There is one video Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, must be praying never gets posted on YouTube with English subtitles. To date, the 10-minute segment has been broadcast only in Hebrew on Israel’s Channel 10.
 
Its contents, however, threaten to gravely embarrass not only Mr Netanyahu but also the US administration of Barack Obama.
 
The film was shot, apparently without Mr Netanyahu’s knowledge, nine years ago, when the government of Ariel Sharon had started reinvading the main cities of the West Bank to crush Palestinian resistance in the early stages of the second intifada.
 
At the time Mr Netanyahu had taken a short break from politics but was soon to join Mr Sharon’s government as finance minister.
 
On a visit to a home in the settlement of Ofra in the West Bank to pay condolences to the family of a man killed in a Palestinian shooting attack, he makes a series of unguarded admissions about his first period as prime minister, from 1996 to 1999.
 
Seated on a sofa in the house, he tells the family that he deceived the US president of the time, Bill Clinton, into believing he was helping implement the Oslo accords, the US-sponsored peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, by making minor withdrawals from the West Bank while actually entrenching the occupation. He boasts that he thereby destroyed the Oslo process.
 
He dismisses the US as “easily moved to the right direction” and calls high levels of popular American support for Israel “absurd”.
 
He also suggests that, far from being defensive, Israel’s harsh military repression of the Palestinian uprising was designed chiefly to crush the Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat so that it could be made more pliable for Israeli diktats.
 
All of these claims have obvious parallels with the current situation, when Mr Netanyahu is again Israel’s prime minister facing off with a White House trying to draw him into a peace process that runs counter to his political agenda.
 
As before, he has ostensibly made public concessions to the US administration — chiefly by agreeing in principle to the creation of a Palestinian state, consenting to indirect talks with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, and implementing a temporary freeze on settlement building.
 
But he has also enlisted the powerful pro-Israel lobby to exert pressure on the White House, which appears to have relented on its most important stipulations.
 
The contemptuous view of Washington Mr Netanyahu demonstrates in the film will confirm the suspicions of many observers — including Palestinian leaders — that his current professions of good faith should not be taken seriously.
 
Critics have already pointed out that his gestures have been extracted only after heavy arm-twisting from the US administration.
 
More significantly, he has so far avoided engaging meaningfully in the limited talks the White House is promoting with the Palestinians while the pace of settlement building in the West Bank has been barely affected by the 10-month freeze, due to end in September.
 
In the meantime, planning officials have repeatedly approved large new housing projects in East Jerusalem and the West Bank that have undercut the negotiations and will make the establishment of a Palestinian state — viable or otherwise — far less likely.
 
Writing in the liberal Haaretz newspaper, the columnist Gideon Levy called the video “outrageous”. He said it proved that Mr Netanyahu was a “con artist … who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes”. He added that the prime minister had not reformed in the intervening period: “Such a crooked way of thinking does not change over the years.”
 
In the film, Mr Netanyahu says Israel must inflict “blows [on the Palestinians] that are so painful the price will be too heavy to be borne … A broad attack on the Palestinian Authority, to bring them to the point of being afraid that everything is collapsing”.
 
When asked if the US will object, he responds: “America is something that can be easily moved. Moved to the right direction … They won’t get in our way … Eighty per cent of the Americans support us. It’s absurd.”
 
He then recounts how he dealt with President Clinton, whom he refers to as “extremely pro-Palestinian”. “I wasn’t afraid to manoeuvre there. I was not afraid to clash with Clinton.”
 
His approach to White House demands to withdraw from Palestinian territory under the Oslo accords, he says, drew on his grandfather’s philosophy: “It would be better to give two per cent than to give 100 per cent.”
 
He therefore signed the 1997 agreement to pull the Israeli army back from much of Hebron, the last Palestinian city under direct occupation, as a way to avoid conceding more territory.
 
“The trick,” he says, “is not to be there [in the occupied territories] and be broken; the trick is to be there and pay a minimal price.”
 
The “trick” that stopped further withdrawals, Mr Netanyahu adds, was to redefine what parts of the occupied territories counted as a “specified military site” under the Oslo accords. He wanted the White House to approve in writing the classification of the Jordan Valley, a large area of the West Bank, as such a military site.
 
“Now, they did not want to give me that letter, so I did not give [them] the Hebron Agreement. I stopped the government meeting, I said: ‘I’m not signing.’ Only when the letter came … did I sign the Hebron Agreement. Why does this matter? Because at that moment I actually stopped the Oslo accords.”
 
Last week, after meeting Mr Obama in Washington, the Israeli prime minister gave an interview to Fox News in which he appeared to be in no hurry to make concessions: “Can we have a negotiated peace? Yes. Can it be implemented by 2012? I think it’s going to take longer than that,” he said.
 
There must be at least a very strong suspicion that Mr Netanyahu is as firmly committed today as he was then to destroying any chance of peace with the Palestinians.
 
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
 
A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.
 

From 1991 to 2003, hundreds of thousands of our bravest men and women sought help from the Veterans Administration, from the Defense Department, from the White House, all to no avail. The official word was that Gulf War Syndrome did not exist. So they suffered in silence. Tens of thousands died from these conditions. Many lost their homes because of the high costs to pay for medical care themselves. Independent investigations, including those conducted by many of the Gulf War veterans themselves, showed multiple causes behind Gulf War Syndrome, including experimental vaccines, exposure to depleted uranium (DU), and toxicity from biological and chemical weapons, oil fires and other environmental contaminants.

The current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are manifesting with an entirely new series of physical and mental illnesses and diseases. Some are being recognized, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but many others are not. Hundreds of thousands of our veterans are living in destitution, are incarcerated, have attempted or committed suicide, and can no longer fit into a normal family life. And yet the government once again, as it did to previous Gulf War vets, turns its backs on them. This is an American tragedy, and that is where our story begins. 
 
American troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq are sinking ever lower into the abyss of the lost and forgotten. Severe depression, confusion and an existential lack of purpose swarms across our armed forces and our government barely notices. We are witnessing annual illness increases in practically every category of physical, emotional and mental health: physical combat injuries, PTSD, brain trauma and depression, impaired immune systems, common and rare cancers, diabetes, reproductive disorders, a wide variety of inflammatory conditions among many other ailments. Over-extended and multiple deployments are shattering soldiers’ and veterans’ lives. The fabric of their social relationships is rapidly deteriorating. Divorce rates and broken homes are commonplace, and a homeward bound ticket is only an assurance many will return as damaged goods, courtesy of our government’s negligence and disregard for human health. 

And upon their return to Kansas, away from America’s killing fields in the Middle East, there awaits an economy in collapse under the weight of astronomical federal debt and corporate greed, recessionary unemployment and rising homelessness, hungry children and rampant poverty, and now a new American culture every bit as disoriented and fearful about its future. 

Welcome to America’s brave new world of global PTSD!

The Middle East: Healthy In, Broken Out

Before the Vietnam War, the severe psychological conditions warriors’ and soldiers’ experienced on the battlefield went under a variety of names: war neurosis, combat fatigue, neurasthenia, shell shock and others. Today these psychological states have been tossed under the umbrella term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and although GIs are screened to assure mental vitality and stability before deploying into combat, we are experiencing record numbers of servicemen and women returning emotionally and mentally impaired. During no other war, including Vietnam, are GIs as psychically damaged as those now serving and returning from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.  If a veteran does not already experience symptoms of PTSD or any one of a number of neurological and emotional illnesses, he or she will very likely do so in the future. The DoD medical authorities are ambiguous regarding the reasons for the rising statistics. It has even required the creation of new disorders, like Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder, to reflect mental conditions specific to the current wars, such as those related to duress from two or more extended deployments.  
It appears odd that many vets being diagnosed for PTSD, depression and other mental impairments never experienced direct combat. Yet all deployed troops to Afghanistan and Iraq share one thing in common. They have all stood on Middle Eastern soil and breathed and lived in its highly toxic and chemically contaminated environment.

Testimonies from DoD health officials about the rate of serious mental impairment among active-duty GIs and veterans are contradictory. The Army’s top psychiatrist, Brig. General Loree Sutton told Congress that about 17 percent of our troops are on psychiatric medications. However, in later interviews she reduced her estimate substantially to 2-4 percent.[1] Other military officials tout other conflicting numbers giving a clear message that either the military is clueless about the seriousness of mental illness among our troops, or is having one hell of a time keeping their lies in order. As this investigation will outline, there is far greater reason to suspect intentional deception on the DoD’s behalf rather than assume the upper echelons of our military’s health institutions are simply fools unqualified in their roles to oversee the health and well being of our armed forces. 

Independent research places the military’s mental health figures much higher. The June 2010 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry published a study of 18,300 Army soldiers screened at 3 and 12 month intervals following deployment in Iraq. The study found that using “the least stringent definition” for PTSD, rates now range between 20 and 30 percent, and depression rates are at 11.5 and 16 percent.[2] Together this accounts for almost a third of our troops now suffering serious functional mental impairment. 

Surprising, the Rand Corporation’s own analysis—surprisingly, because Rand has for many years been little more than an obedient lapdog for the Pentagon’s bidding in churning out confounded research and statistics for disreputable motives—conforms closely with the independent study’s results. According to Rand’s 2008 analysis, 300,000 soldiers returning from the Middle East campaigns will experience PTSD and an additional 320,000 will suffer traumatic brain injuries.”[3] 

All attempts to conduct accurate analysis is compounded because “the Veterans Health Administration systematically delays and denies sick veterans medical care and masks it with bogus documentation,” according to an investigation conducted by Nora Eisenberg at City University of New York.  In a leaked internal memo from the Deputy Undersecretary for Health Operations and Management, William Schoenhard, the VA is gaming the system thus “diminishing patient [veteran] access to treatment.”[4] There are many thousands of veterans waiting as much as a year to receive diagnosis and treatment for a large variety of physical and mental illnesses. As a consequence, any health statistics for veterans released by the government and military are skewed and grossly underestimate the gravity of veterans’ plight.

As of the final quarter of 2009, over 537,000 among the 2.04 million veterans who have served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) have sought healthcare from VA facilities. These veterans account for approximately 9 percent of the total 5.7 million Veteran Affairs patient population for all wars and years. According to the Armed Force Health Surveillance Center, veterans with VA healthcare access represent only 28% of all OEF/OIF veterans.[5]  Many veterans, such as those serving in the National Guard and many Reservists, which number almost half of all deployed military personnel, do not have VA benefits. Their health conditions remain outside of the VA’s monitoring capabilities.

According to Veterans for Common Sense, veteran medical facilities receive 9,000 new patients per month, 1 new active duty or veteran patient every 5 minutes.[6] A recent article in the Los Angeles Times reports that these figures reflect a far more realistic picture of the casualty figures resulting from America’s combat escapades in the Middle East.[7] The three most common diagnoses are musculoskeletal ailments (joint and spine disorders), mental illness, and a category of 160 ill-defined abnormalities that allude specific diagnosis known as “Symptoms, Signs and Ill-Defined Conditions.” These conditions comprise 52 percent, 48 percent and 46 percent respectively for the over half million OEF and OIF vets in the latest VA health care utilization report.[8] Although no less than 244,000 veterans have been diagnosed with a mental illness and an additional 144,000 with PTSD,[9] the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration are making every effort to limit cases of PTSD to behavioral diagnosis and to keep it distant from the far greater health threat of environmental toxins permeating the Afghanistan and Iraqi landscapes.

The fumes of cover-ups and scandals arise when we repeatedly hear the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs agencies refusing to acknowledge potential organic causes, for example, the long-term exposure to neurological toxic chemicals and heavy metal particles, such as depleted uranium (DU), strewn by the winds over the sands of Afghanistan and Iraq, for PTSD and other common mental illnesses. Active and non-active duty persons visiting VA clinics and hospitals for mental and emotional complaints are not tested for any chemical toxicity that might be interfering with normal brain function.  Because the DoD and VA refuse to associate DU poisoning as a possible cause behind the onset of PTSD, and continues to propagandize the safety of depleted uranium, such testing is discerned to be unwarranted. 

In the meantime, the military and VA clinics have succeeded in building a medical assembly, a flowing treadmill pushing through soldiers and veterans from short standardized examination to an arrow pointing the way to the pharmacy.

Homeward Bound to Nothing

The nation’s dire recession and lack of jobs is one significant contributor to rising homeless among veterans.  As of March 2010, veterans from the OEF and OIF campaigns officially faced a 14.7 unemployment rate, 5 points above the Department of Labor’s estimated national average.[10] However, actual unemployment statistics repeatedly show almost a doubling of national unemployment after hidden populations of those no longer receiving benefits, unqualified to receive benefits, or people holding down minimum wage part-time jobs are accounted for; therefore we can realistically predict over a quarter of vets are now unemployed.  A National Alliance to End Homelessness study calculated one out of four veterans are homeless.[11]  The National Coalition for the Homeless figures are still greater at 33 percent and 1.5 million veterans are now at high-risk to become homeless “due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.”[12]  What is absent from these equations is the large number of veterans physically and/or mentally incapable of seeking and holding a job. 

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs estimates 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night;[13] however, more independent analysis shows the figure can be as high as 300,000,[14] and upwards to 840,000 veterans will experience homelessness during the course of a year. But the actual number is certainly higher. Incidences of AWOL are increasing as more and more OEF and OIF soldiers run away from redeployment, often to seek reliable treatment for PTSD and mental illnesses the military ignores in order to sustain troop levels in combat zones. Homelessness then becomes a viable option to avoid capture.

The majority of homeless veterans now suffer from some type of mental illness, including PTSD, and about 76 percent are struggling with substance abuse. In a report found in the September 2009 issue of Management Science, the journal of the Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences, a minimum of 35% returning Iraq vets are anticipated to have PTSD.  The VA system is unable to meet the demand, and there is a backlog of over 1 million and rising claims for Veteran Benefits.[15]  Yet even when claims are met, the standard compensation for a positive PTSD diagnosis is only $67 a month and free medications. 

Veterans Affairs claims 97 percent of homeless vets are men, however, a separate report from the National Coalition for the Homeless finds female vets with PTSD and traumatic brain injury more likely to become homeless.[16] Women are enrolling in VA programs in record numbers. There have been 230,000 women, 11 percent of military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan in the VA’s files. As of 2009, 66 percent seeking care were under 30 years and 60 percent were evaluated with PTSD. Equally traumatic are the high incidences sexual harassment women are subject to. In 2008, one in five women screened through the system experienced military sexual trauma.[17] 

Divorce and broken homes are extremely high among today’s returning veterans. Rachel Feinstein who directs the residential care center New Directions for homeless vets in West Los Angeles has stated that “what’s unique about the men and women coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan is that they’re not able to integrate with their family.”[18] The city of Los Angeles leads the nation for urban areas with over 27,000 homeless veterans in its streets. In Florida, with the third highest rate of veteran homelessness, local coalitions estimate 19,000 veterans are without a roof over their heads on any given night. In order to deal squarely with the growing number of veterans with serious physical and mental illnesses filling our urban and rural areas, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government estimates the VA will need to double its budget to keep abreast of veteran health needs.

Why the Epidemic in Military and Veteran Suicides?

Political activist and journalist David Swanson offers one of the more poignant reasons for rising suicides among our troops and veterans, “US troops are increasingly killing themselves, perhaps in part because they have no better idea than the sentators who fund the slaughter what its purpose is.”[19]

Active duty GI and veteran suicides have skyrocketed so dramatically that even major news sources are compelled to report it. June 2010 witnessed the highest rate of active duty suicides on record, one per day.[20] What the major media stories don’t tell us is that traumatized and mentally impaired soldiers are dangling for survival on a thin thread of lethal cocktails of antidepressants, benzodiazepines, antiepileptics, atypical psychoactive medications, and a variety of pain drugs. In an earlier study of nearly 1,000 active duty suicide attempts, over a third of the soldiers were on psychoactive drugs. 

Veteran suicide rates are much higher and have reached 18 per day. This accounts for 20 percent of the nation’s annual 30,000 suicides.[21] One out of seven suicide attempts will be successful. But suicide prevention hotlines provide a more chilling scenario:  10,000 calls per month and 400 per month requiring immediate rescue efforts.[22]

Since only 5 of 18 veterans are under direct VA care, it is very likely more veterans are taking their lives than is being reported. Moreover, the military has already established a past record of reporting some suicides, such as an overdose when a soldier is thoroughly doped up on a cocktail of prescribed medications, as death by natural causes.  Official figures, therefore, greatly underestimate the truth underlying the suicide epidemic.

Government and military psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers are not knowledgeable enough in treating the seriousness of many mental conditions. Navy Commander Mark Russell, a mental health specialist, found that almost 90 percent of psychiatric staffs servicing veterans have no formal training in PTSD therapies. Within the active duty ranks, the bottom line for treatment has been indiscriminate, multiple drug prescriptions. A startling 98 percent of military personnel seeking assistance for mental complications are simply being drugged and returned to their units.[23] 

Dr. Peter Breggin, one of our nation’s foremost experts about the adverse effects of psychiatric drugs being given to numerous active duty military personnel and veterans, has documented that these drugs can produce the same mental disturbances that define PTSD, such as hyperarousal, insomnia and paranoia. Furthermore, many psychotropic drugs have been proven to increase risks of suicide and some are under litigation for this reason. In the civilian population, approximately 33 percent of psychiatric hospital admissions are due to adverse drug reactions.[24]

Among the more common antidepressants prescribed by military and VA mental health practitioners are Paxil, Prozac, the mood stabilizer Klonopin, Neurontin (an anti-convulsive not indicated for PTSD but given anyway), and the controversial Seroquel, which has been associated with increased psychosis, the onset of diabetes, heart attacks and sudden death. There are now 26,000 lawsuits against AstraZeneca, the maker of Seroquel, in civil courts. Risperdal, a potent brain chemistry changing drug given for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and certain autisms, is also being dispensed to make soldiers “fit” for combat. Neither Seroquel or Risperdal have been approved for treating PTSD, and both are under Congressional investigation for being over-prescribed for unapproved mental conditions.[25] There are now reports of soldiers taking up to a dozen different meds at any given time. 

A recent study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs discovered that veterans from the current Afghan and Iraq wars are more likely to commit suicide by violent means. In fact, the University of Michigan researcher publishing the study found violent suicide deaths, particularly by firearms, are now most common.[26] This is a trend never before witnessed among active duty personnel and veterans from previous wars.  It is also a trend that finds a parallel in the large number of veterans arrested for violent crimes, serving prison terms or on correctional probation. 

Penny Coleman, a widow of a veteran who committed suicide, has been investigating suicide and crime rates among all war veterans. Although accurate numbers of veterans now in correctional institutions are unavailable, it is estimated that in 2007, there were 703,000 under supervision and approximately 1.2 million vets arrested.[27] 

And once released from prison, marked as a felon, there is little chance a job awaits them during a severe recession.  The street or forests, therefore, become their best options.

It’s the Toxins, Stupid!

The simple fact is, unless you are fully garbed in state-of-the-art protective gear 24/7, your risks of developing any one or more of a variety of cancers, having neurological brain damage giving rise to any number of symptoms similar to PTSD, depression and mental impairment, and loss of reproductive function multiples many fold as soon as you touch down in the Middle East.  One soldier who was struggling with terminal colon cancer described the environment he was stationed as a toxic dump of “oil refineries, a cement factory, a chlorine factory and a sulfuric acid factory” all polluting the air.[28] 

During the first Gulf War, at least 320 tons of DU were released across the deserts. According to Prof. Malcolm Hopper’s calculations at the University of Sunderland in the UK, the actual death toll of American and British troops during the campaign, which saw only a tiny number of combat-related deaths, is now about 21,000. While these figures go unreported, Hopper contributes the cause of death “due not just to DU exposure but to the astounding amounts of organophosphate poisoning from various toxins (or supposedly anti-toxins) given to the troops as preventive medicine.”[29]  However, according to the last VA report in February 2008—the Gulf War Veterans Information System—the government lists the actual veteran death toll from Gulf War illness at over 75,000.[30]

Dr. Doug Rokke, a retired Major who served as the Director of the US Army Depleted Uranium Project in the mid-90s, and a specialist in uranium clean-up efforts, has been an advisor for DU science and health to the CDC, US Institute of Medicine, Congress and the DoD.  Rokke has been at the forefront in efforts to alert health and military officials about DU’s enormous health risks. After Operation Desert Storm, he was the officer in charge of cleaning up the mess and assessing environmental risks due to the invasion. During the course of his mission, Rokke said, he received an order, the Los Alamos Memorandum, “which was a direct order to lie in all the reports about the health and environmental effects from uranium munitions in order to sustain their use and avoid all liability.”  Throughout his months in Saudia Arabia in clean up efforts, Rokke and his team received “numerous orders to provide medical care and numerous orders to ignore them and numerous orders to lie, cheat, steal and do whatever you have to do.”[31] 

Dr. Rokke is now convinced that the DoD’s own reports stating that almost 20 percent of active duty personnel in the current military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq are non-deployable because of severe illness, is the direct result from prolonged exposure to the toxic swamp that has become the middle east.  He has also observed in his research that with respect to the causes of death among OEF and OIF personnel for medical reasons, there is a surprising proportionality with the medical causes of death among veterans from the first Gulf War. What GIs from both campaigns share is their high exposure to chemical toxicity, multiple toxic vaccines, and in particular depleted uranium.[32] 

During the Bush-Cheney freedom wars, depleted uranium tonnage used in Iraq increased 5-fold to over 1500 tons. Iraq’s environment minister claims there are 350 sites contaminated with DU from bombing campaigns.[33] Once detonated, these highly toxic munitions radiate oxidized nano-size radioactive uranium particles in a gaseous state that infiltrate the lungs, digestion system and skin of anyone coming in contact with Iraq’s environment. 

