While Left And Right Fight, Power Wins

February 16th, 2013 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

My experience with the American left and right leads to the conclusion that the left sees private power as the source of oppression and government as the countervailing and rectifying power, while the right sees government as the source of oppression and a free  and unregulated private sector as the countervailing and rectifying power. Both are concerned with restraining the power to oppress, but they take opposite positions on the source of the oppressive power and remedy.
The right is correct that government power is the problem, and the left is correct that private power is the problem. Therefore, whether power is located within the government or private sectors cannot reduce, constrain, or minimize power.
How does the progressive Obama Regime differ from the tax-cut, deregulation Bush/Cheney Regime?  Both are complicit in the maximization of executive branch power and in the minimization of citizens’ civil liberties and, thus, of the people’s power. Did the progressive Obama reverse the right-wing Bush’s destruction of habeas corpus and due process?  No. Obama further minimized the people’s power. Bush could throw us in prison for life without proof of cause. Obama can execute us without proof of cause. They do this in the name of protecting us from terrorism, but not from their terrorism.
Americans who have no experience with, or knowledge of, tyranny believe that only terrorists will experience the unchecked power of the state. They will believe this until it happens to them, or their children, or their friends.
The view of human nature held by the right and the left depends on whether the human nature is located in the private sector or the government sector (“public sector”). For the right (and for libertarians) human nature in the private sector is good and serves the public; in the government sector human nature is evil and oppressive. For the left, it is the opposite. As the same people go back and forth from one sector to the other, one marvels at the transformations of their character and morality. A good man becomes evil, and an evil man becomes good, depending on the location of his activities.
One of my professors, James M. Buchanan who won a Nobel Prize, pointed out that people are just as self-serving whether they are in the private sector or in government. The problem is how to constrain government and private power to the best extent possible.
Our Founding Fathers’ solution was to minimize the power of government and to rely on contending factions among private interests to prevent the rise of an oligarchy. In the event that contending private interests failed, the oligarchy that seized the government would not have much public power to exercise.
The Founding Fathers’ design more or less worked except for interludes of civil war and economic crisis until the cold war built up the power of government and the deregulation of the Clinton and Bush presidencies built up the power of private interests. It all came together with the accumulation of new, dictatorial powers in the executive branch in the name of protecting us from terrorists and with deregulation’s creation of powerful corporations “too big to fail.”
Now we have a government, whose elected members are beholden to a private oligarchy, consisting of the military/security complex, Wall Street and the financial sector, the Israel Lobby, agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, and the energy, mining, and timber businesses, with the power to shut down people’s protests at their exploitation by robber barons and government alike.
Vast amounts of government debt have been added to taxpayers’ burdens in order to fight wars that only benefit the military/security complex and the Israel Lobby.  More vast amounts have been added in order to force taxpayers to cover the reckless gambling bets of the financial sector. Taxpayers are denied interest on their savings in order to protect the balance sheets of a corrupt financial sector. Legitimate protestors are brutalized by police and equated by Homeland Security with “domestic extremists,” defined by Homeland Security as a close relation to terrorists.
Today Americans are not safe from government or private power and suffer at the hands of both.
What can be done? From within probably very little. The right blames the left, and the left blames the right. The two sides are locked in ideological combat while power grows in the private and public sectors, but not the benevolent power that the two ideologies suppose. Instead, a two-headed power monster has risen.
If the power that has been established over the American people is to be shattered, it will come from outside. The Federal Reserve’s continuing monetization of the enormous debt that Washington is generating can destroy the dollar’s exchange value, sending up interest rates, collapsing the bond, stock, and real estate markets, and sinking the economy into deep depression at a time in history when Americans have exhausted their savings and are deeply in debt with high levels of joblessness and homelessness. The rise in import prices from a drop in the dollar’s exchange value would make survival an issue for a large percentage of the population.
Overnight the US could transition from superpower to third world penitent begging for a rescue program.
Who would grant it?  The Russians encircled by US military bases and whose internal serenity is disrupted by inflows of American money to dissident groups in an effort to destabilize the Russian State?  The Chinese, the government of which is routinely denounced by a hypocritical Washington for human rights abuses while Washington surrounds China with newly constructed military bases and new deployments of troops and naval vessels? South America, a long-suffering victim of Washington’s oppression?  Europe, exhausted by conflicts and by Washington’s organization of them as puppet states and use of them as mercenaries in Washington’s wars for hegemony?
No country, except perhaps the bought-and-paid-for puppets of Britain, Canada, Australia, and Japan, would come to Washington’s aid.
In the ensuing collapse, the power of Washington and the power of the private robber barons would evaporate.  Americans would suffer, but they would be rid of the power that has been established over them and that has changed them from a free people to exploited serfs.
This is, perhaps, an optimistic conclusion, but those relatively few Americans who are aware need some hope.  This is the best that I can do. The majority of Americans remain trapped in their unawareness, which implies a bleak future. The insouciance of the American population is its downfall.

Genetically-Engineered Meat Isn’t Tested for Human Safety

February 16th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

Eater Beware

USA Today reported last October that the FDA doesn’t even test the safety of genetically engineered food:

Q: Does the FDA test these foods before they’re allowed on the market?

A: No. Instead there is a voluntary consultation process. Genetically engineered foods are overseen by the FDA, but there is no approval process. Foods are presumed to be safe unless the FDA has evidence to the contrary, Jaffe says. The FDA “has to show that there may be a problem with the food, as opposed to the company needing to prove it’s safe to FDA’s satisfaction before it can get on the market,” he says.

Now we know why.

Bruce Friedrich reports:

The problems begin with FDA’s bizarre decision to consider GE meat using its “New Animal Drug Approval” (NADA) process, a process designed for evaluation of new animal drugs (hence the name), not genetically engineered animals. The GE salmon themselves [which increase allergies in people eating them ... but are still being approved for human consumption] are, according to this analysis, the animal drug. As food blogger Ari LeVaux explains on Civil Eats, “the drug per se is AquaBounty’s patented genetic construct… Inserted at the animal’s one-cell stage, the gene sequence exists in every cell of the adult fish’s body.”

Of course, NADA was not designed to analyze the human health or environmental consequences of new animal drugs, and because the animals are the drugs in this process, their welfare is also ignored. In all three areas, there is ample reason for concern.

Since they aren’t consumed by humans, new animal drugs are not evaluated for their human health impact, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that FDA’s analysis in this area has been almost nonexistent. Health and consumer rights advocates have raised alarms, noting among other concerns, that: 1) these animals will require massive doses of antibiotics to keep them alive in dirty, crowded aquaculture conditions, and we don’t know these antibiotics’ effect on human health; 2) the limited testing that has been conducted was carried out by or for AquaBounty and included shockingly small sample sizes; and 3) what studies have been done indicated increased allergic potential and increased levels of the hormone IGF-1, which is linked to various cancers — an outcome ignored in FDA’s approval according to the Consumers Union, Food & Water Watch, and the Center for Food Safety.


 Genetically Engineered Meat Isnt Tested for Human Safety Because Its Treated as an Animal Drug


This is food fraud, and classic corruption by the FDA.

It is the same type of collusion between government and big business which has caused the financial crisis, the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, the Gulf oil spill and other major disasters  (and see this; and number 9).

As we noted last year:

Given that genetically engineered foods have been linked to obesity, cancer, liver failure, infertility and all sorts of other diseases (brief videos here and here), the burden should be on the … gmo producers to prove it’s safe.

But – if the FDA is treating genetically modified fish and meat as an “animal drug” – no one will test it for human safety.

Serious Political Activism is a Lifelong Endeavor

February 16th, 2013 by Larry Pinkney

“Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity.”—Frantz Fanon

Serious political activism, like history itself, is both ongoing and dialectical in breadth, depth, and scope. It cannot be worn and then conveniently removed like a pair of gloves. Whether it is acknowledged or not, every generation of serious political activists are intrinsically connected because serious political activism spans the generations—both past and present. This reality is both the joy and the hardship of being a committed and serious political activist.

We have been programmed, especially in the United States, to believe that history is somehow a separate set of events which essentially exist on their own. The reality however, is that the often hidden and obscure intricacies of history are directly related to one another and have a direct bearing on the present—whatever that present might be.

We have been systemically programmed to disconnect ourselves from ourselves, each other, and Mother Earth herself. Thus, for example, physical objects and the accumulation of wealth and power are deemed to be of much more importance than humanity itself. And it is in this vein that the essence of our humanity is pillaged and lost. In so doing, we lose sight on the interconnectedness of the past and the present. We lose sight of our intrinsic human value and the need to push ourselves to consciously evolve individually and collectively. We become akin to unthinking, unreasoning, aimless clay putty—being shaped into various forms and figures by those whose fundamental purpose in life is the accumulation of wealth and/or power.

The serious political activist understands that she or he is a part of an ongoing, often strenuous conscious process of evolving and struggle. Thus, the serious political activist never retires from the conscious quest of evolving and struggle. To the contrary, she or he consciously seeks to find creative ways to carry on in the process of evolving and struggle.

In a sense, the relatively tiny and avaricious national and global elite (irrespective of their color or gender) whose fundamental purpose in life is the accumulation of wealth and/or power, are already quite dead. However, the over-arching and enormous danger is that this elite has no compunction whatsoever about spiritually, mentally, and/or very literally killing the majority of humankind even as they pillage and destroy our precious earth. This is the ever-present supreme danger that the serious political activist recognizes for what it actually is. And this is precisely why we can never cease being vigilant and committed political activists—spanning each and every generation.

While it is certainly correct that each numerically-counted generation must, in the words of Frantz Fanon, “discover its mission” and “fulfill, or betray it;none of us—irrespective to what “generation” we might consider ourselves to be a part of—can afford to give up, give in, or betray our quests as lifelong serious and committed political activists. We know that our “mission” is to collectively save ourselves, each other, and this planet; and this mission cannot and does not abide giving up. This mission continues of necessity—just as it has over the generations.

We are now living in a time when humankind possesses the insane military capability of annihilating itself, along with Mother Earth herself. Greed and the insatiable accumulation of wealth and power on the part of a tiny elite, at the expense of the majority of humanity, represent the actual reasons for the massive inequities, unending economic, political, judicial, and social violence at home, and the perpetual U. S. wars abroad.

Our quest, as serious political activists, is indeed an urgent and lifelong one. The corporate/military elite will not go away of its own accord. Only the determined and protracted collective actions by conscious everyday ordinary Black, White, Brown, Red, and Yellow people will get these bloodsuckers off our backs, and relegate them to the dustbin of historical infamy where they belong.

Be we young or old, female or male, let us fulfill our mission and carry on in this quest. Educate, agitate, organize.

Remember: Each one, reach one. Each one, teach one. Onward, then, my sisters and brothers. Onward!

Arguments are scheduled to begin next week before the U.S. Supreme Court about whether an Indiana farmer is right when he claims that the seeds he planted should not be considered under the control of Monsanto, the giant transnational chemical and seed monopoly, through its patenting of the seeds.

Some are calling it a “David versus Goliath” contest but the farmer, Vernon H. Bowman, of southeastern Indiana, told The Guardian that he sees it as a question of right and wrong. In that, he is up against the power of Corporate America and the various parts of that power are arrayed against Bowman.

A lower court heard the case against Bowman v. Monsanto, one of the most powerful corporations (St. Louis, Mo.-based) in the most powerful nation in the world, and found in favor of Monsanto. The U.S. protects its corporations like it protects nothing else. It does not protect the individual in the same way and, in this case it is protecting the right of corporate hegemony over a single farmer.

Bowman, 75, who works the same land as his father, bought soybean seed from a local dealer, and the seed contained some of Monsanto’s patented “Roundup Ready” soybean seed, mixed in with other seeds. Monsanto maintains that such seeds can be used for feed, but cannot be used to plant a second crop, which is what Bowman was doing. Farmers who buy Monsanto’s patented seeds must sign an agreement that they will not save seed for planting in a subsequent year, but will buy new seeds every year from the company. They also pay a per-acre “royalty” for using the company’s seeds.

Monsanto typically enters a farmer’s land (some would call it trespassing) and takes samples (some would call it stealing), and then has the samples DNA-tested for their patented genes. If any appear, they sue the farmer and, since farmers are notoriously outgunned, legally and financially, they end up settling for an undisclosed amount with the company. The amount is undisclosed because, along with the settlement, there is a gag order and the farmer is coerced into agreeing not to discuss the case with anyone. Few farmers have enough money to take on the corporation.

Around the world, this is Monsanto’s modus operandi. In some countries, where the legal system is not as complicated as it is in the U.S., they work on the country’s business and political leaders and convince them that their seeds will provide better crops than traditional seeds and the company gains entry into the local marketplace for seeds and the other materials necessary to bring forth a crop: petroleum-based fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and, in the case of their soybeans, their brand of glyphosate, Round-up, which is necessary for their “Roundup ready” soybeans.

Monsanto has genetically engineered (also called “genetically modified organisms” or GMOs) their soybeans so that they cannot be killed by their herbicide, so fields can be sprayed while the commercial crop is coming up and the weeds will be killed. About 85 percent of corn in the U.S., 91 percent of soybeans, some 95 percent of sugar beets, and 88 percent of cotton are genetically engineered. Much of this material, for which no long-term studies on human health have been done, have entered the human food supply in the U.S., where a significant percentage (more than two-thirds) of processed foods contain genetically engineered components.

According to the Center for Food Safety: “By being able to take the genetic material from one organism and insert it into the permanent genetic code of another, biotechnologists have engineered numerous novel creations, such as potatoes with bacteria genes, ‘super’ pigs with human growth genes, fish with cattle growth genes, tomatoes with flounder genes, and thousands of other plants, animals and insects. At an alarming rate, these creations are now being patented and released into the environment.”

Those who would patent every life form possible (plant or animal) want the people to believe that genetic manipulation is the same as selective breeding, something that farmers have done since the dawn of agriculture, about 10,000 years ago. They are not the same. Fish do not breed with cattle and tomatoes do not breed with flounder. These are experiments that are disturbing the natural order and no one knows what the long-term effects of these experiments will be on humans and the rest of the natural world and, yet, corporations like Monsanto are allowed by governments to free these experiments into the environment, as if they knew them to be safe.

The herbicide that is necessary for the GMOs to grow and thrive is glyphosate, which Monsanto patented years ago as Roundup. Resistance of weeds to Roundup is becoming a problem and now, “superweeds” are found in fields where they choke out the commercial crops. As a result, more herbicides are needed to kill the weeds, giving the lie to the company’s original claim that GMO crops would require less.

Another serious problem is that glyphosate has been shown in studies to be an endocrine disruptor, which has great potential to negatively affect human health. One European study connected the herbicide to reduced testosterone in rats, even in small amounts. Corporations involved in biotechnology experiments with crops (and, eventually, livestock) are plunging headlong into their use and governments seem unwilling or unable to rein them in until they are proven safe, if that is possible.

The promise by biotechnology corporations was that more food would be produced and less chemical application would be needed. Neither seems to have been proven true, but the pressure is still on to genetically engineer food and get it onto the market, from the purchase of the seed, to the food on the dinner plate. Whether the GMO crops produce more food or not does not seem to matter.

What does matter is that the patenting of life forms allows a few giant corporations to control the food system and controlling the food system controls a people. It’s not unlike the oil and gas industry, the banking and finance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and other industries. A small number of corporations control the beef market, the pork market, and chicken production. A recent report of the Center for Food Safety and Save Our Seeds noted that 53 percent of the world’s commercial seed market is controlled by just three firms, Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta.

Controlling the food system will give untold power to a small number of corporations. That’s why in other countries, farmers and eaters are fighting to keep Monsanto off their farms, out of their fields, and off their dinner plates. In a number of European countries, there is an ongoing battle against GMOs because they want to retain control of their own food systems and they want no part of GMO seeds or foods containing GMO ingredients. In India, there are activists and advocates of food sovereignty (control of their own food system) who realize that their agricultural biodiversity will be destroyed by the likes of Monsanto and its products. They already have experienced it.

At the end of the game, such control, whether it is food, oil and gas, or banking and finance, will provide profits that corporate bosses only dream about now. That’s why patents of living things are so important. They give a small number of corporations control over things that should be decided upon by millions of humans and nature, itself.

That is the issue that will be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Vernon Bowman. He may not see it as a David vs. Goliath issue, but one of right or wrong and might believe the case hinges on the exhaustion of patent rights, at least in some respects.

It is so much more than that. The main question is who controls nature, and is the manipulation of the natural order of things a proper subject of profit seeking and control over any and all things? The Solicitor General in the Obama Administration did not want the court to hear this case because in the global race for technological supremacy, they feel there is too much at stake in this case.

Apparently, those in charge believe that the patent-and-profit world will go sailing from GMOs, to nanotechnology, to whatever comes next and nothing should stand in a corporation’s way.

John Funiciello is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Click here to contact Mr. Funiciello.

U.S.-NATO Threats, From Europe To Middle East

February 16th, 2013 by Rick Rozoff


NATO continues to surround the Russian Federation with their missiles, which according to Rozoff may soon number in the thousands and NATO also continues to aggressively seek to “integrate” country after country into their “alliance”. Rick tells us why the Western media has gone quiet on Syria and comments on the fact that Iran is now producing its own drones, which were reversed engineered from captured American drones. As always Rick has his finger on the pulse.

Robles: Can you give our listeners an update on the latest happenings with NATO please?

Rozoff: Yes. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is continuing its expansion, at least its efforts to expand globally. Within the last few days we’ve seen overtures made by leading NATO officials to previously neutral countries like Ireland, Finland, Sweden in efforts to recruit them into the alliance.

The Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen is in Ireland now, but prior to departing for Ireland, which historically has been a neutral nation, was during the Cold War, he gave an interview to the Irish Times where he extended an invitation essentially for Ireland to join NATO as a full member.

The Deputy Commander of Allied Command Transformation, the NATO command in the United States, in Norfolk, Virginia, within the last week or two as well has welcomed Finland, which borders Russia, as a strategic partner of NATO and talked about the further integration of that nation into the NATO sphere of influence and military operations.

And then the commander of the military forces, the top commander, in Sweden a couple of days ago made a very provocative statement to the effect that if a war ensued between Sweden and Russia – How probable is that, right? – that Sweden wouldn’t last two days against Russia’s military might and that’s why Sweden needs to be in NATO.

So, as we are seeing there is a concerted effort to consolidate North Atlantic Treaty Organization control over the entire European continent. I mean they are not going to rest until every nation has been pulled in it as a full member. So, we have that going on.

And then we have, although not formally a NATO operation, we have the French military campaign in Mali in northwest Africa with the active assistance of the United States, Britain, Germany and other major NATO powers. And so, just off the top of my head, that’s what is going on with NATO: it is consolidating its domination of Europe and it is extending its reach outside of Europe to the point where, an official with the German Marshall Fund of the United States, recently stated that NATO is basically, I don’t want to say a three-ring circus, but something to that effect, saying that there is a ring that is Europe and there is beyond that ring Asia and Africa. This is from Mark Jacobson. an Atlanticist think tank expert.

So, we see the persistence of the US-dominated military bloc’s efforts to extend itself. As a matter of fact, something I don’t want to forget, the current Russian ambassador to NATO, Alexander Grushko, said a couple of days ago at a meeting in NATO headquarters that Russia would not tolerate NATO declaring itself and functioning as, I believe his words were, “an international energy security guarantor”, which is another role that NATO has arrogated onto itself.


Robles: Can you tell us anything about, there were reports last week that the infamous missile shield, including Romanian installations, was not workable? Have you heard anything about that?

Rozoff: Yes, there were reports to that effect and one wonders if these are calculated leaks or if they have any authenticity. I don’t know. But you might recall there were similar concerns expressed about the earlier George W. Bush administration’s plans for interceptor missiles in Poland, what are called Ground-Based Midcourse interceptors. But the concerns that you’ve read or you are alluding to rather are premised on the fact that Iran is supposedly going to be able to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles that need interception from places like Romania and Poland, and I would argue that’s an absurd contention in the first place. So, the basic premises and the conclusions drawn from them would be similarly inaccurate. So, I wouldn’t give too much credence to those reports. The US is still going ahead with them.

As a matter of fact, in a recent statement by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO chieftain, he boasted particularly about the missile defense so-called, the interceptor missile system as being, as he put it, at the core of NATO’s defense posture.

He boasted about the deployment of 6 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missile batteries to southeastern Turkey which have now come unde formal NATO command and control. And he also talked about European countries emulating or joining the United States by providing warships with interceptor missile radar and with the interceptor missiles themselves.

We should keep in mind, and I don’t know how well it is known in Russia and elsewhere, is that the United States currently has 62 what are called Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers and 22 Ticonderoga class guided missile cruisers, that is altogether 84 warships, that currently, at least the destroyers, can carry as many as 90 missiles apiece.

And it is precisely these ships that are now referred to as Aegis class or are in the process of becoming such; that is, are equipped to carry, or will be carrying, Standard Missile-3 interceptor missiles of the sort that are going to be based on the ground in Poland and Romania from 2015 to 2018. But the 48 missiles that are going to be in Poland and Romania, 24 apiece, are a formidable challenge enough to Russia. But the fact that there may be several hundred, even thousands, of missiles placed on the US cruisers and destroyers is a much more serious consideration.

Robles: Can you tell us a little bit about what is going on with Syria right now? Everything’s gotten real quiet. After they’ve put those missiles in Turkey, the Patriots you just spoke about, and as we’ve said in the past in our discussions: when they go quiet something is up.

Rozoff: I know what you are talking about John. Watching old adventure films, whenever the insects and the animals in the forest or the jungle became quiet, you became nervous. And a situation similar to that I’m sure is obtaining in relation to Syria.

We also have to remember, though, there is a changing of the guard in Washington. With the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who more than anyone else I’m sure has been instrumental in pushing through a campaign of regime change in Damascus, out and John Kerry replacing her as the chief foreign policy diplomat in the US, similarly with the Pentagon with the defense secretary and with the CIA director.

So, there may be a short reprieve for Damascus, for Syria at this point until the second-term Obama administration’s foreign policy team is in place in which case we may see them mounting an offensive again.

Robles: There were reports we’ve just had that Iran captured a US drone, last year, and they reverse engineered it and are now producing massive quantities of their own drones.

Rozoff: It would serve Washington right if they did. I mean it truthfully would. The US has pioneered international drone warfare, this is something it has developed over the last decade, actually over the last 12 years. It is a new form of warfare, it is global in scope, it is deadly as we know.

You were listening to an interview with Rick Rozoff the manager of the stop NATO website and mailing list.

Visit our site in the near future for part 2 of this talk.

An Insightful Documentary on Mumia Abu-Jamal

February 16th, 2013 by Dolores Cox

An important film documentary about the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal premiered in New York City on Feb. 1. “Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal” explores through prison interviews, archival footage and narrations, the life of a political prisoner known as “the voice of the voiceless.” It was written and directed by Stephen Vittoria and co-produced by Noelle Hanrahan from Prison Radio.

It begins with Mumia’s childhood and family life, as told by his sister, Lydia Baranshango, who died two months after filming her interviews. This segment includes early photos and videos. The movie then progresses to his political life, before, during and after his long term of incarceration on death row. The film also touches upon the great Black Migration from the South to escape Jim Crow, rooted in U.S. slavery.

Mumia is a Black radical journalist, activist and radio commentator, imprisoned in Pennsylvania by its criminal “injustice” system. For 30 years, he survived torturous solitary confinement on death row, with no human contact allowed. In December 2011, his death sentence was overturned and he was transferred to the general population at SCI Mahanoy prison in Frackville, Pa.

In December 1981, Mumia was shot, severely beaten and arrested by Philadelphia police, and subsequently railroaded into an unjust conviction in 1982, charged and convicted of murdering a white police officer. The then police chief, Frank Rizzo, headed a brutal police force which was determined to destroy the Black Liberation Movement in the city. As shown and analyzed in the documentary, Philadelphia was (and still is) a city rife with racial tensions.

The film reveals that Mumia had been profiled and targeted by the Philadelphia police department and the FBI from the time he was 14, when he joined the Black Panther Party. Because of his political activity and radical journalism, the racist judicial and law enforcement system skewed the facts of his 1982 case and denied him a fair trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to be executed before his death sentence was originally overturned in 2001.

The state refused to entertain any notion of, or admit evidence of, his innocence; therefore, his appeals for a new trial were denied. The film also exposes lies that were promoted regarding Mumia’s political activities.

The documentary highlights Mumia’s uncompromising commitment to speaking truth to power, voicing his resistance to all forms of repression, despite attempts to silence him. Mumia says, “The state would rather give me an Uzi than a microphone” and“I am a revolutionary because of the love.”

The film is a powerful, passionate documentary that introduces the viewer to an important, historic and remarkable person. It does an excellent job of telling Mumia’s life story and that of the long history of U.S. racism and imperialism, class oppression and of the present-day domestic policy of mass incarceration, particularly of African Americans. Mumia’s humanity is captured and made evident throughout the film, as is his strength and courage.

Featured in the film are notables such as Alice Walker, Cornel West, Ruby Dee, Dick Gregory, Giancarlo Esposito, Tariq Ali, Angela Davis, Ramona Africa, Pam Africa, Amy Goodman, Linn Washington, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and many others. The film includes video clips of an interview conducted by Workers World Party leaders, Monica Moorehead and Larry Holmes, with Mumia in 1996. Angela Davis describes Mumia as “the most eloquent and most powerful opponent of the death penalty in the world — the 21st century’s Frederick Douglass.”

Mumia is currently serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole. He continues, however, to share his brilliant and insightful commentaries, visions, critiques and observations. From his prison cell he has written seven books, numerous articles and aired thousands of radio commentaries. His weekly radio essays, via prisonradio.org, have educated, provoked and inspired many.

Mumia’s life still remains in danger, and he continues to fight for his freedom. The Free Mumia Movement, an international coalition of dedicated supporters and advocates in several countries, has tirelessly worked for decades on Mumia’s behalf to obtain his release from prison. Last year, a street in Bobigny, France, near Paris, was renamed “Rue Mumia Abu-Jamal” in his honor.

“Long Distance Revolutionary” was originally scheduled to be shown for a one-week run at the Cinema Village movie theatre in New York City. But due to the publicity, high attendance and a totally successful week at the box office, it has been held over until Feb. 14. After New York City, the film will be shown in several additional cities through the end of March. Go to www.mumia-themovie.com for city and theatre listings. Watch the trailer on YouTube and spread the word among theatre distributors and activists about this powerful documentary.

Special Report: Newly available documents reveal how Ronald Reagan’s neocon aides cleared the way for Israeli arm sales to Iran in 1981, shortly after Iran freed 52 U.S. hostages whose captivity doomed Jimmy Carter’s reelection. The move also planted the seeds of the Iran-Contra scandal.

Just six months after Iran freed 52 Americans hostages in 1981, senior Reagan administration officials secretly endorsed third-party weapons sales to Iran, a move to align U.S. policy with Israeli desires to sell arms to the Islamic republic then at war with Iraq, according to documents recently released by the National Archives.

This Israeli arms pipeline to Iran already was functioning at the time of the policy shift on July 21, 1981. Three days earlier, on July 18, an Argentine plane strayed off course and crashed (or was shot down) inside the Soviet Union exposing Israel’s secret arms shipments to Iran, which apparently had been going on for months.

Robert McFarlane, Ronald Reagan’s third National Security Advisor. (Official portrait)

After the plane went down, Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East Nicholas Veliotes tried to get to the bottom of the mysterious weapons flight. “According to the [flight] documents,” Veliotes said later in an interview with PBS Frontline, “this was chartered by Israel and it was carrying American military equipment to Iran. …

“And it was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment. Now this was not a covert operation in the classic sense, for which probably you could get a legal justification for it. As it stood, I believe it was the initiative of a few people [who] gave the Israelis the go-ahead. The net result was a violation of American law.”

The reason that the Israeli weapons shipments violated U.S. law was that no formal notification had been given to Congress about the transshipment of U.S. military equipment as required by the Arms Export Control Act.

But the Reagan administration was in a bind about notifying Congress and thus the American people about approving arms shipments to Iran so soon after the hostage crisis. The news would have infuriated many Americans and stoked suspicions that the Republicans had cut a deal with Iran to hold the hostages until Carter was defeated.

In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes also came to believe that the arrangement between Ronald Reagan’s camp and Israel regarding Iran and weapons dated back to before the 1980 election.

“It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”

Q: “Between?”

Veliotes: “Between Israelis and these new players.”

In subsequent interviews, Veliotes said he was referring to “new players” who came into government with President Reagan, now known as the neoconservatives, including Robert McFarlane, counselor to Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and Paul Wolfowitz, the State Department’s director of policy planning. According to the newly released documents, McFarlane and Wolfowitz were collaborating with Israel through a clandestine channel.

One memo from Wolfowitz to McFarlane – regarding the Israeli channel on Iran – noted that “for this dialogue to be fruitful it must remain restricted to an extraordinarily small number of people.”

Though this secret conduit between the neocons and Israel may have originated before Election 1980, it continued, with some fits and starts, for years finally merging with what became known as the Iran-Contra Affair of 1985-86. In that scandal, Reagan secretly authorized the sale of U.S. anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Iran through Israel.

The documents – declassified by National Archives personnel at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California – suggest that the Iran-Contra machinations were an outgrowth of these earlier U.S. contacts with Israel regarding arms sales to Iran dating back to 1980-81.

McFarlane’s Role

McFarlane’s personal involvement in these activities threaded through the years of these clandestine operations, beginning with pre-election maneuverings with Iran in fall 1980 when its radical government was holding those 52 U.S. hostages and thus dooming President Jimmy Carter’s reelection hopes.

McFarlane participated in a mysterious meeting with an Iranian emissary at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, a contact that has never been coherently explained by McFarlane or two other Republican participants, Richard V. Allen (who later became Reagan’s national security advisor) and Laurence Silberman (who was later appointed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington). [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

After Reagan was elected in 1980, McFarlane popped up at the State Department working hand-in-glove with the Israelis on Iranian arms shipments. He subsequently moved to Reagan’s National Security Council where he played a central role in arranging a new security cooperation agreement with Israel in 1983 and initiating Reagan’s illicit Iran-Contra arms sales through Israel to Iran in 1985-86.

When I asked Veliotes on Wednesday about the declassified 1981 documents describing the McFarlane/Wolfowitz activities, he responded by e-mail, saying: “My guess it was triggered by the issue of the provision of U.S.-origin defense items to Iran by Israel, which received a certain amount of publicity around this time [July 1981]. This was contrary to U.S. law.

“My further guess is that Israel would have been the channel for delivery of non-U.S.-origin arms. That Wolfowitz and McFarlane would push this is no surprise. The two were part of the neocon cabal that professed to see Soviets everywhere in the Middle East and Israel as a major anti-Soviet ally. Ergo, support for Israeli actions would be in the U.S. interest.”

However, on July 13, 1981, when this State Department neocon group pushed a formal plan for allowing third-country weapons shipment to Iran, the idea encountered strong resistance from an Interdepartmental Group (IG), according to a memo from L. Paul Bremer III, who was then the State Department’s executive secretary and considered one of the neocons.

Though many Americans were still livid toward Iran for holding 52 American diplomatic personnel hostage for 444 days, Bremer’s memo described a secret tilt toward Iran by the Reagan administration, a strategy which included confirming “to American businessmen that it is in the U.S. interest to take advantage of commercial opportunities in Iran.” But the memo noted an inter-agency disagreement over whether the United States should oppose third-country shipments of non-U.S. weapons to Iran.

“State felt that transfers of non-U.S. origin arms to Iran by third countries should not be opposed,” the memo said. “However, other agency representatives at the IG – DOD [the Department of Defense] and CIA – felt that the supply of any arms to Iran would encourage Iran to resist efforts to bring an end to the war [with Iraq] and that all arms transfers to Iran should be actively discouraged.” (More than two decades later, Bremer would become famous – or infamous – as the American proconsul overseeing the disastrous occupation of Iraq.)

A Shifting Policy

Because of that disagreement within the IG, the Iran arms issue was bumped to the Senior Interdepartmental Group or SIG, where principals from the agencies met. Yet, before the SIG convened, the Israeli-chartered plane crashed inside the Soviet Union revealing the existence of the already-functioning secret arms pipeline.

But that incident was downplayed by the State Department in its press guidance and received little attention from the U.S. news media, which still accepted the conventional wisdom depicting President Reagan as a forceful leader who was standing up to the Iranians, surely not rewarding them with arms shipments and business deals.

When the SIG met on July 21, 1981, the State Department’s view, giving Israel a green light on arms shipments to Iran, prevailed. The SIG – reflecting the opinions of such top officials as Vice President George H.W. Bush, CIA Director William J. Casey, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State Alexander Haig – sided with State’s neocons.

Though the SIG decision paper was not among the documents released to me by the archivists at the Reagan library, the policy shift was referenced in a Sept. 23, 1981, memo from Bremer to National Security Advisor Richard V. Allen. Bremer’s memo was reacting to a Sept. 3 complaint from the Joint Chiefs of Staff who wanted their dissent to the relaxed Iran arms policy noted.

In attaching a copy of the JCS dissent, Bremer revealed the outlines of the Iran policy shift. Lt. Gen. Paul F. Gorman noted in the dissent that “the moderate Arab states of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates are committed to a policy opposing arms transfers to Iran.

“If the United States drops its opposition to the transfer of arms not of US origin to Iran by third countries, the moderate Arabs would interpret that action as directly counter to their interests. The impact would be especially serious if Israel increased its arms deliveries to Iran in the wake of a US policy change.

“The Arab perspective tends to automatically link Israeli actions and US policy. The Iraqi Government recently informed the Chief of the US Interest Section in Baghdad that Iraq considers the United States ultimately responsible for arms already transferred to Iran by Israel since, in Iraq’s view, those transfers were possible only because US arms supplies to Israel are more than actually needed for Israel’s defense.

“If Israeli deliveries of arms to Iran increase after a change of US policy, the Iraqi argument may find a sympathetic audience among moderate Arab states. This would add to the momentum of growing discontent with US-to-Israel arms policy, which surfaced within some moderate Arab states after the Israeli air attacks in Iraq and Lebanon. This, in turn, would jeopardize US efforts to secure facility access and host-nation support in Arab states vital to US Southwest Asia strategy.”

The JCS also disputed Iran’s need for more weapons, saying: “Implicit in the argument for arms transfers to Iran is the idea that Iran needs arms to resist further Iraqi incursions. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe, however, that the military capability of Iran is sufficient to meet the current Iraqi threat. … Iraq has long called for negotiations to end the war [which began in September 1980] and on several occasions has announced its willingness to accept a ceasefire.

“Given this politico-military climate, deliberate US action to encourage an increase in arms supply to Iran is unwarranted at this time. Rather than adding to the prospects for peace, increased supplies of arms may encourage Iran to intensify its military actions and continue to reject the negotiated-settlement option. … Based on the above rationale, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the United States continue to oppose all arms transfers to Iran at this time.”

Neocon Denials

Reacting to the JCS complaint, Bremer protested to National Security Advisor Allen that the policy shift was only a passive acceptance of third-country arms sales. “No participating agency at the SIG argued in favor of arms transfers,” Bremer wrote on Sept. 23, 1981, “nor did any agency argue in favor of ‘deliberate U.S. action to encourage an increase in arms supply to Iran.’”

But the policy shift did amount to an acceptance of Israeli shipments of at least non-U.S.-origin weapons to Iran. Israeli and U.S. government sources involved in the operations have told me that those shipments continued unabated for years, totaling in the tens of billions of dollars, with some of the profits going to fund Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.

The JCS warnings proved prescient regarding the geopolitical impact of the Israeli arms flow to Iran. Through the latter half of 1981, Iraqi officials complained bitterly about what they viewed as U.S. complicity in Israel’s arms shipments to Iran and about Iran’s resulting capability to sustain its war effort.

State Department officials responded to these complaints by dancing around what they knew to be true, i.e. that Israel had shipped U.S.-origin and third-country weapons to Iran with U.S. knowledge and, to some degree, U.S. approval.

In one cable to British authorities, Secretary of State Haig described U.S. policy disingenuously as “hands off” toward the Iran-Iraq War. The cable said, “We have been assured repeatedly by Israeli officials at the highest level that arms subject to U.S. controls would not be provided Iran. We have no concrete evidence to believe that Israel has violated its assurances.”

(However, over the years, senior Israeli officials have claimed what Veliotes’s investigation also determined, that Israel’s early arms shipments to Iran had the quiet blessing of top Reagan administration officials. In 1982, Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon told the Washington Post that U.S. officials had approved the Iranian arms transfers. “We said that notwithstanding the tyranny of Khomeini, which we all hate, we have to leave a small window open to this country, a tiny small bridge to this country,” Sharon said.)

Bonding with Israel

By late summer 1981, the McFarlane-Wolfowitz tandem was making a bid to secure secret control over U.S. policy toward Iran. In a memo to Secretary Haig on Sept. 1, 1981, McFarlane and Wolfowitz urged Haig to put McFarlane in charge of that policy.

“What we do recommend is that you give Bud (McFarlane) a charter to develop policy on these issues, both within the Department and interagency, on an urgent basis,” the memo said.

Later in the year, McFarlane and Wolfowitz saw a new opening to bind U.S. policies on Iran more closely to the interests of Israel. In a Dec. 8, 1981, memo, McFarlane told Wolfowitz about a planned meeting he was to have with Israeli foreign policy and intelligence official David Kimche on Dec. 20.

“At this meeting I would like to introduce two new topics to our agenda and for this purpose would appreciate your providing the necessary analysis and talking points,” McFarlane wrote to Wolfowitz. One of those topics was Iran, according to the document. However, the second item still remains blacked out for national security reasons.

“Needless to say, this is a sensitive matter and you should not coordinate its development with any other office,” McFarlane wrote. “You should not coordinate it with any other Bureau.”

Wolfowitz delivered the “talking points” on Dec. 14 for what to tell Kimche. “There is intense concern about the future of Iran at a very high level in the U.S. government,” the talking points read. “If friends of the United States were able to suggest practical and prudent means of influencing events within Iran, it is possible that the U.S. government might eventually move to a more active policy. I am anxious to begin a dialogue with Israel on how to influence the evolution of events … I feel that Israeli-U.S. cooperation could be important in dealing with these issues.”

Wolfowitz also suggested that McFarlane enlist Israel in efforts to draw Turkey into the Iran strategies. “I would be grateful for ideas on how Turkish cooperation could be effectively used,” the talking points stated.

“We should consider first whether we can set in motion any methods of influencing internal developments in Iran. Since none of the existing exile movements have major support within Iran, we have to look primarily at other internal means for the present. …

“Do you have any way of providing useful resources to the moderate clergy who are now out of politics?  … In a civil war situation, what are the crucial skills and equipment that the pro-Western elements are more likely to lack?”

The talking points – for what McFarlane should tell Kimche – added, “Finally, we believe it is important to ensure that the West has some counter to Soviet introduction of paramilitary or proxy forces, without necessarily having to turn to U.S. forces — so that the USSR does not have an option we cannot counter.”

The talking points also impressed upon Kimche the need for utmost secrecy: “Of course, for this dialogue to be fruitful it must remain restricted to an extraordinarily small number of people.”

In other words, McFarlane and Wolfowitz were looking to the Israelis as key partners in devising strategies for affecting the internal behavior of the Iranian government. And the Israelis’ principal currency for obtaining that influence was the shipment of weapons.

McFarlane and Wolfowitz also planned to collaborate secretly with Israel in devising broader U.S. policies toward the Middle East and intended to hide those policies from other U.S. government officials.

