stage renal disease.

Duplicitous scaremongering claims both programs face bankruptcy. They’re on the chopping block for elimination. Obama’s on board. Corporate and imperial priorities matter most.

Straightaway in office, he prioritized cutting healthcare costs. He called it “restoring fiscal discipline.”

“The big problem is Medicare,” he said. Its cost is “unsustainable.”

“Let’s not kid ourselves and suggest that we can solve this problem by trimming a few earmarks.”

The “biggest cost drivers in our budget are entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, all of which get more and more expensive every year.”

“If we want to get serious about fiscal discipline – and I do – we will have to get serious about entitlement reform.”

He lied. He’s a serial liar. He wants social America destroyed. He’s doing it on the backs of ordinary people and others most disadvantaged. They need it most. He’s facilitating the greatest wealth transfer scheme in human history.

Vital needs don’t matter. He’s spurning them on his watch. He’s force-feeding pain and suffering. He’s got four more years to continue what he began. He’s heading America for third world status. It’s half way there. It’s close to full-blown tyranny.

He’s in lockstep with Republicans. Budget proposals include deep social program cuts. Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, public pensions and other vital programs are targeted.

A sequestered $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years is agreed on. It’s only for starters. Privately, both parties agreed on trillions more.

Bush era tax cuts remain policy. A permanent alternative minimum tax fix was enacted. Its impact on middle income families was reduced. Generous inheritance benefits were agreed. They exceed what Bush endorsed.

Token tax hikes affect rich elites. Clever lawyers and accountants let them avoid them. Progressive ones aren’t discussed. Military spending increases annually. So do corporate handouts.

Reform reflects doublespeak duplicity. Obama favors means testing Medicare. Doing so revokes its mandate. It violates a contractual federal obligation.

Social Security comes next. Privatizations loom. Doing so assures gutting both programs. Republicans never wanted them in the first place. Most Democrats now agree.

Obama’s plan to “strengthen Medicare for the future” is wrecking it. He’s unapologetic. He’s duplicitous. He wants Social Security COLA adjustments enacted, means testing, and raising the eligibility age.

He’s amenable to hundreds of billions more Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid cuts. White House spokesman Jay Carney said his “budget reflects his priorities within a budget world that is not ideal.”

“It requires compromise, negotiation, and a willingness to accept that you won’t get 100 percent of what you want.”

He’s in lockstep with Republicans. Draconian cuts are coming. Most Americans oppose them. They have no say. Obama calls Medicare “the main cause of deficits.” He lied saying so.

He favors Simpson-Bowles recommendations. They include a new Medicare Parts A and B $550 annual deductible. It urges cutting Part A’s 100% coverage to 80%.

Doing so requires either paying up to $300 monthly in private insurance fees to defray the difference, or have a similar amount deducted from Social Security benefits. They average around $1,100 a month. Cutting them at all is unconscionable. Cutting them substantially is grand theft.

Beneficiaries have two choices. They can either pay more for current benefits or accept considerably less. There’s no in between.

Obamacare rationed healthcare. Targeting Medicare does the same thing. Retirees and other eligible recipients are affected. They’ll get less when they most need it.

Obama reflects right-wing extremism. At the same time, he announced higher Medicare provider payments.

Obamacare funds Medicaid 100% until 2016. Thereafter, it’s 90%. Federal funding once required state participation. No longer. Governors can opt out. Millions will be harmed. Many will be left out entirely. They’ll be denied treatment altogether.

At the same time, expect more corporate tax cuts. They’re coming. They’ll include cutting the top rate. Tax forgiveness on trillions sheltered overseas is planned.

Grand bargain betrayal is policy. Bankers, war profiteers, other corporate favorites and privileged elites alone matter. Ordinary Americans increasingly on their own. They’re hung out to dry.

Bipartisan complicity makes things worse. Social America’s on the chopping block for elimination. Agreed on cuts will conceal their severity when announced.

Neither party worries about deficits or debt. Saying so is red meat for constituents. It’s duplicitous deception. Obama, most Democrats, and Republicans want corporate friends and super-rich elites protected.

Working Americans and seniors will bear the burden. Cuts affecting them were agreed on last year. Details remain to be decided.

Obama’s a corporate hardliner. His rhetoric belies his policy. Straightaway in office, he sold out his constituents. He’s done it ever since. He never looked back. He’s unapologetic.

He’s got lots more ripping off to do. Stealing from ordinary people to enrich corporate favorites and rich elites is policy. Only a Democrat would do what Republicans on their own wouldn’t dare.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/obamas-war-on-social-america/

One of the most important and yet most neglected determinants of the outcomes of the economic crisis and resultant deepening of social inequalities and immiseration is the ‘class struggle’.  In one of his most pithy metaphors, Karl Marx referred to class struggle as ‘the motor force of history’.  In this essay we will analyze the central role of class struggle, its impact and reflection in economic decisions and, most especially, the different methods and forms , according to the particular classes engaged in class struggle.

Having clarified the types and methods of class struggle, we will turn to the specific results of class struggles in different regions and countries: the different policies adopted as a result of class struggle reflect the balance of class power at both the national and regional level.

In the last section, we will compare and analyze a series of case studies of class struggles, highlighting the particular class configurations of power, the changing nature of class struggle (CS) and the concrete contingencies, which need to be taken into account in order for the ‘class struggle from below’ to effectively counter-act the class offensive from above.

The Two Faces of the Class Struggle: ‘From Above and Outside’ and ‘From Below’

Too often writers conceive of class struggle as actions taken by workers for working class interest, overlooking the equally significant (and in our epoch even more important) class struggle organized and directed by the ruling classes via the state.

The entire panoply of neo-liberal policies, from so-called ‘austerity measures’ to mass firings of public and private employees, to massive transfers of wealth to creditors are designed to enhance the power, wealth and primacy of diverse sectors of capitol at the expense of labor.  To paraphrase Marx: class struggle from above is the motor force to reverse history – to seize and destroy the advances secured by workers from previous class struggles from below.

Class struggle from above and the outside is waged in boardrooms, stock markets, Central Banks, executive branches of government, parliaments and Congresses.  Decision makers are drawn from the ruling class and are ‘in their confidence’.  Most strategic decisions are taken by non-elected officials and increasingly located in financial institutions (like the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and the European Commission) acting on behalf of creditors, bondholders and big banks.

Class struggle from above is directed at enhancing the concentration of wealth in the ruling class, increasing regressive taxes on workers and reducing taxes on corporations, selectively enforcing regulations, which facilitate financial speculation and lowering social expenditures for pensions, health and education for workers families.  In addition, class struggle from above is directed at maximizing the collective power of capital via restrictive laws on labor organizations, social movements and public workers’ collective bargaining rights.

In other words, class struggle penetrates numerous sites besides the ‘workplace’ and  the strictly ‘economic sphere’.  State budgets over bailouts are sites of class struggle; banks are sites of class struggle between mortgage holders and households, creditors and debtors.

The fact that ‘class struggle from above’ usually precludes public demonstrations is largely because the ruling class controls the decision-making institutions from which to impose its class policies.  Nevertheless, when institutional power bases are fragile or under siege from labor, ruling classes have engaged in extra-parliamentary and violent public activity such as coups-d’état, ‘appointed technocratic regimes’, and engaged in lockouts, financial intimidation and blackmail, as well as mass firing of workers and cooption of collaborators within the political class.

In time of severe crisis, the ruling class nature of political institutions and policies becomes transparent and the class struggle from above intensifies both in scope and depth.  Trillions of dollars are transferred from the public treasury to bailout bankers.  Hundreds of billions in social cuts are imposed on workers, cutting across all sectors of the economy.  During depressions, the class struggle from above takes the form of an all-out war to save capital by impoverishing labor, reversing decades of incremental income and benefits gained in previous class struggles from below.

Class Struggle from Below

Working class struggles from below range from workplace strikes over wages and social benefits, to general strikes to secure social legislation (or to defend past gains) or to prevent assaults on living standards.  In critical moments, struggles from below lead to social upheavals in the face of systemic breakdowns, destructive wars and autocratic rule. The methods, participants and results of class struggle from below vary greatly, depending on the socio-economic and political context in which class conflict ensues.  What is striking in the contemporary period is the uneven development of the class struggle between countries and regions, between workers in the imperial creditor countries and those in debtor neo-colonial countries.  The class struggle from below is especially intensifying among some of the more dynamic capitalist countries in which workers have experienced a prolonged period of intense exploitation and the emergence of a new class of ruling billionaires linked to a dominant one party elite – cases of China and South Africa.

The Class Struggle, Capitalist Crisis:  The Ruling Class Offensive

In time of capitalist crisis with declining economic wealth, growing threats of bankruptcy and intense demand for state subsidies, there is no basis for sharing wealth – even unequally – between capitalist, bankers, creditors and workers, debtors and rentiers.  Competition over shrinking resources intensifies conflict over shares of a shrinking pie.  The ruling class, facing a life and death struggle over survival, strikes back with all the forces – state and private – at its disposal to ensure that its financial needs are met .The public treasury exclusively finances its debts and stimulates its recovery of profits.  Ruling class warfare defines who pays for the crisis and who benefits from the ‘recovery … of profits’.  The crisis is, by turn, a temporary threat to the capitalist economic system and then, in the course of recovering from the crisis, a political economic and social pretext for a ruling class general offensive aimed at reversing labor and social advances over the past half century:  Capitalist class warfare dismantles the social safety net and undermines the entire legal and ideological underpinnings of ‘welfare capitalism’.  ‘Austerity’ is the chosen term to mark the ruling class’ seizure of the public treasury on its own behalf – without any regard for its social consequences.  ‘Austerity’ is the highest form of class struggle from above because it establishes the arbitrary and unilateral power of capital to decide the present and future division between wages and profits, employment and unemployment and the returns to creditor states and the interest and principal payments of neo-colonial debtor states.

As crisis deepens among debtor nations so does the ruling class intensify its class war on the workers, employees and small business classes.  First, the creditor imperial states, (in Europe the Troika -the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank) overthrow the constitutional order by seizing control over state power.  Then they proceed to decree macro and micro socio-economic policies.  They decree employment, wage and fiscal policies.  They decree the present and future allocation of state revenues between imperial creditors and local workers.  Class warfare goes ‘global’: Regional organizations, like the European Union, which embody formally equal members, reveal themselves as imperial organizations for concentrating wealth among the dominant banks in the imperial centers.

Class Struggle from Below in Time of Crisis

The organizations of the workers – trade unions, pensioners’ associations, etc. – are ill-prepared to confront the open and aggressive all-out war of the ruling class.  For decades they were accustomed to ‘collective bargaining’ and occasional strikes of short duration to secure incremental improvements.  Their parties, labor or social democratic, with dual loyalties to capitalist profits and social welfare, are deeply embedded in the capitalist order .Under pressure of ‘the crisis’, they abandoned labor and embraced the formulae of the ruling class, imposing their own versions of ‘austerity’.  Labor was abandoned; the working classes were on their own – without access to the state and without reliable political allies.  The trade unions, narrowly focused on everyday issues and their immediate membership, ignored the mass of unemployed, especially the young unemployed, workers.  The class struggle from below lacks the leadership, vision, organization and state resources, which the ruling class possesses, to launch a counter-offensive.  Class struggle from below was, at first, entirely defensive; to salvage fragments of labor contracts, to save jobs or reduce firings.  The fundamental problem in the ongoing class struggle is that the trade unions and many workers failed to recognize the changing nature of the class struggle:  The ‘total war strategy’, adopted by the ruling class, went far beyond pay raises and profit reports and embraced a frontal attack on the living, working, housing, pension, health and educational conditions of labor.  The politics of ‘social pacts’ between labor and capital was totally discarded by the ruling class .It demanded unconditional surrender of all social demands and seized the executive prerogatives of the state to enforce and implement the massive re-concentration of income and political power.

Under these conditions, prevalent throughout Europe and the US , what can be said of the ‘class struggle from below’?  More than ever the class struggle has developed unevenly between the new imperial creditor centers and the debtor working class regions.  The most advanced forms of struggle, in terms of scope, demands and intensity, are found in Greece , Portugal , Spain , Italy and, to a lesser degree, France and Ireland .  The least advanced forms of working class struggle are found in the United States , Canada , Germany , England , Scandinavia and the Low Countries .  Among the BRIC countries, class struggle is intensifying in China and South Africa and, to a lesser degree, in India , Russia and Brazil .

The issues raised in each region are significantly different:  In China the working class is demanding socio-economic changes and is securing positive improvements in wages, working conditions, housing and health programs via ‘offensive’ class struggles.  In Brazil , the working class has lowered poverty levels and unemployment.  In South Africa , mining workers, despite bloody massacres by the state, have increased wages and salaries.

For most of the rest, the class struggles are defensive and, in many cases, unsuccessful efforts to defend or lower the loss of employment, labor rights, social insurance and stable employment.  The most intensive militant working class struggles are taking place in countries in which the offensive of capital – the ‘class struggle from above’- has been most prolonged, widest in scope and deepest in terms of the cuts in living standards.

The working class struggle has been weakest among the Anglo-American countries where traditions of class struggle and general strikes are weakest.  Their trade unions have shrinking memberships; the trade union leaders are closely linked to capitalist parties and there is a very weak or non-existent political identification with class solidarity, even in the face of massive transfers of state revenues to private wealth, and earnings from workers to capital.

Class Struggle:  Case Studies

The most sustained and successful advances in social welfare and public services over the past decade have occurred in Latin America where the crisis of capitalism led to militant, broad-based class movements, which overthrew neo-liberal regimes, and imposed constraints on speculative capital and debt payments to imperial centers .Subsequently, nationalist resource-based regimes re-oriented state revenues to fund employment and social legislation. The sequence of popular revolts and political intervention, followed by the election in most cases of nationalist-populist regimes, ameliorated the crisis and sustained policies incrementally advancing working class interests.

In Southern Europe , in contrast, the collapse of capitalism led to a capitalist offensive, led by imperial creditors.  They imposed the most retrograde neo-colonial regimes, engaged in savage class warfare – while the organized working class fell back on defensive strategies and large scale social mobilization within the institutional framework of the existing capitalist state.  No political offensive, no radical political changes and no social offensive ensued. Movements that do not move forward, move backward. Each defensive struggle, at most, temporarily delayed a new set of social reversals, setting in motion the inexorable advance of the ‘class struggle from above’.  The ruling classes have imposed decades of debt payments while pillaging budgets for the foreseeable future.  The result will be the lowering of wage structures and social payments.  New employment contracts are designed to concentrate greater shares of wealth in the hands of the capitalist class for foreseeable future.  The policies, imposed via the class struggle from above, demonstrate that welfare programs and social contracts were temporary, tactical concessions – to be definitively discarded once the capitalist class seized exclusive prerogative powers and ruled through executive decrees.

The financial classes of the West have been bailed out and profits have returned to the banks, but the stagnation of the ‘real economy’ continues.  The working classes have, in thought and via militant action, realized that ‘collective bargaining’ is dead.  The state, especially the foreign/imperial creditor-banking state, holds power without any electoral mandate or claim to broad representation.  The façade of parliamentary-electoral parties remains as an empty shell. Trade unions, in the most militant instances, engage in almost ritualistic mass protests, which are totally ignored by the imperial ruling class bankers and their local political collaborators.  The Troika dons ear plugs and blindfolds while chanting for ‘greater austerity’ for workers; in the streets, the mantra of the destitute — ‘Basta’ –echoes in executive palaces.

Final Reflections on the Two Faces of Class Struggle

Unfortunately the ruling classes, especially of the imperial countries, have taken Karl Marx’s dictum that ‘class struggle is the motor force of history’ in a much more consequential manner than the labor movement and its bureaucratic officials.  They are better students of Marx.

Taking up class struggle from above and the outside as their main strategic weapon, the ruling classes have launched the most comprehensive, intensive assault on the working class in modern history.  They have reversed decades of social legislation and wage and employment gains.  They have dramatically lowered living standards and established a new framework to perpetuate and deepen the transfer of wealth for decades to come.

Those, namely labor and the left, who refused to recognize class struggle as the central pivot for political action, have been struck dead on the head.  The sustained class-struggle from above shows no limits and no constraints: every social right is denied and every economic resource is subject to large-scale, long-term pillage. A new radical ruling class ideology has emerged proclaiming that everything of value should be taken and will be taken and relegates the peons to eat crow.

Despite being confronted by this new extremist ideology and practice, the practioners of class struggle from below continue to engage in the same methods appropriate to other ‘pragmatic’, ‘consensual’ times of limited struggles with incremental gains or loses.  The failure to recognize the radical changes is structural and congenital.  The labor movement refuses to face new class/realities, ones they had failed to anticipate and a reality they have categorically rejected.  ‘Class struggle’ according to the most up-to-date speeches of the ‘labor bureaucrats’ was superseded by ‘modern pragmatic understandings of the common interests of labor and capital’.

What is radical and dramatic is the massive entry of decisive new social class actors. They include  the rise of non-elected officials to decisive positions of power, forming the “Troika” (the European Central Bank, the IMF, the EU), the equivalent of imperial viceroys, engaged in pillaging the economies of debtor countries;  a mass of unemployed  youth representing over 50% of  workers under 25 years of age; a large sector of low-paid temporary workers not covered by social or labor legislation; a majority of downwardly mobile middle classes, especially among public sector employees and professionals – in the process of being ‘proletarianized’ – losing job tenures, pension benefits, facing rising retirement ages; bankrupt small business people (‘petty bourgeois’) facing unemployment, loss of assets and savings; and downwardly-mobile skilled and semi-skilled workers facing firings, cuts in salaries and wages as well as social benefits.

The deteriorating conditions of these social classes cannot be altered by workplace trade union activity or by ‘collective bargaining’ – only a political solution- a change of political regime – can shift economic resources from debt payments to productive job-creating investments.  The so-called ‘Eurozone’ is, in reality, a mini-empire of tributary vassals and imperial states – reforming empires has been historically demonstrated to be a futile enterprise.

The political class, as currently constituted which supports or operates as opposition within the imperial framework, is organically incapable of reversing the changes resulting from the ruling class offensive.  The historical legacy of the ruling class offensive and the emergence of new systemic ‘fault lines’ demands new political movements reflecting the weight of the new dispossessed  classes: the specific demands of the downwardly- mobile  middle class, businesspeople and workers; the desperate demand for jobs by the vast army of unemployed youth with no future.  What is to be done?  Clearly parliamentary dissent and electoral politics provide no answers to those millions losing homes, to those losing businesses.

There are tens of millions who have never known any employment.  Only action directed at mobilizing the unemployed to paralyze the circulation of goods and services; only collective action directed at preventing foreclosures of mortgage holding households; only demands for public works to provide jobs; only factory occupations can save jobs; only worker takeovers and running of factories can provide alternatives and build support for regime change, a political revolution and a break with the tributary empire.

In the short run there can only be international solidarity among the workers in the vassal states:  the workers in the imperial states – the U.S. , Germany , the Nordic states and the UK are still bound and tied to their respected ruling classes. The future lies in building bridges within and between the millions of exploited, excluded and dispossessed who have lost everything and have finally recognized that only via the class struggle can they recover their humanity and a dignified standard of living.

President Barack Obama spoke Monday in West Hartford, Connecticut on gun violence, calling on the American people to pressure Congress to pass new federal weapons controls.

Hartford, the state capital, is some 50 miles northeast of Newtown, Connecticut, the scene last December 14 of the horrific slaughter of 20 children and six staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Obama was introduced by the mother of one of the slain children, who spoke with great emotion. A number of other parents of Sandy Hook victims were present at the University of Hartford gymnasium rally and later accompanied Obama back to Washington to lobby Congress for the new gun control measures.

Any serious assessment of Monday’s event has to begin by distinguishing the Newtown parents—driven by the desire that no more families should have to experience their grief—from the Obama administration and its cynical, politically motivated operations. They exist in different moral universes.

At the end of the day, the administration and significant sections of the ruling elite view gun control as a means of expanding police powers and the ability of the authorities to keep tabs on the population. Whether the White House will be able to push its present proposals through Congress in the face of stiff ultra-right opposition or not, the general reactionary thrust of government policy is clear. Its “gun control” proposals have—and can have—nothing to do with preventing a repeat of the Sandy Hook killings.

In the first place, is there any convincing evidence that the measures currently promoted by the White House would have prevented or even reduced the tragic dimensions of any of the mass shootings that have occurred in the US in recent decades?

The ban on assault weapons and magazines that hold more than ten rounds may be opposed primarily by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and fascistic elements in the Republican Party, but to present that, along with more background checks, as a solution to outbursts of anti-social violence is an attempt to delude the public and divert its attention from the deep sickness of American society.

In his comments Monday, Obama adopted the same general approach as that taken by his predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush when confronted by earlier mass shootings, and which can be found in his own previous remarks on Sandy Hook and the July 2012 shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater.

The president emphasized the devastating character of the Newtown massacre and referred to “the horror of mass killings” in general, along with “the street crime that’s too common in too many neighborhoods,” without making a single reference to the social source of episodes evidently frequent enough to warrant new federal legislation.

One searches the president’s 3,200 words in vain for the hint of an explanation of the “mass killings” in America, which have resulted in hundreds of deaths and devastation for thousands of families. Obama’s remark that December 14, 2012 was “the toughest day of my presidency” cannot be innocently squared with his total lack of interest in making sense of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

As we commented in December 2012, “The American ruling class has lost the capacity for self-examination. It knows that any serious analysis of the roots of this and other tragedies points back to itself and the society it dominates.”

Why and how a given individual suffers a psychic-homicidal breakdown is an immensely complex process, dependent upon a host of particular factors. If such an event occurred once a half-century, or even one time in a decade, it could perhaps be attributed to largely private and personal reasons, to individual biochemistry gone wrong. It might be, from the statistical point of view, an aberration.

However, America has been beset, from one coast to the other, by dozens and dozens of murderous attacks over the past two decades or more—on school children, high school and university students, restaurant and movie patrons, fellow employees in factories and offices…

In his comments Monday, Obama downplayed the social and political tensions in America. “I know sometimes,” the president asserted, “when you watch cable news or talk radio, or you browse the Internet, you’d think, man, everybody just hates each other, everybody is just at each other’s throats. But that’s not how most Americans think about these issues. There are good people on both sides of every issue.”

This is a red herring. The essential division in America is not between those who advocate gun control and those opposing it, or between Democrat and Republican, but between the ruling political and economic elite, on the one hand, who control every important aspect of life, and the working population, on the other, who make up the overwhelming and disenfranchised majority of the American people. That divide has widened to unprecedented and nearly unbearable proportions.

The population at present is under an all-sided attack on its jobs, retirement benefits, working and living conditions, medical care, educational opportunities and democratic rights. A wealthy handful view broad layers of the people as nothing more than easy pickings for financial plunder or cannon fodder for its neo-colonial wars.

The economic and psychological security of tens of millions has been dealt devastating blows. Vast numbers of Americans see little between them and the social abyss.

US authorities are pursuing relentless militarism and violence in every part of the globe. The president and his military-intelligence apparatus have arrogated to themselves the right to make war on any country or individual who steps out of line, or merely threatens to. The problem of CIA “black sites” and illegal detention has been reduced through recourse to a policy of murdering political opponents.

The American government’s official policy—and, for that matter, the policy of every state and local police department in the US—of resolving every dispute though overwhelming and lethal force, eagerly encouraged by the media, hangs over life in the US like a filthy cloud and must distort the consciousness of the weakest, most susceptible individuals.

The following comment by Obama on Monday should be considered in light of the US government’s murder of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen never charged with a crime, and his 16-year-old son, along with thousands of civilians killed in drone attacks: “If there is even one step we can take to keep somebody from murdering dozens of innocents in the span of minutes, shouldn’t we be taking that step? If there is just one thing we can do to keep one father from having to bury his child, isn’t that worth fighting for?” In the words of Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux, the worst mass shooter in America is “an amateur by comparison” with Obama and his cohorts.

While a significant portion of the population feel mistrust or hatred of Washington and Wall Street, alienation from the major political parties and unions and a general disgust for the existing state of things, they do not yet see—and, for the most part, cannot yet even envision—a mass movement in opposition to the profit system that would offer some way out of the present disastrous situation.

The specific conjuncture helps creates an intensely unstable, unsettling and volatile popular mood.

Obama reached what might have been the height of cynicism in his remarks Monday when he referred to surveys indicating that “90 percent of Americans” are in favor of “universal background checks.”

This is the same administration that declares that wide opposition to the ongoing war in Afghanistan, for example, will not deter it from pursuing the occupation, that it will not “govern by opinion polls.” Every survey currently reveals vast opposition to any cutting of Social Security, 90 percent in some polls, and yet both parties in Washington ruthlessly push ahead.

Obama acted the demagogue in Hartford. Concluding his remarks, the president told his audience:

“If you believe in the right to bears arms, like I do, but think we should prevent an irresponsible few from inflicting harm—stand up. Stand up… If we come together and raise our voices together and demand this change together, I’m convinced cooperation and common sense will prevail. We will find sensible, intelligent ways to make this country stronger and safer for our children.”

In fact, the corporate-financial stranglehold over life in the US, enforced by the two-party system as a whole and the Obama administration in particular, is the ultimate source of every burning social ill, including anti-social mayhem. Capitalism represents the gravest danger to the conditions and very lives of the American people. The sooner conscious opposition to the system assumes a mass character, the sooner the social, political and cultural climate will change for the better.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime headed by President Xi Jinping has been caught in a dilemma over how to deal with the rising tensions in the Korean Peninsula. A debate has opened up in Chinese ruling circles over its longstanding alliance with North Korea.

Sections of the CCP bureaucracy are looking to ease the crisis by accommodating to US demands to exert pressure and pull North Korea into line. Others insist that Beijing must continue to back the Pyongyang to maintain the country as a buffer against the US and its allies, especially South Korea.

At the Boao economic forum last weekend, President Xi called for “comprehensive security and co-operative security, so as to turn the global village into a big stage for common development, rather than an arena where gladiators fight each other”. He added: “no one should be allowed to throw the region, or even the whole world, into chaos for selfish gains.”

Although most Western media interpreted Xi’s remarks as a being directed against North Korea, they are just as applicable to the US, which has recklessly ratcheted up tensions on the Korean Peninsula to put pressure on both Pyongyang and Beijing. Over the past month, the Pentagon has implemented its so-called “counter-provocation” plan that has included dispatching nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers to South Korea.

Layers of the Chinese military are deeply worried about the danger of war. An unnamed source in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) last Thursday told the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) that the Chinese military is on high alert and drawing up contingency plans in the event that the Korean peninsula goes “up in flames”.

The source told DPA that a group of generals expressed concern about the security of the North Korea nuclear facility and also about a potential large scale influx of refugees into northern China. “Contingency plans included the possibility that Chinese forces could cross into North Korea, if a clash broke out, to secure nuclear facilities and prevent any nuclear disaster,” the news agency wrote.

There are real concerns in Beijing about the stability of the small, isolated and economically bankrupt Pyongyang regime. Over the past four years, the Obama administration has maintained the economic blockade of North Korea and refused any talks unless Pyongyang gives up its small arsenal of nuclear weapons and dismantles its nuclear and missile programs.

Washington is maintaining the pressure on Pyongyang ahead of a possible test of a North Korean medium range missile. The head of US Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, told the Senate Arms Service Committee yesterday that that the US was ready to shoot down the missile if it was headed towards US territory, bases or its allies.

Locklear disagreed with Republican Senator John McCain’s remarks that the relations between North Korea and the US were the worst since the Korean War in the 1950s, but declared that US military forces under his command were “ready” for any war against North Korea.

Beijing is well aware that the US is using the Korean crisis to build up its military forces, especially anti-ballistic missile systems, not just in preparation for war against North Korea, but against China itself. The Obama administration’s stoking up of tensions on the Korean Peninsula is part of its confrontational “pivot” to Asia, which is aimed at undermining China’s strategic position and influence throughout the region.

In response, sections of the CCP bureaucracy are suggesting an end to the alliance with North Korea and even regime change as a means of ending Washington’s ability to exploit the Korean tensions. In February, Deng Yuwen, deputy editor of CCP Central Party School’s Study Times, wrote a comment in the British-based Financial Times declaring that North Korea no longer acted as a strategic buffer for China and could even turn against it. He advocated support for South Korea to integrate the North into a reunified country.

Although Deng was reportedly suspended indefinitely from his position last week, similar views are being aired in the Chinese state-owned media.

A commentary in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily today criticised four countries—North Korea, US, South Korea and Japan—for infringing on China’s national interests. What was unusual about the comment was its blunt warning to North Korea not to “misjudge the situation”. It declared that North Korea “must take responsibility for the escalations of tensions in Korean Peninsula since last year” because of its missile and nuclear tests. While rejecting outside interference in North Korea’s internal affairs, the comment suggested that if its actions were “affecting regional stability and peace, and creating an international problem, then it is not up to North Korea.” In other words, an intervention by China could be justified.

Even China’s hawkish nationalist commentators are not unequivocally backing North Korea. General Zhang Chaozhong, who last year called for war against the Philippines over disputed territory in the South China Sea, was comparatively mild on China Radio Network yesterday. He blamed the US, South Korea and Japan for generating the crisis, but simply called for “America [to] back off a bit, giving Kim Jung-un a step to get down” and “things will be resolved”.

At this stage there are no clear signs that the new Chinese leadership will accede to US demands to force North Korea to make concessions. Beijing joined the US in imposing a new round of UN sanctions last month over North Korea’s third nuclear test in February, but has not moved to block vital food and fuel exports to its ally. In recent years, China has pumped billions of dollars of investment into North Korea to help rebuild its infrastructure, including the construction of several “special economic zones” to exploit its cheap labour.

According to the New York Times last week, senior US officials sent to Beijing to push for the enforcement of UN and other sanctions against North Korea, including Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, left without any specific agreement.

A breakthrough report on the nutritional density of genetically-modified (GM) corn crops demolishes all existing claims that GMOs are “substantially equivalent” to non-GMOs. Entitled 2012 Nutritional Analysis: Comparison of GMO Corn versus Non-GMO Corn, the paper reveals not only that GMO corn is greatly lacking in vitamins and minerals compared to non-GMO corn, but also that it is highly toxic and filled with deadly crop chemicals like glyphosate (Roundup).

The owners of the blog MomsAcrossAmerica.com say the report was shared with them by De Dell Seed Company, Canada’s only non-GMO corn seed supplier, which obtained it from a Minnesota-based agricultural company called ProfitPro. Overall, the paper found that non-GMO corn is 20 times richer in nutrition, energy and protein compared to GMO corn.

Concerning energy content, as measured in terms of ERGS, non-GMO corn was found in tests to give off 3,400 times more energy per gram, per second compared to GMO corn, an astounding variance. And as far as its overall percentage of organic matter is concerned, non-GMO corn was determined to have nearly twice as much of this vital component compared to GMO corn.

Non-GMO corn contains substantially more potassium, magnesium, calcium, sulfur and manganese

The field comparison also evaluated individual nutrient deviations, which revealed some shocking facts. Potassium, which is necessary for energy production and proper cellular function, is barely even present in GMO corn, having clocked in at 0.7 parts per million (ppm). In non-GMO corn, however, potassium levels were more than 13 times higher, testing at 9.2 ppm.

The disparity was even worse for magnesium, which tested at a mere 0.2 ppm in GMO corn. In non-GMO corn, however, magnesium levels were found to be 46 times higher than in non-GMO corn. Similar variances were observed for calcium, sulfur and manganese as well, with the contents of each being 12.4, 14, and seven times higher, respectively.

On the other hand, non-GMO corn was found to be free of chlorides, formaldehyde, glyphosate, and other harmful chemicals, while in GMO corn they were identified in dangerously high levels. According to an analysis of the report by MomsAcrossAmerica.com, GMO corn contains about 19 times more glyphosate than is permitted as a maximum in drinking water by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and 130 times more glyphosate than has been found in tests to cause organ damage in animals.

Similarly, GMO corn contains dangerously high levels of formaldehyde, according to the report. A previous study conducted by Dr. Don Huber on GMOs revealed that .97 ppm of formaldehyde is toxic if ingested by animals. As it turns out, GMO corn contains 200 times more formaldehyde than this maximum safety threshold.

These shock findings are at great odds with the claims continually being made by agri-genocide giant Monsanto. On its corporate website, Monsanto claims that approved genetically-modified (GM) crops are “substantially equivalent” to non-GMOs, meaning they are not nutritionally different from non-GMO crops. But as this study shows, these claims are patently false, and indicate that Monsanto is engaged in a global agricultural scam based on complete lies.

“Glyphosate is a strong organic phosphate chelator that immobilizes positively charged minerals such as manganese, cobalt, iron, zinc, copper, etc. that are essential for normal physiological functions in soils, plants and animals,” explains Dr. Huber about how GMO crop chemicals literally destroy the nutrient content of GMO crops.

To learn more about how to avoid GMOs in the food supply, visit:
http://www.westonaprice.org/modern-foods/how-to-avoid-gmos

Sources for this article include:
http://www.momsacrossamerica.com
http://www.gmwatch.org

The Homeless Tunnel: People Who Live Under The Streets Of America

April 10th, 2013 by The Economic Collapse Blog

Did you know that there are thousands upon thousands of homeless people that are living underground beneath the streets of major U.S. cities?  It is happening in Las Vegas, it is happening in New York City and it is even happening in Kansas City.  As the economy crumbles, poverty in the United States is absolutely exploding and so is homelessness.  In addition to the thousands of “tunnel people” living under the streets of America, there are also thousands that are living in tent cities, there are tens of thousands that are living in their vehicles and there are more than a million public school children that do not have a home to go back to at night.  The federal government tells us that the recession “is over” and that “things are getting better”, and yet poverty and homelessness in this country continue to rise with no end in sight.  So what in the world are things going to look like when the next economic crisis hits?

When I heard that there were homeless people living in a network of underground tunnels beneath the streets of Kansas City, I was absolutely stunned.  I have relatives that live in that area.  I never thought of Kansas City as one of the more troubled cities in the United States.

But according to the Daily Mail, police recently discovered a network of tunnels under the city that people had been living in…

Below the streets of Kansas City, there are deep underground tunnels where a group of vagrant homeless people lived in camps.

These so-called homeless camps have now been uncovered by the Kansas City Police, who then evicted the residents because of the unsafe environment.

Authorities said these people were living in squalor, with piles of garbage and dirty diapers left around wooded areas.

The saddest part is the fact that authorities found dirty diapers in the areas near these tunnels.  That must mean that babies were being raised in that kind of an environment.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing is happening all over the nation.  In recent years, the tunnel people of Las Vegas have received quite a bit of publicity all over the world.  It has been estimated that more than 1,000 people live in the massive network of flood tunnels under the city…

Deep beneath Vegas’s glittering lights lies a sinister labyrinth inhabited by poisonous spiders and a man nicknamed The Troll who wields an iron bar.

But astonishingly, the 200 miles of flood tunnels are also home to 1,000 people who eke out a living in the strip’s dark underbelly.

Some, like Steven and his girlfriend Kathryn, have furnished their home with considerable care – their 400sq ft ‘bungalow’ boasts a double bed, a wardrobe and even a bookshelf.

Could you imagine living like that?  Sadly, for an increasing number of Americans a “normal lifestyle” is no longer an option.  Either they have to go to the homeless shelters or they have to try to eke out an existence on their own any way that they can.

In New York City, authorities are constantly trying to root out the people that live in the tunnels under the city and yet they never seem to be able to find them all.  The following is from a New York Post article about the “Mole People” that live underneath New York City…

The homeless people who live down here are called Mole People. They do not, as many believe, exist in a separate, organized underground society. It’s more of a solitary existence and loose-knit community of secretive, hard-luck individuals.

The New York Post followed one homeless man known as “John Travolta” on a tour through the underground world.  What they discovered was a world that is very much different from what most New Yorkers experience…

In the tunnels, their world is one of malt liquor, tight spaces, schizophrenic neighbors, hunger and spells of heat and cold. Travolta and the others eat fairly well, living on a regimented schedule of restaurant leftovers, dumped each night at different times around the neighborhood above his foreboding home.

Even as the Dow hits record high after record high, poverty in New York City continues to rise at a very frightening pace.  Incredibly, the number of homeless people sleeping in the homeless shelters of New York City has increased by a whopping 19 percent over the past year.

In many of our major cities, the homeless shelters are already at maximum capacity and are absolutely packed night after night.  Large numbers of homeless people are often left to fend for themselves.

That is one reason why we have seen the rise of so many tent cities.

Yes, the tent cities are still there, they just aren’t getting as much attention these days because they do not fit in with the “economic recovery” narrative that the mainstream media is currently pushing.

In fact, many of the tent cities are larger than ever.  For example, you can check out a Reuters video about a growing tent city in New Jersey that was posted on YouTube at the end of March right here.  A lot of these tent cities have now become permanent fixtures, and unfortunately they will probably become much larger when the next major economic crisis strikes.

But perhaps the saddest part of all of this is the massive number of children that are suffering night after night.

For the first time ever, more than a million public school children in the United States are homeless.  That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.

So if things are really “getting better”, then why in the world do we have more than a million public school children without homes?

These days a lot of families that have lost their homes have ended up living in their vehicles.  The following is an excerpt from a 60 Minutes interview with one family that is living in their truck…

This is the home of the Metzger family. Arielle,15. Her brother Austin, 13. Their mother died when they were very young. Their dad, Tom, is a carpenter. And, he’s been looking for work ever since Florida’s construction industry collapsed. When foreclosure took their house, he bought the truck on Craigslist with his last thousand dollars. Tom’s a little camera shy – thought we ought to talk to the kids – and it didn’t take long to see why.

Pelley: How long have you been living in this truck?

Arielle Metzger: About five months.

Pelley: What’s that like?

Arielle Metzger: It’s an adventure.

Austin Metzger: That’s how we see it.

Pelley: When kids at school ask you where you live, what do you tell ‘em?

Austin Metzger: When they see the truck they ask me if I live in it, and when I hesitate they kinda realize. And they say they won’t tell anybody.

Arielle Metzger: Yeah it’s not really that much an embarrassment. I mean, it’s only life. You do what you need to do, right?

But after watching a news report or reading something on the Internet about these people we rapidly forget about them because they are not a part of “our world”.

Living Underground - Photo by Patrick Cashin

Another place where a lot of poor people end up is in prison.  In a previous article, I detailed how the prison population in the United States has been booming in recent years.  If you can believe it, the United States now has approximately 25 percent of the entire global prison population even though it only has about 5 percent of the total global population.

And these days it is not just violent criminals that get thrown into prison.  If you lose your job and get behind on your bills, you could be thrown into prison as well.  The following is from a recent CBS News article

Roughly a third of U.S. states today jail people for not paying off their debts, from court-related fines and fees to credit card and car loans, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Such practices contravene a 1983 United States Supreme Court ruling that they violate the Constitutions’s Equal Protection Clause.

Some states apply “poverty penalties,” such as late fees, payment plan fees and interest, when people are unable to pay all their debts at once. Alabama charges a 30 percent collection fee, for instance, while Florida allows private debt collectors to add a 40 percent surcharge on the original debt. Some Florida counties also use so-called collection courts, where debtors can be jailed but have no right to a public defender. In North Carolina, people are charged for using a public defender, so poor defendants who can’t afford such costs may be forced to forgo legal counsel.

The high rates of unemployment and government fiscal shortfalls that followed the housing crash have increased the use of debtors’ prisons, as states look for ways to replenish their coffers. Said Chettiar, “It’s like drawing blood from a stone. States are trying to increase their revenue on the backs of the poor.”

If you are poor, the United States can be an incredibly cold and cruel place.  Mercy and compassion are in very short supply.

The middle class continues to shrink and poverty continues to grow with each passing year.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately one out of every six Americans is now living in poverty.  And if you throw in those that are considered to be “near poverty”, that number becomes much larger.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either “poor” or “low income”.