The nuclear chemist Marion Falk was a member of the Manhattan Project. While employed at the National Laboratory at Livermore, he developed the “particle theory” about how DU affects human DNA and RNA. Based on Fulk’s research of DU-related malignancies, and later research conducted by Dr. Alexandra Miller for the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in 2001, the Pentagon has known for almost 2 decades about DU’s serious disease and reproductive risks, especially in its nano-form, which reacts differently in the human body and is far more toxic than in its natural isotope.[34] 

The US Department of State’s fact sheet for the health effects of depleted uranium continues to state that it “poses no serious health risks,” that it “has not affected the health of Gulf War veterans,” and that “depleted uranium does not cause birth defects.”  The US government wants us to believe that the epidemic in genetic deformities and still births among Iraqi children is due to “Iraqi military use of chemical and nerve agents in the 1980s and 1990s.”[35] Per the question of whether or not DU causes cancer, the State Department reassures us by citing only a single study of uranium workers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory between 1943-1947 who showed no observable increase in cancer. Moreover, more recent clinical studies relied upon by the DoD to deny DU’s health risks have been conducted in rat experiments and studies with soldiers injured by DU-containing shrapnel, rather than the more widespread form of oxidized DU as inhaled or swallowed atmospheric nano-particles. 

Investigative journalist and scholar Robert Koehler notes there is a grave problem in the government’s DU argument. Afghanistan is now experiencing a gradual and steady increase in abnormal birth defects, not dissimilar to those escalating throughout Iraq (infants and still births born without limbs, numerous tumors, deformed genitalia, etc.). Afghanistan has nothing to do with Sadaam’s biological and chemical weaponry, but more likely has everything to do with the 600 tons of DU munitions the US and its British allies launched to destroy al-Qaeda strongholds and eradicate the Taliban. Although the US government continues to deny using DU munitions in its Afghanistan campaign, a classified manual to NATO was recovered by the Bundeswehr’s Center for Communications in Germany in 2005 acknowledging that DU-core weapons were used in US aircraft and armor piercing incendiary weapons.[36]
 
Dr. Rokke draws attention to a little known physician guideline distributed by the US Department of Veteran Affairs known as the Commission’s Guide to Veteran Specific Issues. The manual gives complete acknowledgement of the health problems related to depleted uranium exposure. Among the symptoms—some similar to those being diagnosed as PTSD and other mental illnesses—are “sleep problems, mood swings, symptoms in the upper and lower respiratory system, neuropsychological symptoms including memory loss, chronic fatigue, immune dysfunction syndrome, skin rashes, unusual hair loss, aching joints, headaches, abdominal pains, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, all of the female problems related to menstrual disorders… explosive diarrhea and constipation, all the neurological system disorders such as numbness in limbs, multiple chemical sensitivity and birth defects.”[37]  So, while there is unquestionable evidence that the government is fully aware that hundreds of pounds of DU tonnage used to ravish Afghanistan and Iraq is a leading cause for the numerous medical complaints and diseases erupting within our armed forces, its public face is to completely deny this very fact. 

Dr. Asaf Durakovic, at the Uranium Medical Research Center in Canada, sent a team in 2002 to examine soil and urine samples for uranium among Afghani civilians. His findings were startling. “Without exception, every person donating urine specimens tested positive for uranium internal contamination” and results were 100-400 times greater than levels found in veterans from the first Gulf War. When BBC interviewed Dr. Durakovic, he stated that the most disturbing discovery is that in the absence of multiple oil fires and pesticide use, and no known experimental vaccines, such as the experimental squalene-laced anthrax vaccine given to Desert Storm personnel, the same symptoms were emerging among Afghanis as were among veterans from the Gulf War.[38] In a further study testing deployed soldiers from the 442nd Military Police Company, Durakovic discovered several had traces of another uranium isotope, U-236, which is only produced in a nuclear reaction process.”[39]  This is another highly dangerous form of uranium being used in the Middle East that the Pentagon has been hiding from American citizens and our troops. 

In her testimony to the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan, Leuren Moret, a former geologist for Livermore Laboratories and an expert on DU’s health and environmental impact, stated “It is estimated that one millionth of a gram [of DU] accumulating in a person’s body would be fatal. There are no known methods of treatment.”[40] According to radiation expert Dr. Rosalie Bertell, who has consulted for the DoD, “each tiny milligram [radioactive uranium] shoots about 1,251,000 powerful radioactive bullets a day with a range of about 20 cells of the human body for thousands or even billions of years.”[41]  And let there be no mistake, depleted uranium is only “less than one half of 1 percent of the uranium isotope 235,” the isotope used for making a nuclear bomb.[42]

There are many independent studies about depleted uranium’s effects on the health of renal and liver functions, DNA mutagenesis leading to diverse cancers, and the skeletal, gastrointestinal, reproductive, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Yet very few studies have been conducted on the human health dangers after depleted uranium has been ignited at high temperatures following explosion and vaporized into oxidized nanoparticles contaminating atmosphere, soil, water and penetrating the physical body. But what concerns us most for understanding the epidemic of mental illness among servicemen is uranium’s affects on the brain and central nervous system, and its impairment of the immune system that can lead to symptoms veterans often complain about, such as chronic fatigue.   Our soldiers willingly admit they are experiencing symptoms of depression and traumatic stress. Their understanding of these mental disturbances follow the official rhetoric from military psychiatrists and health counselors who limit their causes to the shocking experiences and extended periods of duress soldiers encounter during deployment. A possible organic cause, such as chemical or radiological toxicity, is being completely ignored by military physicians and medical staff. 

Prolonged exposure to depleted uranium can damage the brain’s cerebellar vermis. Studies show vermis atrophy in over 40 percent of schizophrenics, as well as symptoms such as deep feelings of guilt, anxiety, and paranoia.   The vermis is responsible primarily for determining spatial relations, the body’s ability to sense itself in relationship to other people and objects.[43] When damaged or impaired, our sense of space, nearness and distance, becomes distorted. In addition to veterans experiencing flashbacks, reliving traumatic experiences in the war or re-witnessing a horrific event, another PTSD characteristic is hyper-vigilance, the state of constant alertness although the enemy terrorist or potential IED is spatially thousands of miles away. There are no specific studies investigating the vermis’ relationship to abnormal states of hyper-vigilance, however, personal stories by vets reveal repeated patterns of a loss in their spatial reasoning and raises the serious question of DU poisoning. 

In one of the most important peer-reviewed summaries on depleted and natural uraniums’ toxicological effects compiled by Duke University and published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, uranium poisoning induces electrophysiological changes in the brain’s hippocampus, the region of the brain partly responsible for memory.[44] When the hippocampus is damaged or undergoes biomolecular stress, one condition that arises can be amnesia; however, only new memories prior to injury are forgotten. Earlier memories nevertheless remain.

Retired Air Force Captain Joyce Riley is the spokesperson for the American Gulf War Veterans’ Association. A career nurse, she flew missions in support of Operation Desert Storm. During an interview Riley shared her data after interviewing 8 veterans serving prison terms for killing members of their families. One vet serving a life sentence in Florida beheaded his wife and sliced up his 13 year old son. According to Riley’s investigations, this vet, as well as the others, were respected citizens in their communities and there was no indication they did not love their wives and children dearly.  She suspects the excessive number of mood altering and antipsychotic medications, especially when given in combination with a frequently prescribed statin drug results in transient periods of amnesia. What astonished Riley after her interviews is that each spoke about a period of 3-6 hours where they have no memory of the event.[45]  While over medication can be one likely cause for the amnesiac states experienced by these veterans, DU effects upon their hippocampus could equally have contributed to their loss of memory at the time of the crimes. 

A recent article in the Navy Times, “Study Links Weak Immune Systems, PTSD,” notes that military personnel diagnosed with PTSD have more compromised immune systems and are “less likely to turn on immune system genes.”[46] The researchers at the University of Michigan Department of Epidemiology simply assume it is a psychological condition that is giving rise to certain changes in biological function, whereas human studies in DU poisoning show consistently genetic mutagenesis associated with immune function impairment. This can lead to such conditions as flu-like illnesses, visual impairment, brain inflammation and hepatic disorders that are also appearing and more and more frequently in vets. This list of symptoms are the same biomarkers the Michigan scientists found among those vets enrolled in their study. 

No End in Sight

As long as the White House continues to wage its wars, more radioactive munitions will be utilized and more soil, water, villages and cities will be doomed in a sea of toxicity for many hundreds of years. And as long as the economy remains cowering like a wounded animal, the ready, willing and brave American men and women will embrace the promises and honors bestowed in serving the traditions of the armed forces esteemed past.  But that that time when the government truly served and protected the nation’s esteemed military legacy is history. 

Today the agenda is to “take the finest and turn them into wretched, sick, pathetic human beings that have to beg for every single thing that they can get,’ says former Captain Joyce Riley. “They go in the strongest and they come out absolutely made to grovel on their knees to get anything from the federal government.”[47] 

Clearly there is a sadistic irony that we are implementing on our troops.  We are asking our brave men and women in the United States, whether in the reserve, National Guard, or enlisted troops, to serve in dangerous environments including Afghanistan and Iraq.  While there, we allow them to be exposed to biological and chemical agents, experimental vaccines, environmental toxins –ranging from the byproducts of air pollutants released from burning oil wells to depleted uranium –and then, we bring them home, and not only refuse to properly thank or treat them, but even go so far as to deny that their illnesses even exist.  For 19.5 years we have denied that Gulf War Syndrome exists.  As a result, many of our veterans have gone bankrupt because their conditions are not covered under any government programs for assistance.  We are not referring to the rare case; we are referring to hundreds of thousands of human beings. 

We achieve high marks for getting our men and women into battle; indeed, we are skilled at entering the conflict.  We have failing grades getting them out and treating them for conditions that they suffer on our behalf.   It is time to change and improve our grades.  One suggestion would be that upon returning to the United States, veterans would stay at small ‘Re-entry’ centers, established and located in every state.  These would be similar to those used to in combat zone, where our veterans would have access to hospitals, counseling centers, quality meals and living quarters.  They would have to spend at least two weeks or more, not just going through various stress tests, but authentic, psychological behavioral modification to help them make a transition from a deadly combat zone mindset to a civilian, peaceful mindset.  It would be, essentially, a half-way house to help our men and women transition back into society.  For individuals suffering from physical or psychological conditions, or a combination of both, they would then be sent to private or public facilities paid for by the government so they do not fall into the current giant vortex and end up either depressed, homeless, living in a tent, sleeping under bridges, going to prison for hitting their spouses, contemplating suicide, and then being forgotten. 

The American public has a responsibility to care for these people.  Whether you are for or against the war is irrelevant.  You must be for the people completely who risk their lives to defend us.  We are not doing that, we have not done that, we have failed miserably.  It is time to rectify this, to approach Republicans and Democrats alike, and demand that our veterans receive the care and appreciation they have valiantly earned.  This is everyone’s problem.  They have protected us. It is now our duty to step up and protect them.

Richard Gale is the Executive Producer of the Progressive Radio Network and a former Senior Research Analyst in the biotech and genomic industries. Gary Null, PhD is the host of the nation’s longest running public radio program on nutrition and natural health and a multi-award-winning director of progressive documentary films, including Prescription for Disaster (2008)and Gulf War Syndrome: Killing Our Own (2007). 
 

NOTES

[1]  Edwards, Jim. “Military Use of Antipsychotics Threatens New Headaches for AstraZeneca, J&J” CBS Business Network (BNET). March 25, 2010
[2]  Thomas JL, Wilk TJ, Riviere LA, McCurk D, Castro CA, Hoge CW. “Prevalence of Mental health Problems and Functional Impairment Among Active Component and National Guard Soldiers 3 and 12 Months Following Combat in Iraq.” Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010; 67 (6): 614-623
[3]  Coleman, Penny.  “The Tragedy of Our ‘Disappeared’ Veterans.” Alternet.org  August 12, 2009. http://www.alternet.org/story/140828/
[4]  Eisenberg, Nora. “Leaked Internal Memo Shows How VA Systematically Screws Over Wounded Vets to Maintain Performance Grades.” Alternet.org June 20, 2010  http://www.alternet.org/story/147388/
[5]  VA Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards. “Analysis of VA Health Care Utilization among Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans.” February 2010.
[6]  Bandzul, Thomas “Rehabilitating Wounded Veterans to Enable Them to Improve Their Health Outcomes” (powerpoint presentation). Veterans for Common Sense. April 10, 2010
[7]  Sandels, Alexandra. “US Iraq and Afghanistan War Casualties Top 500,000”  Los Angeles Times. June 24, 2010
[8]  VA Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards. Op cit.
[9]  Bandzul, Thomas, Op cit.
[10] Houston, Michael “New Veterans Face Record Unemployment” Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. April 2, 2010.
[11] House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Our Nation’s Veterans: Stopping Suicides and Ending Homelessness” press release. November 16, 2007
[12] National Coalition for the Homeless. “Homeless Veterans” report. September 2009  http://www.nchv.org and http://www.nchv.org/background.cfm
[13] Ibid.
[14] Foster, Roy.  Stand Down Organization. http://www.standown.org/homeless.html
[15] Atkinson MP, Wein LM. “A Dynamic Model for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among US Troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom” Management Science. September 2009.  http://masci.journal.informs.org/cgi/reprint/55/9/iv
[16] National Coalition for the Homeless. Op cit.
[17] James, Susan. “Traumatized Female Vets Face Uphill Battle” ABC News March 2, 2010
[18] Glanz, Aaron. “Domestic disputes leave Iraq veterans homeless.” National News. June 30, 2007.
[19] Swanson, David. “The Crematorium of Empires.” Opednews.com  July 15, 2010.
[20] Zoroya Gregg. “Army Reports Record Number of Suicides for June”  USA Today. July 16, 2010
[21] Clifton, Eli. “US Suicide Rate Surged Among Veterans.”  IPS News. January 13, 2010.
[22] Bandzul, Thomas Op cit.
[23]  “Military Faces Mental Crisis” USA Today. January 17, 2007.
[24] Breggin, Peter. “Driving Soldiers Crazy with Psychiatric Meds.” Huffington Post. May 15, 2010.
[25] Edwards, Jim. Op. cit
[26] Ilgen MA, Conner KR, Valenstein M, Austin K, Blow FC. “Violent and Nonviolent Suicide in Veterans with Substance Use Disorders” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 71 (4), 473-479
[27] Coleman, Penny.  Op. cit
[28]  “Cancer in Iraq vets raises possibility of toxic exposure”  Arizona Daily Star  November 2, 2007
[29] King, Tim “Israel’s Declining Sperm Quality Tied to Depleted Uranium Exposure.”  Countercurrents.org. April. 15, 2010
[30] Interview with Dr. Doug Rokke.  “A special investigation on Gulf War Syndrome”. The Gary Null Show. The Progressive Radio Network. Broadcast April 15, 2010
[31] Ibid.
[32] Ibid.
[33] Stuart, RB. “Veterans’ Rare Cancers Raise Fears of Toxic Battlefields” New York Sun. August 6, 2007.  http://www.nysun.com/national/vetearans-rare-cancers-raise-fears-of-toxic/59915
[34] Bollyn, Christopher. “How Depleted Uranium Particles Damage Human Health.”  January 7, 2005  http://www.bollyn.com/depleted-uranium#article_11776
[35] US Department of State.  “Fact Sheet on the Health Effects of Depleted Uranium” http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/state/1007/dufactsheet.htm.
[36]  “Depleted Uranium Weapons in Afghanistan” July 22, 2009, http://www.wise-uranium.org/dissaf.html.
[37] Interview with Dr. Doug Rokke.  Op Cit.
[38] BBC News. “Afghans’ Uranium Levels Spark Alert” http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/3050317.stm
[39] Bollyn, Christopher. “Depleted Uranium Blamed for Cancer Clusters Among Iraq War Vets” Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. August 15, 2004. http://www.wagingpeace.org.
[40] Koehler, Robert. “Silent Genocide” Information Clearing House. March 25, 2004.
[41] King, Tim, Op cit
[42]Nichols, Bob. “PTSD, infertility and other consequences of war,” Veterans Today. April 27, 2010.
[43] Sandyk R, Kay SR, Merriam AE. “Atrophy of the cerebellar vermis: relevance to the symptoms of schizophrenia”  Int’l Journal Neuroscience. 1991 April 57 (3-4): 205-12.
[44] Craft ES, Abu-Qare AW, Flaherty MM, Garofolo MC, Rincavage HL, Abou-Donia MB. “Depleted and natural uranium: chemistry and toxicological effects,” J Toxicol and Environ Health. 7:297-317, 2004
[45] Interview with Capt. Joyce Riley.  “A special investigation on Gulf War Syndrome”. The Gary Null Show. The Progressive Radio Network. Broadcast April 15, 2010
[46] Kennedy, Kelly. “Study Links Weak Immune Systems, PTSD,” Navy Times. May 20, 2010.
[47] Interview with Capt. Joyce Riley.  

The U.S. Middle Class Is Being Wiped Out

July 20th, 2010 by Michael Snyder

The 22 statistics detailed here prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence in America.

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace.

So why are we witnessing such fundamental changes? Well, the globalism and “free trade” that our politicians and business leaders insisted would be so good for us have had some rather nasty side effects. It turns out that they didn’t tell us that the “global economy” would mean that middle class American workers would eventually have to directly compete for jobs with people on the other side of the world where there is no minimum wage and very few regulations. The big global corporations have greatly benefited by exploiting third world labor pools over the last several decades, but middle class American workers have increasingly found things to be very tough.

Giant Sucking Sound

The reality is that no matter how smart, how strong, how educated or how hard working American workers are, they just cannot compete with people who are desperate to put in 10 to 12 hour days at less than a dollar an hour on the other side of the world. After all, what corporation in their right mind is going to pay an American worker 10 times more (plus benefits) to do the same job? The world is fundamentally changing. Wealth and power are rapidly becoming concentrated at the top and the big global corporations are making massive amounts of money. Meanwhile, the American middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence as U.S. workers are slowly being merged into the new “global” labor pool.

What do most Americans have to offer in the marketplace other than their labor? Not much. The truth is that most Americans are absolutely dependent on someone else giving them a job. But today, U.S. workers are “less attractive” than ever. Compared to the rest of the world, American workers are extremely expensive, and the government keeps passing more rules and regulations seemingly on a monthly basis that makes it even more difficult to conduct business in the United States.

So corporations are moving operations out of the U.S. at breathtaking speed. Since the U.S. government does not penalize them for doing so, there really is no incentive for them to stay.

What has developed is a situation where the people at the top are doing quite well, while most Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to make it. There are now about six unemployed Americans for every new job opening in the United States, and the number of “chronically unemployed” is absolutely soaring. There simply are not nearly enough jobs for everyone.

Many of those who are able to get jobs are finding that they are making less money than they used to. In fact, an increasingly large percentage of Americans are working at low wage retail and service jobs.

But you can’t raise a family on what you make flipping burgers at McDonald’s or on what you bring in from greeting customers down at the local Wal-Mart.

The truth is that the middle class in America is dying — and once it is gone it will be incredibly difficult to rebuild.

Michael Snyder is editor of www.theeconomiccollapseblog.com

If U.S. economy eventually recovers and current trends continue, U.S. workers won’t be celebrating in the streets. The corporate establishment has made it clear that a “strong recovery” depends on U.S. workers making “great sacrifices” in the areas of wages, health care, pensions, and more ominously, reductions in so-called “entitlement programs” — Social Security, Medicare, and other social services.

These plans have been discussed at length in corporate think tanks for years, and only recently has the mainstream media begun a coordinated attack to convince American workers of the “necessity” of adopting these policies. The New York Times speaks for the corporate establishment as a whole when it writes:

“American workers are overpaid, relative to equally productive employees elsewhere doing the same work [China for example]. If the global economy is to get into balance, that gap must close.”

and:

“The recession shows that many workers are paid more than they’re worth…The global wage gap has been narrowing [because U.S. workers’ wages are shrinking], but recent labor market statistics in the United States suggest the adjustment has not gone far enough.”

The New York Times solution? “Both moderate inflation to cut real wages [!] and a further drop in the dollar’s real trade-weighted value [monetary inflation to shrink wages] might be acceptable.” (November 11, 2009).

The business journal, The Atlantic, agrees:

“So how do we keep wages high in the U.S.? We don’t…U.S. workers cannot ultimately continue to have higher wages relative to those in other nations [China, India, etc.] who compete in the same industries.”

