A Romanian Democrat-Liberal Party (PD-L) activist prepares electoral leaflets next to a van displaying the image of PD-L candidate Ioan Talpes, former director of the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service (S.I.E). (AFP Photo/Daniel Mihailescu)

Romania allowed the CIA to use a number of sites on its territory, a former head of the country’s intelligence confessed. He added that Bucharest’s bid to join NATO at the time prevented it from asking the US about the purposes of the sites.

The sites in question were called “transit centers” and Romania was unaware of whether they were used for detention, Ioan Talpes, who headed Romania’s Foreign Intelligence Service from 2000 to 2004, told the daily Adevarul in a video interview posted online on Saturday.

The Romanian side was not interested in what the Americans were doing, purposely to show them that they could trust us,” said Talpes.

AFP cited the interview, in which Talpes specifically stressed that at the time the decision was made, Bucharest was waiting to join NATO.

The ex-spy chief said talks on “sites that the Romanians would place at the disposal of CIA representatives” began after September 11, 2001.

What is certain is that we were not aware of the presence of detainees,” Talpes insisted in the interview.

The US Senate report on torture, published earlier this week, revealed among other things that 119 people were captured and held in CIA detention sites hosted by other countries.

Although none of the countries were specifically named in the heavily redacted document, the list of those assumed to be mentioned includes Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Thailand and Afghanistan.

Romania’s president at the time, Ion Iliescu, denied earlier this week any knowledge of the so-called “black sites” in the country, AFP reports.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta said questions about the sites should be addressed to the Foreign Ministry, which hasn’t as yet commented on the issue.

Poland earlier confirmed that it housed a facility that was used to interrogate Al-Qaeda suspects between 2002 and 2003.

In July, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Poland violated an international treaty to protect human rights by hosting secret CIA prisons.

ECHR also ordered Warsaw to pay €230,000 to two former secret facility detainees. Poland is appealingthe decision.

The ruling, meanwhile, could serve as a precedent for other European states alleged to have hosted CIA prisons. Romania and Lithuania have similar cases filed against them with the ECHR.

Haitian PM Laurent Lamothe Resigns Amid Protests

December 14th, 2014 by Telesur

On Friday, Haitian President Michel Martelly had announced that Lamothe would leave his post in order to help resolve the country’s political troubles.

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe has resigned amid protests in the nation. “I am leaving the post of prime minister this evening with a feeling of accomplishment,” said Laurent Lamothe in a televised address Sunday. Several cabinet members are also expected to resign.

On Friday, Haitian President Michel Martelly had announced that Lamothe would leave his post in order to help resolve the country’s political troubles.

President Martelly has postponed parliamentary elections during since 2011, because of organizational problems due to the country’s crisis. Earlier this year, the government cancelled elections planned for October 26 citing concerns over security and political tensions between Martelly and the senate.

The opossition has also called for demonstrations on December 15 and 16, when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be visiting the country.

Why the CIA Tortured

December 14th, 2014 by Gareth Porter

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 500-page “executive summary” of the 6,700-page full report on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” programme has completely shattered the official myth that the torture of al-Qaeda detainees – which the CIA calls “enhanced interrogation techniques” – somehow helped to thwart further terrorist attacks.

After examining six million pages of official CIA documents, the committee staff refuted every one of the CIA’s claims that its torture programme generated the crucial intelligence that led to the disruption of plots and the apprehension of terrorist suspects.

The committee’s case is documented in such mind-numbing detail, based on the CIA’s own internal documents, that the CIA was compelled to acknowledge in its responses in June 2013 to each specific case analysed that it had repeatedly “mischaracterised” the relationship between its detention and interrogation programme and the disruption or failure of various proposed terrorist actions.

But the committee report leaves little doubt that the CIA was not simply mistaken about the issues involved; it had for years been systematically lying about virtually every aspect of the torture programme.

The report revealed that senior CIA officials decided in 2005 to destroy the videotapes of interrogations carried out under the programme when the idea of an independent investigation of the programme was first broached. The destruction was clearly carried out in order to ensure that the evidence could not be used to prosecute those responsible.

The report’s complete demolition of the rationale for the torture programme raises an obvious question: if the CIA knew that it was not really getting information that would help prevent terrorist attacks, why did the programme continue until 2008? Why not cut the agency’s losses years earlier?

The answer to that question lies not in the normal human reasoning but in the fundamental logic of all bureaucratic organisations. By their nature, bureaucracies seek to expand and defend their power, prominence and resources, and the CIA is no exception.  The agency’s detention and torture programme is a perfect example of how national security institutions pursue their organisational interests at the expense of even the most obvious interests of the nation they are supposed to serve.

What created the opportunity for the programme, as CIA director George Tenet recalled later, was the fact that Pakistani counter-terrorism officials rounded up more than two dozen al-Qaeda operatives simultaneously in March 2002. This quickly led to the capture of Abu Zubaydah, the highest ranking al-Qaeda operative at that time – although his actual status in the hierarchy was apparently not very high.

The prospect of extracting crucial intelligence from Zubaydah and other “high value detainees” prompted Tenet and his associates to begin developing the idea for a whole new programme that would go well beyond existing legal and ethical boundaries for interrogation. The CIA detention and interrogation programme, based on hitherto forbidden abuses of detainees, was born. The powerful appeal of such a programme to the CIA’s counter-terrorism officials lay in the huge enlargement of the CIA role in US national security policy. The currency by which senior CIA officials measure the agency’s bureaucratic power is what they referred to as their “authorities”  -  their freedom to undertake various activities.

By taking on a new role in detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects, the CIA clearly stood to make unprecedented gains in this kind of power. Tenet hints in his memoirs that: “We were asking for and we would be given as many authorities as the CIA ever had.” The most important such “authority”, of course, was the legal assurance that what had previously been considered illegal and “torture” would now be redefined as something else.

What was arguably equally or even more important to senior CIA officials working on terrorism was the opportunity to occupy center stage in what appeared to be the most compelling drama of the post 9/11 era. CIA officials certainly imagined themselves as extracting “actionable intelligence” from high-level detainees with their tough new approach to interrogation and being given credit for preventing the new attacks that they were certain were being hatched.

It was such dreams of basking in the glory of being responsible for saving the country from future terrorist attacks that gave the CIA torture project such bureaucratic momentum.

What animates national security bureaucracies to push for major new programmes is the desperate need to be important – to be a major “player” in big issue of the era. James Risen recounts in his new book, Pay Any Price, how the CIA’s Directorate of Science swallowed a fraudulent claim by a shady contractor in 2003 that they had a digital technology that could decode al-Qaeda terrorism instructions embedded in Al-Jazeera broadcasts – all because the directorate was afraid it had lost its importance in the previous several years.

The same need prompted the CIA to sign a deal up two contract psychologists who pushed an equally fraudulent theory of interrogation they called “learned helplessness”, which held that the way to get prisoners to spill all their secrets is to break their will.

Just as the Directorate of Science was taken in because of its dreams of a new status, the CIA bought into the false interrogation theory because it played into the heroic fantasy of breaking the will of the evil-doers and stopping the terrorists from striking again. It may not be accidental that the notion that torture would work on the bad guys surfaced in the wake of the enormously popular TV series “24” in which Jack Bauer showed millions of Americans how it could be done  - albeit without the elaborate machinery of abuse that the CIA would create.

But the CIA’s efforts to extract actionable intelligence by breaking the will of the detainees turned out to be an unrealistic fantasy, as the senate committee report documents. The detainees, who had often been cooperative prior to the application of torture tactics, simply told the torturers what they wanted to hear, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had warned before refusing to be associated with the CIA tactics.

Senior CIA officials had pushed false information about how successful the programme had been from the very beginning, claiming credit for disruptions and captures that had nothing to do with the torture programme. Yet by 2005, it was evident to many in the CIA that the experiment had been a failure. CIA officials involved in the programme recognised that negative messages about the programme were beginning to seep out – so they had to become even more aggressive in lying about the programme.

The senate report quotes the deputy director of the CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center in a message to a colleague in 2005 as saying: “We either get out and sell it or we get hammered.” If Congress sees negative media coverage of the programme, he warned, “it cuts our authorities, messes up our budget….[T]here is no middle ground.”

So the programme didn’t end when it became clear that it didn’t work the way it was supposed to for the simple reason that the officials involved had too much to lose.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy who has been independent since a brief period of university teaching in the 1980s. Dr. Porter is the author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005). He has written regularly for Inter Press Service on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran since 2005.

Troubled Ties: Snowden, Germany and the NSA

December 14th, 2014 by Binoy Kampmark

Germany’s high court has spoken: Edward Snowden will not be physically coming to the country to give evidence to a parliamentary committee on National Security Agency operations.[1]  The efforts had been spearheaded by the Greens and Left parties, who were told that the issue was an administrative one that had to be heard by the Federal Court of Justice, rather than the Federal Constitutional Court based in Karlsruhe.

The government argued by way of contrast that allowing Snowden onto German soil would hamper international relationships, notably with the United States. It would also corner the government in Berlin: extradite Snowden, or face the unpleasant transatlantic music.

Germany straddles the divide between client state status, which is heavily focused on security arrangements with Washington, and its own development as a power in Europe.  As Der Spiegel (Jun 18) noted, the NSA has been a vigorously active in Germany for decades, with Snowden’s documents revealing that “Germany is the agency’s most important base of operations in continental Europe.”[2]  With that activity has come extensive cooperation with Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, BND, and its domestic counterpart, the BfV.

Within Germany, a strong sentiment exists about Snowden, who has proven to be a catalyst in the surveillance debate.  Snowden has been popularised by businesses, street art, installations, pop songs and posters (Wall Street Journal, Sep 24).  MoTrip, the German hip-hop artist, raps about US surveillance in “Guten Morgen NSA”: “I know you’re monitoring my cellphone, I’m talking and meeting with Manning and Snowden.”[3]  Concern and outrage was also spiked by the efforts of US intelligence operators to tap the phone activity of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But every allegation published, and every bit of evidence cited, has been met by suggestions that the whistleblower remains a destabilising influence, whose presence may well impair German-US relations.  Authorities have preferred to give the cold shoulder to the Snowden phenomenon, even as they offer conciliatory suggestions of receiving his testimony via video link from Moscow.

The prosecutors involved in the case on NSA intercepts of Merkel’s information have so far come to naught, though this is unsurprising, given the distinct lack of cooperation from German or US intelligence sources.

The language of Germany’s top public prosecutor Harald Range is illustrative, revolving around an obsession about the authenticity of the documents used: “The document presented in public as proof of an authentic tapping of the mobile is not an authentic surveillance order by the NSA.  There is no proof now that could lead to charges that Chancellor Merkel’s phone connection data was collected or her calls tapped” (The Guardian, Dec 12).  The prosecutor further suggested that the material did not come from an NSA database.

Range has, instead, taken aim at the magazine’s supposed lack of cooperation.  He had “asked the reporters atSpiegel to answer questions about the document or to provide it to us. But the newsmagazine, citing the right of the press to refuse to give evidence, did not comply.”

Spiegel duly responded, claiming that it never asserted that the document on tapping Merkel’s phone was an original one.  “Spiegel has consistently stated that its journalists viewed the contents of an NSA document and reported on the details contained therein.  The magazine has made this clear throughout its reporting on the issue” (Spiegel, Dec 13).[4]

The magazine further went on to suggest that Range’s statements made a vital, and misleading imputation.  “There is a risk that Range’ statement could be viewed as some kind of finding in his investigation and create the false impression that Spiegel somehow concocted its own documents.”  The smokescreen of public authority is wafting across discussion about Snowden’s legacy.

It should not be forgotten, in the context of the Merkel phone saga, that the Chancellor herself confronted President Barack Obama about the allegations.  She was met by a bland statement which refused to deny that such spying on the Chancellor had taken place in the past.  Then came the arrest of a German intelligence agent accused of spying on the United States, and the expulsion by German authorities of the CIA’s station chief.[5]

In July this year, the poor state of relations between Berlin and Washington was incidentally acknowledged by the presence of Denis R. McDonough, Obama’s chief of staff in Berlin, who engaged with his German counterpart in “intensive talks on the state of bilateral relations and future cooperation” (New York Times, Jul 22).[6]

The case for not allowing Snowden into Germany is based on illusory concepts of impairment and disruption – that state relationships and the perceived harmony, or compliance they entail, takes precedence over the relationship between the government and its electors.

This recipe gives us one grand paradox: to protect the state against encroachments, its own sovereignty can be rented, concealed by surveillance pacts of sharing and cooperation that favour a powerful partner.  The intelligence business has become a runaway train, defiant of the social contract.

Little surprise should be felt at the fact that neither Washington nor Berlin have made genuine strides towards an equal intelligence sharing relationship on the level of the Five Eyes agreement.  Nor were efforts to make a “no-spy” agreement with the US successful.  Germany remains almost too significant to have an “equal” relationship with, meaning that any dance with the United States will continue to take place with cool hands and a distant grip.  Snowden, in the meantime, will receive yet another prize – the Carl von Ossietzky prize from the International League for Human Rights, based in Berlin.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was as Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: [email protected]

In his first official remarks following Tuesday’s release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the torture program conducted by the CIA during the presidency of George W. Bush, President Barack Obama on Tuesday night indicated that the abuses detailed in the report conducted in the name of the American people—described as “horrific,” “ruthless” and “much more brutal than previously thought”—should not be followed by further inquiries or prosecutions as many have long urged.

In his remarks, Obama acknowledged that “no nation is perfect,” but argued that “one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better.”

“This is a wake-up call to the USA, they must disclose the full truth about the human rights violations, hold perpetrators accountable and ensure justice for the victims. This is not a policy nicety, it is a requirement under international law.”
—Erika Guevara, Amnesty International

Backed by his interpretation of “American Exceptionalism,” Obama suggested that the release of the report—which his administration fought tirelessly to restrict—was all that was necessary in order for the nation to move forward.

“Rather than another reason to refight old arguments,” Obama continued, “I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong—in the past.”

Legal experts and human rights advocates, however, have taken a decidedly different approach to the report as many renewed a simple message in the wake of Tuesday’s release, saying: If gross crimes were committed, prosecutors should be assigned and the criminals should be tried and punished.

The executive summary of the committee’s investigative report (pdf) spans 525 pages and chronicles many of the internal machinations and communications relating to how the CIA conducted its abuse of suspected terrorism suspects—including tactics and abuses much more brutal than previously been acknowledged by any government agency. Though many of the lawmakers who have endorsed the report, as well as current and former U.S. officials, have mirrored Obama’s position by saying or suggesting its release should “close this disgraceful chapter” of American history, organizations like the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International, and a host of other groups and individuals argue that if justice and the rule of law mean anything, the report should be the beginning—not the end—of accountability for those who designed, approved, and executed this program.

“The long-delayed Senate report proves what we have been saying since 2006: that the CIA engaged in a sophisticated program of state-sanctioned torture, notable for its elaborate planning and ruthless application,” said Baher Azmy, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “We renew our demand for accountability for those individuals responsible for the CIA torture program. They should be prosecuted in U.S. courts; and if our government continues to refuse to hold them accountable, they must be pursued internationally under the principles of universal jurisdiction.”

“Instead of focusing on the illegal nature of the torture, investigators worked to document torture’s ineffectiveness. The debate, now, is whether torture worked. It clearly didn’t. But the debate should be: Why the hell aren’t these torturous liars in jail?”
—Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press Foundation

The ACLU has put forth a blueprint for accountability which includes appointing a special prosecutor; deeply reforming the CIA; apologies and compensation to the victims of torture; honoring those officials who resisted or refused to participate in the program; and pushing for transparency beyond what is contained in the Senate report. The full Senate report is more than 6,000 pages, and thousands of other pages of documents related to the CIA program were withheld by the White House for review.

Hina Shamsi, who heads the ACLU’s national security project, said the story of U.S. torture under the Bush presidency should not end with impunity for those involved.

“The release of the report is a tipping point and a reminder that the United States has never fully reckoned with a past that includes waterboarding, stress positions, beatings, sleep deprivation, threats of harm to children and other family members, among many devastatingly cruel acts,” Shamsi said. “Once again, Americans, all of us, have an opportunity to choose how we end this story, whether that’s responsibly, with a full return to our laws and values, or shamefully, by failing to act now that the report summary is released.”

Erika Guevara, head of the Americas division of Amnesty International, said that under international law, the U.S. really should have no choice other than to prosecute.

“The declassified information contained in the summary, while limited, is a reminder to the world of the utter failure of the USA to end the impunity enjoyed by those who authorized and used torture and other ill-treatment,” Guevara said in a statement. “This is a wake-up call to the USA, they must disclose the full truth about the human rights violations, hold perpetrators accountable and ensure justice for the victims. This is not a policy nicety, it is a requirement under international law.”

Though the Senate’s exhaustive report has been praised by many, those advocating for prosecutions of the torture program’s architects—including high-ranking officials like former president George W. Bush, vice president Dick Cheney, and others—point out the panel’s investigation into torture spent too much time obsessing over whether or not torture garnered “actionable” or “valuable” intelligence information, a question that should have no bearing when it comes to violations of domestic and international law, not to mention deep moral codes.

As Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, wrote in the immediate wake of the report’s release: “Instead of focusing on the illegal nature of the torture, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s investigators worked to document torture’s ineffectiveness. The debate, now, is whether torture worked. It clearly didn’t. But the debate should be: Why the hell aren’t these torturous liars in jail?”

As the ACLU’s Shamsi points out, “The crime of torture has no statute of limitations when torture risks or results in serious injury or death, and the U.S. government has the obligation under international law to investigate any credible evidence that torture has been committed. If there’s sufficient evidence of criminal conduct—and it’s hard to see how there isn’t—the offenders should be prosecuted. In our system, no one should be above the law, yet only a handful of mainly low-level personnel have been criminally prosecuted for abuse.”

Stop Torture! Accountability: YES – Impunity: NO

December 14th, 2014 by Dirk Adriaensens

We call upon Global Research readers to sign this petition: 

Petition initiated by two former UN Assistant Secretaries-General, UN Humanitarian Coordinators for Iraq: Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday.

On 9 December 2014, the US Senate released its CIA torture report. The investigation confirmed what globally has been known for many years: the US Central Intelligence Agency and US-outsourced national authorities in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere have been involved in an extensive range of torture applications.

Compelling evidence has become available, especially since 2001, the beginning of the Afghanistan war, through investigations by the European Parliament and national judicial authorities, as well as two major reports presented by Swiss Senator Dick Marty in 2006 and 2007 to the Council of Europe, on secret CIA detention centres in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.

The US Senate report makes it clear that cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment of captives by the CIA and its collaborators have been carried out on a continuous basis. Such treatment can not be justified in any manner, even if the US Government reservations with which it signed the UN torture convention in 1994 were to be taken into account.

CIA personnel and others wilfully participated in following executive orders and directives thereby violating the UN torture convention and the Geneva Convention III. In this way they have committed serious crimes for which they must be held accountable.

The UN Special Representative on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, Ben Emmerson QC has reminded us that “torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction”.

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, said it’s “crystal clear” under international law that the United States, which ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1994, now has an obligation to ensure accountability. He further added: “If they order, enable or commit torture, recognized as a serious international crime, they cannot simply be granted impunity because of political expediency”.

US President Obama must be aware that not holding the perpetrators accountable is a victory for impunity and will have far-reaching implications for global security.

We, signatories from all parts of the world, therefore urge the US Government and its Attorney General, to start a judicial process with a sense of urgency in compliance with principles of equality before the law. If they fail to do so, other international bodies, such as the International Criminal Court, will have the obligation under international law to assure that justice is done.

Sign the petition

On Saturday, December 13th, Russian media reported that U.S. President Obama evidently can’t wait to sign the congressional authorization for war against Russia (which has already been passed in draft form by 98% of U.S. House members and 100% of U.S. Senate members), and that he is already shipping military supplies into Ukraine for use against Ukraine’s ethnic Russians that the Ukrainian Government is trying to eliminate.

Mikhail Emelyanov, a leading Russian parliamentarian, was quoted as saying on Saturday, Russia “cannot calmly watch as the US arms Ukraine with the most modern lethal weapons. In this regard, we should not appear weak. The situation is very alarming. Judging by US intentions, they want to turn Ukraine into a fighting platform against Russia.”

The popular Russian website “Colonel Cassad” reports that the reason why Ukraine’s airports in Zaporozyhe, Kharkov and Dnepropetrovsk mysteriously shut down for other traffic on Saturday was to unload weapons-shipments from the U.S. Specifically, it said that, at Zaporozyhe,

“one of the airport workers replied that the airport has to be prepared to accept military aircraft with equipment, including Kharkov and Dnepropetrovsk. The equipment is expected from the United States.”

For the time being, civilian traffic at all three of those airports is being reduced during the next few days, in order to unload that U.S. freight.

Also reported Saturday at fortruss.blogspot was that,

“Right now at Zaporozhye airport they are unloading two transport planes from USA. Cargo is in boxes. According to additional information two more planes are expected to arrive.”

Just one day prior, Foreign Policy had bannered on Friday, “Who Will Foot the Bill in Ukraine?” and their reporter naively claimed that, “little aid is forthcoming for Ukraine as its government faces a shortfall.”

The “aid” is actually already coming, in the form of U.S. military cargo shipments, gratis from U.S. taxpayers (though hardly gratis from the U.S. armaments-makers, whose business is booming from this). And the Ukraine “government faces a shortfall” thing is actually far worse than that: as Forbes’s Mark Adomanis headlined on April 15th, “Ukraine’s Economy Is Nearing Collapse.” He reported, “The central bank was forced to take such desperate measures because the currency has been in free fall, losing more than 35% of its value against the dollar this year. The Hryvnia has been the world’s worst performing currency in 2014.” And:

“The only reason that things haven’t totally imploded is because of the $18 billion package of assistance from the IMF and the $9 billion in additional assistance pledged by the United States and the European Union. This financial assistance is desperately needed and will obviously help the Ukrainian government keep the lights on. The problem is that Ukraine’s funding needs aren’t a static target but are directly influenced by changes in its economic outlook. Since that economic outlook is darkening, Ukraine’s already large funding needs have grown commensurately.”

Forbes’s Kenneth Rapoza then noted on November 12th, “The nation’s currency, the hryvnia, has lost 91.5% of its value so far this year.”

On December 11th, Ukraine’s new Minister of Economic Development admitted, “By and large, the state is bankrupt.”

So: U.S. and European taxpayers will be funding all of those ‘loans,’ which will never be paid back, they’re actually donations instead of loans, because Ukraine was already tens of billions of dollars in debt even before the West took over; and none of these additional ‘debts’ will be able to be paid back one cent unless and until those earlier debts are, which will never be possible in that spiraling-downward country, which is now designing a military graveyard with a capacity for 250,000 fresh corpses of Ukrainian soldiers, and that’s not a very productive “investment” for any country to be making. America’s ‘investment’ in Ukraine is an ‘investment’ in corpses; and far more of those will be of the millions of residents in the targeted region than of the soldiers on either side of the conflict.

One of Russia’s loans to Ukraine has a provision saying that if Ukraine’s ratio of debt to GDP exceeds 60%, then Russia can demand and Ukraine must pay in cash the full due amount. The ratio has already exceeded that, but the official figure won’t be announced until March 2015, and, as Britain’s Economist noted, “That could trigger a default on all Ukraine’s other international bonds (which are worth about $16 billion up to 2023).” So: all of the money that is being ‘loaned’ to Ukraine now is purely a donation, since Russia will certainly pull the plug and flush Ukraine down the toilet this coming Spring. Then, all of a sudden, that $16 billion in cash will need to be put up by the Ukrainian Government, and whatever there is to put up, practically all of it will have to be paid to Ukraine’s old chief lender: Russia. The West will get little or nothing of it.

Washington isn’t out to help the Ukrainian people; it’s solely using Ukraine as a launching-pad for WW III against Russia. That’s all it’s “good for” now. And that’s what Obama is using it for: to slaughter, first, the residents in the parts of Ukraine that refuse to be ruled by the regime that Obama put in place; and, then, everybody else.

If this sounds crazy (and of course it does), then please ask your two Senators and your one Representative in the House: “Why did you vote to approve sending weapons to the Ukrainian Government?” (Mine refuses to answer.)

Please then report back here, in the reader-comments below, what the answer to that question is. Everyone who reads this article here will be interested to know what the answer to that question is.

Here is the list of the only 10 members of Congress who voted no on that bill, and all of them are in the House:

California’s George Miller (D)

California’s Dana Rohrabacher (R)

Florida’s Alan Grayson (D)

Florida’s Alcee Hastings (D)

Kentucky’s Thomas Massie (R)

Michigan’s Justin Amash (R)

North Carolina’s Walter Jones (R)

Tennessee’s John Duncan (R)

Texas’s Beto O’Rourke (D)

Washington’s Jim McDermott (D)

If any of those Representatives happens to be yours, then don’t ask him why he voted for the bill; he voted against it.

Originally published in  August 2009,

Today Cheney is on the defensive, following the release of the Senate report on Torture. 

One of Comey’s 2005 e-mails said then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was “weak” and had essentially allowed Cheney and Addington to politicize the Justice Department. The e-mails can be found here: Documents: Justice Department Communication on Interrogation Opinions.

“The AG explained that he was under great pressure from the Vice President to complete both memos, and that the President had even raised it last week, apparently at the VP’s request and the AG had promised they would be ready early this week,” Comey wrote. Gonzales “added that the VP kept telling him ‘we are getting killed on the Hill.’”

 “It leaves me feeling sad for the Department and the AG… I just hope that when this all comes out, this institution doesn’t take the hit, but rather the hit is taken by those individuals who occupied positions at [Office of Legal Counsel] and [Office of the Attorney General] and were too weak to stand up for the principles that undergird the rest of this great institution.”

The New York Times obtained the e-mails, which were likely used to help form the narrative of a Justice Department watchdog’s report that will determine whether Office of Legal Counsel attorneys violated professional standards when authorizing the Bush administration’s interrogation program.

But the Times appears to have seriously mischaracterized the substance of some of Comey’s e-mails in a story the newspaper published Saturday.

The Times reported that Comey “went along with a 2005 legal opinion asserting that the techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency were lawful.” But the issue is much more complex than that.

Comey’s e-mails tell a far more disturbing story about the way in which the Bush administration had politicized the Justice Department and pressured attorneys to come up with a legal rationale for torturing “war on terror” prisoners. Comey had gone so far as to say in one e-mail that he would accept the blame for thwarting the White House’s efforts to legalize torture.

The e-mails also clearly state that Comey had vehemently objected to torture on moral and constitutional grounds and predicted that the matter would become the focus of a congressional hearing “three years from now” if White House officials failed to heed his warnings.

Prior Battles

Comey had previously butted heads with Cheney, Addington and Gonzales over the legality of the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program.

In March 2004, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized with acute pancreatitis and it fell upon Comey to recertify the program. But Comey and his colleagues at the DOJ refused to do so because the program appeared to be illegal.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee two years ago, Comey said Bush, Dick Cheney, Gonzales, who was White House Counsel at the time, tried to override his refusal to reauthorize the surveillance program by pressuring Ashcroft, who was hospitalized and barely conscious, to sign off on the program, which Ashcroft had refused to do.

So beginning on March 11, 2004, on orders from Bush, the National Security Agency illegally operated the surveillance program for about three weeks when administration officials could not obtain approval from the Justice Department leading to an internal revolt at the agency which nearly resulted in Comey and Ashcroft’s resignation.

Pleading With Gonzales

A year later, Comey found himself in a similar situation over the Bush administration’s torture program.

In April 2005, several weeks before the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) issued the first of three torture memos, Comey sent an e-mail to his chief of ataff, Chuck Rosenberg, stating that he had met privately with Gonzales after reading a draft version of a legal opinion that allowed CIA interrogators to employ a combination of torture techniques against detainees, such as waterboarding, prolonged stress positions and slamming detainees into walls.

“In our private meeting yesterday afternoon, I told [Gonzales] I was here to urge him not to allow the ‘combined effects’ memo to be finalized,” Comey wrote on April 27, 2005. “I told him it would come back to haunt him and the Department. I told him the first opinion was ready to go out and I concurred. I told him I did not concur with the second and asked him to stop it.”

Surprisingly, Gonzales said he agreed with Comey and instructed him to tell OLC to finalize the first opinion-authorizing the CIA to torture–but not the second–the combination of techniques–that is until OLC could come up with a way to make it work legally, according to Comey’s e-mail.

Gonzales said, “He would speak with [White House Counsel] Harriet Miers and share the concerns.”

“He also directed me to call [acting general counsel of the CIA] John Rizzo and give him some comfort by saying the first [torture memo] would be done and that we would need to do additional work on the second,” Comey added in his e-mail to Rosenberg.

‘Retrospective Advice’

Another e-mail, this one sent on April 28, 2005, appears to suggest Comey was told the torture memos needed to be drafted quickly to provide retroactive cover for torture that already occurred.

Gonzales’s Chief of Staff Ted Ullyot “mentioned at one point that OLC didn’t feel like it could accede to my request to make the opinion focused on one person because they don’t give retrospective advice,” Comey wrote to Rosenberg. “I said I understood that, but that the treatment of that person had been the subject of oral advice, which OLC would simply be confirming in writing, something they do quite often.”

The identity of the detainee Comey had referred to is unknown.

A month before Comey’s e-mail to Rosenberg, according to a report in last week’s Washington Post, Cheney briefed members of Congress about the torture program. At the time, some members of Congress had began to question its legality and even suggested they may support an investigation.

“Lawmakers at times challenged Cheney and CIA officials about the legality of the program and pressed for specific results that would show whether the techniques worked. In response, the CIA briefers said that half of the agency’s knowledge about al-Qaeda’s plans and structure had been obtained through the interrogations,” the Washington Post reported.

“On March 8, 2005 — two days after a detailed report in the New York Times about interrogations — Cheney gathered [Sen. Jay] Rockefeller, [Rep. Jane] Harman, [the ranking Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees], and the chairmen of the intelligence panels, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.).

“Weeks earlier, Roberts had given public statements suggesting possible support for the investigation sought by Rockefeller. But by early March 2005, Roberts announced that he opposed a separate probe, and the matter soon died.”

The Post had also reported that former CIA Deputy Inspector General Mary McCarthy alleged that the CIA had lied to members of Congress about the legality of the torture program in briefings in February and June 2005. The June briefing would have taken place just weeks after OLC finalized the torture memos.

That adds weight to suggestions by Comey in his e-mails to Rosenberg that Cheney, Addington and even Bush had pressured OLC to quickly draft the legal memos to provide the White House with retroactive cover for torture that had already been administered to a detainee(s).

Warnings Ignored

Comey was not the only one concerned with the authorization to the CIA to use “combined effects” during interrogations. Patrick Philbin, the OLC’s deputy assistant attorney general, also raised red flags.

“Pat alerted me to his serious concerns about the adequacy of the ‘combined effects’ analysis, particularly as it related to the category of ’severe physical suffering,” Comey wrote in his e-mail to Rosenberg on April 27, 2005.

But Gonzales, after sharing Comey’s concerns with the Principals Committee, who included then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Cheney, Addington and others, told Comey they were not persuaded by his arguments. Cheney and Addington were pressuring him to have the memos authorizing torture and the combination of brutal methods finalized and signed immediately.

“I told [Gonzales] the people who were applying pressure now would not be there when the [shit] hit the fan,” Comey wrote in an April 28, 2005 e-mail. “It would be Alberto Gonzales in the bull’s-eye. I told him it was my job to protect the department and the AG and that I could not agree to this because it was wrong. I told him it could be made right in a week, which was a blink of an eye, and that nobody would understand at a hearing three years from now why we didn’t take that week.”

Additionally, Comey said he told Gonzales that he should tell the White House that Comey “had gone on record against this” and that he was willing to bear the brunt of the blame for blocking efforts to get the DOJ to authorize the torture program.

“I told [Gonzales] I was leaving and was perfectly willing to catch that spear, as I had in other contexts,” Comey wrote Rosenberg in the April 28, 2005 e-mail.

Recounting the episode that unfolded a year earlier at Ashcroft’s hospital bed, Comey told Rosenberg that  he missed Ashcroft because, unlike Gonzales, Ashcroft had a “backbone.”

“People may think it strange to hear me say I miss John Ashcroft, but as intimidated as he could be by the [White House], when it came to crunch time, he stood up, even from an intensive care hospital bed. That backbone is gone.”

Torture Memos Approved

The opinion on combined techniques was approved on May 10, 2005. Another memo issued on that date discussed “whether CIA interrogation methods violate the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment standard under federal and international law.”

That second legal opinion concludes that past and present CIA interrogation methods do not constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. A third memo that provided a legal definition of torture in the context of “enhanced interrogations” was signed on May 30, 2005.

Steven Bradbury, who was the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during Bush’s second term, signed the May 2005 memos that reversed efforts led by former Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith in 2003 and 2004 to scrap earlier OLC memos asserting Bush’s powers.

Senior Bush administration officials, including Addington and Cheney, were furious that Goldsmith, who was supported by Comey and Philbin, withdrew a previous memo by former OLC lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee, which Goldsmith had said were “sloppily reasoned” and “legally flawed.”

In his book, The Terror Presidency Goldsmith recounted his collaboration with Comey in trying to restore some integrity to the legal advice under which the Bush administration had operated after the 9/11 attacks.

“Ever since Comey had come on board in December of 2003, he had been my most powerful ally in correcting the flawed interrogation opinions,” Goldsmith wrote. “He always acted with a sensitivity to upholding the integrity of the Justice Department.”

As Goldsmith struck down a key Yoo-Bybee opinion drafted in August 2002, he and Comey encountered angry resistance and even ridicule from Bush insiders, particularly David Addington, the legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Goldsmith described one White House meeting at which Addington pulled out a 3-by-5-inch card listing the OLC opinions that Goldsmith had withdrawn.

“Since you’ve withdrawn so many legal opinions that the President and others have been relying on,”- Addington said with sarcasm in his voice, “we need you to go through all of OLC’s opinions and let us know which ones you will stand by.”

Yoo and Bybee had worked closely with the White House to create legal arguments for Bush to claim his Commander-in-Chief power essentially let him operate beyond the law and Addington and Cheney found that person in Bradbury.

In the May 2005 memos, Bradbury reinstated key elements of the Yoo-Bybee memos clearing the way for additional use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” against detainees and even expanded on some methods.

One of Comey’s e-mails to Rosenberg said that Bradbury had clearly succumbed to pressure from Cheney and Addington because he wanted to be nominated for the job as head of OLC.

“I have previously expressed my worry that having Steve as ‘Acting’ — and wanting the job — would make him susceptible to just this kind of pressure,” Comey wrote in his e-mail to Rosenberg.

Bradbury Rewarded

In her book, The Dark Side, author and New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, recounted the episode Comey had described in his emails.

“In late spring of 2005, Comey went to the Attorney General and said in essence, “OK-I get it that you won’t accept my interpretation of the law,” Mayer wrote.

Comey then argued, “Just because you think you can do these things, it doesn’t mean you should.”

Mayer also added some insight into Bradbury’s work on the May 2005 memos.

“The White House was so pleased with Bradbury’s work that the day after he completed his opinion legalizing the cruelest treatment of U.S.-held in history, President Bush sent his name forewarned to the FBI to begin work on a background check, so that Bradbury could be formally nominated to run the OLC. Evidently, the White House had received the ‘work product’ it wanted; Bradbury had passed his probation,” Mayer wrote.

Final Warning

One day after Bradbury signed the last of three torture memos issued in May 2005, copies of which were declassified and released in April, Comey sent another e-mail to Rosenberg summarizing his conversation with Gonzales.

“In stark terms I explained to him what this would look like some day and what it would mean for the president and the government,” says Comey’s May 31, 2005, e-mail to Rosenberg.

In that same e-mail, Comey said that he and Philbin and Bradbury met with Gonzales that morning to prepare him for his meeting with the Principals Committee.

Gonzales “began by saying that Dr. Rice was not interested in discussing details [of the list of torture techniques] and that her attitude was that if DOJ said it was legal and CIA said it was effective, then that ended it, without a need for detailed policy discussion.

“Pat [Philbin] and I urged [Gonzales] in the strongest possible terms to drive a full policy discussion of all techniques. I said I was not going to rehash my concerns about the legal opinion, but it was simply not acceptable for Principles [sic] to say that everything that may be ‘legal’ is also appropriate. In stark terms, I explained to him what this would look like some day and what it would look like for the President and the government…I told him it would all come out some day and be presented in the way I was presenting it.”

On Aug. 15, 2005, in his farewell speech, Comey urged his colleagues to defend the integrity and honesty of the Justice Department.

On December 10th, the office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko drew up plans for a huge graveyard to accommodate 250,000 corpses for its soldiers in the Government’s renewed military plan for next year to conquer the regions of Ukraine that reject the coup-Government that was imposed upon all of Ukraine when the United States hired mercenaries to carry out a coup in Kiev on 22 February 2014 (under the cover of the “Maidan” anti-corruption demonstrations), which overthrew Ukraine’s corrupt but democratically elected President, Viktor Yanukovych. The rebelling regions of Ukraine are those which had voted about 90% for Yanukovych.

The post-coup Government then started a military campaign on May 2nd to kill as many of the residents in the anti-coup areas as possible and to drive the rest to seek refuge in neighboring Russia, so that they will lose their Ukrainian citizenship and won’t ever again be able to vote in Ukraine.

Unless those voters can be gotten rid of, the coup-regime won’t last; it’ll be voted out of office. Thus, all of the Ukrainian Government elections post-coup have been only in the other areas of Ukraine, the ones where the coup was either welcomed or accepted: Yanukovych had won less than 50% of the vote in those areas of the country, and those elections had their highest turnouts in the most-strongly anti-Yanukovych districts. The post-coup regime is determined to keep the land in the rebelling areas, but to get rid of the people who have lived on it.

Because of the enormous expense of this ethnic-cleansing campaign, the debt-level of the Ukrainian Government is soaring, and the Government is able to keep functioning only via money coming in from the IMF, EU, and United States.

These are technically loans, but, when the Government goes bankrupt, which could happen soon, all of these war-loans will go to the back of the line and never be repaid; so, they’re actually donations to the war-effort, from the taxpayers in the U.S. and EU.

On December 4th, 98% of the U.S. House voted to donate weapons to the Ukrainian Government, and on December 11th, 100% of the U.S. Senate voted to donate weapons to them. U.S. President Barack Obama is widely expected to sign the final legislation, and thus the Ukrainian Government is now planning to nearly double the size of its armed forces from the current 130,000 to 250,000 next year. These graves are intended for them. The soldiers on the rebel side will not be buried there, nor will the far higher number of civilians whom those 250,000 Ukrainian Government troops are expected to kill. These graves are only for the fallen soldiers on the Ukrainian Government’s side. Not for any civilian corpses, of which there will likely be too many to bury, even based on just the war to-date — and it’ll be far worse than that.

The United States Government is apparently expecting that the massive civilian bloodshed in the coming campaign will draw Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to openly send Russian soldiers and weapons into the besieged areas of the former Ukraine in order to defend the residents there, who are ethnic Russians and are generally very pro-Russian; this will then serve as a pretext for the United States to send into Ukraine even more weapons, and perhaps to send its regular armed forces; and this, in turn, is expected to produce a situation in which the United States, and perhaps even the NATO alliance itself, will have an excuse to invade Russia, as punishment for its ‘aggression against Ukraine.’

The Dow Jones U.S. Select Aerospace and Defense Index has performed very well under President Obama. Its annualized total return for the past five years has been 20.88% per year; and for the past 12 months has been 12.64%. That’s not much different from the performance of the total U.S. stock market. However, if there is a ramp-up to total war against Russia, then these percentages could go much higher. And as this visual documents, Big Military has at least as much clout over the federal budget as does Big Bank, Big Oil, or any other constituency — and certainly far more than does the American public.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

The ‘false-on-its-face’ telecom claim of increased costs to consumers is designed to protect their unregulated monopolies that charge too much and provide terrible  service. The Citizens of the Internet Can Defeat the Telecom Mafia

In a claim that must have people laughing out loud, the telecom and broadband providers are fighting net neutrality by claiming that they will raise the rates of consumers! It is hard to believe that even telecom lobbyists, well-paid to mislead Congress and regulators, could make this claim without smirking as cable bills have been rising at four times the rate of inflation without net neutrality.

Now they claim to be concerned about consumer costs. Why? Because they want to protect their monopolies that currently allow them to gouge consumers and provide sub-par service.

The telecoms remind us of the mafia: “If you reclassify the Internet as a public utility, it’s gonna cost you.” It is time to stand up to these bullies. The Internet community is strong enough to defeat them in any arena. The truth is that the FCC will be able to control telecom costs if they reclassify the Internet because Title II gives the FCC the power to control the fees they charge, and the telecoms know and fear this. (Share this meme below.)

Telecom mafia meme

The falseness of the telecom claim is obvious on its face, but because some in Congress are well paid to believe the lies of the industry, we need to debunk them. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) spends $19.8 million annually on lobbying making it the fifth largest spender in Washington, DC (Comcast, AT&T and Verizon combined spent an addition $48 billion). As far as political donations, during the 2013-2014 election cycle Comcast gave $3.4 million, AT&T $3.1 million, Verizon $2.6 million and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association $1.8 million. So, Congress hears a lot of lies from people who pay them well to listen.

But there is strong evidence that the politics have changed and the people of the Internet can defeat the dollars of the telecoms in Congress. The Internet community can also debunk their lies, no matter how much they spend to tell them.

1comcastmeme

Image Source: Viacom/Comedy Central/SouthPark Studios.

No amount of money will turn telecom lies into truths

First, anyone with basic common sense knows that the real problem regarding cost of cable and Internet access is unregulated monopolies. When consumers have no choice, monopolies can charge whatever price they want and not worry about the quality of their service or how they treat consumers.

Every American has experienced the dramatic rate increases in fees from telecoms but the numbers are still shocking. Last year cable rates increased at 6.5% while inflation was 1.7%.  The average annual rate increase since 1995 has been 6.1%, consistently higher than inflation.

As to their dismal service, Informit reports that the US ranks 31st in the world in download speeds; our connection speed is worse than Estonia, Slovakia and Uruguay among many others; and we rank 48th in upload speeds making us worse than countries like Zimbabwe and Armenia.

The US pays too much for Internet services that deliver less than other countries because during the Clinton era the Telecommunications Act of 1996 became law which allowed major providers to split up markets for the purpose of regional monopolization. Then in 2002, Michael Powell’s FCC reclassified the Internet as an information service removing the Title II powers needed to regulate these monopolies. The result: unregulated monopolies that gouge consumers and provide lousy service.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index of 2014, which reviews 43 household consumer industries, finds that customer satisfaction from cable and broadband providers is the lowest among all the industries surveyed. The average for all industries was 75.6 in satisfaction out of 100, while the cable companies had a score of 63. Customer satisfaction from these companies continues to decline with drops in satisfaction across the board.  Comcast and Time Warner Cable plunged 8% and 14%, respectively, to very low ACSI scores in the 50s. Comcast and Time Warner Cable both score lower for Internet service compared to their pay TV ratings.  In fact Comcast earned Consumerist’s ‘Worst Company in America’ title twice, first in 2010 and again this year, 2014, beating out Monsanto, a company most associated with the word “evil.”

Because the telecom and broadband providers are so unpopular and have no credibility when it comes to keeping consumer costs down, they had to find a front group to do their dirty work. They found a perfect front group in the misnamed “Progressive” Policy Institute. PPI is the think tank for the big business Democratic corporatists, the Democratic Leadership Conference. The DLC was successful in getting big business money, especially from Wall Street and the telecoms into the Democratic Party. PPI was organized to support the DLC and advocates Wall Street friendly policies that favor de-regulation and corporatization. PPI justifies big business friendly policies with phony progressive rhetoric.  AT&T has been funding PPI since its founding in 2000. As Phillip Dampier wrote “PPI would likely not exist without its corporate sponsors — among them AT&T, hardly a disinterested player in the telecommunications policy debate.”

PPI gave the telecom industry the “research” they wanted for a false propaganda campaign in a last ditch effort to stop reclassifying the Internet as a common carrier under Title II so that net neutrality could once again become the law of the land. The study makes the false claim that Title II net neutrality regulations will result in $15 billion in various new Federal and State taxes and fees. These are totally made up numbers from a completely false fantasy thesis that Title II will mean less investment and slower innovation that would result from reclassification.

Indeed, Edward Wyatt of the New York Times reports that a Verizon executive debunked the myth of less investment under Title II at the annual UBS media and communications investment conference.  He reports that Francis J. Shammo, Verizon’s chief financial officer, said “the company planned to continue to invest in its FiOS fiber-optic network and its wireless systems regardless of the outcome of the broadband debate.” Shammo specifically said that the broadband debate “does not influence the way we invest.”

As John Eggerton reported in MediaChannel, FCC Chair, Tom Wheeler is now saying Title II will not threaten investment: “When Verizon makes that kind of statement, I think it is logical. I think it is reflected in what various Wall Street analysts have said in terms of Title II being less of a bugaboo if it is done correctly.” Matt Wood of Free Press provides more details telling us Wheeler said “that broadband investment in Title II services remains high, that auction revenues are booming despite him telling CTIA that mobile Net Neutrality would be stronger, and even noted that wireless voice has been subject to Sections 201/202 for twenty years.”

This is consistent with the history of Internet investment as the evidence showsinvestment was greater when the Internet was classified as a common carrier under Title II. The telecoms build on this false claim with more false claims telling consumers through their allies in the corporate media that there would be a $19 per month increase in fees to the consumer for Internet access. They are now running advertisements with a scary graphic wherever there is an article about Title II and net neutrality in places like The Hill.

Popular Resistance protest at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association on November 13, 2014.

Popular Resistance protest at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association
on November 13, 2014. Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

Does a Lie Repeated Become the Truth?

But it is all false. It is just a lie repeated with a megaphone of big money spending and corporate media allies. This will be an excellent test of the “Big Lie” theory, that a lie repeated becomes the truth.

Congress has, as predicted by almost everyone, extended the tax exemption for the Internet. Prior to the extension, Tech Dirt explained the false basis for the claim because it was based on the slim potential of increased taxes, with had nothing to do with Title II but was based on the tax exemption:

“On the state level, Internet access has long received a Congressional exemption that’s set to expire December 11 — an issue totally unrelated to the Title II push. Congress can make sure the exemption is extended, keeping state sales taxes far away from broadband access. If they don’t, again, it has nothing to do with Title II. Realize this, and nearly all of the PPI’s estimate of $15 billion in new taxes as a direct result of Title II goes up in smoke right out of the gate.”

Tim Karr of Free Press points out in a tweet the irony of the advertisement appearing on the same page in the Washington Post where the ad is debunked.

Free Press explains the falsehood, a “mistake” that is really an attempt to mislead, as coming “from ignoring the difference between services that cross state lines and those that exist entirely within one state.” They explain: If Congress extends and updates the Internet Tax Freedom Act and the FCC declines to include broadband in the [universal service] revenue base at this time, the increase would be exactly zero. Congress has now extended the Tax Freedom Act, so another false foundation of the PPI study is removed.

In fact, the FCC could take various actions to prevent unreasonable fee increases under Title II.  Free Press points out that the FCC could waive the requirement for providers to contribute a portion of their retail broadband revenues to the federal Universal Service Fund. PPI chooses to ignore the basic truth about Title II regulation; it gives the FCC flexibility in regulating the industry, including keeping costs down.

Free Press sums up the facts and concludes there would be no increase in taxes or fees as a result of reclassification under Title II and net neutrality regulations, explaining:

The bottom line is this: If the FCC does nothing more than stick with precedent and designate broadband as an interstate telecom service, the average potential increase in taxes and fees per household would be far less than PPI estimates. If Congress extends and updates the Internet Tax Freedom Act and the FCC declines to include broadband in the revenue base at this time, the increase would be exactly zero.

FCC Net Neutrality Reclassify Now banner drop

Banner drop across the street from the FCC November 20, 2014. Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

What It All Means: People of the Internet Will Defeat The Telecom Mafia

The telecom and broadband providers are desperate to keep their unregulated monopolies that can raise prices and provide lousy service without any retribution from the consumers or government. They pay big money to elected officials to serve as a shield to regulation. They keep the FCC in fear of Congress and the courts. It is our job – the millions of people who are demanding net neutrality to be organized and mobilized to defend the FCC when it reclassifies.

When it comes to the courts, in Verizon, when the court threw out the net neutrality rules, it made it clear that only Title II reclassification would give the FCC the authority to regulate the Internet and prevent fast lanes and slow lanes. Court decisions make it evident that theeasiest to defend net neutrality rules will be if the Internet is reclassified under Title II. There is no other legal path that gives the FCC a strong legal foundation that is defendable in court.

When it comes to Congress, recent experience shows the people are the dominant power on Internet issues. The politics of the Internet has changed: the people of the Internet can defeat the dollars of the telecoms. This has been seen in repeated battles over SOPA and PIPA and will be seen in net neutrality as well.  Larry Downes wrote in Forbes analyzing the new political power of the Internet: “A new and profoundly different political force has emerged … a constituency that identifies itself not by local interests but as citizens of the Internet.”

This new political power has shown itself over reclassification and net neutrality, where it produced nearly 4 million comments to the FCC, far eclipsing any previous rulemaking; overwhelmingly, literally 99% of the comments, supported net neutrality. The Internet can generate emails, petitions and phone calls and it has been a key factor in mobilizing people to take action.

The FCC does not have to fear the telecom and broadband providers. Their old school ‘pay to play’ politics will fail with the reality of people power that can be organized rapidly and coordinated on the Internet. Indeed, the Internet can make sure that their massive political spending will create a boomerang against elected officials who take donations from the telecoms. Politicians will find telecom dollars will cost them votes.

And, the politics is on the side of the Internet community. Both political parties want the funding of Silicon Valley and the votes of Internet citizens. Polls show people across the political spectrum – Republicans, Democrats and independents – support net neutrality. Republicans are quickly learning they must be on the side of the Internet. People want an open Internet with equal access for all.

The politics comes down to this: side with the most hated corporations in America or side with millions of people and the funders of the future, the Internet corporations made up of entrepreneurs, start-ups and innovators. The Internet has already shown its current political power, but more importantly, it is obvious which side is the political power of the future.

The FCC should go forward in confidence that Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner and AT&T are political powers of the past that should be taken on and not feared. The Internet will be on the FCC’s side if they do the right thing.

Kevin Zeese is co-director of Popular Resistance. He serves as attorney general in the Green Shadow Cabinet.

The Brazilian working class is facing the most savage assault on its living standards in over a decade.  And it is not just the industrial workers who are under attack.  The landless rural workers, public and private salaried employees, teachers and health professionals, the unemployed and the poor are facing massive cuts in income, jobs and welfare payments.

Whatever gains were made between 2003 – 2013 will be reversed.  Brazilian workers face a ‘decade of infamy’.  The Rousseff regime has embraced the politics of “savage capitalism” as personified in the appointment of two of the most extreme advocates of neo-liberal policies

The “Workers Party” and the Ascendancy of Finance Capital

In early December 2014, President Rousseff appointed Joaquin Levy as the new Finance Minister -   in effect the new economic czar to run the Brazilian economy.  Levy is a leading member of the Brazilian financial oligarchy.  Between 2010-2014 he was president of Bradesco Asset Management, an asset arm of the giant conglomerate Bradesco, with more than $130 billion dollars under management.  Since his doctoral days at the U of Chicago,  Levy is a loyal follower of neo-liberal supremo  Professor Milton Friedman, former economic adviser to Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet.  As a former top official in the International Monetary Fund (1992 – 1999), Levy was a strong advocate of the harsh austerity programs which a decade later impoverished southern Europe and Ireland.  During the Presidency of Henrique Cardoso, Levy served as a top economic strategist, directly involved in the massive privatization of lucrative public enterprises – at bargain basement prices – and the liberalization of the financial system which facilitated the illicit financial outflow of $15 billion a year.  Levy’s presence as a prominent member of Brazil’s financial oligarchy and his deep, longstanding ties to international financial institutions is precisely the reason President Rousseff put him in charge of the Brazilian economy.  Levy’s appointment is part and parcel of Rousseff’s embrace of a new strategy of vastly increasing the profits of foreign and domestic finance capital, in the hope of attracting large scale investments to end economic stagnation.