For many more facts about the rapid increase of poverty in this country, please see my previous article entitled “21 Statistics About The Explosive Growth Of Poverty In America That Everyone Should Know“.

The Tunnel People That Live Under The Streets Of America - Photo by Claude Le Berre

But even as poverty grows, it seems like the hearts of those that still do have money are getting colder.  Just check out what happened recently at a grocery store that was in the process of closing down in Augusta, Georgia

Residents filled the parking lot with bags and baskets hoping to get some of the baby food, canned goods, noodles and other non-perishables. But a local church never came to pick up the food, as the storeowner prior to the eviction said they had arranged. By the time the people showed up for the food, what was left inside the premises—as with any eviction—came into the ownership of the property holder, SunTrust Bank.

The bank ordered the food to be loaded into dumpsters and hauled to a landfill instead of distributed. The people that gathered had to be restrained by police as they saw perfectly good food destroyed. Local Sheriff Richard Roundtree told the news “a potential for a riot was extremely high.”

Can you imagine watching that happen?

But of course handouts and charity are only temporary solutions.  What the poor in this country really need are jobs, and unfortunately there has not been a jobs recovery in the United States since the recession ended.

In fact, the employment crisis looks like it is starting to take another turn for the worse.  The number of layoffs in the month of March was 30 percent higher than the same time a year ago.

Meanwhile, small businesses are indicating that hiring is about to slow down significantly.  According to a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, small businesses in the United States are extremely pessimistic right now.  The following is what Goldman Sachs had to say about this survey…

Components of the survey were consistent with the decline in headline optimism, as the net percent of respondents planning to hire fell to 0% (from +4%), those expecting higher sales fell to -4% (from +1%), and those reporting that it is a good time to expand ticked down to +4% (from +5%). The net percent of respondents expecting the economy to improve was unchanged at -28%, a very depressed level. However, on the positive side, +25% of respondents plan increased capital spending [ZH: With Alcoa CapEx spending at a 2 year low]. Small business owners continue to place poor sales, taxes, and red tape at the top of their list of business problems, as they have for the past several years.

So why aren’t our politicians doing anything to fix this?

For example, why in the world don’t they stop millions of our jobs from being sent out of the country?

Well, the truth is that they don’t think we have a problem.  In fact, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson recently said that U.S. trade deficits “don’t matter”.

He apparently does not seem alarmed that more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities have been shut down in the United States since 2001.

And since the last election, the White House has seemed to have gone into permanent party mode.

On Tuesday, another extravagant party will be held at the White House.  It is being called “In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul”, and it is going to include some of the biggest names in the music industry…

As the White House has previously announced, Justin Timberlake (who will be making his White House debut), Al Green, Ben Harper, Queen Latifah, Cyndi Lauper, Joshua Ledet, Sam Moore, Charlie Musselwhite, Mavis Staples, and others will be performing at the exclusive event.

And so who will be paying for all of this?

You and I will be.  Even as the Obamas cry about all of the other “spending cuts” that are happening, they continue to blow millions of taxpayer dollars on wildly extravagant parties and vacations.

Overall, U.S. taxpayers will spend well over a billion dollars on the Obamas this year.

I wonder what the tunnel people that live under the streets of America think about that.

 

Secret FDIC Plan to Loot Bank Accounts

April 9th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

It shouldn’t surprise. It’s already policy. Market analyst Graham Summers explained. Depositor theft is coming. Europe is banker occupied territory. So is America.

Finance is a new form of warfare. It’s more powerful than standing armies. Banking giants run things. Money power has final say.Ordinary people are impoverished. Even their bank accounts aren’t safe.

Cypriot officials agreed to tax them. Canada, New Zealand, and Euroland member states plan doing the same thing. So does America.

Officially they’re called “bail-ins.” It’s code language for grand theft. Instead of breaking up, nationalizing, or closing down failed banks, depositor funds will keep them operating.

Money printing madness can’t go on forever. Regulators, like FDIC, haven’t enough money to insure depositors. It’s simple mathematical logic.

Ordinary people and richer ones have trillions in bank accounts. It’s low-hanging fruit. It’s a treasure trove begging to be looted. Legislative shenanigans legitimize it.

It’s happening offshore. It’s approved in Canada. It’s coming to America. “What happened in Cyprus isn’t a ‘one-off,’ ” said Summers. When systemic crisis hits, things happen “FAST and FURIOUS.”

Cpyriot bailout talks continued for months. “And then the entire system came unhinged in one weekend.”

Banks closed. Capital controls were imposed. People couldn’t write checks. They lost access to their money. Limited amounts only were permitted. Insiders were tipped off. They exited early. Others uninformed now suffer.

Think it can’t happen here? Think again. It’s coming. Proposed FDIC legislation lets it “TAKE CONTROL OF BANKS IT DEEMS SYSTEMATICALLY IMPORTANT AND WRITE DOWN YOUR SAVINGS (AND OTHER BANK ACCOUNTS) AS PART OF THE BAIL-IN.”

Dodd Frank financial reform capitulated to Wall Street. It did so at the expense of the economy, states, local communities, and ordinary people hit hardest.

It’s wrongheaded. It provides a veneer of regulatory cover. It’s a scam. It’s laden with false diagnoses and fatal flaws. It lets Wall Street continue business as usual.

It’s secret provision permits looting depositor bank accounts. Four months ago, formal strategy was drafted. It’s ready when America’s next crisis hits. Graham outlined three steps:

(1) Designate systematically important banks.

(2) Control those deemed at risk of default.

(3) Write-down depositor savings in value. In other words, loot them. Money thought safe is gone.

Few Americans understand. It’s not publicly acknowledged. Legislation already was drafted. FDIC implementation rules are ready. Eventual crisis is virtually certain. Only its timing is unknown.

Now’s the time to protect assets too important to lose. Forewarned is forearmed.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/secret-fdic-plan-to-loot-bank-accounts/

Wikileaks has done it again. I guess the US will really have to get tough now with Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.

In a secret US cable to the State Department, dated November 9, 2006, and recently published online by WikiLeaks, former US ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, outlines a comprehensive plan to destabilize the government of the late President Hugo Chávez. The cable begins with a Summary:

During his 8 years in power, President Chavez has systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and governance. The USAID/OTI program objectives in Venezuela focus on strengthening democratic institutions and spaces through non-partisan cooperation with many sectors of Venezuelan society.

USAID/OTI = United States Agency for International Development/Office of Transition Initiatives. The latter is one of the many euphemisms that American diplomats use with each other and the world – They say it means a transition to “democracy”. What it actually means is a transition from the target country adamantly refusing to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs to a country gladly willing (or acceding under pressure) to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs.

OTI supports the Freedom House (FH) “Right to Defend Human Rights” program with $1.1 million. Simultaneously through Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), OTI has also provided 22 grants to human rights organizations.

Freedom House is one of the oldest US government conduits for transitioning to “democracy”; to a significant extent it equates “democracy” and “human rights” with free enterprise. Development Alternatives Inc. is the organization that sent Alan Gross to Cuba on a mission to help implement the US government’s operation of regime change.

OTI speaks of working to improve “the deteriorating human rights situation in” Venezuela. Does anyone know of a foreign government with several millions of dollars to throw around who would like to improve the seriously deteriorating human rights situation in the United States? They can start with the round-the-clock surveillance and the unconscionable entrapment of numerous young “terrorists” guilty of thought crimes.

“OTI partners are training NGOs [non-governmental organizations] to be activists and become more involved in advocacy.”

Now how’s that for a self-given license to fund and get involved in any social, economic or political activity that can sabotage any program of the Chávez government and/or make it look bad? The US ambassador’s cable points out that:

OTI has directly reached approximately 238,000 adults through over 3000 forums, workshops and training sessions delivering alternative values and providing opportunities for opposition activists to interact with hard-core Chavistas, with the desired effect of pulling them slowly away from Chavismo. We have supported this initiative with 50 grants totaling over $1.1 million.

“Another key Chavez strategy,” the cable continues, “is his attempt to divide and polarize Venezuelan society using rhetoric of hate and violence. OTI supports local NGOs who work in Chavista strongholds and with Chavista leaders, using those spaces to counter this rhetoric and promote alliances through working together on issues of importance to the entire community.”

This is the classical neo-liberal argument against any attempt to transform a capitalist society – The revolutionaries are creating class conflict. But of course, the class conflict was already there, and nowhere more embedded and distasteful than in Latin America.

OTI funded 54 social projects all over the country, at over $1.2 million, allowing [the] Ambassador to visit poor areas of Venezuela and demonstrate US concern for the Venezuelan people. This program fosters confusion within the Bolivarian ranks, and pushes back at the attempt of Chavez to use the United States as a ‘unifying enemy.’

One has to wonder if the good ambassador (now an Assistant Secretary of State) placed any weight or value at all on the election and re-election by decisive margins of Chávez and the huge masses of people who repeatedly filled the large open squares to passionately cheer him. When did such things last happen in the ambassador’s own country? Where was his country’s “concern for the Venezuelan people” during the decades of highly corrupt and dictatorial regimes? His country’a embassy in Venezuela in that period was not plotting anything remotely like what is outlined in this cable.

The cable summarizes the focus of the embassy’s strategy’s as: “1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.” 1

The stated mission for the Office of Transition Initiatives is: “To support U.S. foreign policy objectives by helping local partners advance peace and democracy in priority countries in crisis.” 2

Notice the key word – “crisis”. For whom was Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela a “crisis”? For the people of Venezuela or the people who own and operate United States, Inc.?

Imagine a foreign country’s embassy, agencies and NGOs in the United States behaving as the American embassy, OTI, and NGOs did in Venezuela. President Putin of Russia recently tightened government controls over foreign NGOs out of such concern. As a result, he of course has been branded by the American government and media as a throwback to the Soviet Union.

Under pressure from the Venezuelan government, the OTI’s office in Venezuela was closed in 2010.

For our concluding words of wisdom, class, here’s Charles Shapiro, US ambassador to Venezuela from 2002 to 2004, speaking recently of the Venezuelan leaders: “I think they really believe it, that we are out there at some level to do them ill.” 3

The latest threats to life as we know it

Last month numerous foreign-policy commentators marked the tenth anniversary of the fateful American bombing and invasion of Iraq. Those who condemned the appalling devastation of the Iraqi people and their society emphasized that it had all been a terrible mistake, since Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein didn’t actually possess weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is the same argument we’ve heard repeatedly during the past ten years from most opponents of the war.

But of the many lies – explicit or implicit – surrounding the war in Iraq, the biggest one of all is that if, in fact, Saddam Hussein had had those WMD the invasion would have been justified; that in such case Iraq would indeed have been a threat to the United States or to Israel or to some other country equally decent, innocent and holy. However, I must ask as I’ve asked before: What possible reason would Saddam Hussein have had for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? He had no reason, no more than the Iranians do today. No more than the Soviets had during the decades of the Cold War. No more than North Korea has ever had since the United States bombed them in the early 1950s.

Yet last month the new Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, announced that he would strengthen United States defenses against a possible attack by [supposedly] nuclear-equipped North Korea, positioning 14 additional missile interceptors in Alaska and California at an estimated cost of $1 billion. So much for the newest Great White Hope. Does it ever matter who the individuals are who are occupying the highest offices of the US foreign-policy establishment? Or their gender or their color?

“Oh,” many people argued, “Saddam Hussein was so crazy who knew what he might do?” But when it became obvious in late 2002 that the US was intent upon invading Iraq, Saddam opened up the country to the UN weapons inspectors much more than ever before, offering virtually full cooperation. This was not the behavior of a crazy person; this was the behavior of a survivalist. He didn’t even use any WMD when he was invaded by the United States in 1991 (“the first Gulf War”), when he certainly had such weapons. Moreover, the country’s vice president, Tariq Aziz, went on major American television news programs to assure the American people and the world that Iraq no longer had any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons; and we now know that Iraq had put out peace feelers in early 2003 hoping to prevent the war. The Iraqi leaders were not crazy at all. Unless one believes that to oppose US foreign policy you have to be crazy. Or suicidal.

It can as well be argued that American leaders were crazy to carry out the Iraqi invasion in the face of tens of millions of people at home and around the world protesting against it, pleading with the Bush gang not to unleash the horrors. (How many demonstrations were there in support of the invasion?)

In any event, the United States did not invade Iraq because of any threat of an attack using WMD. Washington leaders did not themselves believe that Iraq possessed such weapons of any significant quantity or potency. Amongst the sizable evidence supporting this claim we have the fact that they would not have exposed hundreds of thousands of soldiers on the ground.

Nor can it be argued that mere possession of such weapons – or the belief of same – was reason enough to take action, for then the United States would have to invade Russia, France, Israel, et al.

I have written much of the above in previous editions of this report, going back to 2003. But I’m afraid that I and other commentators will have to be repeating these observations for years to come. Myths that reinforce official government propaganda die hard. The mainstream media act like they don’t see through them, while national security officials thrive on them to give themselves a mission, to enhance their budgets, and further their personal advancement. The Washington Post recently reported: “A year into his tenure, the country’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, has proved even more bellicose than his father, North Korea’s longtime ruler, disappointing U.S. officials who had hoped for a fresh start with the regime.” 4

Yeah, right, can’t you just see those American officials shaking their heads and exclaiming: “Damn, what do we have to do to get those North Korean fellows to trust us?” Well, they could start by ending the many international sanctions they impose on North Korea. They could discontinue arming and training South Korean military forces. And they could stop engaging in provocative fly-overs, ships cruising the waters, and military exercises along with South Korea, Australia, and other countries dangerously close to the North. The Wall Street Journal reported:

The first show of force came on March 8, during the U.S.-South Korean exercise, known as Foal Eagle, when long-range B-52 bombers conducted low-altitude maneuvers. A few weeks later, in broad daylight, two B-2 bombers sent from a Missouri air base dropped dummy payloads on a South Korean missile range.

U.S. intelligence agencies, as had been planned, reviewed the North’s responses. After those flights, the North responded as the Pentagon and intelligence agencies had expected, with angry rhetoric, threatening to attack the South and the U.S.

On Sunday, the U.S. flew a pair of advanced F-22s to South Korea, which prompted another angry response from the North. 5

And the United States could stop having wet dreams about North Korea collapsing, enabling the US to establish an American military base right at the Chinese border.

As to North Korea’s frequent threats … yes, they actually outdo the United States in bellicosity, lies, and stupidity. But their threats are not to be taken any more seriously than Washington’s oft expressed devotion to democracy and freedom. When it comes to doing actual harm to other peoples, the North Koreans are not in the same league as the empire.

“Everyone is concerned about miscalculation and the outbreak of war. But the sense across the U.S. government is that the North Koreans are not going to wage all-out war,” a senior Obama administration official said. “They are interested first and foremost in regime survival.” 6

American sovereignty hasn’t faced a legitimate foreign threat to its existence since the British in 1812.

The marvelous world of Freedom of Speech

So, the United States and its Western partners have banned Iranian TV from North America and in various European countries. Did you hear about that? Probably not if you’re not on the mailing list of PressTV, the 24-hour English-Language Iranian news channel. According to PressTV:

The Iranian film channel, iFilm, as well as Iranian radio stations, have also been banned from sensitive Western eyes and ears, all such media having been removed in February from the Galaxy 19 satellite platform serving the United States and Canada.

In December the Spanish satellite company, Hispasat, terminated the broadcast of the Iranian Spanish-language channel Hispan TV. Hispasat is partly owned by Eutelsat, whose French-Israeli CEO is blamed for the recent wave of attacks on Iranian media in Europe.

The American Jewish Committee has welcomed these developments. AJC Executive Director David Harris has acknowledged that the committee had for months been engaged in discussions with the Spaniards over taking Iranian channels off the air. 7

A careful search of the Lexis-Nexis data base of international media reveals that not one English-language print newspaper, broadcast station, or news agency in the world has reported on the PressTV news story since it appeared February 8. One Internet newspaper, Digital Journal, ran the story on February 10.

The United States, Canada, Spain, and France are thus amongst those countries proudly celebrating their commitment to the time-honored concept of freedom of speech. Other nations of “The Free World” cannot be far behind as Washington continues to turn the screws of Iranian sanctions still tighter.

In his classic 1984, George Orwell defined “doublethink” as “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” In the United States, the preferred label given by the Ministry of Truth to such hypocrisy is “American exceptionalism”, which manifests itself in the assertion of a divinely ordained mission as well in the insistence on America’s right to apply double standards in its own favor and reject “moral equivalence”.

The use of sanctions to prevent foreign media from saying things that Washington has decided should not be said is actually a marked improvement over previous American methods. For example, on October 8, 2001, the second day of the US bombing of Afghanistan, the transmitters for the Taliban government’s Radio Shari were bombed and shortly after this the US bombed some 20 regional radio sites. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the targeting of these facilities, saying: “Naturally, they cannot be considered to be free media outlets. They are mouthpieces of the Taliban and those harboring terrorists.” 8 And in Yugoslavia, in 1999, during the infamous 78-bombing of the Balkan country which posed no threat at all to the United States, state-owned Radio Television Serbia (RTS) was targeted because it was broadcasting things which the United States and NATO did not like (like how much horror the bombing was causing). The bombs took the lives of many of the station’s staff, and both legs of one of the survivors, which had to be amputated to free him from the wreckage. Notes

  1. Read the full memo.
  2. USAID Transition Initiatives Website
  3. Washington Post, January 10, 2013
  4. Washington Post, March 16, 2013
  5. Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2013
  6. Ibid.
  7. PressTV news release
  8. Index on Censorship online, the UK’s leading organization promoting freedom of expression, October 18, 2001
  9. The Independent (London), April 24, 1999, p.1


Cyprus-style confiscation of depositor funds has been called the “new normal.”  Bail-in policies are appearing in multiple countries directing failing TBTF banks to convert the funds of “unsecured creditors” into capital; and those creditors, it turns out, include ordinary depositors. Even “secured” creditors, including state and local governments, may be at risk.  Derivatives have “super-priority” status in bankruptcy, and Dodd Frank precludes further taxpayer bailouts. In a big derivatives bust, there may be no collateral left for the creditors who are next in line.  

Shock waves went around the world when the IMF, the EU, and the ECB not only approved but mandated the confiscation of depositor funds to “bail in” two bankrupt banks in Cyprus. A “bail in” is a quantum leap beyond a “bail out.” When governments are no longer willing to use taxpayer money to bail out banks that have gambled away their capital, the banks are now being instructed to “recapitalize” themselves by confiscating the funds of their creditors, turning debt into equity, or stock; and the “creditors” include the depositors who put their money in the bank thinking it was a secure place to store their savings.

The Cyprus bail-in was not a one-off emergency measure but was consistent with similar policies already in the works for the US, UK, EU, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, as detailed in my earlier articles here and here.  “Too big to fail” now trumps all.  Rather than banks being put into bankruptcy to salvage the deposits of their customers, the customers will be put into bankruptcy to save the banks.

Why Derivatives Threaten Your Bank Account

The big risk behind all this is the massive $230 trillion derivatives boondoggle managed by US banks. Derivatives are sold as a kind of insurance for managing profits and risk; but as Satyajit Das points out in Extreme Money, they actually increase risk to the system as a whole.

In the US after the Glass-Steagall Act was implemented in 1933, a bank could not gamble with depositor funds for its own account; but in 1999, that barrier was removed. Recent congressional investigations have revealed that in the biggest derivative banks, JPMorgan and Bank of America, massive commingling has occurred between their depository arms and their unregulated and highly vulnerable derivatives arms. Under both the Dodd Frank Act and the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, derivative claims have super-priority over all other claims, secured and unsecured, insured and uninsured. In a major derivatives fiasco, derivative claimants could well grab all the collateral, leaving other claimants, public and private, holding the bag.

The tab for the 2008 bailout was $700 billion in taxpayer funds, and that was just to start. Another $700 billion disaster could easily wipe out all the money in the FDIC insurance fund, which has only about $25 billion in it.  Both JPMorgan and Bank of America have over $1 trillion in deposits, and total deposits covered by FDIC insurance are about $9 trillion. According to an article on Bloomberg in November 2011, Bank of America’s holding company then had almost $75 trillion in derivatives, and 71% were held in its depository arm; while J.P. Morgan had $79 trillion in derivatives, and 99% were in its depository arm. Those whole mega-sums are not actually at risk, but the cash calculated to be at risk from derivatives from all sources is at least $12 trillion; and JPM is the biggest player, with 30% of the market.

It used to be that the government would backstop the FDIC if it ran out of money. But section 716 of the Dodd Frank Act now precludes the payment of further taxpayer funds to bail out a bank from a bad derivatives gamble. As summarized in a letter from Americans for Financial Reform quoted by Yves Smith:

Section 716 bans taxpayer bailouts of a broad range of derivatives dealing and speculative derivatives activities. Section 716 does not in any way limit the swaps activities which banks or other financial institutions may engage in. It simply prohibits public support for such activities.

There will be no more $700 billion taxpayer bailouts. So where will the banks get the money in the next crisis? It seems the plan has just been revealed in the new bail-in policies.

All Depositors, Secured and Unsecured, May Be at Risk

The bail-in policy for the US and UK is set forth in a document put out jointly by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Bank of England (BOE) in December 2012, titled Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions.

In an April 4th article in Financial Sense, John Butler points out that the directive does not explicitly refer to “depositors.”  It refers only to “unsecured creditors.”  But the effective meaning of the term, says Butler, is belied by the fact that the FDIC has been put on the job. The FDIC has direct responsibility only for depositors, not for the bondholders who are wholesale non-depositor sources of bank credit. Butler comments:

Do you see the sleight-of-hand at work here? Under the guise of protecting taxpayers, depositors of failing institutions are to be arbitrarily, de-facto subordinated to interbank claims, when in fact they are legally senior to those claims!

. . . [C]onsider the brutal, unjust irony of the entire proposal. Remember, its stated purpose is to solve the problem revealed in 2008, namely the existence of insolvent TBTF institutions that were “highly leveraged and complex, with numerous and dispersed financial operations, extensive off-balance-sheet activities, and opaque financial statements.” Yet what is being proposed is a framework sacrificing depositors in order to maintain precisely this complex, opaque, leverage-laden financial edifice!

If you believe that what has happened recently in Cyprus is unlikely to happen elsewhere, think again. Economic policy officials in the US, UK and other countries are preparing for it. Remember, someone has to pay. Will it be you? If you are a depositor, the answer is yes.

The FDIC was set up to ensure the safety of deposits. Now it, it seems, its function will be the confiscation of deposits to save Wall Street. In the only mention of “depositors” in the FDIC-BOE directive as it pertains to US policy, paragraph 47 says that “the authorities recognize the need for effective communication to depositors, making it clear that their deposits will be protected.” But protected with what? As with MF Global, the pot will already have been gambled away. From whom will the bank get it back? Not the derivatives claimants, who are first in line to be paid; not the taxpayers, since Congress has sealed the vault; not the FDIC insurance fund, which has a paltry $25 billion in it. As long as the derivatives counterparties have super-priority status, the claims of all other parties are in jeopardy.

That could mean not just the “unsecured creditors” but the “secured creditors,” including state and local governments. Local governments keep a significant portion of their revenues in Wall Street banks because smaller local banks lack the capacity to handle their complex business. In the US, banks taking deposits of public funds are required to pledge collateral against any funds exceeding the deposit insurance limit of $250,000. But derivative claims are also secured with collateral, and they have super-priority over all other claimants, including other secured creditors. The vault may be empty by the time local government officials get to the teller’s window. Main Street will again have been plundered by Wall Street.

Super-priority Status for Derivatives Increases Rather than Decreases Risk 

Harvard Law Professor Mark Row maintains that the super-priority status of derivatives needs to be repealed. He writes:

. . . [D]erivatives counterparties, . . . unlike most other secured creditors, can seize and immediately liquidate collateral, readily net out gains and losses in their dealings with the bankrupt, terminate their contracts with the bankrupt, and keep both preferential eve-of-bankruptcy payments and fraudulent conveyances they obtained from the debtor, all in ways that favor them over the bankrupt’s other creditors.

. . . [W]hen we subsidize derivatives and similar financial activity via bankruptcy benefits unavailable to other creditors, we get more of the activity than we otherwise would. Repeal would induce these burgeoning financial markets to better recognize the risks of counterparty financial failure, which in turn should dampen the possibility of another AIG-, Bear Stearns-, or Lehman Brothers-style financial meltdown, thereby helping to maintain systemic financial stability.

In The New Financial Deal: Understanding the Dodd-Frank Act and Its (Unintended) Consequences, David Skeel agrees. He calls the Dodd-Frank policy approach “corporatism” – a partnership between government and corporations. Congress has made no attempt in the legislation to reduce the size of the big banks or to undermine the implicit subsidy provided by the knowledge that they will be bailed out in the event of trouble.

Undergirding this approach is what Skeel calls “the Lehman myth,” which blames the 2008 banking collapse on the decision to allow Lehman Brothers to fail. Skeel counters that the Lehman bankruptcy was actually orderly, and the derivatives were unwound relatively quickly. Rather than preventing the Lehman collapse, the bankruptcy exemption for derivatives may have helped precipitate it.  When the bank appeared to be on shaky ground, the derivatives players all rushed to put in their claims, in a run on the collateral before it ran out. Skeel says the problem could be resolved by eliminating the derivatives exemption from the stay of proceedings that a bankruptcy court applies to other contracts to prevent this sort of run.

Putting the Brakes on the Wall Street End Game

Besides eliminating the super-priority of derivatives, here are some other ways to block the Wall Street asset grab:

(1) Restore the Glass-Steagall Act separating depository banking from investment banking. Support Marcy Kaptur’s H.R. 129.

(2) Break up the giant derivatives banks.  Support Bernie Sanders’ “too big to jail” legislation.

(3) Alternatively, nationalize the TBTFs, as advised in the New York Times by Gar Alperovitz.  If taxpayer bailouts to save the TBTFs are unacceptable, depositor bailouts are even more unacceptable.

(4) Make derivatives illegal, as they were between 1936 and 1982 under the Commodities Exchange Act. They can be unwound by simply netting them out, declaring them null and void.  As noted by Paul Craig Roberts, “the only major effect of closing out or netting all the swaps (mostly over-the-counter contracts between counter-parties) would be to take $230 trillion of leveraged risk out of the financial system.”

(5) Support the Harkin-Whitehouse bill to impose a financial transactions tax on Wall Street trading.  Among other uses, a tax on all trades might supplement the FDIC insurance fund to cover another derivatives disaster.

(5) Establish postal savings banks as government-guaranteed depositories for individual savings. Many countries have public savings banks, which became particularly popular after savings in private banks were wiped out in the banking crisis of the late 1990s.

(6) Establish publicly-owned banks to be depositories of public monies, following the lead of North Dakota, the only state to completely escape the 2008 banking crisis. North Dakota does not keep its revenues in Wall Street banks but deposits them in the state-owned Bank of North Dakota by law.  The bank has a mandate to serve the public, and it does not gamble in derivatives.

A motivated state legislature could set up a publicly-owned bank very quickly. Having its own bank would allow the state to protect both its own revenues and those of its citizens while generating the credit needed to support local business and restore prosperity to Main Street.

For more information on the public bank option, see here. Learn more at the Public Banking Institute conference June 2-4 in San Rafael, California, featuring Matt Taibbi, Birgitta Jonsdottir, Gar Alperovitz and others.  

Ellen Brown is an attorney, chairman of the Public Banking Institute, and the author of eleven books, including Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free. Her websites are webofdebt.com and ellenbrown.com.

 

Los derechos de la mujer se esgrimen cada vez más como un útil recurso para nuevos planes imperialistas.

Los jefes de Estado occidentales, los altos cargos de las Naciones Unidas y los portavoces militares elogiarán invariablemente la dimensión humanitaria de la invasión de Afganistán de octubre de 2001 dirigida por la OTAN y Estados Unidos, que supuestamente se llevó a cabo para luchar contra el fundamentalismo religioso, ayudar a las niñas a ir a la escuela y liberar a las mujeres sometidas al yugo talibán.

La lógica de esta dimensión humanitaria de la guerra de Afganistán es cuestionable. Conviene recordar que desde el inicio de la guerra afgano-soviética Estados Unidos apoyó a los talibán como parte de una operación encubierta dirigida por la CIA.

Tal como lo describe la Asociación Revolucionaria de Mujeres de Afganistán (RAWA):

“Estados Unidos y sus aliados trataron de legitimar su ocupación militar de Afganistán bajo la bandera de “traer la libertad y la democracia al pueblo afgano”. Pero según hemos experimentado en las últimas tres décadas, con relación al destino de nuestro pueblo el gobierno estadounidense considera en primer lugar sus propios intereses políticos y económicos, y ha conferido poder y equipado a las bandas fundamentalistas más traidoras, antidemocráticas, misóginas y corruptas de Afganistán”.

Fue Estados Unidos quien instaló el régimen talibán en Afganistán en 1996, una estrategia de su  política exterior que tuvo como resultado la desaparición de los derechos de las mujeres afganas:

“Según la NSDD 166 [Directriz de Decisión de Seguridad Nacional nº 166], la ayuda estadounidense a las brigadas islámicas canalizada a través de Pakistán no se limitaba a la ayuda militar de buena fe. Por medio de la Agencia Estadounidense para Desarrollo Internacional (USAID, por sus siglas en inglés) Washington también ayudó y financió el proceso de adoctrinamiento religioso cuya finalidad era garantizar la desaparición de las instituciones laicas” (Michel Chossudovsky, 9/11 ANALYSIS: From Ronald Reagan and the Soviet-Afghan War to George W Bush and September 11, 2001, Global Research, 9 de septiembre de 2010),

Estados Unidos financió generosamente las escuelas religiosas:

“La educación en Afganistán en los años anteriores a la guerra afgano-soviética era en general laica. La educación encubierta estadounidense destruyó la educación laica. La cantidad de escuelas religiosas (madrasas) patrocinadas por la CIA aumentó de 2.500 en 1980 a más de 39.000 [en 2001]” (Ibid).

Afghan women.(AFP Photo / Shah Marai)

Foto: Mujeres afganas hoy (Foto: AFP Photo / Shah Marai)

Foto: mujeres afganas en la década de 1970 antes de la intervención dirigida por la CIA.

Algo que desconoce el público estadounidense, Estados Unidos difundió las enseñanzas de la yihad islámica en libros de texto “made in America” elaborados en la universidad de Nebraska:

“[…] Estados Unidos gastó millones de dólares para suministrar a las niñas y niños afganos en edad escolar libros de texto repletos de imágenes violentas y de enseñanzas militantes islámicas, que eran parte de los intentos encubiertos de fomentar la resistencia a la ocupación soviética.

Los manuales, que estaban repletos discursos sobre la yihad y mostraba dibujos de pistolas, balas, soldados y minas, han servido desde entonces como principal programa de estudios de sistema escolar afgano…

La Casa Blanca defiende el contenido religioso afirmando que los principios islámicos impregnan la cultura afgana y que los libros son absolutamente acordes a la legislación y política estadounidense. Sin embargo, expertos legales se preguntan si los libros violan una prohibición constitucional de emplear dinero de los contribuyentes para promocionar la religión.

[…] Altos cargos de USAID afirmaron en varias entrevistas que dejaron intacto el material islámico porque temían que los educadores afganos rechazaran los libros que carecieran de una fuerte dosis de pensamiento musulmán. La agencia quitó su logotipo de los libros y toda mención al gobierno estadounidense, afirmó la portavoz de USAID Kathryn Stratos.

“El apoyar instituciones religiosa no es una política de USAID”, afirmó Stratos, “pero continuamos con el proyecto porque el propósito principal es [. . .] es educar a los niños, que es predominantemente una actividad laica”.

[…] Publicados en las lenguas afganas dominantes dari y pastún, los libros de texto se crearon a principios de la década de 1980 gracias a una subvención de USAID a la universidad de Nebraska-Omaha y su Centro para Estudios Afganos. La agencia gastó 51 millones de dolares en programas de educación universitaria en Afganistán de 1984 a 1994” (Washington Post, 23 de marzo de 2002).

Retrospectiva histórica

Antes de que los talibán llegaran al poder, las mujeres afganas tenían una vida que en muchos sentidos era similar a la de las mujeres occidentales (véase abajo las fotos):

Kabul University 1980s

Kabul University 1980s

Foto: Universidad de Kabul en la década de 1980.

En la década de 1980 Kabul era “una ciudad cosmopolita. Artistas y hippies acudieron a la capital. Las mujeres estudiaban agricultura, ingeniería y negocios en la universidad de la ciudad. Las mujeres afganas tenían empleos en el gobierno”. Había parlamentarias y las mujeres conducían, viajaba y acudían a citas sin tener que pedir permiso a ningún varón guardián.

Irónicamente, un artículo publicado en 2010 por Foreign Policy (2010), un altavoz del Washington Post fundado por Samuel Huntington, confirma los derechos de las mujeres tal como los describe la  RAWA antes de la insurgencia yihadista patrocinada por Estados Unidos:

 Original caption: "Kabul University students changing classes. Enrollment has doubled in last four years." The physical campus of Kabul University, pictured here, does not look very different today. But the people do. In the 1950s and '60s, students wore Western-style clothing; young men and women interacted relatively freely. Today, women cover their heads and much of their bodies, even in Kabul. A half-century later, men and women inhabit much more separate worlds.

Foto: “Cambio de clases en la universidad de Kabul. La matrícula se ha duplicado en los últimos cuatro años”.

“El campus físico de la universidad de Kabul que se describe aquí no es muy diferente hoy. Pero la gente sí lo es. En las décadas de 1950 y de 1960 los estudiantes llevaban indumentaria occidental; hombre y mujeres jóvenes se relacionaban entre sí con relativa libertad. Hoy las mujeres llevan la cabeza y gran parte del cuerpo cubiertos, incluso en Kabul. En medio siglo hombres y mujeres viven en mundo mucho más separados.

 "Biology class, Kabul University." In the 1950s and '60s, women were able to pursue professional careers in fields such as medicine. Today, schools that educate women are a target for violence, even more so than five or six years ago.

Foto: “Clase de biología, universidad de Kabul”.

En las décadas de 1950 y 1960 las mujeres podían emprender carreras profesionales en campos como la medicina. Hoy las escuelas que educan a las mujeres son el blanco de la violencia, mucho más que hace cinco o seis años.

 "Phonograph record store." So, too, were record stores, bringing the rhythm and energy of the Western world to Kabul teenagers.

Foto: “Tienda de discos”.

También había tiendas de discos, que llevaban el ritmo y la energía del mundo occidental a los adolescentes de Kabul.

"Hundreds of Afghan youngsters take active part in Scout programs."

Foto: “Cientos de jóvenes afganas participan ellos programas Scout”.

Afganistán tuvo en una época Boy Scouts y Girl Scouts. En las décadas de 1950 y de 1960 estos programas eran muy similares a los estadounidenses, con alumnos de la escuela elemental y primaria que aprendían a conocer las sendas en la naturaleza, camping y seguridad pública. Pero las tropas de los Scout desaparecieron completamente después de la invasión soviética a finales de la década de 1970” (Mohammad Qayoumi, Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan…, Foreign Policy, 27 de mayo de 2010).

El lector o lectora perspicaz se dará cuenta de la insidiosa desinformación de las líneas anteriores. Inducen a creer que el liberal estilo de vida de las mujeres afganas fue destruido por la Unión Soviética, cuando de hecho fue el resultado del apoyo estadounidense a al-Qaeday a los talibán. Tal como reconoció el asesor de política exterior estadounidense Zbignew Brzezinski, la acción de Moscú en apoyo al gobierno pro-soviético de Kabul fue para contrarrestar la insurgencia islamista muyaidín apoyada de manera encubierta por la CIA:

“En efecto, fue el 3 de julio de 1979 cuando el presidente Carter firmó la primera directriz de ayuda secreta a los oponentes al régimen pro-soviético en Kabul. Y ese mismo día escribí una nota al presidente en la que le explicaba que en mi opinión esta ayuda iba a inducir un intervención militar soviética […].

Esta operación secreta era una idea excelente. Tuvo el efecto de arrastrar a los soviéticos a la trampa afgana, ¿y quiere usted que lo lamente? El día en que los soviéticos cruzaron oficialmente la frontera escribí al presidente Carter. Ahora tenemos la oportunidad de dar a la URSS su Guerra de Vietnam” (The CIA’s Intervention in Afghanistan, Nouvel Observateur, 1998, Global Research, 15 de octubre de 2001).

En 1982 el presidente Ronald Reagan incluso dedicó la lanzadera espacial Columbia a los “luchadores de la libertad” islamistas en Afganistán apoyados por Estados Unidos, es decir, al-Qaeda y los talibán:

“Del mismo modo que pensamos que el Columbia representa las mejores aspiraciones del hombre en el campo de la ciencia y la tecnología, la lucha del pueblo afgano representa las más altas aspiraciones del hombre a la libertad”.

Foto: Reunión de Ronald Reagan con los talibán en 1985: “Estos caballeros (los talibán) son el equivalente moral a los padre fundadores de Estados Unidos”.

Con todo, tanto Estados Unidos como los gobiernos de los Estados miembros de la OTAN afirman que la presencia militar de Estados Unidos y la OTAN en Afganistán desempeñó un papel decisivo para fomentar los derechos de las mujeres. El hecho es que aquellos derechos fueron abolidos por el régimen talibán respaldado por Estados Unidos que llegó al poder con el apoyo de Washington.

La Red de Mujeres Sirias del Departamento de Estado estadounidense

¿Que relación tienen la historia de las mujeres de Afganistán con los derechos de las mujeres en Siria en el contexto de la crisis actual?

La guerra no declarada de Estados Unidos y la OTAN a Siria (2011-2013) en apoyo de los rebeldes afiliados a al-Qaeda parece tener una lógica similar, a saber, la destrucción de una educación laica y la desaparición de los derechos de las mujeres.

¿Se enfrentarán las mujeres sirias al mismo lúgubre futuro al que se enfrentan las mujeres afganas bajo el régimen talibán?

El pasado mes de enero “un grupo diverso de mujeres sirias” que afirmaba representar a los principales movimientos de oposición asistió a una conferencia de la que fue anfitriona la Red de Democracia de las Mujeres [Women’s Democracy Network] (WDN) en coordinación con la Oficina de Asuntos Globales de la Mujer del Departamento de Estado estadounidense en Doha, Qatar.

La WDN es una iniciativa del Instituto Republicano Intencional, muy conocido por apoyar a disidentes de diferentes países que desafían el imperialismo estadounidense. El Departamento de Estado estadounidense está utilizando claramente los “derechos de las mujeres” como una herramienta y al mismo tiempo está financiando a una oposición con vistas a minar el Estado laico y finalmente instalar un gobierno islamista en Damasco.

La Red de Mujeres Sirias se formó en la conferencia patrocinada por Estados Unidos donde se redactó una Carta “para garantizar que se incluye a las mujeres en la resolución del conflicto y en la transición de su país:

“Los participantes piden en la Carta derechos y representación iguales para todos los sirios y exigen una participación igual para las mujeres en todos los encuentros internacionales, en las negociaciones y en los comités de elaboración del borrador de la constitución y de reconciliación, así como en los organismos de gobierno electos. La Carta también incluye temas como la prevención y persecución de actos de violencia contra las mujeres, el acceso a la educación y la necesidad en general de la participación de las mujeres en la resolución del actual conflicto al tiempo que se garantiza la futura participación de las mujeres en la reconstrucción de Siria. También participaron en la conferencia dirigentes del gobierno de Estados Unidos, que pusieron de relieve su apoyo a la mujer siria [...] Carla Koppell, coordinadora de Igualdad de Género y Empoderamiento de la Mujer en la  Agencia de Estados Unidos para el Desarrollo Internacional [USAID] aconsejó en sus observaciones: “Si el grupo más diverso de mujeres logra encontrar una agenda común tendrá una fuerza enorme”” (Women Demand Role in Syria’s Transition and Reconciliation, 28 de enero de 2013).