President Obama speaks less bluntly about the wage subject for political purposes, but he wholeheartedly agrees with the above opinions, especially when he repeatedly said:

“We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity, where we consume less [as a result of lower wages] at home and send more exports abroad.”

So how will Obama implement his economic vision that inspired Wall Street to give him millions during his Presidential campaign? Much of the work is happening automatically, due to the Great Recession. Bloomberg news reports:

“More than half of U.S. workers were either unemployed or experienced reductions in hours or wages since the recession began in December 2007… The worst economic slump since the 1930s has affected 55 percent of adults in the labor force…” (June 30, 2010).

Employers are exploiting fears of joblessness by demanding workers take wage cuts and reductions or eliminations in benefits. The millions of unemployed are giving corporations an excuse to slash wages, since desperate workers will work for almost anything.

Federal, State and municipal workers are being specifically targeted and blamed — especially teachers — by politicians and corporate groups. The state budget crises and the federal deficit are being used as reasons to demand that public employees take huge reductions in wages and benefits, for those who aren’t laid off. Laid off public workers then enter the private workforce where they are to compete with millions of other unemployed workers. Democratic politicians nationwide have recently agreed with Republicans of the “necessity” of state workers to make huge “sacrifices.”

Ultimately, years of Wall Street gambling and corporate greed in general have destroyed the U.S. economy, sending jobs overseas to exploit slave wages with the inevitable result of slave wages coming to the U.S. Decades of tax-cuts for the rich combined with overseas wars for profit have undermined the foundation of economic stability — and U.S. workers are being asked to foot the bill.

In the long-term, the U.S. economy will need to be re-structured, meaning that giant corporations cannot continue to dominate the economy for their personal profits. In the short term, U.S. workers will need to organize themselves to fight back. Alliances with Democratic politicians are no longer an option to stave off attacks from corporations, since the attacks are now coming from both sides of the two-party system.

Labor unions must work together with community groups to demand that the rich pay for the recession with higher tax rates. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently argued before Obama’s Deficit Reduction Commission: “We believe it is only fitting to ask Wall Street to pay to rebuild the economy it helped destroy.” And he called for higher taxes on the rich in general, pointing out that “effective tax rates applicable to high-income taxpayers (earning over $250,000 in 2009 dollars) reached their lowest level in at least half a century in 2008.”

U.S. workers have been forced to bear the brunt of the current economic crisis, though they had no part in causing it. Meanwhile, Wall Street is back to speculative trading and rewarding itself with big bonuses. It is time to turn the tables and start properly rewarding hard-working Americans. U.S. workers have sacrificed enough!

This October 2, 2010, SEIU Local 1199, the NAACP, and other progressive organizations are staging a march on Washington, D.C., calling on the government to create more jobs. The AFL-CIO has recently endorsed this demonstration and is actively building it. Other major endorsers include the California Labor Federation and the American Federation of Teachers. The SEIU president is predicting the march will be “massive – we believe historic.” It might prove to be the beginning of organized labor’s comeback.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org ). He can be reached at [email protected]  

SEOUL — South Korea on Saturday announced that it has developed a cruise missile with a range of 1,500 km, according to local media.

The development of the surface-to-surface “Hyunmoo-3C” cruise missile has been completed by the state-run Agency for Defense Development after the project began in 2008, an unnamed military official quoted by Seoul’s leading broadcaster YTN as saying.

The missile, the longest-range weapon in South Korea’s arsenal, is expected to be deployed along the border with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) by the end of the year, the official said.

The DPRK’s major nuclear facilities will be within range of the missile once it is deployed, he added.

Seoul completed development of the cruise missile with a range of 1,000 km in 2007.

Editor: Deng Shasha

Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) officials in the government of Mohamed Abbas often complain they spend more time negotiating with American rather than Israeli governments. This has been particularly true of late. Since Israel’s all-out assault on Gaza nearly a year and half ago, Palestinian officials have discontinued all direct talks with the Israelis and have been talking to the Americans. US presidential envoy George Mitchell has been closely engaged in the region since May 2010, but his efforts have not proved fruitful.

The Palestinians have had no more luck with the Americans than with the Israelis. They have been consistently asked to accept US-Israeli peace terms that spell disaster and capitulation. Apart from exhausting the Palestinians, and making them edge closer to further concessions, nothing of substance has emerged from talks with either the Americans or the Israelis.

The Americans have sold the Palestinians false hopes, giving Israel the time it needed to grab land and change the demographics of their state-to-be. Now, even the fig leaf of good intentions has fallen.

In a meeting between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last Tuesday, the mercy bullet was finally fired, dealing a deadly blow to fantasies of American help.

Palestinian negotiators keep telling us that they have no other option but to negotiate with the Americans. This is not true. The Palestinian people don’t want them to do so, and their fighting spirit is alive and well. When all other options run out, the people will come up with options of their own. It is what people living under foreign occupation have always done, and the Palestinians are no exception.

President Abbas used to tell us that the ball is in Israel’s court. Now Obama has kicked it back into the Palestinian court. Once again, the White House has made it clear that the ball, the court, the referee, and the players should all perform according to American dictates.

The peace process has been at best a US- Israeli PR exercise, at worst a political ruse designed to help the Zionists and undermine the Arabs. The whole aim of the peace process has been to create a fifth column in our midst. At heart, the peace process had no bearing on peace. Fairness was never part of the equation.

It is time the Arabs, especially Palestinian Arabs, called it a day. It is time the admission was made that the peace process has done nothing at all for the peace, security, and development of this region.

Obama was pleased to see Netanyahu, just as George Bush was once thrilled to confer with Ariel Sharon. The words the two presidents used in describing the Israeli dignitaries were almost identical. Sharon was called a “man of peace”. Now Netanyahu seems to be inheriting the title, no matter that a few days earlier he ordered the massacre of peace activists on the Gaza-bound flotilla, no matter that on the same day Obama welcomed him, the Israeli group B’Tselem issued a damning report on the expansion of settlements in the West Bank.

Obama had nothing but praise for the Israeli prime minister. There are no differences between Israel and the US, Obama declared, describing his talks with Netanyahu as “excellent” and his country’s ties with Israel as “extraordinary”. Washington is as committed to Israel’s security as it always was, and the “special ties” as binding as ever, he told US reporters.

For his part, Netanyahu said reports about a schism in US-Israeli relations were just rumours.

To reward Netanyahu for what he described as “progress” toward peace, Obama accepted an invitation to visit Israel.

Does any of this surprise President Mahmoud Abbas?

The only harsh words the American president used were in reference to the Palestinians, whom he advised to stop provoking and embarrassing the Israelis. The Palestinians should stop thinking of “excuses” to tarry on peace and start talking to the Israelis. Any conditions Obama once made on direct talks seem to have been forgotten. The current US position is that the Palestinians should start talks without preconditions.

This is not what President Abbas was hoping to hear. Instead of encouragement, the Palestinians have been admonished and told to behave.

A close associate of President Abbas told Al-Quds Al-Arabi that “all signs suggest that the US administration would press the Palestinian Authority to hold direct talks” without guarantees or preconditions. This is basically what Mitchell has been trying to do throughout his earlier visits to the region.

Now Abbas has to choose. Either he gives way to the Americans, which is what he’s done since Annapolis in 2007, or he gives up on the Americans. In the first case, he would lose any remaining credibility. In the second, he will have to step down. He has gambled everything on negotiations, and now any hope of fruitful talks has evaporated.

The only option left to the Palestinians is resistance and more resistance. It is a course that is not only long and hard, but calls for national unity. The PLO made it into government as a result of resistance and national unity. Now the lack of unity and resistance threaten to banish the PLO into the wilderness, or turn it into a lackey of the occupation authorities.

 
Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli – occupied Palestinian territories. This article was translated from Arabic then published by Al-Ahram Weekly on July 15, 2010.

Global Research Editor’s Note

This AP report suggests that Gaza is a strategic threat to Israel’s security, requiring  the development with US military aid of “Rocket Shield”. Realities are twisted and turned upside down. The crimes committed against the people of Gaza including some 1400 civilian deaths in last year’s attacks are not mentioned. 

WASHINGTON — A U.S.-backed rocket shield is on track to protect Israeli towns against rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, a senior State Department official said Friday.

The system, dubbed the “Iron Dome,” is being touted by the Obama administration as the latest example of expanded military cooperation between the U.S. and Israel. President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $205 million to accelerate development of the system, about half its total cost.

The election-year message of increased U.S. aid to Israel seems aimed at assauging the concerns of many Jewish voters that Obama remains committed to Israel’s security, despite diplomatic tensions earlier this year.

“As surely as the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable, our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge has never been greater,” said Andrew Shapiro, an assistant secretary of State for political and military affairs.

Israel has had no system in place to guard against the thousands of rockets that militants have rained down on its southern and northern borders over the years, fired by Hamas militants in Gaza and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Millions of Israeli civilians are within rocket range, and the military has stepped up its quest for a solution after the country’s 2006 war against Hezbollah, when 4,000 short-range Katyusha rockets bombarded northern Israel.

Iron Dome uses cameras and radar to track incoming rockets and shoot them down within seconds of their launch.

Jonathan Peled, a spokesman for the Israeli embassy, said he could not provide details on the latest round of tests, but confirmed that a test this week was successful.

Neither country has said when the system will be operational.

Israel receives about $3 billion a year in U.S. military aid, including money for training. Last fall, more than 1,000 U.S. troops participated in a massive U.S.-Israeli missile defense exercise codenamed “Juniper Cobra.

Requiem for the Antiwar Movement

July 19th, 2010 by Cindy Sheehan

“When you vote for war, don’t be surprised when you get it.” Cindy Sheehan

“I will send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan.” Presidential Candidate Barack Obama

“This war (Iraq) prevents us from tackling every serious threat that we face, from a resurgent al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to a hostile Iranian regime intent on possessing nuclear weapons.” Candidate Barack Obama

“And if we have actionable intelligence about high-level al-Qaeda targets (in Pakistan), we must act if Pakistan will or cannot.” Candidate Barack Obama

This article and these observations are going to piss some people off—but oh well. You will be angry with me, even though I am not the one who is ordering more war, paying for more war, torturing people and imprisoning them without due process, destroying the economy and the environment, blah, blah, blah. I have developed an incredibly thick skin and if I rankle, it’s because I think time is running out to halt the disastrous trajectory this planet (via the US Military Corporate Complex) is on. I promise that I am not writing this because I am holding protests and no one is coming—these thoughts have been percolating in me for months now. (Note: Remember that old saying: “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” Well, here in DC I am living the opposite: “What if they gave an antiwar protest and nobody came?”)

My grandbabies and other people’s grandbabies WILL NOT live in a world where war for profit is so normal that state-sanctioned violence is rarely even questioned—and if it is, then the person questioning is the “looney tunes,” the “mama moonbat,” the “radical.” That is one seriously messed-up world. You know it is and we are the only ones who have the key to unmessing it.

Last week, the Democratically controlled House of Representatives voted to give Barack Obama 33 billion more dollars to prosecute two idiotic and ill-advised wars. Of course they did—it wasn’t the first time since 2007 that a Democratic Congress voted to fund wars, and it won’t be the last—do you all know why? BECAUSE THE DEMOCRATS DON’T WANT PEACE—THEY ARE JUST ONE-HALF OF THE “WAR PARTY.”

Why else did the Democrats vote for more war, more death and more destruction? If you are a Democrat and voted for one of these scum—did you vote for them hoping that you would get more war? Did you vote for Obama hoping that he would dig this country into a deeper hole, and do you still believe that fucking things up even more is the way to solve problems?

Do you all know what else? The wars that were begun in the Bush presidency and fully funded and increased during the Obama regime belong to everyone who voted for Obama, too. If you listened to what Obama said, and not just how he said it, then you would have heard him promise you that he was going to SEND MORE TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN. You would have heard him say that nothing was “off the table” for dealing with Iran.

During the campaign, many colleagues and friends of mine, assured me that Obama was just saying this hostile crap to “get elected” and once he was elected that he would “do the right thing.” Well, first of all, why support such a pandering Jackwagon, and secondly, how has that ever worked? Three days after Obama swore to uphold and defend the Constitution, he drone-bombed a “target” in Pakistan killing 3 dozen civilians—and since that day he has elevated the art of drone bombings to new heights, while the so-called antiwar movement looks on in silent complacency and while Democratic operatives disguised as antiwar groups are hoping against hope that Obama comes out strong with a new antiwar marketing campaign to assure his “re-election.” Even though not one progressive issue has been propagated during his term, these war supporters are looking forward to another four years of the dance of death. Right foot kill—left foot torture—spin around for environmental devastation—allemande left for health care fascism—and shimmy right for bankster bailouts. Wasn’t eight years of this crap during the Bush stain enough for y’all?

Many antiwar groups and people who claim they are for peace lose their minds during election season thinking that the razor-thin difference between the Democrat and Republican is enough to go ape-shit crazy in working for the Democrat. Just take the last two Democratic candidates, for example. Kerry and Obama both supported more war. An “antiwar” movement de-legitimizes itself when it works hard for a candidate who does not promise total and rapid withdrawal of troops from wherever they happen to be at the time AND does not promise to end war as an imperial tool of corporate conquest.

The majority of the so-called antiwar movement, in fact, voted for a candidate that PROMISED to contract one war only to be able to profoundly EXPAND another. Obama all along said that he is not against all war, just “dumb wars.” If there existed an antiwar movement that had integrity—it would have said that “all wars are dumb,” and we withhold our support for just another dyed-in-the-wool warmonger.

What do we do now that we have another two and a half years of a hawk who thinks it is just hunky-dory that his supporters are under the delusion that he is a dove—he was awarded the war-establishment’s highest prize wasn’t he? He is, after all, a Nobel Laureate.

First of all, voting just doesn’t cut it. Realistically, our choices are between War Party Candidate A and War Party Candidate B. A true peace candidate is marginalized, metaphorically spat upon, and reviled. This is not a nation that honors peace and non-violence. From the top down, we are a violent nation—so from the bottom up, we have to restructure society. Liberate yourself and remove your Obama bumper sticker that has a peace sign instead of the “O.” If you are antiwar, you know in your heart that he is not a peace monger.

Secondly, our resources and energy are stretched thin. We live in a credit based economy where good jobs are scarce. Many people, who have the same values, in this almost value-free society, constantly tell me that they would be with me if they could afford it.

Since my son was killed, which was as violent of a paradigm shift as anyone should have to endure, I have whittled my life down to a bare minimum. I have no car. I have no pets. I have no plants. I have no credit cards. My income is based on my donations from my itinerant peace travels and book sales. I have moved eight times since Casey died and now I can move with one small u-haul. I have a cell phone and computer, a bed, clothes, a few dishes, a few valued books and peace paraphernalia and pictures of my children and grandbabies.

As HD Thoreau said: “You don’t own your possessions, they own you.” This consumer orgiastic society makes us literal slaves to a system that is detrimental to our health. Freeing oneself from those chains frees one to be a full-time, or near full-time activist. “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”

Massive antiwar protest in this country is dead. We may as well acknowledge that and just bury the corpse, mourn, and then figure out a better way of doing things.

In the Christian tradition, death was only a prelude to new and better life and farmers well tell you that a seed has to die before a health-nourishing plant can be born and then there’s the ever ubiquitous example of the ugly, hairy, and yucky caterpillar being reborn as a magnificent and beautiful butterfly. Have I hammered you with enough clichés yet?

The key to turning this caterpillar of a country into a beautiful butterfly is in Peace and recognizing that no matter if one is Bush, Obama, McCain or Palin—these people don’t want Peace, but we do.

I think we lose the raw humanity of war when we allow ourselves to wallow in War Party politics. When the Democratic Wing of the War Party took over the mis-management of the Empire, the anti-war movement was effectively neutralized even though the wars weren’t.

So after we are done mourning, we get together as one human family to organize something that will bring positive change. We are not enemies with each other—we may be “enemies of the state,” but the state is our enemy.

No more marching in circles, it makes us dizzy.

No more signing petitions, it gives us writer’s cramp.

No more calling Congress-scum, the war machine is its master.

The establishment wants us to think that this busy-work has a chance to be effective—but when is the last time any of these tactics worked on a Federal level? Your president or your congress rep couldn’t care less want you think or want. Your vote doesn’t even count—in case you haven’t heard, they steal votes and falsely manipulate you, anyway.

I am going to close with my organization’s motivational quote. Peace of the ACTION takes our inspiration from a Mario Savio quote that he said on the steps of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley, 46 years ago:

“There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part. You have to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who own it, to the people who run it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

When 15,000 vibrant and politically engaged people gather in one spot for five days and organize themselves into more than 1000 workshops, dozens of major plenaries and late night parties across five major cultural hot spots, no one article can claim to give a full account and get away with it.

But an event on that scale livened up Detroit, Michigan during the week of June 22-26 at the U.S. Social Forum (USSF), when Cobo Hall and several nearby universities were buzzing with thousands of people trying to shape a new world.

I won’t even try to capture it all. I’ll just affirm the common conviction that it was a major happening on the left and a huge success, an inspiration and an affirmation of hope that progress is being made toward a better future. Then I’ll humbly offer my take on it. We’ll start with some highlights and, for those who aren’t familiar with the Social Forum movement, offer a few explanations.

The Forum started on June 22 with a massive march of thousands through the streets of a devastated and de-industrialized Detroit. “I’ve never seen anything like this, in Detroit or anywhere,” said Forum participant and Detroit resident Charnika Jett. “The sense of joy, support, and determination on the part of the people here, both Detroiters and visitors, is just incredible.”

“What an amazing day!” said Allison Flether Acosta of Jobs with Justice. “We held an orientation session for local coalition folks early in the day, then joined the march with the other members of the Inter-Alliance Dialogue and more than 10,000 people for a lively march through downtown! We ended at Cobo Hall, and then convened for the opening ceremonies.”

New Entry of the Trade Unions

One important new addition to the young crowd in the streets was the participation of organized labour. According to the AFL-CIO News Blog, “Newly elected UAW President Bob King joined Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO President Saundra Williams; Al Garrett, president of AFSCME District Council 25; and Armando Robles, UE Local 1110 president, in leading a march and rally through the streets of Detroit. Chanting ‘Full and Fair Employment Now!’ and ‘Money for Jobs, Not for Banks!’ Participants demanded Congress address the pressing jobs emergency.”

The opening events, unfortunately, were either ignored or strangely spun by the mass media. “This ain’t no Tea Party,” said Noel Finley, in a scarce account in the Detroit News, somewhat awed by the sight of it all. “The forum is a hootenanny of pinkos, environuts, peaceniks, Luddites, old hippies, Robin Hoods and urban hunters and gatherers.” Indeed it was, with even more variety. And the diverse crowds and meetings grew stronger as the week unfolded. To make sense of it all, some history and background is in order.

The USSF 2010 in Detroit is an outgrowth of the World Social Forum (WSF). The WSF started some 10 years ago as a counterpoint to the World Economic Forum, the elite gathering of global capitalists in Davos, Switzerland. The first WSF was held in Porto Allegre, Brazil, with backing from the Brazilian Workers Party. It soon became co-sponsored by a wide and inclusive variety of grassroots organizations working for global social justice. Since then, the site has shifted around the world’s larger cities, usually in the Global South – Mumbai, Nairobi, Caracas, and most recently, Belem in Brazil. The next WSF will be in Dakar, Senegal in 2011.

In certain years, however, the World Social Forum movement is decentralized, and various countries and regions organize their own. The first nationwide and major one to be held in the U.S. was in 2007 in Atlanta, GA, which drew some 12,000 participants. Detroit was chosen for 2010, largely to serve as a U.S. urban example of how the injustices of corporate globalization have a powerful impact even in the homeland of Empire. Despite the air-conditioned conveniences of Cobo Hall and the modernized blocks in the inner city’s center along the riverfront, just walking about 10 blocks in any other direction and you would find yourself in a shocking urban wasteland of closed factories, shuttered stores and abandoned housing.

By any measure, this year’s USSF was a big success. It drew over 15,000 largely young and ethnically diverse student and working class participants. They participated in a total of 1062 workshops and panels, 50 major assemblies, and conducted a huge march of thousands through the streets of Detroit – all in a festive and cooperative atmosphere.

Tediously Planned and Well Structured

The Detroit gathering was, in fact, part festival, part interconnected and overlapping teach-ins, part trade fair, and partly a spontaneous ‘gathering of the tribes.’ But it was also carefully and tediously planned and structured, which, despite a small degree of chaos, was what made it all work so well. Months ago, the core organizers sub-divided the event into ‘tracks’ around common but freshly defined themes. For the U.S. in 2010, these included:

  • Capitalism in Crisis: tearing down poverty, building economic alternatives and a solidarity economy

  • Climate Justice: sustainability, resources and land

  • Indigenous Sovereignty

  • Displacement, Migration and Immigration

  • Democracy and Governance

  • To the Right: internationally and domestically

  • To the Left: building a movement for social justice: intersections and alliances across race, class, gender, sexuality, age, ability

  • Strategies for Building Power & Ensuring Community Needs (housing, education, jobs, clean air…)

  • Organizing a Labour Movement for the 21st Century: crisis and opportunities

  • Media Justice, Communications, and Culture

  • Transformative Justice, Healing, and Organizing

  • Endless War: militarization, criminalization and human rights

  • International Solidarity and Responsibility: building a unified response to global crises

  • Detroit and the Rust Belt

The tracks helped focus participants in two ways. For those wanting to work downward with others on a given workshop on a narrower topic, they helped establish connections. For those wanting to pull forces together for the larger ‘People’s Movement Assemblies,’ they also helped to gather resources to a central focus. In brief, the framework either contained or allowed something for everyone, including the space to self-organize pretty much whatever one had in mind. You weren’t necessarily guaranteed a large audience; promoting your own special interests was largely up to you and your friends and allies.