A Strategic Agreement

In his 1994 memoir, Special Trust, McFarlane described the broad sweep of issues raised in his meetings with Kimche, who had served as a senior Mossad official but in 1981 was director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

McFarlane wrote: “In addition to sales of military hardware and substantial U.S. military and economic aid to Israel, we discussed the possibility of applying Israel’s experience and talent in the areas of … police and security training in third world areas, particularly Central America, under contracts from the Agency for International Development.” [p. 186]

In 1982, Reagan moved McFarlane to the White House as Deputy National Security Advisor, giving him responsibility for integrating the administration’s foreign policies. But Wolfowitz’s Policy Planning office came under the control of more seasoned leadership, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Lawrence Eagleburger.

According to the declassified records, Eagleburger was far from impressed by the McFarlane-Wolfowitz schemes for Iran. On April 1, 1982, Eagleburger responded to a memo from one of Wolfowitz’s assistants, James G. Roche. Eagleburger dryly noted that Roche’s memo, “A More Active Policy Toward Iran,” “contains a number of interesting ideas. I have serious doubts about nearly all of them, largely because of their effects on our relations with the Arabs.”

Eagleburger put question marks after several sections of Roche’s memo including one, “a more forthcoming policy toward third party arms transfers to both Iran and Iraq,” and another urging “exploration of possible U.S. and other Western economic cooperation with Iran.”

In the memo, Roche expressed frustration at the failure of the more Iran-focused strategy to carry the day. “Opportunities in this area have so far been allowed to slip away,” he wrote. “None of them got off the ground and Bud MacFarlane [sic] who presided over them has departed.”

After reading Eagleburger’s terse reaction to Roche’s memo, Wolfowitz wrote, “I perhaps should have made clearer from the outset that we recognize the immense danger Iran poses to our Arab friends in the [Persian] Gulf, and the need to contain it. We are by no means recommending a ‘tilt’ towards Iran at this moment.”

The Iraq Tilt

Instead, U.S. policy on the Iran-Iraq War would begin to move in the opposite direction as President Reagan grew worried that Iran was gaining the upper hand in the war and might actually defeat Iraq. To prevent that possibility, Reagan authorized a “tilt” toward Iraq in June 1982, according to a sworn affidavit filed in a 1995 criminal case by a Reagan NSC aide, Howard Teicher.

Teicher described a highly classified National Security Decision Directive that called for providing intelligence assistance to Iraq and directing the CIA to help Saddam Hussein’s army secure third-country military supplies, a project that fell largely to CIA Director William Casey and his deputy, Robert Gates.

Though the tilt toward Iraq represented a blow to the neocons, who shared the Israeli position of viewing Iraq as the greater of Israel’s two enemies, the Reagan administration’s favoritism toward Iraq didn’t put an end to the McFarlane-Wolfowitz initiatives. The Israelis also never stopped scouring the world for weapons to sell to Iran.

When McFarlane was promoted to become Reagan’s third National Security Advisor in October 1983, he was in even a stronger position to push the Israel-favored position regarding openings toward Iran. McFarlane finally succeeded in persuading Reagan to sign on to the strategic cooperation agreement that he had hammered out with Kimche.

“I was able to get the President to approve it in writing and to get it translated into a formal memorandum of understanding between the Pentagon and the Israeli defense ministry, which would form a joint political-military group to serve as the instrument for developing a broader agenda of cooperation,” McFarlane wrote in his memoir [p. 187].

In a now-declassified top-secret cable dated Dec. 20, 1983, McFarlane responded to a complaint from U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain Charles H. Price, who believed that the agreement was a last-minute scheme to “give the store” to Israel. McFarlane insisted the strategic arrangement was the culmination of a thorough review process.

McFarlane described the U.S.-Israeli security agreement as encouraging cooperation with third countries, “with special reference to Turkey,” as well as setting aside resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in favor of pursuing other strategic collaboration with Israel.

“The President acknowledges that our ability to defend vital interests in Near East and South Asia would be enhanced by the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” McFarlane said in the cable. “Nevertheless, in recognition of Israel’s strategic location, its developed base infrastructure and the quality and inter-operability of the Israeli military forces, it was decided to resume cooperative paramilitary planning with Israel, expanding on the work begun earlier.”

The Iran-Contra Debacle

The stage was set for the next phase of this tighter U.S.-Israeli collaboration, the Iran-Contra Affair. Again, McFarlane’s Israeli friend, David Kimche, was a chief collaborator.

As McFarlane describes the Iran-Contra origins in Special Trust, Kimche visited him at the White House on July 3, 1985, to ask whether a National Security Council consultant (and neocon activist) Michael Ledeen was speaking for the administration when he approached Israeli officials with questions about internal Iranian divisions.

McFarlane confirmed that he had dispatched Ledeen, according to the book, and Kimche mentioned Iranian dissidents who were in contact with Israelis and who might be able to demonstrate their “bona fides” to the United States by gaining the release of American hostages then being held by pro-Iranian militants in Lebanon. [pp. 17-20]

Soon, McFarlane found himself at the center of a new round of secret arms sales to Iran via Israel, although these were authorized directly by President Reagan in what became an arms-for-hostage swap with a geopolitical veneer.

Even after stepping down as National Security Advisor in December 1985, McFarlane continued to participate in these Iranian arms sales, as the operation also evolved into a scheme for enriching some of the participants and generating profits that were diverted to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, a U.S. proxy force fighting to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government in that Central American country.

According to one of the declassified documents, the Reagan administration’s expectation of Israeli cooperation in such paramilitary operations extended to a request from NSC aide Oliver North to Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin to supply hundreds of AK-47s to the Contras in September 1986.

“North told Rabin that the United States was out of funds to support the Contras,” according to a secret cable from U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Pickering. “North said he was aware of the fact that Israel had in its possession some 400-600 AK-47 rifles which he, North, would like to see provided to the Contras. Rabin asked if North was thinking of a gift and North replied that he was. …

“Later, it was decided in the affirmative and the weapons were made available for shipment. Rabin insisted, however, that he would only provide the weapons to the United States, not directly to any other recipient. What the United States then did with the weapons was its own business.

“In October, the weapons were loaded on a ship and the ship departed Israel. However, the story began to break and the ship was returned to Israel and the weapons unloaded here. Rabin wanted us to know that the conversation had taken place.”

In November 1986, the convoluted Iran-Contra scandal exploded into public view, forcing the dismissal of North and National Security Advisor John Poindexter and prompting both criminal and congressional investigations. Embarrassed by the catastrophe that he helped create, McFarlane attempted suicide by taking an overdose of valium on Feb. 9, 1987, but survived.

In 1988, McFarlane pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of concealing information from Congress, but he was pardoned – along with five other Iran-Contra defendants – on Christmas Eve 1992 by President George H.W. Bush, who himself had come under investigation for his role in the secret operations and the cover-up.

Ultimately, the investigations into Iran-Contra and related scandals – including the October Surprise allegations of a secret Reagan-Iran deal in 1980, to stop Carter from resolving that earlier hostage crisis, and Iraqgate, the secret arms sales to Iraq – failed to get to the bottom of the secret policies. Republican cover-ups largely succeeded. [For the latest on these cover-ups, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Severe Consequences

The long-term consequences of the Reagan administration’s secret dealing with Israel, Iran and Iraq have resonated to the present day.

With both Iran and Iraq bolstered by outside arms deliveries, the Iran-Iraq War continued until 1988 – with a death toll estimated at about one million. Over the next several years, the alliance of convenience between Israel and Iran began to sour with the two countries drifting toward becoming the bitter enemies that they are today.

Meanwhile, Iraq – strapped by its war debts – invaded Kuwait in 1990 in a dispute over money and oil. President George H.W. Bush responded with the Persian Gulf War, driving Saddam Hussein’s army out of Kuwait and putting the Iraqi dictator in the top tier of U.S. “enemies.”

To carry out the assault on Iraqi forces in 1991, Bush arranged for the United States to secure military bases in Saudi Arabia, a move that infuriated Saudi jihadist Osama bin Laden. Though bin Laden had sided with the United States in the war to drive Soviet troops from Afghanistan in the 1980s, bin Laden soon became a sworn enemy of the Americans.

Further, the high-tech capabilities of the modern U.S. military, as displayed in the Persian Gulf War, were so extraordinary that the neocons came to believe that the new weapons systems had qualitatively changed the nature of warfare, enabling the United States to dictate policies across a “uni-polar world” by force or the threat of force.

When Wolfowitz and other neocons returned to power in 2001 under President George W. Bush, they were convinced that they could remake the Middle East through a strategy of “regime change,” starting with a grudge match against Saddam Hussein and then moving on to Iran and Syria. The overriding goal was to create a new reality that would let Israel set its territorial boundaries with little regard for the Palestinians or other Arab neighbors.

This grand opportunity presented itself after bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorists struck at New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. Though the fact that al-Qaeda was based in Afghanistan forced Bush to first attack that country, he quickly followed the neocon advice and pivoted toward Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

The neocons helped Bush concoct a case against Iraq, claiming that it was hiding stockpiles of WMD and was collaborating with al-Qaeda. Neither point was true, but the aggressive propaganda campaign rallied Congress and the American people behind the invasion of Iraq, which Bush announced on March 19, 2003.

The U.S.-led invasion force toppled Saddam Hussein’s government in three weeks but the neocon-organized occupation under Paul Bremer proved to be a disaster. An insurgency ensued and the country became virtually ungovernable.

Nearly 4,500 American soldiers died along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The total cost to the U.S. Treasury is estimated at about $1 trillion and the United States ended up with little to show for the war after U.S. troops were compelled to withdraw at the end of 2011.

Today, despite the Iraq disaster, the neocons continue to press for another military conflict with Iran over its nuclear program, although Iran denies that it has any interest in building a nuclear bomb. Still, the Israeli government, which has a secret nuclear arsenal of its own, has repeatedly threatened to launch a preemptive strike against Iran but has been restrained by President Barack Obama, at least so far.

Though these geopolitical relationships – involving the United States, Israel, Iraq and Iran – have experienced many twists and turns over the past three-plus decades, some of the origins for this torturous journey can be found in the records of the early Reagan administration.

Much of that history remains classified, but bits and pieces are slowly coming to light revealing how a group of arrogant intellectuals – the neocons – set the United States and the Middle East on a path toward disaster.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

LAPD High Crimes

February 15th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Michael Ruppert is a former LAPD cop. He knows its dark side well. He witnessed it firsthand.

Its rap sheet includes corruption, abuse of power, complicity with CIA drugs trafficking, unjustified arrests, beatings, murder, perjury, witness tampering, evidence planting, frame-ups, coverups, racism, sadism, and other crimes.

It wants its dirty secrets kept hidden. They’re ugly and longstanding. Many examples bear witness. In March 2000, news reports revealed LAPD Rampart Division Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) unit criminality.

It included unjustified arrests, beatings, drug dealing, witness intimidation, murder, evidence planting, frame-ups and perjury.

An organized criminal subculture exists. Anti-gang officers and supervisors run it. They “celebrate” shootings. They get away with murder.

Earlier LAPD criminality surfaced. Officers shot unarmed gang members, committed perjury, filed false reports, stole drugs from dealers, obstructed justice, beat, framed and robbed people, and were involved in other misconduct.

Two decades ago, Rodney King’s beating made headlines. Similar ones go unnoticed. They happen ad nauseam. People of color are most vulnerable. Victims are called perpetrators. LA cops beat, kill and abuse with impunity. It’s standard practice.

Ruppert commented on Christopher Dorner. He told Russia Today:

“From my own experience as a Los Angeles police Officer and deep familiarity with both LAPD culture and history, I can say that with regards to Christopher Dorner’s allegations regarding internal corruption, favoritism, racism and concealment of excessive force, I believe him 100%.”

“My life as an investigative journalist focusing extensively on military, paramilitary and covert operations gives me absolute certainty that this man is an extremely dangerous weapon.”

“He is killing here in the United States the way too many US service members have killed routinely and with much less concern about Rules of Engagement overseas for decades.”

“I am also certain that his presence on the streets and any
new engagements will put stresses on huge fault lines within law enforcement agencies in Southern California.”

“This man needs to be brought in alive and he needs to be heard.”

He never got a chance. LAPD cops killed him. Ruppert predicted they would. They wanted him silenced. A SWAT team may have gunned him down.

They surrounded his cabin. Gas was pumped in. LAPD cops made reference to “burners.” One voice said “We’re going to burn him out. Another shouted “f…king burn this motherf…king house down.” One more said “Seven burners were deployed and we have a fire.”

Voices were loud enough for CBS affiliate KCAL 9 to broadcast them live on air. Immediately the audio feed was cut.

What happened was reminiscent of immolating Branch Davidian’s Mount Carmel Waco ranch compound in 1993.

Eighty-four innocent men, women and children died. They were murdered in cold blood. Attorney General Janet Reno’s special counsel whitewashed a federal investigation.

Key facts were suppressed. Wrongdoing was ignored. Atrocities passed under the radar. Washington got away with murder.

So did LAPD cops. They set Dorner’s cabin ablaze. Fire department units were ordered not to respond. Dorner was incinerated. He never had a chance. Hours later his charred body was found.

He expected to die. He said so on Facebook. Different versions of his manifesto exist. It denounces dozens of LAPD cops for corruption, racism and violence.

On February 7, two Riverside police officers were shot. One died. Dorner was blamed. A massive manhunt ensued. High-tech surveillance and indiscriminate shootings followed.

Rogue cops don’t apologize for wrongdoing. Dorner knew how they operated. He went public explaining it. Doing so marked him for death. LAPD officials wanted him silenced. Extrajudicial killing is policy. Dead men tell no tales.

LA police don’t protect and serve. They abuse. They target suspicious suspects and people of color brutally. They use deadly force. Dorner witnessed things firsthand. His experience made him violent.

In 2007, he witnessed white training officer, Sgt. Teresa Evans, kick an unarmed/handcuffed person of color in the stomach and face.

He reported what he saw. He was fired for doing so. An LAPD Board of Rights said he lied.

Truth-telling is hazardous. He said he “saw some of the most vile things humans can inflict on others.”

Enemy combatants in LA aren’t citizens and suspects. They’re rogue cops. LAPD’s culture breeds them. The department’s been that way for decades.

Brutal cops get promoted to supervisory and command positions. An officer involved in Rodney King’s beating became a captain.

Who said crime doesn’t pay? It does when rogue cops commit it. Many examples bear witness. On February 7, police opened fire without warning.

They fired dozens of rounds at 71-year old Emma Hernandez and her daughter Margie Carranza. They were delivering newspapers at the time.

They had no connection to Dorner. Cops claimed their vehicle matched his. So do many others.

They were put on administrative leave. Hand slap punishment at most will follow. Hernandez was shot twice in the back. She’s in intensive care. Carranza had minor wounds. No one else was hit.

A Torrence police cruiser responded to LAPD’s backup call. It rammed a pickup truck indiscriminately. Officers opened fire through its front window.

Fortunately the driver wasn’t hit. He ducked and avoided injury. He could have been killed. Fire, ready, aim is official LAPD policy. Anyone close by is vulnerable.

Mike Davis is a political activist, urban theorist, and historian. On February 11, he headlined “Exterminating Angels.”

He referenced Dorner’s manifesto. It reflects “unendurable depression that descended on (him) after his” LAPD dismissal.

Sneering acronyms taunt his former comrades. Other comments extend “sentimental acknowledgments to friends. Fan notes are included. He “passionate(ly) advocate(d) gun control.”

Perhaps he had LAPD cops in mind. Police criminality isn’t new. It’s rife in US cities and communities. It pervades them like crabgrass infests lawns.

Dorner explained “how a police Explorer Scout” went from LAPD rookie to persona non grata “for being an honest cop.” He debunked notions about a kinder, gentler, more diverse LAPD.

He witnessed indiscriminate sadism, racism, corruption, extrajudicial killing, conspiracies, and other high crimes. He raged at injustice. He wanted revenge.

He began by killing a cop’s daughter and fiance. Doing so doomed him. “Does anyone cheer Dorner,” Davis asked? He’s dead.

Stories like his have short shelf lives. Family, friends, people of conscience, and killer cops alone will remember.

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

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


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



Security forces shot to death a 16-year-old boy in Bahrain Thursday, while scores of other people were wounded and arrested in mass protests against the US-backed monarchy.

The teenager, identified as Ali Ahmed Ibrahim al-Jazeeri, was killed by a shotgun blast fired at close range in the village of Daih, west of the Bahraini capital of Manama.

Protests took place in Manama and throughout the poor villages home to the country’s Shia population—70 percent of Bahrain’s citizenry—marking the second anniversary of the February 14, 2011 uprising against the ruling Al Khalifa Sunni dynasty headed by King Hamad.

Inspired by the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, protesters occupied Manama’s Pearl Roundabout two years ago, modeling their action on the Egyptian workers and youth who encamped in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Brutally repressed by Bahraini security forces who cleared the roundabout and sent in tanks after three days, the demonstrators returned and continued a peaceful occupation until March 14, 2011, when the so-called Peninsula Shield Force, made up of troops from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, poured across the causeway from Saudi Arabia. The encampment was bulldozed and its tents set on fire, while the iconic monument at the roundabout’s center was torn down.

In the course of the protests then and since, at least 80 people have been killed by security forces, while hundreds more were arrested, subjected to torture and military trials and then imprisoned for opposing the regime. The prisoners include doctors and nurses who were punished solely for treating those wounded by the security forces in the crushing of the Pearl Roundabout protests. Many more people were fired from their jobs for supporting the protests.

Last month, Bahrain’s high court upheld sentences handed down by military tribunals against 13 leaders of the 2011 movement, some of whom were given life in prison.

While the original protests called for equal rights—in a country where discrimination against the Shia majority has been compared to apartheid—and a constitutional monarchy, increasingly demonstrators taking to the streets are demanding the downfall of the king and the House of Khalifa.

“We are angry,” a 17-year-old demonstrator told Agence France-Presse. “We have no jobs and the regime must fall.”

Security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and shotgun shells at the demonstrators leaving many wounded. The police also arrested three Bahraini photojournalists while they were doing their job in Daih.

The regime’s interior ministry issued statements condemning those responsible for “inflammatory invitations to marches, sit-ins and civil disobedience” and reporting that protesters “since yesterday evening committed acts of sabotage, blocked streets, closed major roads and committed acts of violence.” It claimed that one incident involved some 300 demonstrators “attacking security forces using iron bars and Molotov cocktails.”

More demonstrations have been called for Friday to mark the anniversary of the 2011 uprising. The protests have led to shops and businesses closing down throughout the small Persian Gulf kingdom.

The Khalifah regime has accused the demonstrators of working in league with Iran, Bahrain’s predominantly Shia neighbor across the Persian Gulf, though no evidence has ever been produced of such links.

The government has also accused the demonstrators of attempting to interfere with the so-called dialogue that the regime initiated last week with parliamentary parties, including al-Wefaq, the conservative Shia opposition party that resigned from parliament during the 2011 round of protests.

Those who have taken to the streets of Bahrain, however, see the “dialogue” as an irrelevant ploy staged by the monarchy in an attempt to lend it a veneer of reasonableness and reform. This was also the case with a commission of inquiry it appointed, which acknowledged excesses in the 2011 repression and made a series of recommendations that have been ignored. Both of these maneuvers have been staged at the behest of Washington, the regime’s principal international backer, in an attempt to improve its international image.

The Wefaq politicians are calling for a “real constitutional monarchy,” with an elected prime minister to replace Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, King Hamad’s uncle, who has occupied the post since the country was granted independence from Britain 42 years ago. They are also demanding equal access to government jobs and equal representation in a parliament rigged to favor the Sunni minority and dominated by an upper house appointed by the monarchy.

The regime, however, has cast itself as merely a mediator in talks between the different parties, thereby trying to define the issues largely in sectarian terms—Shia versus Sunni—with itself in the middle. This assures that nothing will come out of these meetings, which many believe were called to divert attention from protests the monarchy knew were coming.

“There are many people who think that the regime is not serious about the dialogue. We partly share the same feeling,” said Sheikh Ali Salman, Wefaq’s clerical leader. He has warned demonstrators against “going to the extreme” of calling for the toppling of the 200-year-old ruling monarchy. This advice has been ignored by those in the streets, whose most popular chant is “Down with Hamad.”

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland issued a hypocritical statement Thursday noting the killing of the teenager in Bahrain and declaring the Obama administration’s “regret.” She went on to place the principal blame on the protesters themselves, expressing Washington’s “concern about continuing incidents of violence” and urging “those demonstrating to do so peacefully.”

The US has backed the monarchical dictatorship in Bahrain since the bloody suppression of the protests two years ago. This is because Bahrain hosts the US Fifth Fleet. The naval base there is seen as strategically vital to US preparations for war against Iran.

Last May, Washington resumed arms sales to the Bahraini regime after a brief freeze on a $53 million weapons package, sending the clearest message that the Obama administration endorsed the repression.

The American support for the two-year-long crackdown by the regime in Manama exposes the pretense that Washington has conducted interventions first in Libya and now Syria out of sympathy for democracy or human rights.

In both its support for bloody repression to keep a sclerotic and corrupt monarchy in power against the manifest will of the majority of the people of Bahrain and in its funding and arming of a sectarian civil war to topple the Assad regime in Syria, US imperialism is pursuing wholly predatory interests at the expense of the peoples of the entire region.

Joe Lombardo is co-coordinator of the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC), the largest anti-war coalition in the United States. He is also a founding member of Project Salaam, a group that helps Muslims persecuted (mainly by the government) in the U.S. In October 2012, Lombardo visited Pakistan as one of the leaders of a 31-member delegation of U.S. anti-war activists. They were there to show solidarity with activists in that country who were protesting the slaughter of Pakistani civilians by U.S. drone attacks.

The delegation was sponsored by a group of Pakistani lawyers based in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, who are documenting the effects of drone warfare in the Waziristan area where most drone attacks occur. Waziristan is in the far north of Pakistan and borders Afghanistan.

The delegation visited the major cities of Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, but were turned back by the Pakistan Army — “at the behest of the U.S. government,” according to Lombardo — when they approached Waziristan. Lombardo later went on a North American tour, speaking about drone warfare and his experience in Pakistan. In November he spoke in Toronto, where I interviewed him.

“Just about everyone in Pakistan opposes the drones,” Lombardo told me. “We met with many political parties from the Socialist left to the Islamist right. They were all against the U.S. war, all against the U.S., and all against the drones. The Pakistani people were very friendly to us. Our tour was front-page news in the Pakistani press for the whole time we were there. At a press conference in Karachi, the questions from reporters differed greatly from what we are asked in the U.S.   The level of politics is such in the U.S. that, when anti-war activists hold a press conference there, the media will usually pose this question: ‘If we don’t get them with drones, won’t they get us?’ That’s the level of U.S. media coverage of politics. The Pakistani reporters, in contrast, asked us why the killing by drones is being done, how the American people feel about it, and what could they do about it?”

U.S. President Barack Obama authorized about 300 drone strikes in Pakistan during his first four years in office, more than six times the number that occurred during the preceding eight-year George W. Bush administration. Since 2004, there have been a total of 337 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. Obama’s re-election in November 2012 infuriated and saddened Mohammad Rehman Khan. The 28-year old Pakistani man accuses Obama of killing his father, three brothers, and a nephew in a U.S. drone attack in February 2009.

“The same person who attacked my home has gotten re-elected,” Khan told Reuters in Islamabad, where he fled after the attack on his village in Waziristan. “Since then, the mental pressure has increased. I remember all of the pain again. America just wants to take over the world.” The drone attack left Rehman Khan as the main provider for 13 family members.

Joe Lombardo asked the acting U.S. Ambassador in Pakistan, Richard Hoagland, about the civilian casualties caused by drones.  Says Lombardo

“Hoagland asked to meet our delegation and tried to persuade us not to go to Waziristan. He told us, ‘I know why you’re here, but the U.S. is really not so bad. We don’t really kill civilians with drones. These are surgical strikes and we only kill militants.’”

We asked Hoagland, ‘How many civilians have you killed with drones?’ and he replied ‘none.’ He said this with a straight face. So we started naming some names to Hoagland: Tariq Aziz, what about him? Aziz is a 16-year-old boy from Waziristan who came to Islamabad for a conference on drones and when he returned he was given a video camera to document drone strikes. The U.S. then targeted Aziz and killed him and his 12-year-old cousin with a drone. We named other drone victims to Hoagland, who finally admitted then that ‘there were a few civilians killed by drones, but these are just anamolies.’  He said, ‘I can guarantee you that there have been fewer than 100 civilians killed by drones.’

“This is crap,” Lombardo said. “At the time of our visit to Pakistan, a joint report on drones was issued by New York University (NYU) and Stanford University and another by Columbia University. These reports have documented that up to 6,000 civilians [including 670 women and 176 children] have been killed in Pakistan by the drones in the Waziristan area alone. We met several groups of family members of drone victims. They held up pictures of their murdered relatives and described what had happened.

“Waziristan is a semi-autonomous area of Pakistan and is not directly ruled by the central state,” Lombardo explained. “The area has its own legislature called the Jirga or tribal council. When the Jirga met in March 2012, it was targeted by the U.S. with drones and 54 people were killed. The U.S. and Pakistan don’t usually offer reparations for drone strikes, but in this particular case they offered the bereaved families $6,000 each. Every one of the families refused, declaring that they wanted justice, not money.”

The families described to Lombardo how the drones intimidate them and disrupt their daily lives. They hear the drones flying overhead at all hours of the day, and have no warning when one of them will attack and destroy a building, or a house, or a car. They are in a constant state of fear. They are afraid to congregate at someone’s house or even meet together on a street corner. They are afraid to go to weddings or funerals, since both these group events have been targeted by drones and many innocent people, including children, killed or crippled.

“The children in North Waziristan no longer go to school,” Lombardo said. “The drone strikes have afflicted many of them with depression and other serious mental health problems. For the first time in Waziristan, many teenagers have been driven to commit suicide. The NYU report has documented such mental health issues. Because of the drones, these young people are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), just as many soldiers do. The people in Waziristan actually have a name for the sound of the drones: they call it ‘chicken screech’.”

Reprieve, a rights organization based in Britain which took part in the Stanford/NYU study, points out that “drone strikes go much further than simply killing innocent civilians.”  According to Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s director, “An entire region is being terrorized by the constant threat of death from the skies. Their way of life is collapsing: kids are too terrified to go to school, adults are afraid to attend weddings, funerals, business meetings, or anything that involves gathering in groups. Yet there is no end in sight, and nowhere the ordinary men, women and children of Northwest Pakistan can go to feel safe.”

Obama mourned the 20 American children killed by a deranged man in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, but he himself is responsible for the killing of more than a hundred Pakistani children and does not even have the excuse of being mentally deranged. The killing of children in other countries is an integral part of U.S. foreign policy. Not only is the Obama administration murdering children with drones, but it also dehumanizes such civilian victims. Drone operators describe their casualties as “bug splats, since viewing a body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed,” according to Rolling Stone magazine.

Bruce Riedel, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, has gone even further, reducing drone attack victims to vegetation.  Riedel justified the drone war by saying: “You’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back.”

Obama’s drone policy is so extreme that the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, resigned in May 2012 over this issue. According to a colleague of Munter’s quoted in the New York Times, “he did not realize that his main job was to kill people.” Once back in the U.S., where he is now a visiting professor at Columbia Law School in New York City, Munter corrected this statement, saying that, “Of course I knew part of my job was killing people.” The New Yorker magazine called this “a startling admission”. Munter explained to Tara McKelvey of the Daily Beast website (owned by Newsweek Magazine) that “the Times had been wrong about him. It made him sound like a softie, a mischaracterization that he wanted to correct.”

Munter actually supported drone strikes, but wanted “a more selective use of drones” combined with more diplomacy towards Pakistan’s government, that would put “a bigger emphasis on diplomacy and less reliance on force.” Says Munter, “The problem with drones is the political fallout. Do you want to win a few battles and lose the war?” When McKelvey asked Munter, “What is the definition of someone who can be targeted by a drone?” he replied shockingly, “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40. My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s — well, a chump who went to a meeting.”

Munter identified three different types of drone attacks: 1) high-value targets, 2) imminent threats, mainly to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and 3) signature strikes that are aimed at people who merely “look like they’re up to no good —targeting based on behaviour rather than identity.” Munter supported the first two types of attacks, and was only opposed to signature strikes, but this became an issue between him and the CIA that led to his resignation. “When you kill people and you don’t know who they are, what are you leaving yourself open to?” Munter asks.
Munter complains that the CIA is driving U.S. policy in Pakistan and other countries and that he was “constantly big-footed” by the agency. “I got tired of it all,” he says. In  March 2011, when the CIA ordered a “signature” drone strike in North Waziristan, Munter tried to stop it, but then CIA Director Leon Panetta “dismissed” the ambassador’s request.

McKelvey explains that, according to an aide of Munter’s, the strike had nothing to do with any activity in Waziristan: “The timing of the strike was noteworthy: it was the day after CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who had shot two Pakistani men, was released from a Lahore jail. The fact that Davis had been detained for weeks reportedly angered the CIA. ‘It was in retaliation for Davis,’ a former aide to Munter told the Associated Press, referring to the strike. In the end, the strike killed at least 10 militants, and reportedly 19 or more civilians. And Munter wasn’t the only one who was upset. So were the Pakistanis: General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Army chief, said the men had been ‘callously targeted.’ Rumours circulated that some of them were spies for the military, risking their lives to help fight the Taliban.”According to McKelvey, Munter’s resignation stemmed from the fact that he did not share the Obama administration’s very aggressive attitude towards the Pakistani government and preferred a greater use of diplomacy. As she puts it, “During our interview, Munter criticized the way White House officials approached Pakistan. ‘They say, ‘Why don’t we kick their ass?’ Munter then asked, ‘Do we want to get mad at them or look at the larger picture?’” McKelvey adds that “Munter recalled his last National Security Council meeting: ‘The president says, ‘It’s an hour meeting, and we’re going to talk about Afghanistan for 30 minutes and then Pakistan for 30 minutes.’ Seventy-five minutes later, we still haven’t talked about Pakistan. Why? Because Pakistan is too fucking hard.’”

The Obama administration’s enthusiasm for drone strikes is shared by the U.S. Congress. According to an investigative report published in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle in November 2012, “A large bipartisan group in Congress is promoting the building and use of drones.” The report, which was written by the Center for Responsive Politics and Hearst newspapers, looked at campaign contributions from corporations involved in building and arming drones, to Democratic and Republican congressmen and senators.The largest political election donors include General Atomics, maker of the Predator, the number-one remote killer for the CIA and Pentagon; BAE Systems, maker of the Mantis and Taranis drones; Boeing Co., manufacturer of the Phantom Eye; Honeywell International, manufacturer of the RQ-16 T-Hawk; Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the RQ-170 Sentinel; and Raytheon Co., which produces the Cobra.

More than $8 million in campaign contributions from drone manufacturers and operators has gone to 60 members of the House Unmanned Systems Caucus. Most of the caucus’s members are from California, Texas, Virginia, and New York, including the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard McKeown, a California Republican. The Senate group of drone promoters includes eight members, and is co-chaired by Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.     As the World Socialist website puts it: “The very existence of what the CRP/Hearst report calls the ‘drone caucus’ is an indication of the profound degeneration of American democracy. It was not so long ago, in the 1970s, that leading Democrat Henry Jackson became notorious as the ‘senator from Boeing.’ Now an entire caucus has been formed of promoters of weapons of mass murder. What is next: The napalm caucus? The poison gas caucus?”

The U.S. has 8,000 drones deployed, and plans to spend $37 billion on drone warfare over the next eight years. This U.S. buildup has “sparked a global arms race in drone building and deployment. More than 50 countries operate surveillance drones, and many of these are beginning to fit their drones with weapons.” A Pentagon study warns that enemy drones could be a “very serious threat” to U.S. aircraft carriers and other large ships, and to “supply convoys and other combat support assets which have not had to deal with an airborne threat in generations.”

Joe Lombardo explains that “U.S. war policy has changed under Obama, and drones are part of this. President George W. Bush invaded countries with troops. Obama tried to do that with the ‘surge’ in Afghanistan, but this quickly failed and he backed off. Instead, Obama has greatly increased Special Operations forces in all military services. These include units such as the Navy Seals. These forces have been put under one command called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). On any given day, JSOC has operations running in 75 countries around the world, according to the former head of JSOC, General McChrystal, who also commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

“This is the new way of U.S. war policy. Obama is the drone president. The strategy of using drones and Special Operations forces instead of large-scale invasions is the way he sees of conducting wars without getting too much public opposition in the U.S. The CIA is operating drones in several countries, including Pakistan, Yemen, and Sudan. A lot of the drones are not being flown by the military. They are being flown by the CIA in countries we are not at war with. The main motivation for this change in policy is to lower U.S. casualties. The surges in both Afghanistan and Iraq have been failures, and the U.S. government is looking for other ways to carry out its wars. A large number of troops being sent abroad will no longer be tolerated by the American people. After the Vietnam War, people in the U.S. did not want to see another such war, and it took a whole generation before the government could do it again in Iraq, and this war, too, was a failure. The American people do not want any more such military exercises that are so costly in both human lives and government revenue.

“Of course,” Lombardo added, “we as the anti-war movement in the U.S. want to shut the drones down, too. The Upstate New York Anti-Drone Network (UNYADN) are a group of people who have been protesting for the past three years outside the Hancock Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, where some of the drones in Afghanistan are flown from. While we were in Pakistan, the UNYADN folks had a protest in solidarity with our tour of Pakistan and actually managed to shut down that base for an hour. Maybe they saved someone’s life. They blocked the entrance to the base and a number of them were arrested. They temporarily stopped people who were going to work in that base.

“It does not end with the drone strikes, of course. War is an endemic part of the U.S. capitalist system. Because we’ve globalized our system, we have troops in 120 countries around the world to protect capitalist interests. That is why we are doing it. That’s why we invented the ‘War on Terror.’ That’s why we use these drones that motivate more people to pick up a gun against us that we can then call terrorists so we can perpetuate more war and militarization. The U.S. military budget is as high as that of all the other countries in the rest of the world combined. We cannot allow that to continue.”

Asad Ismi is the CCPA Monitor’s international affairs correspondent. He is an expert on U.S. foreign policy who has published more than a hundred articles on this subject. He is also author of the book Informed Dissent: Three Generals and the Vietnam War which is used as a text in U.S. universities.

by Matthew Carr

TOMORROW it will be exactly ten years since the massive Iraq war protests of 15 February 2003. More than one million people marched in London that day as part of an international series of protests that embraced between six to ten million people and incorporated more than 60 countries and 800 cities.

The demonstrations even reached Antarctica, where dozens of scientists on the American McMurdo Station held an anti-war rally on the ice. It was the largest anti-war mobilisation in history.

What was striking about these protests was not just their scale and their international dimensions, but the range of backgrounds, ideologies, religions and political persuasions of those who took part in them.

In Spain, where opinion polls revealed an astonishing 90 per cent opposition to Prime Minister José Maria Aznar’s support for military intervention, models held anti-war placards on the catwalk and La Liga footballers wore T-shirts protesting the war.

The London demonstrators included leftists and conservatives, Quakers, Muslims, and Catholics, children and elderly people, many of whom had never been to a demonstration before.

Supporters of military intervention in Iraq, both then and since, have variously smeared the protesters for being pro-Saddam, anti-American, fellow-travellers of totalitarianism and jihadism, political ingénues and Chamberlain-style ‘appeasers’.

Alastair Campbell, the ruthless and cynical apparatchik who did so much to promote the war, wrote contemptuously in his diary of encountering “no end of people coming back from the march, placards under their arms, faces full of self-righteousness, occasional loathing when they spotted me”.

Shortly before the march, his boss Tony Blair made the characteristically grandiose and narcissistic observation that unpopularity was “the price of leadership and the cost of conviction” and insisted that there would be “bloody consequences” if Saddam was not “confronted”.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Condoleezza Rice declared that the protests would not affect the Bush administration’s “determination to confront Saddam Hussein and help the Iraqi people”.

Other commentators used the demonstrations to pursue their bitter vendettas with “the Left”. The day after the march, Observer columnist Nick Cohen launched a vitriolic attack on the “shameless Stop the War coalition” and “the Pinters, Trotskyists, bishops, actresses and chorus girls” who marched through London, thereby hindering the advent of democracy in Iraq.

As one of those who went to London that day, I remember very well the seriousness and sense of purpose of the demonstrators, many of whom had nothing to do with STWUK and had come from local anti-war groups that they had organised themselves.

Nowhere, either that day or at any time in the build-up to the war, did I find the slightest evidence of support for Saddam or ‘anti-Americanism’. But there was a common revulsion at a war of aggression based on lies, massaged intelligence, and the opportunistic manipulation of the ‘war on terror’.

These demonstrators may not have been experts on Iraq, but all of them had instinctively reached the same conclusion as Amr Moussa, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, that a war in Iraq would “open the gates of hell”.

Tragically, the British political class, with a handful of honourable exceptions, ignored the demonstrators and voted for the war the following month – either because they genuinely believed in it – or more often, one suspects, because it was convenient to their careers to do so.

The consequences of that decision are well-known. Ten years – and hundreds of thousands of lives – later, the gates of hell in Iraq have yet to be closed. Today Iraq remains a violent and traumatised country that hovers between civil war and the prospect of a new dictatorship under the authoritarian Maliki government.

Had the war not taken place, many Iraqis would be alive, and would probably be in the streets, challenging Saddam, as so many Arabs elsewhere have done when faced with dictators whose grip on power once seemed impregnable.

The architects of the war continue to talk of their pride in making it possible. Some have gone on to become media stars (Campbell), millionaire consultants (Blair) or News Corporation directors (Aznar).

Today, the three political parties are all colluding to prevent the publication of documents requested by the Chilcot Inquiry regarding British participation in the war. And despite the calamitous outcome of that war, the coalition government continues to lurch from one ‘intervention’ to the next with a child-like insouciance.

None of this is anything to gloat about. But it is worth recalling that those who demonstrated on 15 February 2003 were not the ones who were naïve. ·

It’s the Interest, Stupid! Why Bankers Rule the World

February 15th, 2013 by Ellen Brown

In the 2012 edition of Occupy Money released last week, Professor Margrit Kennedy writes that a stunning 35% to 40% of everything we buy goes to interest. This interest goes to bankers, financiers, and bondholders, who take a 35% to 40% cut of our GDP. That helps explain how wealth is systematically transferred from Main Street to Wall Street. The rich get progressively richer at the expense of the poor, not just because of “Wall Street greed” but because of the inexorable mathematics of our private banking system.

This hidden tribute to the banks will come as a surprise to most people, who think that if they pay their credit card bills on time and don’t take out loans, they aren’t paying interest. This, says Dr. Kennedy, is not true. Tradesmen, suppliers, wholesalers and retailers all along the chain of production rely on credit to pay their bills. They must pay for labor and materials before they have a product to sell and before the end buyer pays for the product 90 days later. Each supplier in the chain adds interest to its production costs, which are passed on to the ultimate consumer. Dr. Kennedy cites interest charges ranging from 12% for garbage collection, to 38% for drinking water to, 77% for rent in public housing in her native Germany.

Her figures are drawn from the research of economist Helmut Creutz, writing in German and interpreting Bundesbank publications.  They apply to the expenditures of German households for everyday goods and services in 2006; but similar figures are seen in financial sector profits in the United States, where they composed a whopping 40% of U.S. business profits in 2006.  That was five times the 7% made by the banking sector in 1980.  Bank assets, financial profits, interest, and debt have all been growing exponentially.



Exponential growth in financial sector profits has occurred at the expense of the non-financial sectors, where incomes have at best grown linearly.



By 2010, 1% of the population owned 42% of financial wealth, while 80% of the population owned only 5% percent of financial wealth.  Dr. Kennedy observes that the bottom 80% pay the hidden interest charges that the top 10% collect, making interest a strongly regressive tax that the poor pay to the rich.

Exponential growth is unsustainable. In nature, sustainable growth progresses in a logarithmic curve that grows increasingly more slowly until it levels off (the red line in the first chart above). Exponential growth does the reverse: it begins slowly and increases over time, until the curve shoots up vertically (the chart below). Exponential growth is seen in parasites, cancers . . . and compound interest. When the parasite runs out of its food source, the growth curve suddenly collapses.