Monica McWilliams, founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (left) and Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo Edita Tahiri (right) share their experiences with participants of a conference in Doha, Qatar, where Charter of the Syrian Women’s Network was adopted by a diverse group of Syrian women representing the leading opposition movements in the country.(Photo from wdn.org)

Foto: Monica McWilliams, fundadora de la Coalición de Mujeres de Irlanda del Norte (izquierda) y la viceprimera ministra de Kosovo Edita Tahiri (derecha) comparten sus experiencias con los participantes en la Conferencia de Doha, Qatar, en la que un variado grupo de mujeres sirias representantes de los principales movimientos de oposición en el país adoptaron la Carta de la Red de Mujeres Sirias (Foto de wdn.org)

La primera paradoja impactante de esta conferencia es que se celebró en Qatar, un país en el que, como mínimo, los derechos de las mujeres siguen estando limitados. A mediados de marzo el gobierno de Qatar incluso expresó su preocupación “por las referencias a los derechos sexuales y reproductivos de las mujeres” contenidos en la Declaración de las Naciones Unidas de la Comisión sobre el Estatuto de la Mujer denominada Eliminación y prevención de toda forma de violencia contra mujeres y chicas jóvenes.

Segunda paradoja: USAID, que contribuyó a la desaparición de los derechos de la mujer al promover el adoctrinamiento religioso en Afganistán, está promoviendo ahora los derechos de la mujer para provocar un cambio de régimen en Siria. Mientras tanto, Estados Unidos junto con Arabia Saudí y Qatar están apoyando a grupos extremistas islamistas que luchan contra el gobierno laico sirio. Algunas de las llamadas “zonas liberadas” de Siria  están gobernadas ahora por extremistas religiosos:

“La escuela religiosa wahhabi y los derechos de la mujer en una zona ‘liberada’ de Alepo gobernada por la ‘oposición’ respaldada por Estados Unidos y Arabia Saudí [son] ‘una clara mejora’ si se compara con el sistema de educación laica imperante en Siria(Michel Chossudovsky, Syria: Women’s Rights and Islamist Education in a “Liberated” Area of Aleppo, Global Research, 27 de marzo de 2013).

 

En caso de que se instale en Damasco un régimen que actúe en nombre de Estados Unidos, puede que los derechos y libertades de las mujeres sirias sigan la misma “trayectoria de amenaza de las libertades” que la de las mujeres afganas bajo el régimen talibán respaldado por Estados Unidos y que continúa bajo la ocupación estadounidense y de la OTAN.

Julie Lévesque

Una versión anterior de este artículo fue publicada por RT Op-Edge

Fuente: http://www.globalresearch.ca/from-afghanistan-to-syria-womens-rights-war-propaganda-and-the-cia/5329665

Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Beatriz Morales Bastos

Julie Lévesque es periodista e investigadora del Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal. Fue una de los primeros periodistas independientes que visitaron Haiti tras el terremoto de enero de 2010. En 2011 iba a bordo del“The Spirit of Rachel Corrie”, el único barco humanitario que entró en las aguas territoriales de Gaza antes de que la armada israelí disparara contra él.

Nuclear Regulators Just “Rolling the Dice”

Energy intelligence reports:

Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko says that the current fleet of operating plants in the US should be phased out because regulators can’t guarantee against an accident causing widespread land contamination. In two key decisions last week Jaczko said the agency “damaged significantly” its international reputation for upholding safety and he accused the five commissioners of “just rolling the dice” in dealing with severe accidents.

Jaczko is correct that “the current fleet of operating plants in the US [is unsafe] regulators can’t guarantee against an accident causing widespread land contamination”.

An investigation by Associated Press found that 75 percent of all U.S. nuclear sites have leaked radioactive tritium.

And whistleblowers at the Nuclear Regulator Commission say that the risk of a major meltdown at U.S. nuclear reactors is much higher than it was at Fukushima.

And an accident in the U.S. could be a lot larger than in Japan … partly because our nuclear plants hold a lot more radioactive material. Radiation could cause illness in huge numbers of Americans, and a major nuclear accident could literally bankrupt America.

And yet the nuclear regulators have dragged their feet in demanding even modest upgrades to prevent Fukushima-type disasters.  We reported more than a year ago:

The geniuses at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have given the green light for new nuclear power plants in the U.S. [over Jaczko's objections] which don’t include safety upgrades which were demonstrated vital by the Fukushima meltdown.

Jaczco explained last month:

I suggested putting in a requirement or a “condition” in the license, that said that they would not operate the plant until all of the Fukushima changes were implemented.

My colleagues on the commission rejected that proposal. Given that they rejected it, I had no choice but to disapprove issuing the licenses.

Bloomberg gave an update on last month:

U.S. nuclear regulators delayed action on a recommendation that utilities install radiation filters at 31 U.S. reactors, a victory for the industry that estimated the proposal may cost as much as $20 million per unit.

***

Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and a critic of the nuclear industry, said the NRC is delaying what he called an important safety upgrade at about a third of the nation’s 104 operating reactors.

“The NRC has abdicated its responsibility to ensure public health and safety in New England and across the country,” Markey, who is running for Senate, said in a statement.

***

The Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington-based industry group, had said adding filters on vents as proposed by the agency’s staff was among the most expensive upgrades required by the regulator. Exelon Corp. of Chicago owns 11 of the 31 reactors.

***

Edwin Lyman, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said NRC staff had already made the case the filters were an important safety enhancement. The NRC’s decision “kicks the can down the road.”

***

Some European countries require installation of filter to block radiation on vents, Lyman said. Japan announced last year that filtered vents will be required on its reactors.

Indeed, the nuclear regulators actually weakened safety standards after the Fukushima disaster.

Jaczco makes some good points regarding nuclear:

The biggest problem with the NRC continues to be the heavy influence that the industry has in selecting the members of the commission. It is a very political process.There are few commissioners who ever get onto the commission who are not endorsed by the industry. [Indeed, all nuclear agencies are wholly controlled by (and serve) the nuclear industry … just like the Federal Reserve is owned by (and serves) its member banks.]

***

We need to rethink the current design to have better designs such as small modular reactors.

If we have a reactor that is 100 megawatts, the quantity of material and the energy we have to disperse that material is significantly reduced.

It will not contaminate a 10-kilometer radius area, because it does not have enough material. [We've previously noted nuclear power can be generated and then used locally at the neighborhood scale ... a lot safer than Tepco or GE can do it in a giant nuclear plant.]

***

Fundamentally, the way I look at it is that we know how to maintain nuclear fuel in the short term. For the most part, we think it maintains its integrity. It does not need a lot of active systems, and dry casks work very well as far as we know.

Dry casks would solve the storage problem, but – like the new filters which the NRC and nuclear energy are fighting – they would cost a little money.

Remember: Nuclear energy can be cheap, or it can be safe … but it can’t be both.

Nuclear power is being pushed because it is good for making bombs – even though it could not survive without massive government subsidies, and even though it won’t necessarily reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Jaczko is correct that regulators are “just rolling the dice” in dealing with severe accidents, just as financial regulators rolled the dice in dealing with the economy, and oil regulators rolled the dice in dealing with deep-sea drilling.  That never works out very well.

Margaret Thatcher with Chilean Dictator General Augusto Pinochet

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams commenting on the death today of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said:

“Margaret Thatcher did great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British Prime Minister.

“Working class communities were devastated in Britain because of her policies.

“Her role in international affairs was equally belligerent whether in support of the Chilean dictator Pinochet, her opposition to sanctions against apartheid South Africa; and her support for the Khmer Rouge.

“Here in Ireland her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering. She embraced censorship, collusion and the killing of citizens by covert operations, including the targeting of solicitors like Pat Finucane, alongside more open military operations and refused to recognise the rights of citizens to vote for parties of their choice.

“Her failed efforts to criminalise the republican struggle and the political prisoners is part of her legacy.

“It should be noted that in complete contradiction of her public posturing, she authorised a back channel of communications with the Sinn Féin leadership but failed to act on the logic of this.

“Unfortunately she was faced with weak Irish governments who failed to oppose her securocrat agenda or to enlist international support in defence of citizens in the north.

“Margaret Thatcher will be especially remembered for her shameful role during the epic hunger strikes of 1980 and 81.

“Her Irish policy failed miserably.”

Last night, on the day that Margaret Thatcher died, much of the mainstream media fell over itself to mourn the passing of a ‘great’ leader. There were of course some references to her being a ‘divisive figure’, but only because she did what ‘had to be done’, which politicians before her were too weak-willed to do (ie attack workers’ rights, the welfare state and beat down wages).

Even people like Henry Kissinger, a man often accused as having the blood of innocent millions on his hands, were wheeled onto our screens to tell the British public what a really outstanding leader she was. That the BBC would turn to Kissinger for such a ringing endorsement of Thatcher’s policies and personality says a lot about the mindset over at the good old ‘Beeb’.

I happened to see Kissinger on the BBC’s late night ‘serious’ new analysis programme Newsnight. Presented by senior broadcaster Jeremy Paxman, prior to talking with Kissinger, the show hosted a studio debate about Thatcher’s legacy. As elsewhere, it was a broadcast lavishly sprinkled with eulogies for the ‘great Margaret’.

Early in the broadcast a Conservative MP (or ex-MP) offered his opinion about her legacy. He stated that Thatcher served to put an end to certain debates that had raged prior to her taking power, not least the question of capitalism being the best system for delivering goods and services effectively and for wealth creation. Paxman sat there and just let this go.

Yet, later in the broadcast, leftist political figure Ken Livingstone made a comment about her legacy, which included the current a housing crisis in Britain. Paxman was on him straight away, pulling him up and tell Livingstone about Thatcher’s ‘successes’ in the housing sector. Livingstone’s comment about the housing crisis was benign when compared with the Tory person’s comments that celebrated the wonders of capitalism.

How a senior BBC presenter can sit there and not challenge someone who says the debate about socialism/capitalism is ended because capitalism has proved to be successful may well be beyond the thought process of some people. Successful for whom? For the rich and for millionaire politicians who come on to our screens and perpetuate this lie.

The banking system has collapsed and ordinary folk are being burdened with ‘austerity’ (mass unemployment, cuts to welfare and services) to pay the for bankers’ losses as a result of their gambling and criminality. Thatcher deregulated the ‘City’ which gave bankers a free rein in the first place.

Due to ‘deregulation’ in many areas, we now have virtual monopolies in various sectors, including energy, finance and transport. Manufacturing jobs have been outsourced and replaced with Macjobs or no jobs at all and underemployment. Communities across the UK are suffering from social breakdown, criminality, drugs, etc. There is a housing crisis and a personal debt crisis. And ordinary people’s share of wealth has declined (from 65 to 53 percent in the 80s alone).

Inequalities began to rocket under Thatcher and were perpetuated by ‘New Labour’, which supported her policies. Economic growth in the 80s was the same as in the 70s – wealth creation? Wealth was funnelled towards the top.

Capitalism is regarded as being so successful by its proponents because higher profits ensued as unemployment rose and labour became cheap in Britain where the unions were broken or was already cheap in the countries to where jobs were outsourced. And as the share of wealth going to labour fell, demand for goods fell, so debt was introduced to boost it. Where now, seeing the level of consumer debt was unsustainable? Capitalism cannot manage is crises, it just shifts them around in ever decreasing circles. Capitalism is in crisis because of it. Look no further than the ‘Eurozone crisis’ and the slow death of the US economy.

Capitalism (via ‘globalisation’) is devastating communities and economies all over the world, not least farmers in India who have experienced debt and poverty on a massive scale as western agribuisiness has taken over farming; and not least in terms of the illegal land grabs from tribal people in Orissa and Chhattisgarh being undertaken by the Indian govt on behalf of trans-national corporations. From Congo, Mali, Libya and Syria, so-called capitalist countries in the West, via NATO and its proxy armies, are causing devastation and conflict in order to grab the resources required to feed western capitalism’ rapacious appetite.

Whether it’s IMF/WTO backed policies that impose ‘structural adjustment’ on sovereign states or it is NATO paving the way for the looting of countries, the ‘capitalism’ often celebrated in/by the mainstream media is not based on some notion of a ‘free market’ but is based on brute force, coercion and bullying. But this is not to be discussed. This is the rantings of the ‘extremist’ or unrealistic ‘dreamer’. This is beyond the scope of what is considered ‘rational’ debate within the cosy TV studios ofLondon and ‘Westminster Village’. And because it’s beyond the scope, the real extremism, the brutality of monopoly capitalism and imperialism does not get mentioned and is therefore left unchecked by the media.

While ‘on air’ it may at times be difficult or unnecessary to launch into a wide ranging critique of capitalism, to just sit there and accept at face value and not challenge someone who espouses the greatness of capitalism is a dereliction of duty. But this is what the mainstream media specialises in. It is par for the course as far as the BBC is concerned. It’s to be expected.

I once came across an anecdote about Noam Chomsky. Apparently, he was having some trouble with his teeth, due to him grinding them. After much speculation and pondering, the cause of the grinding was pinpointed. He only did it when he read the New York Times!

I stopped watching the BBC and the mainstream media in general after the one-sided representation of the Libyan conflict. My mistake is that I tuned in to watch it again last night. Unfortunately, it’s a mistake millions make on a daily basis.

Banana Giant Fears National Security Archive “Media Campaign”. Company Says SEC Should Withhold Info on Illegal Transactions.

Washington, D.C. – Chiquita Brands International last week filed a “reverse” Freedom of Information lawsuit to block the release of records to the National Security Archive on the company’s illegal payments to Colombian terrorist groups, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court. At issue are thousands of documents the company turned over to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from 1998-2004 as part of an investigation of the company’s illegal transactions with leftist insurgents and right-wing paramilitaries from the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

Two years ago, the Archive published “The Chiquita Papers,” a declassified collection of more than 5,000 pages of internal Chiquita documents turned over to the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as part of a criminal investigation of more than $1.7 million in payments to the AUC over six years, and for nearly three years after the group was formally designated as a terrorist organization. That case resulted in a 2007 sentencing agreement in which Chiquita admitted to more than ten years of payments to a variety of Colombian guerrilla and paramilitary groups.

The Chiquita Papers included evidence that Chiquita and its Colombian subsidiary had received tangible benefits from those transactions, undermining one of the key aspects of the company’s defense: that it had never received “any actual security services or actual security equipment in exchange for the payments.” Chiquita’s “reverse” FOIA complaint now claims that the news headlines based on the documents were part of “a media campaign to publicize biased mischaracterizations of the documents.”

“We strongly reject Chiquita’s assertion that we mischaracterized information found in their own corporate records,” said Michael Evans, director of the Archive’s Colombia Documentation Project. “Chiquita admitted to more than a decade of regular payments to death squads and narcotraffickers,” he added. “Now, Chiquita wants to cover up the documents that would let us judge for ourselves whether those payments were extortion or security for banana operations, or both.”

Among the evidence that Chiquita did, in fact, benefit from its “sensitive payments” is a 1994 legal memo indicating that Colombian insurgents provided security at some of Chiquita’s plantations in Colombia. The memo says that the general manager of Chiquita operations in Turbó told company attorneys that “Guerrilla Groups” were “used to supply security personnel at the various farms.” Asubsequent draft of the same memo includes annotations asking, “Why is this relevant?” and, “Why is this being written?”

Another document published by the Archive in April 2011 shows that Chiquita also paid right-wing paramilitary forces for security services-including intelligence on guerrilla operations-after the AUC wrested control of the region from insurgents in the mid-1990s. The March 2000 memo, written by Chiquita Senior Counsel Robert Thomas and based on a conversation with managers from Chiquita’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Banadex, indicates that paramilitaries formed a front company to disguise “the real purpose of providing security.” The unidentified Banadex official said Chiquita “should continue making the payments,” because the company “can’t get the same level of support from the military.”

The “reverse” FOIA filing is the latest development in a four-and-a-half-year Archive legal effort to document Chiquita’s financial relationships with illegal armed groups responsible for some of the worst human rights atrocities of Colombia’s decades-old civil war. A “reverse” FOIA is a common lawsuit strategy, mostly used by contractors to prevent their cost-plus or profit-margin figures from being released by government agencies.

The new case is the direct outgrowth of a 2010 lawsuit in which the Archive sought to compel the SEC to process a pair of FOIA requests relating to the Chiquita investigation. More than three years later the agency made its final decision with respect to legal, financial and other documents Chiquita turned over to the SEC during the course of its inquiries, granting confidential treatment to only 45 pages among some 23 boxes of responsive material. Chiquita’s “reverse” FOIA action follows multiple attempts on its part to convince the SEC to reverse that decision.

In making its case against disclosure of the “Chiquita Payment Documents,” the company cites FOIA Exemption (7)(B), which exempts from disclosure “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes” to the extent that production “would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(B). Chiquita claims that it is subject to two pending “adjudications,” a consolidated civil suit filed in Florida on behalf of victims of the terrorist groups that Chiquita funded, and a preliminary criminal investigation now underway in Colombia.

Dismissing those arguments, SEC Associate General Counsel Richard M. Humes found that while the Florida case did indeed qualify as a “trial or adjudication,” he also determined “that Chiquita did not demonstrate that public disclosure of the Chiquita Payment Documents ‘would seriously interfere with the fairness of the pending adjudication.’”

With respect to the Colombia matter, Humes concluded that “the criminal investigation pending in Colombia against current and former Chiquita employees and those of its subsidiary” does not meet the standard necessary to withhold information, since Exemption 7(B) refers “specifically to ‘a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication’ but does not apply to ‘investigations.’” Humes points out that Chiquita accurately characterized the Colombian matter as an “investigation” in several previous filings and “only began referring to the investigation as the ‘Colombian FiscalíaProceeding’ in its request for reconsideration.”

The Archive is represented in the FOIA litigation against the SEC by Jeffrey Gutman, director of the Public Justice Advocacy Clinic at The George Washington University Law School.

Edited by Michael Evans

For more information contact:
Michael Evans 202/994-7000 or [email protected]

On Monday the  5th of November 2012, Somaliland forces mounted an offensive [1] against Khatumo state forces based in Hudun town.

Hudun[2] town is situated in the western parts of Sool province, in what was a relatively peaceful area of Northern Somalia.

Pro Somaliland media outlets reported [3] that “the skirmishes” were the result of elements who were trying to intimidate voters in the “local elections [4]” that was held in Somaliland. However the offensive launched by Somaliland on the 5th of November proved to be just the start of what would be a prolonged offensive campaign waged by Somaliland on Khatumo State forces based in Hudun town.

Repeated [5] clashes followed on the  28th of November, the  1st31st of December, the 23th24th of January, the  1st13th of February 2013, with the most recent one being on the 8th of March. The offensive on the  8th of March followed the  press release [6] by Jacka resources on 6th March of large structural petroleum prospects in North Somalia.

In three months’ time Somaliland attacked Hudun a total of nine times. Sources close to Somaliland have confirmed Somaliland is planning a new major offensive. In spite of Somaliland’s continued offensive, Khatumo remains in firm control of Hudun town.

Illegitimate Oil Deals

Prior to the start of its offensive on the 5th of November, Somaliland signed a deal [7] on the 30th of October 2012 with  Genel Energy Plc to drill two wells for Oil in Northwestern Somalia, on two blocks assigned by Somaliland. Soon after the deal Somaliland militia headed towards Hudun and attacked the town.

Hudun town is situated on the Nugaal block [8]one of the blocks to be drilled for oil.

The Nugaal block is a stretch of land situated in the regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (Buhoodle town) in short the SSC [9] regions, and to a lesser extend Nugaal region. The Nugaal block has been  sold [10] to oil companies by both Somaliland and Puntland. Somaliland has sold the land to Genel Energy led by  Tony Hayward, the former BP CEO, who headed BP during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. Puntland has sold the land to Horn Petroleum.

However both entities do not control or have minimal control of the Nugaal Block, with the later having no physical presence at all in the SSC region. There are also claims being made by large international oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell [11], who possess old oil exploration licenses granted by the former Somali government of Major General Mohamed Siad Barre. The SSC region is not only rich in Oil but also has large reserves of Tin, Iron Ore, Zircominium, Copper, Cobalt and Chromium.

The Nugaal Block is largely  controlled [12] by Khatumo State and cannot be sold to any foreign company without the consent of Khatumo State, that represents the aspirations of the local population.

Investors in companies who claim to have bought the rights to explore Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) from either Somaliland or Puntland should be informed about the facts on the ground, and the conflict that these oil deals have caused. Any funds disbursed to these two entities for drilling rights on the Nugaal block can be considered as an squandered investment and a lack of due diligence on the part of these companies.

mig1

The Nugaal block is the most sought out by the oil companies, with prospective resources of 4.1 Billion barrels of oil.

Extraction of Oil and Minerals can only be done with the support of the local population represented by Khatumo State of Somalia.

The War Waged against Khatumo State and the SSC population

Puntland and Somaliland have been waging war against each-other in the SSC regions for a  decade [13] now, and in the last three years  against [14] Khatumo State of Somalia and its predecessor SSC.

Khatumo State of Somalia was created on the 12th of January 2012, in the historic town of Taleh [15]. The officials of  Khatumostate of Somalia [16] have been elected and endorsed by the civil society at large including the 13 Garaads of the SSC regions (prominent elders of SSC), women associations and business groups.

Since the creation of Khatumo State of Somalia and its predecessor SSC, Somaliland and Puntland have moved closer to each-other and have formed an alliance to fully eliminate any party that may challenge their claims to these regions. This alliance culminated into a  coordinated [17] attack on Khatumo State forces on the 28th of June 2012 by Puntland and Somaliland on Tukaraq a small village in Sool region, situated 15 Miles from Garowe, the capital of Puntland. The presumption in the SSC regions is that Puntland and Somaliland have divided the area between themselves.

Since the  capture of Lasanod by Somaliland on the 5th of October 2007, there has been a relentless war against the local population. The war waged by Somaliland includes the targeting of food convoys,  sexual violence [18], arbitrary excecutions of nomads [19] and their animals with mobile units of technicals mounted with machine guns. The wars waged by Somaliland in Buhoodle district alone have resulted in the displacement of  150,000 residents as reported [20] by the UN monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea. These fleeing civilians end up in villages and cities where safety is provided by Khatumo State of Somalia or end up in refugee camps in Kenya.

The displacement of civilians from their homes and livelihoods by Somaliland is the main cause of loss of life in the Northern region of Somalia. The war in the SSC region will continue and accelerate in the near future while Somaliland is trying to secure these regions for  seismic surveys on the ground and eventually drilling.

Despite Somaliland’s continues offensive it has been losing ground to Khatumo State that has the support of the local population.

The role of the International community and the UN

The UN has undertaken various governance and law programmes in Somaliland, including the training [21] of  Special police unitsmaritime police and the donating of vehicles [22]. The aim of these governance programs is to increase the efficiency and the effectiveness of the security forces thereby “increasing security” in “Somaliland”.

These programs do not take into account the war waged by Somaliland on Khatumo State and the SSC population. Increasing the effectiveness of the security means increasing their ability to wage war. At the start of 2012, Somaliland started to use its newly acquired equipment and training received to  attack Buhoodle district.

The UN is aware of the war that Somaliland is waging in the SSC region but is still committed to funding “governance and law” programs in Somaliland and has even increased funding for these kind of projects for 2013. Through the UN, the  United  Kingdom and to a lesser extend the European Union have been the biggest donors to Somaliland. The budget of Somaliland depends on the funds made available by the International community.

The United Kingdom has been informed [23] of the war waged by Somaliland by the SSC diaspora living in the United Kingdom and is well aware of Somaliland’s war against Khatumo State of Somalia and its people. However it has promised increased funding [24]  to Somaliland. One has to question why the United Kingdom is funding Somaliland while it is waging war in the SSC regions of Somalia.

Although there has been a decade of war in North Somalia (Somaliland), there is a media blackout of the conflict. Many media outlets even portray Somaliland as an oases of Peace in Northern Somalia, with the BBC leading the way.

Khatumo State and the SSC population

Khatumo State of Somalia and the population living in the SSC regions are aware that the war is not only about Somaliland wanting to secede, but that it is increasingly a war for resources. Somaliland has been able to promote itself as being in full control of the SSC region to oil companies, and is actively seeking to “sell” land to these companies. The international community is keen to explore these resources.

The war in the SSC regions is developing into a war for the resources of North Somalia. The human and material cost suffered by the SSC population is of no relevance to Somaliland and the oil companies.

Khaatumo State and the SSC population are aware that the resources on their land can either be a blessing or a curse. Today Khaatumo State controls the majority of the SSC regions and is actively working towards the development of the region. It is the right of the people of Khaatumo State to choose their own destiny, and to develop their own land.

mig2

Notes

1.  ”Somaliland troops clash with rebels in Hudun”. http://somaliamediamonitoring.org. 6 November 2012. Retrieved 30 March, from http://somaliamediamonitoring.org/november-6-2012-daily-monitoring-report/

2. Location Hudun, see: http://www.gomapper.com/travel/where-is/hudun-nugaal-located.html

3. ”Somaliland: Skirmishes in Hudun as Polling gets underway”. http://somalilandpress.com. 5 November 2012.

Retrieved 30 March, from http://somalilandpress.com/somaliland-skirmishes-in-hudun-as-polling-gets-underway-38009

4. The local election held in Somaliland in 2012, was largely of tribal nature were each sub clan of the ruling Isaaq clan of Somaliland had its own party. The 4 (DhulbahanteGadabuursiIssa, and Warsangali) other clans of Somaliland did not participate and were not represented during the local election. See Steve Kibble. “Preparing for local elections in Somaliland”.http://www.progressio.org.uk. Retrieved 30 March, from http://www.progressio.org.uk/sites/progressio.org.uk/files/Preparing-for-local-elections-Sld-2012.pd

5. Repeated clashes, see: “Fighting erupts in Hudun district, Sool region”. http://www.bar-kulan.com. 28 November 2012.  Retrieved 30 March, from http://www.bar-kulan.com/2012/11/28/fighting-erupts-in-hudun-district-sool-region/, “Somaliland (Somalia) 1 Dec 2012″. http://www.crisisgroup.org. 1 December 2012.  Retrieved 30 March, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/crisiswatch/crisiswatch-database.aspx?CountryIDs={F8A09CE3-0615-4CBA-9EC7-7DCC2A088A7E}, “War in Xudun” (Somali language). http://www.lasanod.com. 31 December 2012.  Retrieved 30 March, from www.lasanod.com/details.php?wararPage=12&num=8520, “War in Xudun” (Somali language).http://www.lasanod.com. 22 January 2013.  Retrieved 30 March, from http://www.lasanod.com/details.php?wararPage=6&num=8637, “Somaliland:Khatumo Militias Dislodged from Hudun Bases”. http://somalilandsun.com. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 30 March, from http://samotalis.blogspot.nl/2013/01/somalilandkhatumo-militias-dislodged.html, “Somaliland Army Crush Khatumo Aligned Militiamen”. somaliamediamonitoring.org. 24 January 2013. Retrieved 30 March, fromhttp://somaliamediamonitoring.org/january-25-2013-daily-monitoring-report/, “Somaliland (Somalia) 1 Feb 2013″.http://www.crisisgroup.org. 1 February 2012.  Retrieved 30 March, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/crisiswatch/crisiswatch-database.aspx?CountryIDs={F8A09CE3-0615-4CBA-9EC7-7DCC2A088A7E}, “North Somalia: Somaliland Militia & Khatumo State Forces Clash in Hudun Town, Sool Region, Somalia February 13. 2013″. http://awdalstatenews.com. 13 February 2013. Retrieved 30 March, from http://awdalstatenews.com/north-somalia-somaliland-militia-khatumo-state-forces-clash-in-hudun-town-sool-region-somalia-february-13-2013/, “Somaliland: clashes between army and khaatumo separatist group militiamen in Hudun town”. http://beforeitsnews.com. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 30 March, from http://beforeitsnews.com/war-and-conflict/2013/03/somaliland-clashes-between-army-and-khaatumo-separatist-group-militiamen-in-hudun-town-2445388.html

6. Bevis,Yeo. “Jacka Resources finds promising structures in Somaliland petroleum block”.http://www.proactiveinvestors.com.au. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 30 March, from

7. ”Turkish firm eyes Somaliland”. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com. 30 October 2012. Retrieved 30 March, from

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-firm-eyes-somaliland.aspx?pageID=238&nid=33524

8. ”Nogal and Dharoor valley blocks”. http://www.africaoilcorp.com. Retrieved 30 March, fromhttp://www.africaoilcorp.com/s/Nogal.asp

9. SSC region, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:SSC_Somalia/Sandbox1

10. Kelly Gilblom. “Row between Somali regions slows oil exploration”. http://uk.reuters.com. 11 May 2012.  Retrieved 30 March, from http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/05/11/somalia-oil-idUKL5E8GB3LG20120511

11. Jon Kamp. http://www.foxbusiness.com. 21 March 2013.  Retrieved 30 March, fromhttp://www.foxbusiness.com/news/2013/03/21/royal-dutch-shell-ceo-highlights-somalia-holdings/

12. Political map of Somalia, see: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9f/Somalia_map_states_regions_districts.png

13. For an analysis, see: Markus V. Hoehne. “Puntland and Somaliland Clashing in Northern Somalia: Who Cuts the Gordian Knot?” http://hornofafrica.ssrc.org. 7 November 2007.  Retrieved 30 March, from http://hornofafrica.ssrc.org/Hoehne/

14. Mark Anderson. “Somaliland clashes with secessionists” http://www.reuters.com. 10 February 2012.  Retrieved 30 March, from http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/10/somalia-conflict-idUSL2E8D9BN420120210

15. Historic town of Taleh, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taleh

16. “What is Khatumo State”. http://www.somaliareport.com. 26 April 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2013, from http://www.somaliareport.com/index.php/post/3271/What_is_Khatumo_State

17. Abdinur Elmi Qaaje. Khatumo State of Somalia. “Joint war Waged by Somaliland and Puntland Administrations on Khatumo State of Somalia”. 28 June 2012. Retrieved 30 March, from http://lasanod.com/details.php?wararPage=3&num=7679

18 Osman Hassan. “Somaliland occupying militia gang-rape 13-year old girl in Sool”. http://khatumo.net. 30 December

2012. Retrieved 04 April 2013 from http://khatumo.net/?p=1363. Dalmar Kaahin, a pro Somaliland reports of 13 old being raped. “Somaliland: the Violent Militant, Khatumo’s “Press Release” Back Fires”. http://somalilandpress.com. Retrieved 30 March, from http://somalilandpress.com/somaliland-the-violent-militant-khatumo%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cpress-release%E2%80%9D-back-fires-39179

19 “Warlord Siilaanyo & His Somaliland Killing KHaatumo Civilians”. http://www.dhanbaal.com. 26 January 2012.

Retrieved 30 March, from http://www.dhanbaal.com/main/index.php?module=News&func=display&sid=1571

20 Matt Bryden, Coordinator Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea. “Letter dated 20 June 2011 from the members of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea addressed to the Chairman of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea”. Page 130. 20 June 2011. Retrieved 30 March, from http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2011/433

21 Yusuf M Hasan. “Somaliland: UK Trained Resistant Reaction Police Unit Graduate”. http://www.somalilandsun.com. 15 March 2012.  Retrieved 30 March, from http://index.php/politics/402- somaliland-uk-trained-resistant-reaction-police-unit-graduate, Colonel S. R. Roberts. “Conference on capacity- building to Counter Piracy off the coast of Somalia”. 15 May 2012.  Retrieved 30 March, from http://www.imo.org/MediaCentre/HotTopics/piracy/Documents/UNPOS.pdf

22 “UNDP donates vehicles to Somaliland police, judiciary”. Retrieved 30 March, from http://www.mareeg.com/fidsan.php?sid=6272&tirsan=3

23 Alex Milan Tracy. “Somali’s demonstrate against Somaliland’s war on SSC people”. http://www.demotix.com. 5

March 2011.  Retrieved 30 March, from http://www.demotix.com/news/612059/somalis-demonstrate-against- somalilands-war-ssc-people#media-612064

24 “UK increases aid to Somalia”. http://somalilandpress.com. Retrieved 30 March, from http://somalilandpress.com/uk-increases-aid-to-somalia-20537

What’s Wrong with the US Economy and How we Can Fix It

April 9th, 2013 by Margaret Flowers

This article is based on a talk that we gave at the Maine Peoples Budget conference at the University of Maine in Orono. It was a sponsored by the Maine Alliance for the Common Good, a coalition of organizations that work on different issues and recognize that all of their issues are connected. They are focused on the current budget cuts and what they can do to create an economy that serves and protects people and the planet.

In the presentation, we described the current economic situation and the direction that the economy is headed. We outlined a strategy to shift economic and political power to people and create a democratized economy so that people have more control over the economy and so that the economy benefits more people. This will reduce the wealth divide and start to meet more people’s basic needs.

Democratized economic institutions are being put in place throughout the world and support for a democratized economy is growing within the US. Given the current risks for another recession or perhaps another crash in the US, these systems may serve as protection from increased poverty that would otherwise be the result.

This is a broad overview and we did not include some important topics such as debt and lack of savings and retirement security for many. But, we hope this will help to frame the current situation and what we can do about it.

Slide 1: Overall, the US grows wealthier every year. This trend has been fairly consistent over the past 200 years except for the period around the depression and WWII. Manufacturing output in the US continues to grow too despite low levels of manufacturing employment. Manufacturing is changing in the US due to increased use of technology which replaces workers.

slide 1

Slide 2: And corporate profits continue to grow. Corporate profits are rising dramatically again following the economic crash in 2008. Of all of the presidents, Obama has been the best for Wall Street. Average annual profit growth during Obama’s presidency is nearly 80%. Under the next closest president, Harding, there was an average annual growth of less than 20%.

 2

Slide 3:  But employment has fallen. Employment took a precipitous drop and remains at a fairly steady level following the 2008 crash. This chart does not reflect the number of people who have given up on looking for a job, nor does it reflect the number of people who are underemployed. When these factors are included, the actual unemployment is closer to 49%. See http://itsoureconomy.us/2012/08/the-real-unemployment-rate-in-the-u-s/

3

Slide 4: Over the past four decades, income has only risen significantly for the top 1%. The charts show that income has only risen for the top 1% and top 20% since 1979, and there are wide disparities in the degree of growth. For the bottom 80%, income has fallen.

4

Slide 5: Most of us are still in a recession. Since the economic crash of 2008, profits in the financial sector have returned to previous high levels. From 2009 to 2011, average real income per family grew modestly by 1.7%, but the gains were very uneven. Incomes of the top 1% grew by 11.2% while incomes of the bottom 99% shrunk by 0.4%. Hence, the top 1% captured 121% of the income gains in the first two years of the recovery. See http://itsoureconomy.us/2013/02/obama-recovery-the-rich-get-richer-but-everyone-else-gets-poorer/.

5

Slide 6: Big business and the wealthy were taxed at rates as high as 92% in the mid-20th century. In reality, taxes this high were not paid because CEOs took lower salaries and re-invested profits in their businesses which built the economy. Currently, because of tax havens and corporate tax loopholes, some of the largest corporations pay no taxes, indeed some receive large tax refunds, and the wealthy pay a much lower tax rate on income that is derived from investments. The first chart shows the actual tax rates paid by the 1% and 0.1%. The trends can be compared to the second chart which shows the change in share of total income.

6 

Slide 7:  As a result of all of the above, wealth inequality is growing in the US. The Gini coefficient is a measure of wealth inequality; the higher it is, the greater the inequality. The chart on the left shows that it has been rising steadily since the late 1960s with spikes in the early 1990’s and following the 2008 economic crash. In addition, the chart on the right shows that labor’s share of the GDP has fallen sharply.

 7

Slide 8: This Harvard study showed that wealth distribution in the US is very far from the ideal and what most people think it is.

8

Slide 9: A small number of financial and transnational corporations control a large part of the global wealth. Through their influence over the political process and their control over resources, jobs and capital, these corporations are currently in power. And they are seeking greater power through the TransPacific Partnership which will give transnational corporations power over sovereign nations. We think of it as a global corporate coup. See http://www.flushthetpp.org/ for more information.

9

Slide 10: The US is heading in the same direction as many countries in the EU and the UK. Austerity measures in a fragile and struggling economy will create a recession. A more effective response to the economy would be to increase taxes on the wealthy, create full employment, strengthen social insurances and regulate capital. Instead, we are seeing false crises and debates that provide cover for increased cuts to social programs and other austerity measures. Emphasis is misplaced on the deficit instead of on the wealth divide. The chart shows GDP rose after the New Deal and fell during a recession that ensued when FDR cut social spending.

10

Slide 11: There are evidence-based solutions to every crisis that we face. And supermajorities of people support these solutions, but Congress and the White House are going in the opposite direction. These solutions are not even allowed into the national conversation. This is why we believe that people as a group would make better decisions than those in power.

soln 11

Slide 12: When discussing solutions, we should not limit ourselves to what is “on the table.” And here are three principles that are essential for success. The first is to be independent of political party in our agenda. If we tie our agenda to a particular party, then we are set up for compromise. We must be clear about what we are demanding so that we cannot be confused by partial or false solutions. And we must be uncompromising on the fundamentals so that we don’t accept non-solutions.

12

Slide 13: We can shift power to the people. It has happened before and there is empirical evidence of what works. We propose a two-pronged approach of protesting what we oppose to expose it and try to stop it while creating alternative systems to replace what currently exists. More time and energy should be spent on building new systems.

13

Slide 14: When the Super Committee was meeting in Washington in 2011, we protested the hearings and held our own Super Committee hearing. We brought in experts on taxation, military spending, jobs, healthcare and more and we asked them to propose solutions based on the evidence of what works. From that, we wrote our own deficit proposal.

14

Slide 15: We are in a “Great Turning.” The global society is shifting from one that is competitive and that exploits and destroys the Earth to one that is based on cooperation and sustainability. This is already happening. We have an opportunity to nourish this turning and create alternative systems that are life-sustaining. We can organize based on solidarity, cooperation, sustainability and democracy.

15

Slides 16 to 25: A new economy is rising around the world and within the US. We can build this new economy within the Capitalist economy so that it arises and replaces Capitalism. Some call it a Solidarity Economy We call it a Democratized Economy because it is based on greater control of the economy by people and greater equality and benefit for people. Here is a brief outline of the new economy. It is not exhaustive. There is more information on our website, ItsOurEconomy.us. Use the search box on the website to find more information on specific topics. You may also want to read the “Occupy G8 Peoples’ Summit Report” which provides more information and links to resources.

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

24

23

25

We published the power point on It’s Our Economy, see here, so that it can be downloaded and others can use it in their communities. If you have any questions about the charts please contact us at [email protected].  We encourage you to share this widely so people can understand the economic situation and how to create an economy that serves all of us.

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

A terrorist explosion rocked the area between al-Shahbander and Sabe’a Bahrat Square in Damascus on Monday, leaving 14 martyrs at least, 146 injured people and huge material damage in the surrounding area.

Director of Damascus Health Directorate, Dr. Adel Mansour, told SANA that the bodies of 14 citizens martyred in the terrorist bombing arrived at public and private hospitals, in addition to a container containing limbs and 146 wounded people among them women and children and some of the suffering from crucial injuries.

Mansour said that all medical and ER personnel have been put on alert to treat the wounded and perform emergency operations and procedures for the critically injured.

SANA reporter said that terrorists detonated a car bomb in a crowded area near Salim Bukhari school, Buaeir Mosque and residential buildings.

SANA reporter denied that any clashes took place in the area, as some malicious TV channels alleged, pointing out that some authority personnel fired gunshots in the air to open streets for ambulances.

One of the locals told SANA that the bomber chose a time when students were leaving schools and when people were going to pray at the nearby mosque.

A woman who was helping to get students from Salim Bukhari School away from the site of the bombing said that the bombing shook the school, and that some of the children were martyred or injured while the others were in a state of panic.

Prime Minister Dr. Wael al-Halqi visited the site of the bombing and inspected the damages it caused, affirming that Syria will continue its battle against terrorism until the end in order to achieve security and stability across Syria.