For President Rousseff and her mentor, ex-President Lula DaSilva, the entire economy must be directed to gaining the “confidence” of the capitalist class.

The social policies which were implemented earlier are now subject to elimination or reduction, as the new financial czar Joaquin “Jack the Ripper” Levy, moves forward to implement his “shock therapy”.  Deep and comprehensive cuts in labor’s share of national income is at the top of his agenda.  The objective is to concentrate wealth and capital in the upper ten percent in hopes that they will  invest and increase growth.

While Levy’s appointment represents a decidedly turn to the extreme right, the economic policies and practices of the previous twelve years laid the foundations for the return of a virulent version of neo-liberal orthodoxy.

The Economic Foundations for the Return of Savage Capitations

During the electoral campaign in 2002, Lula DaSilva signed off on an economic agreement with the IMF which guaranteed a budget surplus of 3%.  Lula sought to reassure bankers, international financiers and multi-nationals that Brazil would pay its creditors, increase foreign reserves for profit remittance and illicit financial flows overseas.

The Lula regime’s adoption of conservative fiscal policies, was accompanied by his austerity policies, reducing public employees’ salaries and pensions and providing only marginal increases in the minimum wage.  Most of all, Lula supported all of the corrupt privatizations which took place under the preceding Cardoza regime.  At the end of Lula’s first year in office, 2003, Wall Street hailed Lula as the “Man of the Year” for his “pragmatic policies” and his demobilization and de-radicalization of the major trade unions and social movements.  In January 2003, President Lula Da Silva appointed Levy as Treasury Secretary, a position he held until 2006 – the most socially regressive period of the Da Silva Presidency.This period also coincided with a series of enormously lucrative multi-billion dollar   corruption scandals involving dozens of top PT officials in the Lula regime receiving kickbacks from leading construction companies

Two events in the middle 2000’s allowed Da Silva to moderate his policies and introduce limited social reforms.  The commodity boom – a sharp increase in the demand and prices of agro-mineral exports filled the coffers of Treasury.  And increased pressure from the trade unions, rural movements and the poor for a share in the economic bonanza led to increases in social spending,  wages, salaries and easy credit without affecting the wealth, property and privleges of the elite.  With the economic boom, Lula could also satisfy the IMF, the financial sector and the business elite with subsidies, tax breaks, low interest loans and lucrative “overpriced” state contracts.  The poor received 1% of the budget via a “family allowance” a $60 dollar a month handout and low paid labor received a higher minimum  wage.  The cost of social welfare was a fraction of the 40% of the budget that the banks received in payments of principle and interest payments on dubious public debt incurred by previos neo-liberal regimes.

With the end of the boom, the government of Rousseff has reverted back to Lula’s orthodox policies of 2003 – 2005 and re-appointed Levy to carry them out.

Levy’s Shock Therapy and Its Consequences

Levy’s task of re-concentrating income, raising profits and revertng social policies is much harder in 2014 – 2015 than it was in 2003 – 2005.  Mainly because, earlier, he was merely continuing the policies of the Cardoso regime – and Lula promised the workers it was only temporary.  Today Levy must cut and slash gains that workers and the poor take for granted.  In fact in 2013 – 2014 mass urban movements pressed for greater social expenditures for transport, education and health.

To advance Levy’s shock therapy ,at some point, repression will be necessary ,as was the case in Chile and Southern Europe when similar austerity policies depressed incomes and multiplied unemployment.

Levy proposes to rescue the interests of finance capital by taking several crucial measures which will be in line with the agenda of Wall Street, City of London and the Brazilian financial moguls.  Taken in their entirety, Levy’s financial policies amount to “shock treatment” – harsh,rapid economic measures applied against workers living standards, equivalent to electric shocks to patients with disorders ,applied by deranged psychologists who claim that “pain is gain”, but more frequently than not, turn patients into zombies or worse.

Levy’s first priority is to cut and slash public investments, pensions, unemployment payments and public sector salaries.  Under the pretext of “stabilizing the economy” (for the financial groups) he will destabilize the household economy of tens of millions.  He will rescind tax breaks for the mass of consumers buying cars, household appliances and ‘white goods’, thus increasing the costs to millions of working class households or pricing them out of the market.  Levy’s purpose is to unbalance household budgets (increase debt over income) in order to increase the state budget surplus and ensure full and prompt debt payments to creditors like his own Bradesco conglomerate.

Secondly, Levy will “adjust” prices.  More specifically end price controls on fuel, energy and transport so that the financial oligarchs with millions of shares in those sectors can jack-up prices and “adjust” their wealth upward into the billions of dollars.  As a result, the working and middle class will have to spend a greater share of their declining income for fuel, transport and energy.

Thirdly, Levy will probably let the currency weaken to promote agro-mineral exports under the guise of greater “competiveness” .But a cheaper currency will increase the cost of imports, especially, of basic foodstuffs and manufactured goods.  The de facto devaluation will hit hardest the millions who cannot hedge their savings and favors the financial speculators who will capitalize on currency movements.  And comparative studies demonstrate that a cheaper currency doesn’t necessarily increase  productive investments.

Fourthly, Levy is likely to claim that energy shortfalls due to drought, which has reduced Brazil’s hydropower dams, requires “reform” of the energy sector , Levy’s euphemism for privatization.He will propose to sell-off  the semi-public billion dollar petroleum giant Petrobras,and accelerate the privatization of offshore exploitation sites, at terms favorable to big investment banks.

Fifthly, Levy is likely to slash and burn environmental and business regulations, including those affecting the rain-forest, labor and Indian rights, to facilitate the easy entry and fast exit of financial capital.

Levy’s “shock therapy” will have a profound social and economic impact on Brazilian society.  Every indication, from past and present experiences, is that  in every country  “Chicago Boys”, like Levy, have applied their “shock” formula, has resulted in profound economic recession, social regression and political unrest.

Contrary to the expectations of President Rousseff, cuts in credit, salaries and public investment will depress the economy – and send it from stagnation into recession.  Retrograde budget balancing lessens demand and does not induce productive capital flows.  The most dynamic growth sectors in manufacturing, the car industry, will be sharply and adversely affected by the increase in taxes on purchases.  And the same goes for appliances.

Heretofore the expansion of public investment has been the main driving force of even the current meagre growth.  There is no rational reason to believe that vast flows of private capital will suddenly take up the slack, especially in a shrinking market.  This is especially true, if as is likely to happen, class conflict intensifies from across the board reductions in wages, salaries and living standards.

Levy, like all free market fanatics, will argue that recession and regression are short-term, necessary and ,will succeed “in the long run”.  But   in all contemporary countries pursuing his shock formula , the result has been prolonged regression.  Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal are in the seventh year of austerity induced depression and their  public debt is growing.

The Real Effective Consequences of Shock Therapy

We have to discard the ideological “stability and growth” claims of the Levyites and look at the real results of the policies he promises.

First and foremost, inequalities will increase because whatever income gains ensue will be concentrated at the top.  Government deregulation and fiscal and exchange rate policies, will deepen the imbalances in the economy, favoring creditors over debtors, foreign finance over local manufacturers, owners of capital over wage workers, the private sector over the public.

Levy will indeed “secure the confidence of capital” because what is dubbed as “investor confidence” rests on an unimpeded license to plunder the environment, reduce  wages and eploit a growing reserve army of unemployed.

Conclusion

Levy’s shock therapy will heighten class tension and inevitably result in the break-down of the social pact between the so-calledWorkers Party regime and the trade unions, the landless rural workers and the urban social movements.

Rousseff and the leadership of the self-styled “Workers’ Party” regime, faced with economic stagnation resulting from the decline in commodity prices and the  decision of private capital to withhold investments, could have chosen to socialize the economy, end crony capitalism and increase public investment.Instead it capitulated.   Rousseff has recycled the orthodox neo-liberal policies which Lula implemented during the first two years of his regime.

Instead of mobilizing workers and professionals for deeper structural changes, Rousseff and Lula Da Silva are counting on the “left-wing” of the PT to complain, criticize and conform.  They are counting on the co-opted leaders of the trade union confederation (CUT), to hyperventilate and confine themselves to inconsequential symbolic protests which will not disrupt Levy’s “shock therapy”.  However, the scope, depth and extremism of Levy’s so-called adjustment and stabilization program will provoke general strikes, first and foremost in the public sector. The cutbacks in the auto industry and rise in unemployment, will result in job action in the manufacturing sector.  The cuts in public investment and rise in the costs of transport, health care and education will revive the mass urban movements.

Within a year, Rousseff and Levy’s shock policies will convert Brazil into a boiling cauldron of social discontent.  Lula’s pseudo-populist gestures and empty rhetoric will have no effect.  Rousseff will not be able to convince working people to accept Levy’s class biased “austerity” program, his incentives “to gain the confidence of international markets” and his incomes policies shrinking incomes of the vast majority of working people.

Levy’s policies will deepen the recession, not “re-awaken the animal spirits of entrepreneurs”.  After a year of “more pain and no gain” (except for higher profits for financiers and agro-mineral exporters), President Rousseff will face the inevitable negative political  outcome of having lost the support of the workers, middle class and rural poor without gaining the support of the business and financial elite – they have their own reliable party leaders.  Once having put in place his radically regressive free market policies, and having provoked massive popular discontent, Levy will  resign and return to the presidency of Bradesco, the multi-billion dollar investment fund,claiming “mission accomplished”

Rousseff might replace Levy and try to ‘moderate’ his ‘shock therapy’.  But by then it will be too little too late.  The Workers’ Party will end up in the dust bin of history . Rousseff’s decision  to appoint Levy as economic czar is a declaration of class war .And in order to win the class war, we cannot exclude that the radically regressive policies will be enforced by state violence – the repression of mass urban protests, the savage dislodgement of peaceful landless rural workers occupying fallow lands.

The “Workers’ Party” regime’s turn from “inclusive neo-liberalism” to Friedmanite free market extremism will radicalize andpolarize Brazilian society.  The oligarchy will push to remilitarize civil society.  This in turn, will spur the growth of class conscious social movements, like those that ended twenty years of military rule.  Perhaps this time, the social upheaval may not end in a liberal-democracy; perhaps the comming struggle will bring Brazil closer to a socialist republic.

Market Euphoria: The Mother of All Ponzi Schemes

December 14th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

The bubble of all bubbles. A house of cards waiting to collapse, says Paul Craig Roberts. 

A great unraveling looms. America’s economy based on market manipulation. Rigging things one way.

Smoke and mirrors deception. Money printing madness. Privatizing profits. Socializing losses. Upside down reality.

Shifting wealth in unprecedented amounts. More than what’s comprehensible. To monied interests. From ordinary folks.

Stealing them blind. Creating ruler/serf societies. Notably in America. Enforced with police state harshness.

Why things haven’t collapsed so far postmortems alone may best explain. It’s coming. When what can’t go on forever no longer will.

Global economic weakness crashed oil prices. Continuing south. A new wild card. A black swan event.

Market analyst Laszlo Birinyi calls it a market Hurricane Sandy. You don’t know where it’s heading.

On December 12, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures closed below $58 a barrel. For the first time since May 2009.

Brent at $62 a barrel. From a high of around $115 in January. Perhaps heading for $40 or lower. Replicating 2008-09.

Reflecting financial instability. Global economic weakness. Market rigging. Heavily impacting commodity exporting nations. Especially emerging ones.

Commodity prices overall at 2009 levels. Strengthening the dollar. Weakening emerging market currencies. Negatively impacting junk bond valuations. Rattling financial markets.

Manipulation sends them higher after dips. Until one day central bank intervention no longer works. Then economic collapse.

It bears repeating. What can’t go on forever won’t. Bubbles always burst. Imagine the ruin following the mother of all Ponzi schemes imploding.

A matter of when. Not if. How bad. How much global pain. Paul Craig Roberts writes often about inevitable economic collapse. So does David Stockman.

Explaining what official sources conceal. Media scoundrels regurgitating misleading rubbish.

Stockman calls money printing madness and bailouts “the single most shameful chapter in American financial history.”

An ugly picture. A bleak future approaches. Reckless central bank policy and casino capitalism assure it. America is fiscally, morally, intellectually, and politically broken.

So is Euroland. When the mother of all Ponzi schemes implodes, watch out. Nothing will stop its free-fall.

Michael Hudson calls Ponzi schemes “arrangement(s) whereby early investors in a financial operation are paid out of money put up by new subscribers to the scheme, not out of actual profits.”

“Investor concerns are alleviated by promises of exorbitant and rapid rates of return resulting from a hitherto undiscovered technique of making money.”

Tout TV talking heads claim this time is different. Until reality overtakes hype.

Collapse comes when “new inflows of funds no longer continue to grow exponentially,” Hudson explains.

When what Stockman calls “high grade monetary heroin” kills investors. Discovering they’re the greater fools.

Predatory finance is more destructive than standing armies. Monied interests control things. Strip-mining economies for profit.

Hollowing them out. Casino capitalism replaced free enterprise. Ordinary people suffer horrifically.

Exploited. Swindled. Their welfare and futures stolen. Washington’s criminal class is bipartisan. Conspiring with business against populism.

Few benefit at the expense of most others. Hardwired inequality defines today’s America.

During Obama’s first term, the top 1% got 95% of all financial gains. In fall 2013, Stockman summed up the last quarter century as follows:

“What has been growing is the wealth of the rich, the remit of the state, the girth of Wall Street, the debt burden of the people, the prosperity of the beltway, and the sway of the three great branches of government which are domiciled there – that is, the warfare state, the (corporate) welfare state and the central bank.”

“What is failing, by contrast, is the vast expanse of the Main Street economy where the great majority has experienced stagnant living standards, rising job insecurity, failure to accumulate any material savings, rapidly approaching old age and the certainty of a Hobbesian future where, inexorably, taxes will rise and social benefits will be cut.”

“And what is positively falling is the lower ranks of society whose prospects for jobs, income and a decent living standard have been steadily darkening.”

Things today reflect a dystopian new normal. Historic patterns don’t apply. America is a “floundering leviathan.”

Failing from its own shortcomings. Mismanagement. Greed. Ineptitude. Corruption on an unprecedented scale.

Corporate giants licensed to steal. Amounts beyond comprehension. At the expense of sound economic/financial management.

Multi-trillions of dollars of waste, fraud and abuse. Years of monetary heroin show how far off the rails Fed policy strayed.

Enriching monied interests more than ever. Virtually nothing helping Main Street. Expect Bernanke to be remembered as the economy wrecker of last resort.

Grand theft America continues. Money printing madness substitutes for stimulative economic growth.

Injected responsibly into the economy creates growth. Jobs. When people have money they spend it.

A virtuous cycle of prosperity follows. America once was sustainably prosperous. Polar opposite today. Heading for the mother of all train wrecks.

Reflecting crony capitalism’s failure. Crime families run things. In Washington and corporate board rooms. Ordinary people shut out entirely.

Stockman’s latest article is spot-on. Titled “Duck and Cover – The Lull Is Breaking, The Storm Is Nigh,” saying:

In 2008, “honest capital markets were begging for a purge and liquidation…” From speculative rot. Accumulated during Greenspan’s years.

A Wall Street tool. A failed economic consultant. Followed by a “phony depression scholar.” Bernanke way exceeding Greenspan’s damage.

Manufacturing an illusory “systemic breakdown. (An) all-consuming financial ‘contagion.’ (G)aining instant resonance throughout Wall Street and Washington.”

The best of all times for monied interests followed. The worst for Main Street. Bipartisan complicity with business arranged the world’s greatest scam.

Stealing trillions of dollars. Extraordinary amounts. Courtesy of Bush and Obama. Accommodative Fed policy. Grand theft and then some.

“(T)oday’s elephantine central bank balance sheets did not remotely exist just six years ago,” said Stockman.

“Indeed, they could not have been imagined back then – not even by Bernanke himself.”

Helicopter Ben. Dropping enormous amounts of money on Wall Street. Ignoring Main Street.

It took the Fed’s first 94 years “to grow its balance sheet footings to $900 billion. (S)omething achieved by steadily plucking new credits out of thin air…”

For decades.  Within six weeks of 2008′s manufactured financial mayhem, Bernanke did the impossible.

Replicating what took his predecessors nearly a century to accomplish. He was just starting.

“Fighting the fabricated enemy of ‘contagion. (T)hwarting Wall Street’s desperate need for a cleansing financial enema.”

By yearend 2008, nearly tripling the Fed’s balance sheet. With lots more “financial heroin” to come.

Running the Fed’s “printing presses red hot.” All-out. Other major central banks following suit.

When financial crisis conditions erupted, combined Fed, ECB, and BOJ balance sheets totaled $3.5 trillion, said Stockman.

About 11% of combined GDP.  ”In short order,” the total reached $11 trillion – 30% of G3 GDP.

Together with BOE, China, major oil exporting countries, Russia, India and Australia, central bank balance sheets exceeded $16 trillion. Around triple pre-crisis levels.

Enormous amounts of central bank credit “did little for the real economy in places where the private sector was already at ‘peak debt,’ ” Stockman explained.

In America and Europe. “(U)niversally and thunderously…fuel(ing) a financial asset inflation the likes of which the world had never before seen.”

Tripling world capitalization. From $25 trillion in March 2009 to $75 trillion now. An astonishing $50 trillion increase.

“(I)n a comparative historical heartbeat…” Doing wonders for financial markets. The world’s top 1%. Accumulating more wealth like never before.

“(D)estroy(ing) the remaining vestiges of financial market stability and honest price discovery,” said Stockman.

Two-way markets vanished. Up an away replaced them. From March 2009 to now. “(T)he law of ‘buy the dips’ became unassailable.”

A can’t lose strategy for profits. Courtesy of money printing madness. Market rigging. Casino capitalism like never before.

As long as “the central bank con job” continues, there’s “no reason not to buy, buy, buy,” said Stockman. Risk disappeared from the casino.

Sent underground. Heads and tails both win. As long as asset values rise, risk is “muffled and discounted.”

Why today’s “mother of all financial bubbles is so dangerous and palpably unstable.”

“(F)inancial time bombs (are) planted everywhere…” Because central bank policy “mispric(ed) nearly” all financial assets.

“(I)n a zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) world,” speculative “collateral chains” are untraceable. Until they erupt. Risk returning with a bang.

What’s happening now, says Stockman, is “risk coming out of hiding.” Collateral chains are “buckling.”

Financial time bombs are “exploding.” For the third time since year 2000. With a new wrinkle this time.

Expect carnage to be much worse than before. Because of a “tsunami of central bank credit…” Money printing madness.

Magnitudes greater than ever before. “(M)ore virulent” than in 2000 and 2008. When central banks are “out of dry powder. (I)mpaled by ZIRP.”

Meaning massive more money printing can’t “be disguised as” stimulative macro-economic policy.

By “driving interest rates to extraordinarily low levels.” They’re rock-bottom now.

More explosive Fed balance sheet expansion “will be seen (as) an exercise in pure monetary desperation and quackery,” says Stockman.

His advice: “duck and cover.” A “monster” storm approaches. The likes of which perhaps exceeds anything seen before.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected].  His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.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 three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Syrian No-Fly-Zone: A Bid to Save Al Qaeda

December 14th, 2014 by Tony Cartalucci

Recent strikes on Syria by Israel have been alleged to be part of a regional plan by the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel to establish a no-fly-zone (NFZ) over Syria, just as NATO did in Libya in 2011 effectively handing the entire nation over to Al Qaeda and now “Islamic State” terrorists. DEBKA File has suggested in its article, “Israel air strikes wiped out Russian hardware for thwarting US no-fly zone plan over Syria,” that:

High-ranking American military sources revealed Monday, Dec. 8, that Israel’s air strikes near Damascus the day before wiped out newly-arrived Russian hardware including missiles that were dispatched post haste to help Syria and Hizballah frustrate a US plan for a no-fly zone over northern Syria.

Regardless of the veracity of this report, attempts to justify and impose a NFZ over Syria has been a stated goal of Western policymakers since 2011 when a similar ploy was used under the guise of “humanitarian intervention” in Libya.

No-Fly-Zone to Protect Terrorist Mercenaries, Not “Civilians” or “Rebels” 

Corporate-financier funded policymakers from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) published an article in 2013 titled, “Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka: How to Stop Assad’s Slaughter,” claiming:

Syria is not Libya. Bashar Assad’s troops are well armed, and his ground forces are waging successful campaigns against rebel forces across the country. But eliminating Assad’s ability to take to the air and tilting the balance of power in favor of anti-Assad rebels—as the United States and its allies did with the fighters who eventually overthrew Moammar Gadhafi—is both achievable and advisable.

However, in Libya, NATO’s “humanitarian” NFZ clearly was implemented not to protect innocent civilians, but to provide air cover for terrorist mercenaries armed and directed by NATO itself. These terrorists are now revealed to be Al Qaeda and the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS). It is clear then that “Assad’s slaughter” is in all actuality a war being waged upon the depraved ranks of Al Qaeda – from its Al Nusra front to ISIS.

From the beginning of Syria’s conflict in 2011, the US State Department itself revealed Al Qaeda’s Al Nusra Front was not only involved in early fighting, but had already established a nationwide presence carrying out hundreds of attacks in every major Syrian city. In an official statement by the US State Department designating Al Nusra as a foreign terrorist organization and as an alias for Al Qaeda in Iraq, it was reported that:

Since November 2011, al-Nusrah Front has claimed nearly 600 attacks – ranging from more than 40 suicide attacks to small arms and improvised explosive device operations – in major city centers including Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr. During these attacks numerous innocent Syrians have been killed.

The widespread presence of Al Qaeda so early in the conflict is owed to the fact that the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, since at least as early as 2007, conspired openly to use the terrorist organization to wage a regional proxy war against Iran and its allies, including Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Damascus’ war, then, is not one being waged against its own people, nor against “pro-democracy rebels,” but rather against a heavily armed front of sectarian militants backed from abroad seeking to invade, overthrow, and occupy the nation of Syria. This foreign-backed terrorist front, with the help of the Western media, is merely hiding behind the ever tenuous facade of genuine “rebellion.”

One example in particular illustrates not only this reality – the fact that there are none and never have been “moderate rebels” – but also the fact that Western intervention predicated upon assisting nonexistent “moderate rebels” and “civilians” is a criminal conspiracy designed solely around regime change and imposing the West’s will upon the nation and people of Syria.

Last month, it would be revealed that terrorists portrayed by the West as “moderate rebels” and allegedly “vetted” by the United States before being armed with advanced weaponry including anti-tank missiles were officially merged with Al Qaeda. The International Business Times would claim in its article, “Syria: Al-Nusra Jihadists ‘Capture US TOW Anti-Tank Missiles’ from Moderate Rebels,” that:

Weaponry supplied by the US to moderate Syrian rebels was feared to have fallen into the hands of jihadist militants affiliated to al-Qaida after clashes between rival groups.  

Islamist fighters with Jabhat al-Nusra seized control of large swathes of land in Jabal al-Zawiya, Idlib province, at the weekend, routing the US-backed groups the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SFR) and Harakat Hazm, activists said.  

Washington relied on SFR and Harakat Hazm to counter Isis (Islamic State) militants on the ground in Syria, complementing its air strikes.

5453111One Syrian rebel group supported in the past by the United States condemned the air strikes on Tuesday. Harakat Hazm, a rebel group that received a shipment of U.S. anti-tank weapons in the spring, called the airstrikes “an attack on national sovereignty” and charged that foreign led attacks only strengthen the Assad regime.The statement comes from a document, purportedly from the group, that has circulated online and was posted in English translation from a Twitter account called Syria Conflict Monitor. Several Syria experts, including the Brookings Doha Center’s Charles Lister, believe the document to be authentic. Despite attempts to claim Harakat Hazm had “fallen” to Al Qaeda, Harakat Hazm itself had already openly pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda a month beforehand. In September, the Daily Beast would report in its article, “Al Qaeda Plotters in Syria ‘Went Dark,’ U.S. Spies Say,” that Harakat Kazm condemned US airstrikes on ISIS and Al Nusra. The Daily Beast reported (emphasis added):

The same article would also reveal that:

Before the official statement, there were signs that Harakat Hazm was making alliances in Syria that could conflict with its role as a U.S. partner. In early Septemeber a Harakat Hazm official told a reporter for the L.A. Times: “Inside Syria, we became labeled as secularists and feared Nusra Front was going to battle us…But Nusra doesn’t fight us, we actually fight alongside them. We like Nusra.”

The US, NATO, Israel as the “Islamic State’s” Air Force

With this in mind, Syria’s allies must take all measures to ensure a no-fly-zone is not only politically unachievable, but tactically and strategically unachievable as well. Failure in Syria will open the flood gates of proxy terrorism and warfare upon Iran, then Russia and China. The world can ill-afford the continued primacy of a hegemonic power willing to use such tactics to achieve the already abhorrent, intolerable objective of global conquest.   Just as in Libya where genocidal sectarian extremists operating under the flag of Al Qaeda’s regional franchises including the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) both now openly operating under the banner of ISIS, were thrust into power with NATO backing, so to does NATO plan on installing extremists into primacy across Syria. The goal is not simply the ruination of Syria, but the use of Syria as a springboard to wage war upon Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, then turn NATO’s terrorist mercenary force northeast toward Russia and then China.

To this end, the US, NATO – primarily Turkey – as well as Israel, have throughout the Syrian conflict provided arms, aid, equipment, and even airpower to Al Qaeda in their bid to violently overthrow the Syrian government. Just as was done in Libya, Al Qaeda’s role in the fighting was covered up with the illusion of “moderate rebels” and “unarmed” “pro-democracy protesters.” As the facade collapsed, an increasingly tangled and incoherent narrative has emerged to explain how the West is infusing the region with billions in military aid, and yet Al Qaeda rather than the West’s fabled “moderates” have emerged as the dominate fighting force across the region.

The only explanation, and as was the plan from the very beginning, is that the US, NATO, Israel and other regional partners are intentionally building up and deploying Al Qaeda’s various factions across the region to fight in an increasingly horrific, costly, proxy war.

The proposed “no-fly-zone” the West has been attempting to implement is simply rhetorical cover for providing Al Qaeda directly with air cover while preventing the only actual military force in the region fighting Al Qaeda, the Syrian Arab Army, from finally eliminating this scourge from within their borders and restoring order across their country and in turn, across the region.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.

I’ve been in Ferguson since November 22, and I don’t think a day has gone by where there hasn’t been a protest, most often multiple protests. There may be one at the Ferguson police station, and another in the St. Louis Shaw neighborhood, just south of the City Center, or perhaps on one of the campuses: Washington University, St. Louis University, the University of Missouri St. Louis, and/or out in Clayton or West County.

Last night, Monday, December 8, 250 people packed a meeting of the Ferguson Commission, formed by Governor Jay Nixon to look into the social and political conditions behind the “unrest” and make recommendations so the St. Louis area can become a “stronger, fairer place for everyone to live.” The meeting took place in the Shaw neighborhood, near where 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. was murdered by police. Things went as planned until St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson began reading his remarks. The room erupted with protest and boos and Dotson was forced to stop speaking. Some people left, fed up with the meeting. Others stuck around, hoping this state-led process might work.

The day before that, 80 people protested in the Shaw area against the St. Louis Police Department’s “finding” on Friday that they committed “no criminal wrongdoing” when they shot and killed Vonderrit Myers Jr. on October 8. (The county prosecutors have supposedly not yet decided whether or not to charge Myers’ killer.) Twenty others protested police murders at a performance of Annie at the Fox Theater attended by hundreds of parents and children. “They got to see what’s going on in the world,” one demonstrator told the St. Louis Post Dispatch (December 8, 2014). “They’re going to be thinking about it, and they’re going to be asking their parents questions.”

Rams Players Step Up: “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “I Can’t Breathe”

It hasn’t just been street protests. The “hands up, don’t shoot” action by five National Football League (NFL) St. Louis Rams players on November 30, as they came into the stadium for their game with the Oakland Raiders, sent a jolt through America. According to the wife of one of the Rams players, they’ve received death threats for their action, which disrupted America’s revolting culture of “things are fine/ignore the oppression of Black people,” of which the NFL is a big part.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association (SPOA) immediately demanded that the players be punished by the Rams organization and by the NFL. In other words, the pigs can murder people and then dictate what any prominent, influential people can even say anything about it! (The SPOA claimed that Rams officials had apologized, but the Rams denied this, and the NFL refused to sanction the players.)

Meanwhile, “Fans departing the Dome, site of a 52-0 drubbing of the Oakland Raiders, were met by helmeted city police officers, National Guard units, and protesters shouting ‘Those killer cops have got to go’ and other chants, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (December 1, 2014). “‘Social media wasn’t enough,’ said Mickey Greer, 22, of Peoria, Ill., who recently joined the protests. ‘I decided to step it up and show change with my body by getting out here and doing something.’”

The day after the Rams’ “hands up” action, the Time Out Sports Bar & Grill in St. Louis disowned the Rams. “Due to the bone headed ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ act by the number of Rams players,” Time Out declared on its Facebook page it was taking all the pictures and information about the Rams off its walls, and that it would no longer have “Happy Hour” to celebrate Rams games. “We need to stand up to thugs who destroy our community and burn down local businesses, and boycott the other thugs/organizations who support them.”

This reaction itself generated a huge reaction. Nearly 40,000 people “liked” the post. But it also got 6,500 comments, many of which denounced the action and forced the bar to retreat a bit, declaring in another post that it wasn’t “taking sides” and supported the right to free speech and protest but still opposed the Rams “bringing the protest to a nationwide professional sporting event.” It also said that henceforth, “Happy Hour” would only be celebrated for Kansas City Chiefs games. The next night protesters briefly shut down two of Time Out’s St. Louis locations. (Huffington Post, December 3, 2014)

None of this has stopped some Rams players from continuing to speak out! Sunday, before the Rams’ game with Washington (I’ll be damned if I’m going to write that team’s racist nickname), they made what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called “another societal statement,” this time with “I Can’t Breathe,” referring to the NYPD’s choking of Eric Garner to death. According to CBS News on December 8:

Guard Davin Joseph wrote the words on the cleats he wore during pre game warm-ups. …Tight end Jared Cook had it written on his wrist tape. Receiver Kenny Britt had several names—including Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin—written on his blue and gold cleats. The names were of black men or teens whose deaths led to protests.

Joseph tweeted an image of his shoes before the game (above).

Players at other NFL games expressed similar sentiments. Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush had “I Can’t Breathe” written in black across his blue warm-up shirt. Browns cornerback Johnson Bademosi wrote the message on the back of the shirt he wore before a game in Cleveland. San Diego Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram did the same.

“Honestly, I’ve always been the quiet kid. I’ve always been the one who’s reserved, to kind of sit back and not really get into politics and things like that,” said Bush, whose mother has been a police officer for about 20 years. “But I don’t know why I just felt some kind of … I guess the situation just touched me.

“It’s kind of resonated with me,” Bush said. “Not because I’ve been through a similar situation or because I’ve seen anybody go through it. I just really felt terrible about what was going on these past couple of weeks.”

Artists: “We Are Ferguson”



Scene from “We Are Ferguson,” part of the Public Media Commons Artists Showcase. Photo: Special to revcom.us
 

Artists are also responding to the murder of Mike Brown and the outpouring against police murder. One way was the Public Media Commons Artists Showcase of the work of 17 area artists that took place Tuesday night, December 2, at the outdoor Public Media Commons, located in the Grand Center Arts District of St. Louis.

Most of the works were short audio-video narratives projected on two of the walls of this open-air plaza between buildings. The works, including a beautiful abstract soundscape turned to light show; a video of a quartet (violin, piano, bass, and percussion) performing an abstract improvisational piece, one of voices from the community; and a dramatic 10-minute photo montage of pictures and sounds from the August uprising in Ferguson right after Mike Brown was murdered, by artists Chris Renteria and Darian Wigfall, titled “We Are Ferguson,” concluded with audio of tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades being fired on protesters on August 17, as the screen goes dark. A very powerful poem read “live” by a local person concluded one portion of the show.

Pilgrimages to Memorial for Mike Brown

Another important dimension of how deeply Mike Brown’s murder and the Ferguson revolt has impacted millions of people is how the memorial to him on Canfield Drive, where he lived and was gunned down, has become a site of pilgrimages. People from different parts of the U.S. but also internationally have come to see the memorial, a tribute in the center of the street where he lay dead for four-and-a-half hours, and another against a lamppost on the side of the street, to let the reality of these events sink in, for people to pay their respects, express their condolences, reflect, and in some cases to report. During one 30-minute visit, I saw media from Canada’s Globe & Mail newspaper, South Korean TV, and Danish TV. Others come through at most hours of the day and into the night, having their pictures taken there and seeing what it all looks like.

One Revolution newspaper reader wrote about her experience:

Visiting the spot where Mike Brown was murdered, you are struck by the fact that it’s such a small road, winding through a quiet housing development. Now there is a permanent collection of messages and mementos piled up in the middle of the road and crawling steadily up the nearest light pole. You realize that it has become a kind of pilgrimage site. In the middle of the afternoon or late in the evening, people are there. Some just take photos and seem lost in thought, reading the messages of loss and anger, while others want to share their feelings. And just as likely as not, reporters will be there. We met one from LA and another camera crew was setting up as we left.

One Palestinian American family drove from Memphis to visit Ferguson and the memorial to Michael Brown. When asked of the father why they came, he said his teenage daughters demanded they come. We asked his daughter what she thought of the grand jury decision; she said it was “messed up.” A woman who lives close to the memorial described the checkpoints in Ferguson where only people with Ferguson ID can pass through and the police escort you to your destination. The Palestinian man exclaimed that that’s just like Palestine! He wanted to be sure that all the people visiting the memorial then knew that the people of Palestine knew about and supported their struggle for Justice.


Photo: Special to revcom.us
 

Small Businesses… Not All Focused on “Property Damage”

One night I went out for dinner and talked with a member of the Black family that owns a small local chain of restaurants, one of which is in Ferguson. Several of the windows were still boarded up, and she described how they’d been broken into on November 24, the night of the uprising after the grand jury refused to indict Darren Wilson. Other than some broken windows, not a lot of damage had been done. She was matter-of-fact about it, and not mad at the protesters. She said that people from the neighborhood had warned the authorities in September that if Darren Wilson wasn’t indicted, they were going to “burn it down.” She also said that some of the businesses were targeted because even though they had standing and a voice within the community and power structure, they hadn’t spoken up on behalf of those who fork over their money to them. The restaurant had some www.revcom.us leaflets on one of the tables, along with other announcements and literature.

It turned out the woman I was talking with had seen my intervention in Gov. Nixon’s press conference on CNN and, like many others, she got a big smile on her face, chuckled, and thanked me for what I’d done. It’s been interesting how much of this I’ve gotten, online and in person. People feel so frustrated and insulted by all the bullshit that’s shoved at them on TV, that when someone breaks the rules of “civility,” that is, going along with the program and who “did not back down,” as one person put it, but instead turns the tables on the authorities and puts them on the defensive (rendering these supposedly all-knowing, all-powerful rulers tongue-tied and evasive, if only for a few minutes, gives people heart and joy. It’s a small example of the enormous potential for a revolutionary pole that gets projected into society, to attract millions. (Last I looked, nearly 24,000 people had looked at one of the YouTubes of the intervention.) She was excited about talking to me, and said she was going to go home and look closely at the whole revcom.us website.

Up Against the Deep Structures and Reactionary Ideology of White Supremacy

The people have had a lot of initiative over these past weeks and months, but make no mistake: They are up against the deeply entrenched structures and ideas of white supremacy, and an active reaction against the people’s upsurge.

One way this hit me was a nighttime drive through the streets of north St. Louis, past row after row, street after street of mostly two-story red-brick houses and apartments, some dating back to the late 1800s. A fair number are abandoned, some are probably squats, most look very rundown, some look uninhabitable.

Wells/Goodfellow is one of the neighborhoods of north St. Louis. According to 2000 census data, 8,193 people lived there, nearly 30 percent fewer than a decade earlier. Ninety-eight percent were Black. Of 4,063 housing units, 27 percent, nearly 1,100, were unoccupied.

Admittedly, this was one drive through and no doubt there are nuances I didn’t see. But all in all it was a desolate looking scene, and an outrageous indictment of the richest country in the world leaving whole areas and whole sections of the people to rot, unable to provide the most basic needs of life. The look and feel was a glaring example of how the old Jim Crow has become the New Jim Crow, with Black people still suffering horrific national oppression, just in somewhat different forms.

Not far away, and not unconnected from life in north St. Louis, is a 175-acre factory complex that from 1954-1981 was the Union Boulevard General Motors Assembly plant. It once employed 13,000 and churned out the Chevy Caprice, Impala, pickup trucks, and the Corvette. It’s now a business park, but was stone silent the night I drove by.

St. Louis was once second only to Detroit in auto employment, 35,000 at its peak. These were manufacturing jobs that provided workers, including some Black workers, with something of a stable, “middle class” income. But those days are long gone; by 2010, not only was GM gone, but the Ford planet in Hazelwood and the Chrysler planet in Fenton were shuttered as well. The workings of global capitalism demand that the auto industry, like all others, pursue the highest rates of exploitation and profit possible, or be eaten alive in cutthroat competition with rival capitalists. And beyond the loss of these jobs, many more workers in factories that supplied the auto plants with parts and services were made “unnecessary” in the outlook of the capitalist class,. In 2011, the St. Louis Post-Dispatchwrote that GM’s 1981 closing “seemed to kick open the door to a mass migration of manufacturing jobs, automotive and otherwise. In the years since, a cornerstone of the regional economy has slowly crumbled, shedding middle-class jobs to largely nonunion, right-to-work states and, more recently, emerging economies overseas.”

U.S. capitalism now has no place and no future for millions of Black people, creating what the capitalists consider to be a surplus, and superfluous, population that it has been trying to suppress through prisons and police terror.

Expressions of white supremacy aren’t, of course, ancient history. When the NAACP went through the town of Rose Bud on their civil rights march from Ferguson to Jefferson City, the Missouri state capital, they were met by a crowd of some 200, including openly racist whites flying a Confederate flag and shouting racist vitriol. Some among them had put out on the street a bucket of fried chicken, a melon, and a 40-ounce beer bottle. One white youth had a sign saying “go home.”

On Wednesday, December 3, a white man aggressively drove through a crowd of protesters in downtown St. Louis and then started waving an automatic pistol at them when they surrounded his car. Being an armed white man, as opposed to an unarmed Black youth, he was detained by police, but without being shot and killed.

A growing number of white people are awakening to the ugly, intolerable reality of white supremacy and the oppression of Black people in America, and hollow talk that it’s “moved beyond” race. One young white woman I met at a protest had a sign reading “My life changed when I started listening.” She talked about not having realized what was going on, but being awakened by the murder of Mike Brown and the uprising against it. She now feels compelled to speak out. Another, at another protest, carried a sign reading “White Silence Is Violence.”

Hitler’s master plan included removing all internal opposition. Genocide. Ethnic cleansing. 

Exterminating or enslaving inferior people. Considered non-Ayrans subhumans (Untermenschen).

Sought Lebensraum (living space). Aryanizing Europe and beyond. Establishing New Order dominance over conquered lands.

Run by convenient stooges. Making Germany the preeminent world power. Master race rulers.

Washington’s master plan is similar. Tyranny masquerading as democracy. Governing extrajudicially.

State terror as official policy. Naked aggression its main expression. Globalized war.

One party rule. Republicans no different from Democrats on issues mattering most.

Controlled by monied interests. Bankers topping the pecking order. Police state apparatus control. Waging war on freedom. Institutionalizing repression.

Big Brother watching everyone. Tolerating no internal opposition. Eliminating it entirely. Forcefully.

Running the world’s largest gulag. At home and abroad. Concentration camps. Filled with political prisoners. Society’s unwanteds.

Torture as an expression of power. Instrument of control. Punishment. Coercion. Deterrence.

Using workers as serfs. Eliminating social justice entirely. Transferring wealth from ordinary people to monied interests.

Eliminating all sovereign independent governments. By political means or brute force.

Including destabilization. Overt and covert. Propaganda wars. Financial/economic ones. Hot ones. Coups. Assassinations.

Installing puppet rule. Convenient stooges. Subservient to Washington.

Powerful monied interests complicit with political and judicial officials comprise America’s master race.

Wanting unchallenged world dominance. Risking war with Russia. Madness between the worlds two most formidable nuclear powers.

Lunatics in Washington make anything possible. Perhaps likely. Diana Johnstone suggests Kaliningrad as a potential flashpoint. Formerly Konigsburg. German territory. Lost in WW II.

Russia territory now. Separate from its mainland. Between Poland and Lithuania. With around half a million people. According to Johnstone:

“The prospect of recuperating Kaliningrad/Königsberg through some manipulated incident could be a factor in the present official German anti-Russian position, which goes against German economic interests and about half of German public opinion.”

“A war to conquer Kaliningrad would be started by some contrived ‘international crisis’ to ‘respond’ to.”

Propagandized as responding to Crimea rejoining Russia. A natural reunion. Reversing a Soviet era mistake.

Near unanimously wanted by Crimeans. By free, fair and open referendum choice.

After Washington toppled Ukraine’s legitimate government. Installed fascist putschists.

Reclaiming Kaliningrad would be much different. Against the will of its people.

By US-led NATO war. Risking direct confrontation with Russia. Unwilling to tolerate loss of its sovereign territory. Nor should it.

Ukraine is a more dangerous flashpoint than Kaliningrad. With US-led NATO forces positioned in Eastern Europe for trouble.

Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and other Eastern European states operating as anti-Russian US satellites.

Subservient to imperial Washington. Sacrificing their sovereignty. Survival if Obama wages nuclear war.

Madness with no winners. Possible given America’s rage for dominance. Waging permanent wars. Without end.

Against one country after another. Russia and China the final frontier. America’s two main rivals. Targeted for regime change.

Madness. Against formidable nuclear powers. With large land masses. Militaries able to challenge America’s might.

Ukraine is a pretext. Russia the target. China later.

On December 11, House and Senate members passed identical Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 legislation. By voice votes. Unanimously.

Authorizing lethal and non-lethal aid for Ukraine. Washington’s newest colony. Threatening more Russian sanctions.

Co-sponsor/Senator Bob Corker (R. TN) turned truth on its head saying:

“The hesitant US response to Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine threatens to escalate this conflict even further.”

“Unanimous support for our bill demonstrates a firm commitment to Ukrainian sovereignty and to making sure Putin pays for his assault on freedom and security in Europe.”

House Congressional Ukrainian Caucus co-chair Rep. Jim Gerlach (R. PA) lied.

Calling the measure “an unmistakable message to Vladimir Putin and the entire world that the United States fully supports the people of Ukraine in their desire to remain an independent, democratic nation.”

“Helping Kiev match the military and intelligence capability of the Russians, who have provided weapons and other lethal aid to separatists in Donetsk, Mariupol and other portions of eastern Ukraine.”

The legislation followed House members December 4 near declaration of war (HR 758).

“Strongly condemning the actions of the Russian Federation, under President Vladimir Putin, which has carried out a policy of aggression against neighboring countries aimed at political and economic domination.”

Followed by dozens of horrendous Big Lies. Outrageous ones. Polar opposite hard truths. Anti-Russian/pro-Ukrainian legislation further expression of Washington’s dark side.

Recklessness. Heading perhaps for war on Russia. Not because of any threat. Or Russian lawlessness.

Wanting one of America’s two main rivals marginalized, weakened, contained, isolated and controlled. Risking global war in the process.

Moscow called Thursday’s anti-Russian legislation overtly confrontational. Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich saying:

The measure “adopted by both houses of the US Congress without debate and proper voting cannot but produce deep regret by its overtly confrontational contents.”

“Once again Washington is presenting unfounded, sweeping accusations and is threatening us with new sanctions.”

“Russia will not yield to blackmail from the United States, will not sacrifice national interests, and will not allow interference into internal affairs.”

Washington refuses “to abandon outdated phobias about Russia.” Wants to “turn back time. (O)nce again level(ing) baseless accusations.”

Kiev putschists welcomed the measure. Calling it an “historic decision.” Expect Obama to sign it into law. Especially given its unanimous congressional support.

Things creep incrementally toward open conflict. On December 9, Russia downed an unspecified number of Ukrainian drones. Lawlessly overflying Crimean territory.

An unnamed Crimean military source saying:

“After recognizing the unmanned surveillance aircraft, it is intercepted on the border with the command of capturing and escort.”

“If the unmanned surveillance aircraft flies deep into our territory or approaches a military facility, then it is shot down.”

On Thursday, Obama addressed US Export Council members. Urging them to support his efforts to keep Europe in lockstep with US policy.

Playing hardball with Russia. Calling sanctions “successful…because we’ve been systematic about it and made sure there wasn’t a lot of daylight between us and the Europeans.”

Urging what he called “strategic patience.” Saying “ratchet(ing) (up sanctions) further and further and further and then ultimately Putin changes his mind, I think is a miscalculation.”

That and then some. Backfiring on European economies during economic weakness.

Days earlier, Putin addressed US-led Western policies, saying:

“As for sanctions, this is not just a nervous reaction of the United States and its allies to our stance on the developments in Ukraine and on the coup.”

“Nor was it triggered by the so-called Crimean Spring. I am sure, and I want to emphasize it, that even without all these developments, they would have invented another way to curb the growing influence of Russia.”

“The so-called sanctions and external constraints constitute an incentive for more efficient, fast achievement of our goals. We have much to do to create new technologies and competitive products.”

“We are in possession of a large domestic market and natural resources, capital and scientific basis.”

“There are talented, intelligent, hard-working people who can quickly learn new things. The main thing now is to give the citizens an opportunity to fulfill their potential.”

Separately, Kiev intends increasing its military ranks by 18,000 in 2015. By conscription. When its economy is effectively bankrupt.

All its economic indicators negative. Except military spending. According to its defense minister Stepan Poltorak:

“The number of Ukrainian military service members has increased from 130,000 last year to today’s 232,000, and plans are to increase the number of armed forces personnel to 250,000.

When it’s least able to do so financially. Intending all-out war on Donbas.

With full US support and encouragement. Perhaps at the same time US-led NATO targets Kaliningrad.

It bears repeating. Madness defines US policy. WW III may follow.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected].  His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.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 three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

Political language is a vast preserve of euphemism. Energy security, one of more appropriate candidates of euphemistic consideration, has been on the lips of policy planners from Moscow to Washington for decades.  The very idea does little to mask the titanic tussles over energy supplies, who controls, not merely the assets, but the means with which these will be delivered.  Where there is an energy reserve, be it natural gas, oil, or some other usable commodity, there will be money and blood.

The cancellation by Moscow of the South Stream project in preference for an agreement with Turkey can be read in several ways.  The South Stream route was touted as an alternative, adding to the North Stream counterpart that would bypass troublesome Ukraine as a transit point for delivering energy.

The energy game rarely has heroes, but it is certainly has various villains. While the European Union stresses going green and reducing traces of its considerable carbon footprint, it has also sought, over the years, a greater liberalisation of energy markets, one of them being Russia.  (Liberalisation can be measured in terms of which companies are allowed a slice of the export pie, rather than any moral value.)

The Russian government’s stranglehold over natural gas supply has been unchallenged, with such gargantuan entities as Gazprom ruling the roost. Such government monopolies jar with European preferences towards energy competition, though it should be noted that the South Stream project had, on the books, additional European partners in the form of Italy’s ENI (20 percent), France’s EDF (15 percent) and Germany’s Wintershall, subsidiary of BASF (15 percent).

A key reason cited by Putin in focusing on Turkey and cancelling the South Stream project lies in the European Commission’s insistence in its “Third Energy Package” that no single company control the full process of extraction, transportation and sale of energy (Asia Times, Dec 8).[1]  That has been a vital, and misguided weapon, in the European Commission’s broader game.

Other considerations may well be operating, not least the continued insistence on sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, something which is having its own detrimental effect on European markets.  Germany has fared particularly poorly with the loss of Russian business.  Brussels keeps insisting on bruising and biting the state-owned hand that feeds it.

Bulgaria has also come out poorly, with Sofia being accused by Putin of being unduly tardy.  “Considering that we still have not received a [construction] permit in Bulgaria, we believe that Russia cannot continue the implementation of this project in these circumstances” (Sofia Globe, Dec 1).[2]  While there had been much backing for the project in Bulgarian political circles, Sofia has also been heckled by the European Commission’s insistence that EU member states renegotiate bilateral agreements on South Stream to conform to the Third energy package.[3]

What it, and Brussels has gotten, is a grand Eurasian power play centred on Turkey as the new transit point for energy and raw materials. (It already is one for Azerbaijan oil via the Baku-Tblisi-Ceysan pipeline.)  To become a true energy “hub”, however, Ankara’s lawyers will have to read the fine print as to whether the country has such important items as resell rights (Voice of America, Dec 11).[4]

The deal between Moscow and Ankara is more than just an energy deal over a rerouting of the project.  There will be no net loss for Gazprom, which can focus on Turkey, the company’s second business customer after Germany, while also giving a boost to other parts of Turkish industry.  Bulgaria, for all of that, seemed small beer, though its project losses at around 400 million Euros will be felt.

The negative impact in the Balkans has been notable, and replays in several ways the delicate politics between Russian interests in the region, its tiptoeing with Turkey, and European demands that various EU “rules” be complied with.  Always caught between in the vice of history and the powers of expediency, the Balkan states have rarely made it to the winners’ podium.  Several countries on route were posed to benefit, both directly and incidentally.  Instead, the South Stream has been exited in favour of a Turk Stream.  “This is what the New Great Game in Eurasia is about,” posed the Asia Times(Dec 8, 2014).

Serbia has felt the cancellation keenly, more so for the fact that Belgrade sold a majority stake in its own state oil and gas company, NIS, to Gazprom in 2008 hoping to get something in return.  As early as November 21, one of Gazprom’s subsidiaries issued a call for builders, welders and mechanics to assist in construction of its Serbian leg of the pipeline.  As Branko Tasevski of the Veco Welding Company located in Zrenjanin explained, “We thought we’d earn enough to sustain us for the next five to six years.  We lost not only potential profits but also references for future deals” (Moscow Times, Dec 12).[5]

Such a deal suggests the parlous nature of energy politics.  Deals done one day may be neutered the next.  The 2008 NIS-Gazprom deal might have been seen as having fraternal freight on future energy construction passing through Serbia, but it was not to be.  “We sold them the family jewels, as brothers,” argues Misa Brkić of the Serbian weekly Novi Magazin, “without asking for any guarantee that they would make good their promise.”  Lack of clarity has always been the case when making concession over such jewels.

While the Balkans and the EU fall on heavy days over the latest energy manoeuvrings, the hardened regimes in Ankara and Moscow have made a critical outflanking move – and it is one stashed with economic importance.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected] 

Canadian Government Lies over Complicity in CIA Torture

December 13th, 2014 by Roger Jordan

Tuesday’s publication of the US Senate report into the CIA’s brutal interrogation techniques in the aftermath of 9/11 has shed new light on Ottawa’s complicity in acts of torture.

The response of the Conservative government was in keeping with its long-standing refusal to acknowledge any Canadian involvement in torture. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, answering a question in the House of Commons on Tuesday, declared, “This is a report of the United States Senate. It has nothing to do whatsoever with the government of Canada.”

Foreign minister John Baird reacted to a question from the press on the harm done to Canada’s reputation by its complicity with torture programs by arrogantly declaring, “Canada doesn’t torture. Period! Period!” He walked away without answering a follow-up query.

These are barefaced lies. Successive governments have been implicated in facilitating the brutal and inhumane techniques outlined in the Senate document. Canada acted as a major transit route for US rendition flights that sent captured suspects to third countries or CIA black sites to be tortured. According to the Globe and Mail, a total of 20 US aircraft made 74 stopovers at Canadian airports while on rendition flights. The number of flights was second only to the US itself.