Since three years earlier, some 12,000 activists and their various organizations had taken part in Atlanta’s USSF 2007, many participants this time around had a ‘head start’ of core experience to build on for Detroit. Atlanta’s core organizers even published a book on the topic, The United States Social Forum: Perspectives of a Movement. Newcomers would have to pick up organizing techniques on the fly.

Many organizations started their preparations about six months ago. For a few, this meant having people join the nationwide organizing core for the whole event, or at least getting in touch with it. But for most, it meant figuring out what their two main workshops would be (that was the maximum allowed for any one group), and who they could ally with to form more workshops around their preferred ideas, projects or perspectives. It also required registering ahead of time, making a small donation, planning displays, and then, via the web sites, staying in touch with what others were posting, so as to promote cooperation and avoid duplication or conflict. In brief, the planning structure encouraged networking horizontally, and from below.

The result was an amazing array of workshops, on every topic under the sun, ranging from ‘how-to’ hands-on organizing techniques to oral history and theoretical debates. “There was a workshop for every cause and strategy,” said a Labor Notes reporter, “from stopping natural gas ‘fracking’ to using puppetry to move your campaign.”

Perhaps the most significant new development for the 2010 USSF was the active participation of the AFL-CIO and other labour organizations. Labour’s participation gave the USSF important financial support and populated the event with a cohort of labour activists from around the nation. The AFL-CIO presented two workshops in Cobo Hall on Thursday morning that were well attended.

Importance of Full Employment Campaign

The two hour workshop on the Fight for Jobs and Economic Recovery was led by an AFL-CIO staff person and the national jobs coordinator of Jobs with Justice. The workshop focused on the tasks of organizing the unemployed locally and mobilizing for the October 2nd National March on Washington for Jobs and Justice. The second focus of the workshop was around how to raise the militancy of tactics in the struggle for jobs. The workshop of 80 people broke into 8 subgroups to separately come up with proposals for local organizing and raising the level of militancy, then reported back to the body.

The Immigration rights workshop was also organized by the national AFL-CIO. Panelists included a founder of the Alliance of Guest Workers founded in 2007, who responded to the abuse of immigrant guest workers who are recruited by corporations on the basis of false promises.

“Guest workers are treated as slaves,” explained Pat Fry, “forced to work for little pay in dangerous work conditions under threat of being reported to ICE if they quit their jobs.” The point made by the panelists who were both either guest workers or undocumented was that legal status does not end abuse of immigrant workers. “I was impressed with the panel and the role of the AFL-CIO in organizing it,” Fry added, “and the work that the labour federation is doing working with the U.S. Labor Department to expand U Visas for workers who quit their jobs due to abusive employers. We are working legislatively with Congress to support the POWER act introduced by Sen. Menendez (NJ) and its work with the building trades unions who are requiring employers who recruit guest workers to cover them under the same terms of work – pay and working conditions – as union members.”

The Role of CCDS

The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS), for its part, decided early on to try to organize two panels, one on 21st Century Socialism, which it hoped to do as a ‘left unity’ effort with other socialist groups, and a panel on the role of the struggle for democracy in the South as a critical element to winning nationwide democratic gains.

But since we wanted to do more, we also cooperated with other groups in putting together panels on the peace movement and the economy, on Vietnam and Agent Orange, on Anne Braden’s Legacy as a Southern Activist, and especially on the Democracy Charter initiative launched by civil rights veteran Jack O’Dell. We also worked with groups like Kentuckians for the Commonwealth for a workshop on organizing in Appalachia and supported the Iraq Vets Against the War on GI organizing. Altogether, to promote these efforts, we put together our own program, a ‘CCDS Track’ of some 32 panels and two ‘Peoples Movement Assemblies.’

Duncan McFarland, a CCDS National Committee member, worked with the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Committee and Veterans for Peace to conduct a powerful and moving workshop on Vietnam the first full day, June 23. He presented slides from a recent tour of Vietnam showing the ongoing human damage of Agent Orange within the broader context of Vietnam’s progress since the war. “We were also able to promote the upcoming CCDS 2011 socialist study tour to Vietnam,” said McFarland.

The Democracy Charter workshop was held in the Westin Cadillac Hotel on Friday, June 5. It was chaired by Pat Fry, a CCDS Co-chair, and led by a well-organized panel. Bill Fletcher, Jr., author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice, called for the organizing of People’s Assemblies where the Democracy Charter can be a tool for engaging grass roots discussion on what we stand for. “It is less a document,” said Fletcher, “and more a process.” He cautioned, however, that the ANC Freedom Charter would not have been the organizing tool that it was without the South African Communist Party, and it is hard to think about the utility of the Democracy Charter apart from a more organized left in the U.S.

Tim Johnson, a librarian at New York University and a left journalist, said the Democracy Charter needs a “conscious movement” that can organize around it. Johnson also spoke about the ideological confusion sown by corporate control of the airwaves. Frances Fox Piven, the author of many books on poverty issues, said there are many charters and that another should evolve out of the mass movement, not before the movement. Instead, she said, what is needed is a new manifesto that explains the capitalist system. Others commented on the specific points of the Charter in ways to deepen the content. Jackie Cabasso of the Western States Legal Foundation talked about peace and disarmament – no country’s population has ever voted to have nuclear weapons, she said.

‘Democracy Charter’ as a Counter to the Tea Party ‘Principles’

CCDS’s Carl Davidson said the Democracy Charter filled the need for a principled agenda as an organizational tool and an answer to Glenn Beck’s “9-12 principles” for the Tea Party. “It reminds me of the old ten-point program of the Black Panthers,” he said, “but aimed at the entire population.” Discussion that followed struggled with the various themes on process and organizing that were expressed in the presentations. Most important, the workshop helped launch the newly formed Democracy Charter Grassroots Organizing Committee.

The DSA-CCDS sponsored joint workshop on socialism that followed was a big success. The speakers included David Schweickart, author of After Capitalism; Carl Davidson, national co-chair of CCDS; Libero della Piana of the Communist Party, USA; Eric See of Freedom Road Socialist Organization; and Joe Schwartz, vice-chair of DSA, with David Green of DSA as the moderator. Held in the UAW’s Ford Building, it was standing room only until the room dividers were opened to deal with the overflow.

David Schweickart opened with a PowerPoint presentation making the case for ‘Economic Democracy’ as a successor system to today’s capitalism. “If we can elect our mayors, why not elect the managers of firms we own or control?” he asked. Within a Marxist framework, he segmented markets into three – labour, capital and goods and services – and argued that the first two could be restricted or abolished, while the third would best be maintained, although regulated. This would allow for a worker-controlled variant of a socialist market economy that would give us a basis for a genuine democracy rather than our current ‘dollarocracy.’

Carl Davidson elaborated on important political points about democracy, both as an end and a path to socialism. He went on to describe 20th Century Socialism as compromised by Stalinism and its distortions, the excesses of the Cultural Revolution in China, and the genocidal results of Pol Pot’s Kampuchea. A 21st Century Socialism would do best to recognize that all governmental power, of whatever sort, is limited by natural human rights that are inherent, even if they develop historically. Davidson’s second point focused on “our dual tasks, democratic and socialist, which overlap but are not the same.” The first involved finding the forms to unite a progressive majority, while the latter involved uniting a militant minority around serious policy work and revolutionary education.

Left Unity Arises in Struggle

Libero della Piana opened by describing how left unity was something that was achieved “after we’ve worked together in a practical way. It’s more of an outcome of struggle than a starting point.” Speaking to the problems of past socialisms, he told how one friend told him that the CPUSA had “the best brand” on the left. “Yes,” he replied, “but what about the content? Are we an Edsel? The point is we have a lot of baggage, good and bad.” He noted, however, that whatever the problems of the left, “this system has no good answers,” and “even with the right’s attacks on Obama as a ‘socialist,’ new interest is being aroused, especially among young people, and we had best relate to it.”

Eric See of FRSO started by taking a quick poll of the audience: Were they socialists and what did it mean to them, in a nutshell? He got dozens of quick responses, from ‘eco-socialism’ and ‘ending racism,’ to ‘bringing democracy into the economy’ and ‘the workers in power.’ The brutality of the system, he warned, could itself bring us to Rosa Luxemburg’s choice, ‘socialism or barbarism.’ After posing a series of poignant questions, he noted that, first, efforts to ‘refound our thinking’ was in order, and second, however corrupt our electoral system, we had to find ways to work through it “in order to get past it.”

Joe Schwartz of DSA noted the need to fan the flames and expand the mass movements. “We have lots of local activity on many fronts, but still not enough. Workers, for instance, are not spontaneously demanding unionization in any massive way.” Next he stressed the fight against racism and the apartheid-like divisions created in both affluent suburbs and across the board in the public sphere. “Who can deny the overt and open use of racism to build a center-right majority for the next election?” He concluded with a call for a ‘Second Bill of Rights,’ one that expanded democracy into the economic and social spheres, beyond individuality.

The discussion that followed covered a range of issues. People went deep into the matter of ecology and climate change, into how socialist experiments could be launched and survive with the context of capitalism, and into the importance of engaging youth in social movements and anarchist networks. When we had to leave the room, DSA invited everyone to a tent outside offering free ice cream, an ‘ice cream socialist.’

These two workshops were not the largest or even necessarily the most important.

“I attended three workshops that were very large,” said Randy Shannon, a CCDS National Committee member, “two of which were packed with youth. The composition of these workshops reflected that of the USSF overall, which is predominantly young people. One of my objectives at the USSF was to promote our new booklet on full employment, and the concepts of employment as a human right and full employment were very appealing to them.”

Since any one person at the USSF could only attend nine workshops and three assemblies, a sort of ‘competitive marketing’ was essential if you wanted to use the immense gathering as an organizing opportunity. It enabled any group to use the USSF as a way to organize its own ‘conferences within a conference’ on any number of subthemes.

The Solidarity Economy Network organized one of the larger projects like this. SEN itself was founded out of a project of about 10 groups to organize some 70 panels at the Atlanta USSF in 2007. It had also gathered up the best of the 2007 presentations and produced a book introducing the topic. In Detroit, it expanded its effort to include some 109 workshops on solidarity economy related themes, as well as getting a speaker from the solidarity economy movement in Brazil as a speaker on one of the major closing panels.

Growth of Solidarity Economy Movement

“It’s important for other parts of the world to realize that there is a lot of organizing going on in the belly of the beast,” said Emily Kawano, executive director of the Solidarity Economy Network. “But there has been a lot of progress made, as you can see by the growth in the number of SEN-related activities here.”

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) served as a good case in point on how local groups used the forum. Two dozen of their members joined with dozens of Kentucky allies, such as Jobs with Justice, and loaded buses for Detroit. Once there, they hosted two powerful workshops with about sixty people attending between them. The workshops were “The Struggle For Justice in the Coalfields of Central Appalachia and Colombia” and “A Discussion About the Life and Example of Anne Braden.”

Inter-Generational Dialogue

“I’m an old radical,” said Jack Norris of KFTC’s Jefferson County chapter, “and I’ve never been around this many other radical people – including lots of young people in leadership roles. It was an opportunity to pass the torch to the next generation.”

KFTC partnered with the Alliance For Appalachia in setting up a booth throughout the five days to talk to people about mountaintop removal mining and other damages inflicted on communities by the coal industry.

Climate Change Crisis

One CCDS local chapter, Metro DC, also organized a workshop, entitled ‘Rapid Solarization Can Drive Sustainable Economic Growth While Preventing Catastrophic Climate Change.’ David Schwartzman, Walter Teague and Jane Zara from DC Science for the People made presentations. “Unfortunately, we were moved twice and ended up far from the center of the conference,” said Teague, “and so the attendance was small. But we distributed widely throughout the conference the new three-fold leaflet Preventing Climate Catastrophic Change and a revision of the 18 page in-depth piece Climate Change: An Unprecedented Challenge.

The major venue for groups to display their wares was the huge Macomb sector of Cobo Hall, which had hundreds of tables and displays. “CCDS had a good, well-stocked table,” said Mark Solomon, a former co-chair. “Our material is becoming a bit more attractive!”

There were also additional street demonstrations throughout the week. “I was thrilled to participate in a Friday morning march on Chase Manhattan Bank – of over a thousand people to demand that the bank cease loans to union busting corporations and stop throwing people out of their homes,” said Pat Fry, a native Detroiter.

The march was organized by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) demanding that Chase stop loans to the RJ Reynolds in North Carolina where FLOC is organizing tobacco workers and the Detroit coalition to stop home foreclosures led by UAW, community and religious leaders demanding that Chase stop throwing people out of their homes. The march succeeded in Chase agreeing to sit down and meet with leaders of both movements.

Another march for jobs was organized on the second day of the USSF by Jobs with Justice, AFSCME Council 65 and the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO demanding, “Money for JOBS, not Banks!” Another street corner rally was held outside Cobo Hall by Emergency Medical Technicians from the Detroit Fire Department who were losing their jobs due to city budget cuts, losses that will leave Detroit with 12 ambulances for the entire city.

Cultural Activities: ‘The Leftist Lounge’

One fairly interesting feature of downtown Detroit, once you got the hang of it, was the ‘People Mover,’ a two-car train that covered a circular route through the downtown area. New Yorkers tended to scoff at it as a ‘toy subway,’ but it actually worked rather nicely getting people to decent and inexpensive restaurants, and the nearby culture and entertainment area, labeled the ‘Leftist Lounge,’ for late-night parties and revelry.

“The most fun I had was at the Leftist Lounge,” said Tina Shannon, a CCDSer and also president of the 4th CD Progressive Democrats of America in Beaver County, PA. “It was a series of warehouses turned into dance clubs. The walls were covered with posters from social movements and pictures of activists and videos documenting protest in different places. The music in each room had a different flavor. The crowd was mostly young and very diverse. The social atmosphere was welcoming. Us old folks didn’t feel out of place. We just danced and let our hope and faith in our young be rejuvenated. My only regret was that CCDS only had one literature table in the main hall and not here.

Slide show

As for housing, the downtown hotels were filled, as were motels as far as 25 miles out. Naturally, everyone looked up old friends still living in the Detroit area, and for the more adventuresome youth, a vacant lot about half a mile from Cobo served as ‘Tent City’ for tent campers. Along with one or two others, I found a legal spot to park my truck camper/RV within a ten-minute walk.

“We secured 3,000 hotel rooms in downtown Detroit, except for the MGM Grand Hotel who wouldn’t work with us,” said Maureen Taylor, chair of the organizing committee in Detroit. “It was good to come to Detroit. We are validated. We’ve got love, commitment and anger.”

Somehow it all worked out. One reason is that the Social Forums, both here and abroad, are not so much organizations as a ‘political space,’ or common ground where groups with conflicting and contending ideas can seek common ground, or at least co-exist cooperatively for a time. That usually means there is no document or set of unifying principles or common political platform to wrangle over. One can try to organize an assembly under the bigger tent that does come up with a common statement, which is then reported to the closing assembly, but it’s not binding on anyone. Here’s some excerpts from just a few resolutions:

  • From the assembly discussing the October 2nd ‘March on DC for Jobs’ initiated by the NAACP, La Raza and several unions: “Support the One Nation, Working Together march to be held in Washington, DC, October 2, 2010. Jobs, Education, Housing, Immigration Rights, Cut the Military Budget!”

  • From the resolution on Displacement, Migration, and Immigration: “The freedom to move across borders that were set up to colonize and exploit people for profit is a basic element of human dignity. We recognize the right and need for Peoples to migrate and connect across the world to experience other cultures and expand our understanding of life.”

  • From the Endless War and Militarism resolution: “We call for a diametrical shift of U.S. tax revenues from war and militarization to meet human needs, here and abroad. This requires recalibrating the moral compass of the nation in ways that prioritize sustainability, justice and equity over power, growth and control of resources.”

The WSF approach to resolutions and platforms has developed several criticisms over the years. Some argue that the Social Forum structures bend too much toward anarchism, avoiding a unified spearhead against a common target. A few others argue that the Social Forums have become ‘tame’ and ‘taken over’ by foundation-funded Non-Governmental Organizations, or NGOs, meaning Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the like, which have more liberal politics and are engaged with government in various ways. Still others have become more receptive to the recent call by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to found a new ‘Fifth International’ of socialist and related anti-imperialist liberation movements, which would have a higher level of unity and discipline.

But these criticisms are all a minor chord in the background. When all is said and done, there’s still nothing quite like the cross-fertilization and synergy that arises en masse from the formula devised by the Social Forum. Its efforts bring the political left and the social movement left together in one intense happening. As long as it’s not broke, it’s not likely anyone is going to be successful fixing it. •

Carl Davidson is a public speaker, political activist and maintains a blog at Keep On Keepin’ On!

The well integrity test is arguably failing, as the pressures are not reaching the 8,000 psi minimum target.

CBS News notes:

The federal pointman for the BP oil spill says results are short of ideal in the new cap but the oil will stay shut in for another 6 hours at least.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said on a Friday afternoon conference that pressure readings from the cap have not reached the level that would show there are no other leaks in the well.

He said the test will go ahead for another 6-hour period before being reassessed to see if BP needs to reopen the cap and let oil spill out again.

MSNBC writes:

Allen said two possible reasons were being debated by scientists: The reservoir that is the source of the oil could be running lower than expected three months into the spill. Or there could be an undiscovered leak somewhere down in the well.

The New York Times reports:

Thad W. Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral who is overseeing the response to the gulf oil spill, said that while there were indications from the test that the well was in good shape, it was not yet possible to rule out damage that could complicate efforts to halt the leak permanently.

“We want to be careful not to do any harm or create a situation that could not be reversed,” he said in a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon.

***

Admiral Allen said the test would continue in six-hour increments and that any new data would be reviewed by scientists and engineers from the government, BP and other companies. He said there would be “enhanced monitoring” of the seabed, including acoustic tests that could detect tiny bubbles of methane gas coming from the bed, which would be evidence of damage to the well.

***

Admiral Allen said that such a pressure buildup suggested that the well was not damaged. But he said that the pressure level reached — about 6,700 pounds per square inch, or more than 450 times atmospheric pressure — was below that expected for an intact well.

One explanation for the ambiguity, he said, is that the reservoir of oil 13,000 feet below the seabed could have been depleted by the well as it galloped out of control for nearly three months. But another possibility is that the well is breached, with oil and gas escaping into the rock or, worse, into the gulf through the sea floor.

BP states that the pressure in the well is only rising 2 pounds per square inch each hour.

I will post a transcript of Allen’s report when it becomes available (here is an unofficial, rough transcript). In the meantime, blogger Wang – who attended the press conference by telephone – added details from Allen’s press conference (I simply edited for clarity of reading; I will update with corrected and expanded transcript as I receive it):

Uncertainty about the meaning of the pressure. Could be lower because of well integrity, or the reservoir has become somewhat depleted and so is lower in pressure than expected.

The initial curve of pressure build up was normal but stopped short of our target which is the concern.

Don’t want to create harm or an irreversible situation.

Was the reservoir depleted or is there an ongoing way for the oil to leave the well bore? We do not know the condition of the well bore. There’s a good chance it could be depletion. Checking out the well bore. Checking for leaks. We have no indication of a seafloor breach so it could be reservoir depletion.

Additional seismic surveys are required.

This kind of formation can maybe heal itself if we do damage it, the quickest way to reduce pressure is opening the kill and choke line.If there is a problem we will vent the oil.

Reservoir depletion can be measured by determining if there was an aquifer beneath the reservoir but there is not one. If the seismic and acoustic show no sign of leakage we will continue with the testing.

NOAA boat looking for methane from the sea floor with acoustic device. There is some concern about methane. We want to make sure there is no methane. If we were to detect methane we would lower the pressure by venting or ramp up Helix Producer.

We will reevaluate in 6 hours and have a series of meetings (with the committee) everything moving forward is condition based. We should have results in the next 6 hours. The 6 hour period starts now.

(BP’s Kent Wells gave a similar, follow-up briefing.)