In a statement to journalists at the scene of the bombing, al-Halqi said that the achievements of the Armed Forces against terrorism and the failure of the terrorists and those who support them are the motives for committing such criminal acts.

He said that terrorists don’t hesitate to attack mosques similar to what happened in al-Iman Mosque because they seek to undermine the moderate and compassionate Islam which has been a mainstay of the Syrian people for centuries.

Al-Halqi added that this attack, which took place near the Central Bank of Syria, also targets the Syrian economy which has withstood two years of unjust sanctions and embargos, particularly in light of the recent stabilization of the Syrian Pound due to the government’s steps in this regard.

20130408-142526.jpg

20130408-142555.jpg

20130408-142625.jpg

20130408-142650.jpg

20130408-142715.jpg

20130408-142752.jpg

20130408-142821.jpg

20130408-142855.jpg

20130408-142923.jpg

20130408-142945.jpg

20130408-143010.jpg

20130408-143033.jpg

20130408-143058.jpg

20130408-143123.jpg

20130408-143203.jpg

20130408-143702.jpg

20130408-143752.jpg

20130408-143826.jpg

20130408-143849.jpg

R. Milhem / Ghossoun / H. Sabbagh

On September 22, 2013, Germany will hold general elections. These elections will be observed with special attention given what it will mean for the austerity policies of the Merkel government and the ‘Euro crisis.’ From an anti-austerity and socialist perspective, the elections are also important with regard to the situation for the new German Left Party Die LINKE. Despite growing economic and social inequality, the Left Party stands at just 8 per cent in opinion polls. The party faces the challenge of presenting itself as a genuine alternative in an unfavourable and even hostile political environment in Germany. In this article, published exclusively in the left-wing daily newspaper Junge Welt, Oskar Lafontaine reflects on the current conjuncture for the party.

Lafontaine started his career as Willy Brandt‘s most politically talented ‘son’; became the most popular leader of West Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) during its years in opposition between 1982 and 1998; was deemed “the most dangerous man in Europe” by the British press for his financial market regulation plans as the Finance Minister of the first coalition government of SPD and Greens in 1998, but stepped down when he realized the lack of support for his left-Keynesian policies within the coalition.

In the early 2000s Lafontaine was a prominent critic of the new government’s neoliberal course and in 2004 he joined the new West German party Election Alternative for Work and Social Justice (WASG) formed by trade unionists, left-wing economists, SPD dissidents and radical leftists, on the condition that it would merge with the East German Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) to form a united German Left Party. In the 2005 national elections Lafontaine led the new party formation into the Bundestag with 8.7 per cent and in 2009 with 11.9 per cent of the popular vote. For health reasons Lafontaine stepped down from his leadership positions nationally and decided to concentrate on the role of opposition leader in his home state of Saarland. His voice nevertheless remains influential within the Left Party and calls for his return to the national stage are frequent.

In the forthcoming German elections the Left Party (Die Linke) can only be successful if it refuses to become another wing of the ‘German Unity Party.’

 Germany’s “One-Party System”

by Oskar Lafontaine

In the coming months a comedy will be staged in Germany. The piece is called ‘Electoral Battle of the Political Camps.’ The leading actors are Angela Merkel and Peer Steinbrück. In supporting roles we’ll see Horst Seehofer, Sigmar Gabriel, Philipp Rösler, Jürgen Trittin and the other respective leaders of the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Green Party. An appearance by Die Linke is not envisaged for this revue. With the help of the intelligence service, the corporate media and public broadcasters, everything possible is being done to banish this inconvenient party from the catwalks of capitalism.

Years ago the sharp-tongued American author Gore Vidal observed, “Democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.” For Vidal, the USA does not have two, but only one political party, “with two right wings,” which campaigns for the interests of major corporations. He considered the media to be instruments of propaganda for the preservation of social power relations.

One might dismiss Gore Vidal’s view as the literary embellishment of a writer, but the transferability of his assessment of American politics to the looming German national election is confirmed by journalist Heribert Prantl in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “The campaign of the political camps is an electoral campaign that actually no longer exists… a campaign of the political camps is an inappropriate term … There [once] were opposing positions on basic policy issues: foreign, economic, energy and immigration policies… The fundamental differences between the parties (with the exception of Die Linke) have disappeared.”

The Americanization of German politics has undoubtedly led to the fact that today, even in Germany, we have a one-party system with four wings – to stay with Gore Vidal’s image. The wings call themselves the CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP or the Greens, and they campaign, sometimes more, sometimes less, in the interests of banks and major corporations – as the tax policies of recent years and the many bank rescue packages demonstrate. They endorse without any reservations an economic system which results in an unequal distribution of prosperity, wealth and power; a system that allows a minority to have the majority work for it and then withhold from this majority the fully entitled proceeds of their labour, in the form of wages and employee shares.

In contrast to the German Unity Party, Die Linke believes property should only be the result of one’s effort; it should result from one’s own labour and not from the fact that someone has appropriated the labour of others. So long as great fortunes and the accompanying social power structures are created in such a way that a minority “exploits” the labour of the majority, the interests of the majority cannot logically prevail. In other words, a democracy; that is to say, a social order in which the interests of the majority are asserted, flounders upon the power structure reinforced by the German Unity Party.

So long as this remains unaffected phony struggles will be waged and fierce conflicts can be conducted on peripheral battlefields. The less that fundamental political positions differ from one another, the louder the shouting must be to maintain the appearance of a contest between the political camps. As Heribert Prantl once more points out, “There probably are, despite the fuss that is made about retirement policies, only one thousand people in Germany, who could spell out the difference between the CDU/CSU and the SPD. It’s the same with other issues.” Even the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung talks about a “phoney” campaign between the political camps.

Neoliberalism, German Style

Nor should we let ourselves be blinded by the SPD-Green “plagiarism scandal.” With great effort the Social Democrats and the Greens have copied and modified policy proposals from Die Linke in order to make us forget the social dislocations caused by their coalition policies – precarious working conditions, low wages, seniors living in poverty, and the destruction of the social security system. This applies also to other policies: a minimum wage, modest improvements to pensions, an increase in Hartz IV benefits, medical fees, tuition fees, temporary work, work contracts, top tax rates, a wealth tax, a withholding tax, a financial transaction tax, rent control, energy price limits, a cap on interest rates for consumer credit, Eurobonds, the revocation of bank licenses, the abetting of tax evasion, separation of commercial and investment banking, limits to execute salaries, creditor liability, and debt haircuts, to name but a few examples.

This theft of ideas cannot hide the fact that when it matters the SPD and Greens, as well as the CDU/CSU and FDP, show themselves to be loyal fractions of the German Unity Party. The unanimous approval for the balanced budget amendment to the constitution, for the European fiscal compact, and for the various rescue packages, shows that the “left camp,” consisting of the SPD and Greens, have not detached themselves from their Hartz IV and Agenda 2010 policies. The fiscal compact represents the consolidation of these brutal austerity policies for all of Europe. The only reason the SPD and Greens have the chutzpah to call themselves European parties is because they have internalized a Europe of free markets and corporations as the only possibility.

If we measure social reality according to declared political objectives, it is then not too harsh a judgement to describe both ‘left-wing’ protagonists of the forthcoming ‘battle of the political camps’ as European flops. With the participation of the then SPD-Green chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the European Council resolved in Lisbon in December 2000 to make the EU, “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.” That was the noble goal. But what does the reality look it?

When young Europeans – who are becoming unemployed en masse – read this today, they are fully justified in being dubious about the powers of judgment of these state leaders. When will the politicians of the German Unity Party grasp that an economic system, which has profit and wealth maximization for a minority as its goal, inevitably produces conditions such as we now observe in Europe?

Against this background it is a bad joke when the CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP and Greens wish to place social justice at the center of their “battle of the political camps.”

Because it’s inherent to the system, it is also logical that both ‘camps’ have chosen so-called wars for human rights as the central instruments of their foreign policies. In inimitable fashion Prince Harry captured the quintessence of the new era of German foreign policy on the front page of the Bild newspaper with his comment, “Take a life to save a life. That’s what we revolve around, I suppose.” It is telling in this regard that politicians from the SPD and Greens strongly criticized Merkel and Westerwelle for not letting Germany participate in NATO’s war on Libya.

“Die Linke’s unique characteristic is its advocacy of an economic system, in which everyone receives the full proceeds of their labour. ”

Die Linke – and this is understood by the vast majority of its followers and members – has a right to exist, and can be successful in the elections only if it does not become another wing of the German Unity Party. Die Linke’s unique characteristic is its advocacy of an economic system, in which everyone receives the full proceeds of their labour. Such an economic system leads to democratic enterprises run by workers and not authoritarian economic structures with temporary work, contract work, low wages and mini-jobs. It leads to a peaceful foreign policy, which secures raw materials through negotiations and not with wars for human rights.

With this in mind it is clear why the SPD and the Greens have for years now rebuffed offers of cooperation by Die Linke. The politicians of the German Unity Party stick together. They reject structural reforms that would alter the ever-increasing unequal distribution of affluence and opportunities in Germany. The electoral programs of the SPD and Greens, in which the proposals of Die Linke have been adopted in whole or in watered-down form, serve only as a disguise. Voters are not to know that behind the proclamations no actual intent for their realization exists. Yet as Franz Müntefering, the onetime great master of social democratic campaigns said: It’s unfair to judge political parties after the election according to their campaign promises.

The fabricated battle of the political camps is a farce. Voters will have a déjà vu experience. After the election things will be the same in Germany as before the election, regardless which politicians or fractions of the German Unity Party form the government. Astonishingly, representatives of German business are quietly indicating a preference for an SPD-Green coalition government. The former head of the Federation of German Industry (BDI), Hans-Peter Keitel, recently said, “When a country needs to make political-economic reforms, it is better if the government does not have a political color that makes it suspicious of favoring business.” •

This article originally appeared in Junge Welt on March 21, 2013. Translation by Sam Putinja.

By Khan Wali Salarzai

ASADABAD: Nearly a dozen children have been killed and a number of women wounded in an International Security Assistance Force airstrike in the Shigal district of eastern Kunar province, officials said on Sunday.

The air raid came during a joint operation by Afghan and coalition forces in the Shulatan area of the district late on Saturday. At least seven women were among the injured, the governor’s spokesman said.

Wasifullah Wasifi told Pajhwok Afghan News 11 senior Taliban figures were killed and 10 others injured in the raid that left one coalition soldier dead and four local intelligence agents wounded.

But the district’s  administrative head, Abdul Zahir Sapi, alleged 11 children had also been killed. Reporters who visited the scene saw the children’s bodies. The victims were aged between two months and seven years, Sapi said.

He added the Taliban were meeting inside the house which under bombardment. Taliban commander Ali Khan and his relatives were killed when his residence was struck, Sapi explained.

The raid came after the guerrillas fired at the joint force, which asked them to surrender.

A dweller of Shultan, Shah Mohammad, put the civilian toll at 22 dead and wounded. He said the houses of three brothers Ali Khan, Sharifullah and Behram Said had been bombed.

Earlier in the day, Asadabad Civil Hospital Director Dr. Farooq Sahak confirmed receiving five injured women from the valley. They were in stable condition, he said.

Resident Noor Mohammad, who accompanied the women to the hospital, said the area had come under intense bombardment. He feared heavy casualties in the airstrike that lasted several hours.

Approached for comments, the NATO-led force said: “We are still investigating the reports. We are aware of reports that civilians were injured during an operation. We take all reports of civilian injuries seriously and coalition officials are looking into this operation to ascertain the facts.”

On the other hand, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi acknowledged the loss of six ordinary fighters in the air raid. He claimed several women and children had been killed in the strike.

In face-to-face fighting, 10 American troops were killed, he said, adding the insurgents also stormed the district centre and a security checkpoint.

Stop NATO e-mail list home page with archives and search engine:
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/stopnato/ messages

Stop NATO website and articles:
http://rickrozoff. wordpress. com

To subscribe for individual e-mails or the daily digest, unsubscribe, and otherwise change subscription status:
stopnato-subscribe@ yahoogroups. com

The effects of the sequestration order signed by President Obama on March 1 began to be felt in earnest beginning April 1. The $85 billion cut in federal spending through September 30 will affect federal workers’ jobs across a wide range of government departments and will impose deep cutbacks to education, housing and many social programs and services, which are depended on by millions of working-class families. 

Over one million federal workers are set to begin unpaid furloughs this month, amounting to pay cuts of anywhere from 20 to 30 percent. Sequestration has also prompted the extension of a pay freeze already in force for federal workers. The cuts will result in the equivalent of 750,000 full-time job losses throughout the economy, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Other projections place the job losses as high as 2 million with the cuts reducing the gross domestic product by 0.6 percent this year.

Even as the US Labor Department announced last week that the number of people applying for jobless benefits had jumped to a four-month high, extended unemployment benefits are being cut by about 11 percent as a result of the sequester. As just one example, 99,000 unemployed workers in Pennsylvania will see their benefits cut by 10.7 percent, while some 2,700 in the state may lose their benefits altogether.

The devastating impact of sequestration appears to be the “new normal,” serving as the model for future budget proposals for both big-business parties. On Wednesday, Barack Obama will formally present his fiscal year 2014 budget, which includes deep cuts to Medicare and other health programs, as well as an attack on the inflation adjustment for Social Security recipients. (See “Obama defends plan to cut Medicare and Social Security”)

Sequestration calls for cuts of $42.7 billion to discretionary defense spending, $28.7 billion in nondefense discretionary spending, $9.9 billion from Medicare, and $4 billion in other mandatory reductions. It is becoming clear that the cutbacks will have a devastating impact on workers and the poorest sections of society, who have already seen a drastic decline in living standards in the wake of the recession.

Nondiscretionary funding for the military is not affected by the sequester, leaving in place the vast military machine of the US, as it continues its occupation of Afghanistan and US officials ratchet up their threats against North Korea. The departments of Defense and Homeland Security have also been allowed some discretion in the implementation of civilian furloughs and other measures.

The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has also warned against sequester cuts that could hamper national security. “For intelligence, this is not quite like shorter hours for public parks or longer lines at the airports,” he told reporters Friday. “For intelligence, it’s insidious.”

While accommodations are certain to be made for the military-intelligence apparatus of US imperialism, for the vast majority of ordinary Americans in communities across the country, the sequester cutbacks are not negotiable.

Public education will see one of the biggest hits. The National Education Association estimates that about $3 billion will be cut from K-12 education, causing over 30,000 teachers and school faculty to lose their jobs. Well over a million students will feel the effects of sequestration, according to the NEA.

In California alone, the government will cut $87.6 million from primary and secondary schools, potentially putting 10,000 teaching jobs at risk and reducing funds for teaching and staff positions in special education. Some 96,000 low-income students will lose financial aid. A staggering $62.9 million of the cuts are to the budget for students with disabilities.

Head Start, the early childhood education program that provides free medical and dental care, meals and after-school activities, will see a five percent cut in funding for fiscal year 2013. How those cuts are to be implemented will be up to local administrators. According to the Office of Head Start, which administers the program, about 70,000 children across the country will lose access to the program.

Federal funding for Section 8 housing vouchers will be cut by $938 million, six percent below what is needed to maintain assistance to low-income households at current levels. This translates into 140,000 fewer low-income families receiving housing vouchers. Families on waiting lists for vouchers are already being told that they will not be eligible for assistance even if other families leave the program. The Huffington Post reports that the Huntsville, Alabama housing authority will be serving about 300 fewer people due to the cutback.

Some 600,000 low-income women and children served by the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) are threatened with being thrown off the program. An array of programs providing nutrition assistance to seniors and the poor are feeling the pinch. The Salt Lake Community Action Program is closing its food pantry in Murray, Utah. The Meals on Wheels program in Tarrant County, Texas, which has lost $400,000 in cuts from state and local agencies since 2001, is facing a $100,000 sequester cutback.

Medicare payments to hospitals, doctors and other health care providers are being reduced by two percent across the board. Small community hospitals and clinics that serve large senior populations will carry more of this burden than larger hospital systems. One private practice in Manchester, Connecticut has already informed patients it will no longer be accepting Medicare patients, the Huffington Post reports, a situation that will undoubtedly be repeated at practices nationwide.

Due to a cut to Medicare reimbursement for expensive chemotherapy drugs, cancer clinics across the country have already begun to turn away thousands of Medicare patients, forcing them to seek treatment at hospitals, which may not be able to accommodate them and where care is more expensive. (See “US sequester cuts treatment for thousands of cancer patients”)

The Federal Aviation Administration has delayed until mid-June the closing of 149 airport control towers, but still plans to go forward with the plan, leaving pilots to fend for themselves on landing and takeoff at smaller regional airports. (See “US ‘sequester’ cuts shut 149 air traffic control towers”) In Massachusetts, five municipal airports will lose their towers and controllers as part of the $637 million sequestration cutback.

A $350 million cut to the federal court system could result in up to 2,000 staff being laid off or furloughed. Federal public defenders’ officers, whose budgets were cut by 5.17 percent in February, have been forced to cut another 5.52 percent. The Atlantic reports that the District of Arizona’s public defenders office has laid off 10 employees. Sequestration is also hampering the ability of public defenders to pay for translation services and psychiatric evaluations in their representation of indigent and mentally ill defendants.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which finances most medical research in the country, will see forced cuts of 5.1 percent, or $1.5 billion. Federal funding for the NIH has stalled at about $30 billion since 2010, meaning the effects of the sequester cuts amount to a cumulative funding reduction of 11.4 percent. (See “Thousands of scientists protest US cuts to medical research”)

After media reports that the Obama administration plans to slash Medicare and Social Security in its latest budget proposal due to be released Wednesday, government officials have been seeking to diffuse popular opposition to the cuts.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, Obama sought to portray the budget proposal, which slashes $1.2 trillion in spending over the course of ten years, as an unavoidable compromise in the face of intransigent demands by the Republicans. “While it’s not my ideal plan to further reduce the deficit, it’s a compromise I’m willing to accept in order to move beyond a cycle of short-term, crisis-driven decision-making… It includes ideas many Republicans have said they could accept as well.”

The Obama administration’s budget proposal, due to be released on Wednesday, will incorporate all of the spending cuts included in previous “Grand Bargain” proposals, including sharp cuts in Medicare, Social Security, federal worker pensions and other vital programs.

White House officials indicated in a press conference last week that the budget proposal will include $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over ten years, including $400 billion in cuts to Medicare and other health care programs and $130 billion from reducing inflation calculations linked to Social Security payments.

In the course of discussions over the “fiscal cliff” earlier this year, the administration publicly released a proposal that includes many other cuts—such as $35 billion in the “reform” of federal retirement programs, the ending of Saturday delivery for the US postal service, and increased fees for airline travel.

The White House budget will be the basis for further negotiations with Republicans, which will inevitably mean even more cuts.

The Medicare cuts will reportedly include means testing for recipients—a move that would transform it from a universal entitlement to an antipoverty program, in preparation for its gutting and ultimate destruction—and a cigarette tax, a regressive consumption tax. The means testing proposal in particular marks a sharp escalation in the attack on Medicare.

“The budget reflects his priorities within a budget world that is not ideal,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday, when the bill was announced. “It requires compromise, negotiation and a willingness to accept that you won’t get 100 percent of what you want.”

But even while seeking to blame the Republicans for the most draconian elements of his proposal, Obama was unapologetic in his calls for slashing entitlements, a proposal opposed by the overwhelming majority of the population. Obama defended the cuts as a way to strengthen a “rising, thriving middle class,” adding that he is in favor of “tough reforms required to strengthen Medicare for the future.”

Talk of “strengthening” Medicare is the standard Orwellian argument employed by both political parties to justify unpopular cuts.

According to the White House, the budget proposal will contain significantly more cuts than the Democratic-controlled Senate’s budget proposal. The Senate budget, which balances out spending cuts and revenue increases equally, was intended largely as political posturing.

As the Washington Post commented, “The budget request reflects Obama’s stark shift in strategy over the past month, as he has adopted a far more congenial posture toward the opposition.” Obama plans to sit down for dinner with Republicans Wednesday, within hours of the announcement of his budget.

Far from drawing the line at the cuts Obama has already proposed, Democratic Party leaders have indicated that the latest budget would be the stepping-stone toward further concessions to Republican demands. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee said, “From the Republican perspective, the president’s budget is the starting point for negotiation.”

Republicans responded positively to Obama’s proposal. “The president is showing a little bit of leg here, this is somewhat encouraging,” said South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. He added that Obama has “made a step forward in the entitlement-reform process that would allow a guy like me to begin to talk about flattening the tax code and generating more revenue.”

Publicly, Obama claims to be exchanging cuts to social programs for getting Republicans to agree to new sources of revenues, which the White House claims will come mostly from the wealthy. In reality, the White House proposal includes a variety of regressive taxes and funding measures, including a tax on cigarettes and a measure to block individuals from receiving unemployment insurance and disability payments at the same time.

As the White House has ever more openly come out in favor of cuts to the bedrock social programs, his professional “left” apologists have been mobilized in an attempt to channel popular opposition back behind Obama and the Democratic Party. On Monday the AFL-CIO published a statement urging those who oppose slashing Social Security to sign a petition urging Obama to reconsider its support for the cuts.

Calling the cuts “unconscionable,” the AFL-CIO’s statement concluded, “These cuts are bad policy. And the only way we’re going to stop them is if President Obama and all members of Congress hear that we’re not going to tolerate them.”

The Nation, the mouthpiece of what remains of American liberalism, was reserved in its opposition to the cuts, calling them “wrong economically, and politically.”

All of these forces had endorsed Obama for a second term, even after four years of war and austerity. Their central political function is to do whatever they can to prevent a break from the Democratic Party.

With the formal publication of Obama’s budget this week, Obama’s left apologists will be called on to diffuse the vast political opposition to cuts in Social Security and Medicare. But despite their best efforts, the administration’s assault on the most basic social rights of the US population must inevitably lead to mass opposition and social upheavals.

Atrocities in Afghanistan: A Troubling Timetable

April 9th, 2013 by Global Research News

By Voices Co-coordinators

Since April of 2009, Co-coordinators at Voices have maintained an Afghan Atrocities list by monitoring the news media and keeping track of instances where the US government or ISAF have admitted to killing civilians in Afghanistan. We are grateful to our interns who converted this data into visual format so that we can look for patterns in the ISAF attacks.

We ask the questions: Why has ISAF consistently pursued a nationwide policy in Afghanistan which has led to increased civilian casualties and is likely to stir up further resistance and violence? Even as the Obama administration talks about withdrawing in 2014, is there is an unspoken interest in destabilizing the country to provide an excuse for a continued military, diplomatic and contractor presence?

A note about the graphs:

Our sources for the Afghan Atrocities Timetable have come only from the mainstream news in instances where civilian casualties were admitted. The data does not address the hypocrisy of the Obama administration’s policy of counting all military aged men as insurgents unless they are posthumously proved innocent nor the likely cover up of incidents that were never reported in the mainstream media. Furthermore, during the period included in the timetable, Gen. John Allen of the US Army admitted to ISAF having conducted as many as 2200 night raids within one year. Given the frequency of night raids and the lack of transparency involved in such operations, the number of civilian casualties must be much higher than the official figures. We also did not include statistics from human rights organizations about the number of prisoners who may have died while in ISAF custody at prisons like the infamous facility at Bagram Air Force Base.


TIMELINE

Date: April 7, 2013

Place: Shigal District of Kunar Province

Circumstances: Eleven children and one woman were killed by a NATO airstrike on houses in the Shigal District. Mohammad Zahir Safai, the Shigal district chief, said the woman and the children were killed when the houses collapsed on them. A Reuters journalist saw bodies of 11 children when they were taken to Safai’s office in protest by their families and other villagers on Sunday.

NATO/ISAF response: Captain Luca Carniel, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said they were aware of reports of civilian casualties and were assessing the incident.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: March 30, 2013

Place: Ghazni district, Ghazni province

Circumstances: Senior police detective Colonel Mohammad Hussain said one school-age child and nine Taliban were killed in the air strike.

NATO/ISAF Response/Acknowledgement: “We take all allegations of civilian casualties seriously. Afghan and ISAF officials are assessing the incident.”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-afghanistan-airstrikebre92t030-20130330,0,29875.story

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: March 26, 2013

Place: Sejewand village of the Logar province

Circumstances: Reuters reports that Afghan and international special forces staged a night raid in the Sejewand village of the Logar province in which five civilians died, four of whom were children.

The Afghan defense ministry said there were no civilian deaths. Reuters television footage taken in the village showed the bodies of three children.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: March 11, 2013

Place: Between Kabul and Bagram

Circumstances: In the convoy shooting, U.S. forces spokesman Jamie Graybeal said the Afghan driver failed to heed instructions to stop as his truck came close to the American convoy near Kabul. “The convoy took appropriate measures to protect themselves and engaged the vehicle, killing two individuals and injuring one,” Graybeal said in an email. He said an assessment is underway. Associated Press video shows a U.S. major cursing at one of his soldiers and slapping him over the head with his cap as Afghans pulled dead bodies from the truck. In the video, the major appears to be upbraiding the soldier for not using a laser warning device to signal the approaching truck.

The two dead men were employees of a company that repairs police vehicles, said Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi. Another man was wounded in the shooting, said Col. Mohammad Alim, the police commander overseeing Kabul highways.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57573527/apparent-afghan-insider-attack-kills-two-u.s-troops/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: February 28, 2013

Place: Lowar-e-Dowahom, Shahid-e-Hasas district, Uruzgan province

Circumstances: NATO said its forces had accidentally shot dead two Afghan boys. U.S. General Joseph Dunford offered his personal apologies to the families.

http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2013/03/ap-nato-says-2-afghan-boys-accidentally-killed-030213/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: February 13, 2012

Place: Chawgam Village, Shigal District, Kunar Province

Circumstances: At least 10 civilians, 5 of them children and 4 adult women, were killed in air strikes carried out by NATO forces on two separate houses in the village. An additional 5 children were badly wounded in the blasts. Some local officials are also claiming that 3-5 Taliban fighters were killed in the strikes.

NATO/ISAF Response/Acknowledgement: They are “looking into the circumstances” of the incident.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21439830

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/13/nato-air-strike-civilians-afghanistan

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/13/us-afghanistan-attack-civilians-idUSBRE91C0X120130213

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: February 12, 2013

Place: Spin Boldak district, Kandahar Province

Circumstances: During daylight hours on a heavily traveled highway, NATO-led forces opened fire on an oncoming car because it failed to stop when signaled to do so. One civilian died in the gunfire, 3 more civilians were injured.

http://bostonglobe.com/news/world/2013/02/14/killing-afghan-civilians-being-investigated/R1AQzXdzLnwBFnNBqWmgrI/story.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: December 7, 2012

Place: Sherzad District of Nangarhar Province

Circumstances: NATO has admitted killing three Afghan civilians during an unspecified military operation at a wedding in which they arrested 7 insurgents. Afghan official sources accused NATO of killing at least 5 civilians.

http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=785051&Itemid=1

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: December 6, 2012

Place: Nuristan Province

Circumstances: Five civilians, all members of the same family, were killed in an ISAF bombing, according to local authorities.

http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=785051&Itemid=1

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: November 12, 2012

Place: Baraki Barak District of Central Logar Province

Circumstances: Three civilians were killed during an ISAF drone strike in the Baraki Barak district of central Logar province on Monday, residents and the provincial council head said. The boys, all below the age of 16, were working on their carrot farm. Village elders later took their bodies to the governor’s office as a mark of protest.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: October 29, 2012

Place: Qalai-i-Qazi area of Ghazni Province

Circumstances: An Afghan special forces unit along with NATO forces killed three civilian bystanders in a night raid. Villagers at the funeral of the civilians told reporters that the civiians included a farmer, his wife and their 14-year-old son.

NATO/ISAF Response/Acknowledgement: NATO said in an announcement that the raid targeted a Taliban leader and that the force was attacked by insurgents carrying assault rifles and returned fire, killing a number of them. It did not mention the number of Taliban killed or civilians.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=163859621

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: October 20, 2012

Place: Baraki Barak District of Logar Province

Circumstances: A NATO airstrike killed four children, according to a Reuters report. The children were said to be tending livestock.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/23/us-afghanistan-taliban-idUSBRE89M0N120121023

NATO/ISAF Response/Acknowledgement: A spokeswoman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it was aware of possible ISAF-related civilian casualties from the October 20 operation. On Wednesday, October 23rd, the New York Times reported that international forces apologized for the deaths of the four children.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/world/asia/children-killed-in-afghanistan-firefight.html?_r=0

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: October 15, 2012

Place: Nawa District, Helmand Province

Circumstances: Afghan officials said Monday that a NATO air strike killed three children while it was targeting Taliban insurgents planting mines on a road in southern Afghanistan.

NATO/ISAF Response/Acknowledgement: NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed an air strike in Helmand province’s Nawa district on Sunday, saying that three insurgents died and it was investigating reports that children were also killed. (AFP)

http://tribune.com.pk/story/451776/children-killed-in-nato-attack-afghan-officials/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: September 16, 2012

Place: Alingar District, Laghman Province

Circumstances: A NATO airstrike killed eight women, according to an Agence France Press report. Eight more were wounded. The women were said to have been out on the mountain collecting firewood.

NATO/ISAF Response/Acknowledgement: NATO’s U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) initially said it had called in an air strike against about 45 insurgents in Laghman “after positively identifying hostile intent” and that “a large number of the insurgents” were killed. Later, Major Adam Wojack, a spokesman for the ISAF international forces, said ISAF had been made aware of “possible ISAF-caused civilian casualties” numbering five to eight, extending its sincerest condolences over the “tragic loss of life”.(BBC)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: July 2, 2012

Place: Charkh District, Logar Province

Circumstances: An Afghan provincial spokesman Din Mohammad Darwesh says a NATO airstrike has killed three civilian shopkeepers in the east of the country.

NATO/ISAF Response/Acknowledgement: A spokesman for the coalition says initial reports of the strike do not suggest any civilian deaths.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/07/02/afghan-official-nato-airstrike-kills-3-civilians/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: June 6, 2012

Place: Logar province, Baraki Barak district

Circumstances: NATO soldiers ordered an airstrike on a house in Sajawand village leaving 18 civilians dead, including four women, two old men, three teenage boys and nine young children

NATO/ISAF Response/Acknowledgement: On June 6, NATO confirmed the deaths of “multiple insurgents” but reported no civilian fatalities. On June 8, General John Allen flew to the village to apologize to the families. “I know that no apology can bring back the lives of the children or the people who perished in this tragedy and this accident, but I want you to know that you have my apology and we will do the right thing by the families.”

http://www.mercurynews.com/nation-world/ci_20813448/nato-apologizes-afghanistan-admitting-airstrike-killed-civilians

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/06/nato-afghans-airstrike-18-civilians.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: May 27, 2012

Place: Paktia province, Gerda Serai district

Circumstances: A drone strike killed four teenage boys, two teenage girls, and two women, and wounded two others.

NATO/ISAF Response/Acknowledgement: The coalition was looking into the alleged incident, but “so far had seen no evidence of civilian casualties”.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-05-27/news/sns-rt-us-afghanistan-civiliansbre84q01j-201205271nato-airstrike-nato-led-nato-forces

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: May 8, 2012

Place: Bala Murghab district, Badghis province

Circumstances: Reports from the Bala Murghab district of the northwestern Badghis province state Sunday, that NATO airstrike’s killed as many as 14 civilians. Badghis provincial governor Dilbar Jan Arman says that there were multiple civilian deaths, but no exact number has emerged.

NATO/ISAF Response/Acknowledgement: A spokesman for NATO-led troops in Kabul said the coalition was aware of the allegations of civilian casualties in the provinces.

http://voices.yahoo.com/nato-plans-apology-airstrike-deaths-afghan-11325348.html http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2012/05/07/afghan-civilians-perish-airstrikes/DTgilHp2WrYrVruiN4pqaM/story.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: May 7, 2012

Place: Sangin district of Helmand province

Circumstances: Six civilians were killed as aircrafts of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) targeted a suspected hideout of Taliban militants. The victims, according to the statement, include two boys, three girls and a woman, all from same family.

NATO/ISAF Response/Acknowledgement: A spokesman for the United States military in Helmand, Lt. Col. Stewart Upton, said, “We don’t have any issues with the governor’s statement.” He said American officials had been aware of the deaths and had immediately started an investigation.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/08/world/asia/united-states-confirms-airstrike-wrongly-killed-afghan-family-members.html?_r=1

http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/2012/05/07/233-NATO-air-strike-kills-6-Afghan-civilians-Official-.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: March 16, 2012

Place: Hassian Khail, Bagrami district of Kabul

Circumstances: An ISAF military helicopter crashed into a house, killing all soldiers on board and four Afghan civilians on the ground. The Afghan ministry reports that two of the civilians were young girls.

The vast majority of Afghans want ISAF troops to leave. When ISAF insists on keeping troops and helicopters in the country, and particularly in civilian areas, any resulting civilian death, accidental or not, constitutes more than negligence. It is an act of aggression to compel a population to live under conditions of heightened risk.

NATO/ISAF Response/Acknowledgement: Commander of ISAF, Gen. John R. Allen, said, “my deepest sympathies go out to the families of these ISAF service members and the Afghan civilians who died as a result of this unfortunate incident.”

NATO/ISAF have not paid and show no intention of paying compensation to the family or to the community.

http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_20187478/turkish-helicopter-crash-kills-10-afghanistan

http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=67585

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: March 11, 2012

Place: Panjway district of Kandahar

Circumstances: A United States service member walked out of a military base in and opened fire on three nearby houses, killing at least 16 civilians, including 3 women and 9 children. At least five people were wounded. There were conflicting reports of how many shooters were involved, with U.S. officials asserting that a lone soldier was responsible, in contrast to witnesses’ accounts that several U.S. soldiers were present. Neighbors and relatives of the dead said they had seen a group of U.S. soldiers arrive at their village in Kandahar’s Panjwayi district at about 2 a.m., enter homes and open fire. Later, Reuters quoted a witness who said the soldiers then “poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them.”

US/NATO Response/Acknowledgement: NATO officials apologized for the shootings but did not confirm that anyone was killed, referring instead to reports of deaths. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said an investigation was under way and that “the individual or individuals responsible for this act will be identified and brought to justice.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/11/us-afghanistan-civilians-idUSBRE82A02V20120311

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/world/asia/afghanistan-civilians-killed-american-soldier-held.html?_r=1

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/reports-of-us-service-member-opening-fire-on-afghan-civilians/article2365781/?utmmedium=Feeds%3A%20RSS%2FAtom&utmsource=Home&utm_content=2365781

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2113410/US-soldier-shoots-dead-16-Afghan-civilians-house-house-shooting-spree-suffering-mental-breakdown.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: March 9, 2012

Circumstances: Four Afghans were killed and three wounded when NATO/ISAF coalition helicopters apparently hunting Taliban insurgents fired instead on villagers, according to Abdul Hakim Akhondzada, governor of Tagab district in Kapisa.

US/NATO Response/Acknowledgement: none

http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cuno=2&itemno=491947&version=1&templateid=41&parentid=23

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/world/asia/afghanistan-civilians-killed-american-soldier-held.html?_r=1

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: February 9, 2012

Place: Najrab district, Eastern Kapisa province.

Circumstances: Mehrabuddin Safi, the governor of Kapisa, said a coalition air strike late on Wednesday killed eight children in Giawa village. Other Afghan officials had earlier said the strike followed a night raid on suspected insurgents.

US/NATO Initial Response/Acknowledgement: “The aircraft dropped two bombs on the group that we believed to be an imminent threat to our people,” Boone told reporters in Kabul. “Despite all tactical directives being followed precisely, we now know the unfortunate result of this engagement. In the end, eight young Afghans lost their lives in this very sad event.” — Army Brig. Gen. Lewis Boone, director of public affairs

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/09/us-afghanistan-airstrike-idUSTRE81822420120209

http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2012/02/15/natoregretsairstrikethatkilled8young_afghans/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: January 16, 2012

Place: Chawkay district, Kunar province

Circumstances: The governor of Kunar province said that during a night raid on January 16, NATO forces killed 5 civilians during a “kill-and-capture raid” as coalition helicopters fired into a compound. Among the 5 were 1 woman and 2 children.

US/NATO Initial Response/Acknowledgement: On Wednesday, January 18, NATO issued a statement stating that they were aware of a military operation in the Chawkay district of Kunar province on Monday and were checking into the report.

http://www.military.com/news/article/afghan-official-says-nato-forces-kill-5-civilians.html?col=1186032310810

http://hosted2.ap.org/COGRA/APWorldNews/Article_2012-01-18-AS-Afghanistan/id-856dd08ee2ff46018e67a496815d794f

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date November 23, 2011

Place Zhare district, Kandahar Province

Circumstances Six children were among seven civilians killed in a NATO airstrike in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Thursday. The deaths occurred on Wednesday in the Zhare district of Kandahar Province, an area described by coalition forces as largely pacified in recent months, and two insurgents were also killed, the Afghan officials said.

U.S. Nato Initial/acknowledgement A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, Master Sgt. Christopher DeWitt, said the authorities were aware of the strike and had sent a team to the district to investigate. He said the assistance force had not previously issued a news release on the deaths.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date August 25, 2011

Place Baraki Barak district, Logar Province

Circumstances Another NATO air strike has killed a number of civilians today in the Logar Province. The attack, which took place shortly after midnight, came after a clash between NATO troops on the ground and Taliban in the Baraki Barak District, and left six civilians dead. This latest attack came after the firefight with Taliban but was termed a “retaliation” attack. That the attack retaliated against a civilian home and killed an entire family appears to them only a minor detail.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/25/world/asia/six-afghan-children-are-killed-in-nato-airstrike.html?_r=1

U.S. NATO Initial/acknowledgement NATO confirmed the attack but said they could not confirm the death toll. They did, however, say foreign forces were “looking into the matter,” while insisting that NATO is taking every measure possible to prevent civilian deaths.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date August 6, 2011

Place Nad Ali district, Wardak Province

Circumstances “In the southern Helmand province, an Afghan government official said that NATO troops attacked a house and inadvertently killed eight members of a family, including women and children.” The killing occurred during a battle between NATO forces and insurgents when NATO called an airstrike on the house where the family lived.

U.S. NATO Initial/acknowledgement NATO said that Taliban fighters fired rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire at coalition troops during a patrol Friday in the Nad Ali district. “Coalition forces responded with small arms fire and as the incident continued, an air strike was employed against the insurgent position,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman. He added that NATO sent a delegation to meet with local leaders and investigate the incident.”

http://news.yahoo.com/afghan-president-31-americans-killed-crash-093236195.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date July 28, 2011

Place Singin district of Uruzgan province

Circumstances Originally ISAF/NATO forces said he was killed during an attack by insurgents on government buildings in Tarin Kot, in the southern province of Uruzgan, while hiding inside an office of the Radio Television of Afghanistan. Khpalwak is the third Pajhwok, a local news agency, journalist to have been killed since 2008, the agency said.

U.S. NATO Initial response/acknowledgement NATO-led international forces in Afghanistan admitted September 7, 2011 that an Afghan journalist originally thought to have been killed by insurgents in Uruzgan province had in fact been killed by an international soldier in a case of mistaken identity. “Mr Khpalwak was shot by an ISAF member who believed he was an insurgent that posed a threat and was about to detonate a suicide-vest IED,” NATO said in a statement late September 8, 2011.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/article2439915.ece

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date July 26, 2011

Place Kapisa Province

Circumstances “President Karzai has condemned the killing by Nato troops of three civilians travelling in a car in Kapisa province, north of Kabul.”,br/>

U.S. NATO Initial/acknowledgement “The dead included a pregnant woman and a child. French soldiers opened fire on their vehicle late on Tuesday when it did not stop as it approached them, Nato said. French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet expressed “deep sorrow” over the deaths but said the soldiers had acted in self defence as the car had failed to stop despite repeated warnings.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14304650

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date July 12, 2011

Place Azra district of Logar province

Circumstances The International News reports that a NATO air strike left up to 12 civilians dead in eastern Afghanistan and quotes police chief Bakhtiar Gul saying that “Twelve civilians, including women and children, were killed last night when NATO planes targeted two houses.” He added that the bodies of four Taliban insurgents had been recovered from the rubble. Provincial spokesman Din Mohammad Darwish said only that an “unknown” number of civilians were killed, along with seven Taliban.