Previously Canadian authorities have admitted that information CSIS used to argue for the indefinite detention of Adil Charkaoui and Mohamed Harkat came from Abu Zubaydah, an al-Qaeda terror suspect who figures prominently in the Senate report. The CIA used Zubaydah as something of a “guinea pig” in its torture campaign, including “waterboarding” him 83 times. For years, Canadian authorities insisted before the courts that there was no reason to think Abu Zubaydah had named Charkaoui and Harkat other than willingly.

The Conservative government’s assertions are also disproved by directives it has itself issued to the police and intelligence agencies that explicitly permit them to use information gained through torture and to supply information to foreign intelligence agencies even if it is likely to lead those named to be tortured. These directives apply to Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the military, Canada’s signals intelligence agency (CSEC), and the border control agency.

According to the federal framework document on which the directives are based, in the event of a “substantial risk” that sharing information with a foreign agency will cause someone to be tortured, consultation with a deputy minister or minister is required to approve it. Guidelines state that the minister must take into account the immediacy of the threat and the danger to Canadian national security interests.

A statement released by the office of Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney was no less disingenuous than Harper. “Our government does not condone the use of torture, and certainly does not engage in it.” But the statement then went on to make clear that information gained through the use of torture would be used by Canadian intelligence. “If we get a tip from any source that Canadian lives are in danger, we will act to save those lives.”

It is no secret that Canada, more than any other country, has integrated its intelligence and military services with those of its southern neighbour. Ottawa has been Washington’s unflinching ally for decades.

Canada’s intelligence services are a key component of the global five eyes alliance, which includes the American NSA, and the intelligence agencies of Britain, New Zealand and Australia. Speaking to CBC, a former CSIS agent explained that links were even more direct with the CIA, since CSIS liaison officers work in CIA headquarters, while CIA officials do likewise in Ottawa.

Criticizing Canada’s ties to the US intelligence apparatus, Ottawa-based human rights lawyer Paul Champ told the media, “I don’t think that anyone in the intelligence community in the world, at least in democratic countries, can wake up tomorrow and tell themselves that their relationship with the United States and the CIA can remain the same. Until and unless the United States shows that there’s going to be real accountability for these criminal acts, I think our relationship with the CIA has to be very closely monitored and reviewed at all times.”

In reality, a diametrically opposed approach is being taken by Canada’s ruling elite. Showing its contempt for democratic rights, Canada’s parliament is in the process of substantially expanding the powers of the spy agencies. Under an antiterrorism bill currently making its way through parliament, CSIS is explicitly authorized to share information with the members of the “Five Eyes” and to conduct investigations abroad.

This policy has the full backing of all of the parliamentary parties. The latest reforms to counterterrorist legislation have been backed at the committee stage by both the Liberals and Official Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP). In the wake of the torture report, the NDP merely called on the Harper government to revoke the directives issued in 2011 permitting the five government agencies to use information gained via torture. No call for a serious investigation, let alone the prosecution, of individuals implicated in torture was made.

A series of cases involving Canadian nationals demonstrate that Canada’s intelligence agencies not only assisted the US rendition program, but also developed its own version of the practice. This involved Canada’s national-security agencies encouraging the detention of Canadian terror suspects who were travelling abroad by third countries. These countries included authoritarian regimes where the prohibitions on detention without charge and the mistreatment of prisoners contained in Canadian law did not apply. The job of interrogating suspects, frequently with the use of torture techniques, was in this way subcontracted by Ottawa, which made intelligence gathered in Canada available to the country concerned.

Canadian intelligence passed information to the US on Maher Arar, A Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was arrested in New York in 2002. Arar was then flown to Syria, where he was imprisoned for a year and tortured. During this time, Canadian intelligence gave information to the Syrian regime to be used in his interrogation, including a list of questions he was to answer. False confessions were extracted from him that he had participated in an Al-Qaeda plot. Recognizing the injustice done to him, he was awarded over $10 million in a court appeal following his release.

Another infamous case is that of Omar Khadr, who was arrested in Afghanistan as a 15-year-old and transferred by the US to Guantanamo Bay where he was tortured. Canadian agents visited him at the prison camp to carry out their own interrogation, even though they were fully aware that he had been subject to sleep deprivation immediately prior to their visit. Despite strong government opposition, he has since been returned to Canada. The Harper government is currently engaged in an attempt to have the Supreme Court overturn a lower court decision to consider him as a young offender, because were it to stand, Khadr would likely be released.

Canada’s military is also complicit in torture. Canadian forces in Afghanistan passed detainees on to both the US and Afghan troops, although Ottawa and the military knew there was a strong likelihood they would be tortured. Approximately 400 detainees were handed over by Canadian troops to the Afghan army, while 40 were transferred to US custody, according to a report in the Toronto Star. This is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, which make it illegal to transfer persons to authorities where there is a reasonable belief that they will be tortured.

The Harper government repeatedly blocked efforts to investigate the full extent of Canadian involvement in torture in Afghanistan. Citing national security considerations, it prevented a parliamentary committee from accessing documents from the Canadian Armed Forces authorizing the transfers. Officials who could have provided more information on what went on, such as one of Ottawa’s leading diplomats in Afghanistan, Richard Colvin, were threatened with prosecution if they spoke publicly.

A UN report in 2012 issued a further condemnation of this practice, accusing the Canadian government of “complicity in torture.” The UN committee also called on Ottawa to pay compensation to three torture victims, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abu Almaati and Muayyed Nureddin, who had been the subject of a public inquiry over their arrests in Egypt and Syria. These cases provided yet more examples of how Canadian intelligence worked directly with authoritarian regimes, first to have their nationals detained, and then abused using torture methods to extract confessions.

US Budget Resolution Funds War and Repression

December 13th, 2014 by Patrick Martin

The omnibus spending resolution adopted by the US House of Representatives just before midnight Thursday, and which is now before the Senate, is a detailed public statement of the priorities of the American ruling elite. The bulk of the more than $1.1 trillion in funding goes to the military and other repressive functions of the federal government, such as spying, prisons and the police.

President Obama hailed the measure as a “bipartisan effort to include full-year appropriations legislation for most government functions that allows for planning and provides certainty, while making progress toward appropriately investing in economic growth and opportunity, and adequately funding national security requirements.” In other words, the bill makes it possible for the administration to continue waging war around the world and building up the apparatus for a police state at home.

Attached to the funding bill are hundreds of policy measures, many of them added at the last minute with no public discussion and, in many cases, without most congressmen or senators even being aware of what was being proposed before they rubber-stamped the bill. These include, most notoriously, the repeal of a major section of the Dodd-Frank legislation that sought to place some restrictions on the speculative activities of the banks following the 2008 financial crash.

The language in this section, permitting banks to use federally insured deposits to gamble in the swaps and derivative markets, was literally drafted by the banks. According to an analysis by the New York Times, 70 of the 85 lines in that section of the bill come directly from Citibank, which spearheaded the lobbying by Wall Street on this issue.

The four largest Wall Street banks conduct 93 percent of all US derivatives trading, so the measure is a brazen demonstration of the subservience of Congress to the big banks. According to the Washington Post, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, another of the big four banks, personally telephoned individual congressmen to urge them to vote for the amendment to Dodd-Frank.

The House of Representatives passed the funding bill late Thursday by a vote of 219 to 206 after a delay of seven hours. The delay was to allow the Obama administration to pressure a sufficient number of Democratic congressmen to support the Republican-drafted bill and offset defections among ultra-right Republicans who wanted the legislation to block Obama’s executive order on immigration.

The final vote saw 162 Republicans and 57 Democrats supporting the bill, while 136 Democrats and 70 Republicans opposed it. As always, just enough Democratic votes were found to assure that the reactionary measure passed, the government agencies were funded, and the financial markets were reassured.

Some liberal Democrats, most notably the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, made speeches posturing as opponents of the legislation. Pelosi even declared, in a comment that was widely publicized, that she was “enormously disappointed that the White House feels that the only way they can get a bill is to go along with this.”

But in remarks to a meeting of the Democratic caucus, Pelosi gave the game away, refusing to seek a party-line vote and instead telling members, “I’m giving you the leverage to do whatever you have to do.” The second-ranking and third-ranking Democratic leaders, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Deputy Whip James Clyburn, broke with Pelosi and sided with the White House on the bill, openly recruiting the votes required for passage.

Along with the $1.1 trillion bill that will fund most federal agencies through September 30, the House passed by voice vote a resolution funding the whole government through Saturday midnight, to give the Senate time to act on the main measure. The Senate approved this stopgap as well, and Obama signed it at the White House on Friday morning.

The House met again Friday afternoon and passed another extension, this time for five days, giving the Senate until midnight Wednesday to complete action on the funding legislation. Ultimate Senate passage is not in doubt. Outgoing Majority Leader Harry Reid has given his public backing, saying Thursday, “I’m upset with certain things in the bill. It’s not perfect. But a longer-term funding is much better for our economy than a short-term one.”

Most press coverage of the funding bill gives the following breakdown of the spending: $521 billion for the military, $492 billion for nonmilitary items, and $73 billion in emergency spending, most of it military-related. This is highly misleading, since much of the “nonmilitary” spending is demonstrably in support of US military operations or domestic police and security operations directed against the American population.

The $492 billion of “nonmilitary” spending includes the following, according to the official summary posted on the web site of Congress. (Click here and then page down to the section titled “Omnibus summaries,” which contains live links to department-by-department spending).

· $11.4 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration, the unit of the Department of Energy that assembles US nuclear weapons.

· $40.6 billion for Department of Energy, NASA, NSF and other scientific research, much of it related to nuclear energy, cybersecurity and missile technology.

· $65 billion for the Veterans Administration, which provides medical care and other services for those shattered in body and mind by their service as cannon fodder in American wars.

· $26.7 billion for the Department of Justice, which includes the FBI, DEA and BATF ($10.7 billion), federal prisons ($6.9 billion), and aid to local police ($2.3 billion).

· $25 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded only through February 27, 2015 because of its role in enforcing immigration policy (the full-year amount would be more than $60 billion).

· $7 billion from the health budget for biodefense and bioterrorism research.

· An undisclosed figure, believed to be in the range of $60 billion, for intelligence operations, including the CIA and 17 other federal agencies.

At a minimum, these figures suggest that $236 billion, or nearly half, of the supposedly “nonmilitary” spending is actually directed to sustaining the military-intelligence capabilities of American imperialism.

Adding that to the explicitly military and overseas contingency funding, the real dimensions of the US military-intelligence-police-prison complex begin to come into view: a staggering $830 billion, more than 80 cents out of every dollar in the funding bill, is devoted to killing, spying on, imprisoning or otherwise oppressing the people of the world, including the American people.

Further details of the massive legislation, weighing in at more than 1,600 pages, will undoubtedly emerge over the coming days. Among the provisions worth taking note of:

· The bill provides $3.1 billion in aid to Israel, mostly financial subsidies, and $1.45 billion in aid to Egypt, most of it military, as well as $1 billion in aid to Jordan, another US client state in the region.

· The bill eliminates the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, used for six years to promote private charter schools and attacks on teachers in public schools. Republicans attacked the program as an effort to impose federal standards in education.

· The bill bans enforcement of a series of environmental and labor regulations, ensuring that air and water will be more polluted and workers will be more brutally exploited.

On December 11, 2014, the US House passed a bill repealing the Dodd-Frank requirement that risky derivatives be pushed into big-bank subsidiaries, leaving our deposits and pensions exposed to massive derivatives losses. The bill was vigorously challenged by Senator Elizabeth Warren; but the tide turned when Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorganChase, stepped into the ring. Perhaps what prompted his intervention was the unanticipated $40 drop in the price of oil. As financial blogger Michael Snyder points out, that drop could trigger a derivatives payout that could bankrupt the biggest banks. And if the G20’s new “bail-in” rules are formalized, depositors and pensioners could be on the hook.

The new bail-in rules were discussed in my last post here. They are edicts of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), an unelected body of central bankers and finance ministers headquartered in the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland (image right). Where did the FSB get these sweeping powers, and is its mandate legally enforceable?

Those questions were addressed in an article I wrote in June 2009, two months after the FSB was formed, titled “Big Brother in Basel: BIS Financial Stability Board Undermines National Sovereignty.” It linked the strange boot shape of the BIS to a line from Orwell’s 1984: “a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” The concerns raised there seem to be materializing, so I’m republishing the bulk of that article here. We need to be paying attention, lest the bail-in juggernaut steamroll over us unchallenged.

The Shadowy Financial Stability Board

Alarm bells went off in April 2009, when the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) was linked to the new Financial Stability Board (FSB) signed onto by the G20 leaders in London. The FSB was an expansion of the older Financial Stability Forum (FSF) set up in 1999 to serve in a merely advisory capacity by the G7 (a group of finance ministers formed from the seven major industrialized nations). The chair of the FSF was the General Manager of the BIS. The new FSB was expanded to include all G20members (19 nations plus the EU).

Formally called the “Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors,” the G20 was, like the G7, originally set up as a forum merely for cooperation and consultation on matters pertaining to the international financial system. What set off alarms was that the new Financial Stability Board had real teeth, imposing “obligations” and “commitments” on its members; and this feat was pulled off without legislative formalities, skirting the usual exacting requirements for treaties. It was all done in hasty response to an “emergency.” Problem-reaction-solution was the slippery slope of coups.

Buried on page 83 of an 89-page Report on Financial Regulatory Reform issued by the US Obama administration was a recommendation that the FSB strengthen and institutionalize its mandate to promote global financial stability. It sounded like a worthy goal, but there was a disturbing lack of detail. What was the FSB’s mandate, what were its expanded powers, and who was in charge? An article in The London Guardian addressed those issues in question and answer format:

Who runs the regulator? The Financial Stability Forum is chaired by Mario Draghi, governor of the Bank of Italy. The secretariat is based at the Bank for International Settlements’ headquarters in Basel, Switzerland.

Draghi was director general of the Italian treasury from 1991 to 2001, where he was responsible for widespread privatization (sell-off of government holdings to private investors). From 2002 to 2006, he was a partner at Goldman Sachs on Wall Street. He was succeeded in 2011 by Mark Carney, who also got his start at Goldman Sachs, working there for 13 years before going on to become Governor of the Bank of Canada in 2008 and Governor of the Bank of England in 2012. In 2011 and 2012, Carney attended the annual meetings of the controversial Bilderberg Group.

What will the new regulator do? The regulator will monitor potential risks to the economy . . . It will cooperate with the IMF, the Washington-based body that monitors countries’ financial health, lending funds if needed.

The IMF is an international banking organization that is also controversial. Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist for the World Bank, charged it with ensnaring Third World countries in a debt trap from which they could not escape. Debtors unable to pay were bound by “conditionalities” that included a forced sell-off of national assets to private investors in order to service their loans.

What will the regulator oversee? All ‘systemically important’ financial institutions, instruments and markets.

The term “systemically important” was not defined. Would it include such systemically important institutions as national treasuries, and such systemically important markets as gold, oil and food?

How will it work? The body will establish a supervisory college to monitor each of the largest international financial services firms. . . . It will act as a clearing house for information-sharing and contingency planning for the benefit of its members. 

“Information-sharing” can mean illegal collusion. Would the information-sharing here include such things as secret agreements among central banks to buy or sell particular currencies, with the concomitant power to support or collapse targeted local economies?

What will the new regulator do about debt and loans? To prevent another debt bubble, the new body will recommend financial companies maintain provisions against credit losses and may impose constraints on borrowing.

What sort of constraints? The Basel Accords, imposed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (also housed at the BIS) had not necessarily worked out well. The first Basel Accord, issued in 1998, had been blamed for inducing a recession in Japan from which that country had yet to recover; and the Second Basel Accord and its associated mark-to-market rule had been blamed for bringing on the 2008 crisis. (For more on this, see The Public Bank Solution.)

The Amorphous 12 International Standards and Codes

Most troubling, perhaps, was this vague parenthetical reference in a press release issued by the BIS, titled “Financial Stability Forum Re-established as the Financial Stability Board”:

As obligations of membership, member countries and territories commit to . . . implement international financial standards (including the 12 key International Standards and Codes) . . . .

This was not just friendly advice from an advisory board. It was a commitment to comply, so you would expect some detailed discussion concerning what those standards entailed. But a search of the major media revealed virtually nothing. The 12 key International Standards and Codes were left undefined and undiscussed. The FSB website listed them, but it was vague. The Standards and Codes covered broad areas that were apparently subject to modification as the overseeing committees saw fit. They included money and financial policy transparency, fiscal policy transparency, data dissemination, insolvency, corporate governance, accounting, auditing, payment and settlement, market integrity, banking supervision, securities regulation, and insurance supervision.

Take “fiscal policy transparency” as an example. The “Code of Good Practices on Fiscal Transparency” was adopted by the IMF Interim Committee in 1998. The “synoptic description” said:

The code contains transparency requirements to provide assurances to the public and to capital markets that a sufficiently complete picture of the structure and finances of government is available so as to allow the soundness of fiscal policy to be reliably assessed.

Members were required to provide a “picture of the structure and finances of government” that was complete enough for an assessment of its “soundness” — but an assessment by whom, and what if a government failed the test? Was an unelected private committee based in the BIS allowed to evaluate the “structure and function” of particular national governments and, if they were determined to have fiscal policies that were not “sound,” to impose “conditionalities” and “austerity measures” of the sort that the IMF was notorious for imposing on Third World countries? Suspicious observers wondered if that was how once-mighty nations were to be brought under the heel of Big Brother at last.

For three centuries, private international banking interests have brought governments in line by blocking them from issuing their own currencies and requiring them to borrow banker-issued “banknotes” instead. Political colonialism is now a thing of the past, but under the new FSB guidelines, nations could still be held in feudalistic subservience to foreign masters.

Consider this scenario: the new FSB rules precipitate a massive global depression due to contraction of the money supply. XYZ country wakes up to the fact that all of this is unnecessary – that it could be creating its own money, freeing itself from the debt trap, rather than borrowing from bankers who create money on computer screens and charge interest for the privilege of borrowing it. But this realization comes too late: the boot descends and XYZ is crushed into line. National sovereignty has been abdicated to a private committee, with no say by the voters.

Marilyn Barnewall, dubbed by Forbes Magazine the “dean of American private banking,” wrote in an April 2009 article titled “What Happened to American Sovereignty at G-20?”:

It seems the world’s bankers have executed a bloodless coup and now represent all of the people in the world. . . . President Obama agreed at the G20 meeting in London to create an international board with authority to intervene in U.S. corporations by dictating executive compensation and approving or disapproving business management decisions.  Under the new Financial Stability Board, the United States has only one vote. In other words, the group will be largely controlled by European central bankers. My guess is, they will represent themselves, not you and not me and certainly not America.

The Commitments Mandated by the Financial Stability Board Constitute a Commercial Treaty Requiring a Two-thirds Vote of the Senate

Are these commitments legally binding? Adoption of the FSB was never voted on by the public, either individually or through their legislators. The G20 Summit has been called “a New Bretton Woods,” referring to agreements entered into in 1944 establishing new rules for international trade. But Bretton Woods was put in place by Congressional Executive Agreement, requiring a majority vote of the legislature; and it more properly should have been done by treaty, requiring a two-thirds vote of the Senate, since it was an international agreement binding on the nation.

“Bail-in” is not the law yet, but the G20 governments will be called upon to adopt the FSB’s resolution measures when the proposal is finalized after taking comments in 2015. The authority of the G20 has been challenged, but mainly over whether important countries were left out of the mix. The omitted countries may prove to be the lucky ones, having avoided the FSB’s net.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 200+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com.

Just as happened when nazism (racist fascism — then in the form of Germany’s Nazi Party) conquered Europe in the 1940s, today’s Ukraine is seeing sabotage by courageous anti-nazi partisans against the country’s nazi Government, the regime that was installed by the United States in a coup on February 22nd. U.S. State Department’s Victoria Nuland had selected Ukraine’s new ruler or Prime Minister, “Yats” Yatsenyuk, just weeks before the coup, on February 4th.

As soon as he came to power, he appointed nazis to all top national security posts, and to many other posts, including the central bank, which promptly shipped $5 billion in gold to the U.S. Federal Reserve vault in NYC, to reimburse the $5 billion that the U.S. had spent to bring Ukraine’s nazis to power.

Dedicated partisans against the resulting genocide in the east of Ukraine are now carefully targeting for bombings the most devoted nazis. Members of Ukraine’s ultra-nazi Azov Battalion, which was formed right after the coup (and is heavily subsidized by  billionaire Ihor Kolomoysky, who has hired Joe Biden’s son and a friend of John Kerry), are especially being targeted. Many members of the Azov Battalion are openly admirers of Adolf Hitler, and some even publicly display their swastika tattoos. For example, a social spot for Azov members was recently blown up by partisans. In Ukraine, not only Christian nazis but also Jewish ones are united in their shared hatred of Russia and of ethnic Russians. Perhaps Jewish and Christian nazis are postponing their ultimate religious war against one-another in order first to bring about their shared hope for a U.S.-Russia nuclear Armageddon. But in any case, Barack Obama and his CIA and State Department are pushing for it, and the U.S. Congress are virtually united in their drive to bring it about.

Ukraine’s anti-nazi partisans are trying to defend themselves and their families from, above all, the U.S. and European aristocracies, who crave control over Russia and its resources, and who apparently don’t care how many people must die in order to bring it about. These aristocrats are willing to employ even overt nazis to do it.

On the Brink of War and Economic Collapse

December 13th, 2014 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

On occasion a reader will ask if I can give readers some good news.  The answer is: not unless I lie to you like “your” government and the mainstream media do.  If you want faked “good news,” you need to retreat into The Matrix.  In exchange for less stress and worry, you will be led unknowingly into financial ruin and nuclear armageddon.

If you want to be forewarned, and possibly prepared, for what “your” government is bringing you, and have some small chance of redirecting the course of events, read and support this site.  It is your site.  I already know these things.  I write for you.

The neoconservatives, a small group of warmongers strongly allied with the military/industrial complex and Israel, gave us Granada and the Contras affair in Nicaragua. President Reagan fired them, and they were prosecuted, but subsequently pardoned by Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush.

Ensconced in think tanks and protected by Israeli and military/security complex money, the neoconservatives reemerged in the Clinton administration and engineered the breakup of Yugoslavia, the war against Serbia, and the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders.

Neoconservatives dominated the George W. Bush regime. They controlled the Pentagon, the National Security Council, the Office of the Vice President, and much else.  Neoconservatives gave us 9/11 and its coverup, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the beginning of the destabilizations of Pakistan and Yemen, the U.S. Africa Command, the invasion of South Ossetia by Georgia, the demise of the anti-ABM Treaty, unconstitutional and illegal spying on American citizens without warrants, loss of constitutional protections, torture, and the unaccountability of the executive branch to law, Congress, and the judiciary.  In short, the neoconservatives laid the foundation for dictatorship and for WW III.

The Obama regime held no one accountable for the crimes of the Bush regime, thus creating the precedent that the executive branch is above the law. Instead, the Obama regime prosecuted whistleblowers who told the truth about government crimes.

Neoconservatives remain very influential in the Obama regime.  As examples, Obama appointed neoconservative Susan Rice as his National Security Advisor.  Obama appointed neoconservative Smantha Power as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Obama appointed neoconservative Victoria Nuland as Assistant Secretary of State. Nuland’s office, working with the CIA and Washington-financed NGOs, organized the U.S. coup in Ukraine.

Neoconservatism is the only extant political ideology.  The ideology is “America uber alles.” Neoconservatives believe that History has chosen the United States to exercise hegemony over the world, thereby making the U.S. “exceptional” and “indispensable.”  Obama himself has declared as much.  This ideology gives neoconservatives tremendous confidence and drive, just as Karl Marx’s conclusion that history had chosen the workers to be the ruling class gave early communists confidence and drive.

This confidence and drive makes the neoconservatives reckless.

To advance their agenda neoconservatives propagandize the populations of the U.S. and Washington’s vassal states.  The presstitutes deliver the neoconservatives’ lies to the unsuspecting public:  Russia has invaded and annexed Ukrainian provinces; Putin intends to reconstitute the Soviet Empire; Russia is a gangster state without democracy; Russia is a threat to the Baltics, Poland, and all of Europe, necessitating a U.S./NATO military buildup on Russia’s borders; China, a Russian ally, must be militarily contained with new U.S. naval and air bases surrounding China and controlling Chinese sea lanes.

The neoconservatives and President Obama have made it completely clear that the U.S. will not accept Russia and China as sovereign countries with economic and foreign policies independent of the interests of Washington.

Russia and China are acceptable only as vassal states, like the UK, Europe, Japan, Canada, and Australia.

Clearly, the neoconservative formula is a formula for the final war.

All of humanity is endangered by a handful of evil men and women ensconced in positions of power in Washington. 

Anti-Russia propaganda has gone into high gear. Putin is the “new Hitler.”

Daniel Zubov reports on a joint conference held by three U.S. think tanks.

The conference blamed Russia for the failures of Washington’s foreign policy. Read this article:  to see how neoconservatives operate in order to control the explanations.  Even Henry Kissinger is under attack for stating the obvious truth that Russia has a legitimate interest in Ukraine, a land long part of Russia and located in Russia’s legitimate sphere of influence.

Since the Clinton regime, Washington has been acting against Russian interests. In his forthcoming book, The Globalization of War:  America’s Long War against Humanity, Professor Michel Chossudovsky presents a realistic appraisal of how close Washington has brought the world to its demise in nuclear war.  This passage is from the Preface:

“The ‘globalization of war’ is a hegemonic project. Major military and covert intelligence operations are being undertaken simultaneously in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Far East. The US military agenda combines both major theater operations as well as covert actions geared towards destabilizing sovereign states.

“Under a global military agenda, the actions undertaken by the Western military alliance (US-NATO-Israel) in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq are coordinated at the highest levels of the military hierarchy. We are not dealing with piecemeal military and intelligence operations. The July-August 2014 attack on Gaza by Israeli forces was undertaken in close consultation with the United States and NATO. In turn, the actions in Ukraine and their timing coincided with the onslaught of the attack on Gaza.

“In turn, military undertakings are closely coordinated with a process of economic warfare which consists not only in imposing sanctions on sovereign countries but also in deliberate acts of destabilization of financial and currency markets, with a view to undermining the enemies’ national economies.

“The United States and its allies have launched a military adventure which threatens the future of humanity. As we go to press, US and NATO forces have been deployed in Eastern Europe. US military intervention under a humanitarian mandate is proceeding in sub-Saharan Africa. The US and its allies are threatening China under President Obama’s

‘Pivot to Asia’.

“In turn, military maneuvers are being conducted at Russia’s  doorstep which could lead to escalation. “The US airstrikes initiated in September 2014 directed against Iraq and Syria under the pretext of going after the Islamic State are part of a scenario of military escalation extending from North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to Central and South Asia.

The Western military alliance is in an advanced state of readiness.

“And so is Russia.”

As I have often remarked, Americans are an insouciant people.  They are simply unaware.  Suppose they were aware, suppose that the entire population understood the peril, could anything be done, or have the insouciant Americans fallen under the control of the police state that Washington has created?

I don’t think there is much hope from the American people. The American people cannot tell genuine from fake leadership, and the ruling private elites will not permit real leaders to emerge.  Moreover, there is no organized movement in opposition to the neoconservatives.

The hope comes from outside the political system.  The hope is that the House of Cards and rigged markets erected by policymakers for the benefit of the One Percent collapses.  David Stockman regards this outcome as a highly likely one. The collapse that Stockman sees as being on its way is the same collapse about which I have warned.  Moreover, the number of Black Swans which can originate collapse are even more numerous than the ones Stockman correctly identifies.  Some financial organizations are worried about a lack of liquidity in the fixed income (bonds) and derivatives markets.  Barbara Novack, co-chair of Black Rock, is lobbying hard for a derivatives bailout mechanism.

David Stockman’s article is important.  Read it until you understand it, and you will know more than most everyone. http://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/12/david-stockman/duck-and-cover%E2%80%A8/

Many will ask:  If the wealth of the One Percent is vulnerable to economic collapse, will war be initiated to protect this wealth and to blame the Russians or Chinese for the hardships that engulf the American population?  My answer is that the kind of collapse that I expect, and that David Stockman, Nomi Prins, Pam Martens, Dave Kranzler, and no doubt others expect, presents government with such social, political, and economic insecurity that organizing for a major war becomes impossible.

Whereas the political impotence of the American people and the vassalage of the Western World impose no constraints on Washington, economic collapse brings revolutions and the demise of the existing order.

As hard as collapse would make it for people to survive, the chances for survival are higher than in the event of nuclear war.

Revealed in an Associated Press (AP) investigation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had for two years attempted to create and exploit a social network within Cuba for the purpose of sparking unrest and overthrowing the Cuban government. The program was an abject failure, primarily because the Cuban government took the necessary measures to investigate, interrogate, and otherwise disrupt what was foreign-backed sedition.

AP would reveal in its report titled, “US co-opted Cuba’s hip-hop scene to spark change,” that:

The program is laid out in documents involving Creative Associates International, a Washington, D.C., contractor paid millions of dollars to undermine Cuba’s communist government. The thousands of pages include contracts, emails, preserved chats, budgets, expense reports, power points, photographs and passports.

The work included the creation of a “Cuban Twitter” social network and the dispatch of inexperienced Latin American youth to recruit activists, operations that were the focus of previous AP stories.

Far from the first time USAID and other US organizations claiming to be aiding in development but in fact engaged in political subversion, the Cuban program itself was based on another US-backed program used to topple the government of Serbia in 2000, AP would reveal.

The USAID operation involved money covertly funneled into Cuba through front companies and offshore banks. USAID, despite the evidence, has wholly denied the operation, as has other US organizations caught in blatant political subversion.

Regarding USAID’s denial, AP would report:

“Any assertions that our work is secret or covert are simply false,” USAID said in a statement Wednesday. Its programs were aimed at strengthening civil society “often in places where civic engagement is suppressed and where people are harassed, arrested, subjected to physical harm or worse.”

If by “civil society,” USAID means networks of political subversion operating in the interests of Wall Street and Washington, then that is precisely what USAID was doing in Cuba, and does elsewhere around the world. However, USAID’s insistence that none of its work was “secret or covert” is simply a lie.

AP, in another report titled, “5 things to know about USAID’s Cuban hip-hop plan,” would reveal that USAID covered up its Cuban program under the guise of “health and civic programs.”  The same report would claim that USAID funding was hidden from the Cubans themselves involved in the program, adding an extra layer of duplicity and deceit.

What USAID’s Cuban Subversion Tells Us About US Subversion Globally 

1. The United States is engaged in political subversion around the world, disguised as “democracy promotion” and even development aid for “health and civic programs.”

2.  It carries out subversion covertly through front companies, proxies, and third-party contractors, then blatantly denies all allegations no matter what evidence is produced by targeted countries, or even Western journalists investigating otherwise undeniable evidence.

3. The US uses social networks, youth groups of musicians, students, and social media groups based on Facebook and Twitter to create the illusion of growing opposition where none exists or exists but constitutes an obscure minority.

4. While the opposition movement engineered by USAID appeared oblivious to US involvement until the end, revealing documents published by AP illustrate just how utterly engineered the movement was, with psychological profiles of prominent members examined and with strategies, agendas, and objectives all determined from the top down by USAID and its contractors. Meeting minutes reveal overt attempts to manipulate individuals USAID sought to bring into their engineered opposition movement with meeting titles and talking points including, “What would motivate them to do what we ask?”

5. Despite lofty claims of “promoting democracy,” US programs are manipulative, insidious, dishonest, exploitative, and deceitful – not only to those drawn into the program, but also both the general population subjected to it in the targeted country and the global audience lied to about the true genesis of such movements when they finally do gain traction.

Revisiting Recent Political Unrest in Light of Cuba 

What other nations have suffered recent political unrest? Which of these nations featured opposition movements heavily involved with USAID and other US organizations including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)? Knowing what we now know regarding Cuba and considering attempts by USAID to first cover up their program of concerted political subversion, then denying it, what parallels can we draw elsewhere?

Hong Kong, China: The so-called “Occupy Central” movement or “Umbrella Revolution” in Hong Kong, China featured multiple groups openly funded by USAID and NED. Othergroups, including student organizations meshed into these US-backed fronts so seamlessly and possessed such organizational abilities and clout across the Western media it is difficult to believe USAID was not also covertly involved with them. Joshua Wong’s “Scholarism” for example was accused by Beijing of being a US creation. The Wall Street Journal in its article, “Pro-Beijing Media Accuses Hong Kong Student Leader of U.S. Government Ties,” would state:

Evidence for Mr. Wong’s close ties to the U.S. that the paper cited included what the report described as frequent meetings with U.S. consulate personnel in Hong Kong and covert donations from Americans to Mr. Wong. As evidence, the paper cited photographs leaked by “netizens.” The story also said Mr. Wong’s family visited Macau in 2011 at the invitation of the American Chamber of Commerce, where they stayed at the “U.S.-owned” Venetian Macao, which is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Other “Occupy Central” leaders including Martin Lee and Anson Chan literally were in Washington D.C. earlier this year lobbying for US support in front of the very organizations funding the political activity of other co-leaders including Benny Tai and even Hong Kong University which was implicated in “dirty money” used to qualify an ad hoc referendum carried out by “Occupy Central” ahead of the recent protests.

US NED would deny any involvement in the protests with empty attempts at denial echoing those of USAID in regards to Cuba.

Thailand: Supporters of ousted mass murderer and dictator, Thaksin Shinawatraand Shinawatra himself have benefited from years of US backing, including extensive lobbying efforts in Washington and USAID/NED funding for so-called “activists” who attempt to pose as impartial “academics” or “rights advocates,” but clearly and consistently back Shinawatra and his political machine.

It was revealed that Chiang Mai University “academic” Pinkaew Laungaramsri and her “Book Re:public” was funded by both USAID and convicted financial criminal George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.

Sawatree Suksri, of the so-called “Nitirat Group” or “Enlightened Jurists” of Thammasat University, is likewise deeply involved in programs run by US NED. She took part in a US State Department “exchange program,” contributed to a NED Freedom House report used annually in coordination with subversion efforts to stack global public opinion against targeted nations, and even hosted Thaksin Shinawatra’s corporate lobbyist, Robert Amsterdam, in the front row of one of Nitirat’s public forums.

Perhaps most troubling of all is her ties to Thailand’s Prachatai website - funded millions of baht a year by NED, USAID, and Open Society. Prachatai, like those involved in the Cuban scandal, after first denying being funded at all, now denies their work and their extensive US funding is used for anything but “civic” programs. While they were forced to publish their extensive US funding in 2011, they have not updated it since, nor have they ever published the funding in Thai for their Thai readers. They are ceaseless proponents of Thaksin Shinawatra and his political machine, including his so-called “red shirt” street movement and the various disingenuous, US-funded academics described above.

Syria/Iran: In one particular 2009 US policy paper titled, “Which Path to Persia?” by the Brookings Institution regarding the overthrow of Iran, it is stated specifically that:

One method that would have some possibility of success would be to ratchet up covert regime change efforts in the hope that Tehran would retaliate overtly, or even semi-overtly, which could then be portrayed as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression.

Here, US policymakers are openly conspiring to covertly provoke a nation through political subversion. The resulting “act of aggression” would be portrayed as “unprovoked,”and used to place increasing pressure on the targeted country.

The policy paper also openly talks about the particulars of fomenting political unrest. Under a section called literally, “Finding the Right Proxies” it states:

One of the hardest tasks in fomenting a revolution, or even just unrest, is finding the right local partners.

After openly admitting the goal of “fomenting a revolution” or “unrest,” it then details what support to provide these proxies:

 …students and other groups need covert backing for their demonstrations.  They need fax machines. They need internet access, funds to duplicate materials, and funds to keep vigilantes from beating them up.  Beyond this, U.S.-backed media  outlets  could  highlight  regime  shortcomings and make otherwise obscure critics more prominent. The United States already supports Persian-language satellite television (Voice of america Persian) and radio (radio Farda) that bring unfiltered news to Iranians (in recent years, these have taken the lion’s share of overt U.S. funding for promoting democracy in Iran). U.S. economic pressure (and perhaps military pressure as well) can discredit the regime, making the population hungry for a rival leadership.

The report also  mentions the use of armed groups supporting US-engineered sedition:

 Some who favor fomenting regime change in Iran argue that it is utopian to hold out hope for a velvet revolution; instead, they contend that the United States should  turn  to  Iranian  opposition  groups  that already exist, that already have demonstrated a desire to fight the regime, and who appear willing  to  accept  U.S.  assistance.  The  hope  behind this course of action is that these various opposition  groups  could  transform  themselves  into more  potent  movements  that  might  be  able  to overturn the regime.

In this 2009 document, we see verbatim the same methodologies exposed by AP in use in Cuba. We also see additional steps including the use of armed groups to carry out subversion and regime change. Such violence was employed in the above mentioned Southeast Asian nation of Thailand in 2009 and 2010, also admittedly in Iran, and most obviously in neighboring Syria where a now 4 year war has been waged by US-backed terrorists and has devastated the country.

Ukraine: These elements of political subversion were also all to be seen in Ukraine – a nation in which America and NATO’s incessant meddling is a matter of long-standing public record. The Guardian would admit in its 2004 article, “US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev,” that (emphasis added):

…while the gains of the orange-bedecked “chestnut revolution” are Ukraine’s, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.

Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.

Richard Miles, the US ambassador in Belgrade, played a key role. And by last year, as US ambassador in Tbilisi, he repeated the trick in Georgia, coaching Mikhail Saakashvili in how to bring down Eduard Shevardnadze.

Ten months after the success in Belgrade, the US ambassador in Minsk, Michael Kozak, a veteran of similar operations in central America, notably in Nicaragua, organised a near identical campaign to try to defeat the Belarus hardman, Alexander Lukashenko.

That one failed. “There will be no Kostunica in Belarus,” the Belarus president declared, referring to the victory in Belgrade.

But experience gained in Serbia, Georgia and Belarus has been invaluable in plotting to beat the regime of Leonid Kuchma in Kiev.

The operation – engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience – is now so slick that the methods have matured into a template for winning other people’s elections.

Not only has Ukraine suffered because of  this admitted US-backed political destabilization over the years, but as revealed by the Guardian and other sources, all of Eastern Europe has fallen prey to this brand of foreign-backed subversion, manipulation, and regime change.

Putting an End to US Subversion 

America’s global wrecking ball of subversion, torture dungeons, death squads, proxy wars, and outright military aggression is today’s most pressing threat to global stability, peace, and progress. Wall Street and Washington’s pursuit of global hegemony has left millions dead and entire nations in ruins.

Stopping this enterprise requires a concerted effort by nations, states and provinces, local communities, and individuals themselves to begin boycotting and permanently replacing with viable alternatives the corporate-financial monopolies driving this destructive hegemon.

To combat political subversion specifically, Cuba and China have set a series of good examples. For Cuba, ignoring the West’s “human rights” racket, constructed specifically to serve as cover for and to protect their agents of subversion from prosecution, has allowed them to search for and seize incriminating evidence used to expose USAID and their proxies thus turning Cuban public opinion against them. China likewise has done a masterful job exposing the foreign ties and illegitimacy of the “Occupy Central” movement, their true backers and their true agenda.

For most of these movements, they represent an obscure minority the US has attempted to artificially magnify both within their respective countries and upon the global stage. It is important for nations to address legitimate grievances and to reserve searches and seizures for agents of subversion only. Social upheaval and perceived injustices simply give the US and its networks of subversion a greater foothold to seize upon.

The War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2441, makes it a crime for any person, “whether inside or outside the United States” to commit a “war crime.” War Crimes are defined as any grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, and in particular, any conduct that violates common Article 3. In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court explicitly ruled that common Article 3 applies to alleged Al Qaeda members and the so-called war on terror.

The crimes of torture, cruel or inhuman treatment and murder — all acts that are documented by the Senate Torture Report — are specifically prohibited by common Article 3 and the War Crimes Act.

In 2006, the government enacted the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which severely curtailed the reach of the War Crimes Act, limiting its application well short of the protections of common Article 3. It also passed a provision that provided for retroactive immunity for certain government personnel who were following orders in implementing what they thought were lawful directives from the President (this section can be found at 42 U.S.C. §  2000dd-1). The Washington Post noted at the time that the intent of these changes was to reduce the threat of future prosecutions when the day came when such abuses would be revealed to a shocked public. These provisions remain untested.

It is my belief that any person involved in the chain of command that authorized the crimes detailed in the Senate Torture Report should be indicted for war crimes and conspiracy to commit war crimes under the War Crimes Act. This includes George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, CIA officials who condoned or engaged in such practices, and attorneys who authorized such practices, including Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee and John Yoo.

The Convention Against Torture

The United States is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture, and its implementing legislation is at 18 U.S.C. § 2340A. This statute was the famous subject of the “Torture Memos,” a series of legal opinions written by John Yoo and Jay Bybee regarding the limitations of this law.

Bybee famously concluded that “torture” under the law only referred to “the most egregious conduct,” “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” “Purely mental pain or suffering” had to result in “significant psychological harm of significant duration, lasting for months or even years.” Bybee even thought that the Convention Against Torture might be unconstitutional because it would infringe the “President’s authority to conduct war.” Today, Jay Bybee has a lifetime tenure-ship as a judge on the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit. John Yoo is a law professor at UC Berkeley School of Law.

As with the War Crimes Act, the Convention against Torture provides a second basis for criminal prosecutions against people who authorized, engaged in, or ratified torture. President Obama repudiated the Torture Memos in 2009, but he also refused to issue indictments or discuss whether such conduct was actually criminal. He — or someone more brave — would do well to consider that decrying illegal conduct but then refusing to prosecute such conduct is a silent pardon at best, and complicity at worst.

National Public Radio, following the lead of the Washington Post (FAIR Blog12/9/14) (and in contrast to the New York TimesFAIR Blog,8/8/14), tries to avoid applying the word “torture” in its own voice to the tortures described in the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report. Here’s host Robert Siegel (All Things Considered12/9/14):

In the years after 9/11, the CIA conducted harsh interrogations, more brutal and widespread than many realized. And worse, those interrogations did not produce any intelligence that we could use in any significant way to fight terrorism. Those are the conclusions of a report partially released today by the Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Reactions to what’s known as the torture report show a country divided.

NPR correspondent Tamara Keith went on to refer to Sen. Dianne Feinstein discussing “a CIA program that used techniques she says amounted to torture.” In her own words, Keith reports that “the CIA program of secret overseas detentions and so-called enhanced interrogation methods began shortly after the September 11 attacks.”

Soon enough, “so-called” becomes just what they’re called. Says Keith: “The key finding: These enhanced interrogation methods didn’t make America safer.” When a critic of the report, CIA director John Brennan, is introduced, NPR describes the torture whose benefits he touts as “these interrogations.”

This is a longstanding practice of NPR‘s. The network’s then-ombud Alicia Shepard (right) made it clear back in 2009 (6/21/09): “NPR decided to not use the term ‘torture’ to describe techniques such as waterboarding but instead uses ‘harsh interrogation tactics,’” she reported:

The problem is that the word torture is loaded with political and social implications for several reasons, including the fact that torture is illegal under US law and international treaties the United States has signed.

Yes–that’s why whether or not what the US did to prisoners was torture or not is a vitally important question for journalists to answer. But NPR thinks it can find a way not to answer it. Said Shepard:

I recognize that it’s frustrating for some listeners to have NPR not use the word torture to describe certain practices that seem barbaric. But the role of a news organization is not to choose sides in this or any debate. People have different definitions of torture and different feelings about what constitutes torture.

Now, if there’s a debate between people who think that waterboarding, forcing people to stand on broken legs, sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, being shackled to a wall for 17 days, hypothermia to the point of death, “rectal rehydration and feeding,” etc. are what are generally and traditionally referred to as torture, and people who don’t think those things should be called torture, and you choose not to call them torture–you haven’t avoided taking a side. It’s pretty obvious which side you’ve taken, isn’t it?

Shepard recognized that some people will be unhappy regardless of how NPR talks about torture:

It’s a no-win case for journalists. If journalists use the words “harsh interrogation techniques,” they can be seen as siding with the White House and the language that some US officials, particularly in the Bush administration, prefer. If journalists use the word “torture,” then they can be accused of siding with those who are particularly and visibly still angry at the previous administration.

If that’s the way they look at it, it’s interesting that they chose to side with the Bush administration rather than those “particularly and visibly still angry” at the Bush administration, i.e. dirty hippies.

NPR News‘ managing editor David Sweeney saw things similarly; Shepard quoted him:

“We understand that no matter what language we use, we risk taking one side or another in this debate,” said Sweeney. “To label techniques as ‘enhanced’ risks minimizing what was done. To call them torture suggests we’ve taken sides in the debate.”

It’s something of a word puzzle to figure out what Sweeney means, exactly: No matter what we say, we  risk taking sides, but we’re going to accept the risk of minimizing what was done, because otherwise it would suggest we’ve taken sides?

This notion that the goal of journalism is to avoid “taking sides” is troubling; that’s how you get reporting that pretends it’s an open question whether or not humans are raising the temperature of the planet by putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. What torture is is not a physical fact like the greenhouse effect, but that doesn’t mean it’s unknowable; you can talk to historians of torture, specialists in international law, experts on human rights and medicine, and find out whether, say, inserting a plate of pureed food into a prisoner’s rectum would typically qualify.

Or you can use common sense, which is what NPR does when introducing a supporter of the Senate report: Sen. John McCain is described as “a Republican from Arizona who was tortured during the Vietnam War.”

Does the government of Vietnam agree that McCain was tortured? Are there factions in that government that insist he was subjected to legitimate “stress positions,” and furthermore his interrogation produced valuable intelligence about the bombing campaign against their country (which, lest we forget, was hundreds of times more deadly than 9/11)? By using the word “tortured” in regards to McCain, isn’t NPR taking sides with the US prisoners and against Vietnam?

Or is it simply using the accurate word to describe what is patently torture–the practice it should follow whether it is reporting on the government that helps fund it or not?

In the report, NPR quotes Feinstein, “History will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth.” If that’s true, history will judge NPR very harshly indeed.

* * *

P.S. Here are excerpts from a piece that NPR‘s Morning Edition (12/11/14) ran about social science research into perceptions of torture, which was mainly a discussion between NPR host Steve Inskeep and correspondent Shankar Vedantam:

INSKEEP: Americans have talked about torture in different ways, including debating whether to call it torture at all…. Some research suggests this debate is difficult because it affects our sense of our own national identity….

VEDANTAM: …The first response people have when they’re told about their own groups carrying out torture is the first response we often have to traumatic situations or situations involving grief, which is we deny the bad thing is actually happened. In the case of torture, this often involves changing the criteria for what’s considered torture….

INSKEEP: …The Bush administration years ago argued for calling it enhanced interrogation. Maybe it wasn’t quite torture. It was something a little off to the side of torture.

VEDANTAM: That’s exactly right. We’ve had these semantic wrestling matches for several years now–is this technique torture, or is it a stress position?…

The interesting thing here, Steve, is that we do this selectively, we employ these strategies only when it’s our group that’s responsible.

Clearly, they’re talking about NPR. What’s not clear to me is whether they quite realized it.

On December 10th, Wall Street’s federal appeals court, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that if inside information about what is going to happen to a corporation is taken advantage of by an investor, it’s okay, so long as the source of the inside-tip isn’t directly paid for passing it along.

In other words, if you have friends who have inside information that they received from their friends, they are free to pass it along to you, and you are free to pass inside information that you possess along to them to pass along to others, but neither of you is permitted to pay the other for any inside tip — the information can legally be acted on only if the tipper is not paid for the tip.

The three-judge panel consisted entirely of Republican-appointed judges. Their ruling, in the case, U.S. v. Newman, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-1837, provides insiders a way to sure-thing ‘investing’ in which groups of friends who trust each other and include high corporate executives and/or investment professionals such as stockbrokers, can legally be virtually certain that their ‘investing’ will be profitable for them and unprofitable for the individuals they’re trading against (either selling to or buying from). If you receive advance-word of negative information and sell to someone who doesn’t, or advance-word of favorable information and buy from someone who doesn’t, then that’s okay, according to the three Republican judges, but only if the original passer of the tip isn’t being paid for passing it.

In other words, trading favors is okay, even if it provides unfair advantage against outside investors.

This ruling establishes two classes of investors: one is insiders who trade favors but don’t pay each other for providing inside tips, they instead do it like members of a club; the other is suckers who rely on the fairness of America’s investment markets and on the Government’s enforcement against corruption of the investment markets.

Here is the Court’s ruling.

Here is a detailed analysis of the ruling, by the great white-collar criminologist, Bill Black, who as a prosecutor of corruption sent many corrupt executives to prison, when America’s Government wasn’t nearly as corrupt as it has since become.

The United States sanctioned acts of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency and others. The acts took place in secret prisons (“black sites”) against persons detained indefinitely without trial. They were described in detail and explicitly authorized in a series of secret torture memos drafted by John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury, senior lawyers in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. (Office of Legal Counsel attorneys technically answer directly to the DOJ, which is supposed to be independent from the White House, but obviously was not in this case.) Not one of those men, or their Justice Department bosses, has been held accountable for their actions.

Some tortured prisoners were killed by the CIA. Attorney General Eric Holder announced recently that no one would be held accountable for those murders either. “Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths,” he said, “the Department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Jose Rodriguez, a senior CIA official, admitted destroying videotapes of potentially admissible evidence, showing the torture of captives by operatives of the US government at a secret prison thought to be located at a Vietnam-War-era airbase in Thailand. He was not held accountable for deep-sixing this evidence, nor for his role in the torture of human beings.

John Kiriakou Alone

The one man in the whole archipelago of America’s secret horrors who went to jail is former CIA officer John Kiriakou. Of the untold numbers of men and women involved in the whole nightmare show of those years, only one.

And of course, he didn’t torture anyone.

The charges against Kiriakou alleged that in answering questions from reporters about suspicions that the CIA tortured detainees in its custody, he violated the Espionage Act, once an obscure World War I-era law that aimed at punishing Americans who gave aid to the enemy. It was passed in 1917 and has been the subject of much judicial and Congressional doubt ever since. Kiriakou is one of six government whistleblowers who have been chargedunder the Act by the Obama administration. From 1917 until Obama came into office, only three people had ever been charged in this way.

The Obama Justice Department claimed the former CIA officer “disclosed classified information to journalists, including the name of a covert CIA officer and information revealing the role of another CIA employee in classified activities.”

The charges resulted from a CIA investigation. That investigation was triggered by a filing in January 2009 on behalf of detainees at Guantanamo that contained classified information the defense had not been given through government channels, and by the discovery in the spring of 2009 of photographs of alleged CIA employees among the legal materials of some detainees at Guantanamo. According to one description, Kiriakou gave several interviews about the CIA in 2008. Court documents charge that he provided names of covert Agency officials to a journalist, who allegedly in turn passed them on to a Guantanamo legal team. The team sought to have detainees identify specific CIA officials who participated in their renditions and torture. Kiriakou was accused of providing the identities of CIA officers that may have allowed names to be linked to photographs.

The real “offense” in the eyes of the Obama administration was quite different. In 2007, Kiriakou became a whistleblower. He went on record as the first (albeit by then, former) CIA official to confirm the use of waterboarding of al-Qaeda prisoners as an interrogation technique, and then to condemn it as torture. He specifically mentioned the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah in that secret prison in Thailand. Kiriakou also ran afoul of the CIA over efforts to clear for publication a book he had written about the Agency’s counterterrorism work.

If Kiriakou had actually tortured someone himself, even to death, there is no possibility that he would be in trouble. In the national security state that rules the roost in Washington, talking out of turn about a crime has become the only possible crime.

Facing decades away from his family and young children, Kiriakou agreed to a plea bargain and is still in prison serving a 30-month sentence.