People generally assume that if they pay their bills on time, they aren’t paying compound interest; but again, this isn’t true.  Compound interest is baked into the formula for most mortgages, which compose 80% of U.S. loans.  And if credit cards aren’t paid within the one-month grace period, interest charges are compounded daily.

Even if you pay within the grace period, you are paying 2% to 3% for the use of the card, since merchants pass their merchant fees on to the consumer.  Debit cards, which are the equivalent of writing checks, also involve fees.  Visa-MasterCard and the banks at both ends of these interchange transactions charge an average fee of 44 cents per transaction—though the cost to them is about four cents.

How to Recapture the Interest: Own the Bank

The implications of all this are stunning. If we had a financial system that returned the interest collected from the public directly to the public, 35% could be lopped off the price of everything we buy. That means we could buy three items for the current price of two, and that our paychecks could go 50% farther than they go today.

Direct reimbursement to the people is a hard system to work out, but there is a way we could collectively recover the interest paid to banks. We could do it by turning the banks into public utilities and their profits into public assets. Profits would return to the public, either reducing taxes or increasing the availability of public services and infrastructure.

By borrowing from their own publicly-owned banks, governments could eliminate their interest burden altogether.  This has been demonstrated elsewhere with stellar results, including in CanadaAustralia, and Argentina among other countries.

In 2011, the U.S. federal government paid $454 billion in interest on the federal debt—nearly one-third the total $1,100 billion paid in personal income taxes that year.  If the government had been borrowing directly from the Federal Reserve—which has the power to create credit on its books and now rebates its profits directly to the government—personal income taxes could have been cut by a third.

Borrowing from its own central bank interest-free might even allow a government to eliminate its national debt altogether.  In Money and Sustainability: The Missing Link(at page 126), Bernard Lietaer and Christian Asperger, et al., cite the example of France.  The Treasury borrowed interest-free from the nationalized Banque de France from 1946 to 1973.  The law then changed to forbid this practice, requiring the Treasury to borrow instead from the private sector.  The authors include a chart showing what would have happened if the French government had continued to borrow interest-free versus what did happen.  Rather than dropping from 21% to 8.6% of GDP, the debt shot up from 21% to 78% of GDP.

“No ‘spendthrift government’ can be blamed in this case,” write the authors. “Compound interest explains it all!”

More than Just a Federal Solution

It is not just federal governments that could eliminate their interest charges in this way. State and local governments could do it too.

Consider California.  At the end of 2010, it had general obligation and revenue bond debt of $158 billion.  Of this, $70 billion, or 44%, was owed for interest.  If the state had incurred that debt to its own bank—which then returned the profits to the state—California could be $70 billion richer today.  Instead of slashing services, selling off public assets, and laying off employees, it could be adding services and repairing its decaying infrastructure.

The only U.S. state to own its own depository bank today is North Dakota.  North Dakota is also the only state to have escaped the 2008 banking crisis, sporting a sizable budget surplus every year since then.  It has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, the lowest foreclosure rate, and the lowest default rate on credit card debt.

Globally, 40% of banks are publicly owned, and they are concentrated in countries that also escaped the 2008 banking crisis.  These are the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India, and China—which are home to 40% of the global population.  The BRICs grew economically by 92% in the last decade, while Western economies were floundering.

Cities and counties could also set up their own banks; but in the U.S., this model has yet to be developed. In North Dakota, meanwhile, the Bank of North Dakota underwrites the bond issues of municipal governments, saving them from the vagaries of the “bond vigilantes” and speculators, as well as from the high fees of Wall Street underwriters and the risk of coming out on the wrong side of interest rate swaps required by the underwriters as “insurance.”

One of many cities crushed by this Wall Street “insurance” scheme is Philadelphia, which has lost $500 million on interest swaps alone.  (How the swaps work and their link to the LIBOR scandal was explained in an earlier article here.)  Last week, the Philadelphia City Council held hearings on what to do about these lost revenues.  In an October 30th article titled “Can Public Banks End Wall Street Hegemony?”, Willie Osterweil discussed a solution presented at the hearings in a fiery speech by Mike Krauss, a director of the Public Banking Institute.

Krauss’ solution was to do as Iceland did: just walk away. He proposed “a strategic default until the bank negotiates at better terms.” Osterweil called it “radical,” since the city would lose it favorable credit rating and might have trouble borrowing. But Krauss had a solution to that problem: the city could form its own bank and use it to generate credit for the city from public revenues, just as Wall Street banks generate credit from those revenues now.

A Radical Solution Whose Time Has Come

Public banking may be a radical solution, but it is also an obvious one. This is not rocket science. By developing a public banking system, governments can keep the interest and reinvest it locally. According to Kennedy and Creutz, that means public savings of 35% to 40%. Costs can be reduced across the board; taxes can be cut or services can be increased; and market stability can be created for governments, borrowers and consumers. Banking and credit can become public utilities, feeding the economy rather than feeding off it.

Ellen Brown is an attorney and president of the Public Banking Institute. In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she shows how a private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. Her websites are http://WebofDebt.com, http://EllenBrown.com, and http://PublicBankingInstitute.org.

Pentagon Creates Medal to Honor Drone Operators

February 15th, 2013 by John Glaser

The Defense Department has decided to create a medal to honor US soldiers who sit at a computer and operate armed, unmanned vehicles bombing people thousands of miles away.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday announced that the Pentagon can award the Distinguished Warfare Medal to drone operators, because although they are far from any battlefield, they have a direct impact on combat operations.

‘‘I’ve seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought,’’ Panetta said. ‘‘And they’ve given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar.’’

The work they do ‘‘does contribute to the success of combat operations, particularly when they remove the enemy from the field of battle, even if those actions are physically removed from the fight,’’ he said.

The award seems a far cry from what soldiers are traditionally honored for, which is sacrificing their lives in war-zones while killing people their government tells them to. In this case, only the latter applies.

This is not to denigrate the hardships of drone operators, however. Many of them have reported suffering from post-dramatic stress disorder as a result of the anxiety caused by bombing unsuspecting people after watching them through grainy video footage.

Brandon Bryant, a drone operator, launched a drone strike with the stroke of a few computer keys and, according to Der Spiegel, said: “Did we just kill a kid?” Another soldier responded: “Yeah, I guess that was a kid.”

Bryant told Der Spiegel he flew drones for more than 6,000 hours from his base in New Mexico. “I saw men, women and children die during that time,” he says. “I never thought I would kill that many people.”

Iraqi Demonstrator Pelts US Ambassador Bremer with his Shoes

February 15th, 2013 by Eman A. Khamas

According to press reports, Ambassador Paul Bremer, the American ex-governor of Iraq was pelted with shoes by an Iraqi demonstrator in London last Wednesday Feb 6th In the House of Commons, Hall 6-bit.

Bremer’s lecture was supposed to last for two hours, but Iraqis angry protesters interrupted his lecture with a barrage of insults and slogans hostile to the United States and forced him to leave earlier.

The young demonstrator said: “My name is Yasser Al-Samarra’i, I came to London in 2005 after the war, after the USA destroyed my country. I have two messages, one from Saddam Hussein the ex-president [of Iraq] and another from the Iraqi people. This is the first message [and he threw the shoes]… You destroyed my country… f*** you and f*** your democracy”. Witnesses said that the Iraqi Yasser al-Samarrai was taken out of the hall shackled by the British police.

Paul Bremer (71) the American ex-governor was obviously shaken and ducked quickly, but tried to recuperate and “typically” cover his humiliation with a bad joke, repeating the same “classic” phrase that all American politicians say: “if he had done that while Saddam Hussein was alive, he would be a dead man by now”. Bremer forgot that if Saddam Hussein was alive, he, Bremer, or anyone else for that matter, wouldn’t have been governor of Iraq in the first place, neither being hit by shoes.

Witnesses say that after the incident Iraqis who thwarted the lecture, forcing Bremer and organizers to cancel the lecture and smuggling him from exit corridors of the rear doors for fear of the Iraqis anger.

Journalist Salam Al-Shamma said when Bremer was trying to leave an Iraqi Shiite lady from Najaf called Nidhal Shibeeb stopped him, he asked her “Do you want to hit me with your shoes too?” she replied:No, this is what you did when you crushed the heads of our young men with your boots. I want to ask you a question: if you are so proud of dismantling the Iraqi army why did you build another one of sectarian militias that is now slaughtering and raping women?”

In any case, next time all American politicians who dare to speak about Iraq in the future have to demand from organizers that all audience should be bare-foot.

As hitting failure American politicians by shoes has become a regular practice, an Iraqi journalist, Dr. Walid Al-Rawi suggested creating an association for “Politicians Hit by Shoes”.

A US airstrike in eastern Afghanistan Wednesday killed 10 civilians, including five children. The deadly attack came just hours after the State of the Union speech in which President Barack Obama falsely claimed that the more than decade-long US war and occupation in Afghanistan “will be over” by the end of next year.

Afghanistan’s Pajhwok Afghan News agency (PAN) reported that the civilian victims of the strike included five children, four women and one man. The overnight raid targeted two houses in the village of Chawgam in the Shigal district of Kunar province. Four other civilians were wounded.

The civilian victims, referred to by the US military as “collateral damage,” far outnumbered the three Taliban fighters said to have been killed in the bombing.

PAN reported that provincial council chief Haji Mia Hassan Adil denounced the raid. “Such military actions were widening the gap between the people and the government,” it quoted him as saying.

The spokesman for the US-led occupation force issued its stock response, claiming to have no information about the killing of women and children, but insisting that it “takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously.”

The bombing in Kunar province was only the latest, and bloodiest, in a series of incidents in which US forces have killed Afghan civilians.

On Tuesday, dozens of people from the Aab Ban district in southern Ghazni province blockaded the Kabul-Kandahar highway in protest over what they said was an overnight raid in which US special operations troops killed two civilians and wounded at least two others. The protesters said that those killed and wounded all belonged to the same family. They said they would not stop blocking the busy highway until two others detained by US forces were released.

Last week, authorities in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat charged that five civilians, two women and three children, were slain in a night raid by US special forces.

Obama claimed in his speech Tuesday night that “by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.” The reality is that these kinds of killings of Afghan civilians in US air strikes and special operations night raids are set to continue into the indefinite future.

Obama used his speech to spell out a somewhat more precise timetable for drawing down US troops from Afghanistan. He said that 34,000 American soldiers and Marines—roughly half of the force now deployed there—will be withdrawn within the next year. He further claimed that by “this spring” US forces “will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead.”

This withdrawal will bring the number of US troops in Afghanistan back to the level that existed before Obama took office. Proclaiming the intervention there a “war of necessity,” he tripled the size of the American occupation force.

Obama’s decision on the pace and size of the withdrawal is in line with what had been requested by the Pentagon. The plan, the New York Times reported Wednesday, is designed to “give the military commanders in Afghanistan flexibility in determining the pace of the reductions and will enable them to retain a substantial force until after the next fighting season, which ends in October.”

According to the Times, the White House asked the recently replaced US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, to submit three options on troop levels, and then, according to unnamed administration officials, “essentially endorsed the general’s preferred option.”

This will keep troop levels at over 60,000 until the end of October, reduce them to 52,000 by the end of November, and finally reach the figure of 32,000 by February of next year.

The approval of the general’s proposal, according to officials cited by the Times, “rebuffs arguments” put forward by Vice President Joseph Biden and others for a more rapid troop drawdown.

Neither this schedule nor Obama’s speech, however, addressed the composition of the troops that will remain in place or what further withdrawals will take place after next year.

At the core of the remaining force, a so-called “counterterrorism” task force of special operations troops and American air power will stay in Afghanistan well after the date when Obama claims the war will have ended. These are the military elements responsible for the lion’s share of civilian casualties inflicted by the US-led occupation.

In his State of the Union address, Obama reiterated that Washington intends to maintain a military force in Afghanistan well past the formal date for the US-NATO withdrawal at the end of 2014. He said that US forces would continue “two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces, so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue Al Qaeda and their affiliates.”

He gave no indication what the troop numbers would be after 2014. While earlier this year there were reports that as many as 20,000 troops could be involved, most estimates now suggest that no more than 9,000 will remain.

Washington is still engaged in negotiations with the Karzai regime on a status of forces agreement governing the operations of US forces in Afghanistan after 2014. Failure in Iraq to reach such a deal, and, in particular, to secure immunity for US troops for crimes carried out against the Iraqi people, scuttled plans of both the Bush and Obama administrations to keep a residual American military force in that country.

The US is determined to avoid such an outcome in Afghanistan. Whatever the precise configuration of the force that will remain there, Washington wants to maintain a military foothold in South-Central Asia as a means of asserting its interests in the oil-rich Caspian Basin and placing military pressure on neighboring China.

The Washington Post reports that among the options under consideration for post-2014 US operations in Afghanistan is a plan to reduce the size of the US presence to as little as 2,500 troops. This proposal, however, would include basing US special operations troops outside of Afghanistan but in a position to “swoop into the country from ships or bases in nearby nations to conduct counterterrorism missions, operating from facilities run jointly with Afghan forces.”

While senior US military commanders have backed the deployment of a larger residual force, according to the Post, even in the Pentagon many are “skeptical that a few thousand more US troops would be able to help transform the much-troubled Afghan army into an effective fighting force.”

In this sense, the withdrawal plan is an admission that the so-called “surge” ordered by Obama at the end of 2009 has been a failure. Its purpose was not, as the Democratic president claimed, to counter a threat from Al Qaeda, whose presence within Afghanistan was already negligible, but rather to stabilize the corrupt government of Hamid Karzai, which Washington installed after its 2001 invasion of the country, and defeat a spreading insurgency.

Attempts to field Afghan security forces capable of taking over from the US-led occupation force have been hobbled by a 24 percent desertion rate among these forces, together with the persistent problem of so-called “green-on-blue” attacks, in which Afghan soldiers and police turn their guns on their American and NATO trainers.

The nature of the US-backed government itself—and why it is so widely hated—has been underscored by two recent reports. The first, prepared by the United Nations, found that half of all Afghans had been compelled to pay a bribe to government officials over the course of the previous year. It concluded that the cost of this corruption, approaching $4 billion, is greater than all the revenues collected by the regime in Kabul to fund public services.

The second report, conducted by an Afghan panel following up on a UN report, confirmed that half of all Afghan prisoners are tortured and the practice is on the rise.

Bush Was a Total Disaster … Obama Is WORSE

February 14th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

Preface: I voted for Obama in 2008.

More Redistribution of Wealth to the Richest

Sure, Bush made the rich richer.

But Obama has actually redistributed wealth from the middle class to the very richest more than Bush.

Specifically, income inequality has increased more under Obama than under Bush.

Indeed, inequality in America today is worse than it was in Gilded Age America, modern Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen, many banana republics in Latin America, twice as bad as in ancient Rome  – which was built on slave labor – and worse than that experienced by slaves in 1774 colonial America.

A new study shows that the richest Americans captured more than 100% of all recent income gains.  As Huffington Post notes:


the top 1 percent of households by income captured 121 percent of all income gains between 2009 and 2011, during the first two years of the economic recovery, according to new research by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley. (Saez is a renowned income inequality expertand winner of the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal, an award that the American Economic Association gives every year to the top economist under age 40.)

How was the top 1 percent able to capture more than all of the recovery’s income gains? They became 11.2 percent richer while the bottom 99 percent got 0.4 percent poorer, when accounting for inflation, according to Saez.

Saez released the updated figures in late January after finding last year that the top 1 percent had captured 93 percent of all income gains in 2010, the first full year of the economic recovery.

Overall, between 1993 and 2011, the top 1 percent’s incomes surged 57.5 percent, while the incomes of the bottom 99 percent grew just 5.8 percent, according to Saez.

One of the reasons why the super-rich are becoming much richer and everyone else poorer is that Obama is prosecuting fewer financial crimes than Bush, or his father or Ronald Reagan.

And by pointing out that inequality is skyrocketing, we’re not calling for a redistribution of wealth downward.  We’re calling for an end to policies which allow wealth to be concentrated in a few hands.

Without the government’s creation of the too big to fail banks (they’ve gotten much bigger under Obama), the Fed’s intervention in interest rates and the markets (most of the quantitative easing has occurred under Obama), and government-created moral hazard emboldening casino-style speculation (there’s now more moral hazard than ever before) … things wouldn’t have gotten nearly as bad.

Indeed, crony capitalism has gotten even worse under Obama.

We noted in 2011:

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


Economist Steve Keen says:

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

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

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

More Trampling of Civil Liberties

The Hill reports:

A majority of voters believe President Obama has been no better than his immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush, when it comes to balancing national security with the protection of civil liberties, according to a new poll for The Hill.

Thirty-seven percent of voters argue that Obama has been worse than Bush while 15 percent say he has been “about the same.”


The results cannot be fully explained as party line responses. More than one in five self-identified Democrats, 21 percent, assert that the Obama administration has not improved upon Bush’s record. So do 23 percent of liberals.

We’ve reported for years that Obama is even more brutal than Bush, and that he’s claimed some tyrannical powers that not only Bush – but even Hitler, Stalin and King George – never claimed.

The former head of the National Security Agency’s global digital data gathering program – William Binney – says that he pervasiveness of spying under Obama has only “gotten worse”.

Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than Bush and all other presidents combined.

Obama has dramatically escalated the use of drone assassinations, and the former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo says that Obama’s drone surge is as damaging to our country as Bush’s torture program.

In fact, under Obama, the agency which decides who should be killed by drone is the same agency which spies on all Americans.

While some try to say that at least Obama didn’t start any disastrous wars, Obama has in fact launched wars in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan and up to 35 African nations. And the Obama administration has probably supported even more terrorists – in Libya, Syria and elsewhere – than Bush. See this, this, this, this and this.

Even mainstream Democrats who support Obama’s national security policies more or less admit that they are simply falling into a cult of personality.

So Bush was a disaster … but Obama is worse.

Detroit strangled by $16 billion in debt facing financial ruin, emergency management

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit was filed on February 12 on behalf of David Sole, a retired City of Detroit employee and co-founder of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs. The action was based upon the failure of the City’s Law Department to release documents requested on January 2 related to a host of loans and bond issues which the citizens remain obligated to pay, most of which the organization believes are based upon financial instruments designed to permanently render the municipality to indebtedness.

Under Michigan law the City government has five days to respond to a FOIA request. Nonetheless, after nearly six weeks of waiting there has been no response to the demand for the release of the documents.

In a letter to the FOIA Section of the City of Detroit Law Department on January 2, Sole said that he was seeking “all contracts and agreements between the City of Detroit and all its departments and divisions and any banks or brokerage houses relating to the purchase of bonds, interest rate swaps, pension obligation certificates, hedge fund derivatives, termination of default agreements, or other forms of debt for the past 10 years. In addition to copies of the contracts, all letters, emails, memos, notes or other material (written or transmitted electronically) relating to the negotiations for and the purchase of these bonds or other debt instruments,” were also requested.

Also the request included “everything, but not restricted to, involving any and all bond swaps.” Other items requested included “all communications provided to Governor Snyder’s Financial Stability Review Board during 2012 in their work to determine the financial status of the City of Detroit.”

A delegation of members of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition organizers and other activists accompanied Atty. Jerome Goldberg to the City of Detroit Law Department on February 14 to serve the legal summons. A press conference was held in the immediate aftermath of the delivery of the summons.

Goldberg told members of the press that the City of Detroit should release the documents so that a clear picture of the level of fraud can be revealed. “What should happen is that the city should take legal action against the banks for the fraud that is responsible for the current crisis.”

Mayor Gives “State of the City” Address

The evening before on February 13, Mayor Dave Bing delivered his annual “State of the City” address. In the speech the corporate-oriented Mayor reported that since he took office in 2009, the City budget has been cut by $300 million.

These cuts have resulted in the retrenchment of nearly 4,000 municipal workers. According to Bing, the downsizing of employees and the reduction in benefits for workers had resulted in $500 million in savings.

Nonetheless, a Financial Review Board report issued in early 2012 indicated that the City’s long term debt was over $16 billion. The debt-service payments (interests) for Detroit debt in 2010 was $597 million.

Consequently, funds needed to keep workers on the job and the maintenance of municipal services is being utilized for debt-service payments. Despite the lay-offs and benefit cuts, the right-wing Gov. Rick Snyder forced a majority of the City Council and Mayor Bing to sign a so-called Financial Stability Agreement (FSA) on April 4, 2012.

This was done ostensibly to prevent the appointment of an Emergency Manager over the City’s affairs, as has already been done in other municipalities such as Flint and Benton Harbor, which have majority African American populations.

A statewide petition campaign during 2012 resulted in a referendum being placed on the ballot in November 2012 which repealed Public Act 4, the so-called “dictator law.” However, the following month, the Republican-dominated state legislature drafted and passed a new emergency manager law which will soon go into effect in Michigan.

In January Gov. Snyder ordered yet another financial review of Detroit which many people believe is a precursor to the appointment of an emergency manager despite broad public opposition. A recent column in the Detroit News indicated that a candidate has already been selected for the unelected position and that a decision is imminent.

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs has also called for a moratorium on debt-service payments to the banks. The bond rating agencies are also complicit in this crisis, the Moratorium NOW! Coalition says, due to the repeated downgrading of the credit-worthiness of the City.

Detroit has been one of the hardest hit cities in the nationwide crisis that has plagued various cities including Birmingham, Alabama, San Bernadino, California, Providence, Rhode Island, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, among others. The documents requested from the Law Department will shed light on the character of the crisis and the complicity of the banks with the bond-rating agencies in creating the horrendous deterioration of the conditions prevailing in the City.

Historic Court Case Against the BBC’s Cover Up of 9/11 Evidence

February 14th, 2013 by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth

The BBC is being challenged strongly for its refusal to present to the British public the available scientific evidence which contradicts the official version of events of 9/11. Thank you very much to all those who have sent letters to their MPs asking that the BBC be held to account for withholding this evidence that the public must be allowed to see.

As a further progression of this campaign, a great opportunity has arisen. 9/11 truth documentary maker Tony Rooke has been granted a court hearing where he is challenging the BBC’s support of terrorist activity through supporting the cover up of the true evidence of 9/11. The court case will take place on February 25th at 10.00am at the address below. Real 9/11 evidence has rarely, if ever, been presented in a British court room, so this is a rare opportunity.Any support from the public on the day would be fantastic and will help to send the message that the people want to know, and deserve to know, the truth about 9/11.

Horsham Magistrates’ Court [Court 3]
The Law Courts
Hurst Road
West Sussex
RH12 2ET

This court case is based around Tony making a stand and refusing to pay his TV licence fee under Section 15 of The Terrorism Act 2000 Article 3 which states that it is offence to provide funds if there is a reasonable cause to suspect that those funds may be used for the purposes of terrorism. The BBC has withheld scientific evidence which clearly demonstrates that the official version of events of 9/11 is not possible and could not have been carried out in entirety by those who have been accused by our officials. In addition, the BBC has actively blocked and smeared those attempting to bring this evidence to the public. By doing this the BBC are supporting a cover-up of the true events of 9/11 and are therefore supporting those terrorist elements who were involved in certain aspects of 9/11 who have not yet been identified and held to account. A new and independent investigation is required to determine what really did occur on 9/11, and by whom, otherwise these unidentified terrorist elements will remain free to potentially commit further terrorist activities.

Tony has been charged with a crime for not paying his TV licence fee, however, he has lodged a legal challenge to this charge and has now been successful in being granted an appearance in a Magistrate’s court where he has three hours available to present his evidence to defend himself against the charge. Tony has formed a formidable team to support him in presenting the evidence, including the following two outstanding individuals:

Professor Niels Harrit

Niels Harrit is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen and is one of the world’s leading experts on the scientific evidence which contradicts the official story of 9/11. Professor Harrit’s team of scientists proved that there was nano-thermite residue (high tech military explosive) all through the dust of all three towers and he got this study peer reviewed and published in an official scientific journal. He is also an expert on the other aspects of scientific evidence indicating controlled demolition of the three towers. He was involved in a major interview with the BBC in 2011 where the BBC clearly attempted to harass and discredit Professor Harrit rather than look at the devastating scientific evidence he had to offer. Professor Harrit’s team have video footage of this harassment and highly inappropriate conduct by the BBC both on camera and off camera as part of that interview.

Tony Farrell

Tony Farrell is a former Intelligence Analyst for South Yorkshire Police Department. In 2010 he was fired because he felt compelled by his conscience to tell the truth in his official report and state that due to his extensive analysis of 9/11 and the 7/7 London bombings, the greatest terrorist threat to the public did not come from Islamic extremists but from internal sources within the US and British establishment. He is now dedicating his life to helping to expose the truth and he is challenging his dismissal through international court. Tony Rooke has recently produced an excellent documentary called ‘Offensive – the story of Tony Farrell’ based around the story of Tony Farrell. Here is the link to that documentary:


In addition, here is the other documentary that Tony has recently produced called ‘Reasonable Cause’ which gives a good insight into the type of work that Tony has been engaged in and the type of information and evidence that he will be presenting at his court case:

Other members of Tony’s presentation team include:

Ian Henshall: Leading UK author on 9/11 and founder of the UK based group ‘Reinvestigate9/11′
Ray Savage: Former Counter Terrorism Officer who believes the official 9/11 story is not reasonable to believe

As well as these presenters there are detailed written testimonies of evidence and support from our four other 9/11 experts:

Richard Gage: CEO of ‘Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth’
Dwain Deets: Former NASA Director of Aerospace Projects
Erik Lawyer: Founder of ‘Fire Fighters for 9/11 Truth’
Jake Jacobs: Veteran US airline pilot & member of ‘Pilots for 9/11 Truth’

If you happen to be in the UK or reside there, please consider attending this historic court case to support Tony in this rare opportunity to have some of the true facts of 9/11 presented in a court of law and to have the BBC held to account for their support of the cover up of the true scientific evidence of 9/11.

For our friends in the USA, you ALSO have laws prohibiting the funding of terrorism – namely:

18 USC § 2339C – Prohibitions against the financing of terrorism

(a) Offenses.—
(1) In general.— Whoever, in a circumstance described in subsection (b), by any means, directly or indirectly, unlawfully and willfully provides or collects funds with the intention that such funds be used, or with the knowledge that such funds are to be used, in full or in part, in order to carry out—
(A) an act which constitutes an offense within the scope of a treaty specified in subsection (e)(7), as implemented by the United States, or
(B) any other act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act,shall be punished as prescribed in subsection (d)(1).

Many thanks

AE911Truth -UK Action Group – on behalf of Tony Rooke

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is extremely concerned that Samer Issawi — a 34-year-old Palestinian on a hunger strike — is near death. Issawi has been on a hunger strike for over 200 days to protest his detention by Israeli authorities without charge or trial.  Issawi was released in December 2011, one of several hundred Palestinian prisoners freed as part of a prisoner exchange. He had been imprisoned since 2002. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), he was arrested again on July 7, 2012 on the basis of an Israeli military order revoking his release. He was initially held at the Moscobiyya Detention Centre where he was interrogated for 28 days, and was denied access to his lawyer for the first 23 days. HRW has urged Israel to either release the prisoners or charge them and try them in processes that meet international human rights standards.

“Must this young man die before Canadian politicians raise their voices against Israel’s practice of detention without charge or trial?,” asks CJPME President Thomas Woodley. He notes that Issawi has lost half his body weight, his internal organs are starting to shut down, he is losing his vision and vomiting blood, and is losing the ability to speak. These are all signs that he is nearing death. CJPME notes that Issawi is one of 178 Palestinians currently held in Israeli “administrative detention” — that is to say, detention without charge or trial. Several others are also currently on hunger strikes. According to Issawi’s father, as of August 2012, his son was one of nine Palestinians rearrested after the December 2011 prisoner swap.

According to Amnesty International, a committee of three Israeli military judges is seeking to reinvoke the 30-year sentence imposed on Issawi in 2002. They have refused to indicate to Issawi or his lawyer the allegations on which he is currently detained, saying it is based on secret information related to how he “breached” the conditions of his release. In the absence of this information, Issawi and his lawyer are unable to mount a defence. Parallel to this, Issawi, a Jersualemite, has been charged in an Israeli civilian court with breaking the conditions of his release by entering the West Bank.

CJPME notes that detention without charge or trial violates the most elementary international human rights norms. CJPME urges Canadian MPs of all political stripes to speak out against Israel’s use of administrative detention and to call for Issawi’s immediate release and transfer to an appropriate hospital. CJPME also urges Canadian media outlets to cover this case and the broader issue of Israel’s frequent detention of Palestinians without charge or trial.

[Global Research editor's note. Both HRW and AI  do not  constitute an independent voice on human rights. They apply double standards,  they have become an instrument of the US government,  HRW's position  on the drone killings is notoriously ambiguous: "given that the CIA is one of the least transparent agencies, with no tradition of public accountability, Human Rights Watch repeats its call to transfer command of drone operations to the US armed forces."]

Did you know?
In May 2012, 1000 Palestinian security detainees and other prisoners initiated a hunger strike to protest Israel’s use of detention without charge and trial, and the conditions of their detentions.

Palestinian Samer Issawi (above, in better times), has been on a hunger strike since August 1 to protest his detention without charge or trial by the Israeli military and is now near death.

Manifiesto en favor de Georges Ibrahim Abdallah

February 14th, 2013 by Gilbert Hanna

Su Excelencia Sr. François Hollande,

Presidente de la República Francesa
55, Faubourg Saint Honoré
75008 París

Señor Presidente:

Con todo respeto, nos gustaría llamar su atención sobre el caso del sr. Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, militante político de origen libanés encarcelado en Francia desde hace 28 años y al que la justicia francesa ordenó poner en libertad en enero de 2013, a reserva de una orden de expulsión.

El sr. Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, que inicia su vigésimo noveno año de cárcel, es objeto de una inverosímil denegación de derecho por parte de Francia. A pesar de que podía haber sido puesto en libertad desde 1999, es decir, desde hace 14 años, continúa en prisión debido a las presiones de Estados Unidos e Israel.

La reciente decisión de la justicia francesa que ordena su liberación tropieza con la obstrucción del Ministerio que debe emitir la orden de expulsión del territorio.
No se ha ofrecido argumento alguno para justificar el aplazamiento de la orden de expulsión tal como estaba previsto en el veredicto de la primera instancia y confirmado en el recurso.

Nos dirigimos a usted en su doble calidad de jefe del poder ejecutivo y de Presidente del Consejo Superior de la Magistratura para solicitarle que el ejecutivo actúe en conformidad con la decisión judicial. Al actuar de este modo se respetaría así la separación de poderes bajo su autoridad.

Por añadidura, a tenor de ciertos trámites no parece que se estén garantizando los derechos de la defensa. En efecto, se advirtió al sr. Georges Ibrahim Abdallah y a su abogado de que el 15 de enero se había presentado un recurso cuyo contenido y razones desconocen.

Encarcelado desde 1984, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah ha batido el récord que hasta entonces detentaba Nelson Mandela (27 años), el líder del combate nacionalista sudafricano, con lo que se convierte en el “Decano de los presos políticos en Europa”*.

Al parecer, países amigos de Francia han emprendido gestiones para prohibir su liberación con el pretexto de que un crimen de sangre de naturaleza “terrorista” es imprescriptible en Israel lo mismo que la pena correspondiente.

El propio Israel fue exonerado de las masacres de palestinos en los campos [de refugiados] de Sabra y Chatila, Beirut, en septiembre de 1982 haciendo valer que, según el primer ministro de entonces, Menahem Begin “Unos goyins** han asesinado a otros goyins, ¿de qué es responsable Israel?”, lo que es completamente falso ya que Israel fue responsable directo de esta masacre.

Le agradeceríamos que utilizara su autoridad para poner fin a la cacofonía reinante entre los dos ministerios (Justicia e Interior), cuya disonancia perjudica al buen nombre de su gobierno, más allá de Francia y cuya discordancia porta en ciernes el riesgo de una profunda alteración de la imagen de Francia en Líbano, uno de los últimos puntos de anclaje de Francia en el mundo árabe.

Una pena se ha cumplido en su integridad, lo cual implica la liberación del preso. Una liberación que no es un favor, sino la aplicación estricta del principio de la legalidad de los delitos y de las penas.

La pena que se cumplió de manera ejemplar, es decir, en conformidad con las reglas de buena conducta, lo que da derecho a la libertad anticipada. No fue el caso. Pero, aun así, esto no debe transformarse en una detención ilegal, cuando menos arbitraria.

La aplicación de un derecho no constituye un favor sino una obligación moral. El Derecho aplicable en Francia por el honor de Francia, un país que afirma ser “la patria de los Derechos Humanos”.

Con todo respeto.

En Eysines, 8 de febrero de 2013

Primeros firmantes:

  • André Rosevègue, Unión Judía Francesa por la Paz – Aquitania, Francia
  • Monseñor Jacques Gaillot, Obispo de París-
  • Philippe Poutou, Candidato de NPA a las elecciones presidenciales de Francia.
  • Jean Berthet, militante asociativo por Palestina en Palestine 13 y UJFP, exdeportado de Buchenwald.
  • Anis Balafrej, Ingeniero, Marruecos
  • Aicha Lemsine, Escritora, Argelia
  • Stéphane Lhomme, Saint Macaire 33 Francia
  • Martha Mundy, Profesora de Universidad, Londres, Reino Unido
  • Claude Coursin, militante de mujeres de negro en Marsella
  • Abdel Aziz Chaambi, Presidente del Colectivo contra la Islamofobia, Francia
  • Philippe Arnaud, secretario de Solidaires 33 militante-ciudadano
  • Joelle Moreau, Presidente Asociativo, Gironde.
  • Benoit Braconnier, actor militante sindical SFA CGT
  • David Robert sindicalista miembro del comité Solidaires 33
  • Jacques Salles, Fundador del Comité Palestina 33 y Presidente de honor, Gironde
  • Jean Michel Gendek sindicalista Solidaires 33, locutor adjunto de radio
  • Nadia Gaiddon, Concejala, Ramatuelle-France
  • Alain Buaz sindicalista tesorero Solidaires 33
  • Samar Saad, Miembro del Colectivo por Siria con vistas a la Promoción de un Estado Democrático, Francia
  • Hala Abou Hamdane, Profesor investigador de derecho constitucional en universidades libanesas e islámica, Beirut, Líbano
  • Samiha Hali, periodista, Argelia
  • Omar Nfati, Concejal Libourne 33
  • Graziella Danguy, Secretario de la FSU Gironde 33
  • Brigitte Jammet, sindicalista miembro del comité Solidaires 33
  • Carl Pivert, militante Parti de Gauche 33
  • Remi Brard, ciudadano Francia
  • Soraya Chekkat, Colectivo PACA por la liberación de Georges Ibrahim
  • Falestina Sabrina – Francia
  • Madame Bruna Di-Léta, 49 rue Jean Moulin 95140 Garges-les-Gonnesses.
  • Madame Emilienne Galano, ciudadana, Francia
  • Monsieur Di-Leta Patrice, 24 Rue Rousseau Marsella
  • Monique Allegre, Profesora jubilada, Francia
  • Murielle Vandenhotte, ciudadana
  • Rebecca Gonzalez ciudadana, Francia
  • Claude Perrot, militante asociativo, Burdeos
  • Jacques Martinaud, militante Parti de Gauche 33 y locutor de radio
  • Joël Saintier, excandidato PG del Front de Gauche, 6ª circunscripción de Gironde
  • Jean Claude Guicheney Presidente LDH
  • Faustine Bréhier sindicalista SUD estudiante
  • Corinne Versigny, Secretaria General UD CGT Gironde
  • Yamina Kraria, sindicalista federaciones de finanzas CGT
  • Gilbert Hanna, sindicalista miembro del comité Bureau Solidaires 33 y locutor radio. France.
  • René Naba, escritor y periodista, Francia.

Coordinador: Gilbert Hanna
3, Allée de la butte
33320 Eysines
Tel: 06 85 63 50 38.
Correo electrónico: [email protected]

* Recordemos, no obstante, que el preso político vasco Jose María Sagardui, “Gatza” fue liberado el 13 de abril de 2011 tras pasar 31 años en la cárcel. (N. de la T.)

** Para los judíos, goyin es toda aquella persona que no es judía. (N. de la T.)

Texto original en francés : www.mondialisation.ca/manifeste-en-faveur-de-georges-ibrahim-abdallah/5322484

Traducido del francés para Rebelión por Beatriz Morales Bastos

Punishing Anti-Nuke Protesters

February 14th, 2013 by John La Forge

A twisted part of modern America is that harsh punishments are given to people who stand for truth and justice, while torturers and war criminals go free. That’s the case for Bradley Manning who released secrets and anti-nuclear protesters who tied “crime scene” tape to a nuke site.

Risking your personal freedom for a worthy cause is as American as apple pie. But nonviolently putting your life at risk in defense of others is so rare that the actor is sometimes dismissed as crazy.

Some people think the Transform Now Plowshares activists were crazy for sneaking into a nuclear weapons factory — the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee — in order to make a direct, unequivocal and crystal clear demand for an end to the expensive, poisonous, criminal and delusional self-destructiveness of building nuclear bombs.

Oak Ridge nuclear plant in Tennessee.

Of course Sr. Megan Rice, 82; Michael Walli, 63; and Greg Boertji-Obed, 57, are anything but crazy, even if they and could have been shot and killed for daring to snip through the flimsy chain-link fences that surround Y-12, and then walk up to its new storage fortress for bomb-grade uranium. That’s what they did in the wee hours of July 28, after decades of conscientious peace and anti-poverty work prepared them for what would likely be the most dangerous protest of their lives.

From left, Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

At the wall they strung “crime scene” tape because dirty bomb conspiracies are criminal enterprises. They spray-painted disarmament messages, poured blood and hoisted banners. Not a single guard responded. Wackenhut, the contracted security company, was so discredited — and later humiliated by disclosures of its own internal corruption — that its contract was cancelled, heads rolled, a new agency was hired, and over $15 million was spent trying to reestablish some semblance of a defended nuclear weapons complex.

In January, President and CEO of Wackenhut (also called G4S Gov’t Solutions) Paul Donahue told the Knoxville  News Sentinel, “The enemy of today is not just organized Nation States, but vandals, activists and protesters looking not necessarily to harm material, or people, but clearly seeking to embarrass.”

All three are out of jail on conditional release preparing for trial — set for May 7 — on three felony charges that together carry a maximum of 35 years on prison. Yes, 35 years for trespassing, spray painting and embarrassing.

But as the News Sentinel reported on Feb. 3, the bold intervenors know “that great change never comes easy.” Boertji-Obed told the paper, “People in other countries are frequently killed because of their struggle for justice.”

The three were back in federal court on Feb. 7 for a motion hearing before U.S. Magistrate Richard Shirley. They argued against the prosecuting U.S. Attorney’s attempt to exclude any testimony about, get this, “nuclear weapons,” or “international law,” or the defendants’ intention to practice crime prevention at Y-12.

The prosecutor’s motion “in limine,” or gag order, would, if granted, keep the jury from hearing a word about the outlaw status of the nuclear warheads. As with previous anti-nuclear cases, the defendants contend that binding U.S. treaties and military service manuals make nuclear weapons illegal because H-bombs can only produce uncontrollable, indiscriminate, toxic mass destruction using radioactive firestorms.

Considering the sociopathic turpitude of preparing the use of such devices, all Sr. Rice, Boertji-Obed and Walli are guilty of, they contend, is an attempt at citizen’s arrest. Of course, the government doesn’t want the jury to hear what the law says about planning and preparing massacres.

For his part, Magistrate Shirley said he wouldn’t exactly limit the discussions of the defendants’ intentions. But Shirley only presides over pretrial hearings. The trial itself will be run by a federal judge who will rule on the motion “in limine,” choose the jury instructions, and decide on questions of “contempt” in the event that forbidden words are uttered by lawyers, defendants or observers.