U.S. NATO Initial response/acknowledgement NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said they had killed “numerous” insurgents in the strike.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date July 6, 2011

Place Ghazni Province

Circumstances “ISAF said it was looking into allegations by Afghan residents that one of its air strikes had killed two young shepherds in Ghazni, a restive province southwest of Kabul. Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday to protest about the deaths of the two young shepherds they said were killed by foreign forces.”

U.S. NATO Initial response “ISAF said it had carried out an air raid in Khogyani district in Ghazni but that only one insurgent had been killed who had been planting a bomb. “Although operational reporting indicates that only the insurgent targeted was killed, ISAF takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously, and, in conjunction with the Afghan government, makes every effort to address them,” ISAF said in a statement. It said it had launched an investigation into the incident together with the Afghan Interior Ministry.” http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/07/07/uk-afghanistan-violence-idUKTRE7662S520110707

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date July 5, 2011

Place Shamal district, Khost province

Circumstances “The NATO-led force in Afghanistan said Thursday it had accidentally killed a number of civilians in an air strike earlier this week. Eleven people, including four insurgents, were killed in the air strike Tuesday night in the Shamal district of eastern Khost province, prompting angry street protests, said police chief Sarder Zazai.”

U.S. NATO Initial response/acknowledgement “A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)said the air strike had killed “several” insurgents but that “a number of associated family members” had also been accidentally killed. “At the time it was unknown to the security forces that those insurgents were operating among women and children,” The ISAF spokesman said, adding it was unclear how many insurgents and civilians had been killed. The deaths sparked a protest by several hundred Afghans, who burnt an unknown effigy, in Sayed Khel village in the Shamal district Thursday.” http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/07/07/uk-afghanistan-violence-idUKTRE7662S520110707

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: May 29, 2011

Place: Helmand Province

Circumstances: “An air strike called in by NATO-led troops in southern Afghanistan killed 12 children and two women, Afghan officials said on Sunday, one of the worst civilian death tolls by foreign forces in months. A U.S. Marine base came under fire from insurgents in Taliban stronghold of Helmand on Saturday, the Helmand governor said in a statement, leading the base to call for help from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). “ISAF’s air strike took place on two civilian houses. Unfortunately 14 innocent civilians were killed and six civilians wounded,” the Helmand governor’s statement said. It said seven boys, five girls and two women were among the dead. Three children were among the six wounded, it said.”

U.S. NATO Initial response: “An ISAF spokesman in Kabul said: “We are aware of the reports that alleged civilians were killed yesterday in Helmand.” He said an assessment team had been sent to the area and would issue its findings shortly.” http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCATRE74S0M720110529

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: May 15, 2011

Place: Eastern Kunar Province, Ghazi Abad District

Circumstances: According to Reuters “Faziullah Wahidi, governor of Kunar, said a group of girls had been collecting firewood near an insurgent hideout and were struck when ISAF troops that had come under attack returned fire. A 10-year-old girl was killed and four others wounded. The artillery fired by the ISAF convoy hit the girls who were close to the insurgents.”

US/NATO initial response: “The varying claims of civilian casualties around this incident are the reason ISAF is looking into this,” said U.S. Army Col. Hans E. Bush, chief of ISAF Joint Command Public Affairs. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/16/us-afghanistan-civilian-deaths-idUSTRE74F31G20110516

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/isaf-investigates-civilian-casualty-allegations-in-kunar-province.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: May 14, 2011

Place: Western Nangahar Province in the Hesarak District

Circumstances: According to the New York Times (May 14, 2011), the district governor, Abdul Khalid was concerned about the possibility of an attack by the Taliban on the government center and called the local Afghan security forces. “At the same time, there was a raid, he said. ‘American forces did an operation and mistakenly killed a fourth-grade student; he had gone to sleep in his field and had a shotgun next to him, he said.’ The local residents told the reporter that the boy was 15 years old, but in a lower grade because he was unable to attend school regularly.

“People keep shotguns with them for hunting, not for any other purposes,” Mr. Khalid said. More than 200 villagers protested the boy’s death, marching with his body to the district center and the police killed a 14-year-old boy and another person was wounded according to Mr. Khalid during the protest.

U.S./NATO initial response/acknowledgement: A NATO spokesman apologized for the child’s death. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/world/asia/15afghan.html?emc=eta1&pagewanted=print

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: May 12, 2011

Place: Surkh Rod district of Nangarhar province

Circumstances: According to the New York Times, (May 13, 2011), a 12-year-old girl, Nelofar, was sleeping outside with her family early in the morning on May 12. “A raid by NATO troops singled out the wrong house, and she was killed along with her uncle, who was the target of the raid, because he was incorrectly believed to be a local Taliban leader. NATO apologized for its error.”

“My daughter, who was sleeping with us in the courtyard, was hit by the bomb’s shrapnel in her head,” aid Mr. Mohammed, a survivor of the attack, “and she died on the spot.”

U.S./NATO initial response/acknowledgement: NATO had issued a May 12 statement saying that she had been shot. “An individual ran out the back of the compound toward the outer security perimeter and was killed when the security force mistakenly identified what they suspected was a weapon on the individual,” it said. “Later, the force discovered the individual was an unarmed Afghan female adolescent.”

The uncle, Shukrullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name, was a police officer; he had recently been transferred to Surkhrod District, where the raid occurred. He was 25 and had a wife and two daughters, said Mr. Mohammed, who was his brother-in-law and in whose home he was staying.

Rear Adm. Harold Pittman, NATO’s deputy chief of staff for communications, apologized for the deaths.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/13/world/asia/13afghan.html?emc=eta1

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: April 20, 2011

Place: Kunar province

Circumstances: “Local officials in the Dangam District of Afghanistan’s restive Kunar Province have confirmed that at least three civilians were killed in an overnight air strike by NATO warplanes. The strike targeted a gathering of “suspected militants” but also killed civilians in the house. The Provincial Governor said that the strike killed 17 people in total, and that two civilian women and a child were slain in the strike.” http://news.antiwar.com/2011/04/20/officials-nato-air-strike-kills-at-least-three-afghan-civilians/

U.S. NATO Initial response: “NATO confirmed the attack but said it was still investigating exactly who was killed.”http://news.antiwar.com/2011/04/20/officials-nato-air-strike-kills-at-least-three-afghan-civilians/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: April 6, 2011

Place: Kabul

Circumstances: a spokesman for the Kabul Police Chief said, “British troops killed two Afghan civilians in a car accident in western Kabul and shot dead a third man when local people tried to prevent them leaving the scene of the accident. According to the spokesman “A British military vehicle killed two women in a road accident and when people tried stop them (leaving), they shot and killed another man.” He said the shooting also wounded a child who was in the area.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/06/afghanistan-violence-civilians-idUSL3E7F61CA20110406

U.S. NATO Initial response: “An International Security Assistance Force three-vehicle convoy was involved in an accident in Kabul today in which one Afghan civilian was killed and two wounded, according to initial reporting. No shots were fired by ISAF service members.”

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/isaf-convoy-involved-in-kabul-traffic-accident.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: April 5, 2011

Place: Sar-e Pul province

Circumstances: “NATO troops killed six civilians during a night raid on a house in northern Afghanistan’s Sar-e Pul province late, the provincial governor told Reuters.” “NATO troops descended from a helicopter, killing six innocent men and detained four,” the governor of the province said.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/04/05/uk-afghanistan-violence-civilians-idUKL3E7F51HP20110405

U.S. NATO Initial response: “The NATO-led force said soldiers on a joint operation with Afghan troops had killed five men who were armed and opened fire on them. They are investigating the identity of the dead men, a spokesman said.”

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/04/05/uk-afghanistan-violence-civil

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/31/us-afghanistan-civilians-idUSTRE72U36S20110331

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: March 31, 2011

Place: Kandahar province

Circumstances: “According to reports, NATO troops opened fire into traffic in Kandahar after a civilian car’s brakes failed near a checkpoint, which they assumed was a suicide attack. The hail of NATO bullets killed two teenage boys and wounded at least two others.”

http://news.antiwar.com/2011/03/31/two-more-afghan-civilians-killed-by-nato-as-toll-mounts/

U.S. NATO Initial response: “NATO-led forces said they had opened fire in self-defense after a civilian car veered across a ditch and struck at least three members of a foot patrol.

After the troops opened fire, the car went into the ditch and flipped over, killing the passenger and a nearby pedestrian and wounding two other civilians, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement. Civilian casualties caused by foreign troops have long been a source of tension between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western allies. They also anger Afghans, complicating efforts to win their support for a war that has brought only misery for most ordinary people. The incident is still being assessed, the statement added, but it comes in a sensitive area — the U.S. has poured troops into Kandahar to try to win back control of the Taliban stronghold and there has been bitter fighting in districts around the city — and at a sensitive time.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/31/us-afghanistan-civilians-idUSTRE72U36S20110331

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: March 25, 2011

Place: Helmand province

Circumstances: “A NATO airstrike targeting Taliban fighters Friday accidentally killed seven civilians, including three children, in the southern province of Helmand, one of the most insecure regions in the country, Afghan officials said. Afghan officials in Helmand said the dead included two men, two women and three children. Three more children and two adults were wounded, the Helmand governor’s office said in a statement late Saturday.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/world/asia/27afghanistan.html?_r=1

U.S. NATO Initial response: “NATO officials are investigating the episode. It occurred in the Now Zad district when the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force called in an airstrike on two vehicles believed to be carrying a Taliban leader and his associates. A NATO team assessing the damage discovered the civilians after the airstrike. NATO officials have not disclosed how many civilians were killed and wounded, and did not say whether suspected Taliban were among the casualties.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/world/asia/27afghanistan.html?_r=1

NATO acknowledgement “A British Reaper drone has killed at least four civilians and wounded two others in an attack in the Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, the first time British Drones are confirmed to have killed civilians in the nation. The attack reportedly targeted “insurgent leaders” in the restive province, and British military officials insist that the killings are a result of “intelligence failures” and not any problem with the drone fleet, which they hope to dramatically increase the size of. Incredibly, the attack came three months ago, in late March, and targeted a pair of pick up trucks. It is only now that the killings have become public knowledge and Britain expressed “deep regret” over the deaths.” http://news.antiwar.com/2011/07/05/british-drone-kills-four-afghan-civilians-in-helmand/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: March 23, 2011

Place: Khost province

Circumstances: “A NATO helicopter gunship inadvertently killed two civilians while attacking suspected insurgents in the eastern province of Khost, NATO announced Thursday. Khost provincial police chief Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai said at least one of the civilians was a child.” http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2014585790_apasafghanistan.html

U.S. NATO Initial/acknowledgement: “The attack targeted a Haqqani network leader in Tere Zayi district on Wednesday, according to NATO. At the time of the strike, two civilians were walking near the moving targeted vehicle, NATO said. They were previously unseen by coalition forces prior to the initiation of the airstrike. Unfortunately both were killed as an unintended result of the strike.”

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2014585790_apasafghanistan.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: March 9, 2011

Place: Kandahar province

Circumstances: “A relative of Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been mistakenly killed by Nato troops in southern Afghanistan, officials say.” “The raid occurred in the southern province of Kandahar, in the rural village of Karz, the Karzai clan’s ancestral home. The slain man was Yar Mohammed Karzai, 60, a lifelong resident of the village. The death was confirmed by the president’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the chairman of Kandahar Province’s provincial council, who said the killing was a mistake.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12700630

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/11/world/asia/11karzai.html

U.S. NATO Initial response: “A NATO spokesman said the force was “aware of conflicting reports about the identities of those involved and has initiated an inquiry to determine the facts.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/11/world/asia/11karzai.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: March 1st, 2011

Place: Kunar province

Circumstances: “Nine children were killed during a fresh air raid by foreign troops in Manogai district of eastern Kunar province on Tuesday, residents claimed. The dead were children, aged between 10 and 15, who were collecting firewood in the remote valley, resident Gul Nabi told Pajhwok Afghan News. He feared the death toll could be higher.”

http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2011/03/01/villagers-say-isaf-strike-kills-9-children

U.S. NATO Acknowledgement: “Preliminary findings from a Joint Incident Assessment Team indicate that International Security Assistance Forces accidentally killed nine civilians in Darah-Ye Pech district, Kunar province yesterday. The incident occurred following insurgent rocket attacks on FOB Blessing. Coalition forces returned fire at the assessed point of origin with indirect and aerial fire. Regrettably there appears to have been an error in the hand-off between identifying the location of the insurgents and the attack helicopters that carried out subsequent operations. “We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and most importantly, the surviving family members of those killed by our actions,” said General David. H. Petraeus, Commander of International Security Assistance Force. “These deaths should have never happened and I will personally apologize to President Karzai when he returns from his trip to London this week.” “This event is particularly distressing given the recent direction I gave to commanders to review our tactical directive that is intended to reduce civilian casualties to the absolute minimum,” said Gen.Petraeus. “Regardless of the outcome of this investigation, I have ordered all ISAF leaders and members of ISAF attack helicopter crews to be re-briefed on the tactical directive, reinforcing the need to be sure we protect the lives of innocent Afghans as we pursue a ruthless enemy.” ISAF accepts full responsibility for this tragedy and will continue to thoroughly investigate this incident to understand why this happened and try to prevent this from happening in the future. Should the facts of the investigation warrant it, appropriate action, including disciplinary action if necessary, will be taken.”

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/international-security-assistance-force-apologizes-accepts-responsibility-for-civilian-casualties.html

Names of the nine children killed, plus one injured:

13 yr old Khalid s/o Bismillah
10 yr old Abid s/o Bismillah
10 yr old Khalid s/o Ahmad Khan
12 year old Zialrahman s/o Nisbah
11 yr old Jawad s/o Sabhanullah
11 yr old Ihsanullah s/o Sabhanullah
7 yr old Shahidullah s/o Rahman
11 yr old Jawed s/o Wali Mohammad
10 yr old Umra Khan s/o Safiullah
10 yr old Umad s/o Shir Mohammad was injured

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: February 24, 2011

Place: Kapisa province

Circumstances: “Five Afghan civilians in the deseprately poor Kapisa Province were killed today by NATO troops while they were out hunting. NATO saw them, Three men with bird-hunting rifles and two boys (aged 12 and 13), assumed they were insurgents, killing them.”

U.S. “NATO Initial response: NATO has promised an “investigation” into the killings but initially termed all the slain insurgents, even though the two children were unarmed and the others had bird hunting gear, not exactly the insurgency’s weapons of choice. They insisted, however, that hunting is officially banned in Kapisa, specifically to prevent this sort of “accidental” killing. Though this is true, food is said to be in short supply in the province this winter, so many are turning to hunting anyhow in an effort to survive.”

http://news.antiwar.com/2011/02/24/nato-helicopter-kills-five-afghan-civilians-including-two-children/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: February 23, 2011

Place: Marjeh District, Helmand Province

Circumstances: At least one Afghan civilian was killed in a NATO attack targeting militants in Helmand province. U.S. NATO Initial response: “Afghan and coalition forces received small-arms fire from an unknown number of insurgents during a dismounted patrol in Marjeh district, Helmand province, yesterday. Coalition forces gained positive identification and returned fire. Following the engagement, coalition forces discovered one Afghan civilian was killed. ISAF is currently looking into the incident to determine how the civilian died.”

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/isaf-joint-command-morning-operational-update-feb.-24-2011.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: February 17-18

Place: Kunar province

Circumstances: “The NATO airstrike accused of causing civilian casualties involved helicopters and F-15 jets and took place late Thursday night and into the early morning on Friday in the Ghaziabad district of Kunar Province. NATO and Afghan officials agree that the area is heavily infiltrated by insurgents. Beyond that, their accounts differ on almost every aspect of the raid. The Kunar governor, Said Fazlullah Wahidi, said that officials had not been able to visit the area to independently evaluate the casualty claims because it was too insecure, but that reports from residents indicated that women and children were killed as well as some insurgents. “According to our information 64 people were killed: 13 armed opposition, 22 women, 26 boys and 3 old men,” Mr. Wahidi said. President Hamid Karzai strongly condemned the attack, saying he had spoken with provincial authorities and elders several times in the last two days and was told that the dead and wounded included women and children.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/world/asia/21afghan.html?_r=1

U.S. NATO Initial response: “The NATO account said the assault began around 7 p.m. Thursday and lasted for five hours. The target was Taliban fighters who were gathering on a hillside, said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, the strategic communications chief. After reviewing footage of the assault and intelligence, he said that he saw no sign that civilians or civilian houses were attacked, but that it was not possible to rule it out entirely.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/world/asia/21afghan.html?_r=1

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: February 20, 2011

Place: Nangarhar province

Circumstances: “The International Security Assistance Force is investigating an operation conducted in Nangarhar province yesterday that resulted in Afghan civilians being accidentally killed and wounded. Coalition forces observed three insurgents placing an improvised explosive device along a road. After gaining positive identification, coalition forces engaged the enemy. Following the engagement,coalition forces observed three vehicles traveling to a local hospital. The passengers of the vehicles later reported the roof of their compound collapsed during the engagement, resulting in the casualties.”

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/isaf-investigates-civilian-casualties-in-nangarhar.html

U.S. NATO Initial /acknowledgement: “This is a deeply regrettable accident,” said U.S. Army Col. Patrick Hynes, ISAF Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director. “We are investigating this tragic incident to find out how it happenedto try and prevent it from happening again. We will meet with local leaders in the area and ensure they understand what happened. Our thoughts and concerns are with the families.”

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/isaf-investigates-civilian-casualties-in-nangarhar.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: February 8, 2011

Place: Alishang District of Laghman Province

Circumstances: “Coalition forces are investigating an incident where one Afghan civilian was killed and four received minor injuries during an engagement with insurgents emplacing improvised explosives devices near the Watangatu School in Alishang District of Laghman Province.”

U.S. NATO Initial response: “The Coalition unit fired several mortars at the insurgents to stop them from emplacing the IED once they had positively identified their intent. Preliminary reports indicate that one of the rounds may have caused the civilian casualty.

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/isaf-joint-command-evening-operational-update-feb.-8-2011.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: February 3, 2011

Place: Lashkar Ghar district, Helmand province

Circumstances: “The International Security Assistance Force is currently assessing an incident in Lashkar Ghar district, Helmand province, in which two Afghan civilians were accidentally killed and one injured.”

U.S. NATO Initial response: “According to initial reports an ISAF unit received small-arms fire, while transiting between two forward operating bases. The unit returned fire at a van which they believed was part of the attack. Following the engagement, ISAF forces found two dead civilians and one wounded civilian in the van. The wounded civilian was evacuated to an ISAF medical facility.” More investigation is underway, ISAF said.

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/isaf-assessing-possible-civilian-casualties-in-helmand-province.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: January 31, 2011

Place: Pusht-e Rod district, Farah province

Circumstances: “Coalition forces conducted a precision airstrike against several insurgents, resulting in one local male being killed along with two armed insurgents being wounded in Pusht-e Rod district, Farah province yesterday.”

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/isaf-joint-command-morning-operational-update-jan.-31-2011.html

U.S. NATO Initial response/acknowledgement: “Following the airstrike,a follow-on security force speaking with local villagers confirmed one local was killed in the airstrike and two armed insurgents were injured.”

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/isaf-joint-command-morning-operational-update-jan.-31-2011.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: January 5, 2011

Place: Wardak province

Circumstances: “US-led foreign troops in Afghanistan have killed two Afghan villagers during an operation in the eastern Wardak province,witnesses say. Locals reported that the foreign troops killed two civilians in Adam Kheil village of the war-torn country on Wednesday.” “Civilian casualties have been also a frequent source of tensions between Kabul and the foreign forces. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly urged the United States to pay more attention to the protection of civilian lives during military operations. The United Nations says the death toll of Afghan civilians this year is 20 percent higher than in 2009, with over 2,400 civilians killed in the country from January to September.”

http://www.aljazeerah.info/News/2011/January/5%20n/6%20Afghani%20Civilian,%20Policeman%20Killed%20in%20War%20Attacks,%20Anti-US%20Rally%20%20in%20Ghazni,%20January%205,%202011.htm

U.S./NATO initial response: “NATO says the two Afghan nationals wereTaliban members.”

http://www.aljazeerah.info/News/2011/January/5%20n/6%20Afghani%20Civilian,%20Policeman%20Killed%20in%20War%20Attacks,%20Anti-US%20Rally%20%20in%20Ghazni,%20January%205,%202011.htm

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: January 5, 2011

Place: Nawar district of Ghazni province

Circumstances: “Three civilians were killed in an overnight raid in the Nawar district of the Ghazni province when NATO soldiers targeted them. Angry tribesmen from the region arrived in the provincial capital with the bodies, protesting and demanding US apologies for the killings. Provincial Intelligence Chief Sayyed Amir Shah confirmed that the slain were civilians and promised to take up the issue with the US military. Most such killings, however, result in little more than an expression of vague “regret.”” http://news.antiwar.com/2011/01/05/nato-troops-kill-three-civilians-in-afghan-night-raid/

U.S./NATO initial response: NATO declined any comments on those killings, but issued a report relating to night raids in the nearby Rashidan Province, claiming they had killed “over a dozen” insurgents, but no civilians in the attacks on five buildings. It is unclear, then, if the three killed today were from those attacks or a separate, as yet unannounced attack. http://news.antiwar.com/2011/01/05/nato-troops-kill-three-civilians-in-afghan-night-raid/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: December 21, 2010

Place: Sangin district of Helmand province

Circumstances: “NATO says it is investigating the death of five civilians killed when Coalition forces returned fire against insurgents shooting from a compound in the Sangin district of Helmand.” http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_afghanistan

U.S./NATO initial response: “The dead civilians were found after the end of an exchange of fire with insurgents, a NATO statement said Tuesday. It did not say when the firefight took place. NATO forces, most of them from the United States, are waging a campaign against the Taliban in Helmand province in southwestern Afghanistan. Most of the fighting is taking place in the Sangin section.” http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_afghanistan

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: December 14, 2010

Place: Helmand province

Circumstances: “NATO aircraft accidentally killed an Afghan civilianand wounded two children, the coalition said Wednesday, the latest incident involving civilian casualties which have strained ties between Kabul and Washington.” http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE6BE26620101215

U.S./NATO initial response/acknowledgement: “The International Security Assistance Force is sending a joint incident assessment team to Helmand province to assess an incident in which coalition aircraft accidentally killed an Afghan civilian and wounded two children in a close air support mission yesterday.” “We are here to protect the Afghan people and initial indications are that in this case we may have failed,” said Brig. Gen. Tim Zadalis, ISAF Joint Command director of air plans/projects and assessment team leader. “Our thoughts and concerns are with the families of the victims of this unfortunate accident.” http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/isaf-assesses-civilian-casualties-in-southern-afghanistan.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: December 11, 2010

Place: Zarmat district in Paktia province

Circumstances: “At least seven Afghan civilians have been killed during the latest spate of US-led air strike in Afghanistan amid the rise in civilian casualties in the war-torn country. The attack took place in Zarmat district in Paktia province on Saturday as a group of Afghan road construction workers were working on a project, a Press TV correspondent reported. Reports say local people have gathered at the site of the attack and there is extreme anger over the event.” http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/International/11-Dec-2010/7-Afghan-civilians-killed-by-USled-airstrike-in-Paktia

U.S./NATO initial response: “The security force … is currently assessing who the individuals were, why they were armed and why they were in that area at that time of the morning,” “ISAF said in a statement.” http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6BA0Q420101211

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: December 4, 2010

Place: Dih Yak district, Ghazni province

Circumstances: AP reported that an airstrike targeting two armed insurgents on a motorcycle wounded a civilian, who later died. The coalition met with elders in the area and extended its condolences.

http://fe7.story.media.sp1.yahoo.com/news/story/maple/en-US/ap/as_afghanistan

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: Saturday, November 20th

Place: Darah-ye-Pech district of northeastern Kunar province

Circumstances: The NATO-led force said its troops had accidentally killed three civilians and wounded four more during an operation in Darah-ye-Pech district of northeastern Kunar province.
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops fired several mortar rounds targeting militants on Friday after coming under fire from the insurgents, ISAF said. “Three or four” rounds missed their target and landed near a village, it said. http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/207385/nato-admits-killing-three-afghan-civilians

“We take civilian casualties seriously and we do everything within our power to prevent civilian casualties in the course of operations – in this case, we failed,” said U.S. Army Col. Rafael Torres, ISAF Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director. “Our thoughts and concerns are with the families of this tragic accident.”

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/update-isaf-confirms-civilian-casualties-in-kunar.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: November 14, 2010

Place: Kandahar province

Circumstances: “Also on Sunday, ISAF said one Afghan child had been killed inadvertently and one wounded by artillery fire. The wounded child was taken to an ISAF hospital for treatment. An ISAF patrol had come under fire in the Zharay district of southern Kandahar province,a Taliban stronghold, and returned fire with artillery, the coalition said.”

http://alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LDE6AD0GK.htm

U.S./NATO initial response/acknowledgment: “Following the engagement, the combined force confirmed that two Afghan children were inadvertently caught in the engagement, one was killed and one was wounded. The wounded child was medically evacuated to an ISAF medical facility. “Our thoughts and concerns are with the families of this terrible accident,” said U.S. Army Col. Rafael Torres, ISAF Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director.”

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/isaf-investigates-civilian-casualty-incident-in-kandahar.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: November 10, 2010

Place: Sangin district of Helmand province

Circumstances: “the NATO-led force in Afghanistan said it was investigating whether its troops had inadvertently killed three Afghan civilians on Wednesday while its forces fought insurgents in the south of the country.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6A941I20101110

U.S./NATO initial response: International Security Assistance Force is looking into the possibility that three Afghan civilians were inadvertently killed and one wounded by ISAF forces during combat operations with insurgents in the Sangin district of Helmand province Wednesday. Four Afghan civilians were brought to a nearby ISAF base following the engagement, three died and one was wounded. “Our thoughts and concerns are with the families of this terrible accident,” said U.S. Army Col. Rafael Torres, ISAF Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director.

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/isaf-looks-into-civilian-casualties-in-helmand.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: Saturday, October 23, 2010

Place: Maidan Shahr district, Wardak province

Circumstances: NATO forces killed two civilians, including a teenage boy, during a fight with insurgents Saturday in Wardak province in eastern Afghanistan, according to Mohammad Halim Fidai, the governor of the province. Fidai condemned the killings. The deaths prompted hundreds of residents to stage a demonstration that blocked a highway for nearly an hour.

The coalition could not confirm the two civilian deaths. NATO said that after insurgents attacked a patrol with a homemade bomb, the troops stopped to investigate the explosion and clear any other bombs in the area. After they stopped, they received fire from an unknown number of insurgents, the coalition said in a statement. During the fighting, the coalition said two Afghans fell off a motorcycle and were taken away by villagers so their conditions could not be verified.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101023/aponreas/asafghanistan

U.S./NATO initial response: “a statement released by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said two civilians had possibly been killed in the Maidan Shahr district of Wardak province, west of Kabul, when insurgents attacked the patrol. However, it did not say whether they were killed by ISAF troops or by insurgents.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE69M17N20101023

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: October 23, 2010

Place: Regey village of Sangin district in Helmand province

Circumstances: “President Hamid Karzai said Monday that a rocket attack on a residential compound in the southern province of Helmand was carried out by Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).” He said, “the attack by a helicopter gunship last Friday killed 52 people in Regey village, in Helmand’s volatile Sangin district.”

http://news.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/21-nato-says-cannot-verify-afghan-civilian-deaths-sk-02

U.S./NATO initial response: According to “Isaf public affairs officer Todd Breasseale, “We do not know where the information they say they have is coming from.” He said “We are looking into who was responsiblefor (the rocket attack), that is part of our investigation,”

http://news.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/21-nato-says-cannot-verify-afghan-civilian-deaths-sk-02

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: October 4, 2010

Place: Kajaki district of Helmand province

Circumstances:Three Afghan civilians were killed along with 14 insurgents in a NATO air strike targeting a Taliban commander. The air strike in southern Helmand province came only a day after another air strike by foreign forces targeting insurgents in different district of the province, which Afghan police said also killed civilians as well as fighters.”
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6934AW20101004

U.S. NATO Initial response: “A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it was investigating the report of a strike, but did not have any information.” http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6934AW20101004

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date:October 3, 2010

Place: Baraki Barak district of Logar province

Circumstances: “Two Afghan civilians were accidentally killed Sunday by coalition forces after insurgents attacked an ISAF base in Logar Province, eastern Afghanistan. The incident, being investigated by NATO, occurred when coalition forces returned fire following an attack by insurgents.“
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/afghanistanunrest

U.S. NATO Initial response: “The civilians were killed when ISAF forces returned fire following a mortar or rocket attack by the insurgents, it said in a statement. The incident was under investigation.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6921BZ20101003

U.S/NATO acknowledgement: “ISAF said it had accidentally killed two civilians when insurgents attacked a military base in Baraki Barak district of Logar province south of Kabul.”
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6921BZ20101003

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: October 2, 2010

Place: Helmand province

Circumstances: “At least three Afghan civilians were killed in a NATO air strike targeting senior Taliban commanders in southern Helmand province at the weekend, the provincial police chief said on Sunday.”

U.S. NATO Initial response: “The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it was aware of reports of civilian casualties, but declined immediate comment on the total number of people killed in Saturday’s raid, or the number of possible civilian casualties.”
[http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/SGE692013.htm]

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: September 29, 2010

Place: Andar district of Ghazni province

Circumstances: Sher Khan Yousafzai, the chief of Andar district, told the local Pajhwok Afghan News that a Nato raid on Wednesday occurred after a joint patrol by Afghan and foreign forces came under attack. The Nato raid, according to the official killed four children and wounded three adults. Yousafzai said helicopter-borne Nato forces fired on the locals in an orchard near one of the district’s towns, also named Andar.

U.S./NATO initial response: In a statement, Nato said its joint patrol came under small-arms fire from insurgents. “After gaining positive identification on the insurgent position, an air weapons team engaged,” the statement said. “The combined force called for a medical evaluation for wounded insurgents and reported approximately four insurgents had been killed”. The statement said Nato is aware of the allegations that civilians had been killed and would provide updates.
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2010/09/2010929114014622446.html

U.S./NATO acknowledgment: Coalition forces killed civilians: Sept 30(Reuters). An airstrike by NATO forces killed four Afghan civilians and wounded three others in Ghazni province, southwest of the capital Kabul, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said on Sept. 30.

“Air support was called in after Afghan and foreign forces came under fire from around eight insurgents in Andar district on Wednesday, but a group of unarmed civilians was accidentally targeted instead of the fighters.” ISAF said in a statement. “The wounded were taken to an ISAF hospital and compensation will be given to the families of the dead.” the statement added.

http://alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/SGE68T0K6.htm

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: September 25, 2010

Place: Alishang district of Laghman province

Circumstances: September 25—Protestors in eastern Laghman provincesaid on Saturday civilians were also among 30 people killed in an ongoing coalition operation in the Alishang district.

U.S. NATO Initial response: “More than 30 enemy fighters have been killed in the engagement. Initial reports indicate that there are no injuries or damages to any civilians in the area.”
http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/coalition-forces-eliminate-more-than-30-insurgents-in-laghman.html

U.S/NATO acknowledgement:on September 27, 2010, coalition forces killed civilian—“International Security Assistance Forces confirmed one Afghan civilian was killed by an ISAF service member in the Ali Sheng district of Laghman province Sunday.” Maj. Patrick Seiber, Combined Joint Task Force – 101 and Regional Command – East spokesman said: “We take allegations of civilian casualties very seriously and we will conduct a thorough investigation of this isolated incident,”

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/isaf-investigates-death-in-laghman.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: September 25, 2010

Place: Musa Qala district of Helmand Province

Circumstances: NATO troops killed two Afghan civilians riding a motorcycle in southern Helmand province.

U.S. NATO Initial response: September 25, 2010 “Two Afghan civilians riding a motorcycle were killed after failing to adhere to several warnings to stop while approaching a security perimeter in southern Afghanistan Saturday,” the ISAF statement said.
http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/

U.S/NATO acknowledgement: on September 27, 2010, coalition forces killed civilians—“On Saturday, two civilians on a motorbike were killed by NATO troops after they refused to stop while driving towards a security barrier.

The incident took place in Musa Qala district, an area under Taliban control in the troubled southern province of Helmand.”
http://www.bhcourier.com/article/WorldNews/WorldNews/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: September 1, 2010

Place: The Rostoq district of the Takhar Province

Circumstances: According to Afghan officials, ten election campaign workers have been killed in an air strike by Nato-led forces in the northern province of Takhar. The governor of the province, Abduljabar Taqwa, told the BBC that Rostoq was a peaceful and secure area. “Without any co-ordination, without informing provisional authorities,” Mr. Taqwa said, they attacked on their own, civilian people who were in a campaign convoy.”

Initial U.S./NATO response: September 2, 2010 US Marine Corps Maj Gen David Garza said: “We’re aware of the allegations that this strike caused civilian casualties and we’ll do our best to get to the bottom of the accusations.”
The ISAF Joint Command for Afghanistan goes on to assert “After careful planning to ensure no civilians were present, coalition aircraft conducted a precision air strike on one sedan and later followed with direct fire from an aerial platform. The vehicle was traveling as part of a six-car convoy, but no other vehicles were hit in the strike. The security force was unable to immediately dispatch a ground force to assess the results, but initial reflections indicate eight to 12 insurgents were killed or injured in the strike, including a Taliban commander.”
Read the Entire International Security Assistance Force – Afghanistan Press Release

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: August 26, 2010

Place: Manogi District of Kunar province

Circumstances: Afghan authorities accused international forces of killing six children during an air assault on Taliban positions. In eastern Kunar province, provincial police chief Khalilullah Ziayee said a group of children were collecting scrap metal on the mountain when NATO aircraft dropped bombs to disperse Taliban fighters attacking a nearby base. “In the bombardment six children, aged six to 12, were killed. Another child was injured,” the police commander said.

Initial U.S./NATO response: August 27, 2010 ISAF said in a statement that “officials are aware of civilian casualty allegations as a result of the engagement and are conducting an investigation.”

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100827/wlsthasiaafp/afghanistanunrestl

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date:August 23, 2010

Place:Talah wa Barfak district of Baghlan Province

Initial U.S./NATO response: Maj. Michael Johnson, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, as the NATO force is known, said NATO authorities were unaware of any such attack.

www.nytimes.com/2010/08/24/world/asia/24afghan.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: August 20, 2010

Place: Pusht Rod district of Farah province

Circumstances: According to an ISAF Joint Command report, issued on August 21, 2010, a woman and two children were accidentally killed by an air attack. The report states that six insurgents were killed as they got out of a vehicle and several other suspected militants were detained during an operation in the Pusht Rod district of Farah province. “Also during the operation,” the report states, “a civilian woman and two children were accidentally killed when a coalition force air weapons team engaged the insurgents.”

U.S./NATO acknowledgment that Coalition forces killed civilians: “We deeply regret what occurred on yesterday’s operation,” U.S. Army Col. Rafael Torres, a spokesman for NATO, said in expressing condolences to relatives. “We are taking a step-by-step approach in investigating what went wrong.”

http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/security-force-targets-taliban-foreign-fighter-facilitator-in-farah.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: August 17, 2010

Place Arghandab district of Kandahar province

Initial U.S./NATO response:Coalition forces plan to meet with local elders about the incident, which remains under investigation. (RAHIM FAIEZAP NewsAug 18, 2010 03:23 EDT)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: August 12, 2010

Place: Lashkar Gah district, Loyadera area of Helmand Province

Circumstances: ISAF (International Security Assistance Forces) said they were investigating a report that NATO airstrikes killed civilians during a NATO/ISAF operation. Four wounded and three dead Afghan civilians were brought to a nearby checkpoint. They had been in a building which was attacked by aerial bombardment. Two of the wounded civilians later died. In a separate report, ISAF said Afghan and coalition forces had come under fire in an area of Helmand and that an Afghan woman had been shot by ISAF troops during the engagement. The woman later died.

U.S./NATO acknowledgment that Coalition forces killed civilians: On August 15, the ISAF said it believes there is evidence civilians were in the compound targeted by coalition forces during the operation.“

http://www.dvidshub.net/news/54620/lashkar-gar-evidence-points-isaf-caused-civilian-casualties

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: August 12, 2010

Place: Musa Qal&rsquo district of Helmand province

Circumstances: According to an ISAF Joint Command report, issued on August 12, 2010, Afghan and coalition forces were attacked by Taliban fighters with small arms. They returned fire and “an Afghan civilian woman was shot by International Security Assistance Force soldiers. The woman was given immediate medical attention by coalition forces, but subsequently died of her wounds.

U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the person killed was an unarmed civilian: ISAF officials deeply regret this unfortunate loss of life and express their sincerest apologies to the family.

www.isaf.nato.int/…/isaf…/afghan-woman-killed-during-fire-fight-in-helmand.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: August 11, 2010

Place: Sayed Abad district of Wardak Province

Circumstances: Provincial spokesman Shahedullah Shahed told AFP that NATO “Coalition and Afghan forces went to a house to capture a Taliban commander,” provincial spokesman Shahedullah Shahed told AFP. “During the attack unfortunately three civilians were killed.” On Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010, an AP photo showed a crowd of about 300 villagers who yelled ‘Death to the United States’ and blocked a main road in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday as they swore that U.S. forces had killed three innocent villagers, officials said.

Initial U.S./NATO response: August 12, 2010 ISAF spokesman Captain Ryan Donald said three “insurgents” had been killed in the raid. U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the person killed was an unarmed civilian: None, as yet. The case is still under investigation.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: August 5, 2010

Place: Nangarhar province eastern Afghanistan

Circumstances: According to The Pak Tribune a vehicle carrying a coffin and a dead man’s relatives was bombed and eleven civilians, including women and children, were killed.

Initial U.S./NATO response: August 5, 2010—As sited in The Jakarta Globe, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said it had operated in the area on Wednesday and was “aware of civilian casualty allegations as a result of these operations and is conducting an investigation.”

U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that Coalition forces killed unarmed civilians: August 5, 2010 — “Coalition forces deeply regret that our joint operation appears to have resulted in civilian loss of life and we express our sincerest condolences to the families,” said Rear Admiral Greg Smith, ISAF Director of Communication. “We will partner with the Government of Afghanistan to conduct a thorough investigation of this incident, and to provide solation to the families of the civilians killed during the engagement.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: July 23, 2010

Place: Sangin district in Helmand province

Circumstances: On July 26, the Afghan National Directorate of Security stated that on July 23rd the American-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) killed “52 civilians…including women and children” in a “rocket attack.” The Kabul government later revised the number of people killed to 39.

U.S. /NATO initial response: July 27, 2010— “Any speculation at this point of an alleged civilian casualty in Rigi village is completely unfounded,” said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, director of communications for the American and NATO military coalition. “We are conducting a thorough joint investigation with our Afghan partners and will report any and all findings when known.”

U.S./NATO acknowledgement that Coalition forces killed unarmed civilians: August 5, 2010—“A senior intelligence official told the New York Times (see paragraphs 9 – 15) that six civilians died with eight Taliban fighters when a troop fired a Javelin rocket into a structure from which U.S. Marines took fire. When asked to explain the discrepancy between his tally and that of the Afghan government, the unnamed official cited “political challenges.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: July 8, 2010

Place: Jani Khel district of Paktia Province

Circumstances: According to Reuters’ Rob Taylor in Kabul, 10 Jul 2010 , a joint Afghan and NATO investigation team found six civilians died on Thursday, (July 8), when artillery shells went astray in Paktia Province.