Never Again

For years it was the policy of the United States of America to torture and abuse its enemies or, in some cases, simply suspected enemies. It has remained a  US policy, even under the Obama administration, to employ“extraordinary rendition” — that is, the sending of captured terror suspects to the jails of countries that are known for torture and abuse, an outsourcing of what we no longer want to do.

Techniques that the  US hanged men for at Nuremburg and in post-war Japanwere employed and declared lawful. To embark on such a program with the oversight of the Bush administration, learned men and women had to have long discussions, with staffers running in and out of rooms with snippets of research to buttress the justifications being so laboriously developed. The CIA undoubtedly used some cumbersome bureaucratic process to hire contractors for its torture staff. The old manuals needed to be updated,psychiatrists consulted, military survival experts interviewed, training classes set up.

Videotapes were made of the torture sessions and no doubt DVDs full of real horror were reviewed back at headquarters.

Torture techniques were even reportedly demonstrated to top officials inside the White House. Individual torturers who were considered particularly effective were no doubt identified, probably rewarded, and sent on to new secret sites to harm more people.

America just didn’t wake up one day and start slapping around some Islamic punk. These were not the torture equivalents of rogue cops. A system, a mechanism, was created. That we now can only speculate about many of the details involved and the extent of all this is a tribute to the thousands who continue to remain silent about what they did, saw, heard about, or were associated with. Many of them work now at the same organizations, remaining a part of the same contracting firms, the CIA, and the military. Our torturers.

What is it that allows all those people to remain silent? How many are simply scared, watched what happening to John Kiriakou and thought: not me, I’m not sticking my neck out to see it get chopped off. They’re almost pathetically forgivable, even if they are placing their own self-interest above that of their country.

But what about the others, the ones who remain silent about what they did or saw or aided and abetted in some fashion because they still think it was the right thing to do? The ones who will do it again when another frightened president asks them to? Or even the ones who enjoyed doing it?

The same Department of Justice that hunted down the one man who spoke against torture from the inside still maintains a special unit, 60 years after the end of WWII, dedicated to hunting down the last few at-large Nazis. They do that under the rubric of “never again.” The truth is that same team needs to be turned loose on our national security state. Otherwise, until we have a full accounting of what was done in our names by our government, the pieces are all in place for it to happen again. There, if you want to know, is the real horror.

Reprinted with author’s permission from his website.

 “Followers of climate science will recall COP15 as the climate-change meetings thrown under the bus by the Obama administration. A summary of that long-forgotten briefing begins with this statement:

‘THE LONG-TERM SEA LEVEL THAT CORRESPONDS TO CURRENT CO2 CONCENTRATION IS ABOUT 23 METERS ABOVE TODAY’S LEVELS, AND THE TEMPERATURES WILL BE 6 DEGREES C OR MORE HIGHER. THESE ESTIMATES ARE BASED ON REAL LONG TERM CLIMATE RECORDS, NOT ON MODELS.’

“In other words, Obama and others in his administration knew near-term extinction of humans was already guaranteed.” -Guy McPherson, from the 2013 book Going Dark

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 On the occasion of the UN Climate Conference in Lima, Peru, this week’s Global Research News Hour examines the latest research into the causes of Earth’s current Climate predicament.

 Guy McPherson is emeritus Professor of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, He is the author of about a dozen books including Going Dark and his most recent, Extinction Dialogs: How to Live with Death in Mind.’ co-authored by Carolyn Baker. Guy is the author of the Nature Bats Last blog at www.guymcpherson.com

Professor McPherson believes that there is virtually nothing humans can do to reverse the damage done by modern industrial civilization and that humans will likely become extinct as a result of runaway Climate change by the middle of the twenty-first century.

Professor McPherson explains his thesis of Near Term Human Extinction, the need to come to terms with the grief that goes along with that realization, the problems with geo-engineering as a remedy, and the problematic behaviour of both political leaders and mainstream environmental organizations in the face of the Climate Predicament.

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The Global Research News Hour airs every Friday at 1pm CT on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg. The programme is also podcast at globalresearch.ca .

The show can be heard on the Progressive Radio Network at prn.fm. Listen in every Monday at 3pm ET.

Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:

CHLY 101.7fm in Nanaimo, B.C – Thursdays at 1pm PT

Boston College Radio WZBC 90.3FM NEWTONS  during the Truth and Justice Radio Programming slot -Sundays at 7am ET.

Port Perry Radio in Port Perry, Ontario –1  Thursdays at 1pm ET

Burnaby Radio Station CJSF out of Simon Fraser University. 90.1FM to most of Greater Vancouver, from Langley to Point Grey and from the North Shore to the US Border.

It is also available on 93.9 FM cable in the communities of SFU, Burnaby, New Westminister, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Surrey and Delta, in British Columbia Canada. – Tune in every Saturday at 6am.

CFRU 93.3FM in Guelph, Ontario. Tune in Wednesdays from 12am to 1am.

Major energy companies have effectively created a secret law firm of conservative attorneys general to persuade Washington lawmakers to gut environmental regulations, according to an investigation by the New York Times. In return, these senior government officials have received millions of dollars to help them win political campaigns.

Attorneys general are the top law enforcement officers for each of the 50 U.S. states, wielding considerable power to sue individuals and companies in the public interest. The Times has documented how at least 12 of these attorney generals – all from the Republican party – have switched sides to become cheerleaders for private industry. (43 of the 50 have to run for election while most of the others are appointed)

“Out of public view, corporate representatives and attorneys general are coordinating legal strategy and other efforts to fight federal regulations, according to a review of thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews,” writes Eric Lipton in the New York Times.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma is singled out for his willingness to attack, lobby and even sue the federal governments on behalf of companies, a reversal of the traditional role of his office. Continental Resources, Devon Energy, and Oklahoma Gas & Electric are some of the companies from his state that Pruitt has worked with closely.

For example the Times uncovered a 2011 letter drafted by Devon Energy officials for Pruitt to send to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “We have no pride of authorship, so whatever you do on this is fine,” the company wrote in an accompanying note.

Pruitt cut and pasted the 1,016 word letter and edited just 37 words before signing it and sending it to Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA. “It has come to my attention that the agency you oversee … may be very significantly overestimating methane emissions from natural gas production,” Pruitt’s letter stated, in words that corresponded exactly to the Devon draft. “If true, this could have serious implications for the natural gas exploration and production industry nationwide.”

Devon Energy has a vested interest in preventing new regulations on natural gas emissions. The company has drilled over 5,000 wells in an area called the Barnett Shale in north Texas in the last decade to extract natural gas using hydraulic fracturing. (This is a technique – often called fracking – by which chemicals and water are injected into rock formations deep underground with serious environmental consequences.)

Devon has also designed a technology to inject steam from saline water into sand formations 1,000 feet under the surface of the earth in Alberta, Canada, at its Jackfish project to extract bitumen, a heavy oil. The company is also backing the Keystone XL pipeline which will carry 830,000 barrels of crude extracted from tar sands in Alberta down south to the Gulf Coast where it will be refined into oil.

In 2012, Devon officials asked Pruitt to sign a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to opposed regulations on fracking, on federal land. Once again, Pruitt obliged, changing almost nothing from the draft that Devon drew up for him.

Pruitt has also joined Oklahoma Gas & Electric to sue the EPA to stop new rules that would require coal burning plants to install special equipment to reduce pollution. The lawsuit was thrown out of court in May.

The idea to get other attorneys general to team up with Pruitt appears to have coalesced at a conference at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma city in January 2013 titled the Summit on Federalism and the Future of Fossil Fuels. It was organized by George Mason University in Virginia and had the backing of Andrew Miller, former Virginia attorney general, who dreamed up the idea of a conservative alliance to fight the Washington lawmakers. At least nine Republican attorneys general attended the conference where they hobnobbed with energy industry lobbyists.

“This strike force ought to take the form of a national state litigation team to challenge the E.P.A.’s overreach,” Miller wrote to Pruitt in an email uncovered by the Times. “Like the Dalmatian at the proverbial firehouse, it could move out smartly when the alarm sounded.”

“When the federal government oversteps its legal authority and takes actions that hurt our businesses and residents, it’s entirely appropriate for us to partner with the adversely affected private entities in fighting back,” Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general, told the newspaper.

In return for lobbying on behalf of their behalf, companies have contributed generously to a new entity – the Rule of Law Defense Fund at the Republican Governors Association – which was set up earlier this year as a “public policy organization for issues relevant to the nation’s Republican attorneys general and promotes the rule of law, federalism, and freedom in a civil society.”

In reality, a major objective of the fund is to pay for election campaigns for their favored candidates. This year, the Republican attorneys general collected $16 million, four times as much as the Democrats – and for the first time ever, Republicans now control 27 out of 50 of the attorneys general offices in the country. (As recently as 1990, 38 of the 50 were Democrats)

Former attorney generals have expressed dismay at this new trend.

“(T)he office of attorney general … is truly the lawyer for the people,” Terry Goddard, former attorney general for Oregon, told the New York Times. “That independence is clearly at risk here. What is happening diminishes the reputation of individual attorneys general and the community as a group.”

“When you use a public office, pretty shamelessly, to vouch for a private party with substantial financial interest without the disclosure of the true authorship, that is a dangerous practice,” David B. Frohnmayer, former attorney general for Oregon, told the newspaper. “The puppeteer behind the stage is pulling strings, and you can’t see. I don’t like that. And when it is exposed, it makes you feel used.”

Industry is, not surprisingly, delighted.

“Time and time again, General Pruitt has stood up and bravely fought for the rights of Oklahomans in those instances when the federal government has overextended its hand,” Harold Hamm, the billionaire chief executive of Continental Resources, who chaired Pruitt’s last election campaign. (Hamm’s reference is inaccurate since attorney generals are not military generals, they cannot be called general)

The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has released its report on the CIA’s “Detention and Interrogation Program” . The complete document consists of a 6000 page report, which remains classified.

The committee has released a 525-page unclassified summary version for public distribution as well as the executive summary of the full 6000 page report. 

We bring to the  attention of our readers the 525 page version (pdf download)  as well as the executive summary of the Select Committee on Intelligence 6000 page report. 

Below are screen shots of the title page, the Table of Contents and a sample of a “heavily redacted” page.

Scroll down for an interview with Dick Cheney, who says the “Report is Full of Crap.” But he also says almost verbatim: “We Did it”.  

He accepts responsibility for the torture program on behalf of George W. Bush.

His statements can be used against him in a court of law.  He invokes 9/11.

we asked the agency to go take steps and put in place programs that are designed to catch the bastards that killed 3,000 of us on 9/11 and to make sure it didn’t happen again.”  

We also have to work sort of the dark side if you will, we have got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. It’s going to be vital for us to use any means that are disposable — at our disposal basically to achieve our objective.

….

BAIER: The end?

You have a lot of critics, some of them say that you should be behind bars.

Colonel Wilkerson who worked for Secretary Powell, said we all have to wear the taint Richard Bruce Cheney brought down on us with his full- throated endorsement of inhuman and evil methods of causing pain, humiliation and harm to other human beings. It’s wrong that there’s no consequences for those who perpetrated it and it’s wrong that Cheney isn’t languishing in a privatized prison somewhere.

CHENEY But remember, the terrorists were not covered by the Geneva Convention. They were unlawful combatants. And under those circumstances, they were not entitled to the normal kinds of courtesies and treatment you would accord to those. Nonetheless, the people we captured, especially the folks that went down to Guantanamo have been treated very well.

9/11 is Cheney’s blanket  justification for extensive crimes against humanity.  

Amply documented, a large number of the detainees were innocent civilians.  

In this interview Cheney provides statements which confirm the criminal nature of the Bush-Cheney administration.  

“The report is full of crap.”

“I have no sympathy for them [the detainees].”

“How nice do you want to be to the murderers of 3,000 Americans on 9/11?”

“I’d do it again in a minute.”

The CIA did “a hell of a job and they deserve our gratitude.”

The end “absolutely” justified the means.

We also have to work sort of the dark side if you will, we have got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. It’s going to be vital for us to use any means that are disposable — at our disposal basically to achieve our objective.

Mr. Cheney, Please tell us Who was behind 9/11?  

Miranda Warning. Does it apply to Dick Cheney’s Statements on Network TV?

 “Anything you say [e.g. on Fox News] can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

Michel Chossudovsky, December 12, 2014

*     *     *

Below are selected highlights  

To consult the full 525 page report 

http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/study2014/sscistudy1.pdf

SCROLL DOWN FOR FULL CHENEY INTERVIEW

FOX SPECIAL REPORT WITH BRET BAIER 6:00 PM EST, December 10, 2014 Wednesday

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANCHOR: This is a Fox News Alert. I’m Bret Baier in Washington.

Joining us now, live to discuss this report is former Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Vice President, thanks for being here.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening — Bret.

BAIER: First of all, your overall impression to this report, what’s in it and its release?

CHENEY: Well, I think it’s a terrible piece of work, basically, it seems to me it’s deeply flawed. They didn’t bother to interview key people involved in the program. And I think that it’s sort of a classic example which you see too often in Washington where a group of politicians get together and sort of throw the professionals under the bus. We have seen it happen before, I can remember, in Iran contra.

What happened here was that we asked the agency to go take steps and put in place programs that are designed to catch the bastards that killed 3,000 of us on 9/11 and to make sure it didn’t happen again. And that’s exactly what they did and they deserve a lot of credit, not the kind of condemnation that they’re receiving from the Senate Democrats.

BAIER: The Feinstein Report suggests that President Bush was not fully briefed on the program and was deliberately kept in the dark by the CIA.

CHENEY: Not true – didn’t happen. Read his book, he talks about it extensively in his memoirs. He was in fact an integral part of the program. He had to approve it before we went forward with it.

 Full video interview on Fox News 

BAIER: Was there ever a point when you believe you knew more about the program and how the U.S. government was interrogating than the President did?

CHENEY: I’m not quite sure how to answer that. I mean there were lots of things I read while he was doing other things. He had a much broader portfolio than I did and I spent a lot of my time just on national security. But I think he knew everything he needed to know and wanted to know about the program. There’s no question –

BAIER: What he needed to know — I mean did he know the details? 

CHENEY: I think he knew certainly the techniques that we did discuss the techniques. There’s nothing — there was no effort on our part to keep him from that. He was just as with the terrorist surveillance program. On the terrorist surveillance program, he had to personally sign off on that every 30 to 45 days. So the notion that the committee’s trying to peddle it, somehow the agency was operating on a rogue basis, and we weren’t being told or the President wasn’t being told is just a flat-out lie.

BAIER: I mean the reports suggest it was four years before he –

CHENEY: It’s not true.

BAIER: 2006.

CHENEY: Read his book. He talks about first with respect to the detention program and then with respect to the enhanced interrogation program. It started in the summer of ’02 and he was fully informed.

BAIER: “New York Times writes it this way about the report. “When told about one detainee being chained to the ceiling of his cell, clothed in a diaper and forced to urinate and defecate on himself, even a president known for his dead or alive swagger expressed discomfort — true?

CHENEY: I don’t have any idea. I have never heard of such a thing.

Bret – I guess partly what really bugs me as I watch all this process unfold is the men and women of the CIA did exactly what we wanted to have them do in terms of taking on this program. We said we have got to go use enhanced techniques if we’re going to find out. We’ve got Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who was the mastermind of 9/11, who has killed 3,000 Americans, taken down the World Trade Center, hit the Pentagon, would have taken out the White House or the Capitol Building if in fact it hadn’t been on for the passengers on United 93.

He is in our possession. We know he’s the architect. What are we supposed to do kiss him on both cheeks and please, please tell us what you know? Of course not. We did exactly what needed to be done in order to catch those who were guilty on 9/11 and to prevent a further attack and we were successful on both parts and I think if I –

BAIER: This report says it was not successful.

CHENEY: The report’s full of crap — excuse. I said hooey yesterday and let me use the real word.

BAIER: You’re on cable.

CHENEY: It’s ok, you can bleep it.

BAIER: You’re saying that this led to actionable intelligence?

CHENEY: Absolutely. Look at the statement by the former directors and deputy directors of the CIA issued just within the last 24 hours. It did in fact produce actionable intelligence that was vital in the success of keeping the country safe from further attacks.

BAIER: Mr. Vice President, some of the tactics though described in this report are horrifying. I mean is there anything that U.S. officials/interrogators are alleged to have done that you would consider torture?

CHENEY: I don’t know all the allegations that are out there, torture was something we very carefully avoided. One of the reasons we went to the Justice Department on the program was because we wanted them to tell us, where’s the line legally between what’s acceptable and what isn’t? And they did, that’s what came forth in the legal opinion that we got before proceeding with the program, Bret.

This is in terms of there being some problems in the program — there may well have been. But I don’t think they represented — the Senate report represents the truth of what actually happened. They put together a report without ever talking to anybody who was involved in the program.

BAIER: But at one point this report describes interrogators pureeing food of one detainee and inserting it into his anus — something agency called “rectal rehydration”. I mean is that torture?

CHENEY: I don’t know anything about that specific instance. I can’t speak to that. I guess the question is what are you prepared to do in order to get the truth about future attacks against the United States? Now, that was not one of the authorized or approved techniques, there were 12 of them, as I recall. They were all techniques that we used in training on our own people — even waterboarding.

People have been very concerned about waterboarding, calling it torture. First of all it was not deemed torture by the lawyers, and secondly it worked. And in fact that prevented — provided us the information we needed to prevent future attacks.

BAIER: How intimately involved were you involved in the legal process of setting up that justification? In other words, the frame for torture was narrowed in these legal decisions, a memo in August 2002 that essentially reframed Geneva rules on torture, and said the President had a lot more authority? You were intimately involved.

CHENEY: Strongly supportive of the program, strongly supportive of the opinions coming out of the Justice Department. The work that was done was, I think absolutely essential, absolutely crucial. And I guess the thing that always struck me was how careful the agency was in coming forward and saying yes, we can do the following but we need authorization. We need a legal opinion out of the Justice Departmentabout what’s copacetic, what’s legitimate. And we need the approval of the President of the United States and the National Security Council. And they got both and they did a hell of a job.

BAIER: But you rewrote the justification –

CHENEY: I didn’t rewrite the justification, the lawyers wrote it in the office of legal counsel and the Justice Department.

BAIER: You had an intimate role in –

CHENEY: I am strongly supportive of the program. I didn’t read the opinion and say you’ve got to change this and change that, but my job as vice president who was actively involved in the national security area was to push to get programs like this in place which in fact the CIA said they could produce better results if they had more authority. We got them that authority.

BAIER: You had one detainee, Gul Rahman, who died in captivity in November 2002.

CHENEY: 3,000 Americans died on 9/11 because of what these guys did. And I have no sympathy for them. I don’t know the specific details, I’m sure there were instances cited in the report, I haven’t read the report. But I know for a fact –

BAIER: Now wait — you haven’t read it?

CHENEY: 6,000 pages — no, not yet.

BAIER: No, but how about 500 –

CHENEY: I’ve seen part of it — I read summaries of it.

I keep coming back again to the basic fundamental proposition — Bret. How nice do you want to be to the murderers of 3,000 Americans on 9/11?

BAIER: So what do you say to the people who say Americas is better than these methods? That John McCain takes to the Senate floor yesterday and gives a pretty impassioned speech.

CHENEY: I saw it –

BAIER: Take a listen to a piece of it and then I’ll have your react to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods, which this report makes clear, were neither in the best interests of justice, nor our security, nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend. We are always Americans — and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Your reaction to that, sir.

CHENEY: My reaction to that John is that John and I had a fundamental disagreement about the program. I think that what needed to be done was done. I think we were perfectly justified in doing it and I’d do it again in a minute.

BAIER: Mr. Vice President, if you’ll stick around past the break –

CHENEY: I will.

BAIER: — a few more questions.

If you have a question for Vice President Cheney let me know at facebook.com/BretBaierSR or on Twitter @BretBaier, you can use the hashtag “SpecialReport”. We’ll use some of them in this next segment — so type fast.

More with Vice President Cheney after a quick break.

BAIER: We are back with former Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Vice President, defenders of the program and of you say people forget the prism in which you were dealing with post 9/11. Days after that attack you told the late Tim Russert this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: We also have to work sort of the dark side if you will, we have got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. It’s going to be vital for us to use any means that are disposable — at our disposal basically to achieve our objective.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: So Mr. Vice president we have been attacked, I mean there’s Boston and Fort Hood and other attempts but not a spectacular attack –

CHENEY: Not a mass casualty like 9/11.

BAIER: — since 9/11.

CHENEY: Right.

BAIER: So did the ends justify the means?

CHENEY: Absolutely.

BAIER: No doubt in your mind?

CHENEY: I have no doubt in my mind. I’m totally comfortable with it.

Bret, I think you’ve got to remember partly what was going on as well too during that period of time. We had reporting that al Qaeda was trying to get their hands on nuclear weapons; that they had been dealing with Pakistanis who after all have nuclear weapons. We had the anthrax attacks that went on here at home. There was every reason to expect there was going to be a follow-on attack.

And from our perspective, if you were sitting in my chair, the President’s chair, our job was to keep the country safe and secure and go get those guys who hit us on 9/11. That’s exactly what we did. We did what we felt was necessary. The professionals in the intelligence community especially at the CIA did one hell of a job and they deserve our gratitude.

BAIER: You’ve been supportive of the Obama administration’s use of drone — one of the few things you’re supportive of the Obama administration on –

CHENEY: That’s a fair statement.

BAIER: — to take out terrorists. Do you find it disingenuous — their indignation about these techniques while they’re not interrogating many terrorists at all, they’re killing them in these strikes?

CHENEY: Well, if — we started the drone program and I think under certain circumstances, depending on the target and so forth, it’s the right thing to do. The thing that’s worrisome is they are not capturing anybody. They don’t have an interrogation program.

If they got to Zawahiri tomorrow, the current head of al Qaeda, what would they do with him? I’m perfectly happy to see him dead but he’s a very valuable source of information and intelligence. I think we need first class intelligence programs. I think that’s what we have with respect to enhanced interrogation program with the approval of the President and the National Security Council and the lawyers in the Justice Department. It’s the right thing to do.

BAIER: Sheryl Shelly writes on Facebook, “Had the tactics not been used, what would have happened? What events were prevented?”

CHENEY: Well, I think if you look at the example cited by the former directors, there was a perspective attack on the West Coast on the tallest building on the West Coast, with a hijacked aircraft that was thwarted by this. There are a number of examples that have been laid out over the years.

BAIER: I mean the President talked about it in 2006. Were there others beyond that?

CHENEY: Yes. Look specifically at the statement that was released today by the former directors — Mike Hayden, George Tenet, Porter Goss — where they lay out specifically those things that in their minds, and I think they’re the experts were prevented by virtue of these techniques.

BAIER: Senator Udall took to the floor today saying a Panetta review says that is in your words hooey. He says that there’s just not direct linkage.

CHENEY: Well, I don’t know where he was on 9/11, but he wasn’t in the bunker.

BAIER: The end?

You have a lot of critics, some of them say that you should be behind bars.

Colonel Wilkerson who worked for Secretary Powell, said we all have to wear the taint Richard Bruce Cheney brought down on us with his full- throated endorsement of inhuman and evil methods of causing pain, humiliation and harm to other human beings. It’s wrong that there’s no consequences for those who perpetrated it and it’s wrong that Cheney isn’t languishing in a privatized prison somewhere.

CHENEY: I guess you would have to call him not a fan.

BAIER: Not a fan.

CHENEY: Not a fan.

BAIER: Is there anything to the Geneva Convention, to the world rule of law on this?

CHENEY: Sure there is. But remember, the terrorists were not covered by the Geneva Convention. They were unlawful combatants. And under those circumstances, they were not entitled to the normal kinds of courtesies and treatment you would accord to those. Nonetheless, the people we captured, especially the folks that went down to Guantanamo have been treated very well.

The high-value detainees of al Qaeda after we finished with the interrogation program — all were transferred to al Qaeda, where many of them are today being treated very reasonably. We did what we needed to do to keep this country safe. That was our job and we did it. And I think the agency deserves a lot of credit for it.

BAIER: Last thing — do you think Jeb Bush is going to run?

CHENEY: I don’t know.

BAIER: Do you have a favorite?

CHENEY: I have not signed on to anybody at this point. I don’t want to start naming people or I’ll leave somebody out. But I think it’s going to be a great campaign year and I think we’re going to win.

BAIER: Mr. Vice President, thanks for the time.

CHENEY: It’s good to be here — Bret.

Highlights of the Report

The 6,000-page report produced 20 key findings. They are, verbatim from the unclassified summary report compiled by Wikipedia

  1. The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.
  2. The CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.
  3. The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.
  4. The conditions of confinement for CIA detainees were harsher than the CIA had represented to policymakers and others.
  5. The CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.
  6. The CIA has actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight of the program.
  7. The CIA impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making.
  8. The CIA’s operation and management of the program complicated, and in some cases impeded, the national security missions of other Executive Branch agencies.
  9. The CIA impeded oversight by the CIA’s Office of Inspector General.
  10. The CIA coordinated the release of classified information to the media, including inaccurate information concerning the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.
  11. The CIA was unprepared as it began operating its Detention and Interrogation Program more than six months after being granted detention authorities.
  12. The CIA’s management and operation of its Detention and Interrogation Program was deeply flawed throughout the program’s duration, particularly so in 2002 and early 2003.
  13. Two contract psychologists devised the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and played a central role in the operation, assessments, and management of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program.
  14. CIA detainees were subjected to coercive interrogation techniques that had not been approved by the Department of Justice or had not been authorized by CIA Headquarters.
  15. The CIA did not conduct a comprehensive or accurate accounting of the number of individuals it detained, and held individuals who did not meet the legal standard for detention. The CIA’s claims about the number of detainees held and subjected to its enhanced interrogation techniques were inaccurate.
  16. The CIA failed to adequately evaluate the effectiveness of its enhanced interrogation techniques.
  17. The CIA rarely reprimanded or held personnel accountable for serious or significant violations, inappropriate activities, and systematic and individual management failures.
  18. The CIA marginalized and ignored numerous internal critiques, criticisms, and objections concerning the operation and management of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.
  19. The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program was inherently unsustainable and had effectively ended by 2006 due to unauthorized press disclosures, reduced cooperation from other nations, and legal and oversight concerns.
  20. The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program damaged the United States’ standing in the world, and resulted in other significant monetary and non-monetary costs.

 

 

 

To consult the full report 

http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/study2014/sscistudy1.pdf

Sensational crime news has clarified the new rules on crime with and without punishment in the United States. Listening to the District Attorneys and Dick Cheney, I’m reassured it’s all for the better.

But it’s important to teach your kids and yourself the rules. Step out of line and who know what might happen.

First, you can be killed with impunity for the crime of walking while black, playing with a toy gun, or breathing while black. Even an indictment has now become a grave threat to the sanctity of law and order.

Second, if you are rich and part of a powerful financial institution who commit control fraud, cook the books, bankrupt the world economy, put millions out of work and into the streets, there will be no perp walk. You will no even lose a single mansion. 1,000 bankers went to jail in the 1980s after the savings and loan debacle. It’s now too risky to enforce the law and make bankers nervous.

Third, the largest financial institutions responsible for the global financial collapse have been anointed as “too big to fail”. This is likely to guarantee a forthcoming future collapse, since risk has been wisely removed from speculation. And if you are worried that the Dodd-Frank law unduly burdens the bankers, the Congress is taking steps to roll back the modest financial reforms.

Fourth, torture of terrorism suspects by the CIA and it’s contractors, reminiscent of methods of the /Stasi/ and /Gestapo, /will go unpunished. The most we expect is that our torturers will be granted a pardon indicating what they did was technically illegal, violating the UN Convention Against Torture and the older Geneva Conventions on treatment of prisoners of war.

Fifth, non-judicial execution of Americans has been embraced. The President regularly attends meetings where votes are taken on who shall live and who shall die, usually though drone attacks that kill not just targets but any nearby unfortunates. This, we are to understand, is a crucial tool in the long war against terrorism.

Sixth, all information, conversations, telephone calls, e-mails, images, your face, your car, everything to do with you can be appropriated by the national security state and used at the discretion of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the President (POTUS) to prevent terrorism, or whatever else they decide in their infinite wisdom is a threat to their power, their fortunes, their friends fortunes.

Seventh, all information of all sorts can also be gathered and employed for commercial purposes by friendly corporations interested in providing services for us.

Eight, your location and not just your communications will soon be added to the data cloud from a network of sensors and cameras that identify you and track you and vehicle and everything else you own. What American with nothing to hide could possible object to being protected by our all encompassing security state.

Nine, the role of elected government is now limited to passing blanket resolutions authorizing for an indefinite period of time war that is limitless in time and space against our newly designated enemy. The government will be empowered yet again to take all steps necessary to protect the interest of freedom loving people.

I feel safer and more secure by the day.

I do have one reservation. Coming from a law enforcement family, I’m disgusted by the you-tube videos of police violence that reflects a combination of racism and cowardice. I’m similarly repulsed by descriptions of CIA torture. It probably never occurred to our brave torturers that we are inviting abuse of captured American soldiers.

Otherwise, all hail Big Brother.

What’s the Next Step to Stop Torture?

December 12th, 2014 by Ray McGovern

The grim details about the CIA’s torture techniques – from waterboarding to “rectal rehydration” – have overwhelmed the final defenses of the torture apologists. Now the question is what to do with this evidence and how to make sure this behavior doesn’t happen again, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

“I want you to listen to me,” said George Tenet lunging forward from his chair, his index finger outstretched and pointed menacingly at CBS’ Scott Pelley, “We don’t torture people; we don’t torture people; we don’t torture people; we don’t torture people; we don’t torture people!”

Appearing on “60 Minutes” on April 29, 2007, to hawk his memoir At the Center of the Storm, former CIA Director Tenet was imperiously definitive on the issue of CIA and torture. Could he have thought that repeating his denial five times, with the appropriate theatrics, would compel credulity? Is this the kind of assertion over reality that worked at CIA Headquarters during his disastrous tenure?

The frequently pliant Pelley seemed unmoved this time – since the basic facts about the CIA’s waterboarding and other torture of “war on terror” detainees were well known by then. You would have had to be deaf and dumb to be unaware that Tenet had eagerly embraced the role of overseer in the Bush/Cheney “dark side” torture centers after 9/11.

In the memoir – a kind of apologia sans apology – Tenet was less self-confident and pugnacious than on “60 Minutes.” While emphasizing the importance of detaining and interrogating al-Qaeda operatives around the world, he betrayed some worry that the chickens might some day come home to roost. Enter the feathered fowl this week with the release of the Senate report on CIA torture and all the mind-numbing details about lengthy sleep deprivations, painful stress positions, waterboarding and “rectal rehydration.”

One remaining question now is whether egg on Tenet’s face will be allowed to suffice as his only punishment, or whether he and his deputy-in-crime John McLaughlin will end up in prison where they, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and several other senior officials properly belong.

The usual suspects are already crying foul over an extraordinarily professional investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers and committee chair, Dianne Feinstein, who refused to chicken out and abandon her investigators despite political pressure to do so.

Possibly dreading this day, Tenet wrote in his memoir: “We raised the importance of being able to detain unilaterally al-Qa’ida operatives around the world. … We were going to pursue al-Qa’ida terrorists in ninety-two countries. … With the right authorities, policy determination, and great officers, we were confident we could get it done. …

“Sure, it was a risky proposition when you looked at it from a policy maker’s point of view. We were asking for and we would be given as many authorities as CIA ever had. Things could blow up. People, me among them, could end up spending some of the worst days of our lives justifying before congressional overseers our new freedom to act.” (At the Center of the Storm, p. 177-178.)

Note, however, that Tenet didn’t anticipate “spending some of the worst days of our lives” in a federal prison.

Now Squirming

Former CIA leaders are now squirming. And while they still enjoy the dubious services of a gruff and aging PR specialist named Dick Cheney, cries are again mounting that the lot of them, together with other former senior officials, be finally held to account in some palpable way.

Many will recall that Cheney – champion of the “dark side” techniques – was the first senior official to express public approval for waterboarding. On Oct. 24, 2006, he was asked by a friendly interviewer, “Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?”

“It’s a no brainer for me,” answered Cheney, “but for a while there I was criticized as being the Vice President for Torture. We don’t torture. That’s not what we’re involved in.”

Cheney followed up in January 2009, telling AP that he had no qualms about the reliability of intelligence obtained through waterboarding: “It’s been used with great discrimination by people who know what they’re doing and has produced a lot of valuable information and intelligence,” hesaid.

Thus, it was very much in character for Cheney, on Monday, to protest press reports about torture being a “rogue operation” by the CIA, calling that “all a bunch of hooey” and saying: “The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.”

Yet, the trouble with Cheney’s defense is that one can no more “authorize” torture than rape or slavery. Torture inhabits that same moral category, which ethicists label intrinsic evil, always wrong – whether it “works” or not.

In other words, torture is not wrong because there are U.S. laws and a UN Convention prohibiting it. It’s the other way around. The legal prohibitions were put in place because it is – or used to be, at least – widely recognized that humans simply must not do such things to other humans. For instance, after World War II, Japanese commanders were tried for war crimes because they used waterboarding on captured U.S. soldiers.

Sadly though, virtually all of the public discussion on torture focuses on its possible efficacy, even though all but the most sadistic of people have long recognized that torture would be wrong even if it “works” – and it often doesn’t “work” because it induces those being tortured to fabricate answers that they think the torturers want to hear.

The Senate report is simply the latest study showing torture does not produce reliable information. It is, after all, common sense. One need only be aware that almost anyone will say anything – true or false – to stop being tortured.

It would, I think, be difficult to come up with anyone more authoritative on this issue than Gen. John Kimmons, the head of Army intelligence in 2006, whose long career dealt largely with interrogation. After the cat was out of the bag on CIA torture – and the Bush administration’s wordsmiths were working on innocent-sounding euphemisms such as an “alternative set of procedures” or “enhanced interrogation techniques” – Kimmons seized the “bull” by the horns by arranging his own press conference.

Sounding the death knell for utilitarian arguments, Kimmons warned: “No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that.”

Then Why Torture?

Kimmons stated definitively that abusive techniques do not yield “good intelligence.” But if it’s bad intelligence you’re after, torture works like a charm. If, for example, you wish to “prove,” post 9/11, that “evil dictator” Saddam Hussein was in league with al-Qaeda and might arm the terrorists with WMD, bring on the torturers.

It is a highly cynical and extremely sad story, but many Bush administration policymakers wanted to invade Iraq before 9/11 and thus were determined to connect Saddam Hussein to those attacks. The PR push began in September 2002 – or as Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card put it, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

By March 2003 – after months of relentless “marketing” – almost 70 percent of Americans had been persuaded that Saddam Hussein was involved in some way with the attacks of 9/11.

The case of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, a low-level al-Qaeda operative, is illustrative of how this process worked. Born in Libya in 1963, al-Libi ran an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan from 1995 to 2000. He was detained in Pakistan on Nov. 11, 2001, and then sent to a U.S. detention facility in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was deemed a prize catch, since it was thought he would know of any Iraqi training of al-Qaeda.

The CIA successfully fought off the FBI for first rights to interrogate al-Libi. FBI’s Dan Coleman, who “lost” al-Libi to the CIA (at whose orders, I wonder?), said, “Administration officials were always pushing us to come up with links” between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

CIA interrogators elicited some “cooperation” from al-Libi through a combination of rough treatment and threats that he would be turned over to Egyptian intelligence with even greater experience in the torture business.

By June 2002, al-Libi had told the CIA that Iraq had “provided” unspecified chemical and biological weapons training for two al-Qaeda operatives, an allegation that soon found its way into other U.S. intelligence reports. Al-Libi’s treatment improved as he expanded on his tales about collaboration between al-Qaeda and Iraq, adding that three al-Qaeda operatives had gone to Iraq “to learn about nuclear weapons.”

Al-Libi’s claim was well received at the White House even though the Defense Intelligence Agency was suspicious.

“He lacks specific details” about the supposed training, the DIA observed. “It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers. Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest.”

Meanwhile, at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, Maj. Paul Burney, a psychiatrist sent there in summer 2002, told the Senate, “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq and we were not successful. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link … there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

Just What the Doctor Ordered

President Bush relied on al-Libi’s false Iraq allegation for a major speech in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, just a few days before Congress voted on the Iraq War resolution. Bush declared, “We’ve learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases.”

And Colin Powell relied on it for his famous speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, declaring: “I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al-Qaeda. Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.”

Al-Libi’s “evidence” helped Powell as he sought support for what he ended up calling a “sinister nexus” between Iraq and al-Qaeda, in the general effort to justify invading Iraq.

For a while, al-Libi was practically the poster boy for the success of the Cheney/Bush torture regime; that is, until he publicly recanted and explained that he only told his interrogators what he thought would stop the torture.

You see, despite his cooperation, al-Libi was still shipped to Egypt where he underwent more abuse, according to a declassified CIA cable from early 2004 when al-Libi recanted his earlier statements. The cable reported that al-Libi said Egyptian interrogators wanted information about al-Qaeda’s connections with Iraq, a subject “about which [al-Libi] said he knew nothing and had difficulty even coming up with a story.”

According to the CIA cable, al-Libi said his interrogators did not like his responses and “placed him in a small box” for about 17 hours. After he was let out of the box, al-Libi was given a last chance to “tell the truth.” When his answers still did not satisfy, al-Libi says he “was knocked over with an arm thrust across his chest and fell on his back” and then was “punched for 15 minutes.”

After Al-Libi recanted, the CIA recalled all intelligence reports based on his statements, a fact recorded in a footnote to the report issued by the 9/11 Commission. By then, however, the Bush administration had gotten its way regarding the invasion of Iraq and the disastrous U.S. occupation was well underway.

In At the Center of the Storm, Tenet sought to defend the CIA’s use of al-Libi’s claims in the run-up to the Iraq war, suggesting that al-Libi’s later recantation may not have been genuine.

“He clearly lied,” Tenet writes in his book. “We just don’t know when. Did he lie when he first said that Al Qaeda members received training in Iraq or did he lie when he said they did not? In my mind, either case might still be true.”

Really, that’s what Tenet writes despite the fact that intensive investigations into these allegations – after the U.S. military had conquered Iraq – failed to turn up any credible evidence to corroborate these allegations. What we do know is that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were bitter enemies, with al-Qaeda considering the secular Hussein an apostate to Islam.

Al-Libi, who ended up in prison in Libya, reportedly committed suicide shortly after he was discovered there by a human rights organization. Thus, the world never got to hear his own account of the torture that he experienced and the story that he presented and then recanted.

Hafed al-Ghwell, a Libyan-American and a prominent critic of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime at the time of al-Libi’s death, explained to Newsweek, “This idea of committing suicide in your prison cell is an old story in Libya.”

He added that, throughout Gaddafi’s 40-year rule, there had been several instances in which political prisoners were reported to have committed suicide, but that “then the families get the bodies back and discover the prisoners had been shot in the back or tortured to death.”

As Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, once put it during a Senate hearing on torture — with an apparently unintentional hat-tip to the Inquisition — “One of the reasons these techniques have been used for about 500 years is that they work.” Well, they work if what you want is a false confirmation of your false assumption.

The question now is what does the United States do next.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served as an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then as a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years, and is now a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Last night, December 11th, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously as the U.S. House had previously voted 98%: to join Ukraine’s war against Russia and against Ukraine’s own ethnic Russians in Ukraine’s southeastern districts, in order to eliminate those resistant Ukrainians and their families.

The U.S. is now throwing down the gauntlet to Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, and daring him to defend openly the ethnic Russians that the U.S.-installed Ukrainian Government is now trying to exterminate in the eastern districts, the places where the present Ukrainian Government is rejected by almost all of the residents.

Those are the districts that had voted about 90% for the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whom the U.S. overthrew on February 22nd in a violent coup, in which the U.S. paid Ukrainian nazis, or racist-fascists of Ukraine’s Right Sector Party, who masked themselves and dressed themselves as Ukrainian security forces and shot from high places into the “Maidan” crowd of anti-corruption demonstrators, for which shootings the U.S. Government blamed the then-President Yanukovych, since the snipers had dressed as if they were from his security-forces. A special session of Ukraine’s parliament or “Rada” was promptly called to appoint a new leader for the country, and they appointed “Yaz” Arseniy Yatsenyuk, whom the U.S. State Department’s Victoria Nuland had, on February 4th, instructed the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, to get installed as the country’s leader after the coup. Some Rada members were physically threatened by Right Sector gunmen to vote for this change, which then passed overwhelmingly, especially because most of the parliamentarians didn’t even know that the bloodshed had actually been operated by the U.S. However, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Catherine Ashton, sent an investigator in to determine how the overthrow had occurred, and the investigator, Urmas Paet, informed Ashton on February 26th that “behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new coalition.” In other words: it was someone from the group who wanted to remove and replace Yanukovych. Paet said furthermore, that, “it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened.” And so there was no investigation, other than Paet’s own. He went on, in very broken English (he’s Estonian) to tell Ashton: “So that it was in this instance disturbing that if it’s us now to live its own life very powerfully, then it already discreditates from the very beginning also this new coalition.” Ashton ignored his comment, and just said that, “what we’ve got to be very careful of as well, [is] that they need to demand great change, but they’ve got to let the Rada [Parliament] function. If the Rada doesn’t function, then we’ll have complete chaos.” In other words: we’re just going to let those sleeping dogs lie. And they did.

Anyway, she knew. The top foreign-affairs official at the EU knew that the overthrow of Yanukovych, and the replacement of him by this new pro-EU Ukrainian Government, had been hired by someone from the West. She knew that she hadn’t ordered it. She almost certainly understood right away, that America’s White House did.

And so, too, unquestionably, did Petro Poroshenko, who in elections that were then held on May 25th in Ukraine’s northwest — the regions where the new Obama-installed regime was accepted by the public — won the Presidency of Ukraine to replace Yanukovych. He, too, knew that, as Paet had put it, “behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new coalition.” We know that he knows this because Paet also told Ashton at the same time that, “what was quite disturbing, the same oligarch [Poroshenko] told that well, all the evidence shows that the people who were killed by snipers, from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers, killing people from both sides.” In other words: this was murdering people at random by firing into a crowd, all the while pretending to be security forces of the Ukrainian Government that the crowd is demonstrating against. That’s Obama’s way of “regime change,” instead of sending in the U.S. armed forces, like George W. Bush did to Iraq. However, virtually all of the U.S. Congress have now voted to donate U.S. weapons to this Ukrainian Government.

The EU is in on the secret, and the President who replaced Yanukovych is, too.

But what about the 98% of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the 100% of the U.S. Senate, who have now voted for the U.S. to donate lethal weapons to this Ukrainian Government. Do they know? Who paid ‘our’ Congress-people for this vote? Was it Lockheed Martin? Was it Boeing? Was it Raytheon? Was it all of them and others, all of whose stocks have been soaring since Obama’s overthrow of Yanukovych?

The U.S. public were asked in a 4 April 2014 Pew poll, whether they backed “sending arms/military supplies, to Ukraine govt.” 30% said yes. 62% said no. 8% were undecided. The ratio of those who had an opinion, 62%/92%, was 67% against, 33% for.

Both the House and Senate bills are for not just “arms/military supplies,” but specifically include “lethal weapons.” And they aren’t just to “send,” but to donate them, because the Ukrainian Government is bankrupt and can carry on its extermination campaign only by additional borrowings from the IMF, the U.S., and EU. All of the new ‘loans’ will go to the back of the line and never be paid. So, at least 67% of Americans are opposed to what virtually 100% of Americans’ ‘representatives’ in Congress have voted for, and it’s war against Russia.

This is the U.S. ‘democracy’ that installed the ‘democracy’ in Ukraine, which on February 22nd overthrew the democratically elected Ukrainian President.

Barack Obama hasn’t been as successful at engineering ‘democratic consent’ for war as was George W. Bush, but ‘our’ Government is doing it anyway, and the nuclear weapons are being readied for it.

Furthermore, the entire replacement of Yanukovych was illegally done. The American public is overwhelmingly on the side of the law here, while the American President and Congress are almost uniformly against the law here, but they write the laws; it’s the latter who possesses power in the United States, and the American public don’t actually exist to them, except to be fooled into voting for them, by the billionaires who control companies such as JPMorgan/Chase, and Lockheed Martin and finance political campaigns.

This could turn out to be the path toward a nuclear war against Russia. It could actually be profitable for some people.

And here is a graphic (from the National Priorities project) that shows how influential those people are in the United States:

budgetpie

God, Country and Torture

December 12th, 2014 by William Blum

This incisive article on torture by Bill Blum was published by Global Research more than ten years ago. It is of particular relevance in our understanding of the insidious Senate report on CIA torture

On October 21, 1994, the United States became a State Party to the “Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”.  Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: ”No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture.”‘

    “If you open the window [of torture], even just a crack, the cold air of the middle ages will fill the whole room.”{1}

    “The thing with the soldiers there, they think because we’re Americans, you can do whatever you want,” said Spc. Ramon Leal, an MP who served at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

    “You get a burning in your stomach, a rush, a feeling of hot lead running through your veins, and you get a sense of power,” said another soldier.  “Imagine wearing point-blank body armor, an M-16 and all the power in the world, and the authority of God. That power is very addictive.”{2}

America and God … Bush, Cheney, and other eminences of the imperial mafia know well how to invoke these feelings; with the help of the rest of flag-wavin’ and bible-wavin’ America the proper emotions can be easily imparted down to the ranks.  The American part — the mystique of “America” — can also be exported, and has been for decades.  Here’s Chief Inspector Basil Lambrou, one of Athens’ well-known torturers under the infamous Greek junta of 1967-74.  Hundreds of prisoners listened to this little speech given by the Inspector, who sat behind his desk which displayed the red, white, and blue clasped-hand symbol of American aid.  He tried to show the prisoner the absolute futility of resistance:  “You make yourself ridiculous by thinking you can do anything.  The world is divided in two.  There are the communists on that side and on this side the free world.  The Russians and the Americans, no one else.  What are we?  Americans.  Behind me there is the government, behind the government is NATO, behind NATO is the U.S.  You can’t fight us, we are Americans.”{3}

And here’s Colin Powell at the 1996 Republican Convention: America is “a country where the best is always yet to come, a country that exists by divine providence.”  He then punched his fist into the air and shouted out, “America!”{4}

Defenders of the American soldiers accused of abusing the prisoners in Iraq have been insisting that the soldiers were only following orders.  At the end of the Second World War, however, we read moral lectures to the German people on the inadmissibility of pleading that their participation in the holocaust was in obedience to their legitimate government.  To prove that we were serious, we hanged the leading examples of such patriotic loyalty and imprisoned many of the rest.

Notes

1. Hans Christian Stroebele, Green Party member of the German parliament.
2. Knight Ridder newspapers, May 10, 2004
3. James Becket, Barbarism in Greece (New York, 1970), p.16.  Becket was sent to Greece in December 1967 by Amnesty International.
4. The Economist (London), August 17, 1996, U.S. Edition

William Blum <[email protected]> is the author of:

Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2

Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir www.killinghope.org Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website.

The CIA repeatedly cited an Israeli high court decision to justify torture, according to the long-awaited US Senate report on the agency’s torture program.

This latest disclosure comes just months after revelations that the Obama administration relied on an Israeli high court ruling to justify targeted killings of American citizens without trial.

Released Tuesday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence after months of stalling, the nearly 600-page report discloses new details about the atrocities that took place at the CIA’s network of rendition and torture sites created in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks.

The CIA’s torture techniques — which included water-boarding, sleep and sensory deprivation, sexual torture, threats to kill and rape loved ones, mock executions, electrocution and medically unnecessary “rectal feeding” — were far more gruesome and pervasive than the agency let on.

Furthermore, the report explicitly states that the CIA lied about the torture program’s effectiveness, falsely claiming its techniques successfully extracted information that thwarted terrorist plots, including a fabricated attack “in Saudi Arabia against Israel.”

As the CIA engaged in a deceptive propaganda campaign to mislead the American public about the program’s lawfulness and effectiveness, it relied on Israeli precedent as a legal defense.

How to legalize torture

As early as November 2001, CIA officials began brainstorming possible legal justifications for torture techniques they were already employing at black sites around the globe, culminating in a draft memorandum described by the Senate report as follows:

On 26 November 2001, attorneys in the CIA’s Office of General Counsel circulated a draft legal memorandum describing the criminal prohibition on torture and a potential “novel” legal defense for CIA officers who engaged in torture. The memorandum stated that the “CIA could argue that the torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm,” adding that “states may be very unwilling to call the US to task for torture when it resulted in saving thousands of lives.”

According to the corresponding footnote, the November memo “cited the ‘Israeli example’ as a possible basis for arguing that ‘torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.’”

The “Israeli example” was invoked again the following year in an official memorandum to the White House Office of Legal Council to the President on 1 August 2002, which “include[d] a similar analysis of the ‘necessity defense’ in response to potential charges of torture.”

Israeli loopholes

The “Israeli example” is a reference to the 1999 Israeli high court decision that supposedly outlawed the use of torture — the Israeli euphemism for which is “moderate physical pressure” — to extract confessions from Palestinian prisoners, a longstanding and widespread practice up until that time. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselemcelebrated the ruling at the time, declaring it a victory for democracy.

In reality, the decision was filled with obvious loopholes and merely limited the circumstances under which torture techniques could be legally employed. (Israel’s high court is also known as its supreme court.)

Till this day Israeli torture of Palestinian prisoners remains widespread and no Palestinian is immune, not even children, who are systematically subjected to solitary confinement, sensory deprivation and stress positions in Israeli custody.

Last winter, Israeli cruelty reached new heights when its prison services placed Palestinian child detainees in outdoor cages during one of the most severe winter storms to strike the region in years.

As the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) has argued, not a great deal has changed since the 1999 ruling due in large part to the high court’s inclusion of the “necessity defense” — a loophole that immunizes interrogators who use torture techniques from being held criminally liable based on the argument that they had to do it out of “necessity” to prevent loss of or harm to human life.

Such loopholes have led to absolute impunity for Israeli torturers. Of the more than 800 complaints of torture submitted by Palestinian prisoners since 2001, exactly zero have led to criminal investigations despite the state corroborating at least 15 percent of the torture allegations, according to PCATI.

It is also notable that even the CIA methods revealed in the Senate report bear striking similarity to long-standing Israeli torture techniques documented by human rights organizations, among them sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme cold, confinement in very small spaces and painful “stress positions.” These are techniques that are thought to inflict maximum suffering while minimizing the risk that they will leave tell-tale signs of torture on the victim’s body.

A ticking time bomb fiction

Strangely, even notable anti-torture liberals have been duped into believing that Israel banned torture.

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has cited the Israeli high court decision on torture as an exemplary ban the US should emulate.

“The police think that a suspect they have apprehended knows where and when a bomb is going to go off,” Ginsburg told The New York Times. “Can the police use torture to extract that information? And in an eloquent decision by Aharon Barak, then the chief justice of Israel, the court said: ‘Torture? Never.’”

According to Ginsburg, the Israeli ruling sent the message “that we could hand our enemies no greater victory than to come to look like that enemy in our disregard for human dignity.”

Ginsburg’s takeaway from the Israeli decision is as erroneous as her racist portraryal of a Palestinian “enemy” lacking in “human dignity.”

Far from banning torture altogether, the Israeli decision includes an unambiguous exemption for the hypothetical scenario Ginsburg lays out.

In the event of a “ticking time bomb” scenario, the Israeli decision states that “necessity defense” gives Israeli interrogators discretion to employ torture to extract information to stop an explosive from detonating.

It should be noted that even the Senate report concedes that the “ticking time bomb” so often invoked by torture enthusiasts has no basis in reality.

But even if it did, Article 2 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment states: ”No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Turning to Israel for inspiration

In a desperate bid to keep the torture program alive amid growing (albeit weak) pressure from Congress in 2005, a CIA official once again turned to Israel for inspiration and a legal rationale:

The CIA attorney described the “striking” similarities between the public debate surrounding the McCain amendment [a proposed ban on torture] and the situation in Israel in 1999, in which the Israeli Supreme Court had “ruled that several … techniques were possibly permissible, but require some form of legislative sanction,” and that the Israeli government “ultimately got limited legislative authority for a few specific techniques.”