It’s a testament to the dominance of the H-bomb culture, that one of its judges can forbid defendants in a criminal case from explaining the basis for their actions, while wielding the power to impose 35 years in prison for nothing more than embarrassing that culture. The nuclear war system isn’t called “overkill” for nothing.

John LaForge works for Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, edits its Quarterly newsletter, and is syndicated through PeaceVoice.

Last December, I stood with supporters of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange in the bitter cold outside the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Candles were lit; the faces were young and old and from all over the world. They were there to demonstrate their human solidarity with someone whose guts they admired. They were in no doubt about the importance of what Assange had revealed and achieved, and the grave dangers he now faced. Absent entirely were the lies, spite, jealousy, opportunism and pathetic animus of a few who claim the right to guard the limits of informed public debate.

These public displays of warmth for Assange are common and seldom reported. Several thousand people packed Sydney Town Hall, with hundreds spilling into the street. In New York recently, Assange was awarded the Yoko Ono Lennon Prize for Courage.  In the audience was Daniel Ellsberg, who risked all to leak the truth about the barbarism of the Vietnam War.

Like the philanthropist Jemima Khan, the investigative journalist Phillip Knightley, the acclaimed film-maker Ken Loach and others lost bail money in standing up for Julian Assange. “The US is out to crush someone who has revealed its dirty secrets,” Loach wrote to me. “Extradition via Sweden is more than likely… is it difficult to choose whom to support?”

No, it is not difficult.

In the New Statesman last week, Jemima Khan, a philanthropist, ended her support for an epic struggle for justice, truth and freedom with an article on WikiLeaks’s founder. To Khan, the Ellsbergs and Yoko Onos, the Knightleys and Loaches, and the countless people they represent, have all been duped. We are all “blinkered”. We are all mindlessly “devoted”. We are all cultists.

In the final words of her j’accuse, Khan describes Assange as “an Australian L. Ron Hubbard”. She must have known such gratuitous abuse would make a snappy headline — as indeed it did across the press in Australia.

I respect Jemima Khan for backing humanitarian causes, such as the Palestinians. She supports for Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, of which I am a judge, and my own film-making. But her attack on Assange is specious and plays to a familiar gallery whose courage is tweeted from a smart-phone. One of Khan’s main complaints is that Assange refused to appear in a film about WikiLeaks by the American director Alex Gibney, which she “executive produced”. Assange knew the film would be neither “nuanced” nor “fair” and “represent the truth”, as Khan claimed, and that its very title WikiLeaks, We Steal Secrets, was a gift to the fabricators of a bogus criminal indictment that could doom him to one of America’s hell-holes.  Having interviewed axe grinders and turncoats, Gibney abuses Assange as paranoid. DreamWorks is also making a film about the “paranoid” Assange. Oscars all round.

The sum of Khan’s and Gibney’s attacks is that Ecuador granted Assange asylum without evidence. The evidence is voluminous. Assange has been declared an official “enemy” of a torturing, assassinating, rapacious state. This is clear in official files, obtained under Freedom of Information, that betray Washington’s “unprecedented” pursuit of him, together with the Australian government’s abandonment of its citizen: a legal basis for granting asylum.

Khan refers to a “long list” of Assange’s “alienated and disaffected allies”. Almost none was ever an ally. What is striking about most of these “allies” and Assange’s haters is that they exhibit the very symptoms of arrested development they attribute to a man whose resilience and humour under extreme pressure are evident to those he trusts.

On her “long list” is London lawyer Mark Stephens, who  charged him almost half a million pounds in fees and costs. This bill was paid from an advance on a book whose unauthorised manuscript was published by another “ally” without Assange’s knowledge or permission. When Assange moved his legal defence to Gareth Peirce, Britain’s leading human rights lawyer, he found a true ally.  Khan makes no mention of the damning, irrefutable evidence that Peirce presented to the Australian government, warning how the US deliberately “synchronised” its extradition demands with pending cases and that her client faced a grave miscarriage of justice and personal danger. Peirce told the Australian consul in London in person that she had known few cases as shocking as this.

It is a red herring whether Britain or Sweden holds the greatest danger of delivering Assange to the US. The Swedes have refused all requests for guarantees that he will not be dispatched under a secret arrangement with Washington; and it is the political executive in Stockholm, with its close ties to the extreme right in America, not the courts, that will make this decision.

Khan is rightly concerned about a “resolution” of the allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden. Putting aside the tissue of falsehoods demonstrated in the evidence in this case, both women had consensual sex with Assange, and neither claimed otherwise; and the Stockholm prosecutor, Eva Finne, all but dismissed the case.  As Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff  of Women Against Rape wrote in the Guardian last August, “The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will. [Assange] has made it clear he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step in their investigation? What are they afraid of?”

This article originally appeared in the New Statesman. For a detailed response to legal questions posed by critics of Assange go to: www. justice4assange.com/extraditing-assange.html

For more information on John Pilger, visit his website at www.johnpilger.com

Can Internet Technology Destroy the Financial Monopoly?

February 14th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

The big banks are destroying our economy … and our country.

They are literally run as criminal enterprises (even the mainstream media now admits that), they own the politicians, and they are encouraging the worst, most authoritarian tendencies of our government.

As the former overseer of the bank bailouts noted recently, the big banks are “still holding a gun to our heads“, and – as long as they rule the roost – things will not improve.

But – as the Bank of England’s Chief of Financial Stability pointed out recently – Internet technology will break up the big bank monopoly.

Bitcoin is the most exciting current trend in using technology to chip away at the stranglehold of the big banks over our wallets and our lives.

Open Democracy points out:

A lot of people are busy trying to figure out how to make banks better. There is anger about what has gone on and puzzlement about the apparent inability of anyone to start doing something about it. [W]e seem to be frozen in a technical discussion of bank separation, capital adequacy, product authorisation, remuneration and incentives, or taxation. All worthwhile subjects in their way, but guaranteed to keep the sans-culottes at home.

So let’s ask another question. Why do we need banks – what are they for?


Which brings us to Bitcoin. Launched a couple of years ago and still in its infancy, it calls itself a peer-to-peer virtual currency. This means that instead of a bank, the collective network of users maintains a complete encrypted record of bitcoin (“BTC”) transactions and how many BTC each user has. Payments involve a public-private key exchange so that only valid identities can participate and each BTC can only be transmitted once. Because both parties have the complete data set, no external trust system is required. It’s a mechanism that removes the need for us to transact through banks.

At a macro level, the total number of BTCs in issue will approach a known fixed limit at a geometrically reducing rate (as in Zeno’s paradox, never quite reaching it) and expansion of the money supply takes place through the collective computation of the network. The advantages are claimed to be resilience, safety, absence of transaction costs, decentralisation, international acceptance, and no debasement. Because no physical currency is involved, arbitrarily small decimal units of BTC are possible. If convenient, BTC units could be subdivided or consolidated merely by a network-agreed software change. The monetary authority is therefore the network of users and their machines, which once it has reached a reasonable size becomes hard for even a super-computer user to dominate.

Even if we no longer need banks to store and handle our money, the BTC system, like any other currency, allows credit creation through fractional reserve banking. The BTC money supply could therefore exceed the number of BTCs in issue. However, without a BTC central bank, the imprudent lender may well go bust. It will be interesting to see how regulators deal with mainstream banks that acquire significant assets and liabilities in BTC. They might outlaw the BTC operations of regulated entities, but could they really close down an unregulated global user network?

It remains to be seen whether this is an advance of democratic self-determination. At this stage I would be optimistic, especially if Bitcoin’s proof-of-concept encourages others to develop distinct, communicating architectures that would create not just a digital currency but a digital currency exchange. There are some fascinating possibilities here:

  1. We may soon not need banks to carry out monetary transactions or keep our money. The benefit in terms of near-zero transaction costs, nearly immediate confirmation of payment (are you still waiting 4 days for your cheque?), reduced credit risk, security and resilience would be immense.
  2. Credit creation becomes an activity not linked to the transaction-handling franchise. It is also no longer underwritten by taxpayers. Inflationary behaviour requires public consent – not the taxpayer or voter public but the public that uses the particular currency.
  3. Because all transactions are peer-to-peer, people can switch their currency holdings at will and costlessly. How much people trade, if at all, depends only their beliefs about the riskiness of the currencies on offer.
  4. If peer-to-peer currency becomes mainstream, governments will have to decide whether to accept it and put the banks out of business, or refuse it and drive it underground. Either way, the relation of state and citizen in economic management is likely to be radically changed.

France has recently granted Bitcoin permission to act as a real bank.

Here’s an introduction to Bitcoin:

Obama’s Failed State

February 14th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Obama’s State of the Union address didn’t surprise. It reflected rogue leadership. It was beginning-to-end demagogic boilerplate.

Defending the indefensible took center stage. Rhetoric substituted for progressive policies. Bombast assured business as usual.

Priorities include waging war on humanity, force-fed austerity, ignoring public needs, institutionalizing a repressive police state apparatus, and cracking down hard on non-believers.

Doing so assures growing despotism, lawlessness, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, hunger, and deprivation.

Obama’s address targeted Medicare. He called “medical care for the aged….the biggest cause of the nation’s longterm debt.”

He lied. Military spending, imperial wars, Wall Street bailouts, other corporate handouts, and tax cuts for the rich and business bear full responsibility.

Falsely blaming Medicare for Washington’s malfeasance reveals bipartisan rogue leadership. It’s indicative of what’s to come.

In 2009, Obama prioritized cutting healthcare costs and “restoring fiscal discipline.” He made doing so the top “pillars” of his agenda, saying:

We’ve “kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further.”

“We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else’s.”

“The big problem is Medicare.” Its cost is “unsustainable.”

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

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

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

Medicare and Social Security aren’t entitlements. They’re insurance programs. They’re funded by worker/employer payroll tax deductions. They’re contractual federal obligations to eligible recipients who qualify.

Obama did what he does best. He lied. He’s a serial liar. He supports wealth and power. He’s beholden to powerful monied interests. They own him. He spurns popular needs. He prioritizes letting them go begging on his watch.

He proposed massive Medicare cuts. In 2010, 2011, and last November he urged more. He’s waging class war on Americans.

He wants fundamental social benefits destroyed. He wants ordinary people hung out to dry. He wants them on own sink or swim.

In 2010, his Simpson-Bowles National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (NCFRF) recommended deep Medicare cuts, higher Medicaid co-pays, and restrictions on filing malpractice suits.

It urged other ways to end Washington’s responsibility for healthcare. Obama’s address reiterated support. Implementation assures disaster for millions.

Healthcare for millions already is unaffordable. Implementing Simpson-Bowles makes it more so when most needed. Illnesses will go untreated. Pain, suffering, and early deaths will follow. Rogue leadership assures it. Obama reflects the worst of irresponsible lawless leaders.

His jobs proposals reveal more. His address rehashed old schemes. His September 2011 “American Jobs Act” promised “putting more people back to work” with no plan to do it.

It showed contempt for ordinary households. It was same old, same old. It concealed another thinly veiled wealth transfer scheme.

It included a laundry list of corporate handouts. Excluded were ways to create jobs, stimulate growth, reinvigorate Main Street, strengthen America’s middle class, and help growing millions of impoverished, disadvantaged households most in need.

Obama’s address claimed trade deals offshoring jobs to low wage countries create them. He urge support for current ones being negotiated.

He wants the nearly completed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) adopted. It’s a trade deal from hell. It’s a secretive, multi-nation agreement.

Adoption assures unrestricted trade in goods, services, rules of origin, trade remedies, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers, government procurement and competition policies, and intellectual property (IP).

Obama wants secretive provisions established with no public oversight or knowledge of their destructive harm. TPP aims to rewrite global IP enforcement rules. It includes numerous other anti-populist mandates.

National sovereignty is at stake. Signatory countries must change domestic laws, regulations, and other policies to comply.

What’s known subverts US laws. Congress is left powerless. Supranational TPP authority overrides national sovereignty. Investor rights are prioritized over public ones.

Obama called for replicating TPP with EU countries. He urged establishing a Trans-Atlantic Partnership. He prioritizes corporate empowerment over human rights and needs. He’s got much more in mind.

He supports extrajudicial killing. He’s got kill list authority. It’s official US policy. Drones are his weapon of choice. He appointed himself judge, jury and executioner.

He wants anyone he targets assassinated. US citizens are included. Rule of law protections don’t apply. Summary judgment has final say. No one’s safe anywhere. There’s no place to hide.

His address made clear where he stands, saying:

“Where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.”

Police states operate that way. Murder, Inc. is official policy. He claimed he “forge(d) a durable legal and policy (enforceable) framework.” He usurped diktat authority.

Doing so subverts fundamental international, constitutional, and US statute laws. They’re null and void. His say overrides them. Unchecked power is policy. Full-blown tyranny’s a hair’s breath away. Congressional leaders are supportive.

Obama’s entire address reflected rogue leadership. He wants public schools modernized by privatizing them. His immigration proposal mocks notions of welcoming tired, poor, wretched masses yearning to breathe free.

His energy program prioritizes drill, drill, drill. His cybersecurity scheme involves no-holds-barred cyberwar. His notion of economic prosperity is greater corporate empowerment and enriching America’s privileged.

His housing program lets bankers scam ordinary people. His minimum wage proposal falls way below the poverty line. His Afghanistan plan is permanent occupation.

His budget-cutting program targets vitally needed domestic programs. His entire agenda reflects rogue leadership.

He’s got much more in mind. He’s got four more years to wage war on humanity. Expect him to take full advantage.

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

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


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



How Congress Could Fix Its Budget Woes, Permanently

February 14th, 2013 by Ellen Brown

As Congress struggles through one budget crisis after another, it is becoming increasingly evident that austerity doesn’t work. We cannot possibly pay off a $16 trillion debt by tightening our belts, slashing public services, and raising taxes. Historically, when the deficit has been reduced, the money supply has been reduced along with it, throwing the economy into recession. After a thorough analysis of statistics from dozens of countries forced to apply austerity plans by the World Bank and IMF, former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz called austerity plans a “suicide pact.”

Congress already has in its hands the power to solve the nation’s budget challenges – today and permanently. But it has been artificially constrained from using that power by misguided economic dogma, dogma generated by the interests it serves.  We have bought into the idea that there is not enough money to feed and house our population, rebuild our roads and bridges, or fund our most important programs — that there is no alternative but to slash budgets and deficits if we are to survive. We have a mountain of critical work to do, improving our schools, rebuilding our infrastructure, pursuing our research goals, and so forth. And with millions of unemployed and underemployed, the people are there to do it. What we don’t have, we are told, is just the money to bring workers and resources together.

But we do have it! Or we could.

Money today is simply a legal agreement between parties. Nothing backs it but “the full faith and credit of the United States.” The United States could issue its credit directly to fund its own budget, just as our forebears did in the American colonies and as Abraham Lincoln did in the Civil War.

Any serious discussion of this alternative has long been taboo among economists and politicians. But in a landmark speech on February 6, 2013, Adair Turner, chairman of Britain’s Financial Services Authority, broke the taboo with a historic speech recommending that approach. According to a February 7th article in Reuters, Turner is one of the most influential financial policy makers in the world.  His recommendation was supported by a 75-page paper explaining why handing out newly-created money to citizens and governments could solve economic woes globally and would not lead to hyperinflation.

Our Money Exists Only at the Will and Pleasure of Banks

Government-issued money would work because it addresses the problem at its source. Today, we have no permanent money supply. People and governments are drowning in debt because our money comes into existence only as a debt to banks at interest. As Robert Hemphill of the Atlanta Federal Reserve observed in the 1930s:

We are completely dependent on the commercial banks. Someone has to borrow every dollar we have in circulation, cash or credit.  If the banks create ample synthetic money, we are prosperous; if not, we starve.

In the U.S. monetary system, the only money that is not borrowed from banks is the “base money” or “monetary base” created by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve (the Fed). The Treasury creates only the tiny portion consisting of coins. All of the rest is created by the Fed.

Despite its name, the Fed is at best only quasi-federal; and most of the money it creates is electronic rather than paper. We the people have no access to this money, which is not tur ned over to the government or the people but goes directly into the reserve accounts of private banks at the Fed.

It goes there and it stays there. Except for the small amount of “vault cash” available for withdrawal from commercial banks, bank reserves do not leave the doors of the central bank. According to Peter Stella, former head of the Central Banking and Monetary and Foreign Exchange Operations Divisions at the International Monetary Fund:

[I]n a modern monetary system – fiat money, floating exchange rate world – there is absolutely no correlation between bank reserves and lending. . . . [B]anks do not lend “reserves”. . . .

Whether commercial banks let the reserves they have acquired through QE sit “idle” or lend them out in the internet bank market 10,000 times in one day among themselves, the aggregate reserves at the central bank at the end of that day will be the same.

Banks do not lend their reserves to us, but they do lend them to each other. The reserves are what they need to clear checks between banks. Reserves move from one reserve account to another; but the total money in bank reserve accounts remains unchanged, unless the Fed itself issues new money or extinguishes it.

The base money to which we have no access includes that created on a computer screen through “quantitative easing” (QE), which now exceeds $3 trillion. That explains why QE has not driven the economy into hyperinflation, as the deficit hawks have long predicted; and why it has not created jobs, as was its purported mission. The Fed’s QE money simply does not get into the circulating money supply at all.

What we the people have in our bank accounts is a mere reflection of the base money that is the exclusive domain of the bankers’ club. Banks borrow from the Fed and each other at near-zero rates, then lend this money to us at 4% or 8% or 30%, depending on what the market will bear.  Like in a house of mirrors, the Fed’s “base money” gets multiplied over and over whenever “bank credit” is deposited and relent; and that illusory house of mirrors is what we call our money supply.

We Need Another Kind of “Quantitative Easing”

 The quantitative easing engaged in by central banks today is not what UK Professor Richard Werner intended when he invented the term. Werner advised the Japanese in the 1990s, when they were caught in a spiral of “debt deflation” like the one we are struggling with now. What he had in mind was credit creation by the central bank for productive purposes in the real, physical economy. But like central banks now, the Bank of Japan simply directed its QE firehose at the banks. Werner complains:

[A]ll QE is doing is to help banks increase the liquidity of their portfolios by getting rid of longer-dated and slightly less liquid assets and raising cash. . . . Reserve expansion is a standard monetarist policy and required no new label.

The QE he recommended was more along the lines of the money-printing engaged in by the American settlers in colonial times and by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. The colonists’ paper scrip and Lincoln’s “greenbacks” consisted, not of bank loans, but of paper receipts from the government acknowledging goods and services delivered to the government. The receipts circulated as money in the economy, and in the colonies they were accepted in the payment of taxes.

The best of these models was in Benjamin Franklin’s colony of Pennsylvania, where government-issued money got into the economy by way of loans issued by a publicly-owned bank. Except for an excise tax on liquor, the government was funded entirely without taxes; there was no government debt; and price inflation did not result. In 1938, Dr. Richard A. Lester, an economist at Princeton University, wrote“The price level during the 52 years prior to the American Revolution and while Pennsylvania was on a paper standard was more stable than the American price level has been during any succeeding fifty-year period.”

The Inflation Conundrum

The threat of price inflation is the excuse invariably used for discouraging this sort of “irresponsible” monetary policy today, based on the Milton Friedman dictum that “inflation is everywhere and always a monetary phenomenon.” When the quantity of money goes up, says the theory, more money will be chasing fewer goods, driving prices up.

What it overlooks is the supply side of the equation. As long as workers are sitting idle and materials are available, increased “demand” will put workers to work creating more “supply.” Supply will rise along with demand, and prices will remain stable.

True, today these additional workers might be in China or they might be robots. But the principle still holds: if we want the increased supply necessary to satisfy the needs of the people and the economy, more money must first be injected into the economy.  Demand drives supply.  People must have money in their pockets before they can shop, stimulating increased production.  Production doesn’t need as many human workers as it once did. To get enough money in the economy to drive the needed supply, it might be time to issue a national dividend divided equally among the people.

Increased demand will drive up prices only when the economy hits full productive capacitys. It is at that point, and not before, that taxes may need to be levied—not to fund the federal budget, but to prevent “overheating” and keep prices stable. Overheating in the current economy could be a long time coming, however, since according to the Fed’s figures, $4 trillion needs to be added into the money supply just to get it back to where it was in 2008.

Taxes might be avoided altogether, if excess funds were pulled out with fees charged for various government services. A good place to start might be with banking services rendered by publicly-owned banks that returned their profits to the public.

Taking a Lesson from Iceland: Austerity Doesn’t Work

The Federal Reserve has lavished over $13 trillion in computer-generated bail-out money on the banks, and still the economy is flagging and the debt ceiling refuses to go away. If this money had been pumped into the real economy instead of into the black hole of the private banking system, we might have a thriving economy today.

We need to take a lesson from Iceland, which turned its hopelessly insolvent economy around when other European countries were drowning in debt despite severe austerity measures. Iceland’s president Olafur Grimson was asked at the Davos conference in January 2013 why his country had survived where Europe had failed.  He replied:

I think it surprises a lot of people that a year ago we were accepted by the world as a failed financial system, but now we are back on recovery with economic growth and very little unemployment, and I think the primary reason is that . . . we didn’t follow the traditional prevailing orthodoxies of the Western world in the last 30 years.  We introduced currency controls; we let the banks fail; we provided support for the poor; we didn’t introduce austerity measures of the scale you are seeing here in Europe.  And the end result four years later is that Iceland is enjoying progress and recovery very different from the other countries that suffered from the financial crisis. [Emphasis added.]

He added:

[W]hy do [we] consider the banks to be the holy churches of the modern economy? . . . The theory that you have to bail out banks is a theory about bankers enjoying for their own profit the success and then letting ordinary people bear the failure through taxes and austerity, and people in enlightened democracies are not going to accept that in the long run.

The Road to Prosperity

We are waking up from the long night of our delusion. We do not need to follow the prevailing economic orthodoxies, which have consistently failed and are not corroborated by empirical data.  We need a permanent money supply, and the money must come from somewhere. It is the right and duty of government to provide a money supply that is adequate and sustainable.

It is also the duty of government to provide the public services necessary for a secure and prosperous life for its people. As Thomas Edison observed in the 1920s, if the government can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. Both are backed by “the full faith and credit of the United States.”  The government can pay for all the services its people need and eliminate budget crises permanently, simply by issuing the dollars to pay for them, debt-free and interest-free.

Ellen Brown is an attorney and president of the Public Banking Institute.  In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she shows how a private, privileged banking oligarchy has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. Her websites are http://WebofDebt.com, http://EllenBrown.com, and http://PublicBankingInstitute.org.  Don’t miss the Public Banking Institute conference June 2-4, 2013! Click here.

AFP has reported that a recent NATO airstrike in Afghanistan has killed over 10 civilians in an all-too-familiar headline glossed over by the Western media in an exercise of both depravity and hypocrisy. RT’s article, “NATO airstrike kills 10 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children – officials,” notes in particular that up to 11,864 civilians were killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2011, and that civilian deaths before 2007 were not even tracked by the UN.

Such facts reveal alarming hypocrisy as the UN keeps almost daily, inflated tallies of civilian deaths elsewhere, in particular, in nations like Libya and Syria where Western interests have been heavily involved in regime change and in dire need of manipulating public perception worldwide. The United Nations had in fact pieced together a dubious report crafted from “witness accounts” compiled not in Syria, or even beyond its borders in a refugee camp, but instead, in Geneva by “witnesses” supplied by the so-called Syrian “opposition.”

Worse yet, that UN report was co-authored by Karen Koning AbuZayd, a director of the US Washington-based corporate think-tank, Middle East Policy Council. Its board of directors includes Exxon men, CIA agents, representatives of the Saudi Binladin Group (Osama Bin Laden’s family business), former ambassadors to Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, US military and government representatives, and even the president of the US-Qatar Business Council, which includes amongst its membership, Al Jazeera, Chevron, Exxon, munitions manufacturer Raytheon (who supplied the opening salvos during NATO’s operations against Libya), and Boeing.

In other words, the very underwriters of the armed militancy that is consuming Syria are sitting along side the head of the UN commission producing reports portraying the Syrian government as guilty of “war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The hypocrisy does not end there. The pretense the US and NATO have used for over a decade to occupy, subjugate and slaughter the people of Afghanistan – in a conflict increasingly creeping over both Afghanistan’s borders with Pakistan and Iran – is supposedly to fight “terrorism.” Western interests have been allowed to fight this “war on terrorism” with impunity, and even without UN monitoring for years, while Syria was immediately condemned for fighting against Al Qaeda terrorists overtly flooding into their nation with NATO assistance.

Indeed, as NATO claims to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, it has already handed over the North African nation of Libya to Al Qaeda terrorists, specifically the the US State Department, United Nations, and the UK Home Office (page 5, .pdf)-listed terrorist organization, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The US in particular oversaw the rise of the Al Qaeda terror-emirate Benghazi, even having a US ambassador slain there by the very terrorists it had armed, funded, trained, provided air support for, and thrust into power.

These same terrorists have been documented extensively as spearheading the invasion of northern Syria via NATO-member Turkey, with NATO cash and weapons in cooperation with Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The glaring hypocrisy of so-called “international law” and “international institutions” is on full display. Nations like Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil, and many others should give serious thought to peeling away from the United Nations, the compromised International Criminal Court, and other corrupt, Western-serving institutions that will, and in many cases already are, being turned against them, their interests, and national sovereignty.

For the people of the world, we must realize that these institutions were created for and by big-business special interests, and the legitimacy they are portrayed as having is a mere illusion created by the corporate media. We must begin identifying these special interests, boycotting and replacing them permanently at a local level. If it is peace we want, it is clear that the UN, NATO, and all institutions in between, sow only death and destruction amidst a myriad of hypocrisy, double standards, and immeasurable corruption, and we must move into the future without them.

The words in President Obama’s “State of the Union” speech were often lofty, spinning through the air with the greatest of ease and emitting dog whistles as they flew.

Let’s decode the president’s smooth oratory in the realms of climate change, war and civil liberties.

“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.”

We’ve done so little to combat climate change — we must do more.

“I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change…”

Climate change is an issue that can be very good for Wall Street. Folks who got the hang of “derivatives” and “credit default swaps” can learn how to handle “cap and trade.” The corporate environmental groups are on board, and maybe we can offer enough goodies to big corporations to make it worth their while to bring enough of Congress along.

“The natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that.”

Dual memo. To T. Boone Pickens: “Love ya.” To environmentalists who won’t suck up to me: “Frack you.” (And save your breath about methane.)

“That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”

Blow off steam with your demonstrations, you 350.org types. I’ll provide the platitudes. XL Keystone, here we come.

“After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.”

How’s that for an applause line? Don’t pay too much attention to the fine print. I’m planning to have 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan a year from now, and they won’t get out of there before the end of 2014. And did you notice the phrase “in uniform”? We’ve got plenty of out-of-uniform military contractors in Afghanistan now, and you can expect that to continue for a long time.

“And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.”

If you believe that, you’re the kind of sucker I appreciate — unless you think “our war in Afghanistan” doesn’t include killing people with drones and cruise missiles.

“Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We’re negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.”

We’re so pleased to help Afghan people kill other Afghan people! Our government’s expertise in such matters includes superb reconnaissance and some thrilling weaponry, which we’ll keep providing to the Kabul regime. And don’t you love the word “counterterrorism”? It sounds so much better than: “using the latest high-tech weapons to go after people on our ‘kill lists’ and unfortunately take the lives of a lot of other people who happen to be around, including children, thus violating international law, traumatizing large portions of the population and inflicting horrors on people in ways we would never tolerate ourselves.”

“We don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we’ll need to help countries like Yemen, Libya and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.”

We don’t need flag-draped coffins coming home. We’re so civilized that we’re the planetary leaders at killing people with remote control from halfway around the world.

We must enlist our values in the fight. That’s why my administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. And I recognize that, in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”

I’m sick of taking flak just because I pick and choose which civil liberties I want to respect. If I need to give a bit more information to a few other pliant members of Congress, I will. The ones who get huffy about the Bill of Rights aren’t going to get the time of day from this White House. I recognize that some of my base is getting a bit upset about this civil-liberties thing, so I’ll ramp up the soothing words and make use of some prominent Democratic members of Congress who are of course afraid to polarize with me. Don’t underestimate this president; I know how to talk reverentially about our great nation’s “checks and balances” as I undermine them.

“The leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations. And we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Maybe it’s just about time for another encore of “preemptive war.”

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

Obama’s State of the Union: The Economic Dimensions

February 14th, 2013 by Kevin Zeese

Obama proclaimed in the State of the Union was that the economy was getting stronger even though the last quarter showed a shrinking GDP not an expanding one, the last month showed a rise in unemployment and a report issued last week showed two-thirds of Americans teeter on the edge of an economic abyss. These facts, along with rising poverty and senior citizens who are barely avoiding poverty, were nowhere mentioned in SOTU.  All this adds up to a potential double-dip recession but that sour did not go with the sweet saccharin, so it was left unsaid.

A Couple of Positive Developments

Most of the speech was filled with policies we have heard before, but there were a couple of surprises:

Minimum Wage Hike: The president called for an increase in the minimum wage, saying both he and Romney supported it.  He urged an increase to $9 an hour from the current $7.50. In 2008, candidate Obama called for an increase to $9.50; and Senator Harkin has introduced a bill that calls for an increase to $9.80.  Ralph Nader points out that a rise to $10.25 is needed to get low-wage workers up to the equivalent of inflation-adjusted 1968 pay. No doubt more would be needed to achieve a living wage. There has been tremendous growth in the economy since the 1960s, but the Obama proposal would mean low-wage workers would not benefit from this much larger and more productive economy.

Raising the minimum wage would be good for the economy.  Research makes it clear that increasing the minimum wage is a job creator because low-wage workers will spend the money on necessities and spur the economy; and will rely less on government programs like food stamps.

Pre-School for All: Education is one of those areas where, if you know what the president’s programs actually do, his speech was saccharin, i.e. sweet but poses a risk of cancer.  Whenever Obama talks about education people should be wary and look at the details.  Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report makes the point:

“. . . the gap between popular perceptions of the president’s policies and the actual content of those policies is nowhere wider than in public education. While the president pays lip service to the centrality of public education, teachers and parent input, his Race To The Top is paving the road to privatization, closing more public schools and firing more teachers than any president in US history.”

Privatization and Corporatization

The Race to the Top is greater privatization, corporatization and testing of students, all issues teachers, parents and students are revolting against. Dixon goes on to point out that Obama’s policies are George W. Bush’s policies in overdrive, and Rob Delany makes the same point in Salon:

“President Obama should junk the Race to the Top plan immediately. It is a deeply flawed reworking of George W. Bush’s test-based, pro-charter school No Child Left Behind Act. Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan should change course dramatically and publicly admit Race to the Top doesn’t and can’t work and then craft a new plan that doesn’t treat education like an industry and coerce teachers to ‘teach to the test,’ while marching toward education privatization.”

While the idea of pre-school for all and expanded all-day kindergarten sound sweet, this has to be approached with caution due to the president’s privatizing and test-based education policies.Not mentioned by the president in his speech was the sour, an increase in poverty. This is very relevant to education, as poverty undermines efforts to improve educational achievement among low-income and minority students. We must address poverty to improve education.

Jobs, the Hollow Centerpiece of Obama’s Plans

Obama had to fudge statistics to make his jobs numbers look good. Obama has been president for four years, but in reporting on manufacturing jobs he only mentioned the last three; as Politico points out: “When Obama took office in January 2009, the economy had 604,000 more manufacturing jobs than it does now.”

Obama was right to focus on jobs.  If there is one thing that is critical to getting out of economic collapse and reducing the deficit, it is jobs. For 60 years there has been a consistent pattern: when unemployment drops, the deficit as a percentage of GDP drops. When unemployment rises, the deficit rises. The solution to our economic problems is striving toward a full employment economy.

But, the words “full employment” are never mentioned in Washington, DC.  Labor economist Jack Rasmus points out that what we heard in the State of the Union were the same old minimal job programs from Obama – nothing that will come close to providing the jobs we need.  At a time when we need bold action on jobs, we got a non-jobs program.

One of the false solutions Obama put forward, saccharin that risks cancer, were trade agreements. The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been negotiated in secret for three years by Obama, except for the 600 corporate advisors who tell the US what to put in the agreement. The TPP is not a jobs creator, but a jobs destroyer.  NAFTA cost the United States five million jobs. The TPP is known as NAFTA on steroids. The cancer of the TPP is not only going to be to loss of jobs and lowered wages, but increased corporate power. This global corporate coup will make corporations more powerful than governments. Obama also announced a corporate trade agreement with the European Union.  Hopefully, this gets activists in Europe working to oppose it and gets Americans fighting the anti-democratic “fast track” in Congress. Obama needs fast track to pass the TPP because if the issue is debated it will be widely opposed.

Another false solution to jobs is immigration reform.  While immigration reform is much needed, the versions being considered include the gift of indentured servitudeto big business in the United States, in the form of a new warmed-over Bush idea, a “guest-worker program.” Obama did not talk specifics in SOTU, but this provision should be opposed by all Americans and loudly rejected by Obama.

The Big Missed Opportunities

Two big issues that could radically change the debate in Washington, DC were not discussed by the president.

First, with all this talk of sequestration, President Obama should point out that right now the United States is seeing the most rapid decline in government spending since World War II and looking to the future an “unprecedented” decline in government spending is being predicted – not even counting sequestration or any “Grand Bargain.” In fact January actually saw a federal spending surplus for the first time in five years.

We don’t need to speed up this decline in spending.  In fact doing so, especially when there are signs of another recession, risks another economic collapse. Great Britain, the poster child for austerity, seems to be beginning its third recession in four years.  Our own history shows that cutting government spending in a time of collapse causes recession. We should have learned this lesson from the “Roosevelt Recession “of 1937-38 rather than risking an Obama Recession of 2013-2014.

As Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman recently pointed out this is a uniquely bad time for austerity.  In fact a top banker in Britain revived Milton Friedman’s idea of dropping money from helicopters.  Sadly, President Obama did not make this case, so if a recession hits he will appropriately be blamed for it, rather than Congress. Instead Obama put cuts to Social Security and Medicare, his “Grand Bargain,” on the table again. This is the wrong medicine.  More and more people recognize we need to increase Social Security to end poverty retirement and expand an improved Medicare for all to not only provide health care to all but also to control health care spending.

Second, there was no discussion of the wealth divide which plagues the nation and prevents economic recovery.  Even people in favor of the market are making the case for taxing the super-rich, but President Obama seems unable to do so. And, the news on the wealth divide got worse yesterday with a report that showed the richest 1 percent gobbled up 121% of income gains; how? They essentially put everyone else back into recession with shrinking incomes. Obama could have shocked the nation with that fact!

The wealth divide goes hand-in-hand with the concentrated wealth of the big banks but, the idea of breaking up the big banks, banks which have grown even bigger during Obama’s time in office, is not discussed by President Obama. The case for breaking up the big banks is evenbeing made by conservatives like George Will.  But, President Obama insteadappoints an SEC head who was a lawyer for the big banks and a Treasury Secretary who worked for a big bank and kept money in the Cayman Islands.

So, the concentration of wealth, which has grown under Obama, and the wealth divide will continue under the second term agenda announced in SOTU.

War and ‘Democracy’

Of course, we are pleased to hear that President Obama is finally moving toward a possible end of the Afghan War, the longest in US history.  Of course, not mentioned is the troops that he is removing are ones he added in the failed surge.  And, this exit will not be a complete exit, as he said in SOTU. The US will not leave Afghanistan in 2014 but will stay to train Afghan troops and fight terrorists.  As a result, despite a national security budget of over $1 trillion, there is no talk of cutting the bloated national security budget.  The president has not told us how many troops will be staying in Afghanistan after the so-called “end of the war.”

Finally, it was good to hear President Obama mention the need to fix US democracy. As I recently wrote with Margaret Flowers, we live in a mirage democracy.  US democracy is really a “managed democracy” where voters pick from two candidates approved by Wall Street who will not challenge the power of concentrated wealth.  President Obama in SOTU certainly showed he is doing nothing to start the transformation needed.

There is much needed to correct US democracy, here’s the top of my list: (1) universal voter registration so everyone of age can vote, (2) get money out of politics and provide public funding for public elections, (3) remove ballot access obstacles so Americans get more choices, (4) open the debates so candidates on enough ballots to win can be heard, and (5) improve the voting process so vote counts can be easily verified and voters can vote in a half an hour.

I’m sure by now the saccharin is wearing off. The antidote for the sour taste in your mouth is to get active.  Let’s follow the lead of Indians in Canada and the US and be idle no more.  It is evident from the State of the Union that we cannot count on the elected “leaders” in Washington to get the country back on track – we must do it ourselves.

Kevin Zeese co-hosts ClearingtheFOGRadio.org on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media, co-directs It’s Our Economy and was an organizer of the Occupation of Washington, DC. His twitter is @KBZeese.



Harvest of Hypocrisy: Farmers Being Blamed for GMO Crop Failures

February 13th, 2013 by Glenn Davis Stone

Of all the GMO controversies around the world, the saga of Bt cotton in India continues to be one of the most interesting and important. In the latest chapter, reported by the Business Standard, cotton yields have dropped to a 5-year low, setting off a fascinating round of finger pointing.

India approved Bt cotton in 2002 and within a few years yields were up dramatically. There are different sets of data out there, but let’s use the India Ministry of Textiles data since it’s this weeks news story. This chart shows the national trends in cotton yield (kg per hectare).

If you follow GMO debates you will have heard several years of kennel barking about how these figures show a “remarkable success.” But as I have pointed out (in my blog and in EPW), most of the rise in productivity had nothing to do with Bt cotton; in fact it happened before Bt cotton became popular.

Check it out: the biggest rises were from 2002/3 to 2004/5, when yields rose 56% from 302 to 470 kg. But by 2004/5, only 5.6% of India’s cotton farmers had adopted Bt. Do the math: if those 5.6% of planters were really responsible for a 56% rise in yields, then they must have been harvesting 3,288 kg/ha.


Data from the India Ministry of Textiles.

So Bt didn’t explain the big rise in yields, and since Bt has taken over, yields have been steadily worsening. What are we to make of this? Well, two things, according to the Business Standard and the Monsanto spokesperson who was their main informant. One has to do with what has gone wrong, the other with what we need to get out of this mess.

1. What Went Wrong? (the farmers screwed up?)

It seems the bollworms — the voracious pests that that Bt cotton is designed to kill — are developing resistance. But resistance, according to Monsanto, is “natural and expected.”

Whoa — that’s not what the farmers were told to expect. I was there when Bt cotton was being rolled out and they were told repeatedly and confidently that they wouldn’t have to spray any more. In fact we were all being told that “genetic farming is the easiest way to cultivate crops. All that farmers have to do is to plant the seeds and water them regularly. The genetically modified seeds are insect resistant, so there is no need to use huge amounts of pesticides.”

All the farmer has to do is plant and water the seeds… and then wait around for resistance, which is natural and expected. But wait there’s more: when it does appear, it’s the Indian farmers’ fault. Monsanto’s spokesman explains:

Among the factors that may have contributed to pink bollworm resistance to the Cry1Ac protein in Gujarat are limited refuge planting and early use of unapproved Bt cotton seed, planted prior to GEAC approval of Cry1Ac cotton, which may have had lower Bt protein expression levels, he added.

A “refuge” is a strip of non-Bt seeds farmers are asked to plant around their Bt fields, basically to raise bollworms that aren’t resistant to Bt, so they can hopefully breed with any resistant bollworms.[1] Very few Indian farmers actually do this, because it’s a lot of extra work for no return. Here’s an insight from 30 years of research on farming: if you’re pushing a technology that is only sustainable if farmers follow practices that require extra work for no return, you are pushing an unsustainable technology.

The other Monsanto suggestion is that the farmers are to blame for planting unapproved seeds. Sorry, that dog don’t hunt. Those unapproved seeds were Navbharat-151 and they have been much written about; they were better than the approved seeds, and their Bt levels were apparently sky high. Gujarat, where they were planted, has had India’s biggest rises in yields.