There are actually at least four potential explanations for the low pressure readings:

(1) There are substantial leaks in the well;

(2) There is leakage in the sands deep under the seafloor. Oil industry professionals posting at the Oil Drum hypothesize:

What this could indicate is that there is a possibility of crossflow at the bottom of the well. What this means that the oil and gas that are flowing out of the reservoir into the bottom of the well, are, under the pressure in the well, now flowing into a higher reservoir of rock, now that they can’t get out of the well. Depending on where that re-injection flow is, this may, or may not, suggest that the casing has lost integrity. This is a topic that has been covered in the comments at The Oil Drum, where fdoleza – “a petroleum engineering consultant retired from a major multi-national oil company” – has noted:

… I believe the flow will be coming out of the bottom sand and going into the upper sand. It would not be a leak, but it would tell them why their pressure data ain’t a classical surface buildup. And I sure hope they’re modeling temperatures and so on, because this is a very interesting case. They don’t have downhole gauges, so they’ll have to take the way the oil cools down as it sits to get a better idea of the way things are moving down below.

If there are questions whether there is still flow in the formation or from the original formation into surrounding rock, then it is possible that the relief well (RW) is close enough to the original well (WW) that putting a set of very sensitive microphones down the RW might allow some triangulation to estimate where such a flow might be occurring. It might make it easier that the well hasn’t been finally cased yet. But the test has 2 days to run, and will be evaluated every 6 hours. With time some of these questions may be answered as the test continues. (If there is no flow anywhere, after a while all the readings should become quite stable).

(3) A hypothesis proposed by Roger N. Anderson – professor of marine geology and geophysics at Columbia University – that the pressure could be rising slowly not because of a leak, but because of some kind of blockage in the well: “If it’s rising slowly, that means the pipe’s integrity’s still there. It’s just getting around obstacles”

or

(4) The reservoir has been depleted more than engineers anticipated (although many experts have said that the reservoir is much bigger than BP has forecast; in any event, there are factors other than size which determine pressure. For example, blowouts can reduce pressure pretty quickly in some reservoirs)

While many oil industry experts are betting on damage to the well bore or communication between layers of sand, Don Van Nieuwenhuise – Director of the Professional Geoscience Programs at the University of Houston – thinks reservoir pressure has simply “deflated”, and that 6,700 psi isn’t unexpected:

The 6,700 pound- per-square inch pressure reading logged inside the blown-out Macondo well this morning may suggest that the well has lost power over the almost three-month-long period it has flowed into the Gulf of Mexico and not that the well is leaking somewhere beneath the sea floor, a geologist who has been following the gusher said.

The reservoir could have “deflated” since it began leaking April 20, reducing the amount of pressure it is capable of producing, said [Van Nieuwenhuise].

***

But Van Nieuwenhuise said this morning’s 6,700 pounds per square inch reading should not cause worry.

“I don’t think it’s a cause for immediate concern, because it could reflect a natural loss of oil in the reservoir,” Van Nieuwenhuise said. “It’s amazing that it has held its strength for as long as it has.”

***

When they first said this, I said if they can get to 7,000 (pounds per square inch) that would be good,” Van Nieuwenhuise said. “The 8,000 to 9,000 estimate reflects its initial pressure, but since it’s been bleeding so much, I’m not surprised it’s at 7,000.”

Note 1: Because pressures are still rising (if only 2 lbs per hour), it probably means that the well integrity test hasn’t caused any new leaks so far.

Note 2: Oil industry expert Robert Cavner notes that seismic testing isn’t as straightforward as it sounds:

Seismic puts sound into the sea floor, and measures the time it takes for those sound waves to return. Different kinds of rocks reflect sound waves at certain velocities, or speeds. By measuring the time it takes for the sound to return from a certain depth of rock, geo-scientists can draw maps of the subsurface. Often you can get an idea of the fluid within the pore space of rocks by the way it returns sound waves. They ran a baseline survey a couple of days ago, and will compare that data to the data that they’ll get today to see if anything has changed around the well to indicate fluid movement. But, as one of my geologist friends of mine likes to say, reading seismic for precise conclusions is often like trying to observe airplanes flying overhead while lying on the bottom of a swimming pool. It’s difficult to draw definite conclusions, even using high frequency seismic, but it will be another data point.

For all intent and purposes, the United States is insolvent.

This is not my personal assessment but that of world renowned “experts” and economists, and financial institutions. Just google “US Debts” and you can find thousands of analysts stating that there is no way that the US can ever pay off its debts. The US cannot even liquidate the accumulated interest on the outstanding debts. The debts are in the trillions!

The Casey Daily Dispatch observed:

The simple reality the Fed is waking up to is that the structural underpinnings of the economy are damaged beyond any quick or easy fix. That’s because until the debt is wrung out of the system, either through default or raging inflation – there’s no chance of it actually being paid in anything remotely resembling current dollars – the equivalent of an economic Black Death is going to plague the land. 

The American rating agencies, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Ratings still give the thumbs up for the United States – a whopping AAA rating.  These same agencies gave AAA ratings to the CDOs and other financial products peddled by the Too Big to Fail Global Banks when they were in fact junk. It took the financial tsunami to expose their fraudulent practices.

So I don’t give too much credence to the ratings by these crooked institutions.

The National Inflation Association (NIA) believes that the real credit rating of the US should be junk. But you don’t have to believe them either.

So how do we know for sure that the US should be rated as junk?

Simple! Apply common sense to the facts before you. 

Since the United States defaulted on its debts in 1971, when President Nixon refused global and sovereign creditors the right of redemption in gold for US dollars, it has been living on borrowed time. The United States conned the world into accepting its toilet paper currency and for those who dared to question the integrity of its fiat currency, the mighty US military was deployed to ensure compliance.

The global banking elites then employed subservient economists the world over to tout the merits of the floating exchange rate as the mechanism to determine a currency’s value. Countries were compelled by threats of war or coups to peg their currency to the dollar. The dollar became the “anchor” in place of gold. Trade had to be denominated in US dollar which gave the United States an undue advantage. 

This “pegging” gave an illusion of strength of the US dollar and creditworthiness of the United States. While others have to produce and earn an income in a “local currency” and then exchange it for US dollars to import and or purchase goods (as over 80% of global trade is denominated in dollars), the “paper tiger United States” need only to print money to pay for goods and services when its income was insufficient to pay and sustain its standard of living.

For over 37 years, the United States got away with this con!  

For over 37 years, people the world over sold their produce to the United States in exchange for a paper with a number printed on it, a number denoting its value i.e. a 100 dollar note etc. People just accepted the number printed on the paper as reflective of the “real value” of the currency. In reality it has no value. It costs a few cents to print the toilet paper currency.

Through slick propaganda, people were led to believe that the value is as printed on the paper. No one dare to question the absurdity of this proposition.

But now, we have reached the stage of total collapse of the global fiat currency system. Every country in the developed world is implementing the policy of “quantitative easing” (the central bankers’ jargon for creating money out of thin air) in a desperate effort to pay off mounting debts and compounding interest in the trillions. To a lesser extent, developing countries are also following the Washington consensus. The global financial system is flooded with toilet paper currencies.

What will be the endgame?  

Let’s pause and think for a moment. Let’s apply common sense.

The US dollar $, the Euro €, the pound £, the Yen ¥ etc. are all fiat currencies – they have no intrinsic value. Their value is a number arbitrarily printed on the paper and sanctioned by central bankers as “legal tender”.

In essence, they are all junk – toilet paper currencies. So how do they “float” against each other under the global floating exchange rate system?

This is where the fun starts.

How does one compare a junk from another?  How does one determine the exchange value of one junk from another?  A junk is a junk!

Forget about the market forces determining the values of the various junk currencies. It is determined by central bankers and no one else.

Whether a US dollar is equivalent to Ringgit 3.40 or Euro 1.18 or Yen 90 is arbitrarily decided by the respective central banks. And there is nothing you and I can do about it. If it serves the interest of a country to have its currency devalued, the central bank of that country will allow its currency to devalue and vice-versa. 

Sometimes, the central bankers get their accomplices, the hedge funds to jointly manipulate the forex market through derivatives trading. And as long as the central bankers and their accomplices maintain the fluctuations in any one period of time in accordance with the parameters previously agreed by the central bankers, nothing much will happen. It is when central bankers cannot agree on the parameters that problems will emerge, often resulting in trade wars and even “hot” wars.

Don’t believe me?

I will give two examples:

The Plaza Accord

In 1985, at the request of the United States – France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom agreed to deliberately weaken the dollar’s exchange rate. At the material time, the United States was having huge trade deficits, especially with Japan. The agreement, known as the Plaza Accord, was to help the United States reduce its huge trade deficit to assist its economy to climb out of the 1980′s long recession. The intervention was so successful, that the dollar depreciated beyond its target level. By the end of 1987, the dollar had fallen by 54% against both the D-mark and the yen from its peak in February 1985. This sharp drop caused another panic – that of an uncontrolled dollar plunge.

To address and reverse the excessive depreciation of the dollar, the same group of countries agreed in 1987 to strengthen the dollar. This latter effort was known as the Louvre Accord. Another blatant market manipulation! Since when were any markets really free?

Why did England and France agree to participate in this blatant market manipulation? They owed US a big thank you for winning the Second World War. It was time for the US to collect past dues. In the case of Germany and Japan, being defeated nations and under occupation, they had no choice but to kow tow to big brother USA.  

The Asian Financial Crisis

All you need to do is to recall what happened during the Asian financial crisis. The tiger economies were undermined and attacked and their currencies went into a free fall. Malaysia’s economic development was severely threatened. But the then prime minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had the foresight and courage to take on the global financial elites and imposed capital and currency controls. The prime minister unilaterally fixed the exchange rate for the ringgit at RM3.80 to a dollar. Forex speculators took a major hit and never recovered from this surprise counter attack.

While this unprecedented intervention was executed to save the national economy and the livelihood of 23 million Malaysians, the global financial elites through the shadow banking system intervened to manipulate the market to reap obscene profits and to plunder.  

We will now address the trillion dollar question.

How does China or the United States decide that one US dollar is equivalent to 6.7 Yuan or whatever rate?

Before addressing the question, it is important for us to understand how in a relatively short period of time, China was able to accumulate such a huge amount of dollar reserves and became the No. 1 creditor of the United States.

In their grand scheme for financial hegemony, the US financial elites proposed to the Chinese financial elites that in exchange for massive FDI and outsourcing of industries by the US, China must supply cheap goods to the American market and maintain an agreed exchange rate. This scheme was the lynchpin to an unprecedented expansion of credit in the global financial system, because such a rapid expansion of credit would be extremely inflationary. When China can supply the entire spectrum of goods at less than ten percent of the prevailing price, the financial elites knew that they could flood the global casino with dollars without having to worry about inflation.

And as they say, the rest is history.

This arrangement served the US and China well for two decades, in fact too well resulting in China having the largest dollar reserves in the world as well as becoming the largest creditor to the US.   

Coming back to the trillion dollar question, as stated earlier the exchange rate is determined by the respective central banks. Of late, the Obama administration has been putting pressure on China to revalue its currency. In response to the pressure and to avoid a trade war, China allowed its currency to appreciate slightly. In fact, this happened just before the G-20 Summit in Toronto.

While the above arrangement (specifically the agreed exchange rate) has served its original purpose, it can no longer be sustained. This is because the current yuan/dollar peg is distorting the forex market and will exacerbate even further the present global financial crisis.   

As a result of the global financial tsunami, the US is in default once again. But this time round, Obama cannot do what Nixon did in 1971.

The Daily Reckoning assessed the situation correctly when its subscribers were told:

Wait a minute. We’re still Number One, right?

Yes…in the sense that we can, in theory, kick any butt in the world. That is, if the Chinese let us. They’ve got so much of our money and so many of our bonds, if they decided to dump them, we’d be in one helluva fix. Because we don’t pay enough in taxes to fund our social programs and the Pentagon at the same time. We can’t afford it. So the nice Chinese lend us money.

But don’t worry. They’ve promised not to dump our bonds. And we’re sure they’ll honor that promise for as long as they want to.

As far as we know, no empire that had to borrow money from its rivals has ever lasted very long. Britain got itself in that position in WWI. It could no longer afford the carrying costs of the empire – including the huge cost of the war itself. So, it borrowed from the US. The Germans borrowed from US lenders too. But America’s lenders to Britain had more money in New York and more power in Washington. So, the US entered the war on Britain’s side rather than on Germany’s side.

Then, in WWII, when an American general was put in charge of D-Day, it was clear that Britain had ceded the lead dog position to the US. It was a friendly handover, achieved by force of economics rather than by force of arms. The US did not have to defeat Britain militarily. Instead, she merely had to finance her.

A few years later, during the Suez crisis, Britain learned what it was like to be a subordinate power. She discovered that she could no longer throw her weight around without US consent.


But that is on the military front. At home, Britons discovered that they were poor…and getting relatively poorer. Under the weight of growing social welfare programs and a shrinking empire, Britain’s economy sagged. Its old allies – France and the US – boomed in the post-war years. So did its old enemies – Japan and Germany. Soon, not only were its friends richer and more powerful…so were its adversaries.

So, we now have a ridiculous situation where the United States owes global creditors trillions of dollars (specifically China), is insolvent, yet, the exchange rate does not reflect the underlying weakness of the United States.

We also have the situation where China has been selling goods and services to the United States and is being paid in toilet paper currency that has no value other than the artificial and arbitrary value printed on the paper. China, in turn lends these toilet papers back to the United States so that it can purchase more goods and services from China. The United States has no money to repay China, so it creates money out of thin air, via the electronic printing press and use that to pay China.

Seriously, how long can this charade last?

Back in 1985, we had the Plaza Accord to bail out the paper tiger USA. The answer then was to devalue the US dollar. But Japan suffered two decades of stagnation.

Why have the same countries – UK, France, Germany and Japan not adopted a similar strategy at this juncture, thereby boosting US exports?

Simple! 

1.    The US has outsourced so much of their previous exports to China and other countries that it does not have enough meaningful products to export anymore to make a substantial difference in the trade deficit.

2.    For the past decade, the main exports of the US were, and continue to be “Financial Products” – the junks wrapped up as CDOs and rated AAA and sold to gullible investors (i.e. gamblers) all over the world. The US was the centre of the global derivatives casino, managed by the Shadow Banking Cartel.    
 
3.    There has been such a massive US dollar credit expansion in the last decade as well as toilet paper dollars in the global financial system that any attempt to devalue the dollar would result in an uncontrolled free fall, and the complete destruction of the economy of the US.

4.    And China by maintaining its current exchange rate with the dollar (and within a narrow band of fluctuation) has artificially maintained the current value of the US dollar to avoid the status of being downgraded to junk.         
     
5.    Thus in the short term, China is complicit, together with other major central banks, in hoodwinking the ordinary folks that the global fiat money system is still in a healthy state. But, by downgrading the US one notch, China and the global elites hope that the con can be maintained for some time so that China as well as other countries can get out of their massive US dollar assets. But the situation is so volatile that no one, absolutely no one can say for sure when a child would cry out the proverbial exposé, hey, the emperor has no clothes!

6.    It is also obvious to the global financial elites that if there is a massive flight from dollar assets to euro assets, there would also be an uncontrolled plunge of the US dollar. The European global banks are also up to their eyeballs holding junk dollar assets and would thereby suffer huge losses over and above their exposure in euro loans to the “PIIGS” countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain). Unlike the time of the Plaza Accord, right now, no one wants dollar devaluation. When the slide starts, no one would be able to stop the plunge. Central bankers are sitting on a knife’s edge. Ouch!

7.    So, the “Greek crisis” was engineered to prevent such a flight from dollar assets to euro assets. Greece is “Mary Poppins” in the overall financial scheme of things. Its GDP is not even 3% of the Euro zone. In contrast, California is bankrupt and is more pivotal to the US economy. It is the 7th largest economy in the world. Yet, the bankruptcy of California did not impact on the US economy as it should. This is because the global mass media ensured that the bankruptcy would not be highlighted. The hype instead was that the euro would be heading for a crash. The result? The flight to euros was halted in its tracks.

8.    Someone threw the spanner in the works. The culprit in the eyes of the global financial elites was the indomitable Iran. China and Russia were playing geopolitical games in their trade relations with Iran in the hope that President Ahmadinejad would not spoil the party before they were ready to dump their massive dollar assets. The US and Israel played the hard ball role while China and Russia initially played the softy role so typical of the police methods when attempting to extract concessions and or confessions. But China’s and Russia’s true intentions were revealed, when exasperated with the resilience and defiance of Iran, they opted to impose severe sanctions on Iran. The quartet did not bother to maintain the farce. The nuclear weapons issue was merely a smoke screen to mislead the world of the impending financial implosion.

The downgrade by China must be seen for what it is – a stark warning that the end is near. The curtain has to come down on the charade.

Another signal that the end is near was when the Bank of International Settlement (BIS) swapped Gold as security for a dollar facility extended to a sovereign (most likely Portugal) via commercial entities. Gold, once considered a “barbaric relic” is now back in fashion in currency swaps. Who would have thought this was possible just a few months ago?  In a sense, we have turned a full circle. In 1971, Nixon decoupled gold from the US dollar. Today, the BIS have taken the first few steps in bringing gold back to its rightful place.

No matter how hard the central bankers and China try to prevent the sovereign debt bubble blow-out, they will not succeed.

Sooner or later, China has to make the decision of the 21st century – to dump the dollar and allow global economies to suffer severe pain in the short term, five to ten years, or commit mass suicide together with the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and Japan.

China at this moment in time is the only country that can survive the coming financial devastation with the least pain as it will be relatively easy to transform its economy from being export-driven to that of a domestic-based economy – tapping the limitless potential of its 1.5 billion citizens. China can do in one short year, maybe at the most two, what would take a generation for the other developed economies to do.

A marginal increase in the purchasing power of its citizens will take up whatever downturn in the export markets.

The fact that the Yuan is propping up the dollar means that it is the Yuan and not the dollar that is the undisputed global reserve currency. If China revalues drastically upwards the Yuan, every fiat currency would head for an uncontrolled free fall.

Let us not be naive and kid ourselves. It is pure pantomime for the US to demand from China to revalue the Yuan and for China to resist a revaluation. This so-called currency tug-of-war is a smoke screen to lend credence that the dollar is not junk but AA, albeit down one notch from AAA.

The fact that so many western-trained economists have not addressed and or exposed this issue can mean only two things – either they are truly ignorant or they are part of this grand charade, blowing smoke into our eyes.

Be patient.  Invest in Gold. Prepare for Act II of the financial Armageddon!

OTTAWA, July 16 (Xinhua) — Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay said on Friday that the Canadian government plans to spend 9 billion Canadian dollars (8.6 billion U.S. dollars) to purchase 65 new-generation fighter jets, or the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.

BP’s Incentive: To Not Capture All the Oil.

July 19th, 2010 by Robert L. Cavnar

In an interview, Bob Dudley, CEO of BP’s New Gulf Coast Restoration Organization (whatever that is) finally admitted yesterday that their first relief well could be completed far in advance of the mid-August date that they have been insisting on since May, enabled by the Coast Guard and other government officials.  We’ve heard the mantra now for months; even as the relief well, spud on Sunday, May 2, has stayed ahead of schedule, BP has steadfastly stuck to the mid-August completion date.  In the interview, Dudley said that the well could be ready for the kill attempt by July 20th to 27th, but hedged, though, that storms and seas could delay that date.  BP tried walking back his statement this morning, saying,

“He (Dudley) gave that as the very, very best scenario if everything went absolutely superbly according to plan and there are no interruptions but the expectation is that it will be
August.”

Coincidently, July 20th is the date that new British Prime Minister, David Cameron, is scheduled to meet with President Obama.  July 27th is the date set for BP to publicly release quarterly financial information.

BP has every incentive to get this well killed.  As you know, I’ve been calling next week Kill Week, and since they are almost there now, only 245 feet from the objective as of yesterday, I still believe that is doable.  The mid-August date never made any sense, unless they took a direct hit from a major hurricane, shutting down operations for 10 to 14 days.  Right now, short of the low pressure area that will come ashore around Brownsville over the weekend, there is no tropical activity even out in the open Atlantic.  Of course, that could always change, as we all know.

I’ve been resisting calling their delays in getting a better recovery system installed footdragging, but I now believe that’s exactly what they’re doing.  As my friend over at Daily Kos, Fishgrease, says, every bit of unmeasured oil that is spilled into the Gulf is later negotiable.  The volume estimates from the Flow Rate Technical Group are just that, estimates, and estimates are arguable in court.  Flow rates and recovered volume reports are bewildering, coming from BP, the Coast Guard, the Unified Command, and the DOE, sometimes matching and never consistent.  Sometimes BP will do a relief well update on their website, sometimes it comes from the Unified Command, sometimes from the Coast Guard in a hastily called press conference.  There is no central place for all information, and you have to know how to navigate the sites that do exist.  You need a degree in quantum physics to compile the information into anything that is deciferable and its a full time job trying to keep up with all of the numbers.   The only source of reliable continuous data is on the DOE Oilspill Data page, but it’s in oilfieldese, so only bewildering to the public.  No wonder everyone is so confused.  I’m paying attention all day every day, know what I’m looking for, and I get confused.   

While they have every incentive to get the well killed, BP also has every incentive to not capture 100% of the well flow until they do.  As soon as they do capture all the flow, then a real, measurable number will be in front of the public, and that’s the last thing BP wants, since that number will then be used to extrapolate environmental damage, hence per barrel fines that will likely run to the tens of billions anyway.  What bewilders me is why the government is letting them get away with it. Where is the Coast Guard, Steve Chu, the EPA, and the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management? Where is the White House? Where is the main stream media? Are industry bloggers the only ones who are asking these questions?