The corresponding footnote adds:

The CIA attorney also described the Israeli precedent with regard to the “necessity defense” that had been invoked by CIA attorneys and the Department of Justice in 2001 and 2002. The CIA attorney wrote that the Israeli Supreme Court “also specifically considered the ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario and said that enhanced techniques could not be pre-approved for such situations, but that if worse came to worse, an officer who engaged in such activities could assert a common-law necessity defense, if he were ever prosecuted.”

This suggestion was adapted into a 20 July 2007 memorandum authored by then Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Steven G. Bradbury, who argued that based on the Israeli court case, CIA torture is “clearly authorized and justified by legislative authority.”

Sharing values

It should come as no surprise that the US is following Israel’s lead on torture given that the two nations feed off of one another’s atrocities.

When Palestinian prisoners launched a hunger strike earlier this year to protest their indefinite detention, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to push through the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, a bill that would permit the force-feeding of prisoners. According to human rights groups, force-feeding amounts to cruel and inhumane punishment.

To excuse his demand for the implementation of the excruciatingly painful technique, wherein a tube is shoved through the nostril into the stomach, Netanyahu pointed to US force-feedings at Guantanamo Bay.

When it comes to torture, few people understand the shared values that unite the US and Israel better than Rasmea Odeh.

The 67-year-old Palestinian American activist was convicted last month of immigration fraud for failing to disclose a 1969 Israeli military court conviction based on a confession extracted under weeks of Israeli sexual torture.

At the behest of the Obama administration’s Justice Department, the trial judge barredthe jury from hearing evidence about Odeh’s torture, protecting and ultimately legitimizing Israel’s system of abuse. Meanwhile, Odeh was subjected to further torture, this time at the hands of the US government, which placed her in solitary confinement for twelve consecutive days for no apparent reason until a judge ordered on Mondaythat she could be released on bail.

While the depth of collusion between the US and Israeli torture programs has yet to be fully unearthed there is reason to suspect that some US methods were modeled on Israel’s.

Since the 11 September 2001 attacks, the US has fashioned much of its counterterrorism strategy on Israel’s decades-long suppression of Palestinian resistance to its colonial ambitions.

Invented by Israel for use against Palestinian leaders, extrajudicial targeted killings are now the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policy.

Like its targeted killing policy, Israel has spent decades perfecting torture techniques on Palestinian prisoners, designed to maximize the suffering while leaving behind few visible scars.

So, how much did Israel influence the CIA? Perhaps the answer can be found in the original 6,000-page, still-classified Senate torture report that Tuesday’s release is based on. It makes one wonder what is being left out of the public record.

 

Who Owns the Earth? People versus Power

December 12th, 2014 by Lesley Docksey

“We are now living outside of the laws of nature where nature is now turning against man and becoming the enemy.”  The Kogi Mamas

Last week the latest efforts to head off climate change started in Lima, Peru.  The aim of this latest conference (the twentieth, would you believe) is to produce a draft agreement on action, to be finalised in Paris next year.  With time running out it doesn’t look hopeful.  The world is silent.

In 1990 Alan Ereira made a film for the BBC, The Heart of the World: Elder Brother’s Warning.  In it the Kogi people of Columbia, having seen serious signs of climate change in their territory, issued a plea to the rest of us: stop living in our thoughtless, selfish way and wake up to what we were doing to the Earth.  (After so many years of it being available online, in the last week this film has become unavailable due to “copyright issues”.  Had it suddenly been resurrected by climate campaigners, and has been taken off by the powers that be because of the Lima Climate Conference?)

Apart from a procession of New Age eco-tourists flying out to Columbia thinking, wrongly, that the Kogi would welcome them, few took any real notice and they were soon forgotten.  Some years later Alan visited Glastonbury with an updated film.  The Assembly Rooms were full; almost all were young people asking questions about the Kogi’s sex lives.  What?  The Earth is being ruined and they wanted to know how the Kogi people screwed?  I despaired.

I still despair at times, because the indigenous people of Central and South America are showing us the way ahead, if only we’d listen.  Many of their countries have been paupered because of corporate-friendly interventions by the IMF and the World Bank.  The result, to the annoyance of the US, is an increasing number of left-wing, socialist governments.

Indigenous people have died in their hundreds trying to protect rain forests from ranching, illegal logging, and mining, oil and gas companies, the latest death just days before a planned protest at the Lima talks.  How convenient.

In 1994, in the Chiapas region of southern Mexico, the Zapatista revolution took place.  These indigenous people objected to powerful outsiders taking control of their land via the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – ‘free trade’ standing for corporate profit.  They haven’t yet won their battle.  On the other hand the Mexican government has failed to control them.  The Zapatistas govern by consultation.  The decision to take up arms was a collective decision.  They do not elect leaders; they select those who will best voice community views, something the government could not understand, as the film A Place Called Chiapas showed.

The US has tried to extend NAFTA into the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).  There were massive demonstrations.  Over 10 million Brazilians voted to withdraw from the negotiations.  While governments negotiate, the people know that such deals will damage their lives and their beloved Earth.  There are current trade agreements and almost all of them sideline the US and its corporate plans.

The Campesinos have created a worldwide movement of peasant farmers, indigenous peoples and fishermen from small beginnings in Paraguay, where they ‘illegally’ took over land in order to grow their food.  Workers in BrazilArgentina and elsewhere took over factories closed by absentee owners.

Many ‘peoples movements’ started in the Americas and right now members from across the world are attending the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change, running parallel to the UN climate talks in Lima, parallel because their voices won’t be heard at the ‘big table’.   Neither will young people be heard even though they will suffer more from climate change than those producing all the hot air.  Other activists were prevented from attending but then, even the UK climate change Minister, Amber Rudd, has been barred from going.

And the talks themselves are almost invisible in the mainstream media.  Apart from the environment-friendly Guardian, only the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times featured articles about it in the first week.  Obviously the ‘economics’ of climate change are more important than the future of the planet.

The LA Times limped in with a story about clashes between rich and poor nations slowing down the talks.  But that was basically it.  The UN News site had several items, it being a UN Conference.  All other news came from activists’ websites.  The message?  People care; power and politics don’t.  They will simply go on making money as long as they are able

To see how determined indigenous people can be in trying to protect their resources and the Earth, one should look at Bolivia.

In 2000 many Bolivians fought against a private water company taking control of their water.  The Water War lasted for four months, at the end of which the company fled and later presented a large bill (compensation for lost profits) which remains unpaid.  This was followed in 2003 by a Gas War, when the Bolivians resisted the corporate interests that wanted their vast natural gas resources.

This conflict rumbled on until 2005, when the millionaire President, known for speaking Spanish with an American accent, resigned.  An indigenous left-wing politician, active in the Water and Gas Wars, was becoming prominent – Evo Morales.  He was elected President and a whole new agenda appeared.  Suddenly people were demanding rights for Mother Earth.

In 2009 Morales, backed by other nations, addressed the UN General Assembly in a heartfelt speech, pointing out that it is no use discussing the effects of the financial, energy, food or climate change crises, without ever looking at the cause:

“The origin of this crisis is the exaggerated accumulation of capital in far too few hands.  It is the permanent removal of natural resources and the commercialization of Mother Earth…  Mother Earth gives life, water, natural resources, oxygen and everything that supports the well being of our people.  If we talk, work and fight for the well being of our people we first have to guarantee the well being of Mother Earth; otherwise it will be impossible to guarantee the well being of our citizens.  Mother Earth, Planet Earth, will exist without human life, but human life cannot exist without Mother Earth.”

He sought a UN treaty that gave legal rights to Mother Earth.  He asked for three things: that developed countries pay the climate debt they owe; that there should be a Court of Climate Justice; and that nations must declare and expand the rights of Mother Earth’s natural regeneration.  We’re still waiting on all that, but the UN did designate 22 April as International Mother Earth Day.  So that’s okay then.

In April 2010 Bolivia hosted a World Peoples Conference in Cochabamba.  35,000 people came from all over the world.  It produced a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.  This was followed by an international gathering in Ecuador at which the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature was formed.

In 2011 Bolivia passed into law an act protecting the rights of Mother Earth.  It then took a draft treaty to the UN, prompting outrage among all the right-wing corporate interests.  Last year, during a dialogue on harmony with nature , the General Assembly called yet again for real and rapid action that would protect the Earth and the future existence of humanity.

Also last year, a UN meeting on the rights of the indigenous peoples produced a document simply ‘inviting’, ‘requesting’  or ‘encouraging’ governments and corporations to listen to, engage with and recognise the knowledge that indigenous people have to offer.  More hot air and no action.  In June this year Morales hosted a G77 Summit which produced a Declaration titled “For a New World Order for Living Well”.

Unknown to the average person there have many attempts, some successful, to bring our treatment of the Earth within the law.  What Morales and his fellows have done is to keep pushing the Earth’s rights into the debates.  But debates alone will not heal the Earth or guarantee our future.

And all this is looked upon with scorn by our governments and their corporate allies.  Who cares about peoples’ movements or Bolivia?  And Morales himself is the first full-blood indigenous leader, for God’s Sake!  What does he know about running the world?  Come to that, what does man’s world have to do with Mother Earth?

But indigenous people know how the Earth runs.  Slowly we others are realising that we can’t own the Earth, or the water, the air, the forests and plains, or the fish in the sea.  The Earth doesn’t belong to us.  If anything, the reverse is true; we belong to it, a position the developed world spurns at its peril.

Will Lima produce anything other than another fudge?  I doubt it.  Corporate interests still dictate our future and we are deaf to the indigenous voices.  And as Jared Diamond showed inCollapse, civilisations have died out because of trashing their environments.  We are now trashing the whole Earth.

Man’s drive to ‘develop’, his inventions that require yet more resources, his desire to own everything in sight, to put his interests before those of any other life forms – all this has led to an Earth stripped of its flora and fauna, and its mineral riches without which we cannot sustain our current way of life.  Rivers run dry while the seas rise.

We will not kill life on the Earth; life is here and will evolve in strange and wonderful ways.  But we are destroying everything that we have come to know and love.  And while the Earth weeps and begs for our attention the world of men is silent in its selfishness.

Cincinnati Enquirer‘s Carolyn Washburn

In the Quaint Notions About Journalism Department: Many would think there was something wrong with an investigative reporter who consults directly with an advertiser to think of ways for them to profit from the news. But, here we are.

Media blogger Jim Romenesko reported on an ad placed by the Cincinnati Enquirer for an investigative reporter–but not just any reporter: Candidates needed to know that 50 percent of their “focus” would be readers aged 25 to 45–you’d have to feel “comfortable sharing some personal information” to “create a personal connection” to that target group–and that they would be “working” with an “advertising partner to grow and monetize the 25-to-45 audience.”

Hard to see when you’d have time to investigate.

Romenesko asked Enquirer editor Carolyn Washburn to explain how that whole “monetizing” thing would work. Her response was not reassuring: That “expectation” was part of all beat job descriptions, she said. Sales reps and reporters can “share insights,” and “make introductions for each other…that may be helpful.”

But wait–aren’t some of those advertisers potential sources? Why yes! “Many of those organizations are both advertisers and sources. And many of those organizations are trying to grow their reach among 25-45-year-olds in the community just as we are.”

By the time Washburn says reporters’ profit-driven collaboration with advertisers who are also sources doesn’t “hurt the newsroom or readers at all,” you may be wondering if she’s ever heard of conflict of interest. But, she assures, she can fathom circumstances in which they’d say no to a sponsor request, and reporters are told to “raise questions if they are ever uncomfortable or uncertain.”

It’s not their ability to ask questions that troubles; it’s what the answers seem likely to be.

This text is part of a series of eight articles

We have seen that since the beginning of the 2007-2008 crisis, the ECB has played a vital role in saving the big private banks, their owners and directors, while at the same time guaranteeing the continuity of their privileges. We can clearly see that without the ECB, the big banks would have sunk and that would have forced the authorities to take very severe action against them. Beyond bank bail-outs, the ECB is charged with maintaining an inflation rate of around 2%. From this point of view the ECB has failed because the Eurozone has a rate of less than 1% and borders on deflation. |1|

The ECB has three more objectives, which can be summarized as follows:

  • To defend the euro, which is a straitjacket for the weaker European economies and for all the European peoples. The euro is an instrument that serves the big private companies and the European elites (the richest 1%). If Eurozone countries could devalue they would improve their competitiveness against the Austrian, Benelux, French and German economic giants. |2| Countries like Estonia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain are restricted by their adhesion to the Eurozone. So the European authorities and governments implement ‘internal devaluation’, which means pay-cuts for the workers.
  • To consolidate the domination of Europe’s strongest economies where the big European corporations have their bases, thus maintaining important differences between the strong European economies and the others
  • To actively support the aggressions of Capital against Labour in order to increase business profitability and to make the big European companies more competitive on the global market.
    We are going to review how these three objectives have influenced the evolution of the situation in Europe since 2011. |3|

How the ECB affectes the richest 1% and the big private companies

To appreciate the work of the ECB, imagine being one of the richest 1%.

The official line insists that in 2011 the ECB successfully managed the transition from the former presidency of the Frenchman Jean-Claude Trichet to the new presidency under the Italian Mario Draghi, |4| former governor of the Bank of Italy and former vice-president of Goldman Sachs Europe. The ECB and the leaders of major European countries negotiated a reduction of about 50% of Greek debts with private banks. |5| At the same time, the Troika (IMF, ECB and European Commission) got the Greek government to implement a radical new austerity plan including mass privatization and the surrender of a large part of its sovereignty. By March 2012, Troika representatives were permanently established in Greek ministries in order to closely monitor Greek finances. New loans to Greece now transit through an account which the European authorities can block if necessary. Equally advantageous for the creditors, the new Greek debt securities no longer come under the legal jurisdiction of the Greek courts but are framed within English law; disputes between the Greek government and private creditors will be referred to Luxembourg courts. |6|

George Papandreou’s government, led by the Greek socialist party, PASOK, but enacting neoliberal dogma, had become increasingly unpopular. Finally, under pressure from the ECB and the European leaders, it was replaced, without any democratic election, by a new government of national unity formed of a PASOK-New Democracy coalition, with key portfolios in the hands of ministers coming directly from the banks.

Just before the G20 meeting in Cannes at the end of October 2011, George Papandreou had announced a referendum on the latest plan to be imposed by the Troika; it never happened. It was clear that if the Greek people were consulted they would reject austerity. So the Troika, supported by the G20, forced Papandreou to abandon this basic democratic initiative.

To complete the picture we can add three other items of good news for the ECB and its directors. The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was forced to resign in late 2011 and was replaced, without elections, by Mario Monti, a former European Commissioner, very close to the banking community, who formed a government of technocrats to impose severe neoliberal policies. |7| In Spain, the head of government, Mariano Rajoy, President of the People’s Party, has radicalized the neoliberal policies initiated by his predecessor, the Socialist José Luis Zapatero. Lastly, European leaders |8| came to an agreement in March 2012 on a Treaty on Financial Stability, Coordination and Governance (TSCG) that further supported fiscal austerity, sanctioned Member States, scraped away more of their national sovereignty and injected an extra dose of submission to the logic of private capital. |9| Finally, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) has come into effect to better help states and banks through the next banking crises, and to help Member States struggling to find finance.

In March-April 2012 Mario Draghi, most European leaders and bank officials had much to celebrate. The richest 1% were not feeling the pinch of any crisis.

However from May 2012 dark clouds appeared on the horizon, when Bankia, the fourth-largest Spanish bank, headed by former IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato, went virtually bankrupt. Reports say that Spanish banks are in need of between €40 billion and €100 billion ofrecapitalization, and Mariano Rajoy, who is in trouble, does not want to ask for help from the Troika. Added to these difficulties a series of international banking scandals broke out, of which the two most important were the manipulation of the LIBOR (the London interbank rate), involving a dozen major banks |10| and HSBC’s laundering of drug money. |11|

At the same time, in France a majority of voters no longer wanted President Nicolas Sarkozy. François Hollande was elected on 6 May 2012. International finance looked on, knowing it could count on the leaders of the French Socialist Party, like other European socialist parties, to pursue austerity.

The situation in Greece is more annoying for the ECB as SYRIZA, the radical left coalition that promises to repeal austerity measures, suspend the repayment of debt and challenge European authorities, could win an upcoming election. For proponents of European austerity policies, this must be prevented at all costs. On the evening of 17 June 2012, to the relief of the ECB, European governments and boards of large companies, the right-wing New Democracy party was ahead of SYRIZA by 2%. Even the new French Socialist president welcomed the outcome of the vote. Europe could continue on the road of austerity and the stabilization of the Eurozone.

In July-August 2012 the Eurozone was once again under extreme pressure and, to comfort the markets, Mario Draghi declared in September that he would do everything to save the euro. The ECB started buying massive amounts of government bonds, mainly Italian and Spanish. The main subject of discussion of the European Commission, the governments and the mainstream media was the sovereign debt crisis, diverting attention away from the private banks and the Euro who are really the cause, once again, of the crisis.

The situation began to ease after the ECB purchased Italian and Spanish bonds from the banks and made massive liquidities available to them. Interest-rates charged by these banks to lend to weaker countries gradually began to decline, particularly in Spain and Italy. But it is clear that the banks are not out of the rut: Belgian and French public finances must save Dexia for a third time. In December 2012, Italy came to the aid of the Western world’s oldest bank, Monte dei Paschi (the fourth-largest bank in the country). Spain had to recapitalize several banks. In February 2013 the Netherlands had to inject €3.7 billion into SNS, a mortgage bank, and in March 2013, the two main Cypriot banks were on the verge of failure.

In February 2013, the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, suffered a crushing electoral defeat. The ballot-box protest carried a new political movement centered around the comedian Beppe Grillo.

The vast million-strong anti-austerity protests that had taken place in Portugal in September 2012 |12| were revived in March 2013 with over a million demonstrators. |13| The people expressed their rejection of austerity policies and at the same time, signs of crisis were evident among the elites. On three occasions in 2013, the Portuguese Constitutional Court invalidated the austerity measures taken by the government; in July, the finance minister resigned, causing significant turbulence.

In September 2013, Angela Merkel was elected for another term in Germany, but her even more neoliberal political partner, the FDP, was rejected by the voters. They lost all parliamentary representation. Arithmetically, a centre-left government could have been established by a coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the Radical Left (Die Linke), but the SPD preferred an alliance with Angela Merkel, German employers, the European Commission and the ECB were relieved.

Again in 2013, the Netherlands, which had long given an impression of stability and economic success, went into profound crisis when its real-estate bubble finally burst and caused an economic recession. In a country where the pension scheme is largely privatized, several pension funds reduced the amount of pensions.

This year, 2014, the ECB has not had all the best of it: The European elections in May reflected the rejection of ECB policies by a large portion of the population. Not only was the turnout very low, but also political parties that are very critical of the governments’ and European Commission’s current policies or eurosceptic parties made strong advances. What’s more, Europe is struggling to create real growth: the overall situation shows that EU GDP is slightly lower than 2007-2008 levels! |14| In June 2014, The ECB decided on continued unconditional allegiance to the big banks and the employers agenda against the interests of the population. |15| In July 2014, the biggest Portuguese bank, Banco Espirito Santo, is facing failure. Its perdition was not caused by public debt, but by the manipulations done by its owners. |16|

In Spain, Podemos, a new radical left organisation created in January 2014 is ahead of the PP and PS, the traditional political parties that have alternated terms of office for the last forty years, since the end of the Franco regime. Podemos is calling for a public debt audit and a restructuring of the debt. At the other end of the Mediterranean, Syriza is, since the European elections in May, the biggest party in Greece. Early elections may take place in 2015. Syriza calls for restructuring of the debt and a conference of European States to organise reducing debt.

The demos is out of the game

This rapid retrospective of the management of the Eurozone crisis between the end of 2011 and the end of 2014 shows that the European leaders, at the service of big capital, increasingly choose to override the legislative bodies and side-track the voters’ choices. The European leaders have gradually eliminated the dêmos |17| from democracy, replacing it with banks and thus creating a bankocracy. This is, of course, a simplification, but it does indicate a reality

Where is democracy when the people no longer have the possibility of expressing their massive rejection of austerity policies through voting, or when the voters’ choices are ignored or swept aside because they have not made the choice the elites have decided on? Examples abound: In 2005 in France and the Netherlands after the ‘No’ vote on the Treaty for a European Constitution, in Ireland and Portugal after the 2011 elections, in Greece on several occasions between 2010 and 2012, in France and the Netherlands again after the 2012 elections. Not to mention, as seen above, the abandon of the Greek referendum of early 2012 that had been promised by Prime Minister George Papandreou at the end of October 2011. Everything is done to reduce the empowerment of national governments and public authorities within a restrictive European contractual framework. This is a very dangerous trend. The power of the ECB and the European Commission is growing, under the control of the governments of the strongest EU and Eurozone countries.

The process is not irreversible. Under pressure from the populations, governments can decide to disobey the European Commission, the ECB and the bosses of the big European companies. It is clear that governments, when supported by a mobilized population, can retrieve the power to act; indeed the strength of the EU relies on the docility of the governments and the peoples. The attitude that the governments take, concerning the debt, will be decisive for the future of the rights of the majority of the population. If they bow to the European Commission, the IMF and other creditors, there can be no durable and successful alternative.

Translation : CADTM

Notes

|1| On the consequences of a very low inflation rate or deflation and the dangers they represent in the view of many economists, including those of the ECB, see Martin Wolf, ‘The spectre of Eurozone deflation’, Financial Times, 12 March 2014.

|2| An alternative project to neoliberal Capitalism cannot be based on competitiveness. Other relationships of exchange must be developed, with important transfers aimed at reducing economic differences between countries. Also, a maximum of short producer-to-consumer circuits should be developed.

|3| We have analysed the evolution of the crisis in Europe, since 2007, in numerous articles, booksThe Debt Crisis : From Europe to Where? and in the following French-language works: Damien Millet, Eric Toussaint, La Crise, quelles crises ? (The Crisis: Which Crises?), La Dette ou la Vie, 2011; AAA, Audit, Annulation, Autre politique (Audit, Abolition, Alternative Politics), 2012.

|4| Mario Draghi was, between 1991-2001, Director General of the Italian Ministry of the Treasury in charge of privatization. From 1993 to 2001, he chaired the Committee on privatization. As such, he was a member of the board of directors of several banks and companies undergoing privatization (Eni, IRI, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, BNL and IMI). From 2002 to 2005, Draghi was Vice-President of the European branch of the US investment bank Goldman Sachs. January 16, 2006, he became governor of the Bank of Italy, appointed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, with a renewable term of six years. Mario Draghi became president of the ECB on 1 November 2011.

|5| On the secondary market Greek bonds were sold at 20% of their value, which means that the 50% discount allowed the banks to limit the losses they would have taken if they had sold the securities on the secondary market. In addition, for the banks that had acquired the shares at 20% of their value, unloading them at said 50% was a real windfall.

|6| See ‘Greek government-debt crisis’, Wikipediahttp://en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_government-debt_crisis. See also Alain Salles and Benoît Vitkine, ‘Fatalisme face à un sauvetage échangé contre une perte de souveraineté’ (‘Greeks fatalistic over swapping sovereignty for a bail-out’), Le Monde, 22 February 2012: http://www.forumfr.com/sujet448690-fatalisme-face-un-sauvetage-echange-contre-une-perte-de-souverainete.html(in French).

|7| Mario Monti, Prime Minister from 16 November 2011 to 28 April 2013, was appointed Senator for Life by the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano. On this occasion, he left various positions of responsibility: the Presidency of the most prestigious Italian private university, Bocconi; that of the European Department of the Trilateral Commission, one of the largest circles of the international oligarchic elite; participation in the steering committee of the powerful Bilderberg club; and the Presidency of the neoliberal think tank Bruegel. Monti was an international advisor to Goldman Sachs from 2005 to 2011 (as a member of the Research Advisory Council of the Goldman Sachs Global Markets Institute). He has been European Commissioner for the Internal Market (1995-1999) and European Commissioner for Competition (1999-2004). He has been a member of Moody’s European Senior Advisory Council, an advisor to Coca-Cola, a member of the Business and Economics Advisors Group of the Atlantic Council (a US think tank that promotes U.S. leadership) and a member of the Praesidium of Friends of Europe, an influential think tank based in Brussels.

|8| With the exceptions of the UK and the Czech Republic.

|9Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance (TSCG), March 2012. The text is available athttp://european-council.europa.eu/media/639235/st00tscg26_en12.pdf.

|10| Eric Toussaint, Big banks’ tampering with interest rates, published 12 June 2014,http://cadtm.org/Big-banks-tamperin…

|11| Eric Toussaint, ’Drug and Bank Lords’, published 3 June 2014, http://cadtm.org/Drug-and-Bank-Lords

|12| Maria da Liberdade, ‘Portugal : 15 septembre 2012, le peuple était en masse dans la rue!’(‘Portugal: a sea of people in the streets’), CADTM, 28 September 2012, http://cadtm.org/Portugal-15-septembre-2012-le (in French or in Portuguese).

|13| Maria da Liberdade, ‘Les Portugais dans la rue contre la Troïka, le gouvernement et le régime’(‘The Portuguese demonstrate against the Troika, the Government and the regime’), CADTM, 5 March 2013, http://cadtm.org/Les-Portugais-dans-la-rue-contre (in French or in Portuguese).

|14| See Financial Times, « Blowing hot and cold », 16 May 2014

|15| See Eric Toussaint, ’To the Bankers, He’s “Super Mario 2.0” Draghi’ », published 8 September 2014, http://cadtm.org/To-the-Bankers-He-…

|16| See http://cadtm.org/L-Hecatombe-de-la-Banque-Espirito andhttp://www.mediapart.fr/article/offert/9d24bcfcca7508ee9087af6e43f73fd4 (in French or Portuguese)

|17Demos (in Greek: δῆμος, ‘people’) is the Greek root to be found in ‘democracy’. In its primary sense, the demos represents all members of the civic community in the Greek city. In a democracy power of decision lies in the assembly of the demos. In literary and oratorical prose, demosrepresents the common people, as opposed to the rich (ploutos) and powerful.

Éric Toussaint, is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège. He is the President of CADTM Belgium (www.cadtm.org), and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France. He is the co-author, with Damien Millet of Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. He is the author of many essays including one on Jacques de Groote entitled Procès d’un homme exemplaire (The Trial of an Exemplary Man), Al Dante, Marseille, 2013, and wrote with Damien Millet, AAA. Audit Annulation Autre politique (Audit, Abolition, Alternative Politics), Le Seuil, Paris, 2012.

The status of South Stream and the newly announced Russia-Turkey gas deal is much more than it seems.  It is primarily about putting the brakes on what has slowly been developing into the next world war.

This new deal may also represent a serious culmination of Russian, Chinese, and Iranian efforts to realign the entire bandwidth between the Adriatic Sea and India.  This has ramifications not only for the EU, Bulgaria, and Turkey, but also Syria, Egypt, Israel, Iran, China and most of Latin America.  Its effects reach far beyond the scope of this report, and includes currency wars, and military alliances.

Thus, this turn of events may be massive, and the culmination of the success which Iraq, Iran, and Syria have had, with their allies, in rolling back ISIS.  Additionally, this comes on the heels of the big changes in Egypt, which saw Turkey’s main ally in the war on Syria removed.  It also represents a major revival of the Russian effort to build an alternative route to the line going through Ukraine.  That line has been the subject of numerous problems as the Ukrainians had been difficult partners.  The recent outbreak of hostilities within Ukraine has made them an even less reliable partner, pushing the need to speed up the process of an alternative Russian gas route into high gear.

Let us begin with the reality as it has been presented.  On December 1st, Russia declared to the world that it had dumped the South Stream project because the European Union had decided that it did not want it.

The EU can be said to have decided this simply because it placed too many barriers on the project, mostly surrounding two factors.

The first factor was a constraint placed on the project by the Third Energy Package (TEP), which was passed in the EU in 2009.  This was done much after the South Stream project had already been proposed in 2007, and the tentative agreement already inked.  This change of conditions after the fact means that Russia has not abrogated any of its commitments, either morally or legally.  This is important in terms of Russia’s other numerous important trading and strategic partners, both in the region, and in the world.  No one will see that Russia pulls the plug on deals it makes.

In fact, Russia showed both good faith and due diligence in all spheres of the South Stream negotiations and construction process.  The initial terms of South Stream were made under conditions prior to the latest round of restrictions placed upon Russia, on top of the Third Energy Package.  In other considerations, as the project evolved, some elements of the TEP were interpreted in a way which still made the South Stream a viable project.  This means that the signatories to the South Stream tentative agreement cannot be held retroactively accountable for newer restrictions to the execution or workability of said agreement, which were unforeseeable at the time of the deal.  As the deal evolved over time, the manner by which the restrictions imposed by TEP were interpreted, also figured into the entire project.

The second factor is that Bulgaria had been under extraordinary pressure to conform to EU dictates in this arena.  The Bulgarian reluctance to buck EU dictates was understood by Putin, which is reflected in the exact words that were used to describe the failure on the Bulgarian end.  By and large, blame was placed on the EU for pressuring Bulgaria.  At the level of diplomacy, this gives the Bulgarians an important out, which will figure into this analysis, shortly.  Simultaneously, given how power is popularly understood, the Bulgarian government is being held by Bulgarians – who mostly wanted this project for a range of obvious reasons – as being primarily responsible.  The Bulgarians were also thinking they had an option, which was snapped away from them with this Russian-Turkish deal.  This will also figure into the scope of things to come, that we will describe.

Various news agencies around the world ran with the simple headline that Putin had cancelled South-Stream.  Some agencies and analysis groups viewed this as a show of Russian weakness, and others of Russian strength.  On the balance, just looking at the headlines as wholly descriptive, we can determine that Russia has acted out of strength.  They are actually leaving room for flexibility, and has hinted at conditions for workability.

We are justified in saying this for three main reasons.

The first is that Putin made the statement, it was not made by Europe or for him by others.  This means that he was not responding to a question or unforeseen circumstance, but rather this was a calculated pronouncement and made at a time of his choosing.  The words were chosen quite carefully.  His exact words must be examined.

“Bearing in mind the fact that we have not yet received Bulgaria’s permission, we think Russia in such conditions cannot continue this project,”

He continued on, “If Europe doesn’t want to realize this, then it means it won’t be realized. We will redirect the flow of our energy resources to other regions of the world.”

The first clause of the first quote, uses the word ‘yet’.  Alternate words that would eliminate any room for consideration would have been ‘Bearing in mind the fact that we will never receive Bulgaria’s permission.’

In order to clarify the open nature that is communicated here, he says ‘in such conditions’.  That is, under these conditions, but not other conditions.  In other conditions, logically if follows, perhaps something is possible.  But, also, perhaps not.

In the second quote, he uses the word ‘If’.  Not ‘Since’, or ‘Because’, but ‘If’.  In short, “if” they don’t want to realize this, it won’t be realized.  If they do want this realized, then perhaps it can be realized. Or not.

Also in this second quote is a statement which runs counter to the actual concept behind the Russian-Turkish gas deal.  Indeed it does aim to direct the flow to Europe, and not other regions of the world as such.  Recall that the Turkish hub is on the European side, near the Greek border.  Russia’s Ambassador to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov was clear when he said, “The gas pipeline thread may go in any direction from the Turkish hub,”. [1]

These statements furthermore seem to align not only with developments in Ukraine, but also in Syria, which we will elaborate on here as well.  This also means that the statement ought to be viewed in light of how Russia makes its official statements, which are almost always multi-layered messages.

Secondly, most news stories and news analysis also somewhat correctly mentioned that Putin simultaneously had been in Ankara where he ironed out a deal with Erdogan.  Putin announced that he and Erdogan had come to terms on increasing the volume of the Blue-Stream pipeline to Turkey, and creating a new pipeline to Turkey.    It is chiefly important here to mention that such a high level meeting means that there is much more to this than an energy deal.

After all, if this was the sole subject of the meeting, such a deal could have been made between Gazprom’s Alexei Miller, or even one of his subordinates, and their Turkish counterparts.  However, importantly is the fact that Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz has gone on record saying that final terms have not been made.  A number of outstanding issues remain, apparently, such as the price of gas.  Russia has offered a 6% discount, but Turkey may end up with two or three times greater than that figure (18%).  Still, Turkey has enabled Russia to make an important announcement at a critical time.   Turkey is no doubt aware that this relates to the two aforementioned conflicts.  Still relevant are the more banal and well publicized economic concerns concerning solvency in the EU as well, including decreased demand.

Additionally, Russia has publically announced a $40-bn+ gas deal with India, as well as commitment to build nuclear power facilities.  Interestingly, India and Russia planned as far back as August, and perhaps April of 2014, to make this announcement in December.  This lends credence to the ‘strategic nature’ hypothesis of Putin’s well timed announcement on Turkey. ” An announcement on this initiative is expected to be made in December when the two leaders meet at the India-Russia annual summit to be held in New Delhi.” [2].

It is possible that an outstanding issue may relate to how Turkey’s previous plans can be combined with a new Russian-Turkish pipeline, which we will also explore in this report.

Third, as we will explain here in greater detail, this plan removes some of the alternate projects which Bulgaria and the EU thought they could rely on resurrecting, or further developing, in the final event of a Russian pull-out from the South Stream project.  Perhaps they had even intended for the Russians to further build in the Black Sea, only to pull the plug at a later phase, and ultimately have their efforts be for nothing, at great expense for Russia.

In truth, it is both too soon and too hard to tell what will happen exactly.

What Putin stressed was that the decision on whether or not this project can work was Europe’s to make.  This is an open door.

This seems to really contradict Putin’s statement about not having gas go to Europe.  Indeed, what we have actually been presented is, for the European project, a rebranded South Stream which now may also simply be combined with Nabucco.  This is because the new proposed line to Turkey goes to the European region of Turkish Thrace.

What we are to make of this depends on how we understand larger questions about the world we live in.

The reality of the ‘cancellation of South Stream’ is an example of a creation of a simulated hyper-reality to dissemble the actual reality of the situation.  This meme has now bounced off of all media walls, including alternative media and new media.  It has created an echo-chamber truth of its own.  We can understand that there are numerous targets of this weaponized bit of information, within the context of the information war at hand.

It should be no surprise that things are not what they seem.  We live in an increasingly complex world which witnesses an increasing sophistication in the multiple layers of meaning, which are embedded in official statements as they are reported.  We can say that the increasing bellicosity in general parallels the increased complexity of these messages.

The details of the proposed deal with Turkey are of some significance.   But we can only say with certainty, that what is important at this stage is that the plans seem credible insofar as they are workable.

Russia has officially gone on a media campaign to sell the workability of the Russian-Turkish Stream plan.  In a map provided to the public by RT, Russia’s English language state news agency, we can see clearly what the intended message is. 

gas_to_eu_final_3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Given that the main Russkaya CS plant which was built to handle the capacity of the South Stream line will still be used, and together with this, and the portions of pipe which have already been laid outside of Bulgaria that can still be used, the 5-bn Euros already spent on the project can be easily switched for similar use in a Russian-Turkish Stream scenario.  That alone foils one part of a possible US backed EU ploy to lure Russia into an ultimately dead-end project, which would have had the real potential of destabilizing the political structure inside of Russia itself.

If an actual Russian-Turkish stream is built, this will be the case, that Russian efforts have not gone to waste.  But what is most critical at this stage is that it adds credence to the Russian announcement. Looking at the map we can see that this is not simply a pipeline to Turkey.  It is not simply a different deal, now aimed at Turkey.

No, clearly this is a repackaged South Stream pipeline which now simply routes 150km south of the Bulgarian South Stream proposal, and through Turkey instead.  It also combines, now, elements of the Turkish Nabucco plan, as it now involves Greece and Macedonia, before it would turn north through Serbia, as well as having the potential to reconsider the Southern Corridor, as we will explore later in this report.

Perhaps under Russian consultation of this possibility, we can understand why Serbia began construction not in the south-east where it would have connected to the Bulgarian line, but rather in Novi Sad in the north.  This pipe laid in Novi Sad would be the route of either a South Stream or a slightly revised Nabucco in its new incarnation as the Russian-Turkish line.  Taken together, this new plan is the Russian-Turkish deal.

Indeed, we can see that with some modification, Russia and Turkey has proposed to combine the Nabucco and South Stream projects.  This was actually proposed by  Chief Executive Officer of Italian energy company EniPaolo Scaronione, the Italian project company involved in South Stream, at an early stage of negotiations.  While mainstream reporting gave a number of reasons why this proposal was initially rejected, what we know for certain is that the logistics and workability of such a plan to combine these two projects have been known about for several years [3].

It is interesting to consider then, that in retrospect, after all of the intrigue and blood spilt over this contest, that the Scaronione plan based on cooperation, collaboration, and peace, would be the one that actually worked out.  Moreover, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) which was sometimes a variation of the Nabucco plan, was also a variation of South Stream.

The more one looks at this, given the considerable weight which is given to the opinions of Scaronione, the more one must entertain the possibility that this Turkish reversal was in the works from the start.  Turkey always seemed to play its role with NATO against Syria, but in retrospect we can see that they did not ‘retaliate’ as expected when Syrian air defenses shot down the Turkish fighter jet, among other things [4].  They did not move against Syria as robustly as they could have, and they never entirely shut the door on Iran.  From the start, they did not freely allow just any mercenary or jihadi passage from Turkey into Syria, and even arrested (and captured caches) those connected to Libya (Belhaj) and Europe, funded by the Saudis and Qataris [5].

Iran was always looking for rapprochement with Turkey.  Iran wanted to be part of Nabucco, and made the offer as early as 2009 before the outbreak of hostilities, and now it looks like they will have that opportunity.  Indeed Erdogan told a gathering of Nabucco partner countries and regional countries in that same year, which included Iraq and Georgia: “We desire Iranian gas to be included in Nabucco when conditions allow,” [6]

But the US’s own special energy envoy Richard Morningstar was clear that Washington would not allow the Iranians to take part.  The strangeness of the US opposition may have escaped the average American reader, here.  Nabucco in no way involved the US directly, it is not a trans-Atlantic project.  This is, at the very most, a question which only ought to be of concern to those countries that will be involved in the production, transport, and consumption of the goods and services provided.

What the US offered instead to Turkey was that it should throw its international reputation into the wind, and facilitate an ultimately failed attempt to make ‘regime change’ in Syria.

It was always known that the Nabucco plan and the South Stream plan, while pitched as competing plans, really seem to be the same project, pitched differently, involving different power blocs, but interestingly, some of the same project companies.

In theory, then, nothing will be different for Serbia or the other countries along the pipeline.  In fact, this might even work better for Russia in that it now involves Turkey, Greece, and Macedonia as it re-routes to get back on its path which travels north through Serbia, into Hungary, Austria, etc.  For the consumer states, price wise, we should not expect a tremendous difference.  The discount that Turkey receives from Russia will allow for Turkish profitability with a savings that can be passed onto the consumer states.

This is not just about energy markets, but changing political and military partners.

Serbia, Austria, and Hungary are not only still on board with South Stream, or any other name this rose is called, but Hungary and Serbia have sworn off sanctions on Russia.  Hungary has even threatened to leave the EU over South Stream, and has also refused to become entangled again in a problematic IMF loan, now after having paid off its debt.  Russia is presently building the facility and military intelligence infrastructure, in what could soon become an actual military installation, in the south of Serbia near Nish. This is also an area where the South Stream, or by any other name, will travel through Serbia.

Serbia has not made significant progress in moving towards the EU.  It has still not recognized Kosovo, which is an unofficial condition for EU entry.  Other matters such as the above mentioned Russian military intelligence hub, Putin’s presence and receiving the highest award at a distinctly Slavic style military parade, have emerged since, which have infuriated EU bureaucrats and NATO chiefs alike.

Thus, Hungary and Serbia, and because of details ironed out with OMV, Austria as well, are still on board with the project.  With very minor adjustments, this Russian-Turkish stream will be the same for them as the South Stream.  So, Russia’s December 1 announcement was not targeted at them.  In fact, taken together with the Russian-Turkish Stream, it is a big sigh of relief.

Rather, certain sections of the Bulgarian establishment are the immediate target of this announcement.  It is very important to create the all-round sense that Bulgaria can be left out of the equation, if it doesn’t do something decisive, and quickly.  If these matters were as simple to understand as the official statements made, then most people following the headlines would understand matters as they stand.  The truth, however, is more complicated.

In bargaining, to say that a deal is off the table is actually part of the bargaining process.  For those already familiar with this point, please forgive that we must belabor it for a moment. This is true all over the world, but is a particularly known bargaining tactic in Eurasia and the Middle-east.  It is accurate to include that this tactic is used in the far west, even where business culture tends to be based more on the proclivities and sensitivities of those in the Anglosphere.  Nevertheless, Slavs, Arabs,Turks, and Iranians do business differently.  Saying that a deal is off the table is neither rude, nor is it a deal breaker.  It is also not limited to business, but also informs other spheres of life such as romance and friendships.  It is an often critical part of the deal making process.  In a way which may seem counter-intuitive to westerners, this actually builds trust.

Concepts and legal norms against things like regressive bargaining still exist, but this is not a case of that.  In the face of interesting, new, and creative interpretations of the Third Energy Package that was forced upon Europe under the influence of a semi-suicidal hypnotic trance, induced by the Trans-Atlantic power structure, Bulgaria reneged on its obligation to go forward with the plan.

And yet, to say that Bulgaria does not want to be included in a pipe-line project is not at all true.  Bulgaria still wants the plan, and on their end they insist there can still be one.  It was Europe that placed Bulgaria into this situation.  It was the EU that has interfered with Bulgaria’s electoral process, resulting in the present government.

Putin’s announcement was also aimed at the EU, and by extension, the US.

This is about calling Europe’s bluff.  Europe assumed that it could then change the legal framework of doing energy business with Europe by interpreting the Third Energy Package in new and creative ways, even after its own member states had bent over backwards to meet the already onerous and cumbersome restrictions, derived from the last round of sabotage.

Europe then assumed that it could act with increased hostility to Russia, involving themselves in the training, arming, and equipping of neo-nazis in Ukraine, and staging a coup to frustrate Ukraine’s integration into the Eurasian Customs Union.  Then Europe assumed that it could then proceed to impose on itself some serious self-inflicted wounds under the title “sanctions on Russia”, which have also not been a walk in the park for the Russians.  Europe assumed that it could do all of this, and more, and that Russia would be so desperate that in light of all of this, in light of the TEP, Ukraine, sanctions, and more, that Russia would pay forward the costs of developing the project, but let Europe control the physical infrastructures , revenues, and other critical aspects.

Still, it is possible that the deal is off the table for Bulgaria.  But no one can say definitively whether it is right now.  Sections from the Bulgarian elite are saying there is still a deal.  This means that they are doing one of two things.  One, they are accurately interpreting this December 1st statement as being serious bargaining language, and are trying to figure out how to reorganize themselves politically, making a ‘civilizational’ decision regarding Russia vs. the EU in its Atlanticist incarnation, and looking to make a counter-offer.   Or, they are unable to meet these demands.

Thus they would be buying time by trying to give false assurances to the tremendous and powerful interests inside of Bulgaria involved in the South Stream project.  As well, they would trying to placate the general populace who supported this, in order to stave off a rapid descent into political chaos.

Alexei Miller blames Bulgaria entirely, plays the role of bad cop, and says that the closing of the project had nothing to do with TEP.  This is an important warning to Bulgaria that it needs to move quickly. Putin plays the role of good cop, and allows PR cover for the Bulgarian government, blaming the EU, and giving the Bulgarian government some face-saving wiggle room.

A Russian-Turkish line does not have to exclude Bulgaria.  Russia has Bulgaria very concerned, for not only have they been told that the new line will exclude them, but that after it is complete, they will also be cut out of the line that runs from Ukraine.  That is a major cause for concern for Bulgaria, one which can force them to make a ‘civilizational’ decision, one which will determine their alignment for the next number of decades to come, and beyond.  Bulgaria may have been misled into thinking that they could play games.  They may have believed that in the event of a South Stream collapse, the Nabucco project could be brought back to life, despite problems with the Shah Deniz  energy consortium, and the failure for the Nabucco project to make headway in the Levant, in the wake of serious Turkish, US and Israeli defeats vis-à-vis Syria and Egypt.

People are wondering why Europe is making such a huge mistake with the way they are interpreting and enforcing the TEP.  Yes, it can be said that Europe made a mistake here. Or, it can be said that Europe intentionally sabotaged this, and in so doing, sabotaged its own economy.  This latter case is almost understandable with an understanding of the considerable pressure which the US exerts on Europe.  The latter case makes more sense.

There are several critical factors facing Europe.  We can look at a few of them.

One critical factor which is often ignored by analysts looking at the ‘Triangle’ of Atlanticist Europe, Eurasia, and the ‘Near East’ (the Balkans, Turkey, and Arab World) is that this is actually a ‘Square’.  Europe is being threatened by the US that it will lose access to Latin America.

One point worth mentioning here is that the US has said that the age of the “Monroe Doctrine” is over.  Of course, this statement was aimed at Russia regarding Georgia, but in a different way also at Europe.  Today European investment in Latin America – considered in the 19th century to be within the US’s realm of influence by the Monroe Doctrine – is not insignificant.  Formal institutions, aimed at coordination, like the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Latin American Investment Facility (LAIF) represent but a tip of the iceberg in this regard.  There is also increasing investment from Latin American countries and firms into Europe.  All countries in Western Europe are tied to investments in Latin America.  The US tries to project to Europe that it has the capacity to effect coups or transitions of power in Latin America.  It shows it can do this through its traditional means of the military coup, or new methods such as the Color Revolution and Arab Spring tactic.

Both of these methods have failed to effect change in the so-called ‘Pink Tide’ countries in Latin America.  But a statistically improbably number of Pink Tide leaders either have cancer, or in the case of Chavez, have already died of it.  Of course the US still does business with Pink Tide countries.  But those terms are not as lucrative as they would be if those governments were mere puppets.  A portion of US trade with Latin America is done through proxies in Europe, or through MNC’s and TNC’s whose governing boards are comprised of both US and European nationals.

The European elite are divided.  Those who follow US dictates are tied to US interests in numerous ways.

Others in this lot are heavily invested in Latin America, and have not been convinced that the Russians or Chinese can protect these European investments from the US, in the event of a US initiated change of government in most Latin American countries, as in,  signifying a return to the Monroe Doctrine.  On the other hand are those in Europe who are more connected to Eurasia.  Right now they are both upset, and weakened.  Perhaps the window of opportunity for them to effect a concerted effort to change the present course has passed.  Perhaps it has not.

There is also another critical factor which revolves around other gas deals that had been in the works.

Indeed there is still yet another rational explanation, however, to Europe’s otherwise blundering arrogance.  Europe, like Bulgaria, was also thinking that it had options, which the Russian-Turkish deal actually makes an end-run around.

The US was also excited about this, and it related to its efforts in the Middle-East.  This was the so-called Southern Corridor plan, a part of Nabucco.

So, this partly explains the extraordinary efforts that the US has engaged in to overthrow the government of Syria.  Syria was the best choice to host a branch for Egyptian and Israeli liquefied natural gas into the Nabucco pipeline network.

The Nabucco line was to be a Turkish project, but on the European side involved a number of the same firms that would later go over to the South Stream project.  The Nabucco line also involved a number of the same countries as well.   Critically; Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria.

The South Stream was different in its starting point, and its trans-Pontic route.  Instead of Romania, it favored Serbia. Other than this, they were very similar projects.  Because they involved many of the same project companies on the European side, and promised to deliver similar volumes, the final decision to go with South Stream was a product of Russian success in the realms of diplomacy and related areas of intrigue.

gasmap

Additionally, the Nabucco project did not have the assurances on the eastern end, and would also have been a project that involved a number of companies and interests before arriving in Europe.  This also increased the cost. Thus, the ease of doing business, and the superior form of coordination that comes from dealing with a single state-owned company, such as Gazprom, was another important factor.  Keeping various and even conflicting multiple project companies all together, for ten years on a project that had not even broken ground, as was the case with Nabucco, was a lot like herding cats.

However, the Nabucco line was to get a good portion of its gas from the Azeri controlled Caspian offshore, a project under the control of the Shah Deniz energy consortium which works closely with BP.  This was to rely on support from Azerbaijan, passing through it, and as well possibly Georgia, and then into Turkey.

For a number of reasons, which Nabucco was nixed when the Shah Deniz  consortium decided to handle the project differently.  Then it was resurrected with a different route.  The background to this issue involves matters out of the scope of this report, but revolves around the complicated relationships between Russia and the post-Soviet states in the Caucuses, and the manner by which the latter have also made relationships with Turkey, within the context of constant meddling from the US and EU.

To state it clearly, time-frames notwithstanding, there were three projects.  The South Stream, the Nabucco, and the Trans-Anatolian to Trans Adriatic (TANAP/TAP).  But all three of them could not all go forward.  Contradictions or overlaps not only between the project companies, but also the underlying broader geostrategic and geopolitical concerns meant that TANAP/TAP could not go forward without the Nabucco going forward as most plans have these merged, and Nabucco was less viable at any rate with South Stream going forward.

Upon closer inspection, the TANAP/TAP and the Nabucco are really one and the same.  This is so even if  there were differences in project conceptions, involving some different project companies and minor differences in route.  At a point last year, it looked as Nabucco would work with the Shah Deniz  consortium and actually take a Central European route, through the North-South corridor.  This would have meandered up from Nabucco in Hungary, and towards the Baltic Sea cutting through both Slovakia and Czech Republic, and through Poland.

This would have undermined the importance of two Russian lines, through Ukraine and Nord Stream.  But changes in the Hungarian political landscape, towards an overtly pro-Russian position, made this route unlikely. To cut up from Romania through Ukraine would be a burdensome addition by way of kilometers of pipe, given the project always had funding problems and what were perceived as inflated costs.

What this boiled down to was the EU encouraged on by the US, having Turkey and Russia compete endlessly.

This is also why, since last week’s announcement, EU’s optimistic talk of the TANAP/TAP project revival can seem strangely out of touch with reality.  Turkey, of course, is wise to diversify its sources, working with Azeri partners as well as Russian.  The Shah Deniz fields are estimated at no more than 1 trln. cm as opposed to Russia’s 48 trln. cm.  The Azeri estimated reserves are thus only about 2 % of the Russian [7].

Yes, the Azeris may produce, together with what they have and with the Shah Deniz II expansion, as much as 40 bcm per year.  But with a realistic reserve quantity of 1trln. cm, this isn’t going to last very long in the scheme of things, especially if production is to be expanded further.  So we can see that while Azeri contributions meant something, if the entire plan is to be worth the long term aims, always meant a combination with Nabucco.

This  in turn substantively meant the Southern Corridor through the Levant.

The Southern Corridor is a critical piece.  Azeri gas from the Shah Deniz field promised to make a new route viable.  Without Nabucco and Turkey, the Azeri’s really could not fund this.  Construction never began on Nabucco, and experienced all of the confusion between project companies, funding issues, and changed routes as described above.  What it relied on, to work, was incorporating Egyptian, Israeli, and Syrian gas to make a Southern Corridor, into Turkey and connect with the rest of Nabucco.

map_middleeast_oil3-499x453

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TANAP/TAP cannot really work as a stand-alone project.  Europeans are at best talking their book, at worst, sorely misinformed.  Given the levels of ineptitude and nepotism which prevail in ‘Old Europe’, this last possibility is actually a great one.

This reality played a factor in the Arab Spring in Egypt and Syria.  Turkey backed the Arab Spring in Egypt, and had their man, Morsi, installed.  Morsi was not simply installed as part of the Arab Spring tactic by the US and Israel as part of a broader regional move against Iran.  Of course, this much is true.  But further, this in Egypt, was supposed to be a major development allowing for Egyptian natural gas to get to Turkey, through Israel and a Syria under a new western backed “FSA” leadership that favored Egypt, Israel, and Turkey over Iran and broadly speaking, Russia.