Initial U.S./NATO Response: Initially, the coalition reported that eight Afghan civilians had been injured and taken to a nearby NATO outpost for treatment, and that one subsequently died. Later, it was determined that the bodies of those killed had been removed before NATO units arrived on the scene following the errant rounds, NATO said in a statement.

U.S. /NATO Acknowledgement: On July 10, 2010 NATO admitted killing six people with stray artillery on Thursday, (July 8). “ISAF officials offer sincere condolences to those affected,” the statement said, “and accept full responsibility for the actions that led to this tragic incident.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: July 7, 2010

Place: Northern Balkh province on the outskirts of Mazar-I Sharif

Circumstances: Professor Juan R. I. Cole wrote, on July 11th, that Afghans alleged that on Wednesday, July 7th, US forces wrongly killed two Afghan security guards in a raid on a market in the northern Balkh province on the outskirts of Mazar-i Sharif. According to an Afghan newspaper, about 1,000 demonstrators marched from the shrine of Ali to the offices of UNAMI, a UN organization, chanting and walking for 3 hours in protest against the wrongful killing.

Initial U.S./NATO Response: NATO said that the two security guards declined to lower their weapons, which is why they were shot, and that NATO forces were pursuing elements of the Haqqani Network in the area.

U.S./NATO Acknowledgment: No comment.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: June 19, 2010

Place:Khost Province Circumstances: According to the New York Times, NATO airstrikes killed ten civilians, including at least five women and children.

Initial U.S./NATO response: June 19, 2010, coalition forces issue a statement saying that “Precision airstrikes were used in self-defense against a large number of armed insurgents.” And that “We are aware of conflicting reports of civilian casualties made by local officials and are therefore reviewing the operational details of the engagement.”

U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians: The June 19th NATO statement also says, “Our mission is to protect the population, and we will accept full responsibility if civilians were unintentionally harmed in this intense fight against insurgents.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: April 28, 2010

Place: Surkh Rod district, near Jalalabad

Circumstances: According to Safiya Sidiqi, a member of the Afghan parliament, dozens of Afghan and U.S. soldiers entered her family home, blindfolded and handcuffed men and women, and killed her brother-in-law, Amanullah, a 30 year old car mechanic with five children. “They shot him six times. In his heart, in his face, in his head,” Sidiqi said on Thursday, April 29th. Both legs were broken.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/29/AR2010042900331pf.html

Initial U.S./NATO response: April 29, 2010—An Afghan-international security force killed one armed individual while pursuing a Taliban facilitator in Nangarhar last night.

http://www.isaf.nato.int/en/article/isaf-releases/afghan-isaf-operations-in-nangarhar.html

U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the person killed was an unarmed civilian: None, as yet. The case is still under investigation.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: April 20, 2010

Place: Khost Province

Circumstances:A NATO military convoy attacked a car approaching a checkpoint, claiming that the car sped up after being warned to stop. Four young men were killed. According to the New York Times, “The shooting Monday night in Khost province sparked an immediate outcry from the victims’ family, who insisted that all four were civilians driving home from a volleyball game. ‘The youngest boy was just 13,’said Rahmatullah Mansour, whose two sons and two nephews were killed in the shooting. Mansour said that the victims in Monday’s shooting were his sons Faizullah, 13, and Nasratullah, 17; and nephews Maiwand and Amirullah, both 18. He said all were students except Amirullah, who was a police officer.”

Initial U.S. / NATO response: April 21, 2010—From the New York Times: “Without offering proof, NATO described the dead as two insurgents and their “associates.” In a statement on Tuesday, NATO said the vehicle ignored warning shots and accelerated toward the military convoy. But the statement did not challenge the Afghan account that no weapons were found in the vehicle.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/21/world/asia/21khost.html

U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians: April 22, 2010—NATO acknowledges that four unarmed Afghans who were killed this week when a military convoy opened fire on their vehicle were all civilians, correcting an earlier claim that two of the dead were “known insurgents.”

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/04/21/world/AP-AS-Afghanistan.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: April 12, 2010

Place: Kandahar

Circumstances: According to the New York Times, “American troops raked a large passenger bus with gunfire near Kandahar on Monday morning, (April 12).” The attack killed five civilians and wounded 18.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/13/world/asia/13afghan.html

Initial U.S./NATO response:A statement issued by the American-led military command in Kabul said that four people were killed. It said “an unknown, large vehicle” drove “at a high rate of speed” toward a slow-moving NATO convoy that was clearing mines.

U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians: April 12, 2010—“ISAF deeply regrets the tragic loss of life in Zhari district this morning. According to ISAF operational reporting, four civilians were killed, including one female, and five others were treated for injuries at the scene of the incident today. Upon inspection, NATO forces discovered the vehicle to be a passenger bus.”

http://www.isaf.nato.int/en/article/isaf-releases/joint-team-assessing-civilian-casualty-incident-in-zhari.html

April 13, 2010—The New York Times reported that “a military spokeswoman confirmed that a convoy traveling west, in front of the bus, opened fire, but said the second convoy was traveling east toward the passenger bus. She also said the driver of the bus was killed. A survivor, however, identified himself as the driver and said he did not violate any signal from the troops. ‘I was going to take the bus off the road,’ said the man, Mohammed Nabi. ‘Then the convoy ahead opened fire from 60 to 70 yards away,’ he said.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/13/world/asia/13afghan.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: February 21, 2010

Place: Convoy en route to Kandehar

Circumstances: U.S. aerial forces attacked a three-car convoy traveling to a market in Kandehar. The convoy had planned on continuing to Kabul so that some of the passengers could get medical treatment. At least three dozen people were passengers in the three cars. The front car was an SUV type vehicle, and the last was a Land Cruiser. When the first car was hit by U.S. air fire, women in the second car jumped out and waved their scarves to indicate that they were civilians. U.S. helicopters continued to fire rockets and machine guns, killing 21 people and wounding 13.

U.S./NATO initial response:February 22, 2010—The day after the attack, the U.S.-led military coalition said that NATO forces had fired on a group of “suspected insurgents” who were thought to be on their way to attack Afghan and coalition soldiers a few miles away. When troops arrived after the helicopter strike, they discovered women and children among the dead and wounded.

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/03/03/89795/afghan-survivors-describe-nato.html#ixzz0mGErxQSL

U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians:

Feb 24, 2010—General Stanley McChrystal delivered a videotaped apology.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: February 12, 2010

Place: Paktika Province

Circumstances: In a night raid, U.S. forces attacked a home where 25 people, 3 of them musicians, had gathered for a naming celebration. A newborn was being named that night. One of the musicians went outside to relieve himself. A flashlight shone in his face. Panicked, he ran inside and announced that the Taliban were outside. A police commander, Dawoud, the father of the newborn, ran outside with his weapon. U.S. forces opened fire, killing Officer Dawoud, a pregnant mother, an eighteen year old, Gulaila, and two others.

U.S. / NATO initial response: February 12, 2010—U.S. forces claimed that the women had been killed earlier, in an honor killing. Nato’s initial press release bore the headline: “Joint Force Operating in Gardez Makes Gruesome Discovery.” The release said that after “intelligence confirmed militant activity” in a compound near a village in Paktika province, an international security force entered the compound and engaged “several insurgents” in a firefight. Two “insurgents” were killed, the report said, and after the joint forces entered the compound, they “found the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed.”

March 16, 2010—The UN issued a scathing report, stating that the U.S. had killed the women. Villagers told Jerome Starkey, reporting for the Independent, that U.S. troops tried to tamper with evidence by digging bullets out of the womens’ bodies and out of the walls.

U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians: April 6, 2010—Almost two months later, the Pentagon was finally forced to admit that international forces had badly bungled the raid that night in Paktika, and that U.S. troops had, in fact, killed the women during their assault on the residence. One of the women was a pregnant mother of ten, and the other was a pregnant mother of six children.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/06/world/asia/06afghan.html?hp

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: February 2010

Place:Helmand Province

During this month, U.S./NATO forces launched a military offensive against three hamlets in the Marja district. Researcher Prof. Marc Herold presents a detailed summary and analysis of Afghan civilians killed directly by U.S/NATO forces during this particular month.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: December 26, 2009

Place: Kunar Province

Circumstances: In a night raid, U.S. forces, claiming to attack a bomb-making factory, attacked a house where eight youth, aged 11–18, were sleeping. They pulled the youngsters out of their beds, handcuffed them, and executed them. Villagers said that seven of those killed were students and one was a neighboring shepherd.

U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians: February 24, 2010—U.S. forces issued an apology, admitting that the U.S. had killed seven schoolboys and a neighboring shepherd.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: May 4, 2009

Place: Farah Province near the town of Granai

Circumstances: Mainstream media reports estimate that between 86 and 140 people, mostly children, died in a US air attack. According to Reuters, only 22 of the victims were adult males.

Initial U.S./NATO response: The following chronology indicates multiple attempts on the part of US officials to avoid blame.

May 6, 2009—U.S. officials plea ignorance and state that an investigation is under way.

http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=54224

May 6, 2009—According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for US forces in Afghanistan, Captain Elizabeth Mathias says, “This was not coalition forces. This was Afghan national security forces who called in close air support, a decision that was vetted by the Afghan leadership.”

May 7, 2009—An Armed Service Press Service report announces that a team is “investigating differing accounts of the events leading up to the casualties. Those accounts include allegations that the Taliban tossed grenades into homes to ‘frame’ Afghan and coalition forces.” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates states that “The United States and coalition partners do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties.” He went on to say that “While there have been civilian casualties caused by American and NATO troops, they have been accidental. When the Taliban cause casualties, they are on purpose.”

May 8, 2009—Pentagon spokesperson Col. Greg Julian insists that earlier estimates of the death toll were “grossly exaggerated”.

May 10, 2009—In an interview with Mike Wallace, General David Petraeus suggests that the Taliban forced people “to remain in houses from which the Taliban was engaging our forces.”

May 15, 2009—Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway again blames the Taliban for civilian casualties. “We believe that there were families who were killed by the Taliban with grenades and rifle fire,” he said, “that were then paraded about and shown as casualties from the airstrike.”

U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians:

May 13, 2009—Referring to the May 4th raids in an Afghan press interview, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry admits that “there were a number of civilians killed, a number of civilians wounded. We don’t know the exact amount. You are aware that our President of the United States and our Secretary of State and our Secretary of Defense have all very explicitly expressed their condolences for what happened.”

June 2, 2009—According to The New York Times “A military investigation has concluded that American personnel made significant errors in carrying out some of the airstrikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians, according to a senior American military official.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date:April 9, 2009

Place:Khost Province, Ali Daya

Circumstances: U.S. forces were positioned on the rooftop opposite the home of Brigadier Artillery officer Awal Khan. In a night raid, U.S. forces burst into Awal Khan’s home. Awal Khan was away from home. His family members ran to the rooftop, believing that robbers had entered the home. When they emerged on their rooftop, U.S. forces on the opposite roof opened fire, killing Awal Khan’s wife, his brother, his 17 year-old daughter Nadia, and his fifteen year-old son, Aimal and his infant son, born just a week earlier.

U.S. /NATO initial response: April 9, 2010, coalition forces issue a statement that the four people killed by troops were “armed militants.” Later that same day another statement admits that further inquiries “suggest that the people killed and wounded were not enemy combatants as previously reported.”

U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians: The Times of London reported the following, on April 11, 2009:

The US military conceded that its forces killed the civilians in error during the night-time raid that targeted the neighboring compound of a suspected militant. The father of the dead family is a lieutenant-colonel in the Afghan Army fighting the Taleban in the restive province of Ghazni.

The US military reported that two males, two females and an infant were believed to have died in the incident, and two other women were wounded. A relative of the dead family told reporters that the dead infant was a boy born last week. “This was a terrible tragedy,” a US spokesman, Colonel Greg Julian, told The Times.

Concerned about Afghanistan? Here are a few suggested actions for you and your community

In the state of Tennessee two gatherings have drawn attention to the fact that racist ideology and practice are alive and well inside the United States. The cities of Memphis, the state’s largest, and in Dickson, in the central region of the state, were the gathering points for the Ku Klux Klan and a white supremacist group known as American Renaissance (AmRen) which held gatherings on March 30 and the weekend of April 5-7 respectively.

Memphis was the scene of a Klan rally in downtown on March 30 ostensibly designed to protest against the renaming of three parks which honored the legacy of slavery and the Confederacy. Confederate Soldiers, Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest Parks have been a source of embarrassment and tension in Memphis for decades.

Now with a majority African American population, a Black mayor and other high-ranking officials of color, pressure has been mounting in recent years to rename the parks. In response to this inevitability, a North Carolina-based section of the Ku Klux Klan applied and was granted a permit to hold a rally inside the city.

Anti-racist demonstrators in Memphis mobilized over 1,500 people to challenge the Klan. Although the protests against the Klan remained peaceful with only one reported arrest during the day, the crowd made it clear that the racists were not welcome in the city.

The parks were named after figures who were leading personalities in the splitting-up of the U.S. during 1861-1865 in a failed effort to maintain the economic system of slavery. Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederate States of America, 11 states which seceded from the Union.

Nathan Bedford Forrest was a wealthy southerner who earned a fortune in the trade in enslaved Africans during the mid-19th century in Memphis. During the Civil War, Forrest served as a general with the Confederacy and is said to have been responsible for the infamous Fort Pillow Massacre in southwest Tennessee where hundreds of Africans and Union soldiers were slaughtered and later driven to their untimely deaths.

After the defeat of the Confederacy in 1865, Forrest is credited with founding the Ku Klux Klan in Middle Tennessee. The organization has engaged in over a century of terrorism against African Americans and other people who they have deemed a threat to the notions of white supremacy.

Anti-Racists Demonstrate Outside White Supremacist Conference in Dickson In Dickson, the so-called American Renaissance group held its annual conference. The state of Tennessee denied anti-racists several permit applications to hold mass demonstrations outside the event.

Demonstrations took place at any rate and denounced the messages put forward by the racists. The conference was held at Montgomery Bell Park over the weekend of April 5-7.

This was the second straight year that American Renaissance has gathered at the park in Dickson. The list of speakers at the conference included Klan members, neo-Nazis, holocaust deniers, anti-immigrant activists and other assorted fascists and racists.

According to Julia Casteel of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), “It is clear that the state stands solidly on the side of white supremacy. They granted a permit for a known white supremacist terrorist organization, AmRen, to hold their conference and they have repeatedly denied all of our permit requests to protest racist attacks on our park.” (fightbacknews.org, April 4)

These events in Tennessee took place around the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968. King was in Memphis to support African American sanitation workers who were on strike for recognition as a collective bargaining unit with the city.

Despite the existence of an African American president in the White House and thousands of elected officials of color around the U.S., racism and national oppression appears to be escalating. African Americans and other nationally oppressed communities are disproportionately impacted by the economic crisis through high rates of home foreclosures, evictions and joblessness.

Poverty rates are also rising among the oppressed nations, particularly involving women. Police brutality and killings have risen in recent years with high profile cases of abuse in Maryland, California, New York, Michigan and Ohio.

Inside the U.S., racist organizations function openly and are granted permits to hold rallies and conferences. When anti-racist demonstrations are held more police attention is focused on suppressing such activity through bureaucratic methods and brute force.

Attention has been focused as well on possible links between the recent murder of a Kaufman County, Texas district attorney and his wife and white supremacist prison gangs. These murders follow the killings of an assistant district attorney and a prison administrator earlier in the year.

All of these officials are supposedly linked with a racketeering investigation targeting over 30 members of a white supremacist organization based in the Texas state prisons. One suspect was killed in a shoot-out with Texas authorities just two days after the murder of the prison official.

Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire

The real threat of the escalation of hostilities on the Korean peninsular – and consequently the world – comes not from North Korea, but from the United States itself, political analyst Michel Chossudovsky told RT.

The director of the Centre for Research on Globalization and professor of economics at the University of Ottawa believes it is the US which is trying to light a match.

Like this video? Visit our YouTube channel and click the “Subscribe” link to get the latest videos from GRTV 

“Just a few weeks ago it was revealed that the Pentagon had implemented a so-called playbook, which was to ratchet up tension with North Korea. During the war games it has dispatched [nuclear capable planes]… We have to put it in historical perspective, because these threats have been ongoing for more than half a century, since the end of the Korean War,” he said.

Chossudovsky also added that it does not seem at all that the world is serious in its intentions at curbing nuclear threats as such: “Looking at US nuclear doctrine, we have a $352 billion refurbishing of nuclear weapons, which is barely acknowledged by the mainstream media. We have a $10 billion refurbishing of tactical nuclear weapons, which can be launched from a B-2 bomber, which have currently been deployed. And then we have a Senate decision which says that nuclear weapons are harmless to the surrounding civilian population and can be used in the conventional war theater.”

When asked what tactics could possibly be implemented to avert the current crisis, Chossudovsky said that he sees a way out if “the people across the land, in Western countries, come to realize that the United States and NATO are a threat to global security, and if they wish to wage a pre-emptive nuclear war on any country in the world, that is a prelude to global warfare.”


WWIII Scenario

Existe uma conexão entre os eventos na Síria (talvez até mesmo a tensão dos EUA com a Coreia do Norte) e de improviso da Rússia jogos do Mar Negro guerra que começou em 28 de março de 2013?

 Enquanto a caminho de Durban, na África do Sul, onde os BRICS – Brasil, Rússia, Índia, China e África do Sul – anunciaram que estavam formando um banco de desenvolvimento novo para desafiar o FMI e o Banco Mundial, russo Vladimir Putin deu o seu aval para sem marcação jogos de guerra no Mar Negro. Por si só os jogos significam pouco, mas em um contexto global, eles significam muito.
Segundo o Kremlin, os jogos de guerra envolveu cerca de 7.000 militares russas; forças especiais russas, fuzileiros navais russas, e aerotransportados tropas de implantação rápida. Todos os serviços diferentes da Rússia estavam envolvidos e utilizados os exercícios para testar a sua interoperabilidade. Mais de 30 navios de guerra russos baseados fora do porto ucraniano de Sevastopol na Península da Crimeia e do porto russo de Novorossiysk em Krasnodar Krai estarão participando. O objectivo dos jogos são para mostrar que a Rússia poderia mobilizar para qualquer evento em um anúncio momentos.
Resposta russa aos planos de guerra contra os sírios
É mera coincidência que a Rússia está flexionando seus músculos depois de a NATO revelou que estava desenvolvendo planos de contingência para uma intervenção na Líbia estilo na Síria em 20 de março? Dois dias depois, Israel e Turquia, terminou a sua carreira diplomática por meio de um acordo atempado que foi supostamente intermediado pelo presidente dos EUA, Barack Obama, em 20 minutos, enquanto ele estava visitando Israel. O primeiro-ministro de Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, anunciou que, com a ajuda de Obama um acordo foi feito com o primeiro-ministro da Turquia, Recep Erdogan, para acabar com a crise diplomática sobre o ataque de Israel ao Mavi Marmara, em 2010.
Dias depois, este evento foi seguido pela Coalizão Nacional Sírio (SNC) – uma organização de oposição falso construído por os EUA, Reino Unido, França, Qatar, Arábia Saudita e Turquia – sendo cerimoniosamente dado assento da Síria na Liga Árabe. No que parece ser uma tentativa de repetir o cenário da Líbia , o SNC está a ser reconhecido como o governo da Síria. Na cimeira da Liga Árabe, o líder do SNC de Moaz Al-Khatib imediatamente chamado para uma intervenção militar da OTAN em coordenação com a chamada do Qatar para a mudança de regime e a intervenção militar em Damasco em 26 de março.
Em um movimento estágio gerenciado, o SNC fantoche pediu os EUA, Reino Unido, França, Qatar, Arábia Saudita, Turquia, e Otan para impor uma zona de exclusão aérea, com o objectivo de criar um emirado SNC-controlada ou enclave no norte da Síria . Al-Khatib anunciou que falou com John Kerry EUA Secretário de Estado para usar os mísseis Patriot da OTAN estacionadas na Turquia, para criar a zona de exclusão aérea sobre o norte da Síria. Efectivamente o que ele está falando é a balcanização da Síria. Kerry parece estar em cima dele. Victoria Nuland, porta-voz do Departamento de Estado dos EUA, disse que os EUA estão considerando o pedido sobre a imposição de uma zona de exclusão aérea. Mesmo antes, Kerry fez uma visita surpresa a Bagdad e ameaçou o governo federal no Iraque a cair em linha com os planos de Washington mudança de regime contra a Síria. Ele disse que queria que os iraquianos para verificar aviões de passageiros iranianos indo para a Síria de armas, mas muito mais foi dito.
Sátrapas do império americano estão todos em movimento. Catar e Arábia Saudita já não esconde o fato de que eles estão armando e financiando os insurgentes na Síria. Em Fevereiro, o Reino Unido ea França pressionaram o resto da União Europeia para levantar o embargo de armas da Síria, de modo que eles podem abertamente armar os combatentes anti-governamentais estrangeiras e as milícias que estão tentando derrubar o governo sírio. Israel e Turquia têm sido forçados a fazer as pazes por causa da guerra do império sobre os sírios.
Obama realinha Israel e Turquia contra a Síria
A reaproximação de Israel e Turquia convenientemente se encaixa no tabuleiro alinhando. A visita de Obama a Israel foi sobre a política imperial de manter o império americano. Como dois vizinhos hostis da Síria, Tel Aviv e Ancara terá uma cooperação mais profunda nos objectivos do Império para derrubar o governo sírio. De repente, os governos de ambos os países começaram a se queixar de acordo com um outro sobre como a situação humanitária na Síria foi ameaçá-los. Na realidade, Israel não está hospedando qualquer refugiados sírios (e oprime sírios sob a ocupação no Golã) Considerando que a Turquia tem realmente negligenciado muitas das suas obrigações legais e financeiras para os refugiados sírios que hospeda em seu território e tentou encobrir isso, rotulando como estranhos “convidados”.
De acordo com a Agence France-Presse, os israelenses têm até abriu um hospital de campanha militar para ajudar os rebeldes a derrubar o governo sírio. A instalação militar está localizado em uma área chamada Fortificação 105 em ocupada por Israel da Síria Colinas de Golã (originalmente referido como as alturas sírios em Israel). É essencialmente uma base de apoio para forças anti-governamentais e apenas a ponta do iceberg em relação ao envolvimento de Israel na Síria. Ataques de Israel à Síria Janeiro foram os frutos da cooperação entre israelenses e milícias insurgentes.
Sentindo os olhos desconfiados olhando para o governo turco e, talvez, ficar nervoso com a flexão do Kremlin muscular, ministro das Relações Exteriores turco, Ahmet Davutoglu rejeitou as alegações de que Tel Aviv e Ancara foram cerrando fileiras contra a Síria. Davutoglu deve ter tido conhecimento do que foi dito em Israel sobre sua aproximação. Mesmo que Netanyahu prometeu nunca mais pedir desculpas pela morte de cidadãos da Turquia sobre o Mavi Marmara, pedido de desculpas de Tel Aviv para a Turquia foi publicamente justificada pelo governo israelense sobre a base de abordar a Síria, através da coordenação com a Turquia. Muitos dos olhos desconfiados de que se virou para olhar o governo de Erdogan sobre o acordo com Israel são turco. Davutoglu realmente mentiu para o consumo doméstico, sabendo muito bem que a opinião pública turca seria ultrajada em saber que o primeiro-ministro Erdogan foi realmente normalizar laços com Israel para derrubar o governo sírio.
A mensagem (s) dos jogos de guerra russos
O império americano está organizando o tabuleiro de xadrez geopolítico com é sátrapas em sua guerra em curso sobre a Síria. Talvez planeia usar Israel para fazer um re-play da Crise de Suez. Em 1956, depois de o Egipto nacionalizou o Canal de Suez, Reino Unido e França desenhou um plano com Israel a anexar o Canal de Suez, obtendo Israel para atacar o Egipto e depois reclamar para intervir militarmente, como partes interessadas, que queriam manter o canal de Suez seguro e aberto para tráfego marítimo internacional. Um novo ataque contra a Síria sob as bandeiras dos israelenses é possível e pode ser usado como uma desculpa para um turco e da NATO “invasão humanitária” que poderia resultar na criação de uma zona tampão norte humanitária (ou uma guerra mais ampla).
Um padrão pode ser representado de todos estes eventos. No início de 2013, a Rússia realizou grandes exercícios navais no Mediterrâneo Oriental em um cenário de tensão entre Moscovo e a NATO liderada pelos EUA e Conselho de Cooperação do Golfo (GCC) coligação que foi desestabilizar a Síria. Depois de os EUA e sua coalizão anti-Síria ameaçou intervir militarmente e implantado mísseis Patriot na fronteira sul da Turquia com a Síria, um russo naval flotilha foi enviado ao largo da costa da Síria para enviar uma forte mensagem a Washington de não ter qualquer ideia de iniciar outra guerra . Por sua vez, os EUA e seus aliados tentaram salvar a face por espalhar boatos de que o Kremlin estava se preparando para evacuar cidadãos russos da Síria, porque o governo sírio estava indo ao colapso ea situação ia ficar crítica.
Em paralelo com os jogos de guerra russos no mar Negro, a Força Aérea da Rússia realizou voos de longa distância em toda a Rússia. Isto incluiu voos de bombardeiros estratégicos russos nucleares. Na outra extremidade da Eurásia, a China também realizou suas próprias manobras navais surpresa no Mar da China Meridional. Enquanto os EUA e seus aliados retratados os movimentos chineses como uma ameaça para o Vietname sobre o território disputado no Mar da China Meridional, o momento da implantação naval pode estar ligada a qualquer Síria (ou a Coreia do Norte) e coordenado com a Rússia para avisar os EUA para manter a paz internacional.
Em um sinal do declínio do império americano, pouco antes de os jogos de guerra russos no Mar Negro, todos os líderes cada vez mais assertivas BRICS advertiu os EUA contra qualquer aventureirismo na Síria e em outros países. A flexão muscular russo e chinês são mensagens que informam a Washington que Pequim e Moscou são sérios e dizer o que eles dizem. Ao mesmo tempo, esses eventos podem ser lidas como sinais de que o sistema-mundo está sob nova gerência.

Este artigo foi originalmente publicado na RT Op-Edge, 3 de Abril de 2013.

Artigos por: Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya Sobre o autor:

Um autor premiado e analista de geopolítica, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya é o autor de A Globalização da NATO (Clarity Press) e um próximo livro A guerra contra a Líbia ea recolonização de África. Ele também contribuiu para vários outros livros que vão de crítica cultural para as relações internacionais. Ele é um sociólogo e pesquisador associado do Centro de Pesquisas sobre Globalização (CRG), um colaborador no Estratégico Fundação de Cultura (SCF), Moscovo, e um membro do Comité Científico de Geopolítica, Itália

Over the weekend, US officials continued to threaten North Korea with war, demanding that China cut off its support to the regime in Pyongyang.

This comes after weeks of US threats aimed at Pyongyang’s nuclear program, during which Washington flew nuclear-capable bombers to Korea to demonstrate its capacity to wage nuclear war against the North. Last week, US officials revealed that these moves were part of a laid-out “playbook” of US escalations—aimed to terrorize North Korea’s government and population.

General Walter Sharp, the former US military commander in South Korea, told America’s National Public Radio (NPR): “there’s been a lot of effort over the past two and a half years now to build this counter-provocation plan. Because that’s a hard balance of a strong response: don’t escalate, but be prepared to go to war.”

Sharp said that US and South Korean forces would rapidly respond to any firing along the border by the North Korean and prepare for an overwhelming response. He explained, “There are options that people have worked and thought through that could very quickly be brought to President Park [Geun-hye of South Korea] and President Obama.”

NPR commented, “That’s the escalation scenario, and it leads to all-out war.”

Yesterday, amid intelligence reports that North Korea may be preparing a test missile launch for April 10, South Korea dispatched Aegis guided-missile warships to waters on both sides of the Korean peninsula.

Japan indicated that it was also considering deploying its own warships to the area. Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo is preparing for a “worst-case” scenario and demanded that China and Russia play “significant roles” to resolve the stand-off.

There are unconfirmed reports that Washington has begun deploying groups of B-1 heavy bombers from the United States to the Western Pacific.

US officials speaking Sunday demanded that China force the North Korean regime to give in to US demands. Pyongyang relies on China for critical food and fuel supplies.

On CBS, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said, “China can cut off their [i.e., North Korea’s] economy if they want to. Chinese behavior has been very disappointing, whether it be on cyber security, whether it be on confrontation in the South China Sea, or whether it be their failure to rein in what could be a catastrophic situation.”

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York added, “The Chinese hold a lot of cards here. They’re by nature cautious, but they’re carrying it to an extreme. It’s about time they stepped up to the plate and put a little pressure on the North Korean regime.”

The Chinese regime in Beijing, which is in the midst of a leadership transition in both the state and the Chinese Communist Party, is divided on how to respond to the Korean crisis.

At Sunday’s regional business summit in Boao, China, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain.” This carefully worded remark voices the alarm in Beijing over the possible outbreak of military conflict, without directly indicting either North Korea or the United States as the party responsible.

On the one hand, Beijing has given several indications of increasing hostility to Pyongyang. It has already voted for UN sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program earlier this year.

At the Boao summit, Xi also agreed to an extensive series of military exercises and exchanges with Australia’s armed forces. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s government is closely aligned on US imperialist interests in the region, having agreed to install a US base in Australia as part of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” aiming to contain China.

Sections of the Chinese army and bureaucracy have openly questioned Beijing’s attempts to accommodate US policy, however.

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Colonel Dai Xu of the People’s Liberation Army’s National Defense University protested moves to develop closer ties to Australia: “Australia is one of the links in America’s encirclement of China. The first step of [America’s] strategic eastward move was to send troops to Australia. The Sino-Australian relationship has been good always, very good—[Gillard] can of course say that, but in China we say, ‘Listen to what they say, watch what they do.’ The US is taking Australia as a base, and who is that aimed against?”

The Western press is speculating that Zhou Yongkang, a member of Beijing’s powerful Politburo Standing Committee, is an influential supporter of the North Korean regime. A CCP official who has had responsibility for oil and security policy, he reportedly backed the coming to power of Kim Jong Un in North Korea in 2011.

Washington is placing enormous pressure on Beijing. Sections of the US press and foreign policy establishment are now mooting the possibility that Washington will go to war and kill the North Korean leadership—as it murdered Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi when it took over their countries. This was the theme of a recent Foreign Affairs article by academics Keir Lieber and Daryl Press, titled “The Next Korean War.”

If war started, they write, given Pyongyang’s military weakness, “North Korea’s inner circle would face a grave decision: how to avoid the terrible fates of such defeated leaders as Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Gaddafi.” Lieber and Press see two possibilities for Pyongyang’s leaders to avoid murder at the hands of US and South Korean forces: a deal for them to flee to Beijing, or an attempt to deter US military action by using North Korea’s nuclear bombs.

On this basis, they argue for a policy of pressuring Beijing to help Washington organize the demise of the Pyongyang regime and the flight of its leaders to China: “American and South Korean leaders should urge China to develop ‘golden parachute’ plans for the North Korean leadership and their families… In the past, China has been understandably reluctant to hold official talks with the United States about facilitating the demise of an ally. But the prospect of nuclear war next door could induce Beijing to take more direct steps.”

These lines bluntly spell out the nuclear blackmail with which Washington is threatening Beijing: China can either face nuclear war, or acquiesce to regime change in Pyongyang and a shift of Chinese foreign policy more favorable to US imperialism. In seeking to intimidate Beijing, US imperialism is playing for the highest stakes—not only geo-strategic dominance in East Asia, but in the Middle East and the entire world economy.

As it moves against Pyongyang, Washington is also threatening Iran with war if it does not abandon its own nuclear program. It aims to prevent Pyongyang from keeping its nuclear weapons and thus serving as a model for Iran’s nuclear program, and from blocking China from protecting Iran against US war threats. This would give Washington greater leverage to continue fighting wars in the Middle East.

Washington is also trying to deter any economic pressure from China. According to US Treasury statistics, China held $1.6 trillion in US public debt in September 2012. Any significant upward spike in interest rates or decision by East Asian countries to stop lending to the US government would have potentially catastrophic economic consequences.

Writing in Foreign Affairs on US trade and budget deficits during Obama’s first term, economist Fred Bergsten noted that “foreign investors might at some point refuse to finance these deficits on terms compatible with US prosperity. Any sudden stop in lending to the United States would drive the dollar down, push inflation and interest rates up, and perhaps bring on a hard landing for the United States—and the world economy at large.”

In response to these Washington is ruthlessly plunging ahead, aiming to push through its policies and avoid economic collapse through war threats and nuclear intimidation.

The Role of MI6 in the Assassination of Patrice Lumumba

April 8th, 2013 by Abayomi Azikiwe

A recent letter to the London Review of Books has opened back up discussions about those responsible for the assassination of revolutionary Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba, a charismatic and popular organizer during the 1958-1960 period, captivated the hearts and minds of the majority of his people and the African continent during the struggle against Belgian colonialism.

David Lea, a member of the House of Lords, wrote the letter in response to a review of a book on the history of MI6 entitled “Empire and Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire” by Calder Walton. Lea’s letter referenced the passage in the book by Walton that said “The question remains whether British plots to assassinate Lumumba…ever amounted to anything. At present we do not know.”

Lea wrote that “Actually, in this particular case, I can report that we do. It so happens that I was having a cup of tea with Daphne Park…. She had been consul and first secretary in Leopoldville, now Kinshasha, from 1959 to 1961, which in practice meant head of MI6 there.”

Lea continues claiming that “I mentioned the uproar surrounding Lumumba’s abduction and murder, and recalled the theory that MI6 might have had something to do with it. ‘We did,’ she replied, ‘I organized it.’”

This same British official reports Park felt, as many in the West did at the time, that if a pro-imperialist regime did not take control of Congo the country’s mineral resources would be taken by the Soviet Union. Lumumba was labeled as a communist during this time and such propaganda by the western press was utilized to justify the coup against him and his ultimate brutal assassination.

In an interview with The Hindu, Lea stressed “That’s the conversation I had with her and that’s what she told me. I have nothing more to add” in regard to how such allegations could be substantiated.

After retiring from the diplomatic and intelligence divisions of the British government, Park was appointed as a Life peer as Baroness Park of Monmouth. Her colleagues in the House of Lords noted that she was a spokesperson for the Secret Intelligence Service. In addition she had served briefly as the head of Somerville College, Oxford University.

MI6 refused to comment on the allegation made by Lea. Lumumba’s assassination sparked protests throughout Africa and the world.

Role of the U.S. in the Overthrow and Assassination of Lumumba

It was not only Britain that sought the overthrow of Lumumba. Many people believe based upon U.S. foreign policy at the time as well as the subsequent release of formally classified documents, that the White House under Dwight D. Eisenhower engineered the plot against the Congolese patriot.

The U.S. role in the assassination of Lumumba was documented by the 1975 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearings, chaired by Idaho Senator Frank Church. A former National Security staffer, Robert Johnson, reported about a senior level meeting involving President Eisenhower and high ranking intelligence officers where the decision was reached to assassinate Patrice Lumumba.

According to Johnson’s recollections, “At some time during the discussion, President Eisenhower said something—I can no longer remember his words—that came across to me as an order for the assassination of Lumumba who was then at the center of political conflict and controversy in the Congo. There was no discussion; the meeting simply moved on. I remember my sense of that moment quite clearly because the President’s statement came as a great shock to me.” (Taken from “The Congo Cables”, p. 54, by Madelaine Kalb)

Further confirmation of the role of the Eisenhower administration in the coup against Lumumba was made by Lawrence Devlin, who served as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) field officer in Congo during 1960. Devlin later admitted that he had received instructions to carry out an assassination plan against Lumumba.

Devlin, in his book entitled “Chief of Station, Congo,” said that the orders were given by CIA Deputy Chief of Plans Dick Bissel. He claims that one method of assassination contemplated was poisoning where Lumumba’s toothpaste would be laced with a deadly chemical agent.

Although Devlin claimed that he balked at the order and later abandoned it based upon his own political judgments about the situation involving U.S.-Congolese relations, such denials of refusing to carry out orders from superiors are highly unlikely in such an organization as the CIA. It has been well documented that the CIA was involved in numerous destabilization operations, coups and assassinations in Africa and other parts of the world. (See “In Search of Enemies,” by John Stockwell, 1984)

Devlin did admit to supporting two military coups led by Mobutu Sese Seko, the U.S. strongman in Congo. These coups took place in September 1960 against Lumumba and in November 1965 in response to the power vacuum left by the removal of secessionist Moise Tshombe who was later made prime minister of Congo in 1964 after his divisive role in the mineral-rich region of Katanga in 1960.

The former CIA station chief justified his support of Mobuto saying that it was correct for the U.S. to install an anti-communist dictator as a bulwark against leftist influence in Congo. Devlin was later appointed as head of CIA operations in Laos in efforts to prevent the revolutionaries from taking power from a Washington-backed regime during the Vietnam War.

Later Devlin served as the Africa Division Chief for the CIA. He worked for the Agency officially until 1974.

British Intelligence Documents Must Be Released on Congo

It is important in light of these allegations made by David Lea and the questions raised by Walton’s book that documents be released by MI6 on their role in Congo during 1959-1961. On the London Review Books’ blog Bernard Porter wrote that these statements made by both Lea and Walton provide “All the more reason to open up the archives. For those of us who always suspected things like this were going on, only to be smeared by the authorities—i.e. the conspirators themselves—as conspiracy ‘theorists’….” (LRB, April 5)

At the same time Porter goes on to reflect that “On the other hand perhaps we shouldn’t expect too much. Another of the revelations in Walton’s book was that colonial officials sometimes destroyed incriminating documents and then replaced them with forgeries, to fool the historian. You can never know where you are with secret history, which only encourages the conspiracy theorists.”

The coup which overthrew Lumumba’s government and the brutal execution of the Prime Minister along with two of his comrades, Maurice Mpolo, the Minister of Youth and Sports and Joseph Okito, President of the Congolese Senate, on January 17, 1961, was a devastating blow to the African Revolution. Congo became a strategic base for the CIA and its war to halt the inevitable total liberation of Southern Africa that was eventually realized in the 1990s after the massive intervention of Cuban internationalists in Angola between 1975-1989 and the fortification of the national liberation movements of the South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) of Namibia and the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa.

Even today the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is source of instability for the African continent. Large sections of the eastern region of the country that are mineral-rich remain outside the control of the central government in Kinshasha.

Multi-national mining corporations are continuing their theft of Congolese mineral resources and consequently fueling instability. The Congolese people are still tasked with the necessity of gaining complete control over their territory and state.

Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire

This is a documentary of 7 parts, broadcasted by Syria TV, with subtitles in English, about the war launched by the Islamist fighters in Aleppo.  

Source: Syrian TV: http://syriaonline.sy/?f=syriaTube&id=791&catid=51

Copyright Syrian TV All rights reserved. Web dev. Eng. Iyad Khuder, [email protected]

Thanks to Silvia Cattori for bringing this to our attention, visit her website: http://www.silviacattori.net

 

Aleppo, the Castle – Part 1, broadcast on 11-11-2012

Aleppo, the Castle, Part 2, broadcast on 24-11-2012

Aleppo, the Castle, Part 3: broadcast on 30-11-2012

Aleppo, the Castle, Part 4, broadcasted on 09-12-2012

Aleppo, the Castle, Part 5, broadcasted on 02-01-2013

 

Jornalista de carreira, Ernesto Villegas Poljak é o ministro do Poder Popular para Comunicação e Informação da República Bolivariana da Venezuela desde outubro de 2012. Caçula de uma família comunista de oito filhos, nascido em 1970, Villegas se impregnou de política desde cedo. Seu pai, Cruz Villegas, era um sindicalista prestigiado, presidente da Central Única dos Trabalhadores da Venezuela (CUTV) e vice-presidente da Federação Sindical Mundial. Sua mãe, Maja Poljak, originária da extinta Iugoslávia, era jornalista e reconhecida militante social.