Don’t be surprised if the Helix system and the floating riser systems are not completed by kill date.  Also don’t be surprised when the kill attempt happens far in advance of mid-August before the larger system is operational.

I’ll certainly be watching.

More on The Daily Hurricane Energy page.

Nestled between Panama to its south and Nicaragua to its north, Costa Rica is a Central American nation roughly the size of Rhode Island.

If another nation were to send Rhode Island a force of 7,000 troops, 200 helicopters, and 46 warships in an effort to eradicate drug trafficking, it is doubtful that the residents of Rhode Island would consider this offer “on-the-level.” Such a massive military force could hardly be efficiently used to combat drug cartels. The only logical conclusion is that the nation whose troops now are occupying this other country had another agenda in mind that it didn’t want to share.

In early July, by a vote of 31 to 8, the Costa Rican Congress approved the U.S. bringing into their nation the same military force described above, justified with the same dubious “war on drugs” rationale. According to the agreement, the military forces are supposed to leave Costa Rica by the end of 2010. This begs the question, however, if such an over the top display of military muscle is needed now to combat the drug cartels, what will be done in the next few months to make their presence unnecessary? The history of such U.S. military deployments around the world suggests a more credible outcome than what the agreement states. Once the U.S. moves such massive forces into a country, they rarely move them out.

When push comes to shove, the political machinery in Costa Rica is subservient to U.S. government and corporate interests. Nevertheless, there are many in Costa Rica who are declaring that the agreement is a violation of their national sovereignty and is unconstitutional. (In 1948 Costa Rica abolished its army, which was sanctioned in its constitution.) Legislator Luis Fishman has vowed to challenge the decision of the Congress in the courts.

Shifting Strategy and Tactics

The buildup of U.S. armed forces in Costa Rica is part of an escalating pattern that indicates a shifting of strategy and tactics for the U.S. in controlling what the Monroe Doctrine infamously described as the U.S.’s “backyard” — that is, all of Latin America. Since the U.S. government inspired covert coup d’etats and political reversals of popular governments and/or movements in Guatemala, Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua, and El Salvador in previous decades, U.S. rulers had figured they had things stitched up to their liking in Latin America. The political elites in Latin America were uniformly in the pockets of the U.S. corporate empire and appeared to be more or less in control of their people. They commonly outlawed strikes and at times even trade unions, eliminated minimum wage laws, and gave enormous tax breaks to U.S. corporations.

Therefore, the U.S. Empire builders could use their political and economic might alone to subjugate these neo-colonies to a very profitable neoliberal agenda. This agenda included allowing U.S. corporations easy access to pillage these nations’ public sectors through privatization, letting multi-national corporations overrun these nations’ local markets and farms through the elimination of trade barriers, and increasing the exploitation of their workers and the devastation of their natural resources by tossing out national labor and environmental standards. Because of the profits enjoyed by a few as a result of these measures, they carried the day, though they, in turn, created a simmering spirit of rebellion in the semi-colonies’ peasantry and workers that would inevitably find expression.

As the U.S. began to set its sights on and send its resources to other parts of the world, most notably the Middle East and Asia, the web they had wrapped around Latin America began to unravel. This was most apparent in Venezuela where a U.S.-backed coup attempt in April of 2002 failed because of the massive mobilizing of the Venezuelan people in defense of their democratic rights. All subsequent attempts of the Venezuelan oligarchy, in collusion with the U.S. State Department, to get rid of Chavez resulted in their humiliation because of the constant support and organizing of the country’s lower classes. It became apparent to the U.S. ruling class that they could no longer rely on the Venezuelan oligarchy, which had lost direct control over the political situation. What is more, the popular upsurge witnessed in Venezuela in the past decade, opened up floodgates for anti-imperialist organizing across the continent, resulting in the election of a number of left-wing presidents.

Not only was the neoliberal agenda of the U.S. being blocked, an alternative to the U.S. Free Trade policies was being set up. The Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA), which was initiated by Venezuela and Cuba, began to build a trading block based on exchange according to different nations’ needs rather than U.S. corporate profits. While ALBA needs to be more substantially developed in order to fulfill its promise, especially in regards to organizing grassroots control to determine its priorities, it is a challenge to U.S. corporate and political dominance in the region.

U.S. Military Moves

As a result, the U.S. government began to shift its reliance from solely economic and political means to control Latin America towards taking military measures, even while engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What have been some of these measures?

In 2006 the U.S. conducted military exercises off the coast of Venezuela called “Operation Partnership of the Americas.” This exercise involved four ships, 60 fighter planes, and 6,500 U.S. troops.

In 2006 the U.S. State Department classified the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, with their military bases jointly contracted to Holland and the U.S., as “The Third Frontier of the United States.” U.S. aircraft carriers, war ships, combat planes, Black Hawk helicopters, nuclear submarines, and thousands of troops began to build up in Curacao in particular. In 2009 a U.S. military plane was intercepted in Venezuelan airspace that had flown from Curacao’s base.

In 2008 the U.S. reactivated the Fourth Fleet to patrol Caribbean waters. This fleet had been out of commission since 1950. Now it operates with the potential of acting as a floating base for the U.S. to conduct military strikes throughout Central and South America.

In 2009 the U.S. made a deal with Colombia to build up its military personal in seven bases, from 250 to 800 American troops with 600 civilian contractors, effectively taking control over these installations. This was widely denounced throughout Latin America as an action aimed at intimidating Venezuela. In December of that year a U.S. drone plane flying from one of these Colombian bases violated Venezuelan airspace.

From 2009 to 2010 the U.S. worked behind the scenes to legitimize a military coup in Honduras against lawfully elected President Zelaya, who had aligned the nation with ALBA. Part of the U.S.’s motivation behind its actions was to maintain control of Soto Cano’s Airbase, with its 550 U.S. troops and 650 U.S. and Honduran civilians. In the 1980′s the U.S. had used this base for a training ground and launching pad for the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua and El Salvadorian death squads opposed to the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). There is good reason for concern that this Airbase will again be used for similar operations today.

In 2009 the U.S. and Panama agreed to open up two naval bases in Panama, which will be the first time U.S. military forces will be based in this nation since 1999.

War on Drugs?

Most of these measures have been justified on the grounds of combating drug trafficking, including the military buildup in Costa Rica. However, they have not curtailed this problem at all. Such U.S. military buildups have generally been accompanied by an increase in drug trafficking, as has happened in both Columbia and Afghanistan. Based on this record it can only be concluded that the “War on Drugs” rationale is a red herring for public relations consumption, not the actual motivation.

This military build up in Costa Rica is the latest in a series of moves the U.S. has made in Latin America that seeks to use threats and arms to reverse the strength of popular anti-imperialist forces across the region. The U.S. is playing with the possibility of erupting a continental conflagration for the sake of corporate profits.

While it is doubtful that the U.S. wants to directly engage in a military conflict with, most likely, Venezuela right now, preparations for this possibility are being made. What is more likely in the short term is that the U.S. military will use its forces to engage in sabotage and intimidation in hopes of reversing support for the nations aligned with ALBA. It is also very possible that the U.S. military will help to support proxy armies, such as Colombia’s, in military conflicts that align with U.S. interests. However, this is a dangerous game. Even in the short term, the U.S. ruling class may drag the nation into another direct conflict, in spite of their intentions, that could spread to involve numerous other nations.

Peace and International Solidarity

While U.S. workers are suffering from unemployment, insufficient health care, drastic cuts to education and social services, as well as environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico created by the Obama governmental collusion with BP, the priorities of the U.S. ruling class are elsewhere. They are more concerned with pouring money into military buildups that threaten war. The target of such a war or wars would be the popular working class movements in Latin America, whose only crime has been to struggle to liberate themselves from super exploitation and political repression. It is the same economic and political elite in the U.S. that are denying U.S. workers what is rightfully theirs that are opposing the efforts of workers and peasants throughout the continent to empower themselves.

It is the task of the anti-war movement not only to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also to prevent future U.S. wars in Latin America. Wherever anti-war activists seek to mobilize people against war, they should also seek to educate about the U.S. empire’s military moves in Latin America.

Furthermore, it will require international solidarity to combat what the U.S. elite is doing in Central and South America. There was recently an event that could go some way towards preparing this solidarity. In Sanare, Venezuela, from June 21 – 25, a series of meetings were held entitled “Ecuentro of the Americas: Resisting Militarization and Promoting a Culture of Peace.” It consisted of delegates of organizations from 19 nations across the continent, including School of the Americas (SOA) Watch of the U.S. You can read more about this at http://www.soaw.org/.

Mark Vorpahl is a union steward as well as an anti-war and Latin American Solidarity activist. He can be reached at [email protected].

As Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen has explained, sustained pressure readings above 8,000 pounds per square inch (psi) would show that the wellbore is more or less intact, while pressures of 6,000 psi or less would mean there could be major problems:

We are looking for somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 PSI inside the capping stack, which would indicate to us that the hydrocarbons are being forced up and the wellbores are being able to withstand that pressure. And that is good news.

If we are down around in the 4,000 to 5,000, 6,000 range that could potentially tell us that the hydrocarbons are being diverted someplace else, and we would have to try and assess the implications of that. And as you might imagine, there are gradations as you go up from 4,000 or 5,000 PSI up to 8,000 or 9,000. …

We will at some point try to get to 8,000 or 9,000 and sustain that for some period of time, and these will be done basically, as I said — if we have a very low pressure reading, we will try and need (ph) at least six hours of those readings to try to ensure that that is the reading. If it’s a little higher, we want to go for 24 hours. And if it’s up at 8,000 or 9,000, we would like to go 48 hours just to make sure it can sustain those pressures for that amount of time.

The former director of Sandia National Laboratories says the pressure readings so far have been ambiguous.

As the Washington Post points out:

The initial pressure readings are in an ambiguous range, and officials will have to make a difficult judgment call on whether to keep the well shut in or reopen it, according to Tom Hunter, retired director of the Sandia National Laboratories and a member of the federal government’s scientific team overseeing the test.

“If it were a lot higher, it would be an easier decision to make,” Hunter said.

***

Hunter, who witnessed the test from BP’s war room in Houston, told The Washington Post that the pressure rose to about 6,700 psi and appeared likely to level out “closer to 7,000.” He said one possibility is that the reservoir has lost pressure as it has depleted itself the past three months.

“It’s just premature to tell. We just don’t know whether something is leaking or not,” Hunter said.

We will need to wait another 24 hours or so – and engineers will have to continue monitoring sonar and visual images (both help determine if any oil is leaking from the seafloor), and seismic data (to determine if there are any new leaks below the seafloor) – before engineers can determine how stable the well is.

BEIJING — China on Thursday called for calm and restraint to avoid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula in response to a possible naval drill by the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK).

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang made the remarks at a regular news briefing, saying China hoped the actions of all parties would contribute to the security, mutual trust, friendship, peace and stability of the region.

Qin reiterated China’s opposition to foreign warships or aircraft entering the Yellow Sea area and adjacent waters to engage in activities that would affect its security and interests.

In answer to a question on whether China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) would plan a military exercise if the ROK and the U.S. carried out their drill this month, Qin called the hypothesis “a typical Cold War mindset.”

“The hypothesis means dividing the Northeast Asia and Asia-Pacific regions into different military alliances and viewing regional security from an angle of opposition and confrontation, as in the Cold War era,” said Qin.

“Times have changed,” said Qin. “No single country or military alliance can resolve issues like regional security and stability.”

All countries in the region needed to work together, and strengthen mutual trust and cooperation through dialogue, so as to maintain regional security and stability, Qin said.

The anti-submarine drills were originally scheduled for last month in a response to the sinking of the ROK navy vessel, Cheonan, which left 46 crew dead, in March.

The ROK announced in May that the warship was torpedoed by a submarine of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), but the DPRK immediately denied involvement, saying the investigation results were fabricated.

Seoul’s Ministry of Defense confirmed Thursday the joint South Korea-U.S.joint naval drill was expected to be staged this month, starting in waters off the country’s east coast.

According to the ministry, the exact date of the drill will be decided next week when defense and foreign ministers of the two countries meet in Seoul at so-called “two-plus-two” security talks.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will visit Seoul next week to discuss the bilateral alliance.

The Israeli government is facing legal action for contempt over its refusal to implement a Supreme Court ruling that it end a policy of awarding preferential budgets to Jewish communities, including settlements, rather than much poorer Palestinian Arab towns and villages inside Israel.

The contempt case on behalf of Israel’s Palestinian minority comes in the wake of growing criticism of the government for ignoring court decisions it does not like — a trend that has been noted by the Supreme Court justices themselves.

Yehudit Karp, a former deputy attorney general, compiled a list of 12 recent court rulings the government has refused to implement, but legal groups believe there are more examples. Many of the disregarded judgements confer benefits on Palestinians, either in the occupied territories or inside Israel, or penalise the settlers.

Critics have accused the government of violating the rule of law and warned that the defiance has been possible chiefly because right-wing politicians and religious groups have severely eroded the Supreme Court’s authority over the past few years.

Senior members of the current right-wing government of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, including the justice minister, Yaakov Neeman, have repeatedly criticised the court for what they call its “judicial activism”, or interference in matters they believe should be decided by the parliament alone.

Legal experts, however, warn that, because Israel lacks a constitution, the court is the only bulwark against a tyrannical Jewish majority abusing the rights of the country’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens, as well as 4 million Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.

Ilan Saban, a law professor at Haifa University, said: “Unlike most — if not all — other democracies, Israel lacks a political culture that respects limits on the power of the majority.”

Even the protections offered by Israel’s basic laws, he said, were not deeply entrenched and could easily be re-legislated. The lack of both a formal constitution and a tradition of political tolerance, he added, was “a dangerous cocktail”.

Israel’s liberal Haaretz newspaper went further, warning recently that, in “slandering the judiciary”, government officials had provoked a crisis that could “lead to the destruction of Israeli democracy”.

The country’s highest court is due to rule in the coming weeks on whether the government is in contempt of a ruling the court made four years ago to end a discriminatory scheme, known as National Priority Areas (NPA), that provides extra education funding to eligible communities.

The High Follow-Up Committee, an umbrella political body representing Israel’s large Palestinian minority, launched the case because only four small Palestinian villages were classified in NPAs, against some 550 Jewish communities. The scheme, introduced in 1998, is believed to have deprived Palestinian citizens, a fifth of Israel’s population, of millions of dollars.

Although the court ruled in February 2006 that the scheme must be scrapped, the government has issued a series of extensions until at least 2012.

Sawsan Zaher, a lawyer with Adalah, a legal centre that launched the contempt petition, said: “This case has become a symbol of how the government refuses to implement decisions it does not like, especially ones relating to constitutional protection and minority rights.”

However, she said that punishing the state for its actions would not be easy. “After all, the court is not going to jail the government. The best we can hope for is a fine.”

The NPA case is only one of several that have highlighted a growing trend of law-breaking by the government.

Ms Zaher said Adalah had at least half a dozen other cases in which it was considering contempt actions. Most referred either to the treatment of Bedouin villages in the Negev the state refuses to recognise and to which it denies services, or to the failure to allocate equal resources to Arab schools.

In its most recent annual report, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, the country’s largest legal rights group, listed several examples of Supreme Court orders to dismantle sections of the separation barrier built on Palestinian land in the West Bank that have been disregarded.

In one hearing, in October 2009, Dorit Beinisch, president of the court, accused the government of taking “the law into its own hands” and treating her rulings as “mere recommendations”.

She had been angered by the fact that an order to remove the barrier around the Palestinian village of Azzoun, near Qalqilya, had been ignored for three years. The judges had learnt that the hidden reason for building the barrier had been to help expand the neighbouring settlement of Tzufim.

Similarly, in May, the court found that the government had continued construction on a road between the settlements of Eli and Hayovel despite a ruling that it must stop. In a harshly worded response, the judges said: “It is inconceivable that the state does not know what is unfolding right beneath its nose.”

Last month the supreme court again castigated the government for ignoring an order from last year to demolish a sewage purification plant built in the West Bank settlement of Ofra on privately owned Palestinian land in violation of Israeli law.

Other prominent cases in which officials are defying court rulings involve the refusal to demolish a synagogue built by settlers; the failure to build hundreds of classrooms for Palestinian children in East Jerusalem; and the continuing practice of “binding” foreign workers to a single employer.

Late last year, the justice minister, Yaakov Neeman, warned that he was considering legislation that would allow the parliament to bypass the Supreme Court, even in cases where the judges have struck down a law on the grounds that it contravenes a basic law.

The government’s flouting of these rulings has been possible because of growing public disenchantment with the courts, observers have warned.

Last month a survey by Haifa University found that among Israeli Jews who were not ultra-Orthodox or settlers — both groups tend to reject the court’s authority — only 36 per cent expressed great faith in its decisions. That was down from 61 per cent in 2000.

Among settlers the figure was 20 per cent, down from 46 per cent a decade ago.

Aryeh Rattner, a law professor who conducted the research, partly attributed the decline in the court’s standing to its “excessive involvement” in what he called controversial religious, social and defence issues.

However, Prof Saban said the “activism” the court has been accused of was more illusory than real, and that it was often reluctant to intervene in cases where violations of rights were clearcut. In the National Priority Areas case, he said, lawyers had been challenging the patently discriminatory scheme since its introduction in 1998.  

“The court took nearly 10 years to rule against the scheme, and since then the government has evaded implementing the decision until at least 2012. In other words, the petitioners are likely to be without a remedy for 14 years. That hardly qualifies as activism.”

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

 

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.

BP has succeeded in capping the well and stopping oil from flowing into the Gulf of Mexico … at least temporarily.

The official Deepwater Horizon Response Twitter feed noted:

NO OIL FLOWING INTO THE GULF

This can be confirmed by looking at the underwater video cams.

As of this writing, Skandi ROV 2′s cam is showing the cap (no oil), and Skandi ROV 1′s cam is showing sonar of the seafloor:


BP live feed from Skandi ROV 1

BP live feed from Skandi ROV 2

However, numerous industry experts have warned that there is no upside to temporarily capping the well as part of the well integrity test, and that it might actually cause the well to blow out.

Indeed, Don Van Nieuwenhuise – director of geosciences programs at the University of Houston – told CNN today:

We don’t know if there ae significant leaks deep in the well.

There’s a couple of weak points at 9,000 feet, and one at 17,000 feet, that they might be particularly interested in looking and watching in the seismic.

[With seismic testing, you can look beneath the seafloor. Sonar only tests at the seafloor itself].

Admiral Thad Allen previously said that the test will be considered a success if pressure in the well stays at 8,000 psi or higher for 48 hours. So we won’t know for a couple of days whether the test has succeeded.

As AP correctly notes:

Now begins a waiting period to see if the cap can hold the oil without blowing a new leak in the well. Engineers will monitor pressure readings incrementally for up to 48 hours before reopening the cap while they decide what to do.

Interestingly, as CNN’s Situation Room noted a couple of minutes ago, the cap might soon be re-opened, and closed again only during hurricanes:

Admiral Thad Allen releasing a statement to us just a short while ago…

He cautions “This isn’t over”…

Very interesting here. He talks about the cap as a temporary measure to be used for hurricanes

“It remains likely that we will return to the containment process… until the relief well is completed”

So it looks like the plan is to go back to releasing the oil and letting it pump up to the surface.

So is the well integrity test a meaningless PR stunt, which is delaying completion of the relief wells, and failing to bring us any closer to permanently killing the oil gusher?

Or is it a valuable tool to see if the well can be protected from further damage during a hurricane?

Only time will tell …

Hat tip FloridaOilSpillLaw.

Jwani Mwaikusa, Law Professor at the University of Dar es Salaam and defense lawyer at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, was gunned down outside his home in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania yesterday, July 14.

A nephew and neighbor who attempted to come to his aide are reported to have been shot and killed as well. The assassins stole Mwaikusa’s briefcase and papers from his car.

At the ICTR, Mwaikusa defended Yusuf Munyakazi, a 75-yr.-old former Rwandan businessman who was, on June 30th, sentenced to 25 years imprisonment after being convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Mwaikusa had said that he would appeal the Munyakazi conviction to the ICTR and ICTY Appeal Chamber, a separate court set up by the UN Security Council, which also created both international criminal tribunals.

The Security Council created the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania, in 1997, to try the most high-profile Rwanda Genocide cases. Twenty-eight people have been convicted and five acquitted so far.

The Kagame regime attempted to have Munyakazi and three other defendants moved from the ICTR in Tanzania to stand trial in Rwanda, but Mwaikusa successfully argued that Rwanda did not have an independent judiciary that would not come under political pressure:

“The Chamber is not satisfied that the accused, if transferred to Rwanda at the present time, will receive a fair trial,”
wrote Judges Weinberg de Roca of Argentina (presiding), Lee Muthoga (Kenya) and Robert Fremr (Czech).


“The Chamber is concerned that this situation may lead to direct or indirect pressure being exerted on judges to produce judgments in line with the wishes of Rwandan government.”