But while we’re blaming Indian farmers, why stop there? Monsanto also explains that

farmers have been constantly educated to adopt measures such as need-based application of insecticide sprays during the crop season and adoption of cultural practices like keeping the field clean of cotton stubble and crop-leftovers, ploughing of land after harvest so that the resting stages of the insects in the soil could be destroyed.

I have yet to bump into the educators who are giving farmers constant remediation on spraying, plowing, and field clearing. But I do bump into a lot of biotechnology people who pontificate on the wisdom of the Indian farmer. The farmer has long been seen as backward, tradition-bound, and inept. “We need to teach proper tillage,” a Monsanto executive explained to me years ago. But farmers are obstinate, and in fact this was one of the arguments for GM seeds:

for years people have tried to change cultural practices of these farmers, and it just hasn’t worked. It has been a complete failure, because you have to modify infrastructure, you have to re-educate them as to how to modify their farming practices themselves. But with biotech, the technology is in a seed. All you have to do is give them the seed. (-biotechnologist Martina McGloughlin)

But as soon as Indian farmers adopted GM seeds, we were told that “we should leave the choice of selecting modern agricultural technologies to the wisdom of Indian farmers” and that “farmers are excellent businessmen who aren’t persuaded by anything or anybody that doesn’t make their job easier or more profitable.” [2]

So don’t question the wisdom of the farmer! He is a genius — at least when he is buying GM seeds. But otherwise, he has to be told how to plant, spray, plow, and clear fields!

2. Now What? (More innovation?)

So despite all the GM seeds, India’s cotton yields keep on dropping. (In some states, they are now lower than they were before Bt seeds became popular.) So what’s the way forward?

To me this is a very hard question, but not to the Business Standard, which simply reports the news that

continuous R&D and innovation to develop new value-added technologies is imperative to stay ahead of insect resistance. To support such innovation, Monsanto demanded government policies’ support to encourage investment in R&D which will result in Indian farmers having a wider choice of better and advanced technologies translating thereby, higher yield.

No kidding — innovation from Monsanto is going to keep us ahead of the insects and guarantee higher yields. But lets take a look at the facts, at least as reported by the industry-friendly ISAAA. Yields started dropping after 2007/8. But that was just after new genetic constructs started appearing: a new 2-gene technology in 2006/7, and by 2009, six different constructs were approved. And these rapidly proliferating technologies were appearing in dizzying numbers of seed products. After 2006/7, the number of Bt hybrid seeds being offered to farmers jumped from 62 to 131 to 274; by 2009/10 there were 522.

There you have it: Indian cotton farmers today are being pelted with a hailstorm of new gene technologies and seed products, their yields steadily dropping, and the way forward is clear to the Business Standard: invest in Monsanto innovation.

Glenn Davis Stone is Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.  Over the past 30 years he has studied and written about food, farming, and biotechnology.  He has conducted extensive research in West Africa, India, and the U.S., with additional fieldwork in So. Africa, Viet Nam, Thailand, and England, and laboratory work at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.  He is president of the Anthropology & Environment Society of the American Anthropological Assn.


[1] Further explanation: A field full of Bt plants puts selective pressure on bollworm populations favoring worms with natural resistance to Bt. The resistant bollworms would thrive and spread the resistance trait, while the Bt-vulnerable bollworms die off. The plants in the refuge are non-Bt, so Bt-sensitive worms are supposed to thrive there; they are supposed to mate with the Bt-resistant worms and water down the resistance trait.

[2] Pinstrup-Andersen, P., and E. Schioler 2000 Seeds of Contention: World Hunger and the Global Controversy over GM Crops. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press; Fumento, M. 2003 BioEvolution: How Biotechnology is Changing Our World. San Francisco: Encounter Books.

Seeds of Destruction

Afghan Civilians Killed in NATO Airstrike

February 13th, 2013 by Global Research News

ASADABAD, Afghanistan, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) — At least 10 Afghan civilians were killed overnight in a NATO airstrike originally targeting a militants’ hideout in the country’s eastern province of Kunar, the provincial governor said on Wednesday.

“The NATO-led coalition forces carried out an air raid attack against a compound in Sheltan area of Shegal district at about 11: 00 p.m. Tuesday,” Seyyed Fazlullah Wahidi told Xinhua.

He said the raid claimed the lives of 10 civilians besides killing four armed militants.

“Our initial reports said that the killed civilians included five children, four women and a man,” Whahidi said, adding five children were also wounded in the incident in the province 185 km east of capital Kabul.

“We are aware of an operation (in eastern Afghanistan) and at this time we are trying to get information,” a spokesman with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) told Xinhua.

The ISAF took seriously the allegations of civilian casualties, he said, adding more information would be released to the media as appropriate.

The number of civilian casualties has been soaring in Afghanistan as more than 3,400 Afghan civilians reportedly were killed last year in the militancy-hit country.

The deaths of Afghan civilians in NATO-led troops’ operations against Taliban have long been a contentious issue between the Afghan government and U.S. and NATO forces stationed in the country.

Afghan officials had in the past stressed such deaths would further undermine the war against Taliban and terrorist groups and inflame an anti-foreign sentiment in the country.

Escalating Pressure on Iran

February 13th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Secretary of State John Kerry’s clear where he stands. He laid down markers. He demands Iran comply with Washington’s demands. Left unsaid is what follows otherwise.

On February 26, nuclear talks will resume. P5+1 countries (Washington, Britain, Germany, China and Russia) will meet Iranian negotiators. They’ll do so in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Targeting Iran’s peaceful nuclear program is red herring cover for regime change. Good faith negotiations aren’t possible. Washington obstructs them. So does Israel behind the scenes.

Kerry disingenuously says:

“The international community is ready to respond if Iran comes prepared to talk real substance and to address the concerns, which could not be more clear, about their nuclear program.”

“It’s disturbing,” he added. “And so my plea to the Iranians – or my statement – is a clear statement. We are prepared to let diplomacy be the victor in this confrontation over their nuclear program.”

“The president has made it clear. He is prepared to talk about a peaceful nuclear program.”

“Iran has a choice. They have to prove to the world that it is peaceful and we are prepared to sit reasonably and negotiate how they can do that. Or they can chose to be more isolated.”

“The president has made it clear that his preference is to have a diplomatic solution. But if he cannot get there, he is prepared to do whatever is necessary to make certain that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon.”

Kerry, Obama, other US officials, and Israeli ones want Iran to prove a negative. They demand unconditional surrender. Conflict resolution won’t follow because both countries obstruct it. War preparations continue.

Anything in 2013 is possible. Obama talks peace. At the same time, he plans war. That’s how rogue leaders operate. Obama replicates the worst of them.

Iran sought normalized relations for decades. Washington and Israel categorically spurn them. Iran can’t have them without good faith partners.

Washington and Israel oppose peace, justice, and equitable conflict resolution. Heavy-handed pressure bullies other countries to go along. At issue is unchallenged regional dominance.

War is an option of choice. Harsh sanctions increase pressure. Imposing them violates international law. Washington and Israel spurn it with impunity.

They commit crimes of war, against humanity, and genocide. Rule of law principles don’t matter. Nor do body counts and unspeakable human misery inflicted.

Ahead of late February talks, Washington imposed new sanctions. Doing so reveals its duplicitous agenda. America’s all take and no give. Ultimatums substitute for good faith relations.

Iranian broadcasting and director were blacklisted. Its iFilm was removed from the Galaxy 19 satellite platform. So was Press TV. It provides 24-hour English language programming.

Real news and information are featured. Washington wants them suppressed. It’s not the first time Press TV was targeted. European satellite provider Eutelsat blocked it.

So did Spanish satellite company Hispasat. They cited EU pressure for doing so. Washington’s long arm applied pressure. So did Israel’s.

New sanctions also target Iran’s Communications Regulatory Authority and Electronic Industries. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said they’re “designed to put pressure on the nation and to create a gap between the (Iranian) nation and government.”

“In the remaining time (ahead of elections), they want to create tension, crisis, and instability in the country by imposing great pressure.”

Internal opposition forces are supported. It’s done ahead of June 2013 elections.

Washington did so in 2009. It tried manipulating green revolutionary fervor. Post-election, tensions and instability were stoked. Unrest was fomented.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon showed which side he backs. He falsely accused Iran of “arrests, threats and use of force.”

The mainstream media claimed electoral fraud. Obama said the world was “appalled and outraged” by Iran’s attempt to crush dissent. He claimed America didn’t interfere in Iran’s affairs. He lied. Expect more of the same this June.

Iran asserts its state sovereignty rights. It has every right to do so. It’s not about to roll over for Washington, Israel, or its Lobby. It urges good faith negotiations. It won’t engage any other way.

Iman Khamenei rejects direct US talks. Why bother without a good faith partner.

“I am not a diplomat,” he said. “I am a revolutionary and speak frankly, honestly, and firmly. An offer of talks makes sense only when the side (making the offer) shows its goodwill.”

“Negotiation is meaningful when the two sides talk with goodwill, under equal conditions and without seeking to deceive each other. Therefore, ‘negotiation for the sake of negotiation’, ‘tactical negotiation’ and negotiation offer in order to sell a superpower’s gesture to the world is a deceptive move.”

“You (the Americans) point the gun at Iran and say either negotiations or we pull the trigger! You should know that pressure and negotiations do not go together, and the (Iranian) nation will not be intimidated by such things.”

“We, of course, understand their (the Americans’) need for negotiations, because the Middle East policy of the Americans has failed, and in order to compensate for this failure, they need to play a trump card.”

“Negotiation with the United States does not solve any problem because they have not fulfilled any of their promises in the past 60 years.”

On February 8, Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal responded. It headlined “The Ayatollah Always Says No.”

“Joe Biden won’t forget it the next time the US tries to reach out diplomatically to Iran.”

It hasn’t done so in good faith since 1979. Expect nothing different now.

The Journal claims otherwise. America offers good faith bilateral talks, it says. It never has and doesn’t now. Khamenei knows Washington’s velvet glove is cast iron inside.

It’s hardline and belligerent. It’s all take and no give. Journal editors point fingers the wrong way. “The Ayatollah quashed” previous deals, they said. Past US efforts ended in failure.

“Why does the Ayatollah keep saying no?” Journal editors say “get ready for this shocker….Iran really wants a bomb.” Saying so belies annual US intelligence assessments.

Journal editors leave inconvenient facts unmentioned. Vilifying propaganda substitutes for truth and full disclosure. The mainstream media prioritize it.

They do so to misinform, manipulate public sentiment, and manufacture consent for war. They convince people to support what they should abhor. They persuade them to hate alleged enemies. Most often they should admire and respect them.

Propaganda glorifies war in the name of peace. Managed news misinformation repeats ad nauseam. Big lies repeated often enough get people to believe them.

Invasions and occupations are called liberating struggles. Plunder is called economic development. Exploitation and imperial control are called democracy.

Might justifies right. Nations are destroyed to free them. Code language conceals real motives. Policy involves ravaging the world one country at a time or in multiples. Nations are destroyed for their own good. Monied interests alone benefit.

Political speech masks policies. News is carefully filtered. Fiction substitutes for fact. Free and open societies aren’t tolerated.

Dissent is marginalized and suppressed. Imperial wars are called liberating ones. Human rights are violated for our own good. Patriotism means going along with what harms us.

Terrorism is what they do, not us. Reasons why imperial wars are waged are suppressed. Wealth and power alone matter. Sacrificing human lives and freedoms are small prices to pay. Humanity is at risk but who cares.

The mainstream media aid and abet state crimes. Where it ends, who knows. Money power won’t sustain a ravaged planet. Militarism and perpetual wars assure it.

Peace is spurned to wage them. Big Lies conceal it. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Suppressing it is policy. Rule of law principles are spurned. Unchallenged dominance alone matters.

The mainstream media endorse imperial lawlessness. They lie. They’re complicit in crimes of war, against humanity, and genocide.

They manufacture threats. They stoke fear. They convince people that Washington’s wars are justified because they say so.

Millions die to further America’s imperium. Journal editors and other mainstream media have blood on their hands.

Rogue states and the maintream media never say they’re sorry. America claims might justifies right.

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

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


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


Obama and the Illusory State of the Empire

February 13th, 2013 by Pepe Escobar

Barack Obama would never be so crass as to use a State of the Union (SOTU) address to announce an “axis of evil”.

No. Double O Bama, equipped with his exclusive license to kill (list), is way slicker. As much as he self-confidently pitched a blueprint for a “smart” – not bigger – US government, he kept his foreign policy cards very close to his chest.

Few eyebrows were raised on the promise that “by the end of next year our war in Afghanistan will be over”; it won’t be, of course, because Washington will fight to the finish to keep sizeable counterinsurgency boots on the ground – ostensibly to fight, in Obama’s words, those evil “remnants of al-Qaeda”.

Obama promised to “help” Libya, Yemen and Somalia, not to mention Mali. He promised to “engage” Russia. He promised to seduce Asia with the Trans-Pacific Partnership – essentially a collection of corporate-friendly free-trade agreements. On the Middle East, he promised to “stand” with those who want freedom; that presumably does not include people from Bahrain.

As this was Capitol Hill, he could not help but include the token “preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons”; putting more “pressure” on Syria – whose “regime kills its own people”; and to remain “steadfast” with Israel.

North Korea was mentioned. Always knowing what to expect from the horse’s mouth, the foreign ministry in Pyongyang even issued a preemptive attack, stressing that this week’s nuclear test was just a “first response” to US threats; “second and third measures of greater intensity” would be unleashed if Washington continued to be hostile.

Obama didn’t even bother to answer criticism of his shadow wars, the Drone Empire and the legal justification for unleashing target practice on US citizens; he mentioned, in passing, that all these operations would be conducted in a “transparent” way. Is that all there is? Oh no, there’s way more.

Double O’s game

Since 9/11, Washington’s strategy during the George W Bush years – penned by the neo-cons – read like a modified return to land war. But then, after the Iraq quagmire, came a late strategic adjustment, which could be defined as the Petraeus vs Rumsfeld match. The Petraeus “victory” myth, based on his Mesopotamian surge, in fact provided Obama with an opening for leaving Iraq with the illusion of a relative success (a myth comprehensively bought and sold by US corporate media).

Then came the Lisbon summit in late 2010, which was set up to turn the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into a clone of the UN Security Council in a purely Western format, capable of deploying autonomous military interventions – preemption included – all over the world. This was nothing less than classic Bush-Obama continuum.

NATO’s Lisbon summit seemed to have enthroned a Neoliberal Paradise vision of the complex relations between war and the economy; between the military and police operations; and between perennial military hardware upgrading and the political design of preemptive global intervention. Everything, once again, under Obama’s supervision.

The war in Afghanistan, for its part, was quite useful to promote NATO as much as NATO was useful to promote the war in Afghanistan – even if NATO did not succeed in becoming the Security Council of the global American Empire, always bent on dominating, or circumventing, the UN.

Whatever mission NATO is involved in, command and control is always Washington’s. Only the Pentagon is able to come up with the logistics for a transcontinental, global military operation. Libya 2011 is another prime example. At the start, the French and the Brits were coordinating with the Americans. But then Stuttgart-based AFRICOM took over the command and control of Libyan skies. Everything NATO did afterwards in Libya, the virtual commander in chief was Barack Obama.

So Obama owns Libya. As much as Obama owns the Benghazi blowback in Libya.

Libya seemed to announce the arrival of NATO as a coalition assembly line on a global scale, capable of organizing wars all across the world by creating the appearance of a political and military consensus, unified by an all-American doctrine of global order pompously titled “NATO’s strategic concept”.

Libya may have been “won” by the NATO-AFRICOM combo. But then came the Syria red line, duly imposed by Russia and China. And in Mali – which is blowback from Libya – NATO is not even part of the picture; the French may believe they will secure all the gold and uranium they need in the Sahel – but it’s AFRICOM who stands to benefit in the long term, boosting its military surge against Chinese interests in Africa.

What is certain is that throughout this convoluted process Obama has been totally embedded in the logic of what sterling French geopolitical analyst Alain Joxe described as “war neoliberalism”, inherited from the Bush years; one may see it as a champagne definition of the Pentagon’s long, or infinite, war.

Double O’s legacy

Obama’s legacy may be in the process of being forged. We might call it Shadow War Forever – coupled with the noxious permanence of Guantanamo. The Pentagon for its part will never abandon its “full spectrum” dream of military hegemony, ideally controlling the future of the world in all those shades of grey zones between Russia and China, the lands of Islam and India, and Africa and Asia.

Were lessons learned? Of course not. Double O Bama may have hardly read Nick Turse’s exceptional book Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, where he painstakingly documents how the Pentagon produced “a veritable system of suffering”. Similar analysis of the long war on Iraq might only be published by 2040.

Obama can afford to be self-confident because the Drone Empire is safe. [1] Most Americans seem to absent-mindedly endorse it – as long as “the terrorists” are alien, not US citizens. And in the minor netherworlds of the global war on terror (GWOT), myriad profiteers gleefully dwell.

A former Navy SEAL and a former Green Beret have published a book this week, Benghazi: the Definitive Report, where they actually admit Benghazi was blowback for the shadow war conducted by John Brennan, later rewarded by Obama as the new head of the CIA.

The book claims that Petraeus was done in by an internal CIA coup, with senior officers forcing the FBI to launch an investigation of his affair with foxy biographer Paula Broadwell. The motive: these CIA insiders were furious because Petraeus turned the agency into a paramilitary force. Yet that’s exactly what Brennan will keep on doing: Drone Empire, shadow wars, kill list, it’s all there. Petraeus-Brennan is also classic continuum.

Then there’s Esquire milking for all it’s worth the story of an anonymous former SEAL Team 6 member, the man who shot Geronimo, aka Osama bin Laden. [2] This is familiar territory, the hagiography of a Great American Killer, whose “three shots changed history”, now abandoned by a couldn’t-care-less government machinery but certainly not by those who can get profitable kicks from his saga way beyond the technically proficient torture-enabling flick – and Oscar contender – Zero Dark Thirty.

Meanwhile, this is what’s happening in the real world. China has surpassed the US and is now the biggest trading nation in the world – and counting. [3] This is just the first step towards the establishment of the yuan as a globally traded currency; then will come the yuan as the new global reserve currency, connected to the end of the primacy of the petrodollar… Well, we all know the drill.

So that would lead us to reflect on the real political role of the US in the Obama era. Defeated (by Iraqi nationalism) – and in retreat – in Iraq. Defeated (by Pashtun nationalism) – and in retreat – in Afghanistan. Forever cozy with the medieval House of Saud – “secret” drone bases included (something that was widely known as early as July 2011). [4] “Pivoting” to the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, and pivoting to a whole bunch of African latitudes; all that to try to “contain” China.

Thus the question Obama would never dare to ask in a SOTU address (much less in a SOTE – State of the Empire – address). Does the US remain a global imperial power? Or are the Pentagon’s – and the shadow CIA’s – armies nothing more than mercenaries of a global neoliberal system the US still entertains the illusion of controlling?


1. Poll: 45% approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, CBS News, February 12, 2013.
2. The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden… Is Screwed, Esquire, February 11, 2013.
3. China Eclipses U.S. as Biggest Trading Nation, Bloomberg News, February 10, 2013.
4. Secret drone bases mark latest shift in US attacks on al-Qaeda, The Times, July 26, 2011.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  He may be reached at [email protected].

The most significant point in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night was a passing and euphemistically worded reference to his program of extra-judicial drone assassinations. “Where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans,” he declared.

Every congressman, senator, cabinet member, Supreme Court justice and general in the House chamber knew that with that statement Obama was defending his asserted power to secretly order the assassination of anyone in any part of the world, including American citizens. The president went on to make clear he was intent on making state murder a permanent and completely institutionalized government function.

His administration, he said, had worked “tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework” to guide such operations. He went on to indicate he might be open to suggestions for giving the assassination program a fig leaf of “transparency” and legality, pledging to “engage with Congress to ensure… our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances…”

That such a statement could be made before a joint session of Congress, to the general approbation of those in attendance, underscores the crucial aspect of the real state of the American union that received no mention in Obama’s address or any of the media commentary—the catastrophic state of American democracy.

The speech came just over a week after the publication of a Justice Department white paper laying out a pseudo-legal justification for Obama’s claim to the power, unchecked by judicial or congressional oversight, to order the assassination of American citizens. This assertion, already acted on in the drone missile murder of three Americans, abrogates democratic principles that go back hundreds of years and renders the Bill of Rights and its guarantee of due process a dead letter.

The US government now claims the type of unchecked powers previously associated with fascist regimes and military juntas. The white paper follows the enactment of military funding bills that sanction indefinite military detention of accused terrorists and their alleged supporters, including US citizens.

Tuesday’s State of the Union address will soon be followed by Congress’ stamp of approval on this sweeping assault on democratic rights, with the Senate’s confirmation of Obama’s pick to head the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, currently the chief White House counterterrorism adviser and overseer of the administration’s drone assassination program.

The real question, completely evaded in Obama’s demagogic and dishonest speech, is what in the state of the American union gives rise to the accelerating movement toward police state forms of rule.

The speech itself was an attempt to use left-sounding rhetoric to give a “progressive” gloss to a reactionary, anti-working class program. Obama began with the lying claim that war is a thing of the past and the economic crisis is over. (“After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home… Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis…”).

Presenting himself as the defender of the great American “middle class”—a complete abstraction designed to conceal the existence of a working class—Obama declared that the task of government is to work “on behalf of the many, and not just the few.” This is a principle that bears no relation either to the conditions that exist in the US or the policies Obama has pursued and will continue to pursue.

In fact, in very the next breath, Obama boasted of having already slashed $2.5 trillion from the deficit, “mostly through spending cuts,” and proposed to cut hundreds of billions more from the social entitlement programs—Medicare and Social Security—upon which tens of millions of elderly Americans depend. Using Republican proposals for even deeper cuts as a foil, he proposed to accompany this unprecedented attack on social programs with the elimination of unspecified tax loopholes for the wealthy, supposedly resulting in “everybody doing their fair share.”

The rest of his laundry list of token proposals to help the middle class was of the same character. He proposed, for example, to make America a “magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.” He hailed the return of manufacturing by Caterpillar, Ford, Intel and Apple to American shores, neglecting to mention that US corporate “in-shoring” was based on massive cuts in workers’ wages and benefits.

Obama made much of a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour. This would, in fact, leave a family of three existing on a minimum wage paycheck below the absurdly low official poverty threshold.

On foreign policy, Obama proclaimed that the Afghanistan war would be over by the end of 2014. He then invoked 9/11 and the “war on terror,” praised US military interventions in Libya, Yemen and Somalia and US support for the French invasion of Mali, threatened North Korea and Iran, and reiterated Washington’s policy of regime-change in Syria.

There was absolutely nothing in the speech that reflected the actual state of American society. Far from the crisis being over, more than four years after the Wall Street crash of 2008, unemployment—which Obama barely mentioned—remains at near-Depression levels. Poverty, hunger and homelessness continue to increase.

Workers’ wages continue to decline, while corporate profits and CEO pay reach record heights. Under Obama, the chasm between rich and poor has grown wider.

Two statistics provide a sense of the scale of social inequality in America. During Obama’s first term, 93 percent of all income gains went to the richest 1 percent of Americans, and over the period 2007-2010, US median net worth declined by 38.8 percent.

Such staggering and growing levels of social inequality are incompatible with democratic forms of rule. The Wall Street aristocracy whose interests Obama serves intends to widen the gap further by intensifying the assault on wages and working conditions and dismantling what remains of the social reforms of the 1930s and 1960s.

This will only heighten class tensions, already reaching the boiling point. The American ruling class is not blind to the buildup of working class opposition—not only in the US, but internationally—to the policies of austerity and war. It is in anticipation of social upheavals in the US on a scale not seen since the 1930s that the Obama administration and the entire political establishment are putting into place the framework for mass repression and dictatorial rule.

Benghazigate’ continues to unravel, and the man who’s front and center at this week’s Washington DC hearings is now being blamed for the villa siege last September…

According to a new investigative book published by two former US special operations soldiers, and serialised exclusively in yesterday’s Daily Mail, former CIA Director, David Petraeus, was blackmailed by two senior CIA officers into resigning and was made to publicly admit to his affair with intelligence operative Paula Broadwell. Of course, this angle of the story will surely drive book sales, but it’s not the most significant revelation in the story…

Drone-Master J: John Brennan

In their book which is due to be release tomorrow entitled, Benghazi: The Definitive Report, authors Jack Murphy (Army Green Beret) and co-author Brandon Webb (Navy SEAL and friend of Glen Doherty who died in the Benghazi siege) also revealed that ‘Drone-Master J’John O. Brennan - President Barack Obama’s current CIA Director nominee who was the President’s own deputy NSA advisor at the time, had been authorizing covert ‘unilateral operations outside of the traditional command structure’, using the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) across Libya and North Africa. It is Brennan’s black ops that are said to have prompted retaliation inside Libya that led to the September 11 Benghazi compound siege that killed four Americans, including ‘Ambassador’ Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

It’s worth noting here that the Benghazi siege was initially blamed by Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and the entire US media and the BBC at the time – on a highly deceptive YouTube film entitled, “The Innocence of Muslims”. That was the first stages of the cover-up.

So, according to the new book, it’s John O. Brennan who was the architect of events that led to the debacle known as Benghazigate? Apparently, yes, but not quite…

Murphy and Webb’s book, although very hard-hitting and well-researched, through what the authors describe as “a vast network of military insiders and intelligence officers to uncover the ‘untold’ story behind the attacks”,focuses on the Petraeus Affair, but only provides surface detail on the actual nature of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’s mission there in Libya.

Nor do the authors explain that the compound in question was not an “Embassy” in Benghazi as the Obama White House first referred to it, nor was it a “US Consulate”, or a “CIA safe house” as came to be known in later reports. Susanne Posel of OccupyCorporatism.com, reports what is more likely to be the real story:

“In Benghazi, Stevens stayed at a gated-villa, leased by the US State Department from a local man named Mohammad al-Bishari. The villa in Benghazi was not a US Embassy, diplomatic mission or extension of the embassy. In fact, the nearest US Embassy is Tripoli. This location housed Stevens where he spoke with the NTC, a defaco-government in Libya that assisted the US in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Stevens had previously been designated as a special representative to the NTC during the US-controlled Libyan revolution. To mask Stevens new role, he was given US Ambassador status by Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, and stationed in Tripoli.

Bishari has confirmed that Stevens would stay at the villa when he met with the NTC. Stevens’ mission in Benghazi was to gather intelligence for the CIA “conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city.”

Hand in the honey pot: Petraeus and Broadwell.

According to The Mail story, Petraeus’s ousters were,’high-level career officers on the CIA who got the ball rolling on the investigation’. The Mail exclusive goes on to explain how the Petraeus story unfolded and triggered a ‘palace coup’:

“The authors say that senior intelligence officers working on the 7th floor of Central Intelligence headquarters in Langley, Virginia, used their political clout to ensure that the FBI investigated the former Army general’s personal life.

They then told Petraeus that they would publicly humiliate him if he didn’t admit the affair and resign.

‘It was well known to Petraeus’s Personal Security Detachment (bodyguards) that he and Broadwell were having an affair. He wasn’t the only high-ranking Agency head or general engaged in extramarital relations, but when the 7th floor wanted Petraeus out, they cashed in their chips,’ Webb and Murphy write.

The book continues: ‘The reality of the situation is that high-ranking CIA officers had already discovered the affair by consulting with Petraeus’s PSD and then found a way to initiate an FBI investigation in order to create a string of evidence and an investigative trail that led to the information they already had—in other words, an official investigation that could be used to force Petraeus to resign.’

… Senior officials were furious over the way he had been running the agency since he was appointed in September 2011… He was turning the agency’s focus from intelligence gathering and analysis to paramilitary operations, including drone strikes.”

What they reveal about the Petraeus scandal is that the sensational extramarital affair was deployed in the media in order to keep the public distracted from the real story.

Chris Stevens and CIA gun-running

According to the Daily Mail, Webb and Murphy’s book does document that “Stevens likely helped consolidate as many weapons as possible after the war to safeguard them, at which point Brennan exported them overseas to start another conflict”.

Although both authors, who run a website called SOFREP.com - a news site written and edited by current and former members of the special operations community, appear to be ‘well-positioned’ to access classified insider information about events and a ‘vast network’ of contacts in the game, they could have gone a lot deeper into what are now mainstream allegations: that Chris Stevens was CIA point man for running illegal guns out of Libya via Turkey into Syria for the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Even Kentucky Senator Rand Paul challenged Hillary Clinton on these charges, but was stonewalled by the outgoing Secretary of State.

The book says that Stevens was aiding John Brennan in highly illegal international gun-running, a fact alone that should (in theory, anyway) kill Brennan in the CIA directorate conformation hearings this week in Washington DC. It’s amazing how this aspect of the story is given a back seat to a sex scandal – which makes us suspicious of this book, and its peculiar timing.

Posel also explains Stevens role as CIA gun-runner:

“Some of Stevens’ deals for arms can be realized in the artillery and weapons being funneled to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Syria who are fighting the proxy war for the US. Stevens became the “liaison” between US-sponsored terrorist factions and the movement of arms to Syria to assist the FSA.

Shipments to the FSA have come from Saudi Arabia where the Salafi terrorists originated and the Partisans of Sharia is used to further subversive interests. Thanks to the US, the Saudi government and Stevens, the FSA are the most heavily armed state-sponsored jihadist group in the Middle East.

In reality, Islamic terrorist factions that work with the US were employed by the Saudi Arabian government to take out one of Petraeus’ CIA spies. That spy’s name was J. Christopher Stevens.”

Author, former SEAL Brandon Webb

Author, former Ranger Jack Murphy

Chemical Weapons to Syria

The other obvious and very big aspect of this story which they also miss, is the very visible thread which first appeared in early Dec 2012 of reports ‘chemical weapons in Syria’, and these are likely to have originated in Libya – in the form of Gadaffi’s aging chemical weapons stocks being smuggled out of Libya and into the hands of the FSA in Syria… in order to blame Syria Assad government for using “chemical weapons against his own people”.

In late December, the US intelligence community, via the US General Console in Istanbul, Turkey, appears to have set-up the thread for the Assad chemical weapons story to go public, but quickly began to back track on this talking point, practically abandoning it altogether in the end.

In ‘Benghazi: The Definitive Report’, it does appear that the authors have opened up the door to some incredible and perhaps crucial insights into events surrounding Benghazigate – and their book will make a big media splash but it seems like black-ops ‘insiders’ Murphy and Webb missed the biggest story in all of this – which just happens to be the very scandal that would certainly bring down the Obama Administration in one swoop. Amazing how these events are borne out - and not borne out in the media, as the case may be.

More and more these days, we see an endless parade of ex-Navy SEAL and ex-Special Ops commando authors – who may very well have a great black book when comes to inside info but they are not journalists, and in some cases their relationship to the special operations world may be a little too close for comfort to consider them objective and independent investigators.

To authors Murphy and Webb, you cannot call it a “Definitive Report” a few months after the event. It’s a bit cock-sure, to be sure.

We’re waiting for the sequel, the book which blows the lid on the real story.

Until then, this might just be a ‘controlled media detonation’.


‘Benghazi: The Definitive Report,’ written by Brandon Webb and Jack Murphy, is published by William Morrow Company, an imprint of HarperCollins. It will be available for download in ebook format on Tuesday.

Russia: The World’s Top Gold Buyer

February 13th, 2013 by RT

Over the last decade Russia’s Central Bank acquired 570 metric tonnes of gold. The amount is almost triple the weight of the American Statue of Liberty and makes Russia the world’s biggest buyer of gold.

The amount is a quarter more than runner-up China, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

Countries like Russia and China use such stockpiles as an economic buffer against another wave of economic crisis or US dollar devaluation, as both remain weary of the US Federal Reserve’s stability and prefer to edge their bets on gold.

It’s also proven a sound investment and opportunity for the Russian state to make money, with gold prices crawling upwards over the past 12 years, gaining 12% in 2012 alone.  On Monday gold traded at $1650 per ounce and analysts expect the price to keep growing in 2013 to reach $1825 by the end of the year. However French investment bank Natixis dampened the outlook by forecasting a drop in price to $1500 by 2014, Finmarket.ru reports.

But the link between high gold prices and falling crude has plagued Russia in the past. In 1998, when Russia defaulted on $40 billion of domestic debt, it took 28 barrels of crude to buy an ounce of gold, according to Bloomberg research. Two years later, when Vladimir Putin came to power, an ounce was worth 11.5 barrels. By 2005 the ratio had dropped to 6.5 and that is when President Putin ordered his Central Bank to buy. In just a month the proportion of gold in Russia’s total reserve rose from 2.2% to 3.5%.

In 2000 Vladimir Putin inherited a country with 384 metric tons of gold and more than doubled its gold reserve in 12 years – according to official data from World Gold Council, in October 2012 gold made up 9.6% of Russia’s national forex reserve and stood at 936.7 metric tons.

However it is still far from its historic high – in 1941 Russia held a record 2800 tons of the precious metal and thanks to these reserves successfully recovered after World War II.

Russia’s gold rush still doesn’t mean it tops the list of global gold owners. The United States holds the leading position with 8133.5 tons of gold which make 75.4% of country’s total reserve. Germany runs second with 3391.3 tons and the IMF third with 2814 tons. China and Russia are sitting in sixth and eighth place respectively.

China however is suspected of downplaying its actual volume of gold by 3-4 times, Zerohedge news website reports, and prepares to introduce Yuan as world’s reserve currency. Back in 2009 China set a goal to overtake the US in the rankings. When the Chinese Central bank is ready to officially declare its actual gold reserve volume, world markets will experience serious problems, Zerohedge.com believes.

Major global investor and consulting adviser to the Obama administration, George Soros also appears to have a golden investment streak. In August 2012 it was reported, Mr. Soros offloaded over a million shares in financial companies and banks and purchased $130 million in gold. His move to sell stocks and beef up on gold, is being interpreted by some as a sign of changing investment strategy in the world market.

Obama’s Expanding Kill List

February 13th, 2013 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Prosecutors always expand laws far beyond their intent. Attorneys in civil cases do the same. For example, the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was passed in order to make it easier for the government to convict members of the Mafia.
However, the law, despite its intent, was quickly expanded by prosecutors and attorneys and used in cases against pro-life activists, Catholic bishops, corporations accused of hiring illegal immigrants, and in divorce cases. “Junk bond king” Michael Milken, a person with no ties to organized crime, was threatened with indictment under the RICO Act. Prosecutors have found that the asset freeze provision in the Act is a convenient way to prevent a defendant from being able to pay attorneys and, therefore, makes it easier for prosecutors to coerce innocent defendants into a guilty plea.
We are now witnessing the expansion of Obama’s Kill List. The list began under the Bush regime as a rationale for murdering suspect citizens of countries with which the US was not at war. The Obama regime expanded the scope of the list to include the execution, without due process of law, of US citizens accused, without evidence presented in court, of association with terrorism.
The list quickly expanded to include the American teen-age son of a cleric accused of preaching jihad against the West. The son’s “association” with terrorism apparently was his blood relationship to his father.
As Glenn Greenwald recently wrote, the power of government to imprison and to murder its citizens without due process of law is the certain mark of dictatorship. Dictatorship is government unconstrained by law. On February 10 the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Obama dictatorship now intends to expand the Kill List to include those accused of acting against foreign governments. Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an “Algerian militant” accused of planning the January attack on an Algerian natural gas facility, has been chosen as the threat that is being used to expand Obama’s Kill List to include participants in the internal disputes and civil wars of every country.
If the Obama regime is on the side of the government, as in Algeria, it will kill the rebels opposing the government. If the Obama regime is on the side of the rebels, as in Libya, it will kill the government’s leaders. Whether Washington sends a drone to murder Putin and the president of China remains to be seen. But don’t be surprised if Washington has targeted the president of Iran.
The elasticity of the Kill List and its easy expansion makes it certain that Washington will be involved in extra-judicial executions of those “associated with terrorism” over much of the world. Americans themselves should be alarmed, because the term “association with terrorism” is very elastic. Federal prosecutors have interpreted the term to include charitable contributions to Palestinians.
The next time former US Representative Cynthia McKinney gets on an aid ship to Palestine, will Washington give the green light to Israel to kill her as a terrorist agent for her association with aid to Gaza, ruled by the “terrorist organization,” Hamas?
Already a year or two ago, the director of Homeland Security said that the federal police agency’s focus had shifted from terrorists to “domestic extremists,” another elastic and undefined term. A domestic extremist will be all who disagree with Washington. They also, are headed for the Kill List.
Where is the government going with this?  The most likely outcome is that everyone disliked or distrusted by those who have the power to add to the Kill List will find themselves on the list. The government can expand the Kill List beyond the original intent as easily as the RICO Act was expanded beyond its original intent.
As the Founding Fathers knew and the American people have forgot, no one is safe in a dictatorship.
Clearly, the American public lacks sufficient comprehension to remain a free people. All indications are that the large majority of Americans fear alleged terrorists in distant lands more than they fear their government’s acquisition of dictatorial powers over them–powers that allow government to place itself above the law and to be unaccountable to law. This is despite the fact that 99.999% of all Americans will never, ever, experience any terrorism except that of their own government.
According to a recent poll of registered American voters, 75% approve of Washington’s assassination of foreign citizens abroad based on suspicion that they might be terrorists, despite the fact that the vast majority of the Gitmo detainees, declared by the US government to be the most dangerous men on earth, turned out to be totally innocent. Only 13% of registered voters disapprove of the extra-judicial murders carried out by Washington against foreign citizens, whether based on wrong intelligence, hearsay, or actual deeds.  http://www.ahherald.com/newsbrief-mainmenu-2/monmouth-county-news/14849-public-says-its-illegal-to-target-americans-abroad-as-some-question-cia-drone-attacks
Registered voters have a different view of the extra-judicial murder of US citizens. In what the rest of the world will see as further evidence of American double-standards, 48% believe it is illegal for Washington to murder US citizens without due process of law. However, 24% agree with the Obama regime that it is permissible for the government to murder its own citizens on accusation alone without trial and conviction of a capital crime. As The Onion put it, “24% of citizens were unequivocally in favor of being obliterated at any point, for any reason, in a massive airstrike.”  http://www.theonion.com/articles/american-citizens-split-on-doj-memo-authorizing-go,31207/
Are we to be reassured or alarmed that 24% of registered voters believe that the terrorist threat is so great that suspicion alone without evidence, trial, and conviction is sufficient for Washington to terminate US citizens?  Should not we be disturbed that a quarter of registered voters, despite overwhelming evidence that Washington’s wars are based on conscious lies–”weapons of mass destruction,” “Al-Qaeda connections”–are still prepared to believe the government’s claim that the person it just murdered was a terrorist? Why are so many Americans willing to believe a proven liar?
If we add up all the costs of the “war on terror,” it is obvious that the costs are many magnitudes greater than the terror threat that the war is alleged to contain. If terrorists were really a threat to Americans, shopping centers and electric substations would be blowing up constantly. Airport security would be a sham, because terrorists would set off the bombs in the crowded lines waiting to clear security. Traffic would be continually tied up from roofing nails dispensed on all main roads in cities across the country for each rush hour. Water supplies would be poisoned. Police stations would be bombed and police officers routinely terminated on the streets. Instead, nothing has happened despite Washington’s killing and displacement of huge numbers of Muslims in seven or eight countries over the past 11 years.
The cost of the “war on terror” is not merely the multi-trillion dollar financial bill documented by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes. The cost of Washington’s wars is the main reason for the large national debt, the threat of which politicians are using to destroy the social safety net. This is a huge cost for a pointless war that pleases Israel and enriches the armament companies but does nothing for Americans.
The financial cost is huge, but how important is this cost compared to another cost–the domestic police state supported by a significant percentage of the population and a majority in Congress and the media? Is the war on terror worth the evisceration of the US Constitution?  A war that costs us the Constitution means our total defeat.
The cost in human life has been enormous. Millions of Muslims have been killed, wounded, orphaned, and displaced, and entire countries have been destroyed as socio-political entities. Washington locked Iraq in sectarian murder. Libya has no government, just warring factions, and now Syria is in the process of being disintegrated. The prospects for people’s lives in these countries have been ruined for years to come.
The cost in American lives has also been high. More than 400,000 American lives have been adversely affected by 11 years of pointless war. The deaths of 6,656 US troops, the 50,000 wounded, the 1,700 life-changing limb amputations, and the suicides http://www.globalresearch.ca/record-numbers-of-us-military-and-veteran-suicides/5322544  are just the tip of the iceberg. Since the Bush-Obama wars began, 129,731 US troops have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. And now we learn from a new Congressional Research Service report that more than a quarter million of US troops have experienced Traumatic Brain Injury. Based on current diagnostic capability, three-fourths of the cases are classified as mild. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/02/cost-of-war/
These lost, ruined and impaired lives affect also the lives of many others–spouses, children, parents, siblings, and those disheartened by their government’s pointless wars who have to care for the damaged.  There are many Americans who have been collaterally damaged by Washington’s pointless wars.
Will Americans wake up in time?  I wish I could answer, “yes,” but I regret that Americans are an insouciant people. They are unaware.  Americans are more concerned with sports events, sales, and which celebrities are sleeping together than they are with their liberty. Washington can create a police state, because there are insufficient citizens with the intelligence, education, and awareness to stop Washington.
Congress has accepted the police state and has given up too much of its power to the executive branch and is too beholden to the special interests that benefit from the police state to do anything about it.
The federal judiciary has proven to be almost as impotent. Federal judges did not ask federal prosecutors why, in violation of the whistleblower protection laws, they were prosecuting National Security Agency senior executive Thomas Drake for blowing the whistle on the NSA’s illegal spying on US citizens instead of the officials who broke the law and committed felonies.  Judges did not ask why CIA agent John Kiriakou was prosecuted for blowing the whistle on the torture program instead of those who committed crimes by authorizing and committing torture. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article33894.htm
The innocent and the truth-tellers were prosecuted. The criminals and the liars were not.
The destruction of truth and the law in the US is the legacy of 9/11. Both conservatives and the left-wing have bought into the government’s preposterous story that a few Saudi Arabians, unsupported by any government or intelligence agency, outwitted every institution of the National Security State and inflicted the most humiliating blow against a superpower in human history. They buy into this story despite unequivocal evidence that WTC building 7 came down at free fall speed, an event that can only occur as a result of controlled demolition.
But evidence and expert testimony no longer have authority in the US, which now has its own form of Lysenkoism.
Lysenko was a quack Soviet scientist, a charlatan who successfully persecuted Soviet geneticists for “setting themselves against Marxism” by not having a Marxist theory of genetics. Soviet geneticists were arrested and executed for being “against the people.” Even the world famous Soviet geneticist, Nikolai Vavilov, was arrested and died in prison.
Americans don’t know any more about physics and structural architecture and engineering that the Soviet population and Stalin knew about genetics. Today “Lysenkoism” is used as a metaphor to denote the corruption of science in behalf of a social, political, or ideological purpose.
Lysenko used lies to gain power, just as Ponzi scheme operators use lies to gain wealth. Power is an Aphrodisiac, and everyone in Washington wants it.  All indications are that they have it.
Expect no help from “progressives,” who believe in Obama more than they believe in liberty.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/11/progressives-defend-obama-kill-list


 North Korea’s nuclear and rocket tests are viewed domestically as essential for national security and prestige. But they alienated even China, and may escalate tensions beyond the point of no return, which would be disastrous for everyone involved.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have ignited once again, marking the most-unstable period of inter-Korean relations since Kim Jong-un began his tenure in December 2011. On February 12, 2013, news surfaced of man-made seismic activity measuring at 4.9 on the Richter scale in North Korea, which was later confirmed to be the result of the third nuclear test Pyongyang promised to carry out.