Villegas trabalhou para a imprensa escrita, rádio e televisão. Dirigiu, entre outros, Ciudad Caracas, publicação da prefeitura da capital, e foi apresentador de vários programas na emissora pública VTV(Venezolana de Televisión). Ele também é escritor e seu último livro de pesquisa, Abril, golpe adentro, sobre o golpe de Estado de 2002 contra o presidente Hugo Chávez, foi unanimemente reconhecido pela crítica.

Agência Efe (07/01)

Villegas foi responsável por fazer os anúncios sobre o estado de saúde de Chávez após a última cirurgia do presidente

Nestas conversas, o ministro descreve o estado de ânimo da sociedade venezuelana depois do desaparecimento de Chávez e o legado deixado pelo líder da Revolução Bolivariana. Evoca também as perspectivas eleitorais de 14 de abril de 2013, a atitude da oposição, a relação especial com Cuba, assim como as tensões com os Estados Unidos.

Opera Mundi: A Venezuela se encontra em plena campanha eleitoral, uma vez que está prevista uma nova eleição presidencial em 14 de abril de 2013, na qual se enfrentarão o atual presidente interino da República, Nicolás Maduro, e o principal candidato da oposição, Henrique Capriles.
Ernesto Villegas: Este novo processo eleitoral, não previsto, ocorre após o desaparecimento do presidente Chávez, conforme estabelece nossa Constituição. Vários sentimentos se misturam: a dor, a tristeza, e as lágrimas pela repentina partida do nosso presidente, e o entusiasmo, a energia e alegria próprios de qualquer campanha eleitoral.

A Venezuela se encontra em pleno debate de ideias, com confrontação de modelos e comparação de projetos de sociedade, em um contexto marcado por circunstâncias trágicas. É uma mistura bastante rara de sentimentos, ditada por essa imprevisível realidade.

Chávez era uma pessoa que respirava e transmitia alegria. Era a imagem de seu povo. A alegria faz parte da idiossincrasia venezuelana e eu o convido a participar de qualquer manifestação bolivariana de apoio à candidatura de Nicolás Maduro para perceber esse fenômeno. O povo está convencido de que Chávez, por meio da eleição de Maduro, estará sempre entre nós, ainda que sempre nos falte sua presença física. Viverá sempre na esperança do povo venezuelano e em suas lutas por um mundo melhor.

OM: As forças em torno de Nicolás Maduro estão unidas?
EV: Não temos nenhuma dúvida sobre o sucessor de Hugo Chávez, pois respeitaremos escrupulosamente a sua vontade. A Revolução Bolivariana continuará no caminho traçado pelo presidente Chávez. Sem a mensagem de Chávez de 8 de dezembro de 2012, no dia 6 de março talvez tivesse havido um 27 de fevereiro social e político. Só podemos render tributo e homenagem a sua capacidade de antecipar os eventos e a sua visão de futuro. Alguns tentaram dissuadi-lo de pronunciar aquela mensagem durante seu último discurso, no qual pediu ao povo bolivariano que elegesse Maduro como seu sucessor no caso de ele não voltar mais.

 

Chávez nasceu em 28 de julho de 1954, em Sabaneta, Estado de Barinas

 

 

OM: Qual foi a resposta de Chávez?
EV: Ele se negou categoricamente a mudar de opinião. “Devo a verdade ao meu povo”, disse. Ele estava em Cuba e voltou apenas para fazer esse discurso televisionado e avisar ao povo que o câncer havia reaparecido e que deveria travar uma nova batalha. Adiou a cirurgia, com risco para sua saúde pessoal, para voltar à Venezuela e se expressar diante do povo. Só podemos agradecê-lo por isso. Ele sabia que tinha que guiar mais uma vez seus compatriotas.

OM: Como o senhor vê esse processo eleitoral?
EV: Trata-se de uma nova eleição que Chávez ganhará por meio de Nicolás Maduro, pois é o estrategista fundamental. Tal como o Cid, conseguirá a vitória. É o comandante não apenas do ponto de visa metafísico. Com efeito, antes do triste desenlace de 5 de março de 2013, Chávez já havia traçado o caminho.

Teria podido viajar a Cuba para ser operado sem dizer nada. Ninguém lhe pediu nada. Mas quis fazê-lo e anunciar a notícia ao povo. Assim, traçou o caminho eleitoral para a Revolução pedindo ao povo para seguir Maduro e elegê-lo como novo presidente. A vontade de Chávez se traduz no voto do povo que manifestou massivamente sua dor e tristeza nas ruas nos últimos tempos. Os venezuelanos votarão com alegria, entusiasmo e esperança por Nicolás Maduro no dia 14 de abril. Não tenho dúvida alguma em relação a isso. A Revolução conseguirá novamente um sucesso retumbante.

OM: Qual sua opinião sobre a oposição liderada por Henrique Capriles?
EV: A oposição é uma coligação de ambições e interesses heterogêneos, única apenas pelo ódio a Chávez e ao povo bolivariano. É incapaz de compreender que vivemos em uma época diferente e que não voltaremos ao passado. Ocorre que os velhos partidos políticos, das elites econômicas e da oligarquia, não admitem perder o poder político, que considera como sua propriedade exclusiva.

O fator racial e racista também marca a oposição. Não admite que um negro pobre esteja no centro do poder. O ódio a Chávez resume todas as misérias morais da condição humana: o racismo e o ódio de classe, o ódio aos pobres.

OM: O governo acusa a oposição de estar sob a influência de Washington. Em que se baseia?
EV: A oposição se submete a Washington e segue suas diretrizes. É fácil demonstrar. A senhora Roberta Jacobson, do Departamento de Estado, em uma entrevista ao jornal espanhol El País, colocou em dúvida o sistema eleitoral venezuelano, quando todas as instituições internacionais saúdam sua transparência. Absolutamente todas, exceto o Departamento de Estado dos Estados Unidos. Imediatamente, os meios privados antichavistas e a oposição começaram a questionar nosso sistema eleitoral, ao qual sempre legitimaram, pois participaram das eleições regionais de dezembro de 2012 e aceitaram os resultados das urnas. Esse mesmo sistema lhes permitiu ganhar as eleições em alguns estados, ainda que com uma ínfima margem, como foi o caso do estado de Miranda, dirigido atualmente pelo candidato da oposição Henrique Capriles. Os resultados foram respeitados em todas as partes, inclusive onde a oposição foi maioria.

OM: A oposição acusa o Conselho Nacional Eleitoral de ser parcial.
EV: Este mesmo Conselho Nacional Eleitoral que a oposição tanto menospreza, a que Capriles acusa de todos os males, é o mesmo que declarou vencedor o candidato da oposição no estado de Miranda – isto é, Capriles. Na realidade, a oposição segue escrupulosamente as diretrizes da senhora Jacobson e isso explica as atuais campanhas de desprestígio contra o Conselho Nacional Eleitoral. A oposição inclusive pensou em retirar seu candidato para desacreditar o processo eleitoral. Correm alguns rumores a esse respeito. Capriles recebeu instruções nesse sentido. Esperamos que mantenha sua candidatura e que respeite as regras democráticas.

Leia mais: Chávez devolveu ao povo o sentimento de orgulho e dignidade nacional, diz ministro da Comunicação venezuelano

OM: Capriles avaliou a possibilidade de retirar sua candidatura?
EV: Segundo as informações das quais dispomos, ele tem estudado minuciosamente essa hipótese. Capriles sabe que vai perder as eleições de 14 de abril de 2013. Por certo, os políticos têm projetos a curso, médio e longo prazo e Capriles seguramente quererá ser a referência da oposição na vida política venezuelana, mas está consciente de que não tem nenhuma possibilidade de conseguir a vitória nas próximas eleições. Seus partidários também estão convencidos disso.

OM: Em sua opinião, Maduro vencerá a eleição de 14 de abril de 2013.
EV: Não há a menor dúvida. Inclusive, é possível que consigamos os dez milhões de votos, de modo a homenagear nosso Comandante desaparecido. Muitas vezes minimizou, se depreciou e se caricaturou a capacidade de convocatória de Chávez e a realidade mostrou a esses setores que eles estavam equivocados. Atribuíam isso ao mecanismo clientelista, à compra de opiniões ou ao exercício de coação sobre o aparato burocrático do Estado. As manifestações de 6 de março, por sua espontaneidade e caráter massivo, mostraram que não era certo.

OM: Os meios privados da Venezuela e os meios ocidentais se mostraram muito virulentos contra Chávez.
EV: Muitos descobriram a fraude do discurso dos meios privados e da oposição. Muitos compreenderam, por fim, que Chávez era um líder querido pela imensa maioria do povo, pois era o melhor amigos dos pobres. O povo saudou sua ação e seu legado. A História fará justiça a Chávez e o considerará como um dos grandes líderes de nosso tempo e da América Latina.

Acredito que nenhum dirigente político foi tão maltratado e menosprezado como Chávez. Veremos até onde chegam em sua tentativa de deslegitimar a democracia venezuelana e a vitória de Maduro. Pensam poder se aproveitar da ausência física de Chávez e estão convencidos de que o governo bolivariano de Maduro não será capaz de enfrentar a situação atual. Vão ficar de mãos abanando, pois a Revolução se beneficia de um apoio popular extraordinário, de um apoio militar forte, de um governo solidário, de instituições sólidas e de um programa – o Plano da Pátria – que traça as grandes linhas para o mandato seguinte e condensa as propostas do Comandante Chávez. Não duvido em nenhum momento da nossa força, apesar das ameaças, pois Chávez deixou um legado de valor extraordinário.

OM: Por que a oposição venezuelana sempre se negou a aceitar a legitimidade de Hugo Chávez?
EV: A oposição sente um ódio profundo pela verdadeira democracia, apesar de seus discursos litúrgicos a esse respeito. Apega-se aos ritos, mas se limita a eles, a uma democracia ritualista. Em vez de enfrentar o voto popular, prefere dar voltar em um artigo da Constituição e tentar subordinar a vontade majoritária do povo a sua interpretação particular e, sobretudo, falsa – como assim reconheceu o Supremo Tribunal – depois da eleição de Chávez em outubro de 2012 e o adiamento de sua posse por conta de seu problema de saúde. Ocorreu o mesmo com a posse do presidente Nicolás Maduro.

A oposição pensa que tudo deve mudar depois do desaparecimento físico do Comandante Chávez, esquecendo-se da continuidade constitucional e dos princípios elementares da democracia, que exigem que se respeite a soberania do povo. A oposição, que teve um comportamento antidemocrático desde a chegada ao poder de Hugo Chávez, pretende ensinar sobre a democracia e questiona a legitimidade do poder atual. É a mesma oposição que organizou o golpe de Estado de abril de 2002 e que impôs uma junta golpista cujo “presidente” [Pedro Carmona Estanga] fez um juramento não sobre a Constituição, mas sobre um papel em branco, pois rechaçava nossa nova Carta Magna, e dissolveu todos os poderes públicos. Essa oposição, que reprimiu o povo após o golpe de 11 de abril de 2002, pretende dar lições sobre o conceito de democracia.

OM: Em nível internacional, Chávez desempenhou um papel importante, particularmente na América Latina.
EV: Chávez foi um grande dirigente político. A Venezuela desempenha agora um papel importante em nível internacional e faz parte do legado do nosso Comandante que tentamos desenvolver e aprofundar. Não temos nenhuma dúvida de que, com a liderança de Nicolás Maduro, e o resto da equipe de governo da Revolução Bolivariana, seguiremos nesse mesmo caminho e reforçaremos essa herança.

OM: A Revolução Bolivariana teceu laços muito particulares com a Revolução Cubana, e as relações entre Hugo Chávez e Fidel Castro superaram o vínculo político dos chefes de Estado. Como se explica essa aliança entre Venezuela e Cuba?
EV: Convém lembrar que Hugo Chávez é, antes de tudo, um revolucionário, e Cuba é uma referência importante para todos os revolucionários do nosso continente, independente dos matizes particulares de cada nação. Cuba é todo um símbolo.

É inegável que sua famosa visita a Havana em 1994 e a generosa recepção oferecida por Fidel Castro, no aeroporto, o marcaram profundamente. Chávez descobriu uma Revolução cheia de amor e carinho. Uma vez no poder em 1999, Chávez fez de Cuba seu principal aliado, com a assinatura de acordos estratégicos em 2000. Esses acordos constituíram o marco para o progresso de todo o continente latino-americano. A relação pessoal entre Chávez e Fidel supera o marco político. É familiar.

OM: Chávez não vacilava ao qualificar Fidel como pai espiritual.
EV: Efetivamente, e essa relação foi muito complementar e nos permitiu aproveitar o melhor da Revolução Cubana, uma Revolução que surgiu em meados do século XX, e integrá-la à primeira Revolução do século XXI. O laço entre Chávez e Fidel simboliza também o laço entre uma Revolução adulta e uma Revolução nascente, o que é, em definitivo, uma combinação virtuosa.

Trata-se de uma relação pai/filho, na qual o pai não apenas assessora o filho, mas também aprende com ele e o vê construir seu projeto de sociedade em circunstâncias distintas, frente a uma adversidade especial, como o fato de ter nossa Miami [bastião da oposição cubana] no nosso próprio país. Os dois países enriqueceram mutuamente, pois ambas as Revoluções têm suas próprias particularidades e especificidades.

OM: A amizade pessoal entre Hugo Chávez e Fidel Castro também permitiu aproximar os dois povos.
EV: Sob um ponto de vista humano, as relações entre nossos dois povos são extraordinárias. Pudemos apreciar a solidariedade dos médicos e professores cubanos que se encontram na Venezuela. Muitos pacientes venezuelanos foram a Cuba para serem operados. Dispomos de intercâmbios em todos os campos possíveis, seja na saúde, educação, defesa, cultura, diplomacia etc.

OM: Pode-se falar de fusão entre ambos os povos?
EV: Sob um ponto de vista afetivo, sim. Agora, é verdade que cada país tem suas próprias características, sua própria história. Nossas instituições são diferentes e as condições de desenvolvimento de nosso projeto bolivariano também. Ninguém copia o modelo do outro, precisamente porque é impossível adotar um modelo em um país diferente.

No entanto, repito, o encontro entre nossos dois povos foi tem sido extraordinário. O capital humano cubano é impressionante e os médicos cubanos foram verdadeiramente solidários. Isso é admirável. A experiência de Fidel Castro e Raúl Castro, de toda a liderança cubana, permitiu que se desenvolvesse a Revolução Bolivariana. Só podemos sentir admiração em relação ao povo cubano. Essa relação especial permitiu reforçar os laços entre nossos dois povos, que compartilham muitas aspirações comuns, a mesma música, os mesmos interesses culinários e esportivos. Apesar de nossos destinos históricos diferentes, nossos povos se parecem muito e Chávez e Fidel permitiram que nos reencontrássemos.

OM: A Venezuela apoiou muito Cuba, que enfrenta sérias dificuldades econômicas. Fidel Castro classificou Hugo Chávez como “o melhor amigo que o povo cubano teve”.
EV: Chávez sempre foi generoso com os povos. Teve que enfrentar todas as pressões dos setores que desejavam que se mercantilizasse a relação com Cuba. Mas Chávez é, antes de tudo, bolivariano e, por conseguinte, latino-americano. A oposição, que agora invoca Bolívar, se esquece de que nosso Libertador nunca pediu nada para contribuir com a emancipação dos povos. Esses “bolivarianos” de circunstância se esquecem de que Bolívar recebeu armas de Alejandro Petión sem pagar um centavo.

OM: A oposição acusa o governo justamente de dar petróleo de presente a Cuba.
EV: A oposição deseja que coloquemos fim às condições comerciais favoráveis que oferecemos a nossos irmãos cubanos e latino-americanos. Não damos nosso petróleo de presente a ninguém. Nós o vendemos a preços de mercado com facilidades de pagamento. É normal e natural nas relações internacionais, sobretudo entre povos irmãos. Chávez foi uma pessoa extraordinária que rompeu com esse paradigma mercantil e o substituiu por um paradigma da solidariedade.

OM: Essa relação se manterá após o desaparecimento de Chávez?
EV: Essa relação não apenas se manterá, mas se aprofundará ainda mais. Nossos laços com nossos irmãos cubanos nunca foram tão fortes, e se reforçarão ainda mais no futuro.

A direita racista e xenófoba, que menospreza tanto os cubanos, ficará de mãos abanando. Imagine o comportamento mesquinho da oposição, que coloca o tema de Cuba na agenda eleitoral, sem se dar conta de que é uma manobra condenada ao fracasso e cujo alcance se limita aos setores anticomunistas da sociedade, que são uma minoria. A oposição dispõe de muitas tribunas midiáticas, mas sua influência sobre o povo é muito limitada.

OM: A Venezuela está disposta a normalizar as relações com os Estados Unidos?
EV: A Venezuela expressou sua vontade de melhorar as relações com os Estados Unidos. No entanto, houve declarações e ações por parte de Washington que tornam essa normalização impossível. Houve declarações desafortunadas da senhora Roberta Jacobson e ações hostis por parte de agregados militares norte-americanos em Caracas, que contactaram militares venezuelanos para convidá-los a conversar sobre a situação do país a fim de influenciá-los, o que constitui uma grave interferência nos assuntos internos da nossa nação.

O governo venezuelano se viu obrigado a romper os canais de comunicação com os Estados Unidos depois dessas ações hostis. Parece que, em termos de política exterior, os falcões do Departamento de Estado impõem sua agenda às pombas, ainda que eu acredite que a interferência e o intervencionismo são inerentes às política de Washington. A Venezuela terá relações normais e pacíficas com todos os países que respeitem nossa soberania, assim como nós respeitamos a soberania das demais nações. É uma condição sine qua non. Os princípios não são negociáveis e, como diria Augusto César Sandino, “a soberania não se negocia e se defende com as armas”.

*Doutor em Estudos Ibéricos e Latino-americanos da Universidade Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani é professor titular da Universidad de la Réunion e jornalista, especialista nas relações entre Cuba e Estados Unidos. Seu último livro se intitula The Economic War Against Cuba. A Historical and Legal Perspective on the U.S. Blockade, New York, Monthly Review Press, 2013, com um prólogo de Wayne S. Smith e um prefácio de Paul Estrade.
Contato: [email protected] ; [email protected] 
Página Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalimLamraniOfficiel 

It’s the third month since the French troops entered Mali. The action entailed the involvement of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA), an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) organized military mission, sent to support the government of ECOWAS member nation Mali against Islamist rebels in the north of the country. Its strength has reached around six and a half thousand troops by the end of March. (1) Still the French and AFISMA forces have failed to crush the resistance of the terrorists as yet.

The fighting continues in the Adrar des Ifoghas and the areas around the towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. The armed formations are mobile enough, according to reports off and on they get into towns and cities, including Bamako. The humanitarian situation remains hard to manage. Around half a million people (2) have become refugees, about 300 thousand have been displaced. Approximately 200 thousand Malians have been received by Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso. Hunger is a threat: 750 thousand urgently need food aid, 660 thousand children suffer from lack of food, including 210 thousand who face most extreme form of malnutrition.  (3)

Dioncounda Traore, interim President of the Republic of Mali, sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council dated 25 February 2013 asking to support the rapid deployment of AFISMA in Mali. But he wants to do it in an special way – by transforming AFISMA into a «United Nations stabilization and peacekeeping operation» in accordance with the provisions of United Nations Security Council resolution 2085 (2012) in order to restore the authority and sovereignty of the Malian State throughout its territory». (4) Looks like the request happened to be exactly what the Secretary General was waiting for.

On April 3 the United Nations Security Council held a session devoted to the situation in Mali to discuss the report of the Secretary General on new proposals related to the crisis management. He responded favorably to the request of the Malian President and worked out a plan to transform AFISMA into a UN peacekeeping mission. Ban Ki-moon offered two options of the plan.

According to the first option, the UN could set up an «expanded political office» and let AFISMA do security and peacekeeping duties outside UN control. If a peacekeeping force was mandated, the report said the present UN mission would be «subsumed» into it. The UN, then, would support the Malian political process, carry out stabilization tasks, protect human rights and support AFISMA. The first option envisages AFISMA’s responsibility for security and support of Malian armed forces. It will be mandated to conduct offensive actions against armed extremists. The United Nations would increase the AFISMA’s operational capabilities using the UN Trust Fund and, possibly, the logistics support package approved by the Security Council. At that, The European Union would continue efforts to train the Mali’s armed forces. The support could also be rendered to Malian defense and security structures through the UN’s Trust Fund for the African support mission AFISMA and the Malian armed forces. The option of the plan envisages the transformation of AFISMA into a UN peacekeeping force, in case the UN Security Council finds the measure expedient and endorses it. The second option of the plan presupposes the formation of a stabilization mission according to article VII of the UN Charter along with a parallel force. Aside from the political mandate, the mission would be responsible for security and stabilization, protection of civilians and humanitarian aid. The activities would be conducted in strict accordance with the rules of engagement. As the second option envisions, the major part of AFISMA staffers would join the United Nations stabilization mission. Military, police and civil components of the mission would be mainly deployed in the north, leaving just a token presence in Bamako. The parallel force would act alongside the UN mission taking the responsibility for large-scale military operations and providing experts support outside the UN mandate.

The both options could be construed as the gradual transformation of the present situation to the phase of UN stabilization efforts including the establishment of the parallel force. The UN Secretary General’s proposals are substantiated by the fact that, «the options presented in the present report are based on a frank appraisal of the current political and security environment, as well as a thorough analysis of the comparative advantage of the United Nations vis а vis other international actors in the ongoing effort to bring peace and stability to Mali. They take into account the fact that the United Nations is operating in a new geopolitical context and faces threats that have not been encountered before in a peacekeeping context. The situation on the ground remains fluid. Although the extremists and criminal elements have been dealt a heavy blow, they continue to pose a significant threat to the safety and security of the civilian population and any United Nations personnel deployed in Mali. The recent suicide bombing in Timbuktu and the fighting in Gao are a stark reminder that the risk of a major deterioration of the security situation remains ever present». (5)

During the April 3 session the representative of Mali opted for the second option. (6) According to him, the Mali’s government is confident that the option would let it reach its goals: to restore the sovereignty over the national territory, to stabilize the situation in the country and to apply efforts for national reconciliation. The African Union has changed its stance too. In mid-March a revised concept of African Union mission was submitted to the United Nations. It envisions being expanded by the mission of the United Nations. At the same time, it does not say the AFISMA mission should be subjugated by the presence of the UN. The revised document puts it straight – AFISMA is not to limit its activities by Mali and it can spread it to the neighboring states (with their consent).  (7)

It’s important to point out the stance of ECOWAS. By the end of March the session of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staffs (CCDS) came to conclusion AFISMA was to be urgently provided with necessary means to enable it to take over the functions carried out by French forces (an ECOWAS representative said it was planned to pull them out in the near future). The re-hating of AFISMA tentatively planned to take off by July 2013, envisages a troops’ strength of 11,200 and 1,440 police officers for the robust assignment under the aegis of the UN to rid Mali of terrorism and criminal insurgency and also to restore the country’s territorial integrity with support for the national armed forces. Burkina-Fasp, Niger, Togo, Nigeria, Chad, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Guinea, Cote D’Ivoire and Gambia have already agreed to join and deploy their ground forces contingents.

ECOWAS has sent a letter to the United Nations Secretary General strongly recommending to transform AFISMA into a UN stabilization mission with a robust mandate.  (8)

Besides, ECOWAS stands for the establishment of the parallel force acting alongside the UN mission capable to counter terrorists and rebels. ECOWAS Authority urged UN Security Council to authorize the deployment of the international military force in Mali in conformity with Article 7 of the UN Charter.

Demands for «robust mandate» and evoking article 7 (the article allows the use of force) can mean Mali and ECOWAS want to expand the Congolese experience. A few days ago the United Nations Security Council adopted an intriguing resolution, which was largely unnoticed while being of enormous importance. For the first time since 1960 the UN Mission in Congo was mandated to engage in combat. On March 28, 2013 the United Nations Security Council extended the mission for a year and authorized an intervention brigade will carry out targeted offensive operations, alone or with the Congolese national army, against armed groups that threaten peace in the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo. The authorized strength of the force is twenty thousand (!) (9) The composition will include three battalions, an artillery battery, a company of special operations forces and a reconnaissance company. The mission is «to neutralize and disarm militant groups». The wording of the resolution and the composition of the unit leave no doubt the ‘neutralization» means waging combat actions.

* * *

The concept of crisis management in Mali has gone through an about-face. The Africans are made to refuse the idea of tackling the conflict themselves. The African Mission – AFISMA has failed. One of the reasons – it never got the funds it needed. The United Nations and the donor-states have refused to finance an African mission. But they agree to reverse their stand in case the UN would be a decision maker. At that, the very same AFISMA forces would do the job, but under the command of «international community»… It all seems to be in conformity with logic against the background of toppling Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader in 2011, who promoted the idea of creating inter-African peacekeeping forces and the overthrow of Amadou Toumani Tourй, former President of Mali, who was to become the commander-in-chief of new contingent.

Notes

(1) According to the information of the United Nations Secretary General dated March 26, 2013. At that, it’s only around 80% of the planned strength (9500). 
(2) According to the stimated by effrey D. Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, the number exceeds 470 thousand (US document S/PV.6944. С.3)
(3) Same, p.4
(4) Letter of Mr. Dioncounda Traorй, interim President of the Republic of Mali
addressed to the President of the Security Council dated 26 February 2013// UN Document: S/2013/113 .
(5) Rapport du Secretaire general sur la situation au Mali, 26 mars 2013, // UN Documents: S/2013/189.
(6) Ref. Verbatim report on UNSC session, March 3, 2013// UN Document: S/PV.6944. p.4.
(7) Letter dated 15 March 2013 fromthe Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, operations of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali, adopted by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union at its 358th meeting, held on 7 March 2013 //paragraph 14//UN Document S/2013/163. p.9.
(8) См. выступление представителя ЭКОВАС на заседании СБ ООН 3 апреля 2013 года, // ECOWAS representative speech, UNSC session, April 3, 2013//UN Document S/PV.6944.
(9) UNSC resolution № 2098 (2013), March 28, 2013 // UN Document S/RES/2098 (2013) - http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N13/273/83/PDF/N1327383. pdf?OpenElement

Image: Retired Col. James Steele

Official Washington has long ignored the genocide and terrorism that Ronald Reagan inflicted on Central America in the 1980s, making it easier to genuflect before the Republican presidential icon. That also helped Reagan’s “death squad” tactics resurface in Iraq last decade.

A recent British documentary Death squads, torture, secret prisons in Iraq, and General David Petraeus are among the featured atrocities in a new British documentary – “James Steele: America’s Mystery Man in Iraq” – the result of a 15-month investigation by Guardian Films and BBC Arabic, exploring war crimes long denied by the Pentagon but confirmed by thousands of military field reports made public by WikiLeaks.

The hour-long film explores the arc of American counterinsurgency brutality from Vietnam to Iraq, with stops along the way in El Salvador and Nicaragua. James Steele is now a retired U.S. colonel who first served in Vietnam as a company commander in 1968-69.  He later made his reputation as a military adviser in El Salvador, where he guided ruthless Salvadoran death squads in the 1980s.

When his country called again in 2003, he came out of retirement to train Iraqi police commandos in the bloodiest techniques of counterinsurgency that evolved into that country’s Shia-Sunni civil war that at its peak killed 3,000 people a month. Steele now lives in a gated golf community in Brian, Texas, and did not respond to requests for an interview for the documentary bearing his name.

News coverage of this documentary has been largely absent in mainstream media. The Guardian had a report, naturally, at the time of release and “Democracy Now” had a longsegment on March 22 that includes an interview with veteran, award-winning reporter Maggie O’Kane, as well as several excerpts from the movie she directed. The documentary is availableonline at the Guardian and several other websites.

“James Steele” opens with a montage of soldiers, some masked, taking prisoners, some hooded, as the woman narrator sets the stage:

“This is one of the great untold stories of the Iraq War, how just over a year after the invasion, the United States funded a sectarian police commando force that set up a network of torture centers to fight the [Sunni] insurgency….

“This is also the story of James Steele, the veteran of America’s dirty war in El Salvador. He was in charge of the U.S. advisers who trained notorious Salvadoran paramilitary units to fight left-wing guerrillas. In the course of that civil war, 75,000 people died, and over a million people became refugees. Steele was chosen by the Bush administration to work with General David Petraeus to organize these paramilitary police commandos.”

Secret Prisons, Torture, Death Squads

The documentary concentrates on the creation and activities of the Iraqi police commandos who executed American policy in the face of Iraqi resistance the U.S. had never anticipated, having expected to be greeted as liberators.

There are only glancing references to the policy failures that created the crisis, such as disbanding the army and most of the government of Iraq or assuming that six U.S. police professionals would be sufficient to train a civilian police force capable of keeping peace in a nation of 30 million people.

Steele was in Iraq early in 2003 as an “energy consultant” with easy access to authorities like Gen. Petraeus, even though what he actually did in Iraq remained a mystery to most people. As the Sunni insurgency developed, Steele was brought in to organize counterinsurgency. Though still, technically, a civilian, he worked closely with Gen. Petraeus and reported directly to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Steele set about working with Iraqi officers to organize “special police units” under military control, as the notion of a civilian police force faded. By April 2005, there were nine battalions of these police commandos operating in Iraq, with some 5,000 in Baghdad alone.

With more and more bodies left on the streets during the night, with secret prisons spreading across the country, with reports of disappearances and torture proliferating, the New York Times took notice, at least to the extent of publishing a Sunday magazine cover story on May 1, 2005, by Peter Maass titled, “The Salvadorization of Iraq.”

By then, anyone who wanted to know the level of American-sanctioned brutality in Iraq would have had little difficulty doing so. Conditions worsened and reports kept coming throughout 2005 and 2006.

On October 2005, one of the Iraqi generals involved in the secret prisons fled Iraq and spoke out publicly from Jordan about what was happening in his country. Steele came to visit the general in Jordan, the general recalled, apparently to see if the general had any evidence – pictures, documents, tapes that could give Steele cause for concern. None have yet appeared.

Of course American media did not pursue the terror-fighting-terror story very hard, and the U.S. government denied most bad news. At a news conference on Nov. 29, 2005, a reporter asked a timid question about the killings and Secretary Rumsfeld said he had not seen any reports.  Following a weak follow-up question, he said he had no data from the field – even though the truth was that Steele had reported six weeks earlier that the Shia death squads were operating effectively from his perspective.

Cold, Heartless, Ruthless, Fruitless

In the documentary, Steele is described as a cold and ruthless man by an Iraqi who knew him.  “He lacks human feeling,” the Iraqi general says, “his heart has died.”

The moral vacuity of the American leadership during the Iraq War is illustrated in an exchange at a press briefing on international human rights law, in particular the treatment of prisoners, that illustrates Secretary Rumsfeld’s polite but ignorant numbness:

Gen. Peter Pace: It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it.

Rumsfeld: But I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it.

Pace: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.

Rumsfeld, presumably never present during inhumane treatment of a prisoner, apparently never made any effort to stop it, or to report it, or even to know about it. In that he was following the classic pattern of a cover-up as articulated by Nixon fund-raiser Maurice Stans during Watergate: “I don’t want to know, and you don’t want to know.”

The Guardian/BBC investigation into torture and death squads on Rumsfeld’s watch started after WikiLeaks provided the Guardian with almost 400,000 previously secret U.S. Army field reports, whose release is attributed to Bradley Manning. The Pentagon has not disputed the truth of the documents.

The U.S. government has arrested and tortured Manning, 25, a former intelligence officer who is currently on trial in a military court where he has pled guilty to 10 of 22 charges for which he could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. The prosecution is demanding a life sentence.

After the Stele documentary was released March 6, the Guardian invited comment from the Pentagon.  Having declined to take part in the documentary as it was being made, the Pentagon said it would study the film and perhaps comment at a later date.

Unhappy with the documentary in a completely different way is Kieran Kelly whose blog critiques the movie under the headline: “The Guardian’s Death Squad Documentary May Shock and Disturb, But the Truth is Far Worse” – a claim he argues at length. For example, he criticizes the movie’s acceptance that “only” 120,000 Iraqis died in this American war, and he wonders how that “fact” squares with a million widows in Iraq?

Realistically, ten years after the American invasion, the Iraq war isn’t close to over. It’s just that, having prompted the Iraqis to kill each other the U.S. has left them to it.

[For more details on Reagan's policies in Central America, see Consortiumnews.com's "How Reagan Promoted Genocide."]

William Boardman lives in Vermont, where he has produced political satire for public radio and served as a lay judge.

 

Given the current conflict in Syria, there are many in the alternative media whose main focus when reporting on the fighting is the actions of the rebels. This has earned such media outlets and writers the taunts and attacks of others who label them “regime apologists.” I have personally had such labels thrown at me when I’ve posted work in other places. Yet, such accusations are quite untrue and the reasons for such baseless accusations must be explored.Generally speaking, the media has portrayed the Syrian conflict (as well as the Libyan conflict and many others) in stark, almost comic book-esque terms where the side of the US and its allies are portrayed as the ‘good guys’ and whoever is the enemy at the moment, portrayed as a ‘bad guy.’

This can lead to a situation where one immediately thinks in absolutist terms and assumes that anything that isn’t criticism of the ‘bad’ side is actually support of it. On a somewhat deeper level, this shows just how much power the mainstream media has in shaping the opinions of people, rather than the ‘objective’ journalism that is supposed to occur where simply the facts are presented and people are left to look more into the situation and make up their own minds.

While people and sites that are accused of being ‘regime apologists,’ the fact of the matter is that what they are doing is actually quite logical and helpful. For example, during the war in Libya, the mainstream media was reporting stories to the effect that that Gaddafi was giving his soldiers Viagra to engage in mass rape. And more recently with regards to Syria, the mainstream media has been reporting that there is a “high probability” that Assad used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. However, the Viagra story turned out to be false and there is no conclusive evidence that government forces in Syria used chemical weapons.

In this context, it is important to realize that these so-called regime apologists are actually providing the reader with more information and aiding to show a more balanced view of current events. Articles focusing solely on the atrocities that rebels have committed is positive as the crimes that despotic regimes commit can be found rather easily as they are reported on exhaustively, whereas the war crimes of rebels are often ignored.

There are those that argue that sites such as Global Research, which published articles discussing Gaddafi’s social programs and questioning such incidents as the Houla massacre, support the dictatorial regimes of Gaddafi and Assad. Yet, this ignores the fact that such outlets are rightfully questioning these events as the mainstream media has been shown to get such stories quite wrong.

In addition to this, outlets that question the general narrative are needed as many times they analyze the situation within a much larger framework, allowing for a more complete understanding of a conflict. Essentially what such outlets do is ask questions that others won’t or can’t ask, even if they do seem extreme.

We must always ask questions, for that is the only way we will get to the truth.

Devon DB is a 21 year old independent writer and researcher. He can be contacted at devondb[at]mail[dot]com.

In October 2005, at the height of the speculative financial bubble that eventually cost taxpayers trillions of dollars and devastated millions of lives, Citigroup Equity Strategy analysts Ajay Kapur, Niall Macleod and Narendra Singh published their provocative, though accurate portrayal of bourgeois amorality, Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances.

According to these worthies, the egregious economic disparities between the filthy ruling rich and the rest of us revolve around the salient fact that the “world is dividing into two blocs–the plutonomies where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few,” and the great mass of proletarians who need to sit down, shut up and worship at the feet of their masters.

To whit, their evocation of “disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly cooperative governments . . . overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation” as the engines driving capitalism’s criminogenic “wealth waves . . . exploited best by the rich and educated,” recalled Orwell’s dystopian vision of a future which imagined “a boot stamping on a human face–forever.”

In a follow-up piece published in March 2006, Citi claimed that “so long as the rich continue to get richer, the likelihood of these conundrums [obscene income disparities] resolving themselves through traditionally disruptive means (currency collapses, consumer recessions etc) looks low.”

Indeed, “While we have concerns about the spending power of the middle-income consumer in the US in the event of a housing slowdown, the richest 10% are less exposed to a housing slowdown, as their wealth is more diversified.”

In other words, while Citi’s “plutonomic” clients were gobbling up an ever greater share of the world’s wealth, hyperinflating the real estate bubble and peddling fraudulent “investment instruments” that still threaten to drive the global economy into the abyss, “we believe that the rich are going to keep getting richer in coming years, as capitalists (the rich) get an even bigger share of GDP as a result, principally, of globalization.”

“We expect the global pool of labor in developing economies to keep wage inflation in check,” they opined, “and profit margins rising–good for the wealth of capitalists, relatively bad for developed market unskilled/outsource-able labor.”

If you’re an average worker, even one with an advanced degree and mountains of student debt, well, too bad suckers!

What could go wrong with this rosy picture? “Beyond war, inflation, the end of the technology/productivity wave, and financial collapse, we think the most potent and short-term threat would be societies demanding a more ‘equitable’ share of wealth.” (emphasis added)

Worry not dear plutonomes, there’s an app for that too in the form of militarized police deploying the latest in “less than lethal” technologies–pepper spray, tear gas, tasers and the like to keep those uppity proles at bay!

Lost amidst their prattle about the merits of investing in firms which cater to the rich (“do I buy Bulgari, Burberry and Coach or do I limit my options to Hermes and Toll Brothers?” The consensus opinion: “Buy them all!”), was any discussion of the social costs of these massive frauds, bloody imperialist wars of conquest or the hyperinflation of bank balance sheets with veritable “wealth waves” generated by the global drug trade and organized crime, some “3.6 percent of GDP (2.3-5.5 percent) or around US$2.1 trillion in 2009,” according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

There you have it, “market wisdom” in all its glory from an insolvent, bailed out bank!

Handed some $45 billion (£29.78bn) in TARP funds, the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve secretly backstopped more than $300 billion (£197.31bn) in toxic assets on their books in addition to the “$2.5 trillion [£1.64tn] of support from the American taxpayer through capital infusions, asset guarantees and low-cost loans,” as financial analyst Pam Martens pointed out in Wall Street on Parade.

‘Dark Alliance’ 2.0

Although journalists and researchers have spent decades documenting the links between secret state intelligence agencies like the CIA and organized crime conglomerates who butter their bread through global narcotics rackets, the role of major financial institutions in the grisly trade continues to be relegated by corporate media to the realm of “conspiracy theory.”

But in the wake of rising public anger over the Obama administration’s collusion with Wall Street drug banks, we were informed by The New York Times that the “Federal Reserve hit Citigroup with an enforcement action on Tuesday over breakdowns in money laundering controls that threatened to allow tainted money to move through the United States.”

According to the Times, the Federal Reserve “took aim at Citigroup and its subsidiary Banamex USA over failure to monitor cash transactions for potentially suspicious activity.”

The Fed’s Consent Order charged that Citigroup and Banamex USA “lacked effective systems of governance and internal controls to adequately oversee the activities of the Banks with respect to legal, compliance, and reputational risk related to the Banks’ respective BSA/AML [Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering] compliance programs.”

An unnamed bank spokeswoman told the Times, “Citi has made substantial progress in a comprehensive manner across products, business lines and geographies,” and will continue “to take the appropriate steps to address remaining requirements and build a strong and sustainable program.”

Nothing to see here, right?

Tellingly however, neither Citigroup nor Banamex USA admitted wrongdoing. In what is standard boilerplate in such agreements, the Fed meekly submitted that their “enforcement action” was issued “without this Order constituting an admission or denial by Citigroup of any allegation made or implied by the Board of Governors.” Nor did the Fed “give specific examples of problems” at either bank, Reuters reported.

During Senate Banking Committee hearings last month, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) grilled federal banking regulators over their non-prosecution of Wall Street drug banks.

Referencing penalties levied against HSBC after the British banking giant was caught red-handed laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, Warren demanded: “What does it take? How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords” before a criminal prosecution?