Still Turkey’s previous plans with the Southern Corridor can be combined with a new Russian-Turkish pipeline.  This possibility may really underscore the significance of the Russian-Turkish deal, and the entire geostrategic and geopolitical realignment which may be underway.

Essentially, the position of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Israel as being firm pro-Western and anti-Russian natural gas interests meant  that Egypt and Syria would have to experience ‘regime change’ for all the pieces to link up.  While Egypt under Mubarak received western military aid and was an important US ally during the last decade of the cold war, and interpreting most generously could be said to have “looked the other way” on Israel-Palestine, he was opposed to regime change in Syria.  Syria could not act in line with a Turkish and Israeli plan given its relations with Iran, and Turkish relations with Iran.

The stage was set, then to make a “regime change” in Egypt and Syria, thus angling out  Iran, and perhaps even forcing Lebanon to act in concert with Israel against Hezbollah.

But Iran and Russia, working with Syria and its SAA effectively pushed back the foreign mercenary and Salafist invasion of Syria.  Yes, the US and Israel still push with its Saudi friends to finance a quasi-mythical ISIS, and even here in recent days we have seen a series of big defeats for ISIS.  In fact, these three latest major events – The Turkish-Russian gas deal announcement, the defeats suffered by ISIS, and the Israeli air-force provocations on Syria, are all intimately connected.

In the course of the Turkish end of the war against Syria, the disorganization, losses, and problematic western led alliance were such that pre-existing tensions between the Sauds and Qataris were exacerbated.  Turkey’s friendly Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt was subject to severe persecution in the pro-Salafist realm of peninsular Arabia.  Turkey’s friendly MB front in Palestine, Hamas, was being actively courted by Iran.

In the last year of this conflict, in the wake of the failed western attempt to blame Syria for a chemical attack it staged itself, Iran-Turkey relations have in fact warmed, seeing a 400% increase in bilateral trade.  Furthermore, Turkey reversed its decision on the convictions of leading Pro-Russian ‘Eurasianist’ leaders, some even in the military, who had been caught up in the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy.  This included the prominent Worker’s Party leader, Dogu Perencek, and other of his ranking Maoist-Kemalist comrades.  This last piece is significant in its symbolism more than anything else, but we live in a world of symbols and signs.

What we were left with, finally then, as a result, was the total fracturing of the US and Israeli led alliance against Syria.  Russia worked with some partners in the region to reverse the Arab Spring in Egypt, seeing the ousting of Morsi and his replacement by Sisi.  At first glance, this is a set-back for Turkey as well, and Russians may have either worked with, or fooled, the Saudis in helping with this.  Analysis on Saudi-Russian bilateral relations are generally a nebulous cloud of disinformation and misinformation, and we will leave these and related questions out of this report.

Now there is a new reality, the situation has reversed.

Iran-Turkey relations have warmed, and so have Russian-Turkish relations.  Egypt has committed itself in the area of foreign policy, to a good relationship with Ba’athist Syria of Assad.  Egypt will maintain Mubaraks’ old arrangement with Israel with regard to Palestine, tunnels, and the like.  But Egyptian natural gas will only make its way, now, through to Turkey’s ‘Russian Turkish Line’, replacing Nabucco, if it goes through the legitimate government of Syria.

If it is also to involve Israel, it may be possible to place some conditions on Israel.

Besides ending its war against Syria, and ending its rhetoric on Iran, it could also include the recognition of Palestine and profit sharing with Palestine, whom the offshore Gazan resource legally belongs to.  We should not be optimistic here, but as well it is possible for a new route for the Egyptian end, as the southern-most part of the ‘new’ Southern-Corridor project, to meander through the Sinai through Jordan, or go by sea to Syria.

This may mean that if Israel wants to expand their market, it may need to work through its Netanyahu disaster period, and elect a Labor government with center-right instead of far-right social and economic policy, and policy on Palestine.  All of this is entirely speculative, and probably unlikely.  But Israel needs this project more than the other parties need Israel.  Israel will need to weigh, however, numerous factors which not only directly relate to energy markets.  In reality, Israel finds itself increasingly isolated in the region.  Experts have already explained for at least a decade, that the Israeli Zionist project may be unsustainable and could be winding down.  Some have even pondered if the Zionist entity would be looking to relocate to the emerging rump-state of Western Ukraine, where, biblical lore aside, many Israelis can materially trace their recent history to.  Nevertheless, Israel has reached a critical place, and has some difficult decisions to make.

Israel is going to be the most problematic piece, but the Azeris also have an opportunity to re-align their interests with the new plan.  The fusion of Nabucco and South Stream with TANAP/TAP is still a possibility too.  BP will not like this per se, but the Shah Deniz consortium is going to have to make some difficult decisions and work that piece out.  This is doubly true if there is a serious policy change in Azerbaijan.  Like with Israel, the Azeris need to be a part of this project more than the project needs them.

The Azeri’s only other option is the ever elusive White Stream. Yulia Tymoshenko herself proposed this to the EU as far back as 2008.  There are numerous problems here, including that it was to cross from Georgia into the Black Sea and to Crimea.  But Crimea is Russia now, and at present time it is truly up in the air if Ukraine will become a landlocked rump-state, or have regime change, long before such a project can be completed, let alone started.  Romania, which has been removed from the Russian-Turkish proposal in its Nabucco form, may be the only viable partner.  But this would mean extensive construction across the black sea from Georgia to Romania.  These were the same obstacles which precluded the possibility of any kind of TANAP/TAP project that didn’t go through Turkey.  In reality, if a project cannot pay by itself for a relatively limited supply (Azeri) to traverse the Black Sea, it will have  to work with Russia or Turkey, who have now teamed up.

With regard to the entire scope of the Russian-Turkish gas deal in general, we should be cautious in speculating much on the future course of it, or what it all may mean.  We have attempted to sketch out what some of the primary factors are.  We have given some details and the related background, of the natural gas contest and its primacy not only to Russia and Ukraine, and the Balkans.  We have explained also how this collided and yet now coincides with a Turkish supported project.

We should still expect future public talk on this subject which places the new deal into question.  This is all part of the process and the spectacle.  It is even still possible that Israel will provoke such a response in Syria and Lebanon that Iran will be hard pressed not to react, increasing the bellicosity and instability in the region, making a Turkish re-orientation of the Southern Corridor more difficult.

Likewise, the West may still effectively divide Russian from Turkish interests.  It will definitely make every attempt to.  The Russians and Turks, if they are to stay together on this project, will likely entertain the illusion for the West that its disruptive efforts are working at times, because this is how it’s done.

It made little sense for Russia and Turkey to both have lines through roughly the same route, with the success of the Turkish one requiring instability in the Levant, the destruction of Syria, and a coup in Egypt.  Now that Russia and Turkey have announced to the world that they will not have their interests placed at odds with each other through the manipulation of the US, EU, and Israel, we can see a geopolitical shift in the making, of tectonic proportions.

Again, this is not over for Bulgaria either, but as with Bosnia and Serbia, the conflict in Ukraine stands a good chance at spreading, especially as Balkans states could re-align in a decisively pro-Russian direction.  Still, energy markets are huge, but they are not everything.

Russia’s future tasks are clear.  If Bulgaria can come to its senses, Russia must help Bulgaria with its security apparatus, for example, helping to restructure its intelligence and secret police agencies.  It must provide Bulgaria with these and other assurances.  Russia must also, if is to build again with the EU, demonstrate that it can protect assets and investments in Latin America.

Europe must understand that the Balkans can only be a place where either both EU, Russia and Turkey can have an interest, or that it will be without Europe, with only Russia and Turkey having an interest.  This would mirror an historical pattern, as well.

The EU should not be forced to commit suicide by cutting off its access to affordable energy resources from Russia and the Middle-East, at the threat of losing access to Latin American markets under conditions of increased US bellicosity in that region.

Some analysts have looked at the low prices and attractive terms which Russia have offered to its partners, including China, and now Turkey and India, regarding energy markets.  Some have said that Putin is showing Russian weakness with such a low price.  Others, more accurately have said that Putin is broad in thinking, and is focusing more on market share than market price.  This is a fair point, and closer to the truth.

But all of these exciting adventures in capitalism are not going to mean very much on an irradiated earth primarily populated by cockroaches, feeding off of highly adaptive bacteria.   The bigger picture we can draw from all of this is a Russia that is thinking long term, and issues like stability are more important than quarterly fluctuations.   It is committed to building a multi-polar world which will save the world from the US Empire, save Europe from itself, and enable conditions for sovereignty and development in whole regions like the Balkans, Middle-east, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Joaquin Flores is an American expat living in Belgrade. He is a full-time analyst at the Center for Syncretic Studies, a public geostrategic think-tank. His expertise encompasses Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and he has a strong proficiency in Middle East affairs. Flores is particularly adept at analyzing the psychology of the propaganda wars. He is a political scientist educated at California State University. In the US, he worked for a number of years as a labor union organizer, chief negotiator, and strategist for a major trade union federation.

Notes

This morning at 10:40am, net neutrality demonstrators interrupted the FCC’s monthly meeting by unfurling a large banner reading “Reclassify Now!” behind the seated FCC commissioners. The activists, both union members, were escorted from the room by security after speaking out and asking FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler why he continues to delay Title II net neutrality, which should have been voted on at today’s meeting.

Other activists inside the meeting held paper signs calling for reclassification of the Internet under Title without delay. Several stood up and spoke to Chairman Wheeler from the floor to ask why net neutrality was left off the agenda before being escorted from the room. Outside, a crowd of protesters gathered with signs reading “Save the Internet! and “Reclassify Under Title II!”

Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

Activist Vanessa Beck of PopularResistance.org, who participated in the action, said “Nearly 4 million people submitted comments to the FCC on net neutrality, a record number, and more than 99% supported reclassification under Title II. If the FCC was a truly democratic agency, we would have a Title II rule today. Chairman Wheeler needs to stop stalling and listen to the public.”

Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

While demonstrators made their voices heard at the FCC, digital rights group Fight for the Future, who helped publicize the protests, also rallied support online launching a new feature on CallTheFCC.com that allows supporters to easily email FCC employees with a few clicks. The group has has helped drive more than 40,000 phone calls to the FCC in recent months.

The disruption today was organized by PopularResistance.org, the activist group that helped lead Occupy the FCC and famously blockaded FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s driveway last month. Net neutrality supporters vowed to continue escalating their efforts until the FCC votes to approve Title II reclassification and protect the Internet from cable company abuse and censorship.

Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.


The world’s geopolitics, major trade patterns and military alliances have changed radically in the past month. Russia has re-oriented its gas and oil trade, and also its trade in military technology, away from Europe toward Eurasia.

The result is the opposite of America’s hope for the past half-century of dividing and conquering Eurasia: setting Russia against China, isolating Iran, and preventing India, the Near East and other Asian countries from joining together to create an alternative to the U.S. dollar area. American sanctions and New Cold War policy has driven these Asian countries together in association with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as an alternative to NATO, and in the BRICS moves to avoid dealing with the dollar area, the IMF and World Bank austerity programs.

Regarding Europe, America’s insistence that it join the New Cold War by imposing sanctions on Russia and blocking Russian gas and oil exports has aggravated the Eurozone’s economic austerity, making it even more of a Dead Zone. This week a group of Germany’s leading politicians, diplomats and cultural celebrities wrote an open letter to Angela Merkel protesting her pro-U.S. anti-Russian policy. By overplaying its hand, the United States is in danger of driving Europe out of the U.S. economic orbit.

Turkey already is moving out of the U.S.-European orbit, by turning to Russia for its energy needs. Iran also has moved into an alliance with Russia. Instead of the Obama administration’s neocons dividing and conquering as they had planned, they are isolating America from Europe and Asia. Yet there has been almost no recognition of this in the U.S. press, despite its front-page discussion throughout Europe and Asia. Instead of breaking up the BRICS, the dollar area is coming undone.

This week, President Putin is going to India to negotiate a gas and arms deal. Last week he was in Turkey diverting what was to be the South Stream pipeline away from southern Europe to Turkey. And Turkey is becoming an associate of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization integrating the BRICS in a defensive alliance against the United States, now that it is obvious that it has no chance of joining the EU.

A few months earlier, Russia announced the largest oil and gas trade and pipeline investment ever, with China – along with a transfer of missile defense technology.

2. There has been almost no discussion of this vast geopolitical realignment in the U.S. media, largely because it represents a defeat for the New Cold War policy pushed by the neocons over the past year, ever since Russia convinced President Obama not to go to war in Syria, which had been a neocon military aim.

Their response was to isolate Russia and economically attack its trade and hence balance-of-payments strength: its gas and oil trade with Europe. Last February, U.S. diplomats engineered a Pinochet-style coup d’état in Ukraine, and used this as a lever to reverse Europe’s buildup of trade with Russia.

The aim was to punish Russia’s economy – and in the process to press for a regime change against Putin, putting in place a more pro-U.S., neoliberal Yeltsin-style regime by causing a financial crisis.

The assumption underlying this policy was that since the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, Russia was turning toward Europe to re-integrate its economy and society. And Europe for its part sought to make Russia its main energy supplier – of oil as well as gas, through new pipelines being built to circumvent Ukraine. Northstream ran via the North Sea to northern Europe. Southstream was to be built via Bulgaria and Serbia to southern Europe – mainly Italy and Austria.

Germany for its part looked to Russia as an export market, to earn the rubles to pay for Russian gas and oil. Other European countries stepped up their agricultural trade with Russia, and France agreed to build the enormous Mistral aircraft carrier. In short, the ending of the Cold War promised to bring a much closer economic and hence political integration of Russia with Europe – cemented largely by a gas pipeline network.

3. U.S. Cold Warriors have tried to disrupt this trade. The plan was to isolate Russia and lock Europe into the U.S. economy. The dream was to export U.S. shale gas to Europe, squeezing out Russia and thereby hurting its balance of payments.

This was always a pipedream. But what U.S. heavy-handed military confrontation with Russia really has done is to drive a political wedge between the United States and Europe. Last week, Putin gave a speech saying he found little point in negotiating with European politicians, because they simply followed U.S. orders via NATO and by U.S. pressure on German politicians, French politicians and other European politicians.

In following U.S. New Cold War confrontation, Europe has been acting against its own economic interests. Its neoliberal Third Energy law has effectively blocked Russia from having any economic gain in selling more gas to Europe.

4. Rentier pipeline politics
The U.S. neoliberal plan has been to insist on non-Russian control of the pipelines that would carry Russian gas and oil to Europe. The idea is to use this pipeline as a tollbooth to siphon off the revenue that Russia had hoped to receive from Europe.

Here’s the best way to understand what has occurred. Imagine that the United States had a law that owners of buildings could not also own the elevators in them. This would mean that the owners of the Empire State Building, for instance, could not own their elevators. Some other investors could buy the elevators, and then tell the building’s renters or other occupants that they would have to pay a fee each time they rode up to the 40th floor, the 50th floor, the 60th floor, and so forth.

The result would be that instead of the landlord receiving the rental value of the Empire State Building, the elevator owner could demand the lion’s share. Without access, the building would be a walk-up and its rents would fall – unless renters paid the elevator tollbooth.

This is what would happen with an oil pipeline owned by parties hostile to Russia. It is to avoid this that Gazprom insisted on building its own pipeline, under Russian control, to prevent rent-extracting investors. When Europe sought to block this by pretending that “free markets” meant separating pipeline ownership from the gas suppliers, it was trying to carve out a rent-extraction opportunity to siphon off Russian gas revenue.

The European Commission earlier had pressed an anti-Gazprom policy last year, in the process of imposing its austerity program on Greece. It insisted that Greece pay the IMF for having bailed out foreign bondholders by selling off assets in the public domain. The largest asset was Greece’s oil rights in the Aegean and its commercial oil-related infrastructure. When Gazprom was the largest bidder, Europe blocked the sale. The result has been to impose even deeper austerity on Greece, polarizing that nation’s politics in an increasingly anti-EU and anti-IMF stance – and hence, anti-US Cold War politics.

5. What is occurring is a radical shift in U.S.-European diplomacy – in a way that according to textbook theory is inherently unstable and unworkable.

Europe has inverted the major textbook premises of how national diplomacy is conducted. Instead of basing this diplomacy on economic and commercial interests, it is subordinating these interests to U.S. control. And as for Europe’s membership in NATO, instead of viewing military policy as an arm of foreign diplomacy, it is subordinating economic diplomacy, trade patterns, gas and oil supplies, export markets for industry and agriculture all to serve NATO’s military ends.
The objective no longer is military security as originally was the logic for NATO. Europe’s economic realignment against Russia threatens to bring military conflict directly into the continent as a result of the proxy war in Ukraine.

It has been said that nations do not have friends or enemies, only national interests. Most of these are economic. But today in Europe, German Chancellor Merkel seems to be ignoring German and other European economic interests. Still obsessed with her hatred of the East German Communist regime, she sees in Russia only an enemy, not an economic market and supplier of raw materials and customer for German manufactures and technology. Likewise, her political love for the United States deems it Europe’s natural friend, without taking into account how its New Cold War policy toward Europe – “Let’s you and Russia fight” – undercuts European continental interests and exacerbates its austerity.

The United States for its part has adopted von Clausewitz’s statement that war is an extension of foreign policy by other means in a very limited form: war seems to be the only lever that the United States is using in its foreign policy these days. And lacking an ability to mount a ground invasion, its only real threat is to tear economies apart by aerial bombing, as it has done to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libra and now Syria – and is doing by backing a proxy war in Ukraine.

Michael Hudson is President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of The Bubble and Beyond (2012), Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1968 & 2003), Trade, Development and Foreign Debt (1992 & 2009) and of The Myth of Aid (1971).

Who’s Right … Torture Defenders or Critics?

December 12th, 2014 by Washington's Blog

The Senate says that torture didn’t produce any actionable intelligence.

The CIA and a handful of those who ordered torture say that it was necessary.

Who’s right?

We don’t have to guess, get in a personality conflict, or engage in a partisan fight.

There is an overwhelming consensus among top interrogation experts of all stripes …

Overwhelming Consensus: Torture Doesn’t Work

Virtually all of the top interrogation experts – both conservatives and liberals (except for those trying to escape war crimes prosecution) – say that torture doesn’t work:

“Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.”

  • The C.I.A.’s 1963 interrogation manual stated:

Intense pain is quite likely to produce false confessions, concocted as a means of escaping from distress. A time-consuming delay results, while investigation is conducted and the admissions are proven untrue. During this respite the interrogatee can pull himself together. He may even use the time to think up new, more complex ‘admissions’ that take still longer to disprove.

  • According to the Washington Post, the CIA’s top spy – Michael Sulick, head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service – said that the spy agency has seen no fall-off in intelligence since waterboarding was banned by the Obama administration. “I don’t think we’ve suffered at all from an intelligence standpoint.”
  • The Chief Prosecutor of the Guantanamo military commissions (Colonel Morris Davis) says:

As person responsible for prosecuting KSM [i.e. alleged 9/11 “master mind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed], I spent 2 yrs immersed in the intel/evid. Torture did no good.

  • A 30-year veteran of CIA’s operations directorate who rose to the most senior managerial ranks (Milton Bearden) says (as quoted by senior CIA agent and Presidential briefer Ray McGovern):

It is irresponsible for any administration not to tell a credible story that would convince critics at home and abroad that this torture has served some useful purpose.

***

The old hands overwhelmingly believe that torture doesn’t work ….

  • The head of Army intelligence in 2006 (General John Kimmons) says:

No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that.

  • A former high-level CIA officer (Philip Giraldi) states:

Many governments that have routinely tortured to obtain information have abandoned the practice when they discovered that other approaches actually worked better for extracting information. Israel prohibited torturing Palestinian terrorist suspects in 1999. Even the German Gestapo stopped torturing French resistance captives when it determined that treating prisoners well actually produced more and better intelligence.

  • Another former high-level CIA official (Bob Baer) says:

And torture — I just don’t think it really works … you don’t get the truth. What happens when you torture people is, they figure out what you want to hear and they tell you.

  • Michael Scheuer, formerly a senior CIA official in the Counter-Terrorism Center, says:

“I personally think that any information gotten through extreme methods of torture would probably be pretty useless because it would be someone telling you what you wanted to hear.”

  • A retired C.I.A. officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002 (Glenn L. Carle) says:

[Coercive techniques] didn’t provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information…Everyone was deeply concerned and most felt it was un-American and did not work.”

  • A former top Air Force interrogator who led the team that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has conducted hundreds of interrogations of high ranking Al Qaida members and supervising more than one thousand, and wrote a book called How to Break a Terrorist writes:

As the senior interrogator in Iraq for a task force charged with hunting down Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the former Al Qaida leader and mass murderer, I listened time and time again to captured foreign fighters cite the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo as their main reason for coming to Iraq to fight. Consider that 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are these foreign fighters and you can easily conclude that we have lost hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives because of our policy of torture and abuse. But that’s only the past. Somewhere in the world there are other young Muslims who have joined Al Qaida because we tortured and abused prisoners. These men will certainly carry out future attacks against Americans, either in Iraq, Afghanistan, or possibly even here. And that’s not to mention numerous other Muslims who support Al Qaida, either financially or in other ways, because they are outraged that the United States tortured and abused Muslim prisoners.

In addition, torture and abuse has made us less safe because detainees are less likely to cooperate during interrogations if they don’t trust us. I know from having conducted hundreds of interrogations of high ranking Al Qaida members and supervising more than one thousand, that when a captured Al Qaida member sees us live up to our stated principles they are more willing to negotiate and cooperate with us. When we torture or abuse them, it hardens their resolve and reaffirms why they picked up arms.

He also says:

[Torture is] extremely ineffective, and it’s counter-productive to what we’re trying to accomplish. When we torture somebody, it hardens their resolve … The information that you get is unreliable. … And even if you do get reliable information, you’re able to stop a terrorist attack, al Qaeda’s then going to use the fact that we torture people to recruit new members.

And he repeats:

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

And:

They don’t want to talk about the long term consequences that cost the lives of Americans…. The way the U.S. treated its prisoners “was al-Qaeda’s number-one recruiting tool and brought in thousands of foreign fighters who killed American soldiers.

  • The FBI interrogators who actually interviewed some of the 9/11 suspects say torture didn’t work
  • Another FBI interrogator of 9/11 suspects said:

I was in the middle of this, and it’s not true that these [aggressive] techniques were effective

  • The FBI warned military interrogators in 2003 that enhanced interrogation techniques are “of questionable effectiveness” and cited a “lack of evidence of [enhanced techniques’] success.
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously found that torture doesn’t work, stating:

The administration’s policies concerning [torture] and the resulting controversies damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.

  • General Petraeus says that torture is unnecessary
  • Retired 4-star General Barry McCaffrey – who Schwarzkopf called he hero of Desert Storm – agrees
  • Former Navy Judge Advocate General Admiral John Hutson says:

Fundamentally, those kinds of techniques are ineffective. If the goal is to gain actionable intelligence, and it is, and if that’s important, and it is, then we have to use the techniques that are most effective. Torture is the technique of choice of the lazy, stupid and pseudo-tough.

He also says:

Another objection is that torture doesn’t work. All the literature and experts say that if we really want usable information, we should go exactly the opposite way and try to gain the trust and confidence of the prisoners.

  • Army Colonel Stuart Herrington – a military intelligence specialist who interrogated generals under the command of Saddam Hussein and evaluated US detention operations at Guantánamo – notes that the process of obtaining information is hampered, not helped, by practices such as “slapping someone in the face and stripping them naked”. Herrington and other former US military interrogators say:

We know from experience that it is very difficult to elicit information from a detainee who has been abused. The abuse often only strengthens their resolve and makes it that much harder for an interrogator to find a way to elicit useful information.

  • Major General Thomas Romig, former Army JAG, said:

If you torture somebody, they’ll tell you anything. I don’t know anybody that is good at interrogation, has done it a lot, that will say that that’s an effective means of getting information. … So I don’t think it’s effective.

  • The first head of the Department of Homeland Security – Tom Ridge – says we were wrong to torture
  • The former British intelligence chairman says that waterboarding didn’t stop terror plots
  • A spokesman for the National Security Council (Tommy Vietor) says:

The bottom line is this: If we had some kind of smoking-gun intelligence from waterboarding in 2003, we would have taken out Osama bin Laden in 2003.

In researching this article, I spoke to numerous counterterrorist officials from agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Their conclusion is unanimous: not only have coercive methods failed to generate significant and actionable intelligence, they have also caused the squandering of resources on a massive scale through false leads, chimerical plots, and unnecessary safety alerts … Here, they say, far from exposing a deadly plot, all torture did was lead to more torture of his supposed accomplices while also providing some misleading “information” that boosted the administration’s argument for invading Iraq.

  • Neuroscientists have found that torture physically and chemically interferes with the prisoner’s ability to tell the truth
  • An Army psychologist – Major Paul Burney, Army’s Behavior Science Consulting Team psychologist – said (page 78 & 83):

was stressed to me time and time again that psychological investigations have proven that harsh interrogations do not work. At best it will get you information that a prisoner thinks you want to hear to make the interrogation stop, but that information is strongly likely to be false.

***

Interrogation techniques that rely on physical or adverse consequences are likely to garner inaccurate information and create an increased level of resistance…There is no evidence that the level of fear or discomfort evoked by a given technique has any consistent correlation to the volume or quality of information obtained.

  • An expert on resisting torture – Terrence Russell, JPRA’s manager for research and development and a SERE specialist – said (page 209):

History has shown us that physical pressures are not effective for compelling an individual to give information or to do something’ and are not effective for gaining accurate, actionable intelligence.

Indeed, it has been known for hundreds of years that torture doesn’t work:

  • As a former CIA analyst notes:

During the Inquisition there were many confessed witches, and many others were named by those tortured as other witches. Unsurprisingly, when these new claimed witches were tortured, they also confessed. Confirmation of some statement made under torture, when that confirmation is extracted by another case of torture, is invalid information and cannot be trusted.

  • The head of Britain’s wartime interrogation center in London said:

“Violence is taboo. Not only does it produce answers to please, but it lowers the standard of information.”

  • The national security adviser to Vice President George H.W. Bush (Donald P. Gregg) wrote:

During wartime service with the CIA in Vietnam from 1970 to 1972, I was in charge of intelligence operations in the 10 provinces surrounding Saigon. One of my tasks was to prevent rocket attacks on Saigon’s port. Keeping Saigon safe required human intelligence, most often from captured prisoners. I had a running debate about how North Vietnamese prisoners should be treated with the South Vietnamese colonel who conducted interrogations. This colonel routinely tortured prisoners, producing a flood of information, much of it totally false. I argued for better treatment and pressed for key prisoners to be turned over to the CIA, where humane interrogation methods were the rule – and more accurate intelligence was the result.

The colonel finally relented and turned over a battered prisoner to me, saying, “This man knows a lot, but he will not talk to me.”

We treated the prisoner’s wounds, reunited him with his family, and allowed him to make his first visit to Saigon. Surprised by the city’s affluence, he said he would tell us anything we asked. The result was a flood of actionable intelligence that allowed us to disrupt planned operations, including rocket attacks against Saigon.

Admittedly, it would be hard to make a story from nearly 40 years ago into a definitive case study. But there is a useful reminder here. The key to successful interrogation is for the interrogator – even as he controls the situation – to recognize a prisoner’s humanity, to understand his culture, background and language. Torture makes this impossible.

There’s a sad twist here. Cheney forgets that the Bush administration followed this approach with some success. A high-value prisoner subjected to patient interrogation by an Arabic-speaking FBI agent yielded highly useful information, including the final word on Iraq’s weapons programs.

His name was Saddam Hussein.

  • Top interrogators got information from a high-level Al Qaeda suspects through building rapport, even if they hated the person they were interrogating by treating them as human

Senator John McCain explains, based upon his own years of torture:

I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear — true or false — if he believes it will relieve his suffering. Often, information provided to stop the torture is deliberately misleading.

According to the experts, torture is unnecessary even to prevent “ticking time bombs” from exploding (see this, this and this). Indeed, a top expert says that torture would fail in a real ‘ticking time-bomb’ situation. (And, no … it did NOT help get Bin Laden).

As shown above, torture doesn’t produce actionable intelligence …

But even if it did, the specific type of torture used by the U.S. is famous for producing false evidence.

A U.S. Army helicopter taking off from Forward Operating Base Shindand, Afghanistan, Oct. 3, 2012. (Photo: DoD/public domain)

The government funding bill that narrowly passed the House of Representatives on Thursday has been widely criticized, including from within Congress, as a give-away to Wall Street. However, its 1,600 pages raise numerous other red flags for activists and analysts, including a bloated military budget and what journalist Julia Harte calls ”a long-term blank check for ‘war’ spending.”

The bill approves $554 billion overall in Pentagon spending—in keeping with the trajectory of a country that spends more on the military than the next 11 countries combined. As Dave Gilson points out in Mother Jones, this sum means that total Pentagon funding during 2015 is “close to what it got during the height of the Iraq War” and “close to its highest level since World War II.”

When this sum is broken down, its sources raise further concerns, say analysts.

Buried within the budget is $64 billion in military funding from what is called the Overseas Contingency Operations. Established in 2001 under a different title, the OCO was supposed to be for “temporary” emergencies relating to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, it has become a permanent, and seemingly bottomless, source of funding for war. Even President Obama noticed this in 2008, when he issued the campaign promise to reign in abuse of emergency war spending.

As Harte writes for the Center for Public Integrity, “The OCO budget isn’t subject to spending limits that cap the rest of the defense budget for the next seven years; it’s often omitted altogether from tallies of how much the military spends each year; and as an ‘emergency’ fund, it’s subject to much less scrutiny than other military spending requests.”

Furthermore, Lindsay Koshgarian points out for National Priorities Project, included within the bill is a “spending spree for defense contractors,” which includes $479 million for F-35s and war ships. In addition, the bill green-lights $5 billion for the expanding U.S.-led war in Iraq and Syria, despite the fact that that military operation still has not been approved—or even subject to real debate—in Congress.

Congress Authorizes Unlimited Spying on US Citizens

December 12th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

Merriam-Webster call police states “political unit(s) characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known legal procedures.”

Police state ruthlessness defines today’s America. Affirmed by congressional legislation. Executive order diktats.

So called National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directives.

NSPD-51 lets presidents claim national emergencies. Whether or not warranted. Declare martial law. Suspend constitutional protections. Without congressional authorization.

Continuity of government (COG) authority gives presidents and homeland security unprecedented powers. Free from constitutional constraints.

Patriot Act legislation compromised First Amendment rights. Fifth and 14th Amendment due process protection is lost.

Indefinite detentions of undocumented immigrants are authorized. Now affecting anyone anywhere. Including targeted law abiding US citizens.

Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures is gone. Unchecked surveillance was authorized. More on this below.

Sixth Amendment rights guaranteeing defendants fair trials without delay are lost.

Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment no longer applies.

Domestic terrorism criminality was created for the first time. Broadening the definition. Affecting US citizens and aliens.

Attempts to influence government policy by whatever Washington calls “intimidation or coercion” is now called terrorism.

Endangering human rights workers. Anti-war and environmental activists. Global justice advocates. Anyone engaging in justifiable civil disobedience. Or publicly criticizing government policy.

Homeland Security is America’s Gestapo. Combining 22 federal agencies. Under one repressive authority.

Creating unprecedented executive powers. Police state ones. A dagger in freedom’s heart.

For the first time, America was officially militarized. Troops may be deployed on US streets. Suppressing whatever is called disorder.

Earlier permitted only in times of insurrection or justifiable national emergencies. No longer. Presidents can operate ad libitum.

By diktat authority. Mocking checks and balances. Eviscerating democratic freedoms. Consigned to history’s dustbin.

Anyone can be targeted for any reason or none at all. Detained. Held indefinitely. Uncharged. Untried.

Denied fundamental international law/constitutionally protected rights. Obama presides over a police state apparatus. Things go from bad to worse.

Big Brother watches everyone. Now more than ever. In May, House members passed HR 4681: Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. By a 345 – 59 majority.

A Senate amendment required revoting. Passage followed. By a 325 – 100 majority. On Tuesday, Senate members passed the bill unanimously. By voice vote.

House members intended the same. Rep. Justin Amash (R. MI) intervened. Attempted an 11th hour effort to block passage.

Concerned about Section 309. Authorizing “the acquisition, retention and dissemination” of private communications. Including those of US citizens. Without judicial authorization.

Giving them to state and local police departments. For criminal or other investigations.

Amash called the measure “(o)ne of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered during my time as a representative.”

Saying “(i)t grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American.”

On his Facebook page, he posted the following for his colleagues, constituents and others, saying:

“When I learned that the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2015 was being rushed to the floor for a vote – with little debate and only a voice vote expected (i.e., simply declared ‘passed’ with almost nobody in the room) – I asked my legislative staff to quickly review the bill for unusual language. What they discovered is one of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered during my time as a representative: It grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American. On Wednesday afternoon, I went to the House floor to demand a roll call vote on the bill so that everyone’s vote would have to be recorded. I also sent the letter below to every representative. With more time to spread the word, we would have stopped this bill, which passed 325-100. Thanks to the 99 other representatives – 44 Republicans and 55 Democrats – who voted to protect our rights and uphold the Constitution. And thanks to my incredibly talented staff.”

Amash’s letter was as follows:

“Block New Spying on U.S. Citizens: Vote ‘NO’ on H.R. 4681

Dear Colleague:

The intelligence reauthorization bill, which the House will vote on today, contains a troubling new provision that for the first time statutorily authorizes spying on US citizens without legal process.

Last night, the Senate passed an amended version of the intelligence reauthorization bill with a new Sec. 309 – one the House never has considered.

Sec. 309 authorizes ‘the acquisition, retention, and dissemination’ of nonpublic communications, including those to and from US persons.

The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations.”

To be clear, Sec. 309 provides the first statutory authority for the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of US persons’ private communications obtained without legal process such as a court order or a subpoena.

The administration currently may conduct such surveillance under a claim of executive authority, such as E.O. 12333.

However, Congress never has approved of using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.

Supporters of Sec. 309 claim that the provision actually reins in the executive branch’s power to retain Americans’ private communications.

It is true that Sec. 309 includes exceedingly weak limits on the executive’s retention of Americans’ communications.

With many exceptions, the provision requires the executive to dispose of Americans’ communications within five years of acquiring them – although, as HPSCI admits, the executive branch already follows procedures along these lines.

In exchange for the data retention requirements that the executive already follows, Sec. 309 provides a novel statutory basis for the executive branch’s capture and use of Americans’ private communications.

The Senate inserted the provision into the intelligence reauthorization bill late last night. That is no way for Congress to address the sensitive, private information of our constituents – especially when we are asked to expand our government’s surveillance powers.

I urge you to join me in voting ‘no’ on H.R. 4681, the intelligence reauthorization bill, when it comes before the House today.

Justin Amash

Member of Congress”

HR 4681 expands bogus war on terror powers. Police state ones writ large. Ones just societies prohibit. What America prioritizes.

Waging war on freedom. Eroding it in plain sight. Heading toward eliminating it altogether. With bipartisan support.

Expect Obama to sign HR 4681 into law. Increasing his power. Taking full advantage.

Political philosopher Montesquieu (1689 – 1755) once said:

“There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”

Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797) said “(t)he only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Jefferson said “law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always when it violates the rights of the individual.”

“A Bill of Rights is what people are entitled to against every government,” he explained.

Justice Louis Brandeis said “(w)e can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

Justice William O. Douglas said “(t)he liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected.”

Justice William J Brennan, Jr called liberty “a fragile thing. You can’t give up” fighting for what’s right. In a mid-1980s speech he said:

“We do not yet have justice, equal and practical, for the poor, for the members of minority groups, for the criminally accused, for the displaced persons of the technological revolution, for alienated youth, for the urban masses.”

“Ugly inequities continue to mar the face of our nation. We are surely nearer the beginning than the end of the struggle.”

Liberty is too precious to lose. Keeping it requires commitment. No matter how long the odds. Or sacrifices made. The alternative is too intolerable to accept.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.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 three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Image: An advertisement at the “Israel Unmanned Systems 2014” conference. (Photo: Dan Cohen)

Three weeks after Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip concluded, Israeli military and political leaders attended a conference next to Ben Gurion Airport to sell the successes of what Israel dubbed Operation Protective Edge, which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians including 521 children. The annual conference, named “Israel Unmanned Systems 2014,” took place in business-as-usual atmosphere — even with a complimentary beer keg. But the fare was anything but humdrum. Among the offerings were suicide drones, “loitering munitions” that need to explode; a 16-year-old showing off high-tech robots designed by fellow high schoolers and future drone makers; and “premature” weapons, armaments that have not been fully tested before they are used on a live Palestinian population. Such is Israel the military power.

The conference showcased the latest drone technology and previewed the industry’s prospects to a few hundred international buyers, vendors, and military figures. Inside a private conference room, political and industry leaders gave presentations — speaking in military euphemisms that avoided any uncomfortable references to the humanitarian catastrophe resulting from the 51-day bombing campaign.

Elad Aharonson, General Manager of the Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems’ Unmanned Systems Division, praised the “relative advantage” Israel enjoys due to the “intimate ties” between the “developers and users” of the military industry. “In some cases, we must admit these are the same people and that is a great advantage,” Aharonson said.

Suicide Drones

Lieutenant Colonel Itzhar Jona, who heads Israel Aerospace Industries, spoke about “loitering munitions” — what he called a “politically correct” name for Suicide Drones. They are a hybrid of drone and missile technology that have “autonomous and partially autonomous” elements, and are “launched like a missile, fly like an UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle],” and once they identify a target, revert to “attack like a missile.” Jona called the Suicide Drone a “UAV that thinks and decides for itself,” then added, “If you [the operator] aren’t totally clear on the logic, it can even surprise you.”

Jona praised the advantage of the Suicide Drone because the operator “doesn’t have to bring it home or deal with all sorts of dilemmas.” The Suicide Drone will quickly find a target using its internal logic, which Jona explained in this way: “It carries a warhead that eventually needs to explode. There needs to be a target at the end that will want to explode. Or it won’t want to and we will help it explode.”

Still Undergoing Test Flights

Within 48 hours of the first airstrikes of Operation Protective Edge last July, the military began operating the Hermes 900, nicknamed the “star” of Israel’s arsenal of drones. Made by the Israeli weapons giant Elbit Systems, the drone was “still undergoing test flights” when it was first deployed. The assault presented an opportunity to expedite the testing process by launching strikes on Gaza’s captive population — which allows Israel weapons makers to market their products as “combat proven.” This places the Israeli brand squarely at the top of the arms industry.

This phenomenon is nothing new. Colonel Erez Karabiti, who heads the Israeli Air Force’s UAV division, admitted implementation of premature weapons systems has been the norm for at least 15 years — what he referred to as the “pre-standard era.” Though he praised the benefits of Israel’s use of premature weapons because it “brings results”, he suggested that in the future, the Israeli arms industry should adhere to testing standards in order to ensure reliability, effectiveness and, “obviously to sell” the weapons.

Another aspect of Operation Protective Edge was the widespread use of Sky Rider mini-drones by ground forces — part of a program that Israeli troops pushed for and was first implemented in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. “Every brigade — even the reserves — got at least two air vehicles and flew them nonstop; at the same time,” the Israeli military’s chief artillery officer, Brigadier General Roy Riftin told a reporter.

Battlefield-Proven

 

Rami Shmuely, CEO of RT Technologies, which makes Aerostat surveillance balloons, informed me that in addition to 13 systems flying around the Gaza Strip, the company has a subsidiary at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Additionally, the US army purchased surveillance systems from RT for use in Afghanistan. Shmuely explained that the United States is “the most promising market in the world.”

Drew Marks, from ESC BAZ, which makes unmanned surveillance systems, said that the Israeli company sells to governments and militaries in Europe, Asia and Africa. He continued, “We sell to other markets — friends in Asia. I can’t tell you where exactly but I can tell you Asian countries — southeast Asian countries. People can maybe understand where it is.”

Marks boasted that a video that showed Palestinian fighters emerging from the sea to attack an Israeli military base, which was recently revealed to be only partial, “was taken by this system right here.” He added, “We call it battlefield-proven!”

Drone Youth

In front of the trade show was a team of Israeli high school students who were being groomed as part of the next generation of drone engineers and electricians. They operated remote-controlled robots designed to launch large yoga balls into a basket at a given height and distance. Their team was called FIRST Israel, part of an international competition that has been featured on National Geographic’s television channel.

There I met Omer Golan-Kaplan, 16, who told me, “I’m sure at least half of the people who participate in the project will go to make electronic devices [in the military].” As for herself, Golan-Kaplan was torn between spending her military service in a unit working with electronics, or being “a tank teacher or a shooting teacher.” “I really want to get to know the cool stuff.” She added, “I’m still young to know what I want to do with my life.”

Nothing illustrated the complete militarization of the Israeli society so much as the interaction with Crosslab Networks (XLN). XLN is a project of the Reut Institute, an Israeli national security and socioeconomic policy think tank that has called on the Israeli government to “sabotage” and “attack” that global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement or what it described as an international Delegitimization Network. Under the leadership of former Reut Institute CEO Roy Keidar, XLN creates centers for 3D printing and other advanced technologies which are becoming an integral part of Israel’s ability to quickly design and build weapons. Keidar admitted that children as young as 14 were instrumental in building a mini-copter that could navigate the network of tunnels that Palestinian resistance groups had constructed.

“You wouldn’t believe who is leading who. I’ve got 14-year-olds working on sensors and writing codes so fast,” Keidar said. “That’s the future!”

Footage shot by Dan Cohen and Lia Tarachansky with thanks to Ronnie Barkan for translation.

Iran Nuclear Talks: A Perilous Slippery Slope

December 12th, 2014 by Prof. Ismael Hossein-Zadeh

Soon after the Iran nuclear talks were recently extended for another seven months (beyond the November 22, 2014 deadline), President Rouhani spoke with the Iranian people in a televised address in which he sought to portray the inconclusive negotiations as a diplomatic victory for Iran, as an indication that his team of negotiators “stood their ground” in the face of excessive demands by the US and its allies.

In reality, however, the extension meant the failure of the Iranian negotiators to achieve anything of substance (in terms of sanctions relief) in exchange for the significant unilateral concessions they had made a year earlier. To put it differently, it meant that the US and its allies refused to honor what they had promised Iran in return for its suspension and/or downgrading of its nuclear technology.

A year earlier, that is, in the first round of negotiations on 24 November 2013, Iran had agreed to the following significant concessions: limit its enrichment of uranium from the level of 20 percent to below 5 percent purity, render unusable its existing stockpile of 20 percent fuel for further enrichment, not activate its heavy-water reactor in Arak, not use its more advanced IR-M2 centrifuges for enrichment, and consent to extensive IAEA inspections of its nuclear industry/facilities.

This obviously means that Iranian negotiators had agreed to more than freezing Iran’s nuclear technology; more importantly, they had reversed and rolled back significant scientific achievements and technological breakthroughs of recent years.

In return, the US and its allies had agreed that following the “confidence building” implementation of these commitments by Iran, economic sanctions against that country would be lifted.

A year later, and despite the fact that IAEA has consistently confirmed Iran’s compliance with these commitments, major sanctions continue unabated. At a press conference on November 22, 2014, US Secretary of State John Kerry boasted that undiminished sanctions have forced Iran to either reverse or freeze much of its nuclear program. “Today,” Kerry stated, “Iran has no 20 percent enriched uranium. Zero. None. They have diluted and converted every ounce that they have… Today, IAEA inspectors have daily access to Iran’s enrichment activities and a far deeper understanding of Iran’s program.”

Instead of honoring what they had promised during the initial negotiations of year ago, the US and its allies now argue that Iran needs to make more concessions, and that therefore more time is needed for further negotiations—hence the seven-month extension of negotiations, to July 1, 2015.

And what are the new demands that are made of Iran? The new requirements, which the Iranian negotiators have now additionally agreed to, include the following:

1. Expanded snap Inspections of Iran’s Centrifuge Production Facilities: under the seven-month extended negotiations, the IAEA will double its unannounced, snap inspections of Iran’s centrifuge production facilities.

2. Conversion of more 20% Uranium Oxide to Reactor Fuel: Iran will convert 35 additional kg of its remaining 75 kg of 20% enriched uranium powder from oxide form into reactor fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, thereby helping prevent the reversibility of a key concession Iran has made.

3. Further Limitations on Research and Development (R&D) of Advanced Centrifuges and Enrichment Technology. The most important of these new limits are:

  • Iran cannot pursue semi-industrial-scale operation of the IR-2M, a necessary prerequisite toward mass production of the model.
  • Iran cannot feed IR-5 model centrifuges with uranium gas.
  • Iran cannot pursue gas testing of the IR-6 centrifuge on a cascade level.
  • Iran cannot install the IR-8 centrifuge at the Natanz Pilot Plant, preventing it from being tested with uranium gas.
  • Iran is prohibited from using other/new forms of enrichment, including laser enrichment [source].

And what would Iran gain in return for these significant additional/new concessions? Not much. Under the extended interim agreement, as in the two previous interim agreements, dating back to November 2013, Iran will be permitted to repatriate only $700 million per month of its nearly $100 billion assets that are frozen overseas under the sanctions regime.

This explains why many critics have pointed out that Iranian negotiators have, once again, made significant one-sided concessions without much reciprocity in the way of sanctions relief. It also explains why President Rouhani’s (and his negotiating team’s) portrayal of the extension of negotiation as a diplomatic victory for Iran is far from warranted—it is, indeed, tantamount to self-deception, or more precisely, deception of the Iranian people.

Off-the-record briefings in Washington indicate that the US is projecting a long period of 15 to 20 years of protracted negotiations before restrictions on Iran’s civilian nuclear program are fully lifted. In light of the fact that the US and its allies have already achieved their goal of downgrading and freezing Iran’s nuclear program, while retaining crippling sanctions on that country, their policy of prolonging negotiations—as a tactic to avoid honoring what they have promised Iran—is understandable. As Keith Jones, a keen observer of the Iran nuclear talks, points out:

“Washington is determined to continue to subject Iran to crippling economic sanctions, with relief doled out incrementally and over a period of years. Moreover, during a lengthy initial period, the Western powers want only piecemeal suspension of the sanctions, not their repeal, so that they can be quickly reinstituted should they determine that Tehran has failed to fulfill its commitments” [source].

This means that President Rouhani’s (and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s) wishful thinking that a combination of generous concessions and a diplomatic charm offensive would suffice to have the US lift the economic sanctions against Iran has, effectively, placed his negotiators on a slippery slope, with no end to ever newer demands and additional conditions required of them by the US and its allies.

The perils of prolonged negotiations—increasingly resembling the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations—go beyond downgrading and/or freezing Iran’s nuclear technology. Equally devastating are the crippling effects of the continued sanctions on the Iranian economy/society.

Detrimental effects of sanctions on the Iranian economy have been further exacerbated by the Rouhani administration’s misguided policy of having tied the fate of Iran’s economy to the outcome of nuclear negotiations—effectively, making the future of the economy hostage to the unreliable and unpredictable consequences of the nuclear talks. This policy stems from the administration’s neoliberal economic outlook that seeks solutions to economic stagnation, poverty and under-development in unreserved integration into world capitalist system. The policy tends to hurt Iran in two major ways.

First, by tying the chances of economic recovery in Iran to the removal of the sanctions, that is, to the “successful” conclusion of the nuclear talks, the policy has undermined Iran’s bargaining position in the negotiations. Indeed, it can reasonably be argued that President Rouhani condemned Iran to a losing nuclear negotiation long before he was elected. He did so during his presidential campaign by pinning his chances for election on economic recovery through a nuclear deal. This was a huge mistake, as it automatically weakened Iran’s bargaining position and, by the same token, strengthened that of the United States and its allies. By exaggerating the culpability of his predecessor in the escalation of economic sanctions against Iran, he committed two blunders: (a) downplaying the culpability of the US and its allies, and (b) placing the onus of reaching a nuclear deal largely on Iran.

Second, the policy of linking the chances of an economic recovery to the outcome of nuclear negotiations and/or the lifting of sanctions has created an ominous atmosphere of business/market uncertainty among the Iranian investors and entrepreneurs. Uncertainty is perhaps the worst enemy of a market economy, which explains why long-term, productive investment is drying up in Iran, or why economic stagnation has deteriorated since President Rouhani took office in early 2013.

Iran could minimize the baleful effects of sanctions by trying to delink its economic policies from nuclear negotiations and the threat of further sanctions. This would be possible if the Rouhani administration’s economic outlook somehow tilted away from outward-looking to inward-looking strategies of economic development; that is, the development of a “resistance economy,” as Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei has put it. This requires an economic strategy that would view the sanctions as an opportunity to mobilize national resources and chart an industialization course toward import-substitution and economic self-reliance—something akin to a war economy, since Iran has effectively been subjected to a brutal economic war by the United States and its allies.

Such a path of development would be similar to the eight years (1980-88) of war with Iraq, when at the instigation and support of regional and global powers Saddam Hussein launched a surprise military attack against Iran. Not only did the Western powers and their allies in the region support the Iraqi dictator militarily but they also subjected Iran to severe economic sanctions. With its back against the wall, so to speak, Iran embarked on a revolutionary path of a war economy that successfully provided both for the war mobilization to defend its territorial integrity and for respectable living conditions of its population.

By taking control of the commanding heights of the national economy, and effectively utilizing the revolutionary energy and dedication of their people, Iranian policy makers further succeeded in bringing about significant economic developments. These included: extensive electrification of the countryside, expansion of transportation networks, construction of tens of thousands of schools and medical clinics all across the country, provision of foodstuffs and other basic needs for the indigent at affordable prices, and more.

Alas, despite its record of success, this option seems to be altogether alien to President Rouhani and his team of economic advisors who, following the neoliberal/neoclassical school of economic thought, maintain that the solution to Iran’s economic problems lies in an unrestrained integration into world capitalism, in a wholesale (and often fraudulent) privatization of the economy, and in an IMF-style of economic austerity.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press 2012).

Congressman John Conyers in May introduced an amendment to the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives that would bar US funding to neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine (see Amendment to the Rules Committee Print for H.R. 4435 offered by Mr. Conyers of Michigan). Currently the amendment is buried and no action has been taken. Few are paying attention to this explosive issue.

Such a ban would certainly apply to the Azov Battalion, who openly wear Nazi symbols and glorify WWII Ukrainian Nazis who committed mass murder. Further, they were deeply involved in the shooting and burning alive of more than 100 people in Odessa last May, an event which has been very downplayed in the US media.

The Kiev regime is expanding this group and supplying heavy weapons to them. On October 9, the Ministry of Internal Affairs held a ceremony for this purpose at their Kiev headquarters. What was notable was that the ministry has its name on the building in Ukrainian and in English, so that CIA advisors know which building to habitate.

The head of this thug operation won an election to parliament and his deputy was put over all Kiev police. Note that the Kiev regime plans to put this neo-Nazi organization into the National Guard, a long-discussed plan that would apply to several dozen other paramilitary formations. So US funding to the Kiev military would easily benefit Azov Nazis and would be hard to trace.

With the failure of the Kiev regular army to retake control of Eastern Ukraine, Kiev is now discussing applying for membership in NATO, so that NATO troops can intervene in this civil war. In September, NATO conducted a training exercise on Ukrainian soil, with over 100 US soldiers involved. The US has conducted multiple naval exercises on Russia’s doorstep in the Black Sea.

This aggressive military encirclement of Russia is in violation of US agreements decades old not to expand NATO and its weapons systems to Russia’s borders, now a clear military threat. Consider how the US reacted with the prospect of missiles being placed in Cuba in 1962, the US government was ready to go to war over it, even though it had placed Jupiter missiles on Russia’s borders. In 1983, the US invaded Grenada over allegations that the government there was building airstrips that could accommodate Russian bombers, even though no such infrastructure existed.