Following the successful launch of an indigenous satellite into orbit using a long-range missile in December 2012, the UN Security Council recently tightened sanctions on the DPRK that impose asset freezes and travel bans on individuals involved in state companies and North Korea’s space agency. Pyongyang has recently threatened to respond to the tightened UN sanctions using “stronger measures” than a nuclear test.

 An official of the Korea Meteorological Administration shows a seismic image of a tremor caused by North Korea′s nuclear test, in Seoul on February 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/Kim Jae-Hwan)
An official of the Korea Meteorological Administration shows a seismic image of a tremor caused by North Korea′s nuclear test, in Seoul on February 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/Kim Jae-Hwan)

While bellicose rhetoric is to be expected from Pyongyang, recent statements against the United States and South Korea are unusually high on the Richter scale of belligerence. “We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are aimed at the United States,” stated North Korea’s National Defense Commission.

Pyongyang has also warned of “physical countermeasures” against South Korea if they participate in the UN sanctions against the North, stating, “as long as the South Korean puppet traitors’ regime continues with its anti-DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] hostile policy, we will never sit down with them.”

Activists from an anti-North Korea civic group burn a North Korea flag in front of banners bearing anti-North Korea messages near the U.S. embassy in central Seoul February 12, 2013. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)
Activists from an anti-North Korea civic group burn a North Korea flag in front of banners bearing anti-North Korea messages near the U.S. embassy in central Seoul February 12, 2013. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

Reports issued prior to the February 12 test claimed that North Korea has allegedly been placed under martial law, and its people told to “prepare for war” with the South. South Korean sources reported, accurately, that Kim Jong-un issued a secret order to “complete preparations for a nuclear weapons test and carry it out soon.” Seoul-based military sources have also claimed that Pyongyang plans to conduct two simultaneous nuclear tests at once, or in quick succession, based on satellite data monitoring the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

To further complicate matters, General Jung Seung-jo, Chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned that the South could launch pre-emptive strikes against the North if it tried to use nuclear weapons, stating, “if [the North] shows a clear intent to use a nuclear weapon, it is better to get rid of it and go to war, rather than being attacked.” North Korea’s plans to test nuclear weapons go against the conciliatory tone struck by Kim Jong-un toward relations with the South in his New Year’s Address, and his intentions to bolster the isolated state’s moribund economy.
Nuclear insecurity

Pyongyang is often viewed as a wildcard, but a closer examination of its domestic affairs in recent years shows that moves towards nuclearization are inevitably linked to extracting as many aid concessions as possible (especially at a time when political changes are taking place in South Korea), in addition to buying time for the regime in Pyongyang to incrementally improve its weapons technology.

Pyongyang is keen to avoid being overly reliant on Beijing, and so North Korea actually has a strong imperative to secure as much aid as possible from the US and South Korea to keep itself afloat. This recent nuclear test does not serve the DPRK’s interests and will only further strain its economic lifeline with China, even possibly inviting preemptive strikes from South Korean forces, leading to open war and a truly unpredictable situation that all regional players should be keen to avoid.

South Korean passengers watch TV news reporting North Korea′s apparent nuclear test, at the Seoul train station on February 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/Kim Jae-Hwan)
South Korean passengers watch TV news reporting North Korea′s apparent nuclear test, at the Seoul train station on February 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/Kim Jae-Hwan)

From the perspective of the Kim regime, which molds the opinions that North Korean civilians uphold, half of the Korean Peninsula is occupied by the United States. State newspapers such as the Rodong Sinmun routinely refer to the South Korean government as a puppet of the United States, and recently highlighted Pyongyang’s displeasure with increasingly provocative joint US-ROK military drills: “Ultra-modern war means are being amassed in South Korea and in the areas around the Korean Peninsula. The US nuclear submarine and Aegis cruiser entered south Korea to hold combined marine exercises and to show off ‘military muscle’… warmongers are inciting war fever while touring units in the forefront areas.”

North Korea routinely complains of discrimination by world powers, compelling it to resort to nuclear deterrence; the fact that South Korea faced no international obstruction over its recent satellite launch only reinforces Pyongyang’s rationale. By acknowledging the “ultra-modern” military capabilities of the joint US-ROK forces, it can be gathered that the North realizes its own arsenal is much less sophisticated, as many military analysts confirm.

The military muscle of the US-ROK forces certainly poses an existential threat to Pyongyang, and as a result, the Kim dynasty sees the proliferation of nuclear weapons as the only surefire way to guarantee its own security. However, the North Koreans must realize that they can only get away with nuclear adventurism for so long, and it appears that the DPRK may soon be at risk of aggravating the hand that feeds it – literally.

This screen grab taken from North Korean TV on February 12, 2013 shows an announcer reading a statement on the country′s nuclear test. (AFP Photo/NORTH KOREAN TV)

This screen grab taken from North Korean TV on February 12, 2013 shows an announcer reading a statement on the country’s nuclear test. (AFP Photo/NORTH KOREAN TV)

Straining ties with Beijing

China is not looking for any additional agitation as it prepares for its once-in-a-decade leadership transition. Analysts are pondering how Xi Jingping’s administration will treat North Korea. China’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) is the ultimate decision-making and policy-shaping body, and two members of China’s incoming PSC, Zhang Dejiang and Sun Zhengcai, have spent years in close proximity to North Korea, engaging in cross-border interactions with North Korean counterparts aiming to promote economic reform in Pyongyang.

Despite nearly open war between the two Koreas in 2010 after the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island and the sinking of a South Korean military vessel, China’s relationship with North Korea during the incumbent Hu Jintao administration was marked by several victories – noticeable economic cooperation with Beijing during the stable succession of Kim Jong-un, and a general lack of external interference in the DPRK’s affairs.

Much to the surprise of many analysts, China backed the recent UN sanctions on Pyongyang, indicating some disapproval with the Kim dynasty’s hostility. Even so, it is unlikely that Beijing and Washington will begin playing from the same sheet music. China signaled its frustration with the North in an opinion piece in the ultra-nationalis newspaper Global Times: “If North Korea engages in further nuclear tests, China will not hesitate to reduce its assistance to North Korea.” The editorial went on to say that if the US, Japan and South Korea “promote extreme U.N. sanctions on North Korea, China will resolutely stop them and force them to amend these draft resolutions.”

Activists from an anti-North Korea civic group burn placards of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a protest against North Korea nuclear test in Seoul on February 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/(Kim Jae-Hwan)
Activists from an anti-North Korea civic group burn placards of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a protest against North Korea nuclear test in Seoul on February 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/(Kim Jae-Hwan)

China’s position on this issue should be commended for its balanced approach. For Beijing, stability is the name of the game; China does not want any military confrontations or mass refugee spillovers into its borders.

Even as Beijing becomes more upfront with its discontent, China has a valuable economic stake in North Korea’s development; it continually invests in joint ventures with Pyongyang and has led initiatives to develop the nation’s vast untapped mineral resources (which include deposits of coal, iron ore, gold ore, zinc ore, copper ore, and others) valued at a staggering $6.1 trillion.

The centerpiece of Beijing’s foreign policy strategy towards the North under Xi Jingping will be encouraging the regime to behave more sensibly and focus on meeting the needs of its people. Perhaps policymakers in Beijing will have an easier time convincing Pyongyang to drop the nuclear rhetoric in exchange for a meaningful security pact in which Pyongyang is guaranteed military support from China if things ever get ugly. Given the non-interference stance championed by Beijing, it would be doubtful that Beijing would extend itself in this way.
Conundrum for President-elect Park

This third nuclear test will also put South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye in an extremely uncomfortable position, making it easy for her to enrage those on both South Korea’s left and right depending on how hard or soft a line she toes with Pyongyang.

Park spoke of easing relations with the DPRK, but like her predecessor, she maintains that the North’s denuclearization is a prerequisite for any negotiations; translation – there will be no negotiations and the ROK’s foreign policy trajectory is likely not to differ from that of hardline-conservative President Lee Myung-bak.

Pyongyang has repeatedly demonstrated its unwillingness to comply with the ROK’s demands, and vice-versa. Inter-Korean relations appear to be following a repetitive script, with Washington’s solution to every issue being to tighten sanctions on the North.

No good from US military pressure

The case has never been stronger for the withdrawal of the 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea, a move that would satisfy civilians in both Koreas and yield higher chances of provoking a positive response from Pyongyang.

Analyst Geoffrey Fattig argues in favor of a new approach being taken by the US by highlighting how Washington’s main source of leverage against the North is the military option, citing the friction caused by the mere presence of US troops: “The Obama administration needs to realize that it is holding a weak hand and fundamentally change its strategy… it is time for the Obama administration to start withdrawing the American military from Korean soil.

He adds: “Not only would such a move save billions of dollars annually at a time when the cost of maintaining America’s global garrison is coming under increasing scrutiny, but it would shift the impetus for negotiating solutions to the long-running dispute squarely onto the shoulders of the key players in the region.”

South Korean soldiers march during their military drills near the demilitarized zone separating North Korea from South Korea, in Paju, north of Seoul February 12, 2013. (Reuters/Lee Jae-Won)

South Korean soldiers march during their military drills near the demilitarized zone separating North Korea from South Korea, in Paju, north of Seoul February 12, 2013. (Reuters/Lee Jae-Won)

Pyongyang must play along

Pyongyang is playing a dangerous game, and its continued belligerence can only be tolerated for so long. At this stage, Kim Jong-un’s rhetoric of bringing about a “radical turn in the building of an economic giant” can only be taken as seriously as Pyongyang’s hilarious claims of “conquering space” by launching its satellite. By failing to be a coherent actor in the economic, security and diplomatic realms, the DPRK is doing more long-term harm to its existence than it realizes.

North Korea suffered immense human losses during the Korean War throughout the relentless US bombing campaign that flattened the country; it has legitimate grievances in wanting to safeguard its national security, but its lunatic defiance, odious personality cult, and unwillingness to follow Beijing’s advice by making serious economic reforms only further ostracizes Pyongyang in the eyes of the international community, to the point where its right of self-defense is being infringed by UN resolutions.

North Korea’s controversial nuclear tests carry the very real possibility of a deadly military conflict between the two Koreas – a conflict that must be avoided no matter how provocative, belligerent or infantile either side behaves.

Nile Bowie is an independent political commentator and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at [email protected]

L’arte della guerra : La «sicurezza» dell’impero

February 12th, 2013 by Manlio Dinucci

Menomale che in un mondo così pericoloso qualcuno pensa alla nostra sicurezza. Lo fanno gli autorevoli esponenti che si ritrovano a Monaco per l’annuale Conferenza internazionale sulla sicurezza. All’edizione 2013 (1-3 febbraio), cui non poteva mancare il ministro della difesa Di Paola, è stato Joe Biden, vicepresidente Usa, a tracciare le linee guida. Anzitutto la dichiarazione di principio: «Noi non ammettiamo che una nazione, qualsiasi essa sia, abbia una sua sfera di influenza». Principio che Washington ritiene sacrosanto per tutti i paesi, salvo gli Stati uniti. Non la chiamano però influenza, ma leadership. Come quella che gli Usa esercitano con la motivazione della lotta alla minaccia terrorista che – avverte Biden – si sta diffondendo in Africa e Medio Oriente, prendendo di mira «gli interessi occidentali oltremare». Per questo gli Usa «applaudono» all’intervento della Francia in Mali, fornendole intelligence, trasporto aereo di truppe e ricornimento in volo dei cacciabombardieri. L’Europa rimane partner indispensabile degli Stati uniti nel quadro della Nato, che si allargherà ancora includendo Georgia e stati balcanici. In Afghanistan – precisa Biden – l’Europa ha fornito 30mila soldati e speso 15 miliardi di dollari. In Libia, grazie all’Europa, «la Nato ha agito in modo rapido, efficace e deciso». Ora è la volta della Siria: gli Usa hanno speso 50 milioni di dollari per l’assistenza militare ai «ribelli», cui ora si aggiungono 365 milioni come «aiuto umanitario», nel quadro di uno stanziamento che, con il contributo europeo, sale a un miliardo e mezzo di dollari. Altro obiettivo è l’Iran verso cui – chiarisce Biden – gli Usa, insieme all’Europa, adottano non una politica di contenimento, ma una azione per impedire che sviluppi «l’illecito e destabilizzante programma nucleare». Predica che viene dal pulpito di chi possiede migliaia di armi nucleari e, appena due mesi fa, ha effettuato un altro test nucleare per costruirne di nuove. Ma c’è  ben altro all’orizzonte. Grazie alla più grande alleanza militare del mondo – spiega Biden –  gli Stati uniti sono una potenza atlantica ma, come indica la nuova strategia, sono allo stesso tempo una «potenza del Pacifico». Nella regione Asia/Pacifico c’è l’altra potenza, la Cina: gli Usa vogliono che sia «pacifica e responsabile» e che «contribuisca alla sicurezza globale», ovviamente com’è concepita a Washington, ossia funzionale al sistema politico-economico occidentale dominato dagli Stati uniti. Lo spostamento del centro focale della politica Usa dall’Europa al Pacifico – assicura Biden – è anche nell’interesse degli alleati europei, che dovrebbero parteciparvi pienamente. Washington preme quindi sui membri europei dell’«alleanza atlantica», già presenti con le loro navi da guerra nell’Oceano Indiano, perché aprano nuovi fronti ancora più a est, nel Pacifico. Argomento che, nel «dibattito politico sull’Europa», è assolutamente tabù.

Manlio Dinucci


Impeach Obama: A National Imperative

February 12th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Do it now before it’s too late!

America’s Declaration of Independence states:

“(W)hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, (it’s the right of the people, it’s) their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Straightaway as president, Obama violated his sacred trust. He betrayed his constituents. He’s a serial liar. He broke every major promise made. He serves illegitimately.

He institutionalized tyranny. He’s a war criminal multiple times over. He’s guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors.

He menaces humanity. He’s heading America for WW III. He wants America’s social contract destroyed. He wants millions impoverished, unemployed, left hungry and homeless. He’s beholden to powerful monied interests that own him.

He spurns fundamental civil and human rights. He mocks democratic values. He’s contemptuous of essential needs.

Law Professor Francis Boyle is unequivocal. He told Progressive Radio News Hour listeners he should be impeached. He urged House Republicans to do so.

He’s offering his services pro bono. On December 9, Boyle spoke at the Puerto Rican Summit Conference on Human Rights.

US militarism threatens WW III, he said. A century after earlier imperial aggressions, “neoconservative Republican Bush Junior administration and the neoliberal Democratic Obama administration are now threatening” global war.

He cited his teacher, mentor and friend, Professor Hans Morgenthau. Earlier he warned about “unlimited imperialism.” His seminal book “Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace” discussed it.

His cardinal tenet was darkly Hobbesian. He said international law and world organizations are “irrelevant” in conflicts of national interest between nations. Ignore “reality” and perish, he stressed.

Imperial priorities are disastrous. They destroy societies and human life. They make it “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

No law or justice exists, no sense of right or wrong, no morality. Imperial madness prioritizes war. Absolute power is sought no holds barred.

Boyle cited the US Army Field Manual (FM) 27-10 – The Law of Land Warfare. Paragraph 498 says any person, military or civilian, who commits a crime under international law is responsible for it and may be punished.

Paragraph 499 defines a war crime. Paragraph 500 refers to a conspiracy, attempts to commit it, and complicity with respect to international crimes.

Paragraph 501 says all high level civilian and military officials in any way involved in crimes against peace are personally responsible for war crimes.

Paragraph 509 denies the defense of superior orders in the commission of a crime. Paragraph 510 denies the defense of an “act of state” to absolve them.

Obama, other high administration officials, and their subordinates “are responsible for the commission of crimes against peace,” said Boyle.

The Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles, other international laws, and FM 27-10 define them.

In “international legal terms,” said Boyle, “the United States government” is guilty of “serial wars of aggression, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes that are legally akin to those perpetrated by the former Nazi regime in Germany.”

US citizens are constitutionally empowered to resist, says Boyle. They’re entitled to challenge their own government. They should “prevent, impede, thwart, or terminate (its) ongoing criminal activities….”

“Today’s civil resisters are the sheriffs! The US government officials are the outlaws!”

They “disobeyed fundamental principles of international law as well as US criminal law, and thus committed international crimes and US domestic crimes as well as impeachable violations of the United States Constitution.”

“The American people must insist upon the impeachment, dismissal, resignation, indictment, conviction, and long-term incarceration of all US government officials guilty of such heinous international and domestic crimes.”

Fundamental rule of law principles apply to all US military and civilian personnel. They include top commanders, the Secretary of Defense, his subordinates, CIA and other intelligence officials, as well as the president and vice president of the United States.

No one is exempt. Rule of law principles are inviolable. Imperial aggression is lawless. So is extrajudicial killing, torture, and other high crimes.

No president should be allowed to get away with them, says Boyle. Lawbreaking demands accountability. Doing so invites intolerable consequences. Disaster awaits.

We the People must act. Institutionalized tyranny approaches. It’s a hair’s breath away. Freedom’s on the chopping block for elimination. Humanity may not survive Obama’s second term.

Articles of impeachment are essential. Growing calls say so. In August 2011, Veterans for Peace (VFP) urged it. Waging illegal direct and proxy wars were cited.

“Therefore Be It Resolved,” said VFP, “that Veterans For Peace call on the US House of Representatives to immediately begin impeachment proceedings against President Barack H. Obama for failure to uphold his sworn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies foreign and domestic, and for his commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity, obstruction of justice and the violation of numerous national and international laws, treaties and conventions.

Impeach Obama Campaign.com has a White House Watch page. It urges readers to support impeachment.

Another page headlines “NEW ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT.” It states:


RESOLVED, That Barack Hussein Obama, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following article of impeachment to be exhibited to the Senate:


Other detailed information followed. Obama violated his oath of office. It mandates he “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

He “mock(s) the rule of law.” He “unilaterally” commits aggression. He “endanger(s) the very existence of the Republic” and freedom. He’s guilty of “impeachable high crime(s) and misdemeanor(s).”

The UN Charter explains conditions under which waging war is justified.

Article 2(3) and Article 33(1) require peaceful settlement of international disputes. Article 2(4) prohibits force or its threatened use.

Article 51 allows the “right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member….until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security.”

Justifiable self-defense is permissible. Articles 2(3), 2(4), and 33 prohibit unilaterally threatening use of force not:

specifically allowed under Article 51;

authorized by the Security Council; and

permitted by constitutional and US statute law provisions.

Three General Assembly resolutions prohibit non-consensual belligerence:

the 1965 Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty;

the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations; and

the 1974 Definition of Aggression.

Nuremberg Tribunal’s Justice Robert Jackson called aggressive war “the supreme international crime against peace.” Guilty Nazi war criminals were hanged.

The Constitution’s Article 1, Section 8 lets Congress alone declare war. December 8, 1941 was the last time. Subsequent wars were illegal. Responsible officials were and are war criminals.

The 1973 War Powers Resolution (WPR) limits presidential warmaking powers. It requires consulting with Congress before authorizing troop deployments for extended periods.

Section 4(a)(1) requires presidents to inform Congress within 48 hours about deploying troops to areas of ongoing or imminent hostilities.

He must explain why they’re sent, constitutional or legislative authority for doing so, estimated duration of involvement, and whatever other information Congress requests.

Section 5(b) mandates withdrawal within 60 days plus an additional 30 exit period unless Congress extends the time frame for another 30 days, declares war, or unavoidable circumstances require more time. Unlimited amounts are prohibited.

One exception applies. As commander-in-chief, presidents may introduce US forces unilaterally into conflict areas in case of a national emergency if America, its territories, possessions, or military is attacked.

Under all circumstances, Congress must be kept fully informed. It has final say. Since passage, presidents exceeded their constitutional and WPR authority.

All US wars are illegal. Congress violates its own mandate. Accountability is null and void.

The Constitution’s Article 2, Section 4 states:

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

In 1793, George Washington said:

“The Constitution vests the power of declaring war with Congress, therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they have deliberated upon the subject, and authorized such a measure.”

In 1805, Thomas Jefferson said:

“Congress alone is constitutionally invested with the power of changing our condition from peace to war.” Warmaking is “exclusively (for Congress) to yield or deny.”

Thomas Paine said:

“In America, the law is king. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king, and there ought to be no others.”

John Jay was America’s first Supreme Court chief justice. He said:

“(A)bsolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans.”

“These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.”

Alexander Hamilton called impeachable offenses those “which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words, from the violation or abuse of some public trust. They are of a nature which with peculiar propriety may be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done to society itself.”

James Madison said:

“Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.”

“War is the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. No nation (can) preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

“In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department.”

In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee voted three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. They charged actions “subversive of constitutional government.”

Obama exceeds the worst of all previous presidents. He’s guilty of multiple high crimes and misdemeanors. Holding him accountable is essential. Do it now before it’s too late. Humanity may not get a second chance.

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

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


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




The justification of targeted killings by the United States government is “a travesty” according to U.S. law, an analyst said.

U.S. senators are reportedly considering an idea to create a secret “assassination court” that would be charged with deciding if “suspects” can be assassinated by U.S. drone strikes.

“There is no way of justifying these killings and in fact they are assassinations,” Rick Rozoff, manager of the organization Stop The NATO International, told Press TV’s U.S. Desk on Saturday.

“This is what’s called targeted killing, but it’s not targeted. It’s mass killing,” he added.

There are estimates that since 2004 when the CIA started the drone warfare, between 4,500 and 5,000 people have been assassinated in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya and Iraq, Rozoff said.

The notion of a secretive court deciding who gets killed by robots looming overhead anywhere on the planet strikes some as somewhat morbid.

Observers charge that the change would just be some “nominal court oversight” to the targeted killings, which at present is entirely in the hands of the executive branch.

In the days leading up to Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, the Obama administration has combined calls for austerity measures to slash social spending with demagogic attacks on congressional Republicans for advocating even larger cuts in domestic social programs.

Obama’s speech comes as back-room discussions continue between the White House and congressional leaders of both parties, driven by two imminent deadlines: the March 1 “sequester,” when $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts take effect, and the March 27 expiration of authorization for spending by all federal government departments.

The sequester is a consequence of the 2011 Budget Control Act, a bipartisan deal between Obama and congressional Republicans, while the March 27 cutoff comes as a result of the expiration of another bipartisan agreement, the six-month “continuing resolution” passed last October to avoid a shutdown of the federal government during the 2012 election campaign.

If the sequester takes effect, budget cuts will hit both defense spending and a wide range of domestic social programs. The military cuts would have only a marginal effect in the vast Pentagon budget, which dwarfs the combined military spending of the next 15 countries in the world. The domestic cuts largely spare the major entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but will devastate smaller programs like Head Start education for pre-kindergarten children.

On Friday, the White House published a list of the most egregious consequences of the domestic spending cuts looming under sequestration, as part of an effort to blame the Republicans for cuts for which both corporate-controlled parties are responsible. The list details the cumulative effect of the cuts, which total nearly $500 billion in domestic spending over the next ten years. Among the cutbacks:

  • An estimated 600,000 women and children would lose food stamps.
  • 100,000 formerly homeless people would lose their government-financed housing.
  • Head Start cuts would eliminate early education slots for as many as 70,000 poor children.
  • Federal support would be eliminated for 7,200 school employees who serve special-needs children.
  • Job safety and food safety inspectors would face unpaid furloughs.
  • Federal loans to small businesses would be reduced by $500 million.

President Obama devoted his Saturday radio and Internet address to the sequester, warning of thousands of federal layoffs or furloughs and a “huge blow to middle class families and our economy as a whole” if the cuts took effect.

He argued, “At a time when economists and business leaders from across the spectrum have said that our economy is poised for progress, we shouldn’t allow self-inflicted wounds to put that progress in jeopardy.” This is a transparent effort to put the blame on congressional Republicans for a deepening economic crisis that implicates the entire capitalist system and all its political representatives, as reports in the US and globally suggest that world capitalism is already sinking back into renewed slump, more than four years after the Wall Street crash.

At the same time, Obama has renewed his appeal to the Republicans to join him in reaching a “grand bargain” that will include unprecedented cuts in Social Security, the government retirement benefits program, and Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly.

Obama’s alternative to the sequester is simply a different set of deficit-reduction measures. In his Saturday address, he called for “a balanced mix of spending cuts” and the closure of tax loopholes. “There’s certainly no reason that middle class families and small businesses should suffer just because Washington couldn’t come together and eliminate a few special-interest tax loopholes, or government programs that just don’t work,” he concluded.

One policy choice by Obama speaks volumes about the real class basis of his administration. He proposed a pay raise for federal civilian workers of only one percent, after several years in which their pay has been frozen. According to the National Treasury Employees Union, federal workers have already accounted for $103 billion in deficit-reduction from the pay freeze and increased pension contributions. Since statutory pay guidelines call for at least a 1.8 percent pay raise, matching the level in equivalent non-government jobs, Obama’s 1.0 percent “raise” would take another $18 billion out of the pockets of federal workers.

The White House is seeking to conceal its anti-working-class program with another deluge of demagogy about Republicans defending the super-rich. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, in a blog post on the White House web site, decried the refusal of the Republicans to close “loopholes for millionaires and billionaires.”

The cynicism of this rhetoric is demonstrated by reports that Obama will name his longtime financial backer Penny Pritzker, heiress to the billion-dollar Hyatt Hotel fortune, as his next secretary of commerce, and choose the CEO of REI sportswear, Sally Jewell, a former Mobil oil executive, for the post of secretary of the interior.

In the president’s radio speech, and in statements by other spokesmen, the Obama administration has laid special emphasis on the need to avoid cuts in military spending. Obama cited the Navy’s decision to delay dispatch of a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, due to the uncertainty of funding.

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued several warnings about the supposedly catastrophic impact of the minor trim in Pentagon spending, and the uniformed chiefs of the various armed services are to appear before congressional committees Tuesday and Wednesday to reinforce the message.

An Army memorandum to Congress complained of “a rapid atrophy of unit combat skills with a failure to meet demands of the National Military Strategy by the end of this year,” while the Air Force warned that “shortfall and sequestration will have drastic/long lasting impacts” on the US nuclear arsenal.

While sections of the congressional Republicans associated with the ultra-right Tea Party have called for the sequester to go ahead, as a down payment on the gutting of federal domestic spending, those Republicans with the closest ties to the military-intelligence apparatus have joined forces with Panetta and Obama to oppose the sequester.

The Foreign Policy Initiative sent a letter to congressional leaders opposing the sequestration cuts in military spending, signed by the bulk of the neo-conservative Republicans who spearheaded the war in Iraq, including William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Paul Bremer and Elliott Abrams, as well as Robert Gates, defense secretary in both the Bush and Obama administrations, and former senators Joseph Lieberman, Jim Talent (a top Romney adviser) and Norm Coleman.

Senate Democrats have drafted a measure to largely eliminate the cuts in the Pentagon budget, reducing it by only $3 billion a year instead of the planned reduction of more than 15 times that amount. The military cuts would be offset by equivalent deficit reduction through cuts in farm subsidies and implementation of the so-called Buffett Rule imposing a minimum tax rate on multi-millionaires.


On February 17, 2013, national elections will take place in Ecuador in which incumbent left-center President, Rafael Correa, is likely to win with an absolute majority against opposition candidates covering the political spectrum from Right to Left.  Since he was first elected in 2006, Correa has won a string of elections, including presidential elections (2009), a constitutional referendum, a constituent assembly and a ballot on constitutional amendments.

Correa’s electoral successes occur despite the opposition from the main Indian organizations, CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) and CONFENIAE, the principle public sector teachers unions, environmental NGOs and numerous radical intellectual, academics and trade union activists.  He also has routed the traditional pro-US right-wing and liberal parties, successfully defeated and prosecuted the subversive intent of the mass media moguls and survived an aborted police-military coup in 2010.  Unquestionably Correa has demonstrated his capacity to win repeated elections and even increase his margin of victory.

The electoral successes of Correa raise fundamental issues which transcend the immediate context of Ecuadorean politics and reflect a general pattern throughout Latin America .  These issues include:

(1) the relation between mass social movements and left of center electoral parties and politicians.

(2) The relation between pro-active extractive capitalist development strategies (mining, oil, agro-business), inclusionary social policies and anti-imperialist regional foreign policies.

(3) The inverse relation between the growth and consolidation of a left-center regime and the decline and weakening of radical social movements.

(4)  The problem of the initial convergence and divergence between radical social movements and left-center political leaders; as they move from ‘opposition’ to political power.

(5) The shifts in power between movements and electoral politicians, with the former exercising greater capacity to mobilize during the period of opposition to the Right and the latter dominating and dictating the political agenda subsequent to securing electoral office.

The Politics of Post Neo-Liberalism

Correa’s “citizen based” electoral movement, operates from positions in government and eschews any ‘class framework’.  In fact in its broadest terms, it appeals to and directs government programs to both the urban poor and the big foreign petroleum multi-nationals; the small and medium size business people and the Guayaquil business elite; workers in the informal sector and the public sector professionals and employees, the returning immigrants from Europe (especially Spain) and the construction, real estate and communication elite.

In foreign policy Correa has supported and has the backing of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments and is a member of ALBA; it has received large scale low interest loans from China (in exchange for oil investment and trade agreements) and retains commercial ties with the US and EU.  Correa has backed greater Latin American integration and signed off on major public-private petrol contracts with US and European oil companies.  He claims to be a socialist but condemns the Marxist FARC and praises the Colombian regimes’ ‘neo-liberalism’; questioned the illegal foreign debt (lowering it by 60%) and at the same time retains the dollar as Ecuador ’s currency and opens indigenous territories to foreign capital exploitation.

In a word Correa’s “post neo-liberal policies” combine ‘nationalist populist’ and neo-liberal policies more than a program for  the 21st century socialism that he proclaims.

Perspectives on President Correa’s Government

The national-populist extractive policies and development strategy of the Correa regime has polarized opinion across the hemisphere and within Ecuador .  On the extreme right Washington and its mass media acolytes view Ecuador as a radical ‘socialist regime’.  They take at face value Correa’s embrace of “21st century socialism”, in large part because of his ties to Venezuela, membership in ALBA, renegotiation of the foreign debt and Ecuador’s giving political asylum (in its British embassy) to Julian Assange, the Wilkileak’s leader.

Echoing Washington’s ‘radical leftist’ label are the traditional and newly minted rightist parties (Sociedad Patriotica)  who have been marginalized by Correa’s electoral successes.  Their critique of Correa’s early nationalist policies, renegotiating the debt and prevailing oil contracts, is now tempered by his recent large scale, long term investment agreement with several foreign multinational petroleum companies.  The Ecuadorean oligarchy while publically condemning Correa are privately busy negotiating public-private procurement agreements especially in communications, infrastructure and banking.

The Indian movement, CONAIE, peasants, the teachers union, the ecology-NGOs and some smaller leftist parties oppose Correa for his “sellout” to the big oil companies, his authoritarian centralized power, the expansion of exploitation in the Amazon region and territorial encroachment and threats to Indian lands, water and health.

In contrast to internal opposition from the social movements, the vast majority of leftist parties and center-leftist regimes in Latin America, led by Cuba and Venezuela, are staunch supporters and allies of the Correa regime based primarily on his anti-imperialist policies, support for regional integration and opposition to US interventionist and destabilization policies in the region.

Internationally Correa has widespread support among progressives in the US and Europe especially for his early policies questioning the legality of the foreign debt, his rhetorical proposal to conserve the Amazon in exchange for cash transfers from the EU/US, his renegotiations of the oil contracts and his anti-imperialist pronouncements.  Most important, Correa has secured long term large scale financial aid from China in exchange for exploitation of its oil resources.

Buttressed by allies in Latin America and Asia, Correa has effectively resisted pressures from the outside from the US .  Internally, Correa has built a formidable bloc of social and political forces which has effectively countered opposition from the oligarchical right as well as from the once powerful radical social movements.  The sustained popular majorities backing Correa from 2006 to the present 2013 are based essentially on several factors – substantial increases in social expenditures benefiting popular constituencies and nationalist policies increasing state revenues. The entire Correa paradigm, however, is based on one singular factor – the high price for oil and the boom in commodity prices which finances his strategy of extractive capital led growth and expenditures for social inclusion.

The Social Bases of Correa’s Popularity

Correa’s electoral victories are directly related to his populist social policies financed by the substantial oil revenues resulting from the high prices and huge increase from the renegotiation of the oil contracts with the multi-nationals – an increase from a 20% to an 85% tax.  Correa increased the health budget from $561 million in 2006 to $774 million in 2012, about 6.8% of the national budget.

Clinics have multiplied, the price of medications has been reduced as a result of a joint venture with the Cuban firm Enfarm, and access to medical care has vastly improved.  Educational spending has increased from 2.5% of GDP in 2006 to 6% in 2013, including a free lunch program for children.  The regime has increased state subsidies for social housing, especially for low income classes as well as returning immigrants. To lower unemployment, Correa has allocated $140 million in micro credits to finance self-employment, a measure especially popular among workers in the “informal sector”.  By effectively reducing the debt to foreign creditors by two-thirds (debt service runs to 2.24% of GDP), Correa has increased the minimum wage and pensions for low income retirees thus expanding the social security system.

Anti-poverty subsidies, payments of $35 monthly (increased to $50 two weeks before the Elections) to poor families and the disabled and low interest loans have allowed Correa to gain influence and divide the opposition movements in the countryside. Business elites especially in Guayaquil and the middle and upper echelon of the public sector especially in the petrol sector, have become important contributors and backers of Correa’s electoral machine.

As a result of State subsidies, contracts and the backing of business and banking sectors and the weakening of the opposition media elites, Correa has built a broad electoral base that transverses the class spectrum.  The entire ‘popular alliance’ is, however, highly dependent on Correa’s pact with extractive multi-nationals.  His electoral success is a result of a strategy based on the revenue from a narrowly based export sector.  And the export sector is highly dependent on the expansion of oil exploitation in the Amazon region which adversely affects the livelihood and health of the indigenous communities, who in turn are highly organized and in a permanent ‘resistance mode”.

The Contradictions of Extractive Capitalism and Populist Politics:  The Threats and Challenges to Social Movements

The oil sector accounts for over 50 percent of Ecuador ’s export earnings and over one-third of all tax revenues.  Production has oscillated around 500,000 barrels a day, with increasing shares sold to China and a decreasing percentage to the US . In February 2013 Ecuador signed contracts for $1.7 billion in investments to boost output in the Amazon fields with Canadian, US, Spanish and Argentine multi-nationals in association with the Ecuadorean state company Petroecuador.

The biggest oil investments in the history of Ecuador promise to increase the levels of oil spills, contamination of Indian communities and intensification of the conflicts between CONAIE and its ecological and movement allies and the Correa regime.  In other words as Correa sustains and consolidates his majoritarian electoral support outside of the Amazon and adjoining regions with increased social expenditures based on rising oil revenues, he will further dispossess and alienate the movements of the interior.

Social inclusion of the urban masses and promotion of an independent foreign policy are based on an alliance with foreign extractive multi-nationals which undermine the habitation and economy of small producers and Indian communities.

The history of petroleum exploitation contamination up to the present day provides little evidence to support President Correa’s claims of environmental safeguards.  Texaco/Chevron oil exploitation in the Amazon contaminated millions of acres, dispossessed scores of Indian communities and sickened thousands of inhabitants resulting in a judiciary award of $8 billion dollars in favor of the 30,000 indigenous people adversely affected.

Recently Correa’s proposed oil contracts with multi-nationals to exploit 13 blocks in the pristine Amazon region covering millions of acres and inhabited by seven Indian nationalities, without consulting the indigenous communities thus contravening his own newly written constitution.  Powerful mobilizations, led by CONAIE and CONFEIAE (the Ecuadorean Confederation of Amazonian Indian Nationalities) on the 28th of November 2012 in Quito and in the regions targeted for exploitation, has caused several oil majors to delay drilling.  In the face of determined Indian resistance, Correa has shown the authoritarian side of his regime:  threatening to dispatch the military to occupy and forcibly impose a kind of ‘martial law’, raising the prospects of prolonged political warfare.