William Mitchell Law Professor Peter Erlinder, who is also a defense lawyer at the ICTR, said, speaking from his home in St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota, that Mwaikusa’s assassination may well make it impossible for the ICTR to function, causing a crisis in international criminal law, because ICTR defense lawyers are no longer safe from arrest, indictment, and/or assassination.

Erlinder himself returned to Minneapolis after three weeks imprisonment in Rwanda, where he had traveled to defend Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, the leader and presidential candidate of Rwanda’s FDU-Inkingi Party against charges of genocide ideology, which means disagreeing with the official history of the Rwanda Genocide and/or with the regime of incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Ingabire was arrested and barred from running against Kagame in the presidential election, and within a few days of Erlinder’s arrival to defend her, he was arrested on the same charges. After three weeks and an international campaign waged by human rights activists and bar associations on three continents, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s delivery of Erlinder’s medical records, he was released, on medical grounds, to return to the United States.

Releasing him in response to his legal arguments, which are a challenge to Rwanda’s genocide ideology law itself, would have shaken the foundations of the Kagame regime, and made way for decisions acquitting Ingabire and many others now in Rwanda’s packed prisons. The country now has the third highest per capita prison population in the world.

While Erlinder was under arrest, international criminal defense lawyers at the ICTR refused to work on the grounds that they could be arrested and indicted in Rwanda, or even arrested elsewhere and extradited to Rwanda for defending their clients.

Rwandan Chief Prosecutor Martin Ngoga at first denied having used Erlnder’s work at the ICTR in the prosecution’s complaint against him, but review of the complaint made it apparent that he had, and the ICTR eventually issued a statement declaring that Professor Erlinder, as an ICTR defense lawyer, was immune from prosecution for his work there.

Tanzania’s Citizen Newspaper reported that there has been an increase in violent crime in Dar es Salaam recently, and that five people have been shot dead by armed robbers in the last two months, but Professor Mwaikusa’s assassins stole his briefcase and papers, suggesting political motive and casting suspicion on the increasingly repressive Kagame regime in Rwanda, where journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage was assassinated on June 24th, after writing that Kagame had ordered the assassination attempt on Rwandan exile general Kayumba Nyamwasa, and yesterday, on the same day that Mwaikusa was gunned down, the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda’s Vice President Andre Kagwa Rwisereka was found beheaded. Rwisereka’s body had been left in the wetlands surrounding the Makula River near Butare, Rwanda, with his head almost completely severed and a machete left nearby.

And though assassins stole Mwaikusa’s legal papers and briefcase, they left Rwisereka’s car, car keys, and house keys behind. “No, it wasn’t a robbery,” said Democratic Green Party of Rwanda Chair Frank Habineza, because they left his car, they left the keys to his car inside the car, they left the keys to his house inside the car with his national identity card. If they were thieves, they would have taken his car. If they were thieves, they would have taken the keys to his house and gone to take things from his house. They left the keys to his car and his house inside the car.”

With regard to the Mwaikusa assassination, Professor Erlinder said:

“No one knows, for sure, whether he was assassinated by Rwandan Patriotic Front operatives, but we do know that lawyers put themselves in danger by defending people whom the RPF have identified as their enemies, including me, Theogene Muhayeyezu, the lawyer who replaced me as Victoire Ingabire’s lawyer, and an earlier ICTR lawyer, a Rwandan who had been living in Mozambique. He was arrested when he came to the ICTR two years ago and eventually released, and has since died, apparently of natural causes,

The situation now is that the lawyers at the ICTR have legitimate reasons to be fearful of being in Africa, anywhere in Africa, especially East Africa, where they might be arrested, extradited to Rwanda, or even assassinated.”

Delayed until after the United States achieved a United Nations Security Council statement on July 9 condemning the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, Washington’s plans for naval maneuvers in the Yellow Sea near Chinese territorial waters are forging ahead.

The joint exercises with South Korea, as news sources from the latter nation have recently disclosed, will be conducted on both sides of the Korean Peninsula, not only in the Yellow Sea as previously planned but also in the Sea of Japan. (Referred to in the Korean press as the West and East Seas, respectively.) Confirmation that the U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington will participate has further exacerbated concerns in Northeast Asia and raised alarms over American intentions not only vis-a-vis North Korea but China as well.

An exact date for the war games has not yet been announced, but is expected to be formalized no later than when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrive in the South Korean capital of Seoul on July 21.

For weeks now leading Chinese foreign ministry and military officials have condemned the U.S.-led naval exercises, branding them a threat to Chinese national sovereignty and to peace and stability in the region.

China’s influential Global Times wrote on July 12 that “The eventuality that Beijing has to prepare for is close at hand. The delayed US-South Korean naval exercise in the Yellow Sea is now slated for mid-July. According to media reports, a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier has left its Japanese base and is headed for the drill area.” [1]

Permanently based in Yokosuka, Japan, the USS George Washington is an almost 100,000-ton supercarrier: “The nuclear carrier, commissioned in 1992, is the sixth Nimitz-class vessel, carrying some 6,250 crew and about 80 aircraft, including FA-18 fighter jets and E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.” [2]

The F/A-18 Hornet is a supersonic, multirole jet fighter (F/A is for Fighter/Attack) and one of its primary roles is destroying an adversary’s air defenses. The E-2C Hawkeye has been described as the “eyes and ears” of American carrier strike groups, being equipped with long-range surveillance radar.

In addition to the nuclear aircraft carrier, “an Aegis-equipped destroyer, an amphibious assault ship, about four 4,500-ton KDX-II-class destroyers, the 1,800-ton Son Won-il-class submarine and F-15K fighter jets are expected to join the exercise.” [3] U.S. Aegis class warships (destroyers and cruisers) are equipped for Standard Missile-3 anti-ballistic interceptor missiles, part of a U.S.-led Asia-Pacific (to date, along with the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia) and ultimately international interceptor missile system.

The F-15K (“Slam Eagle”) is a state-of-the-art multirole (used for both aerial combat and ground attack) jet fighter supplied to South Korea by the U.S.

The presence of a U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and scores of advanced American and South Korean warplanes off the coast of China in the Yellow Sea – and near Russia’s shore in the Sea of Japan if the Washington is deployed there – qualitatively and precariously raises the level of brinkmanship in Northeast Asia.

The drumbeat of confrontation has been steadily increasing in volume and tempo since the sinking of a South Korean corvette, the Cheonan, on March 26 with the resultant death of 46 crew members.

An investigation into the incident was organized by the U.S. and included experts from the U.S., South Korea, Britain, Australia and Sweden, but not from China and Russia which both border the Korean Peninsula. On May 20 the five-nation team released a report blaming a North Korean torpedo for the sinking of the Cheonan. North Korea denied the accusation and neither Russia nor China, excluded from the investigation, have concurred with the U.S. accusation.

American provocations escalated dramatically at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Toronto on June 27 when U.S. President Barack Obama (in his own words) held a “blunt” conversation with China’s President Hu Jintao, accusing him and his nation of “willful blindness” in relation to North Korea’s “belligerent behavior.” Upbraiding his Chinese counterpart, Obama stated, “I think there’s a difference between restraint and willful blindness to consistent problems.” (On the same occasion Obama praised South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak for his “extraordinary restraint.”)

“My hope is that president Hu will recognise as well that this is an example of Pyongyang going over the line.”

President Hu and the Chinese government as a whole would be fully justified in suspecting that mounting U.S. threats are aimed not only (and perhaps not so much) against North Korea as against China itself.

Beijing is not alone in entertaining suspicions that Washington is employing the sinking of the Cheonan as the pretext for achieving broader geopolitical objectives. On July 14 Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in speaking of the Cheonan incident and its aftermath, pleaded: “I believe that the most important [concern] at the present time is to ease the situation, avoid agitation, escalation of emotions and start preparing conditions for the resumption of the six-party [North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, the U.S. and Japan] talks.” [4]

Portraying the UN Security Council statement on the matter last week (which was not the harsh condemnation of North Korea Washington had pushed for) as being a balanced one, he also said, “It is important that nobody tries to distort the evaluations given.”

In addition, referring to North Korea’s latest reaffirmation of its willingness to jointly investigate the Cheonan’s sinking with South Korea, Lavrov said: “This statement is not new. From the very beginning the DPRK confirmed it wanted to participate in the investigation.

“I hear, the sides were to agree on some format of interaction.” [5]

When on June 27 President Obama stated “our main focus right now is in the U.N. Security Council making sure that there is a crystal-clear acknowledgement that North Korea engaged in belligerent behavior that is unacceptable to the international community” [6], his characterization of the latter entity excluded not only North Korea but China and Russia as well.

The severity and urgency of mounting U.S. threats is illustrated in a recent column by Shen Dingli, executive dean of the Institute of International Studies and director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai. His comments end with a frightening parallel and a dire warning:

“The US and South Korea are implementing joint military exercises this month in the Yellow Sea, with the possibility of deploying the US aircraft carrier George Washington.

“The running of such exercises so close to China’s waters has left China strongly, and rightfully, dissatisfied.

“The US and South Korea may argue that the exercise is not in China’s territorial waters, so China has no right to comment.

“However, even if the joint exercises are not in Chinese sovereign waters, they may take place in the waters of China’s interests as the international waters [in the] Yellow Sea near China’s exclusive economic zone are extremely important to China’s interests.

“Given the sophisticated equipment it carries, the George Washington poses a real potential threat to Chinese territory.

“Even if the US-South Korea military exercises are outside China’s territory, the striking power of the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier also poses a serious threat to neighboring countries.

“The US and South Korea have said the military exercises are being held in order to deter North Korea because of the sinking of the South Korean Cheonan corvette and the death of 46 South Korean sailors.

“But the case for the possible North Korean sinking of the Cheonan has not been thoroughly established.

“South Korea refused to let North Korean officials present their case against the evidence for their supposed complicity in the sinking.

“When South Korea launched the so-called international survey, it refused the participation of China and other countries, which did not increase the credibility of the so-called findings.

“These exercises are needlessly provocative, and will eventually backfire on the US and South Korea.

“During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the Soviet Union established nuclear missile bases on the island, the US objected to the close proximity of the Soviet weaponry even though they traveled only through international waters to reach Cuba, and the US set up a blockade to stop them being deployed.

“When the US ponders the idea of deploying its nuclear aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea, very close to China, shouldn’t China have the same feeling as the US did when the Soviet Union deployed missiles in Cuba?

“China may not have the military strength to forcibly prevent such exercises now, but it may do so in response to such provocative actions in the future.” [7]

The only surviving head of state of the nations involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis, former Cuban president Fidel Castro, has issued several warnings lately that a U.S. and allied attack on North Korea (and Iran) could result in regional conflagration and even nuclear war.

A Chinese commentary last week provided more details of the threat that a U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier off its shore will pose to the nation and also contained a blunt warning, stating “the anxiety on the Chinese side will be huge if a US aircraft carrier enters the sea connecting the Korean Peninsula and China – it would mean that major cities like Dalian, Qingdao, Tianjin and even Beijing are within US attack range.

“At this stage, China may not react through a show of force to the US fleet cruising into the international waters of the Yellow Sea. But it does not mean that the Chinese people will tolerate it. Whatever harm the US military maneuver may inflict upon the mind of the Chinese, the United States will have to pay for it, sooner or later.” [8]

Washington’s recent deployment of two nuclear-powered guided missile submarines to China’s neighborhood – the USS Michigan to South Korea and the USS Ohio to the Philippines [9] – only add to China’s concerns.

As do the ongoing U.S.-led Angkor Sentinel exercises in Cambodia with over 1,000 troops from 26 nations, including American and NATO and Asian NATO partners like Britain, France, Germany and Italy (along with the U.S., the NATO Quint) and Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan and Mongolia. The last country, wedged between China and Russia, is being integrated into the American global military network, even supplying troops to serve under NATO in Afghanistan. [10]

“This is the first time in the history of the Cambodian military that we are hosting [exercises] with the participation of many countries…which encompasses such a multi-national military basis,” a Cambodian general said of the training. [11]

“Addressing the ceremony, US Ambassador Carol Rodley said Washington remained committed to enhancing its military relationship with Cambodia. She added that Angkor Sentinel provided a ‘unique opportunity’ to deepen the two countries’ friendship.” [12]

Cambodia is only once removed from China, the two nations connected by both Laos and Vietnam.

An Agence France-Presse dispatch reported “The United States and Laos pledged to step up cooperation after their highest-level talks since the Vietnam War, the latest country in a renewed US effort to engage Southeast Asia,” after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Laotian Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith in Washington, D.C. on July 13.

Sisoulith, also his country’s deputy prime minister, is the first major Laotian official to visit the U.S. since before 1975.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters “The United States is committed to building our relationship with Laos as part of our broader efforts to expand engagement with Southeast Asia,” and Agence France-Presse added “President Barack Obama’s administration has put a new focus on Southeast Asia, saying the region was overlooked as George W. Bush’s former administration became preoccupied with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” [13]

Next week Clinton will visit Afghanistan, Pakistan, Vietnam and South Korea. The first three countries border China and South Korea faces it across the Yellow Sea. The Pentagon and NATO have ensconced themselves in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, all five of which border western China. [14]

Clinton will visit Vietnam to attend meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Lower Mekong Initiative (consisting of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam).

The State Department’s Vietnam hand, Joe Yun, said that it will be part of “Secretary Clinton’s fourth trip to East Asia in the past year.

“Her engagement in this region demonstrates the vital importance of the Asia-Pacific region, and especially Southeast Asia, to the future of the United States.”

Fellow Southeast Asian nation Malaysia has just announced the deployment of its first military contingent to assist NATO’s war in Afghanistan, “as ties with the United States deepen.”

“In an April meeting between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and US President Barack Obama, the two leaders agreed to cooperate on key security issues to create a stronger relationship.” [15]

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently toured the Mountain Home Air Base in the American state of Idaho where 400 of his country’s pilots and other service members and their families are now stationed. “The Singapore military personnel will be at the US base for the next 20 years or so.” [16] Singapore troops have been assigned to NATO in Afghanistan and are facing a long stay there also.

Malaysia and Singapore are currently participating for the first time in the mammoth U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) war games in the Pacific which will continue into August.

To indicate to what purpose the U.S. is “expanding engagement” with Vietnam in particular and Southeast Asia in general, the aforementioned Yun revealed that “we also look to Vietnam as ASEAN’s Chair to exercise leadership, including in sensitive areas such as North Korea’s attack on the South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan. We would like to see Vietnam exercise its influence to press for a genuine dialogue so that the people of Burma can work with the existing government to move forward, and to press Burma on the need to fully implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874. Burma ought to be transparent with the international community in its dealings with North Korea.” [17]

North Korea and Burma (Myanmar) are, like Vietnam, southern neighbors of China’s and along with the seclusive kingdom of Bhutan are the only nations near China with which the U.S. is not cultivating closer military ties.

Also to China’s south, its giant neighbor India has been pulled deeper into the Pentagon’s orbit since the New Framework For The U.S.-India Defense Relationship was signed in June of 2005, including hosting U.S. warships, warplanes and troops for annual Malabar war games off its coasts. Last December U.S. Pacific Command chief Admiral Robert Willard stated that the Pentagon and India “are in talks to convert their bilateral Malabar series of naval exercises into a joint services war game involving their navies, air forces and marine commandos.” [18) This year's Malabar 2010 included a U.S. guided missile cruiser and frigate and two destroyers as well as a fast attack submarine.

Last October over 1,000 U.S. and Indian troops participated in the Yudh Abhyas 2009 military exercises in India, which was the first time the Pentagon deployed a Stryker armored combat brigade outside the Iraqi and Afghan war theaters. "The size and scope of this combined exercise is unparalleled" [19], stated an American commander present for the war games.

President Obama is scheduled to visit India in November and his trip there will “result in some 5 billion dollars worth of American arms sales to India….Observers point out that the role of India’s biggest arms supplier is shifting from Russia to the United States.” [20]

The arms transactions are reported to include Patriot interceptor missiles, thus complementing comparable missile shield arrangements the U.S. has with Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Australia in the Asia-Pacific area.

The projected deal also includes Washington supplying Delhi with 10 Boeing C-17 military transport planes: “Once India gets the C-17 transport aircraft, the mobility of its forces stationed along the border with China will be improved….[The] arms sales will improve ties between Washington and New Delhi, and, intentionally or not, will have the effect of containing China’s influence in the region.” [21]

The U.S. has also lately led joint military exercises in Bangladesh and East Timor, and the annual U.S.-organized Khaan Quest military exercises in Mongolia are to start next month.

A recent article in the China Times by an unidentified researcher with the Chinese navy’s military academy observed that “the US has seemingly become less restrained in its move to push forward an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with its allies in the region.

“In so doing, Washington has harbored the obvious strategic intention of containing China – whose economic and strategic influence has kept increasing in the international arena….” [22]

It is against that backdrop, in the context of Washington putting the finishing touches to the consolidation of an Asian analogue of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, that China is being challenged in the Yellow Sea.

The last-cited source detailed the Pentagon’s encroachment near China’s borders:

“The radius of the US military operation has expanded to more than 1,000 kilometers, which means a US military mission in the waters off the ROK [South Korea] can still constitute a huge deterrence to China and other countries along the nearby coastline and strike at strategic targets deep inside their territories.

“With unchallenged armed forces, the US has never relented in its efforts towards long-planned strategic adjustment in the Asia-Pacific region. Under this strategy, the US has gradually increased the presence and activity of its warships and airplanes in China’s surrounding maritime area.” [23]

Regarding the naval exercise with the U.S., South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae recently affirmed that “We can say that it will take place sometime this month. This month, there are a variety of schedules concerning bilateral security and diplomatic issues, and the decision on the exercise will be made in consideration of those schedules.” [24]

China, which conducted a live-fire naval exercise in the East China Sea from June 30-July 5 “in an apparent show of…force ahead of the [U.S.-South Korean] exercise…appears unnerved as the 97,000-ton [USS George Washington] carrier has an operational range of some 1,000 kilometers and can glean intelligence on military facilities and installments along China’s eastern coastal regions once it is deployed in the West [Yellow] Sea.” [25]

The U.S. armed forces newspaper Stars and Stripes disclosed on July 14 that “In what the Pentagon says is a direct response to North Korea’s sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, the U.S. and South Korea likely will agree to a series of new naval and air exercises next week, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton make a joint visit to Seoul.” [26]

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell was cited asserting that “The announcement is the result of direct instruction from President Barack Obama to find new ways to collaborate with…Korean counterparts following the attack….He would not offer specifics other than they would occur in the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea.”

In his own words, Morrell said “We are not yet ready to announce the precise details of those exercises but they will involve a wide range of assets and are expected to be initiated in the near future.” [27]

Gates and Clinton are to meet for the first bilateral talks with their South Korean counterparts Minister of National Defense Kim Tae-young and Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan on July 21 and, according to the Pentagon spokesman, will “discuss and likely approve a proposed series of US/ROK combined military exercises.” [28]

Regarding concerns voiced by China about the U.S. advancing its military so near its coast, Morrell said that “Those determinations are made by us, and us alone….Where we exercise, when we exercise, with whom and how, using what assets and so forth, are determinations that are made by the United States Navy, by the Department of Defense, by the United States government.” [29]

There is no way that such confrontational, arrogant and vulgar language was not understood at its proper value in Beijing. Nor is the prospect, as noted by Lee Su-seok, analyst at South Korea’s Institute for National Security Strategy, of “the involvement of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea as having a possible link to plans by the U.S. to defend Taiwan” [30] likely to go unnoticed.

What the response to the U.S.’s increasingly more brash and adventurist policy might be was indicated in a recent Chinese editorial, which stated in part:

“In their recent responses, several high-ranking Chinese navy officials have made it plain that China will not stay in ‘hands-off’ mode as the drill gets underway. For that will make the US believe that China’s defense circle on the sea is small, and, therefore, US fleets will be able to freely cruise over the Yellow Sea, East China Sea and South China Sea in the future.

“Military experts have warned that if the joint drill really takes place off the western coast of South Korea, Chinese airplanes and warships will very likely go all the way out to closely watch the war game maneuvers. Within such proximity on not-so-clearly-marked international waters, any move that is considered hostile to the other side can willy-nilly trigger a rash reaction, which might escalate into the unexpected or the unforeseen.

“One false move, one wrong interpretation, is all it would take for the best-planned exercises to go awry….The impact of a crisis on that scale would be tremendous, making any dispute over trade or the yuan’s value between the two in recent years pale in comparison….Tension is mounting over the US-South Korean joint exercise. Beijing and Washington still have time, and leeway, to desist from moving toward a possible conflict on the Yellow Sea.” [31]

A similar warning was sounded in another major Chinese daily:

“If the US and ROK continue to act willfully by holding the controversial military drill, it would pose a challenge to China’s safety and would inevitably provoke a huge backlash from Chinese citizens.

“Today’s China is no longer the China of a century ago that had no choice but to bend to imperialist aggression. After decades of development, especially since the adoption of the reform and opening-up policies, China has become the world’s third largest economy and possesses a modern military capable of any self-defense missions.” [32]

When Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton arrive in Seoul on July 21 it will formally be to mark the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War, which within three months drew China into the fighting.