The US presence is much larger in Ukraine, but is only one of manyprovacative operations put into place over the last decade. Plus, there are plans for the US to spend a trillion dollars to rebuild its nuclear weapons stockpiles, weapons which can only be considered to be used against  Russia or China. Russia has hinted that such an encirclement is a provocation to war. Certain US policy types have suggested that if Moscow did not let the US take Ukraine, it could be a cause for war.

Europe has a history of irrationally spiraling into world wars, based on senseless actions that no one would walk back from. For centuries Europe has invaded Russia, whether Germanic tribes (drang nach osten), Napoleonic French, British or Americans (twice in 1919), Kaiser Wilhelm or Adoph Hitler’s Germany. Russia has not ever invaded those countries. But the drumbeat of the war party is on a steady, historically repetitive path.

Russ Bellant (Detroit, US) – an American writer, author of “Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party: Domestic fascist networks and their effect on US cold war politics”.

Will Falling Oil Prices Crash the Markets?

December 12th, 2014 by Mike Whitney

Crude oil prices dipped lower on Wednesday pushing down yields on US Treasuries and sending stocks down sharply. The 30-year UST slipped to a Depression era 2.83 percent while all three major US indices plunged into the red. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) led the retreat losing a hefty 268 points before the session ended. The proximate cause of Wednesday’s bloodbath was news that OPEC had reduced its estimate of how much oil it would need to produce in 2015 to meet weakening global demand. According to USA Today:

“OPEC lowered its projection for 2015 production to 28.9 million barrels a day, or about 300,000 fewer than previously forecast, and a 12-year low…. That’s about 1.15 million barrels a day less than the cartel pumped last month, when OPEC left unchanged its 30 million barrel daily production quota…

The steep decline in crude price raises fears that small exploration and production companies could go out of business if the prices fall too low. And that, in turn, could cause turmoil among those who are lending to them: Junk-bond purchasers and smaller banks.” (USA Today)

Lower oil prices do not necessarily boost consumption or strengthen growth. Quite the contrary. Weaker demand is a sign that deflationary pressures are building and stagnation is becoming more entrenched. Also, the 42 percent price-drop in benchmark U.S. crude since its peak in June, is pushing highly-leveraged energy companies closer to the brink. If these companies cannot roll over their debts, (due to the lower prices) then many will default which will negatively impact the broader market. Here’s a brief summary from analyst Wolf Richter:

“The price of oil has plunged …and junk bonds in the US energy sector are getting hammered, after a phenomenal boom that peaked this year. Energy companies sold $50 billion in junk bonds through October, 14% of all junk bonds issued! But junk-rated energy companies trying to raise new money to service old debt or to fund costly fracking or off-shore drilling operations are suddenly hitting resistance.

And the erstwhile booming leveraged loans, the ugly sisters of junk bonds, are causing the Fed to have conniptions. Even Fed Chair Yellen singled them out because they involve banks and represent risks to the financial system. Regulators are investigating them and are trying to curtail them through “macroprudential” means, such as cracking down on banks, rather than through monetary means, such as raising rates. And what the Fed has been worrying about is already happening in the energy sector: leveraged loans are getting mauled. And it’s just the beginning…

“If oil can stabilize, the scope for contagion is limited,” Edward Marrinan, macro credit strategist at RBS Securities, told Bloomberg. “But if we see a further fall in prices, there will have to be a reaction in the broader market as problems will spill out and more segments of the high-yield space will feel the pain.”…Unless a miracle happens that will goose the price of oil pronto, there will be defaults, and they will reverberate beyond the oil patch.” (Oil and Gas Bloodbath Spreads to Junk Bonds, Leveraged Loans. Defaults Next, Wolf Ricter, Wolf Street)

The Fed’s low rates and QE pushed down yields on corporate debt as investors gorged on junk thinking the Fed “had their back”. That made it easier for fly-by-night energy companies to borrow tons of money at historic low rates even though their business model might have been pretty shaky. Now that oil is cratering, investors are getting skittish which has pushed up rates making it harder for companies to refinance their debtload. That means a number of these companies going to go bust, which will create losses for the investors and pension funds that bought their debt in the form of financially-engineered products. The question is, is there enough of this financially-engineered gunk piled up on bank balance sheets to start the dominoes tumbling through the system like they did in 2008?

That question was partially answered on Wednesday following OPEC’s dismal forecast which roiled stocks and send yields on risk-free US Treasuries into a nosedive. Investors ditched their stocks in a mad dash for the exits thinking that the worst is yet to come. USTs provide a haven for nervous investors looking for a safe place to hunker down while the storm passes.

Economist Jack Rasmus has an excellent piece at Counterpunch which explains why investors are so jittery. Here’s a clip from his article titled “The Economic Consequences of Global Oil Deflation”:

“Oil deflation may lead to widespread bankruptcies and defaults for various non-financial companies, which will in turn precipitate financial instability events in banks tied to those companies. The collapse of financial assets associated with oil could also have a further ‘chain effect’ on other forms of financial assets, thus spreading the financial instability to other credit markets.” (The Economic Consequences of Global Oil Deflation, Jack Rasmus, CounterPunch)

Falling oil prices typically drag other commodities prices down with them. This, in turn, hurts emerging markets that depend heavily on the sale of raw materials. Already these fragile economies are showing signs of stress from rising inflation and capital flight. In a country like Japan, however, one might think the effect would be positive since the lower yen has made imported oil more expensive. But that’s not the case. Falling oil prices increase deflationary pressures forcing the Bank of Japan to implement more extreme measures to reverse the trend and try to stimulate growth. What new and destabilizing policy will Japan’s Central Bank employ in its effort to dig its way out of recession? And the same question can be asked of Europe too, which has already endured three bouts of recession in the last five years. Here’s Rasmus again on oil deflation and global financial instability:

“Oil is not only a physical commodity bought, sold and traded on global markets; it has also become an important financial asset since the USA and the world began liberalized trading of oil commodity futures…

Just as declines in oil spills over to declines of other physical commodities…price deflation can also ‘spill over’ to other financial assets, causing their decline as well, in a ‘chain like’ effect.

That chain like effect is not dissimilar to what happened with the housing crash in 2006-08. At that time the deep contraction in the global housing sector ( a physical asset) not only ‘spilled over’ to other sectors of the real economy, but to mortgage bonds…and derivatives based upon those bonds, also crashed. The effect was to ‘spill over’ to other forms of financial assets that set off a chain reaction of financial asset deflation.

The same ‘financial asset chain effect’ could arise if oil prices continued to decline below USD$60 a barrel. That would represent a nearly 50 percent deflation in oil prices that could potentially set in motion a more generalized global financial instability event, possibly associated with a collapse of the corporate junk bond market in the USA that has fueled much of USA shale production.” (CounterPunch)

This is precisely the scenario we think will unfold in the months ahead. What Rasmus is talking about is “contagion”, the lethal spill-over from one asset class to another due to deteriorating conditions in the financial markets and too much leverage. When debts can no longer be serviced, defaults follow sucking liquidity from the system which leads to a sudden (and excruciating) repricing event. Rasmus believes that a sharp cutback in Shale gas and oil production could ignite a crash in junk bonds that will pave the way for more bank closures. Here’s what he says:

“The shake out in Shale that is coming will not occur smoothly. It will mean widespread business defaults in the sector. And since much of the drilling has been financed with risky high yield corporate ‘junk’ bonds, the shale shake out could translate into a financial crash of the US corporate junk bond market, which is now very over-extended, leading to regional bank busts in turn.” (CP)

The financial markets are a big bubble just waiting to burst. If Shale doesn’t do the trick, then something else will. It’s just a matter of time.

Rasmus also believes that the current oil-glut is politically motivated. Washington’s powerbrokers persuaded the Saudis to flood the market with petroleum to push down prices and crush oil-dependent Moscow. The US wants a weak and divided Russia that will comply with US plans to increase its military bases in Central Asia and allow NATO to be deployed to its western borders. Here’s Rasmus again:

“Saudi Arabia and its neocon friends in the USA are targeting both Iran and Russia with their new policy of driving down the price of oil. The impact of oil deflation is already severely affecting the Russian and Iranian economies. In other words, this policy of promoting global oil price deflation finds favor with significant political interests in the USA, who want to generate a deeper disruption of Russian and Iranian economies for reasons of global political objectives. It will not be the first time that oil is used as a global political weapon, nor the last.” (CP)

Washington’s strategy is seriously risky. There’s a good chance the plan could backfire and send stocks into freefall wiping out trillions in a flash. Then all the Fed’s work would amount to nothing.

Karma’s a bitch.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

With CIA torture programs now fully exposed to the world, a common background theme has emerged. The CIA torture report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is a summary of the original report which you can read for yourself. In the first few pages of the Senate report we are quietly reminded that the backdrop which set the stage for the justification of torture is 9/11. More specifically, the 9/11 “official story” narrative. The much questioned, challenged, and refuted official story narrative that is. The report quietly pulls the reader in with a  passionate recollection of 9/11:

I recall vividly watching the horror of that day, to include the television footage of innocent men and women jumping out of the World Trade Center towers to escape the fire. The images, and the sounds as their bodies hit the pavement far below, will remain with me for the rest of my life.

Reading down further in the report, the 9/11 official story meme continues fully settling on the clear determined narrative that would be used in the CIA’s attempt to justify torture by reminding the audience of the “terrorist plots”

It is worth remembering the pervasive fear in late 2001 and how immediate the threat felt. Just a week after the September 11 attacks, powdered anthrax was sent to various news organizations and to two U.S. Senators. The American public was shocked by news of new terrorist plots and elevations of the color-coded threat level of the Homeland Security Advisory System. We expected further attacks against the nation.

Do you remember now? The day when (CIA asset) Bin Laden and his (CIA) Al Qaeda terrorist (supposedly) took over four commercial planes and strategically overpowered the world’s greatest military, all from a cave in Afghanistan? For anyone with any sense of logic and reason, just think for a minute. We are asked to believe that the same Al Qaeda that the establishment media claims did 9/11 is STILL alive and well, and fully operational, never having missed a beat fighting against the world’s most sophisticated military, and returning fire (even-steven and tit-for-tat) while keeping up on supplies and ammo. All of this for over 13 plus years!!

One problem with this 9/11 backdrop ‘war on terror’ narrative is that long after the war in Afghanistan seemed like it should have been over, the war (or more correctly, the occupation) mysteriously and illogically continues without missing a beat. Even as humanity has witnessed 13 years of a “war” with literally no evidence of a war, the “war” continues. That’s right, for over 13 years, while the CIA torture program rolls on fully implemented, no one has ever produced, authenticated and validated video proof of a war in Afghanistan showing the opposition clearly firing at U.S. troops in a war-like scenario and sustaining themselves in the heat of battle. It’s been over 13 years and yet there is still no clear-cut footage showing the Al Qaeda tanks, artillery and grunts running around fighting hard against their U.S. enemies. It’s been 13 years, where is this footage??

Another problem with the war on terror narrative is that humanity has long woken up to the fake terror and long-term (U.S.-Israeli/PNAC) Middle East plans. With the help of the alternative media, citizen journalists, independent media and investigative journalists, expansions of government engineered synthetic terrorism has been fully exposed. Thanks to the U.S./Israeli/NATO ongoing Middle East aggressive ambitions exemplified by the creation, arming and funding of ISIS and their terror partners (FSA, Al-Nusra), the continued engineered war on terror is now fully exposed to the world.

Consequently, looming in the background of this most recent revelation of CIA torture and public indignation over Bush and Cheney war crimes, is the years of lies and how much the 9/11 official story meme has fallen apart since 2001. No longer does the story fit into the reality we now experience. From the Bin Laden death hoax and all the secrecy surrounding this event that never quite happened the way U.S. officials and the media say happened, to the long list of oddities andmysterious deaths of key witnesses and characters, to the now deeply established scientific facts about the improbable destruction of the 3 WTC towers, the 9/11 official story is no longer easy to believe.

Thus looming in the background of the hideous CIA torture programs is the powerful and liberating truth of 9/11. It sits in everyone’s consciousness waiting to come out. Now that horrific torture is fully revealed to the world, government can only hope that the masses somehow still believe the 9/11 official story lie.

Mixed unofficial polls have been taken which indicate anywhere from 35 to 70+ percent of Americans question the official story narrative. What the actual percentages is no one really knows. This much is true, however: the 9/11 official story doesn’t make any more sense. The story suffers from too many holes, too many convenient oddities and coincidences, a blatant violation of the laws of science, frightening coincidental and untimely deaths of witnesses and outdated logic justifying the continued existence of Al Qaeda (and now ISIS) who of course never attack Israel or plan other 9/11-style attacks from caves in Afghanistan.

It’s absolutely time for the world to wake up to 9/11 Truth, which is primarily based on the overwhelming scientific evidence and secondarily on gathered evidence against the truemasterminds. We know factually that the towers were brought down by controlled demolition. Three teams of researchers confirmed the presence of nano-sized thermite in the dust of the world trade centers. Samples (of WTC dust) which when tested, each time showed the confirmed presence of thermite, a military-grade incendiary compound whose thermite form has been used for controlled demolition in the past. This irrefutable evidence for controlled demolition should loom in the background of everyone’s mind as they continue to read about the CIA (engineered, staged, pre-planned, malicious) torture program actually designed to torture innocent people for which there is no credible evidence of a crime or wrongdoing other than being verbally accused of being a “terrorist”.

So as the illegal prison in Guantanamo remains wide open against all promises by candidate Obama, let us forever remember the men illegally imprisoned there without rights and without justice. Let us consider the possibilities that too many Americans are too afraid to face. Americans would rather bury their heads in the sand than to face the reality of 9/11, torture, illegal prisons and war crimes.

Remember this, however: 9/11 Truth will eventually be admitted by the mainstream media. It may not happen today or tomorrow. Perhaps the system is not quite ready to admit 9/11 Truth and merge all of these charges to the record of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld quite yet. But the puzzle has come together for many of us and we are waiting for critical mass awareness to move forward with justice.
Many of us believe justice for 9/11 will happen sooner or later. This is the course humanity is on, and today I’m happy to say I believe this CIA torture exposure brings America and humanity as a whole one step closer to accepting and thus acting upon 9/11 Truth.

Bernie Suarez is an activist, critical thinker, radio host, musician, M.D, Veteran, lover of freedom and the Constitution, and creator of the Truth and Art TV project. He also has a background in psychology and highly recommends that everyone watch a documentary titled The Century of the Self. Bernie has concluded that the way to defeat the New World Order is to truly be the change that you want to see. Manifesting the solution and putting truth into action is the very thing that will defeat the globalists. 

The publication of the US Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture has exposed the European powers’ complicity in ghastly crimes of US intelligence. Even though European states’ complicity in CIA torture and rendition operations has been documented for nearly a decade, no European officials have been held accountable.

In 2005, the Council of Europe tasked former Swiss prosecutor Dick Marty with preparing a report on secret CIA prisons in Europe. He released two reports, in 2006 and 2007, documenting the complicity of dozens of European states in setting up facilities for illegal CIA rendition and torture. The states involved included Britain, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Albania.

The existence of approximately 1,000 CIA flights and of secret prisons in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Bucharest (Romania), Antavilas (Lithuania), and Stare Kiejkuty (Poland) has since been confirmed.

Nonetheless, after the US Senate recognized CIA use of the grisliest forms of torture—including murder, sexual assault, sleep deprivation and forcing inmates to stand on broken limbs—officials across Europe reacted by insisting that they should enjoy immunity.

Top officials of the Polish government, which is appealing a July ruling against it over its role in CIA torture by the European Court on Human Rights, denounced the report. “Certain secrets should stay that way,” said Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak.

Polish prosecutors have been investigating the case for six years, including a two-year investigation of former Polish intelligence chief Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, without bringing any charges. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, was waterboarded as soon as he arrived at Stare Kiejkuty. One medical officer there noted: “We are basically doing a series of near-drownings.”

Other detainees at Stare Kiejkuty, which housed Saudi, Algerian and Yemeni detainees, were subjected to mock executions with a power drill while standing hooded and naked.

Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski lamely claimed that CIA officials did not explain how they planned to use their secret prisons in Poland. “It was a question as we saw it only of creating secret sites,” he said, adding that he closed down the facility in 2003 because “the Americans’ secret activities began to worry” Polish authorities.

Lithuanian officials confirmed that the black site named “detention center Violet” by the US Senate report appears to be the Lithuanian detention center near the capital, Vilnius, identified in a 2009-2010 parliamentary investigation. Lawmaker Arvydas Anusauskas told Reuters, “The US Senate report, to me, makes a convincing case that prisoners were indeed held at the Lithuanian site.”

Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi detainee now kept at Guantanamo Bay, has stated that he was kept and tortured at the site. Washington paid the Lithuanian government $1 million to “show appreciation” for operating the prison, according to the US Senate report, though the funds were reportedly paid out through “complex mechanisms.”

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius has asked Washington to confirm whether or not the CIA tortured prisoners at its secret prisons in Lithuania.

British Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed the issue of torture and Britain’s role in rendition flights to countries including Libya, saying that it had been “dealt with from a British perspective.” He told the public to trust British intelligence to police itself, as official investigations had “produced a series of questions that the intelligence and security community will look at … I’m satisfied that our system is dealing with all of these issues.”

In fact, the CIA torture report has revealed the advanced state of collapse of democratic forms of rule not only in the United States, but also in Europe. What has emerged across Europe since the September 11 attacks is the framework of a police state far more technically powerful than even the most ruthless dictatorships of twentieth-century Europe. The methods deployed as part of the “war on terror” will also be used against opposition in the working class to unpopular policies of austerity and war.

European governments participate in the digital spying on telecommunications and Internet activities of the European population, carried out by the US National Security Agency and its local counterparts, as revealed by Edward Snowden. They also are planning joint repression of social protests, based on talks between German federal police, France’s Gendarmerie, and other security forces with the European Commission.

“During my investigation, people called me a traitor and said I was making things up,” Marty told the Tribune de Genève. “The Europeans disappointed me. Germany, the United Kingdom, and many others blocked the establishment of the truth. In fact, most European countries actively participated in a system that legitimated large-scale state crimes.”

“I think we must recall, and it is very important, that this operation, this anti-terrorist policy, was decided and carried out under the aegis of NATO,” Marty told Swiss television channel RTS.

“The United States invoked Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which says that if one member of the alliance is attacked militarily [e.g., as Washington claimed, on September 11], all NATO members are required to come to its aid,” Marty said. Once this was accepted, he added, “there were a whole series of secret accords between the United States and European powers. And all the European countries pledged to grant total immunity to CIA agents, which is manifestly illegal.”

The European powers’ participation in the CIA torture program underscores the utter hypocrisy of the humanitarian pretensions used to justify operations ranging from NATO wars in Syria and Libya to this February’s NATO-backed, fascist-led putsch in Ukraine.

The ferocious opposition of the European ruling elites to attempts to bring this criminality to light is the clearest indication that the democratic rights of the population cannot be secured by appeals to any section of the state. The defense of the population’s democratic and social rights is a question of the revolutionary mobilization of the working class in an international struggle against European capitalism.

Torture, Police Killings and the Militarization of America

December 12th, 2014 by Bill Van Auken

The fact that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report exposing CIA torture has been released in the United States as the country is being swept by angry protests over a series of vicious and unpunished police killings has been little noted by the American mass media.

What are treated as unrelated stories are, in fact, two facets of the same phenomenon: the growth of a massive and criminal police state apparatus that enjoys absolute impunity. The crimes carried out abroad and the crimes carried out at home have a common source in an economic and social system that is in deep crisis and whose overriding features are social inequality, militarism and a relentless assault on basic democratic rights.

The cops who shot down unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, strangled to death Eric Garner in Staten Island and killed defenseless individuals in Cleveland, Phoenix and elsewhere go unpunished as prosecutors employ a deliberate system of exoneration by grand jury to prevent them from ever being called to account for their crimes.

The actions in the Senate report are sufficient to require the immediate arrest and prosecution not merely of the CIA’s killers and torturers, but of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and other top officials who authorized and oversaw a system of depravity and violence in violation of both US and international law.

Yet no one in the US Congress, the Obama administration or any other section of the American ruling establishment suggests that such prosecutions are even remotely possible. On Thursday, Obama’s CIA Director, John Brennan, himself implicated in the crimes, organized a press conference from CIA headquarters in Langley to defend the “enhanced interrogation” torture program and denounce the Senate report.

It was Cofer Black, the former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, who told an approving congressional committee in 2002 that “there was ‘before 9/11 and after 9/11.’ After 9/11 the gloves came off.”

The phrase, conjuring up the image of a bare-knuckled brawl, became a favorite cliché within both the Bush White House and the US military command. It was translated into far more gruesome forms of violence, ranging from waterboarding to hanging people from manacles and “rectal hydration.”

But the “gloves” that were taken off had more far-reaching implications. They involved dispensing with any adherence to the US Constitution, the Geneva Conventions or other bodies of domestic and international law.

The gloves came off not just for the interrogators at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and CIA black sites scattered across the globe, but for every level of the state, down to the local police.

Whatever Obama may say today about torture being “contrary to our values,” this process has only qualitatively deepened over the course of his presidency.

Mr. Obama’s “values” allow him to arrogate to himself the power to designate American citizens as enemy terrorists and order their execution via drone missile strikes with absolutely no judicial review. They permit the codification into law of his supposed right to declare anyone, American or foreign national, an enemy combatant and lock him away in indefinite detention without charges or trial. And they are in concert with his presiding over a massive expansion of domestic and foreign spying that encompasses virtually all forms of communication of innocent people across the globe.

This same process has found noxious expression within local police departments across the United States. “Homeland security” policing has become the new standard, in which “national security” is the overriding principle, and the entire population is looked on as potential enemies. The fradulent narrative of a never-ending “war on terrorism” has become an all-purpose justification for arbitrary and disproportionate violence leading to murder.

The military-police mindset has been embodied in the creation of Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the country, bringing local cops together with Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal agencies. At the same time, billions of dollars worth of military hardware, from assault rifles to armored vehicles, are being funneled annually from the Pentagon to local police departments, creating a militarized force suitable for deployment in a domestic war.

The real significance of these developments was demonstrated first in the martial law lockdown of the Boston metropolitan area following the Boston Marathon bombings of April 2013. An entire population was turned into prisoners in their own homes and subjected to warrantless searches by helmeted and machine-gun toting police backed by armored vehicles—all supposedly to capture one 19-year-old youth.

More recently in Ferguson, peaceful protests against police murder have been met with cops who look like they are headed for combat in Afghanistan, followed by the Missouri governor’s preemptive declaration of a state of emergency and callout of the National Guard in anticipation of further protests over the grand jury’s failure to indict the killer cop.

In the course of the current protests over the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, there has been a concerted attempt by political forces ranging from President Obama to the millionaire operative Al Sharpton, along with a network of organizations orbiting the Democratic Party, to insist that the entire issue is one of racism, to be answered by a “conversation on race,” a “new civil rights movement” or various police reform palliatives.

All of this is meant to divert popular outrage into safer channels and conceal a far more sinister reality. A militarized police force, working in close collaboration with the US military and intelligence complex, is being prepared for violent repression against the working class as a whole. It will be used against strikes, demonstrations, protests and other forms of opposition to the policies of the corporate and financial elite.

Torture, police killings, the destruction of core democratic rights—all are methods employed by a criminal ruling class whose wealth is secured through financial parasitism. It has built up its fortunes by transferring social wealth from the working class—the overwhelming majority of the population—to the top 1 percent, while employing militarist violence to further its plunder abroad.

These ruling layers operate not out of strength or confidence in their system, but rather out of fear. They know that record levels of social inequality are not only incompatible with democracy, but must give rise to social revolt at the next, inevitable eruption of global financial crisis. If the torturers and the police killers enjoy impunity, it is because preparations are being made to turn them loose against a rebellious population.

The mystery behind skyrocketing rates of Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and other wheat-related illnesses may not have anything to do with wheat or even gluten, but rather the process by which conventional American wheat is grown and harvested.

Unbeknownst to most consumers is the fact that just before harvest, a vast majority of conventional wheat grown in the U.S. is doused in Roundup herbicide, which ends up poisoning your favorite breads, cereals, cakes, and pastries.

Many conventional wheat farmers in America, driven by greed and carelessness, flood their wheat crops with Roundup just before harvest in order to slightly boost yields and reduce harvest time. But the end result is Roundup being absorbed directly into the wheat kernels that end up processed on your dinner plate.

The Healthy Home Economist‘s Sarah Pope explains in a recent article how the pre-harvest application of Roundup is used to dry conventional wheat and make it easier to harvest. This process helps wheat crops release their seeds more quickly, resulting in moderately higher yields.

But according to wheat farmer Keith Lewis, this practice isn’t licensed, though it is quite common in the U.S. When Roundup-sprayed wheat is eventually processed for human consumption, unknown levels of it end up in the final product.

“A wheat field often ripens unevenly, thus applying Roundup pre-harvest evens up the greener parts of the field with the more mature,” he explained during a 2012 interview with Dr. William Davis, author of the bestselling book Wheat Belly.

“The result is on the less mature areas, Roundup is translocated into the kernels and eventually harvested as such.”

Stop buying corporate American wheat products

In her report, Pope highlights a graph that was included in a 2013 study published in the journal Interdisciplinary Toxicology, which clearly illustrates a corresponding increase in both Celiac disease incidence and glyphosate use on wheat crops.

Since it first became an option for American wheat farmers in the early 1990s, spraying conventional wheat crops with Roundup just prior to harvest has basically become the norm. The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures show that, as of 2012, 99 percent of durum wheat, 97 percent of spring wheat, and 61 percent of winter wheat is doused in herbicides prior to harvest.

“Using Roundup on wheat crops throughout the entire growing season and even as a desiccant just prior to harvest may save the farmer money and increase profits, but it is devastating to the health of the consumer who ultimately consumes the glyphosate residue laden wheat kernels,” writes Pope.

The reason this is problematic is that Roundup damages several key pathways by which the human body processes and absorbs nutrients. Besides inhibiting cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes, which detoxifies the body of foreign chemical compounds, glyphosate damages the gut microbiome, which is responsible for absorbing nutrients.

“… just because Roundup doesn’t kill you immediately doesn’t make it nontoxic,” writes Pope. “In fact, the active ingredient in Roundup lethally disrupts the all important shikimate pathway found in beneficial gut microbes which is responsible for synthesis of critical amino acids.”

“In synergy with disruption of the biosynthesis of important amino acids via the shikimate pathway, glyphosate inhibits the cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes produced by the gut microbiome. CYP enzymes are critical to human biology because they detoxify the multitude of foreign chemical compounds, xenobiotics, that we are exposed to in our modern environment today.”

The only way to avoid this is to avoid all conventional wheat grown in the U.S., as well as all products made from it. Pope recommends sticking with low gluten, unhybridized Einkorn wheat, or wheat grown in other countries.

Until American farmers wake up to the fact that they are actively poisoning the public with their toxic, glyphosate wheat, it is vital to avoid purchasing all American-grown wheat that is not certified organic.

Sources:

http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com

http://www.inquisitr.com

http://www.wheatbellyblog.com

An undercover cop in Oakland pulled out a gun and pointed it at protesters Wednesday night after they exposed him and a partner as police officers attempting to incite crime.

The shocking moment was captured by Reuters photographer Noah Berger, who was covering protests spurred by the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.

Reports indicate that two police officers were posing as protesters, while wearing bandanas over their faces. Others in the group cottoned on to the fact that they were not legitimate demonstrators and began pointing at them and yelling, “Hey, they’re undercover, they’re cops!”

The two cops attempted to break off from the group, but were followed. A legitimate protester attempted to remove one of the cops’ balaclavas, and one of the officers pushed a protester, causing a scuffle to break out.

One of the officers slammed the protester to the ground, and handcuffed him, riling up the crowd. The second officer then pulled out a concealed weapon and waved it around telling protesters to back off, before scores of uniformed back up cops arrived on the scene.

 

Witnesses at the scene claimed that the two undercover cops were attempting to rile up the crowd up and get them to vandalize property and loot businesses.

 

Protesters say that the officers were banging on windows and shouting inflammatory statements. One protester claims to have a video of the officers doing just this, but has not yet posted it

 

Later commenting on the incident, Oakland police Lt. Chris Bolton revealed that the cops were from an “outside” agency and that he would investigate the claims of them acting as agent provocateurs.

 

 

 

Protesters claimed that the person who was tackled to the ground and taken into custody by the cops has a concussion stemming from the incident.

 

Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.

“A group of Afghan friends,” writes Kelly, “had entrusted me with a simple message, their grievance, which they couldn’t personally deliver:  please stop killing us.” (Image: MettaCenter)

On December 10, International Human Rights Day, federal Magistrate Matt Whitworth sentenced me to three months in prison for having crossed the line at a military base that wages drone warfare. The punishment for our attempt to speak on behalf of trapped and desperate people, abroad, will be an opportunity to speak with people trapped by prisons and impoverishment here in the U.S.

Our trial was based on a trespass charge incurred on June 1, 2014.  Georgia Walker and I were immediately arrested when we stepped onto Missouri’s Whiteman Air Force where pilots fly weaponized drones over Afghanistan and other countries.  We carried a loaf of bread and a letter for Brig Gen. Glen D. Van Herck.  In court, we testified that we hadn’t acted with criminal intent but had, rather, exercised our First Amendment right (and responsibility) to assemble peaceably for redress of grievance.

“The prosecution recommended the maximum six month sentence.  “Ms. Kelly needs to be rehabilitated,” said an earnest young military lawyer. The judge paged through a four page summary of past convictions and agreed that I hadn’t yet learned not to break the law.”A group of Afghan friends had entrusted me with a simple message, their grievance, which they couldn’t personally deliver:  please stop killing us.

I knew that people I’ve lived with, striving to end wars even as their communities were bombed by drone aircraft, would understand the symbolism of asking to break bread with the base commander.

Judge Whitworth said he understood that we oppose war, but he could recommend over 100 better ways to make our point that wouldn’t be breaking the law.

The prosecution recommended the maximum six month sentence.  “Ms. Kelly needs to be rehabilitated,” said an earnest young military lawyer. The judge paged through a four page summary of past convictions and agreed that I hadn’t yet learned not to break the law.

What I’ve learned from past experiences in prison is that the criminal justice system uses prison as a weapon against defendants who often have next to no resources to defend themselves.  A prosecutor can threaten a defendant with an onerously long prison sentence along with heavy fines if the defendant doesn’t agree to plea bargain.

In his article “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty,” Jed S. Rakoff draws attention to the institution of plea bargaining which now ensures that less than 3% of federal cases go to trial at all.  “Of the 2.2 million U.S. people now in prison,” Rakoff writes, “well over 2 million are there as a result of plea bargains dictated by the government’s prosecutors, who effectively dictate the sentence as well.”

“In 2012, the average sentence for federal narcotics defendants who entered into any kind of plea bargain was five years and four months,” Rakoff writes, “while the average sentence for defendants who went to trial was sixteen years.”

It’s one thing to read about the shameful racism and discrimination of the U.S.  criminal justice system. It’s quite another to sit next to a woman who is facing ten or more years in prison, isolated from children she has not held in years, and to learn from her about the circumstances that led to her imprisonment.

Many women prisoners, unable to find decent jobs in the regular economy, turn to the underground economy. Distant relatives of mine knew plenty about such an economy several generations ago, in Boston. They couldn’t get work, as Irish immigrants, and so they got into the bootlegging business when alcohol was prohibited. But no one sent them to prison for 10 years if they were caught.

Women prisoners may feel waves of guilt, remorse, defiance, and despair. In spite of facing extremely harsh punishment, harsh emotions, and traumatic isolation, most of the women I’ve met in prison have shown extraordinary strength of character.

When I was in Pekin Prison, we would routinely see young men, shackled and handcuffed, shuffling off of the bus to spend their first day in their medium-high security prison next door.  The median sentence there was 27 years. We knew they’d be old men, many of them grandfathers, by the time they walked out again.

The U.S. is the undisputed world leader in incarceration, as it is the world leader in military dominance.  Only one in 28 of drone victims are the intended, guilty or innocent, targets.  One third of women in prison worldwide, are, at this moment, in U.S. prisons.  The crimes that most threaten the safety and livelihood of people in the U.S. of course remain the crimes of the powerful, of the corporations that taint our skies with carbon and acid rainfall, peddle weapons  around an already suffering globe,  shut down factories and whole economies in pursuit of quick wealth, and send our young people to war.

Chief Executive Officers of major corporations that produce products inimical to human survival will most likely never be charged much less convicted of any crime.  I don’t want to see them jailed.  I do want to see them rehabilitated

Each time I’ve left a U.S. prison, I’ve felt as though I was leaving the scene of a crime. When I return to the U.S. from sites of our war making, abroad, I feel the same way. Emerging back into the regular world seems tantamount to accepting a contract, pledging to forget the punishments we visit on impoverished people.  I’m invited to forget about the people still trapped inside nightmare worlds we have made for them.

On January 23, 2015, when I report to whichever prison the Bureau of Prisons selects, I’ll have a short time to reconnect with the reality endured by incarcerated people.  It’s not the rehabilitation the prosecutor and judge had in mind, but it will help me be a more empathic and mindful abolitionist, intent on ending all wars.

Protests in US cities and towns has continued to make headlines over the acquittal of the police officers involved in the unjustified homicides in Ferguson, Missouri involving the shooting death of Michael Brown and in New York City where Eric Garner’s death was the result of a chokehold by the NYPD. Now the Obama Administration and police departments across the US are in agreement to have the police wear body cameras to record their actions when they interact with the public. Eric Garner’s death was recorded by the public, but the police officers responsible for his death were aquitted by the jury. Since the tragic deaths of both Micheal Brown and Eric Garner, the Obama administration is  now seeking $263 million to purchase body cameras so that any wrongdoing by the police can be recorded.  The funds will also be used to “better train police officers.”

For some reason, I find that hard to believe. Something does not sound right with this picture. “President Barack Obama announced Monday that he will seek $263 million in order to better train police officers – and a large chunk of that money will fund the purchase of roughly 50,000 body cameras” RT News reported. In all, President Obama wants congress to approve $75 million to purchase 50,000 body cameras for police officers across the U.S. while continuing the transfer of military equipment to state and local police departments with a “controversial Pentagon program which transfers old equipment – including vehicles and other military gear – to local police departments will remain largely intact.” The report also stated funding to improve training and reform law enforcement agencies were also in the bill, but a large portion would allow for the creation of “outreach programs intended to build trust between communities and law enforcement, The Hill reported.” Improving training to police departments while sending military grade weapons hardly seems comforting to the public. Body cameras would not change anything; in fact it would only add another tool for authorities to increase their surveillance capabilities to monitor the public. Earlier this year, an article published by Jay Stanley, a Senior Policy Analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) titled ‘Big Data, George Orwell, and Tanks’explains why video surveillance and other gadgets used by law enforcement is not a good idea:

Of course the effects of particular tools and technologies are not always open-and-shut; often they are contested. We’re seeing that play out today with regard to video surveillance, for example. Police departments are increasingly putting video surveillance cameras up in our public spaces—often entire networks of them (despite the fact that every day there is less and less reason to do so). But at the same time, individuals are using their own cameras to record what the police do—and too often finding police attempting to (mis)use their authority to stop them from doing so. And into the middle of this contested space comes the far more ambiguous police body cameras, which could serve one function or the other depending on the nitty-gritty details of the rules governing their deployment.

How could Big Data analytics help individuals? In theory, where data sets are made available to all, they could expand individuals’ access to information about the world and enable oversight over their government or companies. Big Data could also help empower individuals by allowing them to analyze their own data.

But unfortunately transparency is usually a hard-fought result—normally institutions fight to keep their data to themselves. And sometimes there will be privacy issues that make opening up databases legitimately problematic.

One other problem with the police carrying body cameras is that they are aimed at civilians, not the police. They will be used by the police to collect evidence against people who commit crimes but it can be used against a person who might fall under any suspicion. This is why very few police departments and other intelligence agencies have opposed body cameras. It is just another way of recording indivials or groups (protesters) for its mega databases. Recently, surveilance cameras have been outfitted with facial recognition technology as PhysOrg.com reported in 2012:

A new surveillance camera by Hitachi Kokusai Electric can look at footage that contains an image of someone, either still or video, and then search other video or still images on file for other instances of that same face. It can search, process and display up to thirty six million faces in just one second. Each hit is displayed immediately, in thumbnail form, which its makers say, allows the camera to display the actions of a person prior to, or after, being seen by the surveillance camera.

Police departments across the U.S. are adopting a facial recognition systems. The Chicago Police Department has the system in place as the Chicago Sun Times reported last year when a crime took place. It stated:

Pierre Martin’s face sealed his fate. Earlier this year, Martin became the first person in Chicago arrested as a result of a little-known Chicago Police Department high-tech program just getting started, which uses facial-recognition software.

Police had a photo captured on a CTA surveillance camera on Jan. 28 of a suspected mugger, looking to the side, after he had just allegedly stolen a cellphone from a man at gunpoint on a Pink Line train. Police also had an ocean of photos for comparison — 4.5 million criminal booking shots. They ran the program. And Pierre Martin ranked No. 1 on a list no one wants to top.

Makes me think about how surveillance is used in the U.K., home of George Orwell. This past summer, BBC news reported that “Met Police officers are to start wearing cameras on their uniforms as part of plans to boost transparency and accelerate convictions. The cameras are designed to capture evidence at crime scenes.” But others who oppose the plan such as Jack Hart of the ‘The Freedom Association’ “says the move means “everyone is under suspicion” according to the report. With cameras on every corner in British society, the police with cameras only means more surveillance.

Imagine the future where facial recognition, domestic drones both armed and unarmed, satellites and now police officers with cameras recording you 24 hours a day. Adding to the list, government databases with criminal mugshots and facebook profiles allows the police to have more facial data to work with. Therefore, the constant monitoring of the public is inevitable. If people were afraid of being identified and prosecuted, would they be willing to participate in peaceful protests? That is a good question.

The U.K. has roughly 6 million CCTV cameras. The UK is considered by many security experts, one of the most surveilled countries on the planet.  An individual’s right to privacy is evaporating.  Governments and their intelligence agencies, along with the police on both the local and state level say that good people have nothing to hide, but with facial recognition, all types of cameras recording you, NSA wire taps, the concept of privacy is almost non-existent.  Let’s be clear, not all police officers are bad actors, some do believe that the technology is a weapon to fight against real criminals, but then again, there are those who will obey their superiors in the name of fighting terrorists.

So the question is, who is a terrorist? Read Robert Wenzel’s ‘85 Things That Might Get You on a DHS Terrorist Watch List’ on Economic Policy Journal published in 2012 to answer that question. When people know that they are being watched and judged and behave differently, it is because they conform. We can call it the Hawthorne Effect when individuals improve their behavior when they become aware that they are being observed. This is what governments of the U.K. and U.S. prefer, a docile population run by an elite class and its corporations that can dominate the population through its surveillance technology. With this type of technology they impose fear among the population because they are constantly being watched.  Unfortunately, this is what George Orwell warned humanity about a long time ago.

Bhopal: A Metaphor

December 12th, 2014 by Dr. Vandana Shiva

December 3, 2014, marks the 30th anniversary of the terrible Bhopal gas tragedy, which killed more than 3,000 people almost immediately, another 8,000 in the following days, and more than 20,000 in the last three decades.

Despite the tragedy of humongous proportions, the people of Bhopal are still fighting for justice despite the apathy they continue to face.
Bhopal was a watershed moment. The tragedy woke up the world to industrial, chemical violence. The chemicals being manufactured at the Bhopal plant had their roots in warfare.

Bhopal gas tragedy was a political, economic, legal watershed for India and the planet. It was a toxic tragedy at two levels the leakage of a toxic gas from a plant producing toxic pesticides, the continued presence of 350 metric tonnes of hazardous toxic waste from the now-defunct Union Carbide India Ltd’s plant in Bhopal, combined with a toxic influence of corporations on courts and successive governments. Legally, Union Carbide and the US courts escaped liability and responsibility for the damage, setting a precedent of governments shrugging their duty to protect their citizens, taking away citizens’ rights and sovereignty in order to make settlements with corporations, letting them off lightly.

The cases brought by the victims to US courts were dismissed on the grounds that the appropriate platform was the Indian legal system, though other cases involving US corporations and foreign victims were being heard in US courts. In 1999, when the victims again approached the US federal court seeking compensation for the 1984 incident as well as for the alleged ongoing environmental contamination at and around the Bhopal plant site, the case was dismissed again.

In 1989, the Indian Supreme Court approved a settlement of the civil claims against Union Carbide for $470 million. The state forcefully took over the representation of the victims on the principle of parens patriae (Latin for “parents of the nation”) — “a doctrine that grants the inherent power and authority of the state to protect persons who are legally unable to act on their own behalf”.

A criminal lawsuit against Union Carbide and Warren Anderson, its former CEO, continues since 1989. In June 2010, a court in India handed down a verdict in the case. It found Union Carbide India Ltd. and seven executives of the company guilty of criminal negligence (this came after the September 1996 order that had reduced their charges). The company was required to pay a fine of Rs 500,000 ($10,870) and the individuals were each sentenced to two years in prison and fined Rs 100,000. On August 2, 2010, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking to reinstate the charges of culpable homicide against the accused. In May 2011, the Supreme Court rejected this petition and declined to re-open the case to reinstate harsher charges. However, after the protests of the Bhopal survivors in November 2014, the government promised to strengthen the “curative petition” that Dow Chemical was already facing in the Supreme Court. The petition is designed to address inadequacies in the 1989 settlement on the basis that the correct figures for dead and injured were not used. The Indian government is seeking an additional amount of up to $1.24 billion, but Bhopal survivor groups, quoting the Government of India’s published figures (Indian Council of Medical Research, epidemiological report, 2004), say the required settlement amounts to $8.1 billion.

On February 6, 2001, Union Carbide Corpo-ration became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company following an $11.6 billion transaction approved by the boards of directors of Union Carbide and the Dow Chemical Company. Owning means owning both, assets and liabilities. However, Dow would like to disown the Bhopal gas disaster. While Dow wants immunity from liability in the case of deaths and diseases caused by Union Carbide in Bhopal, it has accepted liability for harm caused to workers of Union Carbide in the US.

In January 2002, Dow settled a case brought against its subsidiary UCC by workers exposed to asbestos in the workplace and set aside $2.2 billion to address future liabilities.

The case was filed before the acquisition of Union Carbide by Dow. Dow refuses to address the death and damage caused by Union Carbide in India.
This pattern of double standards, of privatising profits and socialising disaster runs through the pattern of corporate rule being institutionalised since the Bhopal tragedy. Dow, along with Monsanto, is involved in pushing hazardous, untested GMOs on society, along with the same war-based chemicals such GMOs rely on.

On October 15, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency, in spite of protests from citizens and scientists, gave final approval to Dow’s Enlist Duo genetically engineered corn and soya resistant to round-up and 2,4-D, or 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, which was one of the ingredients in Agent Orange, the Vietnam War defoliant that was blamed for numerous health problems suffered during and after the war.

As this chemical arms race unfolds, more and more communities and countries are making the democratic choice to become GMO free. In the mid-term elections of November 2014, Maui County of Hawaii voted to become GMO free. Dow and Monsanto immediately sued Maui to stop the law banning GMO cultivation.

The 30th anniversary of Bhopal gas tragedy should catalyse actions worldwide for justice for Bhopal and for all victims of an economy based on toxics. It should strengthen our resolve to create toxic-free food and agriculture systems, and to defend our freedom to be free of poisons.

Vandana Shiva is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

I’m happy to be at this annual Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy (Russian abbreviation SVOP). It is always a great pleasure for me to meet people and feel the intellectual potential, which enables the Council, its leaders and representatives to respond to global developments and analyse them. Their analysis is always free from any hysteria, and its members offer well-grounded and solid arguments, taking a step back, since those caught in the midst of events can hardly adopt an unbiased perspective. We are inevitably influenced by the developments, which makes your observations, analysis, discourse and suggestions even more valuable to us.

As far as I know, this year’s Assembly will focus on prospects for accelerating domestic growth in Russia. There is no doubt that concerted efforts by our society as a whole to bring about comprehensive economic, social and spiritual development are a prerequisite for making Russia’s future sustainable. That said, by virtue of my professional duties, I have to focus on foreign policy issues, which are still relevant for the Assembly’s agenda, since in this interconnected, globalised world, isolating internal development from the outside world is impossible.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin provided a detailed analysis of the international developments at the Valdai Club meeting in Sochi, as well as in his interviews during his trip to Asia. For this reason, I won’t offer any conceptual observations, as everything has already been said. Nevertheless, I would like to share with you some considerations based on our day-to-day foreign policy efforts. It is not my intention to deliver a comprehensive or clear outlook, since at this stage all forecasts are provisional, no matter who makes them. Moreover, diplomats seek to influence developments as they unfold, not contemplate them.

Naturally, I will start with Ukraine. Long before the country was plunged into the crisis, there was a feeling in the air that Russia’s relations with the EU and with the West were about to reach their moment of truth. It was clear that we could no longer continue to put issues in our relations on the back burner and that a choice had to be made between a genuine partnership or, as the saying goes, “breaking pots.” It goes without saying that Russia opted for the former alternative, while unfortunately our Western partners settled for the latter, whether consciously or not. In fact, they went all out in Ukraine and supported extremists, thereby giving up their own principles of democratic regime change. What came out of it was an attempt to play chicken with Russia, to see who blinks first. As bullies say, they wanted to Russia to “chicken out” (I can’t find a better word for it), to force us to swallow the humiliation of Russians and native speakers of Russian in Ukraine.

Honourable Leslie Gelb, whom you know all too well, wrote that Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the EU had nothing to do with inviting Ukraine to join the EU and was aimed in the short term at preventing it from joining the Customs Union. This is what an impartial and unbiased person said. When they deliberately decided to go down the path of escalation in Ukraine, they forgot many things, and had a clear understanding of how such moves would be viewed in Russia. They forgot the advice of, say, Otto von Bismarck, who had said that disparaging the millions-strong great Russian people would be the biggest political mistake.

President Vladimir Putin said the other day that no one in history has yet managed to subjugate Russia to its influence. This is not an assessment, but a statement of fact. Yet such an attempt has been made to quench the thirst for expanding the geopolitical space under Western control, out of a mercantile fear to lose the spoils of what they across the Atlantic had persuaded themselves was the victory in the Cold War.

The plus of today’s situation is that everything has clicked into its place and the calculus behind the West’s actions has been revealed despite its professed readiness to build a security community, a common European home. To quote (singer/song-writer) Bulat Okudzhava, “The past is getting clearer and clearer.” The clarity is becoming more tangible. Today our task is not only to sort out the past (although that must be done), but most importantly, to think about the future.

Talks about Russia’s isolation do not merit serious discussion. I need hardly dwell on this before this audience. Of course, one can damage our economy, and damage is being done, but only by doing harm to those who are taking corresponding measures and, equally important, destroying the system of international economic relations, the principles on which it is based. Formerly, when sanctions were applied (I worked at the Russian mission to the UN at the time) our Western partners, when discussing the DPRK, Iran or other states, said that it was necessary to formulate the restrictions in such a way as to keep within humanitarian limits and not to cause damage to the social sphere and the economy, and to selectively target only the elite. Today everything is the other way around: Western leaders are publicly declaring that the sanctions should destroy the economy and trigger popular protests. So, as regards the conceptual approach to the use of coercive measures the West unequivocally demonstrates that it does not merely seek to change Russian policy (which in itself is illusory), but it seeks to change the regime — and practically nobody denies this.

President Vladimir Putin, speaking with journalists recently, said that today’s Western leaders have a limited planning horizon. Indeed, it is dangerous when decisions on key problems of the development of the world and humankind as a whole are taken on the basis of short electoral cycles: in the United States the cycle is two years and each time one has to think of or do something to win votes. This is the negative side of the democratic process, but we cannot afford to ignore it. We cannot accept the logic when we are told to resign, relax and take it as a given that everyone has to suffer because there are elections in the United States every two years. This is just not right. We will not resign ourselves to this because the stakes are too high in the fight against terror, the threats of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and many bloody conflicts whose negative impact goes far beyond the framework of the corresponding states and regions. The wish to do something to gain unilateral advantages or to endear oneself to the electorate ahead of another election leads to chaos and confusion in international relations.

We hear the daily repeated mantra that Washington is aware of its own exclusiveness and its duty to bear this burden, to lead the rest of the world. Rudyard Kipling spoke about “the white man’s burden.” I hope that this is not what drives Americans. The world today is not white or black, but multi-coloured and heterogeneous. Leadership in this world can be assured not by persuading oneself of one’ exclusiveness and God-given duty to be responsible for everyone, but only by the ability and craft in forming a consensus. If the US partners committed their power to this goal, this would be priceless, and Russia would be actively helping them.

However, so far, US administrative resources still work only in the NATO framework, and then with substantial reservations, and its writ does not reach beyond the North Atlantic Alliance. One proof of this is the results of US attempts to make the world community follow its line in connection with the anti-Russian sanctions and principles. I have spoken about it more than once and we have ample proof of the fact that American ambassadors and envoys across the world seek meetings at the highest level to argue that the corresponding countries are obliged to punish Russia together with them or else face the consequences. This is done with regard to all countries, including our closest allies (this speaks volumes about the kind of analysts Washington has). An overwhelming majority of the states with which we have a continuing dialogue without any restrictions and isolation, as you see, value Russia’s independent role in the international arena. Not because they like it when somebody challenges the Americans, but because they realise that the world order will not be stable if nobody is allowed to speak his mind (although privately the overwhelming majority do express their opinion, but they do not want to do so publicly for fear of Washington’s reprisals).

Many reasonable analysts understand that there is a widening gap between the global ambitions of the US Administration and the country’s real potential. The world is changing and, as has always happened in history, at some point somebody’s influence and power reach their peak and then somebody begins to develop still faster and more effectively. One should study history and proceed from realities. The seven developing economies headed by BRICS already have a bigger GDP than the Western G7. One should proceed from the facts of life, and not from a misconceived sense of one’s own grandeur.

It has become fashionable to argue that Russia is waging a kind of “hybrid war” in Crimea and in Ukraine. It is an interesting term, but I would apply it above all to the United States and its war strategy – it is truly a hybrid war aimed not so much at defeating the enemy militarily as at changing the regimes in the states that pursue a policy Washington does not like. It is using financial and economic pressure, information attacks, using others on the perimeter of a corresponding state as proxies and of course information and ideological pressure through externally financed non-governmental organisations. Is it not a hybrid process and not what we call war? It would be interesting to discuss the concept of the hybrid war to see who is waging it and is it only about “little green men.”

Apparently the toolkit of our US partners, who have become adept at using it, is much larger.

In attempting to establish their pre-eminence at a time when new economic, financial and political power centres are emerging, the Americans provoke counteraction in keeping with Newton’s third law and contribute to the emergence of structures, mechanisms, and movements that seek alternatives to the American recipes for solving the pressing problems. I am not referring to anti-Americanism, still less about forming coalitions spearheaded against the United States, but only about the natural wish of a growing number of countries to secure their vital interests and do it the way they think right, and not what they are told “from across the pond.” Nobody is going to play anti-US games just to spite the United States. We face attempts and facts of extra-territorial use of US legislation, the kidnapping of our citizens in spite of existing treaties with Washington whereby these issues are to be resolved through law enforcement and judicial bodies.

According to its doctrine of national security, the United States has the right to use force anywhere, anytime without necessarily asking the UN Security Council for approval. A coalition against the Islamic State was formed unbeknownst to the Security Council. I asked Secretary of State John Kerry why have not they gone to the UN Security Council for this.

He told me that if they did, they would have to somehow designate the status of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Of course, they had to because Syria is a sovereign state and still a member of the UN (no one excluded it from UN membership). The secretary of state said it was wrong because the United States is combating terrorism and the al-Assad regime is the most important factor that galvanises terrorists from around the world and acts as a magnet attracting them to this region in an attempt to overthrow the Syrian regime.