While Correa can and does win national elections and routs his electoral opposition in the big cities, he faces a resolute organized majority in the Amazon and adjoining regions.  Correa’s dilemma is that unless he diversifies the economy and reaches a compromise via consultation with CONAIE, his dependence on new oil ventures drives him toward de facto alliance with the traditional export elites and greater dependence on the military and police.

The Latin American Context

Correa’s bet on an export strategy based on primary goods has created a potentially dynamic mega cycle of growth but it is increasingly dependent on high world prices for oil.  Any significant decline in price would immediately lead to a precipitous fall in social expenditures, erode his social coalition and strengthen the opposition from the right and the radical social movements.  Correa’s repeated electoral successes and his widespread support across the progressive and anti-imperialist political spectrum, has seriously weakened the radical social movements a pattern that has been repeated throughout Latin America .

In the previous decade, roughly the period of the 1990’s to the early years of the 21st century, the radical social movements took center stage in toppling rightwing, US backed neo-liberal regimes.  Ecuador was no exception:  CONAIE and its urban allies ousted the incumbent neo-liberal President Mahuad in January 21, 2000, and joined with Correa in driving the Lucio Gutierrez regime from power in April 2005.  Similar mass struggles and social mobilizations ousted neo-liberals in Argentina and Bolivia , while movement backed center left politicians took power in Uruguay , Brazil , Paraguay and Peru .

Once ensconced in power the center-left regimes adopted a commodity led export strategy, embraced partnerships with the MNC and built broad electoral conditions which marginalized the radical social movements; with the aid of increased revenues they substituted populist transfer payments for structural transformations.

Nationalist foreign policies were combined with alliances with big commodity based MNC.  To the extent that class struggles emerged, the populist leaders condemned them and even accused their leaders of “conspiring with the Right” – thus questioning the legitimacy of their demands and struggles.

The post neo-liberal center-left regimes in Latin America, with their populist politics of ‘inclusion’ have been far more effective in reducing the appeal and influence of the radical mass social movements than the previous US backed repressive neo-liberal regimes.

Those social movements which opted to support and join the center-left regimes (or were co-opted) became transmission belts for extractive policies. Confined to administrating the regime’s anti-poverty programs and defending the extractive capitalist model, the co-opted leaders argued for higher tax revenues and social expenditures, and, occasionally, called for greater environmental controls.  But ultimately the “insider strategy”, adopted by some social leaders, has led to bureaucratic subordination and the loss of any specific class loyalties.


National-populism is and will be challenged from within by its ‘allies’ among the MNC who will increasingly influence their ‘public sector partners’ and, from the ‘outside’, by the pressures from the world market.  In the meantime as long as commodity prices hold and the nationalist-populist leaders continue their ‘inclusive’ social programs, Latin American politics will remain relative stable and the economy will continue to grow, but it will continue to face resistance from the alliance of eco-social  and indigenous movements.

What lessons can be drawn from the past two decades of social movement – populist electoral party alliances?  The message is both clear and ambiguous.  Clearly movements which do not have an independent political perspective will lose out to their electoral allies.  However, there is no question that because of movement action, the populist electoral class has legislated significant social expenditures benefiting the popular classes and pursued a relative independent foreign policy – an ambiguous legacy or unfinished history?

In the harsh Ogaden region of Ethiopia, impoverished ethnic Somali people are being murdered and tortured, raped, persecuted and displaced by government paramilitary forces. Illegal actions carried out with the knowledge and tacit support of donor countries, seemingly content to turn a blind eye to war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by their brutal, repressive ally in the region; and a deaf ear to the pain and suffering of the Ogaden Somali people.

Around five million traditionally nomadic pastoralists – live in what is one of the least developed corners of the world besieged by military oppression, drought and famine.

Democracy denied

When the British, with due colonial duplicity, arrogantly handed the Ogaden region over to Ethiopia in 1954, the ethnic Somali people found themselves under occupation by, what they regard as a foreign power. The centuries old struggle for self-determination, has since 1984 been taken up by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), predictably regarded as ‘terrorists’ by the Ethiopian government; which hunts them down and, with impunity, tortures, imprisons and rapes its members and suspected supporters while carrying out widespread extrajudicial killings.

In 1992 as part of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front’s (EPRDF) much trumpeted, never realized policy of Ethnic Federalism, that promised autonomy and cultural respect to the many tribal groups in the country; ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden were officially acknowledged and inaugural regional elections held. The ONLF, a secular group in a largely Muslim region, “won 60% of seats… and formed the new (regional) government” Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported. Two years later, and in response to the will of the people, the ONLF called for a referendum on self-determination. The government’s reaction to such democratic gall was to kill 81 unarmed civilians in the town of Wardheer, disband the regional parliament, arrest and imprison the vice-president and several other members of the parliament, instigate mass arrests and indiscriminate killings; this brutal act ignited the current struggle and drove the ONLF into the shadows and its current guerilla war.

Resource rich

The region, rich in oil and gas reserves, is potentially the wealthiest area of Ethiopia. Resources that the indigenous people are understandably keen to benefit from, that the EPRDF sees as another party asset to add to its burgeoning portfolio. Genocide Watch (GW) tell us that, “immediately after oil and gas were discovered in the Ogaden, Ethiopian government forces evicted large numbers of [Ogaden Somalis] from their ancestral grazing lands and herded them into Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, causing a humanitarian disaster”. If the ONLF are correct and their view sounds more than plausible, the Ethiopian military intends to secure the resources for the government and exclude the local people. The Africa Faith and Justice Network confirms such suspicions, saying: “With the discovery of petroleum leading to exploration missions by foreign companies, the government’s motives are questionable.”

Upfront fees for exploration rights are reputed to have been sold to foreign corporations for between $50 – $100 million, paid by under-informed, overexcited multinationals, who subsequently pull out, having underestimated the logistical problems of working in the region. China Petroleum was one such; they were subjected to an unprecedented ill-judged attack by the ONLF in 2007 that caused the deaths of nine Chinese workmen and, according to China Daily , “65 Ethiopian employees”. The Ethiopian government, itching to intensify the conflict that had been simmering for over three decades, retaliated with excessive brutality, by HRW reports, “launching a brutal counter-insurgency campaign in the five zones of [the] Somali Region primarily affected by the conflict… [Where] the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) has deliberately and repeatedly attacked civilian populations,” killing hundreds of men women and children.

Displaced & destitute

Thousands of terrified Ogaden Somalis have since fled the affected areas. They seek refuge “in neighbouring Somalia and Kenya from widespread Ethiopian military attacks on civilians and villages that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,“(ibid). Large numbers have been made homeless and destitute, accurate numbers are difficult to collate due to restricted access, however human rights groups estimate the number, to be greater than one hundred thousand.

The Ogaden, GW states “has been transformed into a vast military occupied area, with thousands in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.” Most displaced persons, the International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reports, “sought shelter with relatives or safety in the bush, rather than gathering in organized camps,” where widespread abuse is known to take place, including starvation that GW describes as “genocide by attrition”. These desperate, frightened people are not regarded as refugees and so receive no humanitarian aid support from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). And the EPRDF, consistent with their duplicitous approach to governance, fails to meet dutiful obligations under the historic Kampala Convention which “reaffirms that national authorities have the primary responsibility to provide assistance to IDPs…. (And) … to address the plight of people uprooted within their borders”. The ruling party ignores these requirements, acting not in accordance with international law, the federal constitution or indeed their moral duty.

Especially violent

In 2009, after widespread condemnation of the Ethiopian army’s conduct in the region, the regime formed the highly suspect Liyu (Special) Police. Somaliland Press (26/9/12) states, the government “deliberately recruited unemployed youths from the streets”. This shadowy paramilitary force of 10,000 – 14,000, fits, HRW says, “into the context of impunity where security forces can more or less do what they want.” Not a group, then, that the British government should be supporting. In a baffling move however, according to The Guardian (10/1/13) , the Department for International Development (DFID) has submitted, a “tender to train security forces in the Somali region of Ogaden”, Amnesty International’s Claire Beston said: “It was highly concerning that the UK was planning to engage with the Special Police..…. There is no doubt that the Special Police have become a significant source of fear in the region.”(Ibid) The DFID in denying the report ambiguously states that, “reforming the Special Police is critical for achieving a safe and secure Somali Region”, failing to recognize that the Liyu force needs not reforming but disbanding and, along with all Ethiopian military personnel, marched out of the region immediately.

State-sanctioned terrorism and genocide

In addition to murder and rape, appalling levels of torture and extrajudicial execution are reported. Thousands, according to GW, “have been arrested without any charges and held in desolate desert prisons”. Mass detention “without any judicial oversight are routine. Hundreds—and possibly thousands—of individuals have been arrested and held in military barracks, sometimes multiple times, where they have been tortured, raped, and assaulted”, HRW report.

Children and women being the most vulnerable suffer acutely, the rape of Ogaden Somali women is a favored weapon of the Ethiopian paramilitary; held in military barracks women are imprisoned as sex slaves, where they are subjected to multiple gang rape and torture. African Rights Monitor (ARM) recount one woman’s story that mirrors many and shocks us all. She claims to have been, “raped by fifty soldiers for a period of twelve hours and hung upside down over a pit of fire that had chili powder in…. to suffocate her lungs”.

Statistics of abuse are impossible to state, the numbers are perhaps of less importance than the crimes and the suffering caused, survivors bear the physical scars and mental trauma of their ordeals, from which many may never recover.

A scorched-earth policy involving burning of crops and homes and killing cattle is part of the campaign of state terror, as HRW record, “Confiscation of livestock [the main asset], restrictions on access to water, food, and other essential commodities” have “been used as weapons in an economic war”. As has the destruction of villages, confirmed by evidence from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, proving, “that the Ethiopian military has attacked civilians and burned towns and villages in eight locations across the remote Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia.” Such inhumane methods are employed by the EPRDF to instill fear in the Ogaden Somali people and suppress their legitimate demands for autonomy. It is shocking criminal abuse which staggeringly, “GW considers to have already reached stage 7 [of 8], genocidal massacres against many [Ogadeni, Anuk, Oromo and Omo] of its people”. International donors however, who provide a third of Ethiopia’s total federal budget – around $4 billion a year, to their utter shame say and do nothing; neglect constituting complicity.

Village executions

With the region virtually shut off, video evidence smuggled out of Ethiopia by Abdullahi Hussein, a former Ethiopian civil servant is rare. Revealing Somaliland Press (26/9/12) say that, “whole villages have been emptied of inhabitants through executions and mass flight from terror… you can hear members of the Liyu Police desecrate a civilian they have just killed. They stomp on his head and poke his face with a stick.” Such attacks on settlements are routine: Demanding our attention is Qurille village in the Wardeer district attacked in September 2012: Ogaden Online recounts how troops: “Shoot each resident of the town in their custody at point blank range” including women and children. Bodies are hung from trees in a public display of state terrorism, to engender lasting fear. This type of brutality is widespread. HRW records how in Raqda village in the Gashaamo district during March 2012, “the Liyu police force summarily executed at least 10 men – in their custody, killed at least nine residents… [and] abducted at least 24 men.”

The killing continued two days later on 17th March, when “Liyu police took another four men from their homes and summarily executed them. A woman whose brother was a veterinarian told HRW: “They caught my brother and took him outside. They shot him in the head and then slit his throat.” Defenseless villages are easy prey for the Liyu and their brutal methodology, as HRW state, “troops have forcibly displaced entire rural communities, ordering villagers to leave their homes within a few days or witness their houses being burnt down and possessions destroyed—and risk death”. Page upon page could be filled with such violent disturbing accounts.

Exclusion of foreign media and aid workers

Contrary to constitutional and human rights law, the EPRDF has imposed a widespread blockade on the Ogaden region, seeking to control the flow of information outside the country as it does within its borders, where it allows no freedom of the media; of expression, of assembly or of political dissent. Add to this the outlawing of trade unions and the partisan distribution of aid and a picture of a brutal totalitarian regime emerges from the duplicitous mist of politically correct, democratic rhetoric.

Attempts to work in the region by international media and humanitarian groups are seen as criminal acts, punishable under the widely condemned anti-terrorist proclamation.
Two Swedish journalists investigating human rights abuses in the Ogaden, made headlines in July 2011 when they were attacked and arrested by the Liyu police and subjected to a terrifying ‘mock’ execution. Charged and sentenced in Ethiopia’s kangaroo court to 11 years imprisonment, they were later released having served 400 days in appalling conditions. Reporters from the New York Times, The Telegraph and Voice of America have also been imprisoned and expelled, so too United Nations (UN) workers and staff from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) who were arrested and accused of being spies! Wrapped in paranoia, the EPRDF suspended 42 NGOs in 2009 for reporting government human rights abuses in the region and, in 2007 in what must be the EPRDF’s Pièce de résistance, the International Committee of the Red Cross were expelled.

In addition to the information embargo, the region is subject to what HRW describe as “severe restrictions on movement and commercial trade, minimal access to independent relief assistance,” and the “politicized manipulation of humanitarian operations, particularly food distribution”; meaning food supplied by donor countries is stolen to feed the Ethiopian army and the Liyu force. This in one of the worst areas for drought and famine in the country, where, In-Depth Africa reports, “1,539,279 people (30% of the population) in the region lack food, water and health services”.

Peace and justice for the people

The little known conflict in the Ogaden is a cause of intense tension between Ethiopia and Somalia and a destabilizing issue in an unstable region. It is a fight that has been distorted by the former Government of Somalia, which sought to misrepresent the issue and transform it into a boundary dispute; a misconception that suits the Ethiopian regime keen to avoid the substantive point of regional autonomy.

All efforts to facilitate a lasting peaceful resolution to what is an age-old struggle should be urgently made, Ethiopia’s donors and facilitators, principally America, along with the European Union and Britain must act with due responsibility. Action should be taken to: Close down IDP camps and the people allowed to return to their communities; aid provided for rebuilding villages (not to train the Liyu) destroyed by the military; regional elections organised and a referendum on self-determination held.

The appalling atrocities committed daily by the Ethiopian paramilitary constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity that should immediately be referred to the International Criminal Court for prosecution. They are, though, just the deepest wounds within a scarred body of human rights abuses, violating federal and international law, being perpetrated by the EPRDF regime throughout the country and with utter impunity. This must end and the Ogaden Somali people, allowed to determine their own destiny and to live in peace.

Graham Peebles is an artist, writer and director of The Create Trust, which he founded in 2006. He has run education projects & teacher training programs in Palestine, India and Ethiopia, where he spent two years working with local groups in Addis Ababa. Contact: [email protected]


[i] http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-04/24/content_858956.htm

[ii] http://www.hrw.org/node/62175/section/4

[iii] http://www.genocidewatch.org/ethiopia.html

[iv] http://www.genocidewatch.org/ethiopia.html

[v] http://www.internal-displacement.org/countries/ethiopia

[vi] http://www.internal-displacement.org/kampala-convention

[vii] http://somalilandpress.com/ethiopia-a-wave-of-atrocities-against-villages-in-ogaden-35429

[viii] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/09/201291795840290803.html

[ix] http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2008/0612ethiopia_intro.shtml

[x] http://ogaden.com/hornnews/ogaden/1495-ethiopian-mass-murder-in-miirdanbas-qoriile.html– By Mohamud A. Dubet

[xi] http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/05/28/ethiopia-special-police-execute-10

[xii] http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/features/ethiopia/index.html

[xiii] http://indepthafrica.com/in-ethiopia-a-war-on-humanitarian-agencies-and-staff/#.UPBCpVRl8Xw In Ethiopia: A War on Humanitarian Agencies and Staff

French Imperialism Moves Deeper Into Mali

February 11th, 2013 by Abayomi Azikiwe

French defense ministry officials have said that they are planning to make a withdrawal from Mali by April. Since January 11, when the French military began to bomb and launch a ground invasion into this resource-rich country, the government in Paris has declared that its operations are limited and they were only there as a precursor to the intervention of a regional force from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Although several thousand troops from various African states including Chad, Nigeria as well as the national army of Mali have entered the battle alongside the French, the former colonial power also made an appeal for the United Nations to take over the operations which are really designed to secure the resources of Mali for the benefit of western industrialized states. Earlier UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had publicly stated that direct intervention by the international body would jeopardize its personnel carrying out humanitarian work inside the country and throughout the region.

On February 10, in the northern city of Gao, armed combatants opened fire on Malian military forces in the downtown area. Soon French helicopters entered the fray firing into areas in the center of the city in a battle that lasted well into the evening.

According to a report of the fierce battle published by the Associated Press, “The attack in Gao shows the Islamic fighters, many of them well-armed and with combat experience, are determined and daring and it foreshadows a protracted campaign by France and other nations to restore government control in this vast Saharan nation in northwest Africa. The Islamic radicals fought against the Malian army throughout the afternoon and were seen roaming the streets and on rooftops in the center of Gao, which has a population of 90,000. (Feb. 10)

The fighters involved in this round of clashes were thought to be from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA). Since the French were reported to have entered Gao on January 26, MUJAO has been firing on their military units from outside the city.

French Gen. Bernard Barera claimed that the MUJWA combatants utilized small boats to cross the Niger River into Gao. On February 9 a bomb was detonated at a checkpoint near the entrance of the city.

Abdoul Abdoulaye Sidibe, a member of the Malian parliament based in the capital of Bamako in the south of the country, said that MUJWA had held Gao prior to the French intervention. In relationship to the battle that began on February 10, Sidibe said that “There was a whole group of them who took up positions in front of the police station and started firing in all directions.” (Globe and Mail, Feb. 10)

Just two days before on February 8, a reported suicide bomber driving a motorcycle detonated explosives at the same entrance to Gao. During the fighting on February 10, people remained in their homes to avoid injury and no civilian casualties have been officially acknowledged.

During the clashes on February 10, a police station was taken over by the MUJWA guerrillas. The next day, February 11, French combat helicopters bombed the station in an effort to drive out the fighters.

Journalists who observed the French military assault on the police station said that the building was destroyed and bodies were left lying in the rubble. These clashes over a three day period illustrate clearly that the previous claims by France saying the targeted groups had been driven from the cities and towns of Konna, Gao, Sevare, Timbuktu and other areas must be viewed with skepticism. (Al Arabiya, Feb. 11)

French military spokesman have also claimed that the Islamist groups have fled into the northeast mountainous region of Adrar des Ifoghas. Fighter jets have been carrying out bombing operations under the guise of destroying the bases of the fighters and disrupting their supply lines in the area.

The overall security situation in Gao has been deteriorating for several weeks. A number of Malian soldiers have been reported killed by landmine explosions on the main road leading further north.

Even France has admitted that there are units of Islamist fighters in the areas between the major towns who are engaging them in mobile operations. “We are in a dangerous zone…we can’t be everywhere,” a French officer told journalists.

Other fighting units have been seen in Batel, some 15 miles outside of Gao. France is continuing to deploy additional troops into Mali, said to now number 4,000.

In the town of Tessalit on February 8, French military spokespersons said they had taken the airstrip in the area. The airstrip will be used to back up 1,000 Chadian troops who are being deployed in the Adrar des Ifoghasmountains. (Globe and Mail, Feb. 11)

Meanwhile in the capital of Bamako, there were clashes between rival elements within the Malian military. The guard regiment, known as the “red berets,” which was loyal to ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure, overthrown in a coup last March 22, have refused to be sent to the frontline alongside the French in the north.

Troops who backed the military coup led by Capt. AmadouSanogo, the Pentagon-trained officer, attacked the barracks occupied by the guard regiment and members of their families on February 8. Reports indicate that as many as three people were killed and six others were wounded.

False Reports of the Destruction of the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu

One of the major reports that emanated from the north of Mali claimed that the Ahmed Baba Institute, which houses thousands of manuscripts from the ancient kingdom founded during the 13th century, had been burned to the ground by retreating “al-Qaeda linked rebels”. This story was credited to the former mayor of Timbuktu, Halle OusmaneCisse, an allegation which inflamed passions across Mali, Africa and the world.

However, a subsequent report published by Khadija Patel revealed that this claim was false. Patel said that “Contrary to reports that emerged, the library has not been razed to the ground.” (Daily Maverick, January 30)

Even Sky News reporter Alex Crawford reported from inside the library illustrating that the institution was relatively unharmed. The Institute was funded by the African Renaissance Fund based in South Africa as part of a continental-wide effort to preserve and study the ancient civilizations which flourished prior to the advent of European slavery and colonialism.

Patel’s report also notes that “Time Magazine’s Vivienne Walt, who has been tracking the fate of the manuscripts for the last nine months, has emphatically debunked the confusion surrounding the manuscripts. She claims she has found the manuscripts to be in safe hands after all.”

Mahmoud Zouber, the Malian presidential aide on Islamic Affairs, told Time magazine that

“The documents which had been there are safe, they were not burned. They were put in a very safe place. I can guarantee you. The manuscripts are in total security.”

These developments in Mali are indicative of the role of imperialist propaganda and psychological warfare designed to build public support for military invasions and occupations. Similar scenarios have been carried out in relationship to interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Consequently, as in other military adventures by the imperialist states and their allies, it is necessary to expose the lies that are being spread through the corporate media. Anti-war and anti-imperialist forces within Africa and the capitalist states must organize to oppose military interventions throughout the continent and in other parts of the world.

Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire

UpdateJean-Claude Duvalier did not appear in court as planed on February 7, 2013. He was represented by his lawyer who read a letter in which Duvalier explained his absence. His audition was reported for the 4th time and will be held on February 21, 2013. Duvalier could face arrest if he fails to appear in court on that date.


Thousands of Haitians marched through Port-au-Prince on February 7 to protest President Michel Martelly’s patent corruption and drift toward a repressive neo-Duvalierist dictatorship.

At the same time, former President-for-Life Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier will be personally appearing in the capital’s Appeals Court to answer a challenge by his regime’s victims.

One year ago, Investigating Judge Carves Jean ruled that Duvalier should not be prosecuted for the many crimes against humanity committed under his 15-year rule from 1971 to 1986, including extrajudicial executions and jailings. Human rights groups like Amnesty International and its Haitian counterparts cried foul, as did over a dozen of people who had filed human rights complaints against Duvalier following his return to Haiti in January 2011. They appealed the decision.  Ironically, Judge Jean Joseph Lebrun, the head of the Appeals Court, set the hearing for final arguments against Judge Carves Jean’s ruling for the 27th anniversary of the Duvalier regime’s fall.

Feb. 7, 1986 was the day when, after a three-month nationwide uprising against his regime, the playboy dictator and his haughty bourgeois wife, Michelle, drove their Mercedes-Benz through a cordon of journalists at the airport to board a U.S.-provided C-130 cargo jet that flew them, with her furs and his cars, into a golden exile in France.

The Duvaliers divorced but lived the good life off the some $800 million (according to best estimates) that they and their cronies embezzled from the Haitian treasury. In fact, Judge Carves Jean did charge Duvalier for his “economic crimes,” but the maximum sentence if he were ever found guilty (an unlikely event under Martelly’s regime) would be only five years.

Duvalier returned to Haiti on Jan. 16, 2011 thanks to a Haitian diplomatic passport furnished to him five years earlier by one of his former Haitian Army generals, Hérard Abraham. The former general, whom President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fired in 1991, had been resurrected 13 years later as the Foreign Affairs Minister under the de facto regime of Prime Minister Gérard Latortue, installed by Washington following the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’état against Aristide.

U.S. State Department cables provided to Haïti Liberté by the media organization WikiLeaks in 2011 reveal that the U.S. Embassy was very “concerned” about Duvalier’s return to Haiti in early 2006, when the de facto regime was about to hold presidential elections on Feb. 7, 2006.

In Santiago, Chile, for example, U.S. Ambassador Craig Kelly “expressed [U.S.] concerns about the Interim Government of Haiti’s (IGOH) decision to approve the issuance of a diplomatic passport for former president and dictator Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier,” Kelly wrote in a Jan. 11, 2006 Confidential cable. He asked the Chilean government “to approach the IGOH to make clear that Duvalier’s return would undermine efforts to assist Haiti in its transition to a stable, democratic society.”

The U.S. also talked to France, which “understood and shared our ‘political’ concern that Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier might use a diplomatic passport to return to Haiti,” reported a Jan. 12, 2006 cable from Paris.

In a meeting with then Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, the U.S. Ambassador “urged Fernandez not to allow Duvalier to obtain a visa for the Dominican Republic so as to pass through en route to Haiti,” a Jan. 17, 2006 cablemarked “Secret” reports.

Meanwhile, the cables detail several meetings that U.S. Embassy officials held with Latortue and his officials about Duvalier. What becomes clear in the diplomatic record is that the U.S. Embassy was primarily concerned about appearances, and the bad press Duvalier’s return would generate. “The visuals are bad,” argued U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Timothy Carney in a Jan. 17, 2006 cable from Port-au-Prince, and “Baby Doc is a risky, potentially divisive, presence.” Carney was reporting on a meeting he’d had the day before with Abraham, who “concluded by refusing to revoke the passport already issued to Duvalier, but confirming that he would do everything in his power to transmit the message to Duvalier that he should not to return to Haiti at this time.”

The most telling bit of the cable is where Carney quotes Abraham as saying that Duvalier “lacks appropriate guarantees, security and otherwise, to secure his reentry into the country.”

Fast forward exactly five years to Jan. 16, 2011. When Duvalier arrived in Haiti on that day, the U.S. acted as surprised as everybody else and divulged nothing about its opposition to the diplomatic passport provided to Duvalier five years earlier by the very coup regime it had installed in power.

Michel Martelly and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier

The Haiti cables that WikiLeaks obtained only covered a period from April 2003 to February 2010, so we don’t know what the Embassy was saying in the days just before Duvalier’s “surprise” return, which it surely knew was in the offing. But, judging from the 2006 cables, one can reasonably assume that Duvalier would only have returned to Haiti if he’d received the “appropriate guarantees, security and otherwise, to secure his reentry into the country.”

Those “guarantees” could only have come from Washington. Then President René Préval, a former anti-Duvalierist militant, surely didn’t give them. He launched a “serious effort to put together a case against Duvalier” during the four months that he remained in office, according to human rights lawyer Mario Joseph, whose International Lawyers’ Bureau (BAI) helped build the prosecution’s dossier. But Préval was replaced on May 14, 2011 by Martelly, and at that point the prosecution against Duvalier “ground to a halt,” Joseph said.

The new neo-Duvalierist president was installed through an illegal election in which the U.S. brazenly intervened to bump out the candidate of Préval’s party, Jude Celestin, who came in second-place in the first round, and replace him with Martelly, who came in third.

Did the U.S. (and France) feel that the time was right for Duvalier to come back to Haiti, as they were engineering the election of Martelly? Did they offer Duvalier “guarantees” ?

One thing is for sure: the U.S. and its allies did not fight to block Duvalier’s return from France in 2011 the way they fought like hell to block Aristide’s return from South Africa two months later, as Haïti Liberté revealed when dissecting WikiLeaked cables in 2011.

“The cables show how Washington actively colluded with the United Nations leadership, France, and Canada to discourage or physically prevent Aristide’s return to Haiti,” we wrote in our Jul. 28, 2011 edition. “The Vatican was a reliable partner, blessing the coup and assisting in prolonging Aristide’s exile.”

The history of the U.S. Embassy showing Duvalier the door in 1986 and then likely opening it for him in 2011 makes one wonder what the U.S. will be doing behind the scenes.

More Evidence Obamacare Ripped Off Americans

February 11th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Make no mistake. March 23, 2010 will live in infamy. With strokes from 22 pens, Obama enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

It’s a ripoff. It’s a healthcare rationing scheme. It’s a boon to predatory providers. It’s a plan to enrich insurers, drug companies, and large hospital chains.

WellPoint, Inc. is America’s largest managed healthcare company. It wrote the plan. It got what it wanted. It benefitted at the expense of people needing care. So did other healthcare giants. They scammed ordinary people for profit.

Ralph Nader calls Obamacare “a pay-or-die system.” It’s “the disgrace of the Western world.” It’s a monstrosity. It mocks a fundamental human right.

It violates the Constitution’s “general welfare” clause. Article I, Section 8 states:

“The Congress shall have power to….provide for (the) general welfare of the United States.”

It means “We the People.” It includes everyone equitably. It means what never was, isn’t now, or won’t ever be under a system favoring privilege, not fairness.

Western-style democracy is the world’s biggest scam. Obamacare proves it. So do numerous other examples in representative/republican societies.

Affordable care is a figure of speech. It’s more deform than reform. It’s not universal care, single-payer or fair. It’s market-based for profit. It does nothing to control costs. It’s regulation light.

It’s a boon for huge profits. It’s got loopholes big enough to reap huge amounts. It helps business at the expense of ordinary people. It leaves tens of millions uninsured. It leaves millions more underinsured.

Legitimate democracies would have enacted what’s badly needed. Comprehensive coverage requires universal single-payer. Everyone in. No one excluded.

Private insurers have no legitimacy except for those who want them. They’re administrative middlemen. They game the system. They add hundreds of billions annually to costs.

They provide no care. They ration it. Obamacare lets them do it through unaffordable premiums.

“It’s time for single payer,” says Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Dr. James Mitchiner called for what’s long overdue.

It’s time to “creat(e) a national, universal, publicly funded health care system, free of the corrupting power of profit-oriented health insurance, and at the same time capable of passing constitutional muster.”

“In short, the right thing is an expanded and improved Medicare-for-All program, otherwise known as single-payer.”

Nothing else provides healthcare equitably. Marketplace solutions don’t work. They game the system for profit.

For decades, America experimented with failed systems. They include HMOs, PPOs, high-deductible plans, health savings accounts, pay-for-performance, capitation, and disease management.

Expect Accountable Care Organizations, Patient-Centered Medical Homes, and other new schemes to fail. They’re designed that way.

Current and planned systems are “duplicative, inefficient, wasteful of scarce….resources, conducive of job lock, and completely misdirected in supporting the 21st-century health care agenda that America needs and deserves,” says Mitchiner.

The only workable system is scorned. Universal single-payer helps everyone. Cost control makes it affordable. Everything people need is accessible.

Included are inpatient and outpatient care, primary and specialty care, emergency treatment, preventive and restorative services, mental health and substance abuse, dental care, prescription drugs, home health and longterm care, and effective alternative treatments now excluded.

“Single-payer is the only remaining option to simultaneously and synergistically expand access, control costs, preserve choice and reduce disparities,” says Mitchiner.

There’s “no other efficient and constitutionally safe way to do this.” America’s dysfunctional system failed.

On January 24, PNHP’s Dr. John Geyman headlined “The Affordable Care Act (ACA): What to Expect in 2013,” saying:

ACA “props up an inefficient and exploitative private health insurance industry….” Deregulated markets don’t work. Systemic problems fester. Vitally needed affordable care is denied.

Nothing ahead looks promising. Mergers and consolidation will increase costs, limit choices, reduce care, and keep millions from getting any.

Privatization will game Medicare and Medicaid for profit. Insurers will “limit definitions” to cut benefits. Market-based bureaucracy and fragmentation “worse(ns) health outcomes.”

ACA won’t “hold up.” Progressive reform is needed. Universal single-payer alone works. It’s high time the world’s richest country provided it.

In 1960, healthcare as a percent of GDP was 5.1%. In 2002, it was 15%. In 2011, it was 17.9%. By 2020, it’ll exceed 20%.

Between 1960 and 2009, average annual healthcare spending rose from $147 per person to $8,086. It reflected a 55-fold increase.

In inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars, it increased annually from $1,082 to $8,218 – a 7.6-fold rise.

In 1942, Christ Hospital, NJ charged $7 per day for a maternity room. Today it’s $1,360.

In 1980, a typical US hospital room cost $127. Today it’s multi-fold higher.

A 2011 survey of 11 Ohio hospitals found daily hospital room prices ranged from $688 – $2,425. Cost averaged $1,393. The median price was $1,322.

Obama’s Affordable Care Act promises higher costs. Doing so will deprive growing millions of vitally needed care. Many won’t get any. Others will get much less than needed. Insurers and other predatory giants will game the system.

They’ll charge whatever they wish. Regulatory freedom permits it. They’ll take full advantage.

On February 1, Yves Smith headlined “IRS anticipates Cheapest ObamaCare Family Plan will be $20,000 in 2016.”

It’s the cheapest one for a family of five. At the same time, credits are available for families who “lack affordable coverage.” Whatever is provided won’t match annually rising costs.

ACA was supposed to lower them. Saying so was a Big Lie. Even many supporters are disenchanted. It’s “less of a deal” than they thought.

It wasn’t supposed to be. It was a big win for predatory healthcare giants. It was designed that way.

Former CIGNA vice president Wendell Potter said it shifts costs to consumers, offers inadequate or unaffordable access, and forces Americans to pay higher deductibles for less coverage.

In other words, it scams them. It prevents universal coverage, denies a public option, is unaffordable for millions, excludes many entirely, affords inadequate coverage for many more, permits high co-pays and coverage gaps, and leaves patients vulnerable to financial ruin in case of serious illness.

It allows rising predatory costs. It empowers private insurers. It lets them ripoff hundreds of billions annually for overhead, profit, huge salaries and bonuses. Every dollar scammed is one less for care.

Labor initially endorsed ACA. Cold shower reality “turn(ed some) sour.”

“Union leaders say many (ACA) requirements will drive up costs for their healthcare plans and make unionized workers less competitive.”

They want compensating federal subsidy help for lower-paid rank and file. Smith expects complaints “to get louder” ahead.

ACA “is a gimmie to Big Pharma and the health insurers.” It works for large hospital chains. It exacerbates fundamental problems. It made America’s dysfunctional system worse.

Consumers end up with “costly insurance that does not cover much.” Expensive care will be hard to get or unaffordable. Many of America’s most disadvantaged are left in no-man’s land.

They’ll be be uncovered by federal benefits and ineligible for subsidized insurance. ACA provides 100% of funds to expand Medicaid until 2016. Thereafter, it’s 90%.

Until now, federal funding required state participation. No longer. Millions will be harmed. Many will be left out entirely.

Medicaid expansion provided coverage for around 17 million Americans by 2019. States now can opt out at their discretion.

Opting in assures full federal coverage for three years. At the same time, Congress plans major Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, disability, education, and other social benefits cuts.

Bipartisan complicity assures it. It’s part of their scheme to destroy America’s social contract. ACA is an integral component. Ordinary people should have opposed it when they had a chance. They’ll have cause to reflect when ill.

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

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


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


Generalissima Clinton Expanding the Empire

February 11th, 2013 by Ralph Nader

Hillary Clinton has completed her four-year tenure as Secretary of State to the accolades of both Democratic and Republican Congressional champions of the budget-busting “military-industrial complex,” that President Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address. Behind the public relations sheen, the photo-opportunities with groups of poor people in the developing world, an ever more militarized State Department operated under Clinton’s leadership.

A militarized State Department is more than a repudiation of the Department’s basic charter of 1789, for the then-named Department of Foreign Affairs, which envisioned diplomacy as its mission. Secretary Clinton reveled in tough, belligerent talk and action on her many trips to more than a hundred countries. She would warn or threaten “consequences” on a regular basis. She supported soldiers in Afghanistan, the use of secret Special Forces in other places and “force projection” in East Asia to contain China. She aggressively supported or attacked resistance movements in dictatorships, depending on whether a regime played to Washington’s tune.

Because Defense Secretary Robert Gates was openly cool to the drum beats for war on Libya, Clinton took over and choreographed the NATO ouster of the dictator, Muammar al-Gaddafi, long after he had given up his mass destruction weaponry and was working to re-kindle relations with the U.S. government and global energy corporations. Libya is now in a disastrous warlord state-of-chaos. Many fleeing fighters have moved into Mali, making that vast country into another battlefield drawing U.S. involvement. Blowback!

Time and again, Hillary Clinton’s belligerence exceeded that of Obama’s Secretaries of Defense. From her seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee to her tenure at the State Department, Hillary Clinton sought to prove that she could be just as tough as the militaristic civilian men whose circle she entered. Throughout her four years it was Generalissima Clinton, expanding the American Empire at large.

Here is some of what the candid camera of history will show about her record:

1. A Yale Law School graduate, she shared with President Obama, a former Harvard Law Review President, a shocking disregard for the law and separation of powers be it the Constitution, federal statues or international treaties. Her legal advisor, former Yale Law Dean Harold Koh, provided cover for her and Obama’s “drone ranger” (to use Bill Moyer’s words), John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism advisor. Brennan gave the president weekly opportunities (White House aides called decision day “Terror Tuesdays”) to become secret prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner. Imagine thousands of push-button deaths and injuries of internal resisters and civilian bystanders in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere who presented no threat to the U.S.

The war on Libya, which Clinton spearheaded for Obama, was conducted without a Congressional Declaration of War, without even a War Resolution or a Congressional authorization or appropriation. She and her boss outdid Cheney and Bush on that score.

2. Although touting “diplomacy” as a priority, Clinton made little attempt to bring the United States into the community of nations by signing or ratifying international treaties already having as signatories over a hundred nations. As a former senator with bi-partisan support, Clinton didn’t use much of her capital on climate change agreements.

Human Rights Watch reports that chief among the unratified treaties are “international conventions relating to children, women, persons with disabilities, torture, enforced disappearance, and the use of anti-personal landmines and cluster munitions.” The last two treaties are designed to save thousands of lives and limbs of the children and their parents who are major victims of these concealed, atrocious weapons. Clinton has not gone to bat against the advocates for those “blowback” explosives that the Pentagon still uses.

When the Senate recently failed to ratify the treaty on disabilities, Clinton, with former senator and injured veteran, Robert Dole on her side, still didn’t make the maximum effort of which she is capable.

3. Secretary Clinton had problems heralding accurate whistleblowers. A 24-year-Foreign Service Officer, Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq running two State Department Reconstruction Teams. He exposed State Department waste and mismanagement along with the Pentagon’s “reconstruction” efforts using corporate contractors. Unlistened to, Van Buren, true to his civil service oath of office, went public. Clinton fired him. (wemeantwell.com.)

4. Possibly the most revealing of Clinton’s character was ordering U.S. officials to spy on top UN diplomats, including those from our ally, the United Kingdom. Shockingly, she even ordered her emissaries to obtain DNA data, iris scans (known as biometric data) and fingerprints along with credit card and frequent flier numbers.

The disclosure of secret State Department cables proved this to be a clear violation of the 1946 UN convention. Clinton included in this crude boomeranging personal espionage, the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon and his top officials all around the world. As befits these lawless times, there were no Congressional hearings, no accountabilities, and no resignation by the self-styled civil libertarian Secretary of State, not even a public apology.

5. Clinton led a dangerous expansion of the Department’s mission in Iraq. As reported in the Wall Street Journal on December 10, 2011, “In place of the military, the State Department will assume a new role of unprecedented scale, overseeing a massive diplomatic mission through a network of fortified, self-sufficient installations.”

To call this a diplomatic mission is a stretch. The State Department has hired thousands of private security contractors for armed details and transportation of personnel. Simply guarding the huge U.S. embassy in Iraq and its personnel costs more than $650 million a year – larger than the entire budget of the Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OSHA), which is responsible for reducing the yearly loss of about 58,000 lives in workplace-related traumas and sickness.

Another State Department undertaking is to improve the training and capability of Iraq’s police and armed forces. Countless active and retired Foreign Service officers believe expanded militarization of the State Department both sidelines them, their experience and knowledge, in favor of contractors and military people, and endangers them overseas.

Blurring the distinction between the Pentagon and the State Department in words and deeds seriously compromises Americans engaged in development and diplomatic endeavors. When people in the developing countries see Americans working to advance public health or clean drinking water systems within their countries, they now wonder if these are front activities for spying or undercover penetrations. Violent actions, fueled by this suspicion, are already jeopardizing public health efforts on the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Clinton’s successor, former Senator and war veteran, John Kerry, says he wants to emphasize peace, human rights, and anti-poverty endeavors. He doesn’t have to prove his machismo should he strive to de-militarize the State Department and promote peaceful, deliberative missions in the world, from which true security flows.