Judging by the actions of Obama’s Justice Department, apparently the sky’s the limit.

But if history is any guide to current Citigroup “lapses,” you can bet that the bank’s balance sheet is awash with dirty money.

As a prelude to the Federal Reserve’s Consent Order, last April the Office of the Currency (OCC) issued a cease-and-desist order charging Citigroup with “deficiencies in its BSA/AML compliance program.”

OCC regulators stated that the bank had “failed to adopt and implement a compliance program that adequately covers the required BSA/AML program elements due to an inadequate system of internal controls and ineffective independent testing.”

According to OCC, Citigroup “did not develop adequate due diligence on foreign correspondent bank customers and failed to file Suspicious Activity Reports (‘SARs’) related to its remote deposit capture/international cash letter instrument activity in a timely manner.”

In their infinite wisdom, the Federal Reserve did not include fines against the bank, but the Board of Governors hastened to assure Citigroup’s masters (their future employers?) that the Consent Order was issued “solely for the purpose of settling this matter without a formal proceeding being filed and without the necessity for protracted or extended hearings or testimony.”

You bet it was!

Citigroup and Banamex: The Salinas Affair

If all this sounds familiar, it should.

One of the more infamous cases involving taxpayer bailed-out Citigroup’s ties to money laundering drug cartels emerged in the late 1990s when Raúl Salinas de Gortari, the brother of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas, was arrested after his wife, Paulina Castañón, attempted to withdraw $84 million from a Swiss account controlled by Raúl under an alias.

Salinas, who spent ten years in prison over the murder of his brother-in-law, political rival José Francisco Ruiz, was released in 2005 when a Mexican appeals court overturned that conviction.

After nearly 13 years of legal proceedings into the origins of the Salinas fortune, SwissInfo reported that “Switzerland will hand over $74 million (SFr77.3 million) to Mexico from bank accounts linked to the brother of a former Mexican president.”

“The funds–more than $110 million in bank accounts linked to Raúl Salinas–were originally frozen after the Swiss authorities initiated criminal proceedings against Salinas in 1995 for money laundering.”

But as Narco News investigative journalist Al Giordano reported back in 2000,

“The Chief Operating Officers of drug trafficking are not Mexicans, nor Colombians: they are US and European bankers, those who launder the illicit proceeds of drug trafficking. Institutions like Citibank of New York–as this report documents–are the true beneficiaries of the prohibition on drugs and its illegal profits.”

Indeed, “some of these men,” Giordano asserted, “like Banamex CEO Roberto Hernández Ramírez–are rags-to-riches stories. Hernández, according to Forbes magazine, could not afford to finance an American Express credit card in 1980. Today he earns the largest annual salary in Mexico–reported as $29 million dollars–and is a billionaire presiding over Mexico’s top banking institution.”

According to Narco News, when former President Carlos Salinas initiated bank privatization during the 1990s at the urging of the Bush and Clinton administrations, “the single biggest winner” was none other than his old pal Roberto Hernández. And Hernández, according to investigative journalist Mario R. Menéndez Rodríguez, the editor of Por Esto!, was “the financial engineer of the Gulf Cartel, launched in the 1980s by Juan N. Guerra and based in the Texas border city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas.”

Reprising their earlier investigations, Giordano reported that “Hernández had been accused–publicly and via a criminal complaint–by the daily newspaper Por Esto! of trafficking tons of Colombian cocaine through his Caribbean costa properties on that peninsula since 1997.”

“The newspaper,” Narco News averred, “published photos of the drugs, the smuggling boats, the Colombian garbage strewn upon the shores, the airfield and small airplanes that, witnesses testified, brought the cocaine north to the United States, with confirmation from sources as diverse as local fishermen and high officials of the Mexican Armed Forces.”

For their investigative efforts both Giordano and Menéndez were sued for libel by Banamex and Hernández in 2000, a case summarily dismissed by the New York Supreme Court, which “established, for the first time, First Amendment protections for Internet journalists in the United States.”

Banamex was bought by Citigroup in 2001 for the then princely sum of $12.5 billion (£8.21bn).

As El Universal Gráfico journalist José Martínez reported at the time of the Citibank-Banamex buy out, “One of the mechanisms utilized by Mexican investors is the opening of secret accounts in foreign banks that have business in this country. There, the exclusive Citibank, for decades, has been the preferred bank of the elite of wealthy and powerful people involved in the middle of scandal. In recent years this financial institution has been involved in innumerable cases connected to the management of dirty money.”

According to Martínez, “Citibank has been linked to the political scandals derived from the diversion of funds by part of the Mexican elite, among them some narco-traffickers.”

And as Mexico City’s Milenio newspaper columnist Jorge Fernández Menéndez detailed in his 1999 book Narcotráfico y Poder in reference to Raúl Salinas:

The relation of of Raúl Salinas with the Gulf Cartel presumably surged at the end of the 1980s and began with Juan N. Guerra, who since the middle of the decade had led this organization dedicated to drug trafficking (above all, marijuana) and contraband. In 1989, Guerra made various investments in construction projects, mainly in Villahermosa, with Raúl Salinas. But, already an old man with grave health problems, with a limited vision of his activity, Juan N. Guerra was not the ideal individual to head the project that would be settled by the strong growth of the Cali Cartel: the change from marijuana to cocaine.

Fernández noted that when the Gulf Cartel was taken over by Juan García Abrego, “…as the person responsible for the operation of the cartel, Raúl Salinas de Gortari [w]as the presumed chief of political relations and power of the same.”

Never mind that before his arrest on money laundering charges, Raúl only earned an annual salary of $190,000 as a “public servant,” Swiss and US investigators uncovered an illicit cash horde to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Where did Salinas’ money come from?

In addition to the outright theft of funds from the Treasury as alleged by federal prosecutors in Mexico, according to a 1995 Los Angeles Times report, Salinas “amassed at least $100 million in suspected drug money.”

Switzerland’s top prosecutor at the time, Carla del Ponte, “launched the investigation after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration supplied information that led Swiss agents to the accounts in Geneva, where they arrested Raúl Salinas’ wife and her brother on Nov. 15 as the pair attempted to withdraw more than $83 million.”

Del Ponte told the Los Angeles Times that after observing Salinas’ interrogation by Mexican federal prosecutors the sums found in those accounts were “suspected to be from the laundering of money related to narcotics trafficking.”

In 1998, when Swiss prosecutors completed their Salinas investigation, The New York Times disclosed that “Swiss police investigators have concluded that a brother of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari played a central role in Mexico’s cocaine trade, raking in huge bribes to protect the flow of drugs into the United States.”

That Swiss report stated, “When Carlos Salinas de Gortari became President of Mexico in 1988, Raúl Salinas de Gortari assumed control over practically all drug shipments through Mexico. Through his influence and bribes paid with drug money, officials of the army and the police supported and protected the flourishing drug business.”

Leveraging “a low-profile position in the administration’s food-distribution agency,” Swiss investigators revealed that “Raúl Salinas commandeered Government trucks and railroad cars to haul cocaine north, skimming payoffs that the Swiss estimate at upwards of $500 million. On what some of his reputed former associates referred to as ‘green light days,’ he arranged for drug loads to transit Mexico without concern that they might be checked by the army, the coast guard or the federal police.”

But without the complicity of major banks, amassing and then hiding, that much loot would be impossible. Enter Citibank’s “Private Banking” division.

A 1998 report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) pointed a finger directly at Citibank. Investigators revealed that “Mr. Salinas was able to transfer $90 million to $100 million between 1992 and 1994 by using a private banking relationship formed by Citibank New York in 1992. The funds were transferred through Citibank Mexico and Citibank New York to private banking investment accounts in Citibank London and Citibank Switzerland.”

With the connivance of bank officials, in 1992 Salinas was able to “effectively disguise” the source of those funds and their destination.

Indeed, with hefty fees secured from assisting their well-connected client Salinas, Citibank “set up an offshore private investment company named Trocca, to hold Mr. Salinas’s assets, through Cititrust (Cayman) and investment accounts in Citibank London and Citibank Switzerland.”

Forget due diligence or “know your customer” (KYC) rules firmly in place under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), Citibank “waived bank references for Mr. Salinas and did not prepare a financial profile on him or request a waiver for the profile, as required by then Citibank know your customer policy” and “facilitated Mrs. Salinas’s use of another name to initiate fund transfers in Mexico.”

This should have triggered alarm bells over at OCC, but like today’s banking scandals involving Wachovia, HSBC and JPMorgan Chase, US “regulators” sat on their hands and did nothing.

Eager to extract those fees from a dodgy client, Citibank’s Vice President for Legal Affairs was forced to admit to GAO investigators that the bank “only” violated one aspect of their KYC policy, their failure to prepare a financial profile of Salinas.

However, a 1999 Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report on “Private Banking and Money Laundering” revealed that “a culture of secrecy pervades the private banking industry.”

“For example,” Senate investigators disclosed, “in the case of Raul Salinas . . . the private bank hid Mr. Salinas’ ownership of Trocca by omitting his name from the Trocca incorporation papers and naming still other shell companies as the shareholders, directors, and officers. Citibank consistently referred to Mr. Salinas in internal bank communications by the code name ‘Confidential Client Number 2′ or ‘CC-2.’ The private bank’s Swiss office opened a special name account for him under the name of ‘Bonaparte’.”

And despite the fact, as Senate staff averred, “Federal Reserve examiners stated in internal documents that the Citibank private bank lagged behind other private banks they had reviewed,” and that Citi’s Swiss headquarters had received the “worst possible audit rating” in 1995, and that Citibank’s “poor audit score were ‘not taken seriously’ within the private bank,” no regulatory action was taken.

Two years later, a Federal Reserve examiner wrote: “The auditors are a key asset of [the private bank]. The problem is that for years audit has been identifying problems and nothing has been done about it. In 1992 [the private bank had] 66% favorable audits in 1997 the percentage of favorable audits was 62%. … It appears that there are no consequences for bad audits as long as [the private bank] meets their financial goals.”

Bingo!

As Time Magazine investigative journalist S.C. Gwynne reported at the time, Citibank and the soon-to-be-merged with Travelers behemoth now known as Citigroup (that 1998 merger was illegal under Glass-Steagall, but that’s another story, one which directly correlates to the Act’s 1999 repeal by the Clinton crime family and their Republican co-conspirators in Congress), private banking for upscale clients with the means to invest at $1 million “is now the crown jewel in the financial giant’s strategy for growth.”

“That strategy,” Gwynne wrote, “calls for Citibank and its parent, Citigroup, to reduce their reliance on cyclical corporate and real estate lending, which tends to be high risk and relatively low profit. It will emphasize the lower-risk, higher-margin business of consumer banking–and especially one-stop financial shopping for the world’s booming population of the newly rich.”

Keep in mind, Gwynne was writing in 1998 before the real estate bubble was inflated and Wall Street banksters dove head first into the dubious “residential mortgage” marketing machine that nearly sunk, and still threatens to sink, the capitalist economy under endless waves of fraud and corruption.

“At Citigroup and like-minded institutions around the world,” Gwynne noted, “folks with six- and seven-figure portfolios can find not only traditional banking services like checking and savings accounts but also strategic financial advice; introduction to high-yield investment vehicles like hedge funds; tax advice and accounting; estate planning and all manner of insurance. They can also get help in protecting their assets from potential claimants like creditors and ex-spouses, which can involve moving money discreetly from country to country.”

Indeed, private banking funds were “part of a $17 trillion global pool of money belonging to what bankers euphemistically call ‘high-net-worth individuals’–a pool that generates more than $150 billion a year in banking revenue.”

Hidey holes in the Cayman Islands and other destinations used for squirreling-away illicit cash, such as the world’s largest financial black holes, the US State of Delaware and the City of London, remain convenient resting places for loot amassed by various global narcotics combines.

Limited at the time by an “ongoing Department of Justice investigation,” a lawyerly dodge that prevents corporate criminality from ever coming to light, GAO investigators “could not determine whether Citibank’s actions violated law or regulation.”

The Federal Reserve were also less than forthcoming and “did not comment on whether Citibank’s actions were violations because information available to it at the time we inquired was insufficient for it to make a determination.”

According to asleep at the wheel regulators at OCC, Citibank’s “actions did not violate civil aspects of the Bank Secrecy Act” since under rules then in place “private banking’s know your customer policies are voluntary and not governed by law or regulation.”

But as the Mexican weekly news magazine Proceso reported in 2001 during the Salinas affair, “Citibank of New York was transferring Juárez drug cartel money to Uruguay and Argentina, where Mexican drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes and his associates went calmly about their business, with help from local politicians and businessmen. Not long after, investigations would reveal that in 1998-99, more than $300 million belonging to Mexican drug traffickers went through Citibank.”

As El Universal Gráfico noted, when the self-described “Lord of the Heavens” sought refuge in South America, he “had account # 36111386 in Citibank of New York. From this place, the financial operators of the narco-trafficker passed large sums in millions of dollars to ghost banks like MA Bank of the fiscal paradise of the Cayman Islands.”

In late 2000, when the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations again began looking into drug money laundering allegations against Citibank, they received information from Argentine legislators who claimed there was “a gigantic political-financial conspiracy involving even Citibank President John Reed.”

Years later, those suspicions were corroborated when a US investigation, Operation Casablanca, “revealed that [money from] the Juárez cartel entered Argentina through two Citibank accounts and others in shell banks in the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas.”

Juan Miguel Ponce, the head of Mexico’s Interpol branch, “took advantage of Operation Casablanca to explore the vein of Juárez cartel allies in Argentina. He claims to have discovered documents in Mexico proving that large contributions were made by the cartel to 1999 campaign in Argentina of Peronist presidential and vice presidential candidates Eduardo Duhalde and Ramon ‘Palito’ Ortega,” Proceso disclosed

As James Petras reported in 2001, when Salinas was arrested “and his large-scale theft of government funds was exposed, his private bank manager at Citibank, Amy Elliott, said in a phone conversation with colleagues (the transcript of which was made available to Congressional investigators) that ‘this goes [on] in the very, very top of the corporation, this was known … on the very top. We are little pawns in this whole thing’.”

Fast forward twelve years: More than 120,000 Mexican citizens have paid with their lives as a result of the grisly trade and the American people are still the pawns of “plutonomic” banksters whose “wealth waves” come from the perverse influence bought by oceans of drug money flowing through a thoroughly corrupt capitalist system.

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.

It doesn’t surprise. It’s likely happening ahead of Venezuela’s April 14 presidential election. It’ll continue when it’s over.

Washington tolerates no independent governments. It demands pro-Western ones. It wants them serving US interests. Outliers are targeted for regime change.

Throughout his tenure, Chavez was America’s main hemispheric bete noire. He’s gone. Chavismo lives. Washington’s war on Venezuela continues.

It’s the oil, stupid. Venezuela has the world’s largest reserves. It’s also for unchallenged regional dominance. No holds barred tactics persist to achieve it.

On April 5, Russia Today (RT) headlined “New WikiLeaks cable reveals US embassy strategy to destabilize Chavez government.”

America’s Caracas embassy’s a hotbed of anti-Chavismo subversion. RT referred to past events. William Brownfield was US ambassador. He’s now Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

From 2004 – 2006, his five-point plan included “strengthening democratic institutions,” (doing so by undermining them), “penetrating Chavez’s political base, dividing Chavismo, protecting vital US business, and isolating Chavez internationally.”

USAID handled implementation. It provided about $15 million dollars. It did so through its Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). It was created in spring 2002. Money went for training and technical assistance. Over 300 anti-Chavismo organizations got it.

A November 9, 2006 US Caracas embassy cable explained. WikiLeaks exposed it. Its full unredacted text states:

“Classified By: Robert Downes, Political Counselor,

for Reason 1.4(d).

——-

SUMMARY

——-

“1. (S) During his 8 years in power, President Chavez has

systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and

governance. The USAID/OTI program objectives in Venezuela

focus on strengthening democratic institutions and spaces

through non-partisan cooperation with many sectors of

Venezuelan society.

2. (S) In August of 2004, Ambassador outlined the country

team’s 5 point strategy to guide embassy activities in

Venezuela for the period 2004 ) 2006 (specifically, from the

referendum to the 2006 presidential elections). The

strategy’s focus is: 1) Strengthening Democratic

Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3)

Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5)

Isolating Chavez internationally.

3. (S) A brief description of USAID/OTI activities during

the aforementioned time period in support of the strategy

follows:

Strengthen Democratic Institutions

————-

4. (S) This strategic objective represents the majority of

USAID/OTI work in Venezuela. Organized civil society is an

increasingly important pillar of democracy, one where

President Chavez has not yet been able to assert full

control.

5. (S) OTI has supported over 300 Venezuelan civil society

organizations with technical assistance, capacity building,

connecting them with each other and international movements,

and with financial support upwards of $15 million. Of these,

39 organizations focused on advocacy have been formed since

the arrival of OTI; many of these organizations as a direct

result of OTI programs and funding.

6. (S) Human Rights: OTI supports the Freedom House (FH)

“Right to Defend Human Rights” program with $1.1 million.

Simultaneously through Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI),

OTI has also provided 22 grants to human rights

organizations, totaling $726,000. FH provides training and

technical assistance to 15 different smaller and regional

human rights organizations on how to research, document, and

present cases in situations of judicial impunity through a

specialized software and proven techniques. Following are

some specific successes from this project, which has led to a

better understanding internationally of the deteriorating

human rights situation in the country:

Venezuelan Prison Observatory: Since beginning work with

OTI, OVP has taken 1 case successfully through the

inter-American system, achieving a ruling requiring BRV

special protective measures for the prison ‘La Pica.’ Also,

on November 7th – 12th they will be launching the

Latin-American Prison Observatory, consolidating their work

with a regional network. OVP receives technical support from

FH, as well as monetary support from Pan American Development Foundation (PADF). Due to the success of the OVP in raising awareness of the issue, the BRV has put pressure on them in the form of public statements, announcing investigations, accusing them of alleged crimes as well as death threats.

Central Venezuelan University Human Rights Center: This

center was created out of the FH program and a grant from

CARACAS 00003356 002.2 OF 004

DAI. They have successfully raised awareness regarding the

International Cooperation Law and the human rights situation

in Venezuela, and have served as a voice nationally and

internationally.

Human Rights Lawyers Network in Bolivar State: This group

was created out of the FH program and a grant from the DAI

small grants program. They are currently supporting the

victims of a massacre of 12 miners in Bolivar State allegedly

by the Venezuelan Army. Chavez himself was forced to admit

that the military used excessive force in this case. They

will present their case to the Inter-American Commission on

Human Rights in February 2007.

7. (S) Citizen Participation in Governance: Venezuelan

NGOs lack a long history of social activism. In response,

OTI partners are training NGOs to be activists and become

more involved in advocacy. The successes of this focus have

been as follows:

Support for the Rights of the Handicapped: OTI has funded 3

projects in the Caracas area dealing with the rights of the

handicapped. Venezuela had neither the appropriate

legislation nor political will to assure that the cities are

designed and equipped in a handicapped sensitive fashion.

Through these programs, OTI brought the issue of the

handicapped to the forefront, trained advocacy groups to

advocate for their rights and lobby the National Assembly,

and alerted the press regarding this issue. Subsequent to

this, the National Assembly was forced to consider

handicapped needs and propose draft legislation for the issue.

Por la Caracas Possible (PCP): Once-beautiful Caracas has

decayed over the past several years due to corruption and

lack of attention. PCP is a local NGO dedicated to bringing

attention to this problem. They have held campaigns with

communities shining a light on the terrible job elected

leadership are doing resolving the problems in Caracas.

During their work they have been expelled from communities by

the elected leaders, further infuriating communities that

already feel un-assisted.

8. (S) Civic Education: One effective Chavista mechanism

of control applies democratic vocabulary to support

revolutionary Bolivarian ideology. OTI has been working to

counter this through a civic education program called

‘Democracy Among Us.’ This interactive education program

works through NGOs in low income communities to deliver five

modules: 1) Separation of Powers, 2) Rule of Law, 3) The

Role and Responsibility of Citizens, 4) Political Tolerance,

and 5) The Role of Civil Society. Separate civic education

programs in political tolerance, participation, and human

rights have reached over 600,000 people.

————–

Penetrate Base/Divide Chavismo

————–

9. (S) Another key Chavez strategy is his attempt to divide

and polarize Venezuelan society using rhetoric of hate and

violence. OTI supports local NGOs who work in Chavista

strongholds and with Chavista leaders, using those spaces to

counter this rhetoric and promote alliances through working

together on issues of importance to the entire community.

OTI has directly reached approximately 238,000 adults through

over 3000 forums, workshops and training sessions delivering

alternative values and providing opportunities for opposition

activists to interact with hard-core Chavistas, with the

desired effect of pulling them slowly away from Chavismo. We

have supported this initiative with 50 grants totaling over

$1.1 million. There are several key examples of this:

10. (S) Visor Participativo: This is a group of 34 OTI

CARACAS 00003356 003.2 OF 004

funded and technically assisted NGOs working together on

municipal strengthening. They work in 48 municipalities

(Venezuela has 337), with 31 MVR, 2 PPT and 15 opposition

mayors. As Chavez attempts to re-centralize the country, OTI

through Visor is supporting decentralization. Much of this

is done through the municipal councils (CLPPs). The National

Assembly recently passed a law that creates groups parallel

to the mayor’s offices and municipal councils (and that

report directly to the president’s office). These groups are

receiving the lions share of new monies Chavez is pumping

into the regions, leaving the municipalities under-funded.

As Chavez attempts to re-centralize all power to the

Executive in the capital, local Chavista leadership are

becoming the opposition as their individual oxen are gored.

Visor has been providing these leaders with tools and skills

for leadership to counter the threat represented by the new

legislation.

11. (S) CECAVID: This project supported an NGO working

with women in the informal sectors of Barquisimeto, the 5th

largest city in Venezuela. The training helped them

negotiate with city government to provide better working

conditions. After initially agreeing to the women’s

conditions, the city government reneged and the women shut

down the city for 2 days forcing the mayor to return to the

bargaining table. This project is now being replicated in

another area of Venezuela.

12. (S) PROCATIA: OTI has partnered with a group widely

perceived by people in the large Caracas &barrio8 as

opposition leaning. Due to incompetence of the local elected

leadership, the garbage problem in Catia is a messy issue for

all those who live there. This group has organized brigades

to collect and recycle trash, in the process putting pressure

on the government to provide basic services and repositioning

the group as a respected ally of the ‘barrio.’

13. (S) Finally, through support of a positive social

impact campaign in cooperation with PAS, OTI funded 54 social

projects all over the country, at over $1.2 million, allowing

Ambassador to visit poor areas of Venezuela and demonstrate

US concern for the Venezuelan people. This program fosters

confusion within the Bolivarian ranks, and pushes back at the

attempt of Chavez to use the United States as a ‘unifying

enemy.’

—————

Isolate Chavez

—————

14. (S) An important component of the OTI program is

providing information internationally regarding the true

revolutionary state of affairs. OTI’s support for human

rights organizations has provided ample opportunity to do so.

The FH exchanges allowed Venezuelan human rights

organizations to visit Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Chile,

Argentina, Costa Rica, and Washington DC to educate their

peers regarding the human rights situation. Also, DAI has

brought dozens of international leaders to Venezuela,

university professors, NGO members, and political leaders to

participate in workshops and seminars, who then return to

their countries with a better understanding of the Venezuelan

reality and as stronger advocates for the Venezuelan

opposition.

15. (S) More recently, OTI has taken advantage of the draft

law of International Cooperation to send NGO representatives

to international NGO conferences where they are able to voice

their concerns in terms that global civil society understands. So far, OTI has sent Venezuelan NGO leaders to Turkey, Scotland, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Chile, Uruguay, Washington and Argentina (twice) to talk about the law. Upcoming visits are planned to Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.

CARACAS 00003356 004.2 OF 004

OTI has also brought 4 recognized experts in NGO law from

abroad to Venezuela to show solidarity for their Venezuelan

counterparts. PADF supported visits by 4 key human rights

defenders to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission

meetings in Washington in October of 2006. These have led to

various successes:

Civicus, a world alliance of NGOs, has put the Venezuela

issue on their Civil Society Watch short list of countries of

concern.

Gente de Soluciones, a Venezuelan NGO presented their

“Project Society” to the OAS General Assembly. While there,

they met with many of the Ambassadors and Foreign Ministers

of OAS member states to express concern about the law.

Uruguayan parliamentarians met with NGOs at a special session of the Foreign Affairs commission, and have promised to help where they can.

The Human Rights Commission of the OAS has made several

public statements and sent private letters to the National

Assembly expressing concern with the law.

The most prestigious law faculty in Buenos Aires, Argentina

has committed to hosting an event to deal with the draft law.

The Democratic Observatory of MERCOSUR plans to hold an event early next year to discuss the draft law.

So far the Venezuelan National Assembly has received many

letters and emails of opposition to the law from groups all

over the world.

A private meeting between 4 Venezuelan human rights defenders and Secretary General Jose Miguel Inzulsa during the October 2006 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (please protect).

The press, both local and international, has been made aware

of the proposed law and it has received wide play in the US

as well as in Latin America.

16. (S) OTI has also created a web site which has been sent

to thousands of people all over the world with details of the

law in an interactive format.

Comment

——-

17. (S) Through carrying out positive activities, working

in a non-partisan way across the ideological landscape, OTI

has been able to achieve levels of success in carrying out

the country team strategy in Venezuela. These successes have

come with increasing opposition by different sectors of

Venezuelan society and the Venezuelan government. Should

Chavez win the December 3rd presidential elections, OTI

expects the atmosphere for our work in Venezuela to become

more complicated.

BROWNFIELD”

OTI funded over 50 projects. They aimed to foster “confusion within the Bolivarian ranks, and pushe(d) back at the attempt of Chavez to use the United States as a unifying enemy.”

In 2010, Venezuela closed OTI’s office. It did so for good reason. Chavez knew what he faced. So does acting president/United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) presidential candidate Nicolas Maduro. Elections are scheduled for Sunday, April 14.

He’s odds on favored to win. Polls show him way ahead. He’s concerned about internal subversion and sabotage. On April 4, he ordered Venezuela’s military to protect power plants just in case.

He did so following suspicious Cararcas and Aragua state outages. He called them opposition efforts to wage “electricity” and “economic war.” He stressed the urgency of protecting “national security.”

Venezuela’s state-run National Electricity Corporation (Corpoelec) found 11 burned out transformers throughout Aragua state. Company president Argenis Chavez cited sabotage. So did Maduro, saying “(t)here’s nothing to indicate (a conventional) failure.”

“It’s not a secret to anyone that inside the structure of the electrical system, there are (anti-Chavismo) elements. Thank God every day there are less workers who answer the right-wing call to commit sabotage. But there is internal and external sabotage.”

Argenis Chavez said suspicious power failures occurred before last October’s presidential elections. They’re happening again now. Perhaps other destabilizing schemes are planned ahead of April 14.

Washington’s long arm’s been involved throughout Chavez’s tenure. It continues now. Replacing Chavismo is policy. Past efforts failed.

They included an aborted two-day April 2002 coup, a 2002-03 64-day oil industry lockout, an unsuccessful 2004 recall election, Western scoundrel media campaigns, and millions of dollars given anti-Chavismo political parties, journalists, NGOs, and other groups wanting oligarch power restored.

In 2006, Washington established a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) mission manager for Venezuela and Cuba. CIA veteran Timothy Langford heads it. He replaced interim manager Patrick Maher.

In June 2007, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Craig Kelly called Chavez a regional “enemy.” He proposed “six main areas of action for the US government to limit (his) influence (and) reassert US leadership in the region.”

He stressed “strengthen(ing) ties to those military leaders in the region who share our concern over Chavez.” He proposed “psychological operations” to exploit government vulnerabilities.

“We also need to make sure that the truth about Chavez – his hollow vision, his empty promises, his dangerous international relationships, starting with Iran – gets out, always exercising careful judgment about where and how we take on Chavez directly/publicly.”

Throughout his tenure, Washington wanted him ousted. It wants state-owned enterprises privatized. It wants Bolivarian initiatives abolished. It wants Venezuela made a client-state.

In April 2008, the Pentagon reactivated its Fourth Fleet. It did so after a 60 year hiatus. It was established during WW II. It was disbanded in 1950.

It’s part of US Naval Forces Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM). It’s headquartered at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, FL. It operates throughout Central and Latin America.

Its purpose involves “conducting varying missions including a range of contingency operations, counter(ing) narco-terrorism, and theater security cooperation activities.”

Former USSOUTHCOM commander Admiral James Stevenson called the move a message to the entire region, not just Venezuela.

National War College commandant General Robert Steele said:

“The United States’ obsession with Venezuela, Cuba and other things indicates they are going to use more military force, going to use that instrument more often.”

US bases infest Latin America. Seven operate in eastern Colombia. It borders Venezuela. Chavez was justifiably concerned. He called stationing US forces nearby “a threat of war at us.”

So far, US destabilization efforts wage it by other means. Expect no letup ahead. Venezuela’s targeted for regime change. Obama’s more belligerent than Bush.

Chavismo remains the threat of a good example. Washington wants a client state replacing it.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/destabilizing-venezuela-longstanding-us-policy/

by Dylan Murphy

On 27 March thousands of teachers, parents and school support staff flooded into central Chicago to protest against the plan to close 61 schools. Over 150 protestors were arrested for a sit-down protest during the demonstration which shut down traffic in the heart of the city. Karen Lewis, President of Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) said at a recent press conference:

“Rahm Emanuel has become the ‘murder mayor.’ He is murdering public services. Murdering our ability to maintain public sector jobs and now he has set his sights on our public schools. But we have news for him: We don’t intend to die. This is not Detroit. We are the city of big shoulders and so we intend to put up a fight. We don’t know if we can win, but if you don’t fight, you will never win at all.”

Mayor Rahm Emmauel has said that the closures are necessary to prevent students being left trapped in failing schools. Meanwhile, Barabra Byrd-Bennet the CEO of Chicago Public Schools has said that the closure plans will help bridge a $1 billion budget deficit and allow for increased investment in the remaining public schools.

Mayor Emmanuel’s programme will see the largest number of public school’s closed in one year in America’s third largest school district. In the last decade over a hundred schools have been closed in Chicago. Opponents of the plans say the close programme will mean thousands of school staff losing their jobs, bigger class sizes for the remaining public schools which will increase to between 30-40 per class and the ending of many community services provided by the schools.

Many students and parents have joined the protests and complained that the closure of these schools will put many children at increased risk of violence as they will have to cross gang boundaries to get to their new schools. Hundreds of students held a protest outside city hall on 25 March calling for on the mayor to halt the programme of school closures and for increased spending on schools. Many expressed worries over student safety in a city where there was over 500 murders last year much of which was gang related.

Last September the CTU took strike action against Mayor Emmanuel’s plans to privatize ”poorly performing” schools and turn them into private charter schools. Many see his current closure plan as a mere variant on that plan.

Chicago’s Board of Education will decide in May whether to approve the mayor’s closure programme. The board members were all appointed by Mayor Emmanuel leaving few with any confidence that it will vote against the closure programme.

On the 27 March protest demonstrators expressed a determination to put up a massive fight against the school closure programme. Jackson Potter, staff coordinator for the CTU told Real News TV that the campaign against the school closures must include mass acts of civil disobedience ”occupying school buildings” and even ”hunger strikes” if necessary. The fight in Chicago has national significance. Success for the teacher’s and parents there will be a major boost to all those across America who are campaigning against high stakes testing and the attendant privatization drive in public education.

Dylan Murphy is a historian, teacher and trade union activist.

Everything You Know About Money Is Wrong

April 8th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

We Can’t Fix What We Don’t Understand

Bloomberg notes this week that the conventional theory of why money was created is wrong:

There are, broadly speaking, two accounts of the origin and history of money. One is elegant, intuitive and taught in many introductory economics textbooks. The other is true.

The financial economist Charles Goodhart, a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, laid out the two views in a 1998 paper, “The Two Concepts of Money: Implications for the Analysis of Optimal Currency Areas.”

The first view, the “M View,” is named after the Austrian 19th century economist and historian Karl Menger, whose 1882 essay “On the Origins of Money” is the canonical statement of an argument that goes back to Aristotle:

As subsistence farming gives way to more complex economies, individuals want to trade. Simple barter (eight bushels of wheat for one barrel of wine) quickly becomes inefficient, because a buyer’s desires won’t always match up with a seller’s inventory. If a merchant comes through the village with wine and all a farmer has to offer is wheat, but the merchant wants nuts, there’s no trade and both parties walk away unfulfilled. Or the farmer has to incur the costs of finding another merchant who will exchange wheat for nuts and then hope that the first merchant hasn’t moved on to the next village.

But if the merchant and the farmer can exchange some other medium, then the trade can happen. This medium of exchange has to be what Menger calls “saleable,” meaning that it’s easily portable, doesn’t spoil over time and can be divided. Denominated coins work, shells and beads also fit the bill. So do cigarettes in POW camps and jails and Tide laundry detergent for drug dealers. This process, Menger argues, happens without the intervention of the state: “Money has not been generated by law. In its origin it is a social, and not a state institution.” [Menger's view is the commonly-accepted theory of  money.]

Goodhart points out, however, that Menger is just wrong about the actual history of physical money, especially metal coins. Goodhart writes that coins don’t follow Menger’s account at all. Normal people, after all, can’t judge the quality of hunks of metal the same way they can count cigarettes or shells. They can, however, count coins. Coins need to be minted, and governments are the ideal body to do so. Precious metals that become coins are, well, precious, and stores of them need to be protected from theft. Also, a private mint will always have the incentive to say its coins contain more high-value stuff than they actually do. Governments can last a long time and make multi-generational commitments to their currencies that your local blacksmith can’t.

But why oversee money creation in the first place? This brings us to the second theory of money, which Goodhart calls the “C View,” standing for “cartalist” (chartalist is a more common spelling). To simplify radically, it starts with the idea that states minted money to pay soldiers, and then made that money the only acceptable currency for paying taxes. With a standard currency, tax assessment and collection became easier, and the state could make a small profit from seiginorage.

The state-coin connection has far more historical support than Menger’s organic account. As Goodheart points out, strong, state-building rulers (Charlemagne, Edward I of England) tend to be currency innovators, and he could have easily added Franklin D. Roosevelt’s taking the U.S. off the gold standard in 1933 or Abraham Lincoln financing the Civil War with newly issued greenbacks. The inverse is true too: When states collapse, they usually take their currencies with them. When Japan stopped minting coins in 958, the economy reverted to barter within 50 years.  When the Roman Empire collapsed in Western Europe, money creation splintered along new political borders.

If money came about independent of states, as according to the M View, one would think it would outlast transient political structures. Historically, however, this tends not to be the case, a strong argument in favor of the C View.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/05/Barter-Chickens_for_Subscription.jpg

Anthropologist David Graeber – who has extensively studied the history of money and debt – agrees:

There’s a standard story we’re all taught, a ‘once upon a time’ — it’s a fairy tale.

***

Rather than the standard story – first there’s barter, then money, then finally credit comes out of that – if anything its precisely the other way around. Credit and debt comes first, then coinage emerges thousands of years later and then, when you do find “I’ll give you twenty chickens for that cow” type of barter systems, it’s usually when there used to be cash markets, but for some reason – as in Russia, for example, in 1998 – the currency collapses or disappears.

***

Taxes are also key to creating the first markets that operate on cash, since coinage seems to be invented or at least widely popularized to pay soldiers – more or less simultaneously in China, India, and the Mediterranean, where governments find the easiest way to provision the troops is to issue them standard-issue bits of gold or silver and then demand everyone else in the kingdom give them one of those coins back again. Thus we find that the language of debt and the language of morality start to merge.

***

How did this happen? Well, remember I said that the big question in the origins of money is how a sense of obligation – an ‘I owe you one’ – turns into something that can be precisely quantified? Well, the answer seems to be: when there is a potential for violence. If you give someone a pig and they give you a few chickens back you might think they’re a cheapskate, and mock them, but you’re unlikely to come up with a mathematical formula for exactly how cheap you think they are. If someone pokes out your eye in a fight, or kills your brother, that’s when you start saying, “traditional compensation is exactly twenty-seven heifers of the finest quality and if they’re not of the finest quality, this means war!”

Money, in the sense of exact equivalents, seems to emerge from situations like that, but also, war and plunder, the disposal of loot, slavery. In early Medieval Ireland, for example, slave-girls were the highest denomination of currency. And you could specify the exact value of everything in a typical house even though very few of those items were available for sale anywhere because they were used to pay fines or damages if someone broke them.

But once you understand that taxes and money largely begin with war it becomes easier to see what really happened.

Graeber provides an example:

We tend to forget that in, say, the Middle Ages, from France to China, … money was … whatever the king was willing to accept in taxes.

Graeber also notes that the first word for “freedom” in any language is the word for “debt-freedom”, and that much of the language of the great religious movements revolved around forgiveness of debts.  And the founders of the Christian and Jewish religions focused on the importance of debt jubilees.

In addition, most Americans don’t realize that our current money system does not serve the public good, but instead continuously sucks the prosperity and vitality out of our economy.  As Henry Ford noted:

It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.

Some claim that public banking is the answer. Others look to gold or Bitcoin as a saner alternative to fiat currencies.

As we noted in 2011, maybe we should get beyond all systems which keep track of exactly to the penny who owes what to whom … in the manner required for warfare and slavery:

Graeber hints at one possibility [for a way out of the money-debt trap]:

[French anthropologist Marcel Mauss] was one of the first anthropologists to ask: well, all right, if not barter, then what? What do people who don’t use money actually do when things change hands? Anthropologists had documented an endless variety of such economic systems, but hadn’t really worked out common principles. What Mauss noticed was that in almost all of them, everyone pretended as if they were just giving one another gifts and then they fervently denied they expected anything back. But in actual fact everyone understood there were implicit rules and recipients would feel compelled to make some sort of return.

What fascinated Mauss was that this seemed to be universally true, even today. If I take a free-market economist out to dinner he’ll feel like he should return the favor and take me out to dinner later. He might even think that he is something of chump if he doesn’t and this even if his theory tells him he just got something for nothing and should be happy about it. Why is that? What is this force that compels me to want to return a gift?

This is an important argument, and it shows there is always a certain morality underlying what we call economic life.

In other words, in communities or webs of human interaction which are small enough that people can remember who gave what, we might be able to set up alternative systems of money and credit so we can largely “opt out” of the status quo systems of money and debt measurement.

I’m not arguing for becoming Luddites and living in mud huts (but that is fine, if you wish to do so). Nor am I suggesting that we all have to become selfless saints who give away all of their possessions without any reasonable expectation of something in return.

I am arguing that it might be possible to empower ourselves – and create our own systems for keeping track on a local or people-centered basis, and create our own vibrant economies using the resources we have – by moving away from the national and global systems dominated by the biggest banks and oligarchs, and towards a system where we “spend” resources and goodwill into our local communities in a way in which trust is built from the ground-up, and the energy of trade and commerce can be re-started. [Trust is - after all - the basis for all prosperous economies.]

Postscript: Mainstream economists will argue that we need a universal, fungible type of money in order to trade on a global basis. But because currencies are now unpegged from anything in the real world and are traded on the currency markets, their values fluctuate wildly in the modern world. In other words, one of the essential characteristics for money – that they represent a universal, fixed yardstick – has disappeared. And fiat currencies have a very short lifespan. So how valuable are they, really, for anyone but forex speculators?

Until we learn what money, credit and debt really are, we will remain victims … getting poorer and poorer.

Postscript: The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil.  On the other hand, the father of modern economics (Adam Smith), Ronald Reagan, economist Milton Friedman, Wall Street titan Ivan Boesky and students who take economics classes all say that greed is good.

Both are naive.

Money and currency are good to the extent that they help create abundance for ourselves and our communities.  They are bad to the extent that they are used to promote warfare and slavery, and that they suck prosperity out of the system.