I believe this is perverse logic. If we are talking about precedents (the United States adheres to case law), it is worth remembering the chemical disarmament in Syria when the Assad regime was a completely legitimate partner of the United States, Russia, the OPCW and others. The Americans maintain talks with the Taliban as well. Whenever the United States has an opportunity to benefit from something, it acts quite pragmatically. I’m not sure why the ideologically-driven position took the upper hand this time and the United States chose to believe that Assad cannot be a partner. Perhaps, this is not so much an operation against the Islamic State as paving the way for toppling al-Assad under the guise of a counter-terrorist operation.

Francis Fukuyama recently wrote the book, Political Order and Political Decay, in which he argues that the efficiency of public administration in the United States is declining and the traditions of democratic governance are gradually being replaced with feudal fiefdom ruling methods. This is part of the discussion about someone who lives in a glass house and throws stones.

All of this is happening amid the mounting challenges and problems of the modern world. We are seeing a continued “tug of war” in Ukraine. Trouble is brewing on the south border of the EU. I don’t think the Middle Eastern and North African problems will go away all by themselves. The EU has formed a new commission. New foreign actors have emerged, who will face a serious fight for where to send their basic resources: either for the continuation of reckless schemes in Ukraine, Moldova, etc., within the Eastern Partnership (as advocated by an aggressive minority in the EU), or they will listen to the Southern European countries and focus on what’s happening on the other side of the Mediterranean.

This is a major issue for the EU.

So far, those who are not guided by real problems, but rather by a desire to quickly grab things from freshly turned up ground. It is deplorable. Exporting revolutions – be they democratic, communist or others – never brings any good.

State, public and civilisational structures are actually disintegrating in the MENA region. The destructive energy released in the process can scorch states that are located far beyond this region. Terrorists (including the Islamic State) are claiming a national status. Moreover, they are already beginning to create quasi-governmental bodies there that engage in the administrative work.

On this backdrop, minorities, including Christians, are banished. In Europe, these issues are deemed not politically correct. They are ashamed when we invite them to do something about it together at the OSCE. They wonder why would we focus specifically on Christians? How is that special? The OSCE has held a series of events dedicated to keeping memories about the Holocaust and its victims alive. A few years ago, the OSCE started holding events against Islamophobia. We will be offering an analysis of the processes leading to Christianophobia.

On 4-5 December, OSCE ministerial meetings will be held in Basel, where we will present this proposal. The majority of EU member states elude this topic, because they are ashamed to talk about it. Just as they were ashamed to include in what was then the EU constitution drafted by Valery Giscard d’Estaing a phrase that Europe has Christian roots.

If you don’t remember or respect your own roots and traditions, how would you respect the traditions and values of other people? This is straightforward logic. Comparing what’s happening now in the Middle East to a period of religious wars in Europe, Israeli political scientist Avineri said that the current turmoil is unlikely to end with what the West means when it says “democratic reforms.”

The Arab-Israeli conflict is dead in the water. It’s hard to play on several boards at a time. The Americans are trying to accomplish this, but it doesn’t work for them. In 2013, they took nine months to sort out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I will not go into the reasons, they are known, but they failed at this as well. Now, they asked for more time to try to achieve some progress before the end of 2014, so that the Palestinians wouldn’t go to the UN and sign the Statute of the International Criminal Court, etc. Suddenly, it transpired that negotiations on Iran are underway. The US State Department dumped Palestine to focus on Iran.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and I agreed to talk on this subject some time soon. It’s important to understand that you can’t keep the problem of the Palestinian state deeply frozen forever. Failure to resolve it for nearly 70 years has been a major argument of those who recruit extremists in their ranks, “there’s no justice: it was promised to create two states; the Jewish one was created, but they will never create an Arab state.” Used on a hungry Arab street, these arguments sound quite plausible, and they start calling for a fight for justice using other methods.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the Valdai Club meeting in Sochi that we need a new version of interdependence. This was a very topical statement. The leading powers must return to the negotiating table and agree on a new framework that takes into account the basic legitimate interests of all the key parties (I can’t tell you what it should be called, but it should be based on the UN Charter), to agree on reasonable self-imposed restrictions and collective risk management in a system of international relations underpinned by democratic values. Our Western partners promote respect for the rule of law, democracy and minority opinion within countries, while failing to stand up for the same values in international affairs. This leaves Russia as a pioneer in promoting democracy, justice and rule of international law. A new world order can only be polycentric and should reflect the diversity of cultures and civilisations in today’s world.

You are aware of Russia’s commitment to ensuring indivisibility of security in international affairs and holding it in international law. I won’t elaborate on this.

I would like to support the point the SVOP has been making that Russia won’t succeed in becoming a major, successful and confident power of the 21st century without developing its eastern regions. Sergei Karaganov was among the first to conceptualise this idea, and I fully agree. Taking Russia’s relations with the Asia Pacific countries to a new level is an absolute priority. Russia worked along these lines at the Beijing APEC meeting and the G20 forum. We will continue moving in this direction in the new environment created by the upcoming launch of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) on 1 January 2015.

We have been treated as “subhumans.” For over a decade, Russia has been trying to establish partnership ties with NATO through CSTO. These efforts were not just about putting NATO and CSTO “in the same league.” As a matter of fact, CSTO is focused on catching drug dealers and illegal migrants around the Afghan border, and the North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the backbone of the international security forces, which, among other things, were tasked with fighting the terrorist threat and eliminating its financing schemes, which involve drug trafficking. We tried everything: we pleaded and then demanded real-time contact, so that once NATO detects a caravan transporting drugs and is unable to stop it, it alerts us across the border, so that this caravan could be intercepted by CSTO forces. They simply refused to talk to us. In private conversations, our NATO well-wishers (and I actually mean this in the positive way) told us that the alliance can’t view CSTO as an equal partner for ideological reasons. Until recently, we saw the same condescending and arrogant attitude with respect to the Eurasian economic integration. And that despite the fact that countries intending to join the EAEU have much more in common in terms of their economies, history and culture than many EU members. This union is not about creating barriers with anyone. We always stress how open this union is expected to be. I strongly believe that it will make a significant contribution to building a bridge between Europe and Asia Pacific.

I can’t fail to mention Russia’s comprehensive partnership with China. Important bilateral decisions have been taken, paving the way to an energy alliance between Russia and China. But there’s more to it. We can now even talk about the emerging technology alliance between the two countries. Russia’s tandem with Beijing is a crucial factor for ensuring international stability and at least some balance in international affairs, as well as ensuring the rule of international law. We will make full use of our relations with India and Vietnam, Russia’s strategic partners, as well as the ASEAN countries. We are also open to expanding cooperation with Japan, if our Japanese neighbours can look at their national interests and stop looking back at some overseas powers.

There is no doubt that the European Union is our largest collective partner. No one intends to “shoot himself in the foot” by renouncing cooperation with Europe, although it is now clear that business as usual is no longer an option. This is what our European partners are telling us, but neither do we want to operate the old way. They believed that Russia owed them something, while we want to be on an equal footing. For this reason, things will never be the same again. That said, I’m confident that we will be able to overcome this period, lessons will be learned and a new foundation for our relations will emerge.

The idea of creating a single economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok can now be heard here and there and is gaining traction. Germany’s Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has said publicly (while we have been saying it for a long time) that the EU and the EAEU should engage in dialogue. The statement President Vladimir Putin made in Brussels in January 2014, when he proposed the first step by launching negotiations on a free-trade zone between the EU and the Customs Union with an eye on 2020, is no longer viewed as something exotic. All of this has already become part of diplomacy and real politics. Although this is so far only a matter of discussion, I strongly believe that we will one day achieve what is called “the integration of integrations.” This is one of the key topics we want to promote within the OSCE at the Ministerial Council in Basel.

Russia is about to assume BRICS and SCO presidency. The two organisations will hold their summits in Ufa. These are very promising organisations for the new age. They are not blocks (especially BRICS), but groups where members share the same interests, representing countries from all continents that share common approaches regarding the future of the global economy, finance and politics.

The History of Russia: The Road to the Revolutions

December 11th, 2014 by Julien Paolantoni

Introduction

Part 2 of this series was an attempt to explain how Russia progressively asserted itself on the international stage. As for the present part, it will deal with the long downfall of tsarism during the nineteenth century which eventually resulted in the Russian Revolutions. We may use the plural here, because of the 1905 and February Revolutions, little known compared to the October one but they have been instrumental nevertheless, as it will hopefully be shown in the next part of this series.

Napoleon made a major mistake when he declared war on Russia over a dispute with Tsar Alexander I in 1812. Unable to decisively defeat the Russian army, he attempted to seize Moscow at the onset of winter. But his troops were unprepared for winter warfare especially in the harsh Russian weather and thousands of French soldiers were killed by peasant guerrilla fighters as a result. Alexander became known as the ‘Savior of Europe’ and he participated in the redrawing of the European map at the Congress of Vienna (1815), with his fellow allied statesmen Klemens von Metternich (Prince of Austria), Viscount Castlereagh (Foreign Minister of England) and Karl von Hardenberg (Chancellor of Prussia). [1]

Thanks to this prestigious position as the power that defeated Napoleonic France, the Russian Empire would play a leading political role in the next century. However, the upholding of serfdom prevented any economic progress in Russia. Indeed, in the meantime West European economic growth accelerated during the Industrial Revolution through sea trade and colonialism while Russia kept being an underdeveloped nation, thereby creating new problems for the empire as a great power. In fact, Russia’s great power status concealed its economic backwardness, which would be a key (if not the main) factor in the engagement of the revolutionary process. [2]

Moreover, following the defeat of Napoleon, Alexander I was willing to discuss constitutional reforms but only a few were introduced, meaning no dramatic changes were attempted, which was of course another reason for public discontent. [3]

The Decembrist Revolt and its Intellectual Aftermath

Alexander I was succeeded by his younger brother, Nicholas I, who ruled from 1825 to 1855. At the beginning of his rule, he was challenged by an uprising known as the Decembrist Revolt. The background of this protest laid in the Napoleonic Wars, when a handful of Russian officers traveled across Europe, where they were exposed to liberalism. It encouraged them to seek change on their return to autocratic Russia. Therefore, the Decembrist Revolt of 1825 has been the output of a small circle of army officers and liberal nobles who wanted to install Nicholas’ brother as a constitutional monarch, the English political system being considered by West European elites of that time as the highest available standard.

[4] Unfortunately for them, the revolt was easily smashed, leading Nicholas to turn away from the Westernization program begun by Peter the Great and to coin the doctrine “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality”. [5] Then in 1831 he crushed a major revolt in Congress Poland, which would be followed by another significant Polish and Lithuanian uprising in 1863. [6]

In this context, Mikhail Bakunin emerged as the father of anarchism. In 1842, he moved to Western Europe where he became active in the early socialist movement. In particular, he took part in the May Uprising in Dresden in 1849, joining forces with Karl Marx despite significant ideological differences. [7]

The debate over Russia’s political direction has existed since Peter the Great’s reforms (see part 2 of this series). However, in the course of the nineteenth century this question became more and more urgent.

The Slavophiles opposed bureaucracy and preferred the collectivism of the medieval Russian mir (i.e village community) to the individualism advocated by Western philosophers and the “enlightened” elite that promoted such ideas. Still, Russia has been forced into involvement in the affairs of Europe, as part of the “Holy Alliance” designed as the “Policeman of Europe” since the war against Napoleon (a move that sounds like a foretaste of NATO, as pointed out by Bertrand Badie). [8]

But in order to be the policeman of Europe, he Holy alliance needed large armies. Therefore, Russia supplied the forces needed by the Holy Alliance to quell the revolutionary uprisings in Europe in 1848 and 1849, which would become known as the Spring of Nations. [9]

In exchange, Nicholas I expected that the other great powers would leave Russia free to deal with the Ottoman Empire, considered as the “sick man of Europe” by the tsar. Some observers including Karl Marx and Frederick Engels predicted that there would be a Russo-Turkish War soon. Marx and Engels predicted that any conflict between these two nations would necessarily turn into a European War. [10]

One year before the death of Nicholas I, Russia became involved in the Crimean War. After defeating Napoleon, Russia was regarded as militarily invincible, but the reverses it suffered during the Crimean War exposed the weakness of Nicholas’ regime. [11]

Political Shifts During Alexander II’s Reign

In 1855, Alexander II came to the throne when desire for reform had become widespread. The most urgent issue facing the Government was that of serfdom. Indeed, four years after the coronation of the new tsar there were around 35% of serfs within the Russian population. [12]

The emancipation of the serfs in 1861 can be considered as one of the most important events in Russian history, because it marked the beginning of the fall of the landed aristocracy, who has managed to secure a monopoly on power since the creation of the Russian state. The freed peasants bought land from the landowners with state assistance but these properties were owned collectively by the mir, the village community, which divided them among the peasants. This move can be seen as a first attempt at collectivizing lands, which would one of the main policies undertaken during the first half of the USSR’s lifetime [13]

Then, Alexander II reformed the military service and the judiciary system in 1864. In general, the judicial system was quite effective but the government lacked cultural influence and finances to extend the court system to villages, where traditional justice prevailed with minimal interference from provincial officials. He abolished capital punishment and decided to mold the Russian judicial system after contemporary French and German law, which means that each case had to be decided on its merits and not on precedents. This approach has remained in place ever since. [14] He also introduced local self-governments (zemstva) for the rural districts and towns, made up of representatives of all classes who were in charge of health, education, transport facilities, food supply, and other issues. It was during Alexander’s reign that education became widespread and elected city councils (duma) dominated by property owners were formed in 1870. The zemstva and duma raised taxes to support their activities. [15]

Moreover, the intensity of censorship decreased significantly and universities became autonomous, which greatly helped to expose corruption and thus improve the efficiency of public policies. Regarding financial regulation, Alexander II has to be credited along with the Ministry of Finance for setting up the State Bank in 1866, which supported railroad development. Besides, the Ministry of Finance founded the Peasant Land Bank in 1882 to enable enterprising farmers to acquire more land. However, the Ministry of Internal Affairs countered this policy by establishing the Nobles’ Land Bank in 1885 to prevent foreclosures. [16]

Foreign Policy after the Treaty of Paris

In 1856, the Treaty of Paris put an end to the Crimean War between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, allied with France, the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The “Black Sea clause”, which demilitarized the area, came at a tremendous disadvantage to Russia, because it significantly decreased the naval threat it posed to the Ottomans. Besides, Russian protectorates of Moldavia and Wallachia acquired in the previous war were returned to the Ottoman Empire while the Great Powers pledged to respect the independence and territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire. The treaty also caused a symbolic setback to Russia, as it gave the West European powers the duty of protecting Christians living in the Ottoman Empire, a role that was once attributed to Russia by the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji (1774). [17]

As a result, Russia’s primary goal during the beginning of Alexander II’s reign was to alter the Treaty of Paris to regain naval access to the Black Sea. Russian statesmen considered the British Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire as opposed to that goal, therefore the tsar sought to maintain good relations with France, Prussia, and the United States. Nevertheless, following the Crimean War Russia revived its expansionist policies, which was not seen positively by the other great powers, especially Great Britain. The Russian army first moved to gain control of the Caucasus region, where the revolts of Muslim tribes (Chechens, Dagestanis and Circassians) had continued despite numerous Russian campaigns in the nineteenth century. In 1859, the forces of Baryatinsky captured Shamil (the Chechen leader) and the Russian army was able to resume its expansion into Central Asia that had begun under Nicholas I. By 1867, Russian forces had captured enough territory to form the Guberniya (i.e Governorate General) of Turkestan. Then, the Bukhara Khanate lost the crucial Samarkand area to Russian forces in 1868. To avoid a conflict with the British Empire, which had strong interests in protecting India, Russia left independent the Bukharan territories located at the Afghan and Persian borders. The Central Asian khanates managed to retain a degree of autonomy until 1917. [18]

On the other hand, Russia followed Britain, France and the United States in establishing relations with Japan, and also obtained concessions from China with Britain and France after the Second Opium War (1856–1860). Indeed, under the Treaty of Aigun (1858) and the Treaty of Beijing (1860) China ceded to Russia extensive trading rights and regions located near the Ussuri and Amur rivers and allowed Russia to begin building a naval base and a port in Vladivostok. Regarding the foreign policy issues in Europe, Russia initially gave military support to France’s anti-Austrian diplomacy, but the Franco-Russian entente weakened quickly and France even backed a Polish uprising against Russian rule in 1863. [19]

Afterwards, Russia got closer to Prussia by approving the unification of Germany in exchange for a revision of the Treaty of Paris and the remilitarization of the Black Sea. These diplomatic achievements came at the London conference (1871), following France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. After 1871, Germany united under Prussian leadership and became the strongest continental power in Europe. [20]

In 1873, Germany set up the League of the Three Emperors with Austria-Hungary and Russia to prevent them from forming an alliance with France. However, Russian and Austro-Hungarian ambitions clashed in the Balkans, where rivalries among anti-Ottoman feelings and Slavic nationalities erupted. In fact, throughout the 1870’s Russian nationalist opinion became a serious domestic factor in favor of making Bulgaria and Serbia quasi-protectorates and “liberating” Balkan Christians from Ottoman rule. As a result, a kind of Russian crusade took place four centuries after the Siege of Belgrade (1456), which was the last western crusade, in order to prevent the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II from conquering Hungary. Then, in the late 1870s the Ottoman Empire and Russia fought each other again during the Russo-Turkish War. Within one year, Russian troops were nearing Constantinople, and the Ottomans chose to surrender. In 1878, nationalist diplomats and generals convinced Alexander II to force the Ottomans to sign the Treaty of San Stephano, which created an independent and enlarged Bulgaria that stretched into southwestern Balkans. [21]

However, Britain wouldn’t let any other nation decide important international issues without its approval, that’s why Britain threatened to declare war over the terms of the above-mentioned treaty. Russia couldn’t afford an open conflict with the British Empire so the tsar backed down at the Congress of Berlin a few months later, where Russia agreed to the creation of a smaller Bulgaria. Russian nationalists were furious with Germany and Austria-Hungary for failing to back their country as part of the League of the Three Emperors, but the tsar agreed in terms to strengthen the alliance as well as Austro-Hungarian hegemony in the western Balkans. Despite this revived agreement, the previous war increased tension with Austria-Hungary, which also had ambitions in the region. [22]

During this period, Russia outstretched its empire into Central Asia, conquering the khanates of Bokhara, Khiva and Kokand (all located in present-day Uzbekistan), as well as the Trans-Caspian region. These regions were (and still are) rich in raw materials, therefore one can argue that the origins of Russian energy politics in Central Asia can be found in the period following the Crimean War. [23]

The Populist Movement, Intellectual Background of the Revolutions to Come

Alexander II’s reforms, the lifting of state censorship in particular, enabled the formation and expression of diverging political thoughts. Indeed, the regime relied on state-controlled newspapers to gain support for its policies but nationalist, liberal and various radical writers also helped to mold public opinion against the imperial state and private property. From the 1860s through the 1880s, Russian radicals, collectively known as Populists, focused mainly on the peasantry. [24]

The leaders of the Populist movement included idealists and advocates of terrorism, i.e direct and violent action intended to achieve a religious or political goal, mostly regime change (although it is a basic concept, in this age of endless propaganda providing a simple yet precise definition of original terrorism in certainly no waste of time). In the 1860s, Chernyshevsky, who was arguably the most influential radical writer of the period, defended the thesis that Russia could move directly to socialism under the leadership of an individual of a superior nature who would guide a new and revolutionary generation. His main work, entitled What Is to Do ? would have a tremendous impact on the dynamics of the October Revolution, for the emergence of Lenin as uncontested leader of the movement is certainly no stranger to the myth of the “superior” individual. By the way, Lenin’s 1902 political treaty bears the same title as Chernyshevsky’s. [25]

One of the leading streams of the Populist movement became known as nihilism, a concept originally coined by Turgenev in Fathers and Sons (1862). The advocates of this doctrine aimed at the destruction of human institutions and laws, because of their supposedly inherent artificiality and corruption. The fundamental idea behind Russian nihilism is that the world lacks comprehensible moral ideals such as truth or value, or even a broad meaning allowing the definition of objectives. As a result, the nihilists shocked the Russian establishment, for they questioned all old values stemming from Western Enlightenment. However, they eventually moved beyond being purely philosophical to becoming major political forces by getting involved in the cause of reform. Their path was eased by the previous actions of the Decembrists (1825) and the financial and political distress caused by the Crimean War, which led a huge proportion of Russian people to lose faith in political institutions. [26]

Surprisingly, the nihilists attempted to convert the aristocracy to the cause of reform in the first place. But failing to do so, they turned to the peasants, hence the denomination of “Populist movement”. It was based on the idea that the people carried the wisdom and ability to lead the nation.

Another noteworthy dissident to tsarism was Tkachev, who argued against marxists that a centralized revolutionary organization had to seize power before capitalism could fully develop. [27]

Eventually, anarchists had the most significant impact, killing prominent officials one after another, establishing anarchy as a powerful revolutionary force in the country. After several attempts, acting under the group name Narodnaya Volya (“People’s will”) they managed to murder Alexander II in 1881, on the very day he had approved a proposal to call a representative assembly to consider new reforms designed to meet revolutionary demands. [28]

Alexander III and the Reign of “Unlimited Autocracy”

The new tsar (1881–1894) took on Nicholas I’s doctrine “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and National Character”. Alexander III’s belief was that his country’s salvation relied on moving away from western ideas introduced in Russia by Peter the Great, for they were deemed subversive. The “Slavophiles” considered that a return to a simpler peasant society centered on the Orthodox faith would be beneficial, as opposed to the “pollution” generated in the West by materialism, atheism, and the new worship of science and technique in their supposed ability to solve all the problems faced by the human race. [29]

At that time, the most influential adviser in the Winter Palace was Pobedonostsev, the procurator of the Holy Synod (1880-1895), the highest governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church. His lessons dealt mainly with the political system: the message was that democracy should be considered as an unfit option, especially in its parliamentary variety, and that freedom of speech should be feared by the monarch. As a result, the tsar strengthened the security police (Okhrana) and placed it under the command of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. A witch hunt against revolutionaries began. [30]

On the other hand, Alexander III has to be credited for the introduction of labor legislation in 1882, which included both a sort of compliance body (the inspectorate of factories in charge of health and life saving regulations) and a regulation of working hours and child labor. He continued the longstanding imperial infrastructure policy as well, with the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1891 as main achievement. [31]

Regarding foreign affairs, during Alexander III’s reign Russia gained significant territorial and commercial concessions from China, completed the conquest of Central Asia undertook by Peter the Great and reached an agreement with France to contain the growing power of Germany. For a short period of time, the tension between Russia and Germany remained at a low intensity, probably thanks to the latter’s diplomatic support towards Russia when Great Britain expressed its concerns over the Russian occupation of Turkmen lands on the Afghan and Persian borders in 1881. [32]

In the meantime, the tar’s decision to sponsor the Bulgarian independence turned out to be unproductive, for Russia’s continuing interference in domestic affairs fueled the Bulgarians’ will to gain the support of their mighty neighbor, Austria-Hungary. In the ensuing dispute, Germany officially stood by Russia once again by concluding a bilateral defensive alliance, known as the Reinsurance Treaty of 1887. However, less than a year after the signature of this new agreement, Bismarck decided to forbid any further loan to Russia, with France becoming the latter’s main financier. Bismarck would be dismissed in 1890, which marked the official end of the 25-years-lasting entente between Russia and Germany. Three years later, Russia entered into a joint military coalition with France aimed at matching the dual alliance formed by Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1879. [33]

Let’s remark that as soon as 1893 the general power framework which led to World War I was already in place, although the possibility of the Triple Entente would need to wait until 1904 that Great Britain and France settle their dispute over colonial policy.

A Renewed Revolutionary Atmosphere under Nicholas II

Nicholas II, son of Alexander III, has been the last Russian tsar (1894–1917). While the country finally experienced the Industrial Revolution, high taxes and dreadful living conditions led to more frequent strikes and peasant unrest. [34]

In this context, a lot of political parties were created to address the issues unfolding from industrialization. In 1892, the nationalistic Polish Socialist Party was founded in Paris by some Russian Poles, to further the interests of their relatives who had suffered major educational and administrative Russification. Its stated final ambition was to reunite a divided Poland with the territories held by Germany, Russia and Austria–Hungary. Another important political movement was Social Democracy: in 1898, the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) was created and received support from Georgians and Latvians whereas the Finnish Social Democrats decided to remain an autonomous organization. To continue with ethnical and religious minorities, Armenians were generally inspired by both Balkan and Russian revolutionary traditions. Consequently, they were politically engaged in Russia and in the Ottoman Empire. Speaking of the Ottoman Empire, Russian Muslims tended to be influenced by pan-Turkic and pan-Islamic movements that were developing there and in Egypt as well.

However, at that time the largest radical movement in Russia was without contest the United Socialist Revolutionary Party (USRP), founded in 1901. Paradoxically, the most important event in Russian politics in the early 20th century did not occur within the USRP: in 1903, the RSDLP split into two wings, the “moderate” Mensheviks led by Martov and the radical Bolsheviks led by Lenin. The first was convinced that Russian socialism could grow gradually and peacefully and that tsarism should be succeeded by a democratic republic in which the socialists would cooperate with liberal parties. The latter advocated for the formation of a small elite of professional revolutionists who would strictly respect party discipline and whose mission would be to seize power by force in the name of the proletariat. [35]

Imperialist Competition in China

Alongside the denunciation of the harsh economic conditions of the people, opposition to imperialist policies was the main theme of Russian revolutionaries.

By the end of the 19th century, Russia itself was an imperialist power, whose alliance with France combined with the growing rivalry between Britain and Germany allowed to extend its reach in Asia, in China more precisely. In 1896, Witte (Minister of Finance) founded the Russo-Chinese Bank with the support of French capital. The newly created bank was aimed at financing the construction of a railroad across northern Manchuria to shorten the Trans-Siberian Railway. Moreover, Russia managed to acquire leases in Port Arthur and on the Liaotung Peninsula and began to build a trunk line from Harbin in central Manchuria to Port Arthur on the coast within two years. In the meantime, Germany and Great Britain respectively occupied the provinces of Kiaochao and Wei-Hai-Wei. [36]

China’s reaction to foreign interference on its territory took the form of an armed popular uprising in Northern China, known as the Boxer Rebellion. A coalition of European powers, Russia, Japan and the United States came together to crush the revolt (some Russian forces were already stationed in China before the war to secure the railroads). A succession of battles including the one on Amur River and the Russian invasion of Central and Northern Manchuria (1900) can be seen as early developments of the upcoming Russo-Japanese War, which began officially when Japan opened hostilities at Port Arthur in 1904. The city was finally conquered one year later by Japanese forces, at the cost of a 60000 death toll.

These heavy casualties prevented Japan from pursuing Russian forces north of Mukden but a few months later they destroyed the tsar’s fleet at the Tsushima Straits, which was Russia’s last hope in the war.

Indeed, diplomatic pressure and a growing social unrest at home forced Nicholas II to seek peace. Russia accepted mediation by Theodore Roosevelt, which resulted mainly in the acknowledgement of Japan’s ascendancy in southern Manchuria and Korea. The disastrous performance of the Russian armed forces during the Russo-Japanese War was both a significant blow to the Russian State and a supplementary reason to challenge the tsar’s authority … [37]

Conclusion

Part 3 of this series was aimed at pointing out the political, economic and intellectual dynamic that would lead to the Russian Revolutions.

One of the instrumental moments on the path to the fall of the Romanov Dynasty has been Alexander III’s decision not to continue the administrative and social reforms implemented by his father. Part 2 developed the long hesitation of the tsarist regime between Enlightenment-oriented ideals and autocratic rule. One can argue that after Alexander III’s reign, the decision had been made. On the international stage, the Russian will to be recognized as the uncontested ruler of Central Asia and to get access to Chinese resources as well fueled the hostility of all the other major powers except France. In particular, the British Empire was busy enough containing fellow European colonial powers to accept the assertion of another contender in the “Eastern front” of the race for world domination.

The financial cost of this expansionist ambition combined with the economic backwardness of the country focused the attention of a new and talented generation of revolutionary thinkers, from anarchists to social-democrats (not to be confounded with modern impostors acting under the same denomination, who have nothing to do with socialism).

Part 4 will be dedicated to the successive revolutions that took place in Russia from 1905 to 1917 and to the ensuing civil war.

Julien Paolantoni graduated in Economics, Public Law and International Relations from Sciences Po Bordeaux and the University of Bordeaux. He also holds the professional certificate delivered by the French Financial Markets Authority (Autorité des Marchés Financiers, AMF) and can be reached at: [email protected]

Notes

[1] Adam Zamoyski, Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna, Harper, 2007

[2] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, Oxford University Press, 8th ed., 2010

[3] Ibid.

[4] It is common knowledge that English, French and German philosophers of the Enlightenment regarded England as the political promised land. For instance, Montesquieu stated in The Spirit of Laws (1748): “Britain is a nation that may be justly called a republic, disguised under the form of a monarchy”.

[5] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[6] Norman Davies, God’s Playground: A History of Poland, Vol. 2: 1795 to the Present, Columbia University Press, 2nd ed., 2005

[7] See textbooks on the history of political thought. In English, Alan Ryan’s On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present (Liveright, 2012) is considered as an excellent work. Personally, throughout my studies I have been using : Pascal Ory, Nouvelle histoire des idées politiques, Hachette Littérature, 1989 and Henri Denis, Histoire de la pensée économique, PUF, 2008

[8] Bertrand Badie, La diplomatie de connivence, La Découverte, 2011

[9] Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Volume 10, 1849-51, Intl Pub, 1978

[10] Ibid.

[11] Orlando Figes, The Crimean War: A History, Picador, 2012

[12] Richard Pipes, Russia under the Old Regime, Penguin Books, 2nd ed., 1997

[13] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[14] Randall Lesaffer, European Legal History: A Cultural and Political Perspective, Cambridge University Press, 2009

[15] Richard Pipes, op. cit.

[16] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[17] Orlando Figes, op. cit.

[18] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Norman Davies, Europe: A History, Harper Perennial, 1998

[21] Walter G. Moss, A History of Russia Vol. 2: Since 1855, Anthem Press, 2nd ed., 2004

[22] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Andrzej Walicki, A History of Russian Thought from the Enlightenment to Marxism, Stanford University Press, 1979

[25] Nikolai Chernyshevsky, What Is to Be Done ? Cornell University Press, 1989 (1st ed.: 1863)

[26] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[27] Glenn E. Curtis (Ed), Russia: A Country Study, Claitors Pub Div, 1998

[28] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Konstantin P. Pobedonostsev, Reflections of a Russian Statesman, University of Michigan Press, 1964 (1st ed.: 1898)

[31] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Roberta Thompson Manning, The Crisis of the Old Order in Russia: Gentry and Government, Princeton University Press, 1982

[36] Paul S. Ropp, China in World History, Oxford University Press, 2010

[37] Glenn E. Curtis, op. cit.

Lawless US Sanctions on Venezuela

December 11th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

On December 8, US Senate members passed “S. 2142: Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014.” 

“A bill to impose targeted sanctions on persons responsible for violations of human rights of antigovernment protesters in Venezuela, to strengthen civil society in Venezuela, and for other purposes.”

Passed by voice vote. Unanimously. Disgracefully. House members expected to follow suit. More on the bill below.

The world’s leading human rights abuser targeted one of its staunchest defenders. Constitutionally guaranteeing fundamental rights. Enforcing them. Chapter I, Article 19 stating:

 ”The State shall guarantee to every individual, in accordance with the progressive principle and without discrimination of any kind, not renounceable, indivisible and interdependent enjoyment and exercise of human rights. Respect for and the guaranteeing of these rights is obligatory for the organs of Public Power, in accordance with the Constitution, the human rights treaties signed and ratified by the Republic and any laws developing the same.”

Article 21 stating in part:

“All persons are equal before the law, and, consequently:

1. No discrimination based on race, sex, creed or social standing shall be permitted, nor, in general, any discrimination with the intent or effect of nullifying or encroaching upon the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on equal terms, of the rights and liberties of every individual.”

Article 23 states:

“The treaties, pacts and conventions relating human rights which have been executed and ratified by Venezuela have a constitutional rank, and prevail over internal legislation, insofar as they contain provisions concerning the enjoyment and exercise of such rights that are more favorable than those established by this Constitution arid the laws of the Republic, and shall be immediately and directly applied by the courts and other organs of the Public Power.”

In Venezuela, all persons are considered “equal before the law.” Democratic rights are inviolable. Polar opposite US policy.

America’s founders passed Bill of Rights protections for themselves only. Not others. It shows. Democracy is pure fantasy. None whatever exists.

Monied interests control things. Fundamental international law affirmed freedoms are ignored. Routinely breached.

America’s human and civil rights record is deplorable. Far and away the world’s worst. Committing every imaginable crime and then some. At home and abroad.

Letting cops kill with impunity. Politically persecuting thousands. Running the world largest homeland gulag. A blight on the national conscience.

Supplemented by dozens of global torture prisons. Approved by Obama. Still operating. Out of sight and mind. Guantanamo the tip of the iceberg.

Imprisoning whistleblowers exposing government wrongdoing. Targeting a free press. Other fundamental freedoms.

America’s social contract. Destroying what matters most. Ruthlessly. Maliciously. Systematically.

With congressional and judicial support. Heading toward full-blown tyranny. One major false flag attack away.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D. NJ) applauded what demands condemnation. Stating one Big Lie after another, saying:

“Today, the United States Senate sent a clear and unequivocal message to the Government of Venezuela. For too long, Venezuelans have faced state-sponsored violence at the hands of government security forces and watched their country’s judiciary become a tool of political repression. Venezuelan leaders like Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado have become the target of vicious government-led campaigns that seek to silence them for speaking out in defense of democracy and the rule of law. We in the United States have an obligation to shine a bright spotlight on Venezuela’s abuses and must object to the severe human rights violations committed by the Maduro government and his paramilitary thugs.Targeted sanctions to include asset-freezes and additional visa bans against the individuals involved in this violence are a necessary and long overdue response. We must always stand against human rights violations, political persecution and recrimination anywhere in the world, and certainly in our hemisphere. The Venezuelan people deserve a brighter future, not the dismal nightmare they’re enduring at the hands of President Maduro. Our fight to deliver hope and renewed opportunity to Venezuela has only begun.”

White House Deputy National Security Adviser/Deputy Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken expressed support.

Saying the administration “look(s) forward to working with (Congress on imposing) additional sanctions” on Venezuela.

In August, US travel bans targeted 24 Venezuelan officials. Wrongfully accused of human rights violations.

During anti-government protests. Leaving dozens dead. Many more injured and arrested.

Since Chavez’s 1998 election, relations between both countries remained tense. Washington bears full responsibility.

Wanting hardline rule replacing Venezuelan democracy. Control of its vast oil reserves. Targeting Maduro’s government extrajudicially.

Fact: Sanctions imposed are illegal.

Fact: No nation may impose them unilaterally.

Fact: Only Security Council members may do so.

Fact: No nation in human history did more harm to more people over a longer duration than America.

Fact: Millions of corpses attest to its brutality.

Fact: State terror is official policy. So is torture. Under Obama like Bush.

Fact: The Senate’s torture report changes nothing.

Fact: Guilty parties remain unaccountable.

Fact: America supports some of the world’s most ruthless despots.

Fact: Saudi Arabian beheadings and other human rights abuses go unmentioned.

Fact: Daily Bahraini human rights abuses are ignored.

Fact: Fascists running Ukraine, Honduras, Mexico and other nations are supported.

Fact: Israeli slow-motion genocide against millions of Palestinians. Including naked aggression at its discretion.

Fact: Aided and abetted by annual billions of dollars in US aid. The latest weapons and technology.

Venezuelan fascists initiated violent street protests. From February to June. In upscale areas. Middle and upper class.

Around 18 of 334 municipalities. Most Venezuelans opposed them. At the time, government officials denounced violence. Including by Bolivarian supporters. Maduro addressing a peace rally last February saying:

“I want to say clearly: someone who puts on a red t-shirt with Chavez’s face and takes out a pistol to attack isn’t a Chavista or a revolutionary. I don’t accept violent groups within the camp of Chavismo and the Bolivarian revolution. If you want to have arms to fight…get out of Chavismo.”

Washington manipulated anti-government activities. Continues supporting extremists. Wants Bolivarian rights eliminated.

President Maduro ousted. Maybe murdered. America killed Chavez. Chavismo lives. Bolivarianism is too precious to lose.

According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA):

“…Washington has been bent on reversing the gains of the Bolivarian advance towards regional independence for more than a decade.”

Throughout Chavez’s tenure. Continuing under Maduro. Wanting fascist control replacing Venezuelan democracy.

Bolivarian rights ended. Neoliberal harshness replacing them. US human rights concerns ring hollow.

Maduro blasted Senate legislation. Saying “(w)ho (gives) the US Senate (the right to) sanction the nation of Bolivar. We don’t accept insolent imperialist sanctions.”

Earlier he denounced Washington’s “imperialistic vision.” Driven by extremists believing “they can rule and conquer us by force through blackmail and their economic power.”

Venezuela Analysis explained State Department documents. FOIA obtained.

Showing “sustained support from the US Embassy for Venezuelan student leaders such as Gaby Arellano and Freddy Guevara, as well as Leopoldo Lopez, all of whom played leading roles in the violence.”

WikiLeaks obtained cables revealed US financed opposition groups. Fascist ones. Responsible for months of street violence. Wrongfully blamed on Maduro.

Congressional Research Service S. 2142 summary includes duplicitous wording. Polar opposite US policy.

Conditions in Venezuela. A model democracy by any standard. Unlike America’s sham system. Stating:

“Section 3 -

Expresses the sense of Congress that:

(T)he United States aspires to a mutually beneficial relationship with Venezuela based on respect for human rights and the rule of law, and a productive relationship on issues of public security, including counter narcotics and counterterrorism…

(T)he United States supports the efforts of the people of Venezuela to realize their economic potential and advance representative democracy…

(T)he government of Venezuela’s mismanagement of its economy has produced conditions of economic hardship…

(T)he government’s failure to guarantee public security has led Venezuela to become one of the most violent countries in the world…

(T)he government continues to remove checks and balances on the executive, politicize the judiciary, undermine the independence of the legislature, persecute its political opponents, curtail freedom of the press, and limit the free expression of its citizens; the people of Venezuela have turned out in demonstrations throughout the country to protest the government’s inability to ensure their political and economic well-being…

(T)he use of violence by the National Guard and security personnel is intolerable and the use of unprovoked violence by protesters is also a matter of serious concern.

Section4 -

States that it is US policy to:

(S)upport the people of Venezuela in their aspiration to live under peace and representative democracy, work with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union (EU) to ensure the peaceful resolution of the situation in Venezuela and the cessation of violence against antigovernment protestors, hold accountable government and security officials in Venezuela responsible for or complicit in the use of force against antigovernment protests, and support the development of democratic political processes and independent civil society in Venezuela.

Section5 -

Directs the President to impose US asset blocking and US exclusion sanctions against any person, including a current or former government of Venezuela official or a person acting on behalf of such government, who has:

Perpetrated or is responsible for otherwise directing significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses against persons associated with the antigovernment protests in Venezuela that began on February 4, 2014…

(D)irected or ordered the arrest or prosecution of a person primarily because of the person’s legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or assembly; or knowingly materially assisted or provided significant financial, material, or technological support for the commission of such acts.

Sets forth related penalty requirements. States that:

(1) asset blocking sanctions shall not authorize the imposition of sanctions on imported goods, and

(2) US exclusion sanctions shall not apply if necessary to permit the United States to comply with the Agreement regarding the Headquarters of the United Nations or other applicable international obligations.

Authorizes the President to waive sanctions if in US national security interests, and with congressional notification.

Terminates the requirement to impose sanctions on December 31, 2016.

Section 6 -

Directs the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to report to Congress:

(A)n evaluation of the governmental, political, and technological obstacles faced by the people of Venezuela in their efforts to obtain accurate news and information; an assessment of efforts relating to broadcasting, information distribution, and circumvention technology distribution in Venezuela by the US government and otherwise…

(A) strategy for expanding such efforts in Venezuela.”

According to COHA:

“…Venezuelan Committee of Victims of the Guarimba (violent anti-government demonstrations)…tell a story that does not appear to have entered into the political calculations behind the Senate’s sanctions bill.”

Last week, detailed information was sent to US and Spanish embassies. Washington systematically ignores Venezuelan Fourth Republic crimes (1958 – 1998).

Honduran state-sponsored violence. Disappeared Mexican students. Abducted by police. Their bodies found incinerated. In a garbage dump.

Colombian human rights abuses. Targeting human rights defenders. Trade unionists. Independent journalists. Indigenous leaders.

Longstanding US civil and human rights abuses. Including killer cops. State-sponsored repression. Permanent wars on humanity.

A nation unfit to live in. Supporting wealth, power and privilege exclusively. At the expense of beneficial social change.

Venezuela is polar opposite. A model democracy. Bolivarian fairness.

Washington wants what Venezuelans value most eliminated. Not as long as Chavismo lives.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.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 three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Image: President Barack Obama talks with Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice in the Oval Office on March 19, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Before last month’s elections, the Democrats thought it would be smart to avoid policy debates. So, they delayed action on immigration, kept President Barack Obama away from many races, and withheld the Senate’s report on CIA torture – while following a “legacy” strategy of nominating Senate candidates with famous family names. The Democrats got clobbered and all their “legacy” candidates went down to defeat.

It turns out that this sort of strategy is not just anti-democratic – by hiding the issues so the people don’t get a chance to weigh in before an election – but it’s bad politics, too. Since then, the Democrats have moved forward with a different approach, with President Obama enunciating a somewhat more humane immigration policy and finally allowing release of the executive summary of the torture report.

And, surprise, surprise, the sky hasn’t fallen. Yes, some Republicans have grumbled about Obama abusing his executive powers over immigration, and some torture-implicated CIA officials and a few far rightists continued quibbling that the torture wasn’t really torture. But the backlash has been surprisingly mild. Generally speaking, the American people especially seem okay with the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report.

Even the Washington Post’s neocon editorial page praised the long-delayed disclosures. After citing the horrifying examples of near drownings, painful stress positions, sleep deprivations and “rectal feeding,” the Post concluded: “This is not how Americans should behave. Ever.”

So, what’s the lesson here? It may be that the American people – or at least many of them – are ready for some truth-telling, whether it’s about how black and brown people are treated in this country or about abuses committed by the government that should be confronted and corrected.

Maybe, these Americans are sick and tired of being treated like children or idiots – and perhaps the new “smart” political play, as well as the right pro-democracy move, is to start respecting the people by giving them facts, not just pablum and propaganda.

So, President Obama might consider following up his new immigration policy and the recent protests against the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner with a new commission on race in America (like the 1960s Kerner Commission which warned that “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal”).

And he might continue reinvigorating American democracy by sharing more facts with the American people. From the same era that brought us CIA “black sites,” it would be a no-brainer for Obama to release the hidden pages of the 9/11 report on Saudi funding of the hijackers.

As Saudi Arabia today pushes the United States to engage in a “regime change” in Syria – a move that could lead to a victory by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front affiliate or the Islamic State – the American people might want to know exactly which side the Saudi “allies” are on.

Obama also shouldn’t stop at just releasing unnecessary secrets from George W. Bush’s administration. He should update the American people on controversies in which his own administration rushed to judgments regarding issues related to war or peace.

The Sarin Mystery

On Syria, for instance, the Saudis (along with Turkey and Israel) almost fulfilled their dream of getting the U.S. military to destroy President Bashar al-Assad’s defenses after Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials and media jumped to the conclusion that Assad was at fault for a sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.

Though the furor over that incident brought the United States to the brink of another Mideast war, many of the supposed “facts” cited by Kerry and the others have crumbled under closer scrutiny, such as the belief that a barrage of rockets carried the sarin from a Syrian military base when a subsequent United Nations investigation discovered only one sarin-laden rocket. Rocket experts also concluded that its very limited range traced more likely to rebel-held territory.

In other words, the sarin attack may well have been a rebel provocation meant to draw the U.S. military into the Syrian civil war on the side of the rebels whose most effective fighters are connected to either al-Qaeda or the even more extreme Islamic State. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Was Turkey Behind Syria-Sarin Attack?”]

More than a year later, U.S. intelligence analysts have a much more comprehensive take on what actually happened, and President Obama could declassify that information even if it embarrasses Secretary Kerry and other high-ranking members of the administration. If the Assad regime was falsely accused, there is also a fairness imperative to correct the record regardless of what you think about Assad.

Similarly, U.S. intelligence analysts have amassed substantial data on another crucial event, one that has ratcheted up war tensions in Eastern Europe, the July 17 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine. Kerry and others rushed to blame the ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who supposedly gave the rebels the sophisticated surface-to-air missiles capable of bringing down a plane at 33,000 feet.

The stampede of anti-Russian outrage was so strong that the European Union agreed to U.S. demands for economic sanctions against Moscow, touching off a trade war that has made life harder for people in both Russia and Europe. The shoot-down also gave impetus to the Kiev regime’s “anti-terrorist operation” in eastern Ukraine, dispatching neo-Nazi and other paramilitary militias who have spearheaded the killing of thousands of ethnic Russians.

But I’m told that some U.S. intelligence analysts now view the MH-17 incident much differently from the first few days, with the possibility that the shoot-down may have been committed by a rogue element of the Ukrainian military, possibly trying to bring down a Russian plane and mistakenly destroying the Malaysian airliner which had similar markings.

Whatever the current thinking about who was to blame, clearly U.S. intelligence has much more data today than was available in July when Kerry went on all five Sunday shows pointing the finger at Russia and was joined in his hasty conclusion by virtually the entire U.S. mainstream media.

Obama owes it to the American people and to the families of the 298 dead to release all available U.S. evidence regarding the guilty parties – even if that again embarrasses his Secretary of State.

The Tonkin Precedent

Kerry himself should want the full story told regarding both the Syrian sarin case and the Malaysia plane shoot-down, since – as a young man – he was drawn into the Vietnam War based on false reporting about the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964. A suspected clash between North Vietnamese forces and a U.S. destroyer became the basis for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which provided the legal authorization for the Vietnam War.

In the Gulf of Tonkin case, senior officials of Lyndon Johnson’s administration soon realized that the attack probably never happened. But that reality was kept hidden from the American people for years as the slaughter went on, with 58,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese dying. If the factual correction had been made in a timely manner, many of those dead, including servicemen who served with Lt. John Kerry, might have been saved.

However, Kerry, now 70, has become like the older men who sent him and his comrades to fight in Vietnam, more concerned about reputation and pride inside Official Washington than about the blood and suffering of the people affected by misdirected U.S. policies. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What’s the Matter with John Kerry?”]

Today, Kerry’s State Department appears to see both the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine as battlefields where U.S. “hard power” is limited so a decision has been made to use propaganda or “information warfare” as a “soft power” alternative.

Thus, exploiting these terrible tragedies – hundreds dying from sarin exposure and 298 dying from a plane attack – is viewed as a way to put the U.S. “adversaries” – Assad and Putin, respectively – on the defensive. In this propaganda world, truth is lost to expediency.

Further following the Tonkin Gulf analogy, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a highly belligerent anti-Russian resolution on Dec. 4, by a 411-10 margin. It cited as one justification for sending U.S. military equipment and trainers to Ukraine the supposed “fact” that “Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a civilian airliner, was destroyed by a Russian-made missile provided by the Russian Federation to separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, resulting in the loss of 298 innocent lives.”

But the case of MH-17 is far from resolved, although clearly President Obama has access to information about the incident that could either help confirm or refute the congressional assertion. Yet, he continues to hide that knowledge from the American people as the United States and Russia inch toward a possible nuclear confrontation over Ukraine.

So, it may be time for Obama to embrace a “truth agenda.” After all, facts have a special place in a democracy, which is dependent on an informed electorate to function, and information should be withheld from the public only in extraordinary circumstances.

However, after the early days of his administration, when Obama did release some important documents relating to the legal opinions that justified Bush’s torture policies, the President lost his way regarding respect for the people’s right to know.

Obama became immersed in the gamesmanship of Official Washington where control of information is regarded as a measure of one’s power. But that allowed the Tea Party and others on the Right to present themselves as “populists” who were standing up against the elites, even though many Republicans were more wedded to secrecy than Obama was.

Now, however, Obama is seeing – amid the positive reaction to the release of the torture report – that many Americans are hungry for facts. They, too, understand that information is power and sense that the political leader who trusts them with that power is the one most on their side.

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

The US Senate report on CIA torture, the work of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) is causing a storm of debate.  Not that the realm of torture should ever be up for debate – either it is done, or not, but gray areas have a habit of providing alibis to those who use it. The one to come out the worst in this is the Central Intelligence Agency and its personnel, who were engaged in a global program of torture with executive blessing.

The executive summary of the report itself runs for just under 500 pages – but that is merely the declassified version.  The actual full version of the report runs for roughly 10 times that, and suggests, among other things, that 119 detainees were held at what were termed “black sites” at various global locations.  Such detainees were subjected to a range of actions, including rectal rehydration “as a means of behaviour control”, sexual abuse and an assortment of other threats.

Those implicated in the report in terms of foreign operations could be facing legal avenues straight to the International Criminal Court.  “If I was one of those people,” suggested Michael Bochenek, director of law and policy at Amnesty International, “I would hesitate before making any travel arrangements” (Guardian, Dec 10).

Bochenek is so keen to press his point he suggests that, “say, one of them goes on holiday in Paris, then France would have a clear obligation to arrest and prosecute the individual.  States have clear obligation in cases of torture.”

Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s international justice program, feels that the first “bite” of the prosecutor’s cherry should be based in the United States.  That said, a certain reluctance exists on the subject: “we have not seen any persuasive indicators that the department of justice is willing to step up to its responsibilities.”

This finger pointing at the CIA does obscure a fundamental point. The organisation was not operating in the vacuum of bureaucratic enterprise, dabbling in rogue activities in fits of sadistic rage while lawyers were kept in the dark.  Intelligence officials are in the business of misleading – that is their prerogative.

Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden proved particularly adept at it, with numerous references in the report suggesting he misled governments about CIA activities.  But Hayden had the most misleading, and openly mendacious of administrations, to egg him, and his personnel, on.

It can also be argued that they were given various green lights to pursue the program, be it the infamous John Yoo torture memorandum, which did much to hollow out international jurisprudence with notions of “illegal” combatants, or murmurings of approval from the Pentagon, which deployed that distasteful term “enhanced interrogation” to wrangle information out of a detainee.  Designate individuals in a suitably appropriate way, and the insidious rationale will follow.  If the Geneva conventions do not apply, the subject ceases to be a human one.

What the report also risks doing is deflecting blame of regimes complicit in the torture program.  Black sites run on foreign soil were favourite haunts of CIA rendition practices, covering the Baltic states, Romania, Poland, Afghanistan and Thailand.  Reports in 2013, notably from the Open Society Foundation, suggested that some 50 regimes were involved in the outsourcing of the CIA torture system.[1]

While these were certainly off the books in an official sense, they were very much on the books in terms of awareness from local authorities, who engaged in the rather distasteful complicity that comes with such cooperative enterprises.  The denials have already begun, with former Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus, insisting that “there had been no jails and no prisoners from there [in Lithuania].”

Another example is provided by former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, who had full knowledge that the CIA was busying itself on Polish soil.  Washing his hands with Pilate-like determination, he claims to have “told Bush that this cooperation must end and it did end.”

Poland’s current president, Bronislaw Komorowski sees the possibility that oxygen will be added to flagging efforts to get an investigation in Poland underway into the use of such black sites.  “I also think that it will provide, if not new information, then guidance as to the conduct of the investigation in Poland.”

The Senate report on torture has not merely placed a “putrid stain upon the reputation – and yes, honour – of the United States” – it has also gotten those in the legal fraternity eager to go about their work.[2] The biggest fish will, however, remain uncaught.  They always are.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]