The Council of Europe recently released a report that warns that political pressure is being put on Spanish public television broadcasting (Televisión Española, TVE). The report draws attention to similar situations of politics pushing broadcasting in Hungary, Romania, Italy, Serbia and Ukraine. 

It is not the first time that the Council of Europe – an international organization which includes 47 countries around the world and promotes democratic values – criticizes the way that Spanish public television presents the news. The last time  was during the 2004 legislation when the Partido Popular (Popular Party) – the right-wing Spanish party – was governing the state.

Nowadays, to become the president of the public television, the candidate needs the approval of the majority of the Members of the Spanish Parliament.  That was an amendment put in place by the Popular Party in 2012, before then it was necessary to gain the approval of two thirds of the Chamber. Leopoldo Gonzalez Echenique is the current president of TVE, however, he does not have the approval of the official opposition part (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, the left-wing party).

In the report, the broadcasting firm referred to is TVE News. Its current director,Julio Somoano, wrote, interestingly enough, a thesis in 2005 called Estrategia de comunicación para el triunfo del Partido Popular en las próximas elecciones (Communication strategy for the victory of the Popular Party in the next elections).

This seems like far too many coincidences for a public television network that should be an impartial and apolitical media meant to represent all the Spaniards. But the truth is that the Council of Europe is not the first one to denounce this, TVE has received an increasing number of the complaints sent by the anonymous citizens. Some of the more notable situations of misinformation were when this television network did not report on the different rallies against the social cutbacks on the 15th of September 2012. Another example of blatant misinformation was when they decided to ignore the 1,5 million people rally in the streets of Barcelona claiming for the independence of Catalonia and slot them in the fifth position (on 11th of September 2012).

Spain is in a state of extreme economic crisis, extreme social crisis, extreme corruption and, now, the international organisms are alerted by possible political influence in the public media –  you tell me where the good news is.

Drones and Dreams

February 11th, 2013 by John Zogby

We are Americans. Not just a continent, not just a melting pot. We are an idea, a set of dreams built on an idea. Yes, we are also a nation-state with the need and instinct to protect ourselves and our wealth – especially after we have been attacked and must look over our shoulders constantly to prevent the next attack. And, make no mistake about it: it is difficult to feel sorry for someone who threatens us with words and actions. So now it’s Pow! Poof! Gone! Good!

It is also hard to feel badly when a gangster is gunned down or a gang member is stabbed. But we don’t allow our police to do these things with impunity.

Because we are supposed to be different. The use of unmanned drones to commit murder overseas just doesn’t fit into our story. This is just not us. For decades our fictional superheroes have fought crime and always brought criminals to justice. They had superpowers and superior technology at their disposal, but they withheld it. The threat of force was always enough. These supermen and wonder women are our ideals, our prototypes of what people do when they have the power.

My fear of what happens to us by using drones is not ideological. This is neither a liberal nor conservative screed on my part. It is a plea for sanity. I am old enough to remember vividly the heated debates in the summer of 1968 between Gore Vidal on the left and William F. Buckley on the right. The name calling was shameless and they came very close to a fistfight on ABC during the Democratic National Convention. But this time they would be comrades. Vidal’s essays presciently warned about the United States becoming the “national security state” – billions for defense, an impenetrable infrastructure of unsustainable military bases to prop up an economy, the suspension of civil liberties during wars of words. Buckley was a cold warrior – but, importantly, he was first and foremost a libertarian. In his later years he waged campaigns to decriminalize marijuana and to free those wrongly accused of murder.

But what they both agreed upon was that this is America. Our power comes from being an idea that everyone wants. And for those who don’t want it? Freedom as long as they don’t threaten others. And if they do pose a threat? We defeat them with our most powerful weapons: justice in the form of policing, courts, and prison. We have departments of Homeland Security, Defense, intelligence, Justice, after all. And we have the weight of our idea in the world of public opinion.

Let me anticipate some criticism. This is terribly na�ve, some will say. Why should the United States be held to a different standard than anyone else? Answer: Because we are the United States of America and WE created that standard. Sadly, this is what others see and why some (many) resent us. We can drop the higher standard and just be another nation – but then we are not who we say we are.

Then there are a few who will say that I am just a pollster and I should just stick to the numbers. Frankly, I am not entirely sure what the numbers show on the US’ use of drones to kill civilians. But I am also an American and a human being – and an observer. If the numbers disagree with me I have never been afraid to show it.

In this column just a few weeks ago I suggested that President Barack Obama will be revered in history because of the barrier he has broken. Among the worst violators of our civil liberties are men with names like Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. President Harry Truman authorized the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They are among our greatest Presidents and are honored for leadership during wars. Like them, Mr. Obama’s legacy may never be tainted at all.

We have been through this all before. Stunned by the assassination of our 35th President John F. Kennedy, the Senate Special Committee on Assassinations in the mid-70s revealed US complicity in two dozen attempts to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro and even checked out theories of differing pro-Castro and anti-Castro links to the death of JFK. And then there was US complicity in assassinations in Iran, Guatemala, and South Vietnam. These were all during the Cold War and this not a proud moment in our history. That is why the Committee recommended and a Democratic Congress voted to prohibit US involvement in political assassinations. A Republican President signed it. It is the law of the land – and it was the right thing to do.

But now our Justice Department justifies the use of impersonal unmanned drones to kill “suspected” terrorists on the streets of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. It is the wrong thing. It is the wrong message to burgeoning democracies.

It is just not who we are supposed to be.

Trillions for Wars, None For Cancer Stricken Children

February 11th, 2013 by Tony Cartalucci

In “On the Cusp of Ending Big Pharma,” a coming revolution in biology and medicine made possible by a better understanding of genetics and gene therapy was described in detail. Almost as if to validate the premise of having the public begin getting directly involved in not only understanding genetics and gene therapy, but begin building the infrastructure at a local level to pursue research and development, as well as implement eventual techniques and treatments, Philly.com has just recently published a follow up to an incredible story.
 Team cures cancer with innovative treatment, child-patients stuck with staggering bills.


Titled, “Girl’s gene-therapy estimate gives Children’s Hospital a shiner,” the article describes a clinical trial in which gene therapy was used to treat 10 adults and 2 children, most of whom have gone into remission, and the staggering bills the treatment incurred. Charities and insurance assisted at least one patient, while another, a  5 year old Croatian girl, was left with a $837,000 bill.

Medical care is expensive. It requires the absolute cutting edge in technology, skilled doctors and technicians to utilize it in the care of patients, all within an economic paradigm where demand vastly outnumbers supply. What could be done to reduce the disparity between supply and demand? And what can be done until then to ensure people get the absolute best treatment possible? Or should a 5 year old girl perish because she can’t afford experimental treatment when all other options were sure to fail?

Trillions for War

Soldiers fighting the fruitless decade long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t need to buy their own weapons, procure their own transportation to the warzone, buy their own meals, and when they were injured, pay for their own medical treatment. Indeed, these fruitless wars built openly on categorically false premises, were subsidized by trillions of dollars from American tax payers despite the wars having no public support. Since these two fruitless wars sold upon a pack of lies, the United States has conducted combat operations in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Uganda, inside Pakistan, Mali, and covertly in Iran. Again, subsidized by trillions of tax payer dollars.

Image: US Marine Corps General Smedley Butler was a two-time Medal of Honor recipient, and anti-war. He wrote “War is a Racket.”  Despite the torrent of pro-war propaganda we are bombarded with, and all the pretexts and excuses used to sell endless global conflict, it is indeed a racket perpetrated by big-business interests at the rest of humanity’s expense, and has been for a long time.


For unpopular wars fought upon false premises, sold by practiced liars across the corporate media, there seems to be an endless torrent of cash. In turn, this money doesn’t simply go into a fiscal blackhole. Instead, it ends up in the profit margins of Fortune 500 corporations, from the big-defense contractors arming and supplying military operations, to big-oil and construction contractors building in the wake of these operations. It is a well understood racket that casts a dark shadow on Western society and has very real implications for modern human civilization.

Imagine if these trillions instead went somewhere else. Imagine if cancer research and treatment was subsidized with the same impetus as wars of profit. Imagine if improving education, infrastructure, and the means by which we could accelerate medical research and development and thereby reduce the disparity between supply and demand was done with the same fervor we pursue wars abroad.

Our Problem, Our Challenge 

We could hold our breath, march with signs, and continue to vote hoping eventually someone will come to office and fix this perpetual injustice. Or instead, we can realize that our faith and investments in time, money, energy, and attention to this corrupt system is why we have this problem in the first place.

There are several steps we can take now to begin tilting the balance away from the ruling class and their pet projects pursued at our expense and toward the things that really affect us, like our children dying from cancer and medical treatment that is too expensive to afford. And as we take these steps, people should continue fighting for medical care subsidies as a stop gap measure. If there is money for perpetual, unnecessary war, there is money for medical care.

1. Improve Education: Medical treatment is expensive because of immense demand for a small supply of both the technology used to treat people, and the skilled doctors and technicians that use that technology. That technology is in turn scarce, because of the lack of skilled designers and engineers working to develop it.

By improving real, relevant, technical education in the fields of design, engineering, science, and medicine, and by making such an education available to all, would be one step toward increasing the supply versus demand. Online, there are vast resources available for free, from some of the most prestigious universities in the world on subjects ranging from basic math and science, to more specific topics like biology, medicine, genetics, and their applications.

While there is no substitute for a proper medical school education, local organizations called DIYbio labs are springing up around the world and creating an environment where regular people can learn and practice techniques in modern biology, especially in the field of genetics. Just as hackerspaces have begun contributing to, and spinning off into small and medium businesses, while driving the advancement of technology, DIYbio labs can augment the existing medical infrastructure of a given society.

Additionally, people should not abandon efforts to improve traditional education.

2. Build Local Infrastructure: DIYbio labs are one way of bringing medical research and development, however small of a scale it may be on for now, into their local communities. Building up after-school and weekend programs to educate people in basic science and particularly biology, genetics, and medicine helps raise overall awareness of the issues at hand and their possible solutions.

Already, high schools are beginning to participate in MIT’s iGEM competition, an annual synthetic biology event where teams from around the world engineer biological components to solve a specific problem. Schools that become involved in iGem must build up both their physical infrastructure and their human capital to compete, and by doing so, lay the foundation for more permanent and relevant  research and development when they return home.

3. Reclaim Our Institutions: With a well established infrastructure developing both technology and human capital, a community is better positioned not only to understand what state and national institutions are doing in terms of medical research and clinical trials, but are able to partner with them and augment their efforts. Furthermore, a human connection is established between institutions and the people they were designed in the first place to serve.

The day will come where technology makes medical care affordable for all, reducing or eliminating the need to subsidize it. Until that day comes, we must balance our pursuit for “health care policy” with developing real, pragmatic, technical health care progress.


It starts with something as simple as getting a few people around a single table and talking. Identify who may already have an interest in the particular fields you plan on tackling. Look for the nearest local groups already doing this, either as hackerspaces or as DIYbio labs. Look for schools nearby already participating in iGEM and see what you could to to help, or expand on their work.

If you are not interested in medicine, even a standard hackerspace working on a wide range of projects could help build local infrastructure that could be used to help advance DIYbio groups. Biomedical technology is grounded in the same fundamental design principles and manufacturing techniques as any other engineering discipline.

Start or join an after-school program that teaches real skills and practical knowledge to students – including science, math, design, engineering, etc. Look into OpenCourseWare online and raise awareness. Start a blog collecting your favorite courses.

Taking human capital out of the coffers of the ruling class, and placing it back where it belongs, amongst the people from which it was drawn, begins the rebalancing of power, and ends paradigms where trillions can be spend on endless wars of profit, and none is left for cancer-stricken children, even when we’ve developed cures.

The choice is ours, but unlike in faux-democracy, we will have to do more than simply cast a ballot to exercise this choice. It will be daily, patient, sometimes frustrating work to build the infrastructure and human capital we need to rebalance this equation and reclaim our destiny. Self-determination is not a spectator sport, it is something you either do, or do without. Don’t wait for your child to be the one struck by cancer and your family stuck with a million-dollar medical bill – that is – if you are lucky enough to get access to the latest treatment in the first place. Start working now to fix this immense injustice.

American Government Claims Power that Even King George Didn’t Claim
Daniel Ellsberg said this week:

[The indefinite detention provision of the defense bill] allows you to put an American citizen – a civilian – in military custody, treated like Bradley Manning in the marine barracks right now, indefinitely – without charges – that’s not a fight that we had to make in 1776

King George the Third didn’t have the power.  No King of England had that power since John the First.

Indeed, even Hitler and Stalin didn’t claim that power.

Ellsberg continues:

So here we have a president – a democratic president – who’s wiping out the Magna Carta, as well as the Constitution. [Indeed.]


The senators supporting the indefinite detention provisions are well-described as “enemies of the constitution of the United States“.

And I’m afraid that this is true of the [current] president of the United States, having gone along with it … and encouraged it earlier.  [And it's also true for] every senator who voted for it.


Bush, Cheney – in particular – Addington [Cheneys top aide and lawyer] and Rumsfeld … were – and I don’t mean this rhetorically – enemies of the Constitution.

Tens of thousands of Tunisians demonstrated Friday to mourn the death of secularist opposition politician Chokri Belaid and demand the removal of the US-backed Islamist government.

A one-day general strike called by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) shut factories, banks, offices, schools and shops in the capital and other cities, and state-owned Tunis Air cancelled all of its flights. Bus service continued to run, however.

It was the first general strike in Tunisia in 35 years.

Belaid, 48, a leading member of the left-liberal Democratic Patriots’ Movement, one of 12 parties that make up the Popular Front coalition, was shot and killed Wednesday as he left his home in the Jebel al-Jaloud district of Tunis and headed for work. He was gunned down by an assassin who fled on a motorcycle.

While no one has taken credit for the killing, Belaid’s widow accused the Ennahda party government of colluding with far-right Salafists to murder her husband. Belaid had sharply criticized Ennahda, an offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood, for allowing Salafists to attack cinemas, theaters, bars and secularist groups in recent months. He had made known that he was the target of repeated death threats and had requested police protection.

Over 50,000 people gathered near Belaid’s home on Friday and marched to the Jallaz cemetery, where he was buried. They shouted antigovernment and revolutionary slogans such as “The people want a new revolution,” and “The people want the downfall of the regime.”

Mourners also demanded “Bread, freedom and social justice,” one of the main slogans of the 2011 revolution. At the funeral, demonstrators called Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahda, “a butcher and a murderer.”

Ominously, an Ennahda official appearing on Al Jazeera television blamed the violence on “foreign hands” and said, “There are foreign intelligence apparatuses operating in Tunisia.”

Two security helicopters hovered overhead and the regime mobilized the army, rather than the hated security police, to contain the huge march. However, police fired tear gas at protesters on the fringe of the march outside the cemetery, as well as at demonstrators who marched to the Interior Ministry. A ministry spokesperson said the police arrested 150 demonstrators in Tunis.

Police fired tear gas to disperse antigovernment protesters in the southern town of Gafsa, a center of the county’s critical potash mining industry and a stronghold of support for Belaid. In Sousse, protesters demanded the resignation of the provincial governor.

Some 10,000 marched in Sidi Bouzid, the southern town known as the birthplace of the Tunisian revolution. It was there in December of 2010 that Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in protest over the confiscation by police of his vegetable cart. Bouazizi’s death sparked an explosion of mass protests and strikes that could not be contained by the pro-regime UGTT and led to the flight of US–backed dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali the following month.

Just weeks later, revolution broke out in Egypt, leading to the downfall of US- and Israeli-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak. The current eruption in Tunisia, the most widespread since the events of late 2010 and early 2011, occurs just days before the second anniversary of Mubarak’s fall.

Belaid’s murder stunned the country and became the trigger for an explosion of pent-up social anger that had been building since shortly after Ennahda came to power, having polled a plurality of votes in October 2011 elections for a constituent assembly. The source of the anger was not only the government’s use of police repression and Salafist violence against its opponents. More fundamentally, it stemmed from the lack of any relief from the mass unemployment and grinding poverty that had sparked the working-class uprising that toppled Ben Ali just over two years ago.

The Islamist regime in Tunisia, like the Muslim Brotherhood Mursi regime in Egypt, is a bourgeois regime supported by Washington. The Ennahda government backed the US-NATO war for regime-change in Libya. It is currently negotiating the terms of a standby loan with the International Monetary Fund, which will include austerity measures directed against Tunisian workers.

Within hours of news of Belaid’s assassination on Wednesday, barricades went up in Tunis and crowds attacked Ennahda offices in at least 12 cities. On Thursday, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, secretary general of Ennahda, announced on nationwide television that he planned to dissolve his government and replace it with an unelected government of technocrats to rule until parliamentary elections, scheduled for June.

The announcement, intended to calm popular outrage, only fuelled it. Hundreds of youth stormed a police station in the center of Tunis, throwing furniture, files and equipment into the street. The police responded by firing tear gas.

In Gafsa, hundreds of stone-throwing demonstrators confronted riot police firing tear gas. The army was deployed to contain mass protests in Sidi Bouzid.

The crisis of the Tunisian regime was compounded late Thursday when Prime Minister Jebali’s call for a “nonpartisan” and technocratic government was repudiated by his own party. The Ennahda party issued a statement declaring that Tunisia needed a “political government” based on the results of the October 2011 elections.

The same day, four opposition groupings, Belaid’s own Popular Front bloc, the Call for Tunisia party (Nidaa Tounes), the Al Massar party and the Republican Party, announced that they were pulling out of the national constituent assembly and called for a general strike. The UGTT, fearing the mass protests might escalate into a new revolutionary upheaval, announced a one-day general strike for Friday in an attempt to contain the movement.

The Popular Front bloc is led by the Maoist Workers Party, headed by Hamma Hammami. Hammami and his party have long functioned to head off any independent political movement of the working class and keep Tunisian workers tied to liberal and secularist factions of the bourgeoisie. They are playing the same role in the current crisis.

One of the four bourgeois opposition parties to which the Popular Front is allied, Nidaa Tounes (Call for Tunisia), is led by Béji Caid Essebsi, 86, a long-serving official under the dictatorial regimes of Habib Bourguiba and Ben Ali.

On Friday, Prime Minister Jebali repeated his call for a new government in a somewhat altered form. He said he would not require the approval of the constituent assembly and was confident he would have the support of his party because he was not dissolving his government, but merely replacing all of its members. However, he indicated that if his plan were blocked, he would step down as prime minister.

Thursday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s nominee for director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, provided a revealing and grim spectacle of the disintegration of what remains of democratic rights in the United States.

Some press accounts of the hearing have referred to Brennan being “grilled” on the US drone assassination program. On the contrary, the proceedings resembled nothing so much as a well-fed cat being questioned by a panel of skittish mice.

Brennan came as the representative of those within the US military-intelligence apparatus entrusted with defending the ruling class by means of killings, detentions and torture. As Obama’s counterterrorism adviser and the architect and director of an assassination program run out of the White House, he has presided over an unprecedented expansion of executive power and assault on core constitutional rights.

One senator after another, Democrats no less than Republicans, fawned over Brennan, declaring their admiration and gratitude for the bloody work of the CIA and their eager anticipation of confirming him as CIA director and working closely with him in the near future. None of them directly challenged the assertion of the most sweeping of the extra-constitutional powers with which he is identified—the power of the president of the United States to unilaterally and secretly order the assassination of American citizens.

Among those who expressed certain qualms about this system of extra-judicial executions was Senator Angus King of Maine, who helpfully suggested that a star chamber-style secret court be set up to rubber stamp and sanctify the White House’s “kill lists.”

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon—in the context of present day US politics the most “liberal” member of the Senate intelligence panel—merely pleaded with Brennan for more public information on the drone assassination program. “Americans have a right to know when their government thinks it’s allowed to kill them,” he declared.

Contained in this statement is the tacit recognition that the rights enumerated in the US Constitution, including the 5th Amendment’s guarantee that no one “shall be deprived of life … without due process,” have been turned into a dead letter.

Wyden went on to ask for clarification as to whether the administration believes that the president can use this authority inside the United States. Brennan’s response omitted any assurance that American citizens will not be secretly murdered on US soil. Instead, he cryptically asserted his determination to “optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time, optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security.” Neither Wyden nor anyone else on the Senate committee attempted to probe further.

With this chilling exchange, the threat of a US police state dictatorship comes clearly into view. Brennan will not disavow the president’s “right” to secretly murder US citizens on American soil, because such methods may prove necessary, ostensibly for the struggle against “terrorism” and in defense of “national security.”

After all, they proved to be so in other countries. Obama and Brennan did not invent the methods of secret “kill lists” and covert assassinations. They were employed on an industrial scale less than four decades ago in the Chile of General Augusto Pinochet and the Argentina of General Jorge Videla.

There, military and intelligence officials, most of them trained in the US, drew up kill lists of tens of thousands of their own citizens and carried out their assassinations. They also acted in the name of a struggle against “terrorism” and in defense of “national security,” but had the real aim of crushing the resistance of the working class.

Workers, students, peasants, intellectuals and anyone perceived to be a potential enemy of the state were rounded up by death squads, tortured and killed in secret prisons or thrown alive from airplanes into the sea. Like Mr. Brennan, the officials of the Argentine and Chilean dictatorships refused to acknowledge any role in these state killings, leaving their victims to be counted among the “disappeared.”

Those comforting themselves with the old adage, “It can’t happen here,” should think again. The lurch to the right by the entire American political establishment and its irrevocable break with the democratic principles enunciated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are very far advanced.

Less than 40 years ago, a special Senate committee headed by Idaho Senator Frank Church did grill top CIA officials on covert assassinations, denouncing the agency for the practice and introducing a law against it. Even Republican President Gerald Ford was compelled to declare that his administration “does not condone under any circumstances any assassination attempts,” and to “condemn any CIA involvement” in “assassination planning.”

While no doubt the US government and its spy agency continued to carry out crimes in subsequent years, support for bourgeois democratic forms of rule within the political establishment remained sufficiently strong to force the government to officially reject assassination as state policy.

Just four years ago, Brennan’s involvement as a top CIA official under the Bush administration in the crimes of torture, extraordinary rendition and secret CIA “black sites” made it impossible for Obama to nominate him as CIA director. Now, not only are those crimes forgiven, but the even more serious ones involved in the drone assassination program go unchallenged.

We have already seen in the past few years anti-terror laws invoked against domestic protesters and dissidents, from the arrest of five men last May in Chicago on “conspiracy to commit terrorism” charges for their involvement in anti-NATO protests, to the revelation that the FBI carried out a nationwide investigation treating the Occupy Wall Street protests as “domestic terrorism.”

Driving the turn towards methods associated with police state dictatorships are deep-going changes in the structure of American society. The vast and ever-widening chasm between the billionaires and multi-millionaires who control economic and political life and working people, the great majority of the population, is incompatible with democracy.

This is ultimately what explains the complicity of the Obama administration, Congress, both major parties and the mass media in the drone assassination program. America’s ruling oligarchy realizes that deepening social polarization and the protracted economic crisis are creating conditions for social upheavals, and is preparing accordingly.

The working class must make its own preparations for the revolutionary battles that are to come.

Obama’s Shakedown of Medicare

February 10th, 2013 by Shamus Cooke

In a political era of corporate dominance it was inevitable that doublespeak would become the official language of Washington, DC. Now “cuts” to social programs are referred to as “savings,” while the destruction of these programs is “reform.” This is the essence of President Obama’s doublespeakish “Race to the Top” public education “reform,” as well as his yet-to-be-announced deficit plan based on Medicare “savings.”   

The Medicare cuts are part of a larger “reform” of health care in the United States, which ultimately serves to shift the cost of health care off the backs of corporations, placing the burden firmly on the shoulders of working people.

The main reason that health care reform became a national priority for Obama is because it was a priority for big business: corporations have long complained that their employee health care costs were too high. And they’ve always hated paying payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. Obama has responded gallantly to these grievances, as he did to the banks when they demanded to be bailed out with taxpayer money.

Obama has remained mostly quiet about his Medicare plans, but has stated repeatedly ” all options are on the table” (his favorite Bushism). The secretiveness is based on the unpopularity of the options, all of which have already been openly discussed in the media in the last two years of bi-partisan “Grand Bargain” haggling.

The Washington Post recently reported:

“Obama said that he is committed to a broad effort [a grand bargain] to restrain the national debt and that past White House proposals to rein in Medicare costs… “are still very much on the table” as part of that effort” (02-05-13).
When Obama says “still on the table” he’s referring to the January 1st fiscal cliff “crisis,” where Medicare cuts were being considered — along with Social Security cuts — as part of a Grand Bargain deal.

The reason that Obama delayed the Medicare cuts is because he’s smart; better to first pose as the anti-corporate crusader by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire (which would have automatically expired in his first term had he not extended them). Now, Obama plans to pose as the “balanced” voice of reason, by balancing the national debt on the backs of working and retired people.

The most commonly discussed Medicare reform — among Republicans and Democrats — is raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. Such a drastic move would likely be phased in 10 years down the road, so that those approaching 65 don’t burn down the White House in response.

Where will the future Medicare-less 65-year-old’s go? They’ll remain captive to the insurance companies of course, at much greater expense to them and the rest of society, since Medicare costs are profoundly cheaper than the private sector that Obama has enshrined in his Obamacare policies.

Other possible attacks on Medicare include the innocuous sounding “means testing,” which at first appears as a well reasoned progressive tax on wealthier Medicare recipients.  However, as a study by the Kaiser Foundation concluded, such a policy would likely create a mass exodus from Medicare into the private healthcare field for higher income individuals.

Aside from lining the pockets of the healthcare corporations, such a Medicare exodus would also raise the Medicare premiums for everyone else, while destroying Medicare’s universal status — the basis for its effectiveness. The right wing has long sought for ways to create private “individual accounts” for Social Security and Medicare, since breaking people away from participation in a popular single system is the best way to fragment it, and ultimately destroy it.

And while raising the Medicare eligibility age and “means testing” would both immensely benefit corporations, this consciously pro-corporate policy began with Obamacare. Although Obamacare was applauded for expanding Medicaid nationally — a state administered program — the state level austerity cuts have reduced Medicaid to a second rate health care service, which promises to further degenerate as the state-level austerity crisis grinds on.

Less advertised was Obamacare’s Medicare “savings” [cuts] in the hundreds of millions of dollars, by singling out the Medicare Advantage program for hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts, while also reducing payments to Medicare contractors by hundreds of millions of dollars (hospitals, clinics, etc).

Of course hospitals simply shift this cost burden onto the patients, who receive less care, while giving doctors greater incentive not to see Medicare patients. As Medicare is steadily defunded, a two-tier healthcare system is created, where wealthier seniors will opt for private insurance while the rest will get second rate treatment, undermining the popularity and universality of Medicare, and thus making it more vulnerable to further cuts.

Obamacare will also levy a heavy tax on employers who actually give their employees good health care, thus discouraging the practice. For workers with union contracts, this tax will give employers leverage over the unions to make deep cuts in health care benefits, or end them completely. For non-union workers, employers are using Obamacare as an excuse simply to drop their employer-based health insurance, leaving workers to fend for themselves in the private realm.

The fact that Obamacare gives employers a strong incentive to weaken their employees health care plan is not an accident, but a key provision in the plan that will fundamentally change health care in a negative way for millions of people, and who will then be mandated to buy shoddy insurance for themselves. Corporations will thus save billions of dollars, while the health care corporations will have tens of millions of new paying customers, Obamacare’s real intention.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that at least 7 million people will be dropped from their employer health plan because of Obamacare, but the CBO also said that the figure could well rise to 20 million. Of course employers will take advantage of Obamacare to shift the cost of health care onto individuals, in the same way that employers shifted away from defined pension plans and onto the 401(k) scheme. Several employer surveys have reported that companies plan to dump their employee health care plans by the millions.

The attack on Medicare and health care in general is consistent with the many other attacks against the living standards of working people, including wages and benefits, safety net programs, full time employment, privatization of the public sector, etc.

Corporations benefit from all of these policies. High unemployment allows them to leverage lower wages, which create higher profits. The destruction of social programs and the broader public sector means lower taxes for the wealthy and corporations, who’d rather they fund private services explicitly for them and their rich friends.

All of these policies are “good for the economy” of the 1%, since the economy is dominated by the big banks and other corporations, who are strip mining the public sector for any bit of profitable morsel, and will continue to do so until they are stopped by a united effort of labor, community, and student groups demanding health care and jobs for all, to be paid for by the 1%.

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


It’s one of those stories that you had to listen twice when you heard the report on the radio, and then, still in a state of suspended disbelief, I rushed to the internet to check and see if indeed it was the case. With the good news, I could just about hear a faint pulse of the American heart beating again.

It’s safe to assume that after this week’s developments, corporate lobbyists, politicians, bureaucrats at the DHS, county sheriffs, city police – and maybe The President perhaps… should at least know by now – that Americans  do not want drones flying over their cities and towns. A wave of resistance is currently building…

In Seattle, where residents laid seige to the Seattle Police Department’s plans to use surveillance drones, it appears that following Wednesday night’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee hearing  - the program has been scrapped.

Washington residents take away expensive new police toys.

This news comes on the back of a week of controversy surrounding Obama’s CIA Director nominee, John O. Brennan, seen by many as a pioneer of sorts in the field of US military secret drone assassinations. This has presented an ethical dilemma for President Obama, who ascended to power on a liberal PR wave which is fundamentally at odds with this level of anti-constitutional and illegal policy.

Obama himself signed the bill in early 2012 that enabled some 30,000 drones in the domestic US, to be operated by the Department of Homeland Security and local police departments, Seattle being one such city scheduled for adoption of a junior ‘Skynet’ beta program.

Make no mistake about it – there is an Washington DC-based agenda to roll out drones all over the country. Seattle’s Police Department had obtained these two small drones through a federal grant. 

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn explained:

Today I spoke with Seattle Police Chief John Diaz and we agreed that it was time to end the unmanned aerial vehicle program so that SPD can focus its resources on public safety and the community building work that is the department’s priority. (They) will be returned to the vendor.

Public protesters gathered in for the October public meeting on the city’s new drone program, which prompted police to quickly retreat on the issue:

The testimony opposing drones has been overwhelmingly clear that the 11 people who testified this afternoon, all of whom testified against the use of drones, was symbolic of the general reaction we are getting,” said Chairman Bruce Harrell.

Compared to other direct actions, this was a relatively modest effort, which should encourage other citizen groups keeping the encroaching police state at bay – for now at least. Mia Jacobson who represents the citizen group StandUP explains, “If 11 voices can protect the people from flying government robots watching their every move – what can 20 voices do? What can your voice accomplish?”.

In addition to Seattle, the city of Charlottesville, Va., also rejected drones by ordering a two-year moratorium on their use thanks to The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group.

According to FOX news: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security drones do enter Washington State airspace occasionally, patrolling the Canadian border east of the Cascade mountains. The two 10,000-pound Predator-B unmanned aircraft are based in North Dakota.

Back on Pennsylvania Ave, Sen. Diane Feinstein who was chairing Obama’s CIA directorate confirmation hearings for drone-master John Brennan, came under some similar pressure from crowds of protesters, some of whom were ‘Code Pink’ anti-war demonstrators who were able to ‘gatecrash’ the DC venue. Brennan defended US state-sponsored murders by unmanned drones abroad by claiming that drone strikes are used only against targets ‘planning to carry out attacks against the United States’, completely missing out on the extrajudicial nature of the killings (including an estimated 100 children) which is actually causing the whole controversy. Back to square one…

On February 8 in Tunisia a general strike and mass demonstrations marked the response by the youth and workers to the assassination of opposition organizer Chokri Belaid. Over two years after the rebellions and strikes that initiated the upheavals throughout the region of North Africa and the Middle East, the struggle for political democracy and economic renewal is by no means resolved.

Chokri Belaid had been a staunch critic of the current ruling Ennahda Party, a moderate Islamist organization which won the largest bloc of votes during the national elections which were held in the aftermath of the overthrow of former President Zine Abidine Ben Ali, who fled the country on January 14, 2011 amid a national rebellion against a dictatorship designed to uphold the neo-colonial system of foreign dominance by France and the United States.

At the funeral of Belaid, the security forces used teargas to break up demonstrations in Tunis, the capital. Protests took place in other cities throughout the country coupled with a general strike led by the main workers’ organization the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) which was founded in January of 1946.

Demonstrations had been taking place since the assassination of Belaid on February 6. The nation was shocked by the murder, which many people have blamed on the operatives of the main Ennahda Party.

Various activists throughout the country have repeatedly stated that an atmosphere of political intolerance has taken hold in Tunisia. Belaid had been accused by the ruling Ennahda Party of fomenting unrest through his speeches which were highly critical of the government.

Belaid through his political critiques against the ruling party was held responsible for the discontent that is spreading throughout Tunisia in Gafsa, Kasserine, Siliana and in SidiBouzid, where the uprising began on December 17, 2010 that spread throughout the country.In the evening before his assassination, he appeared on Nessma TV where he discussed state-sanctioned violence and political assassination.

Events in Tunisia Can Not Be Viewed Independently of Egypt and Other Regional Developments

Also in the North African state of Egypt, unrest has been resurfacing on a mass level since the second anniversary of the January 25, 2011 uprising. In Egypt, simmering resentment over the rushed draft constitutional process during late 2012 remains where the secular and other opposition forces are enraged over the failure of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) government to live up to the ideals of the revolutionary struggle.

During 2011 in Egypt, the slogan “Freedom, Bread and Social Justice” rang out across the country of some 80 million people. Two years later, the same slogans have been raised again as dozens have been killed in Egypt since January 25, and the government of President Mohamed Morsi’s offers of national dialogue has been treated with profound skepticism.

The National Salvation Front (NSF), composed of a myriad of liberal, nationalist, socialist and anarchist organizations and political parties, has formed the opposition to the FJP government. The NSF is by no means a uniform coalition with some groups calling for the resignation or forced removal of the Muslim Brotherhood government of the FJP while others are demanding the formation of a coalition government and the repeal of the recently adopted constitution that was largely drawn up by the Islamist forces of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, many of whom are represented by the Al Nour Party.

Demonstrations also took place on February 8 throughout Egypt as well. In Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, the Delta cities as well as other regions of the country, people went into the streets raising slogans that seek the realization of genuine national liberation and social justice. Clashes between security forces and the demonstrators resulted in scores of injuries.

Although the demonstrations in many parts of the country began peacefully, the security forces provoked violence and consequently moved to clear the streets of protesters. Morsi claims that he is sincere about reconciling the interests of the FJP with those of the NSF. Nonetheless, he has at the same time ordered the security forces to take repressive measures against the masses.

In Egypt activists are also concerned about the rising tide of political assassination. The killing of many protesters in recent weeks has not been seriously addressed by the FJP government.

An Egyptian cleric issued a fatwa saying it was proper to assassinate opponents of the FJP government. Such proclamations cannot create a political atmosphere that is conducive for the reconciliation between the Islamists and the more secular coalitions and parties.

The various political parties and coalitions in both Egypt and Tunisia are reflective of a broader set of national and class dynamics in these respective states and throughout Africa and the Middle East. Both regions are still dominated by imperialism and absent of a struggle to break free of the strangleholds of the Pentagon, NATO, the transnational corporations and banks along with the refusal to directly confront the State of Israel, events cannot hope to bring about the alleviation  of the suffering of the workers, farmers and youth.

Neo-Colonialism and the Struggle Against Imperialism

There can be no genuine revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia or any other state within Africa and the Middle East without a protracted fight against the West and its institutions which bolster the State of Israel and other client regimes in regions. These individual states are largely the creation of European colonialism and modern day neo-colonialism headed by the U.S.

With this year being the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) it is instructive to examine where Africa has come since that fateful inaugural meeting in Ethiopia on May 25, 1963. The African Union(AU), the successor to the OAU, met recently at its headquarters in Addis Ababa.

This summit of the AU was taking place amid not only the renewed upsurge in mass demonstrations and repression in Egypt but also the French imperialist bombing and ground invasion of Mali and the spreading of the residual impact of this onslaught into both neighboring Algeria and Niger. The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the French military, Britain, Canada and other NATO states are involved in the war against Mali under the guise of fighting “Islamic terrorism.”

Despite these momentous political and military challenges which pose a direct threat to the national and regional security of Africa, very little was said of these developments in the official documents of the AU. With the formation of AFRICOM and its established relations with various African states and military units, the actual security situations of these governments have been further weakened.

In Mali, the AFRICOM structures trained, coordinated and directly supported monetarily the military within this West African state. Nonetheless, these actions on the part of the Pentagon objectively weakened the national security capacity of Mali to deal with an internal conflict in the north of the country.

The democratically-elected government of President AmadouToumaniToure was actually overthrown by a U.S.-trained officer Capt. AmadouSanogo. Even after the overthrow of President Toure, the Pentagon-trained junta never entered the battle against the Tuareg separatists or the Islamists who took over the north of the country.

In fact the destabilization of northern Mali was directly related to the U.S.-NATO war against the Jamahiriya in neighboring Libya under the leadership of the martyred Col. Muammar Gaddafi. The bombing of Libya and the training and deployment of thousands of rebel fighters into Libya created mass dislocations both internally and externally.

The destruction of Libya of course was never opposed by the so-called revolutionary groups inside Egypt and Tunisia. The failure to recognize within these political processes that the blanket bombing of a regional state is directly related to the revolutionary trajectory of all neighboring  countries, is representative of a profound weakness in regard to political consciousness and strategic outlooks of the existing movements.

AFRICOM’s strategy on the continent is designed to develop relationships on a bi-lateral level. What is needed is for Africa and the Middle East to reject any involvement with AFRICOM on principle based upon the impact of the Pentagon’s interference in the internal affairs of African and Middle Eastern nations.

This same axiom is further reinforced by a cursory examination of the situation in Syria. Damascus is under direct threat by a U.S.-NATO-backed insurgency that is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Syrians.

Patriot missiles have been placed on the border between Turkey and Syria in an effort to further pressure the government of President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power to the western-backed rebels and their political component. The existing division within the regional states over the situation in Syria is strengthening imperialism in its quest to conquer and dominate all states throughout the Middle East and Africa.

Consequently, as part of this process of encirclement and regime-change, the Israeli Defense Forces can carry out bombing operations against Syria. Israel can also erect a fence on the occupied territory of the Golan Heights as a means of increasing pressure aimed at the fall of the legitimate and internationally-recognized government of the Syrian state.

Nkrumah wrote in his book entitled, “Africa Must Unite,” published at the founding of the OAU in 1963, that “A united Africa would be able to make a greater contribution towards the peace and progress of mankind (humanity). For one thing, it would resolve the problems of those arbitrary frontiers erected by the colonial powers, and so eliminate irredentist dissensions.” (p. 202)

This same book goes on to point out that under a united anti-imperialist continent, and similar Middle East, “There would be no foreign military bases on African soil. With a united foreign policy and a common defense plan, there would be no need for them. In the concourse of African union, no African country would be left in a position of solitary weakness in which it could be bullied into allowing them.” (p. 202)

Nkrumah continues noting that “Any kind of military pacts or alliances with outside powers would be unnecessary. Our united strength would be sufficient to deter any would-be aggressor, since an attack on any African country would be regarded as an attack on the Union.” (p. 203)

With specific reference to Paris in the early 1960s, Nkrumah says “I do not imagine that France would have dared to attack Bizerta if we had been united. Nor would she explode atomic bombs in the Sahara in spite of urgent and repeated African objections.” (p. 203)

Therefore, the lack of a regional Pan-African outlook will only further subject the continent to imperialist intervention and destabilization. The current struggles in Egypt and Tunisia must take these historical lessons into consideration in order to enhance the capacity of the masses to achieve the objectives that will create the conditions for genuine political and economic independence.