When the two American secretaries meet with South Korea’s defense and foreign ministers and, as State Department spokesman Philip Crowley recently claimed, “likely approve a proposed series of U.S. and Korea combined military exercises, including new naval and air exercises in both the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea” [33], the world should prepare for the threat of a second Korean war, a second U.S.-China armed conflict.

Notes

1) Global Times, July 12, 2010
2) Korea Herald, July 13, 2010
3) Ibid
4) Russian Information Agency Novosti, July 14, 2010
5) Itar-Tass, July 14, 2010
6) White House, June 27, 2010

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-obama-g-20-press-conference-toronto-canada

7) Global Times, July 14, 2010
8) Global Times, July 6, 2010
9) Pentagon Provokes New Crisis With China
Stop NATO, July 10, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/07/10/2061

10) Mongolia: Pentagon Trojan Horse Wedged Between China And Russia
Stop NATO, March 31, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/mongolia-pentagon-trojan-horse-wedged-between-china-and-russia

11) Xinhua News Agency, July 12, 2010
12) Phnom Penh Post, July 13, 2010
13) Agence France-Presse, July 14, 2010
14) Afghan War: Petraeus Expands U.S. Military Presence Throughout Eurasia
Stop NATO, July 4, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/afghan-war-petraeus-expands-u-s-military-presence-throughout-eurasia

15) Radio Netherlands, July 15, 2010
16) Channel News Asia, July 12, 2010
17) VietNamNet, July 15, 2010
18) Press Trust of India, December 4, 2009
19) Embassy of the United States in India, October 19, 2009
20) Voice of Russia, July 11, 2010
21) Economic Times via Global Times, July 13, 2010
22) China Daily, July 12, 2010
23) Ibid
24) Korea Herald, July 13, 2010
25) Ibid
26) Stars and Stripes, July 14, 2010
27) Ibid
28) Agence France-Presse, July 14, 2010
29) Ibid
30) JoongAng Daily, July 12, 2010
31) Global Times, July 12, 2010
32) China Daily, July 12, 2010
33) Yonhap News Agency, July 15, 2010

Keynote address to the Kuala Lumpur conference. Breaking the Siege on Gaza, 11 July 2010 

Honourable speakers, guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Firstly I would like to welcome all of you to this conference on the siege organised by the Perdana Global Peace Organisation backed by UMNO.

1. We are gathered here today not only to honour the Turkish martyrs who were brutally slaughtered by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara, but also to counter the lies and propaganda by Israel and the Zionist controlled international mass media, that the passengers, specifically the martyrs, were terrorists and therefore the killings were justified.

2.More importantly, we must send a message of hope and solidarity to the Palestinians that the peace loving peoples of the world will never abandon them, come what may and that we will stand shoulder to shoulder with them in their struggle for liberation and for the State of Palestine.

3.Prime Minister Netanyahu has openly and unreservedly declared just a few days ago that Israel will not apologise for the brutal murders committed in international waters in contravention of all conventions and international laws because Israel was justified in the massacre of unarmed people in order to defend Israeli security.

4. Netanyahu said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 1:

“Israel cannot apologise for our soldiers being forced to defend themselves against the mob that almost slaughtered them.”

Yet, not one single Israeli commando was killed. In fact, from the testimony of Ken O’Keefe, a passenger on Mavi Marmara, which we have just witnessed from the multi-media presentation, it was the well-armed commandos who killed and injured the passengers.  Far from killing or attempting to kill the commandos, despite their friends being killed, the Turkish passengers managed to disarm three of the commandos and after a doctor had washed away the blood caused by their faces being scratched, released them. Is this the behaviour of a mob bent in slaughtering the commandos?

5. In a speech to the Israeli parliament, Netanyahu elaborated:

“They want to strip us of the natural right to defend ourselves. When we defend ourselves against rocket attack, we are accused of war crimes. We cannot board sea vessels when our soldiers are being attacked and fired upon, because that is a war crime.”

6. But where is the evidence that the Israeli commandos were being attacked and fired upon?  Such is the distortion of the truth!  Even the UN Report chaired by Justice Robert Goldstone, a Zionist and a Jew who found that the Israelis committed war crimes when it invaded Gaza in 2008, was dismissed as mere propaganda, and the said report was not allowed to be tabled and debated in the U.N.

7. Self-defence can take place if there was an attempt at attacking or when actually attacked by the aggressor. Even the Israelis said that the passengers were armed with iron rods (railings) and scissors. Is Israel suggesting that people with scissors and iron railings attacked the fully armed commandos before they boarded the Mavi Marmara? It was to defend themselves after the commandos dropped from the helicopters and killed their friends that the unarmed passengers tried to defend themselves with scissors and iron railings, the only weapons they could lay hands on.

8. However, even without an Independent Inquiry and in spite of the fact that Israel had confiscated and destroyed incriminating videos of the massacre, the international mass media cannot ignore the overwhelming evidence provided by the survivors of Mavi Marmara – journalists and passengers who were able to evade the tight security measures and brought out videos showing that Israeli commandos had commenced firing at the passengers before boarding the Mavi Marmara.  IHH, the organisers of the Mavi Marmara has just come out with their report and I am told that this is available in CD for all delegates.

9. Additionally, we cannot ignore the fact that the intent to attack the Freedom Flotilla was made well before the flotilla set sail for Gaza.  Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak declared that Israeli naval ships and commandos would be conducting naval exercises to prepare for the eventual attack on the flotilla and that Israel would do everything possible to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza. This was reported by Bloomberg, the Associated Press and even Israeli newspapers, and was affirmed by the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren in an interview on June 2nd, 2010.

10. It came as no surprise that on 31st May 2010, in contravention of international laws, Israeli commandos as directed by the Israeli regime boarded the Mavi Marmara, and in the process shot and killed nine passengers and wounded many more and hijacked the entire flotilla to the port of Ashdod in Israel.

11. Rifat Audeh, a passenger on the Mavi Marmara gave an account of what happened before Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara. She said:
“The Israeli military was firing at us from their vessels which approached the sides of our ship and the helicopters from above as well, even before a single soldier landed on deck. Here we had fully armed Israeli commandos firing live rounds, tear gas, sound grenades and other types of ammunition at unarmed activists of a humanitarian ship at night in international waters, and once again the media has criminalised us and vindicated the perpetrators. Let me be clear: we had every right to defend ourselves and our ship against this illegal barbaric assault as our brothers were being wounded and killed.”

12. Just as Israel denied using white phosphorous and other banned weapons on the civilians of Gaza in the barbaric invasion in 2008 and the massacre of civilians in Jenin in 2003 until exposed by the Robert Goldstone report and independent observers respectively, Israel is denying again and hopes that this time, the war crimes would be lost with the passage of time.

13. But peace loving nations of the world condemned this wanton aggression and demanded that the siege of Gaza be lifted and a U.N. sanctioned Inquiry be established to investigate into the massacre of the passengers on the Mavi Marmara.

14. Knowing that the United States will not condemn its actions and veto any Security Council resolutions that demanded a full account for the incident, Israel ignored international condemnation and maintained that she has the right to do as she likes.  Israel considers itself above international laws and common moral values.

15. his heinous murder of Turkish nationals and the confiscation of the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara seemed strange to many, as Turkey has been a close strategic ally of Israel for many years, having regular joint military exercises and shared strategic interests. Turkey is also a NATO member. However, it is evident that even an ally would not be spared the criminal behaviour of Israel whether there is justification or not.

16. Such is Israel’s arrogance and her confidence that she can get away with murder. And indeed Israel has been getting away with blatant murder since 1948.

17. Many may have forgotten that such betrayal by Israel of an ally is not without precedent.  The ally that was previously betrayed by Israel was none other than the United States. That treachery needs to be retold, if we want to understand and appreciate the strategic implications of the attack on Mavi Marmara.

18. It was on the 8th of June, 1967, soon after the commencement of the six-day war by Israel against her Arab neighbours.  President Johnson had given his consent to Israel to launch a limited war against Egypt on the condition that Israel would not widen the war to include any land grab against Jordan and Syria.

19. Egypt had closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships and the limited war was to compel Egypt to reopen the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships.  But, the then Defence Minister Moshe Dayan had different ideas from what was agreed between President Johnson and the then prime minister of Israel, Levi Eshkol and his military Chief of Staff, General Yizhak Rabin.  Moshe Dayan, the one-eyed war criminal wanted to use the opportunity to extend the borders of Israel to fulfil the aspirations of the Zionists for a “Greater Israel.”  It was in the plan that after the capture of the Sinai Peninsula, Israeli military would be diverted to the Jordanian and Syrian fronts.

20. The USS Liberty was a “spy ship” and its mission was to listen to all Israel’s military communications so that Israel would abide by the agreement not to widen the war after she attacked Egypt.

21. The USS Liberty clearly stood in the way, as President Johnson would know through communication intercepts by the USS Liberty, if Israel reneged on its agreement for a limited war, and proceeded to wage a full scale war against all her immediate neighbours.  Time was of the essence. If the USS Liberty was disabled, Israel would by her surprise attack against Syria and Jordan achieve her aims of a Greater Israel before President Johnson could intervene to stop the wider war.

22. General Moshe Dayan therefore ordered the attack on the USS Liberty that left 34 Americans dead and 175 wounded and severely damaged the ship. The captain of a nearby US aircraft carrier scrambled jet fighters to assist the USS Liberty but his orders were countermanded by President Johnson and Defence Secretary Robert McNamara. The excuse for the attack was that Israel made a mistake as to the identity of the USS Liberty.  Moshe Dayan hailed the day of the attack, 8th June 1967 as a “Great Day” because the destruction of USS Liberty enabled Israel to extend its borders to encompass the Golan Heights and the entire West Bank and more!  The fact that President Johnson had to cover up the murder of his own soldiers and accepted thereafter the fait accompli of a Greater Israel shows all too clearly that the United States was and is still subservient to Israel.

23. The international mass media propaganda at the material time accused the Arab states for starting the war and wanting to annihilate Israel. Once again, we have to ask, who is telling the truth?

24. We need only to examine some public statements of Israel’s military leaders at the given time.  On 28th February 1968, Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Chief of Staff in an interview with Le Monde, conceded that:

“I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions which he sent to Sinai on 14th May would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it.”

Menachem Begin, then Minister without Portfolio was quoted by the New York Times in 1982 as saying:

“In June l967, we had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

25. Given this hidden agenda, how did Israel prepare the propaganda for war against the Arabs?  The strategy was simple enough – portray Israel as the victim. In an interview with Al-Hamishmar in 1971, Mordecai Bentove, then Minister of Housing revealed:

“The entire story of the danger of extermination was invented in every detail and exaggerated a posteriori to justify the annexation of new Arab territory.”

26. This deliberate lie was corroborated by General Haim Barlev, Chief of General Staff Branch, Israel Defence Forces and as reported by the Israeli newspaper Ma’ arrive in 1972. I quote:

“We were not threatened with genocide on the eve of the six-day war, and we had never thought of such a possibility.”
General Chaim Herzog, Commanding General and first Military Governor of Israeli Occupied West Bank expressed similar views when he said:

“There was no danger of annihilation. Israeli headquarters never believed in this danger. ”

27. From these facts we can draw the following conclusions, namely:

a)    Israel treats her allies no different from her enemies if its interests are threatened.
b)    It is by deception and outright lies, that Israel wages war.

28. Not for nothing is, “by way of deception” the motto of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence unit. The attack against the Turkish ship and the Turks is thus typical of the Israelis. They knew and yet they shot to kill the Turks with live bullets. Given this sordid history, it comes as no surprise that President Obama chose to express regrets instead of condemnation of the murder of the nine passengers, one of whom was an American citizen of Turkish descent. He was only nineteen years old. Tony Blair, the war criminal and the so-called Special Peace Envoy for the Quartet for the Middle East declared that Israel was acting in self-defence when it attacked the passenger ship Mavi Marmara and hijacked the entire flotilla to the port of Ashdod.

A question remains to be answered – Did President Obama know in advance of the attack on Mavi Marmara and give his consent just as President Johnson did when Israel attacked Egypt in 1967 in the six-day war?

29. It is inconceivable that the intelligence services of the United States were unaware of such plans by the Israeli military.  The President of the United States is briefed daily by the intelligence services.  And given the special relationship between Israel and the United States, it would be naive to think that Israel would not share intelligence regarding what they consider their mutual security interests. In the just concluded visit by Netanyahu to the White House,  the prime minister remarked that:
“There is a depth and richness of this relationship that is expressed every day. Our teams talk. We don’t make it public… What is not told is the fact we have an enduring bond of values, interests, beginning with security and the way we share both information and other things to help the common defence of our common interests. The President said it best in his speech in Cairo. He said it in front of the entire Islamic world, he said, the bond between Israel and the United States is unbreakable. And I can affirm that to you today.”

30. Yet, the Muslim world continues to be taken in by President Obama’s rhetoric that he is committed to change and he is for peace. His actions contradict his spoken words, for upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama then escalated the war in Afghanistan, a war started by President GW Bush. It is not surprising that the UN chose not to allow a debate on Malaysia’s resolution condemning Israel for its dastardly acts.

31. Given this reaffirmation by President Obama and Netanyahu, we must not be deluded into believing that there will be peace, genuine peace in the Middle East anytime soon. On the contrary, war preparations are in place. The same lies have been repeated. Have we not heard the same refrain, that Israel’s very existence is threatened by her neighbours? A thief shouting thief as he runs away with the booty is a most effective way of deflecting focus on his thieving. That is Israel’s strategy.

32. Iraq was accused of having weapons of mass destruction so as to appear to be a threat to Israel’s existence. Israel demanded that Iraq be invaded and its people subjugated. And so in 2003, Iraq was invaded. But as we now know Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was attacked because the plans for the invasion of Iraq were laid much earlier. In 1996, the then prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu commissioned the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies to prepare a blue print to enable Israel to be the dominant regional power in the Middle East. The report, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm sets out the new paradigm for Israel. According to its authors, the centerpiece of the recommendations was the removal of Saddam Hussein as the first step in remaking the Middle East into a region friendly to Israel. Their plan also signaled a radical departure from the peace-oriented policies of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a member of an extreme right-wing Israeli group.

33. One of the pillars of this new policy was the abandonment of the “comprehensive peace” with the entire Arab world. Israel’s new strategy would be to work jointly with Jordan and Turkey to “contain, destabilise, and roll-back” those entities that were regarded as threats to all three (i.e. Israel, Turkey and Jordan), firstly by destroying Iraq and then Syria and finally Iran. This is the significance of Turkey in the overall scheme of Netanyahu under the “Clean Break” master plan.

34. Now that Iraq and Saddam Hussein have been disposed, the target has shifted to Iran as Syria is seen to be a lesser threat. The world is made to believe once again the lie that Israel’s existence is being threatened by a nuclear armed Iran, notwithstanding that El Baradie, the former head of the IAEA had repeatedly stated that there is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program.  President Bush had threatened Iran with tactical nuclear weapons. President Obama is no different for he has said that “all options are on the table” in confronting Iran.

35. And once again, the United States at the instigation of Israel has compelled the UN Security Council to impose crippling sanctions to weaken the resolve of the Iranians to resist Israel’s aggressive designs. We can observe a pattern in the war preparations from recent examples, namely Iraq and Gaza. Broad sanctions were imposed on Iraq and Gaza to starve and weaken the people before the military invasion in 2003 and 2008 respectively. If the past is a precedent, then it is a matter of time before the war criminals in Israel and the United States launch another war of aggression, once Iran has been weakened by sanctions.

36. However, Israel may have miscalculated the willingness of Turkey to be a partner in its grand design to contain Iran and Syria as envisaged in the Clean Break blue print.  As it stands at the present moment, the encirclement of Iran – Afghanistan in the East, occupied Iraq in the West and Turkey in the North rests on shaky foundations. But this may not deter the warmongers from attempting to fulfill their design for a “New Middle-East”.  There is already a map showing how the Middle East would be carved out to serve Israel’s strategic interests.

37. It is left to be seen whether Israel’s blood lust for wars of conquest can be accomplished without Turkey as part of the equation as stipulated in the Clean Break blue print. Turkey has demanded that Israel apologises for the brutal murder of its nationals, failing which Turkey would sever diplomatic relations with Israel. Presently, Turkey has ceased all military collaboration with Israel and a few days ago had declared that Israeli military planes are no longer allowed to enter Turkey’s airspace.  It is early to say whether these are temporary misalignments or potential major paradigm shifts in the foreign policy of Turkey.

38. The recent actions of prime minister Erdogan provide grounds for hope that the forces for peace can forge a broad alliance to isolate Israel and thwart its grand design to wage wars of aggression to establish a Greater Israel and to be the undisputed regional power. The public dressing down of Shimon Peres, the President of Israel at the World Economic Forum by premier Erdogan was unprecedented as even the President of the United States has not dared to rebuke publicly any Israeli leaders.

39. It is in the context of this geopolitical matrix that we must applaud the courageous leadership of Prime Minister Erdogan in supporting the efforts of IHH peace activists on board the Mavi Marmara as part of the Freedom Flotilla to break the siege of Gaza. The supreme sacrifice by the nine Turkish peace activists will not be in vain, as by their deaths, the true nature of the Zionist regime, its barbarity and ugliness has been laid bare before the world:

Israel is…

A brutal regime that has no respect for international law;

A brutish regime that has no qualms in murdering unarmed civilians on a humanitarian mission;

A brutish regime that has created the largest open prison in the world, the enslavement of 1.5 million people within its borders, through blockade and economic sanctions of Gaza;

A brutish regime that brainwashes its young to be mindless killers of unarmed civilians, men, women and children;

A brutish regime that practices apartheid.

A brutish regime that wages wars through deception and lies.

A brutish regime that practices and fosters state terrorism.

40. When the Perdana Global Peace Organisation visited Cyprus in July 2009 to collaborate with the activists of the free Gaza Movement, we did not expect that our idea of a flotilla of cargo ships and passenger boats manned by volunteers from all over the world would have such an impact on the conscience of world leaders who before had stood aloof and cared not for the sufferings of the Palestinians. Following the invasion of Gaza in December 2008, more than 1,400 civilians, men, women and children, in fact mainly children were slaughtered, over 20,000 homes were destroyed, schools and hospitals were levelled to the ground. Many countries pledged billions in aid, but the pledges were not translated into concrete action to alleviate the sufferings of the Palestinians in Gaza. It was hypocrisy at its very worst.

41. While world leaders turned their backs on Gaza, peace activists the world over came together to challenge the might of Israel and expose their crimes.  George Galloway started the Viva Palestina Land Convoy which smashed the land blockade and brought hundreds of truckloads of aid to Gaza.   The Free Gaza Movement had more humble beginnings. They started by sending small fishing boats to break the sea blockade. On one occasion, their boat was rammed and the volunteers were thrown into the sea to drown. On another occasion, fully armed Israeli commandos boarded their boat, The Spirit of Humanity and hijacked it to Israel. The world took scant notice of these happenings.

42. We realised that small fishing boats would not do and that a flotilla of cargo ships and passenger boats would be needed to challenge Israel’s navy. And as they say, the rest is history. Malaysia’s contribution in this effort was the purchase of a cargo ship and two passenger boats, the former named after the courageous American peace activist Rachel Corrie who was crushed to death by an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) bulldozer when she acted as a human shield to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes in 2003. She gave her life so that others could live in freedom and with dignity. Her country had forgotten her, but we were moved by her determination and sacrifice to free the Palestinians.

43. Imbued with the spirit of Rachel Corrie, our Irish colleagues – Jenny and Derek Graham nurtured and brought back to life the abandoned cargo ship MV Linda and appropriately renamed her MV Rachel Corrie. The ship was abandoned by her owners and was auctioned for 70,000 Euros. She set sail for Gaza on 14th May and immediately encountered problems. She had a broken propeller shaft and had to dock for repairs. She could not join the flotilla in time and so the flotilla led by the Mavi Marmara set sail for Gaza.

44. Following her repairs, the Rachel Corrie, determined as ever, headed for Gaza. On board were five Irish volunteers Derek and Jenny Graham and my good friend Denis Halliday, the former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations as well as the Nobel Peace Laureate, Mairead McGuire. There were six Malaysians, two representatives from the Perdana Global Peace Organisation, a Member of Parliament, a volunteer from the Ministry of Information and two TV3 journalists.

45. Rachel Corrie was all alone, sailing at a mere 8 knots but she never waivered in her resolve to reach Gaza. After the massacre of the nine Turkish nationals on board the Mavi Marmara, massive disinformation was initiated against Rachel Corrie. It was rumoured that she had turned tail and headed back for Ireland. Another report stated that she was heading for the safe haven of Cyprus and might even head for Turkey. This propaganda was made notwithstanding that the Captain and his crew together with all the activists on board had declared in a press statement that in honour of the martyrs they were more determined than ever to sail towards Gaza and bring badly needed aid, comprising of cement, medicine and equipment, toys and educational materials.

46. Knowing that Israel had just massacred nine passengers and wounded many more and that Israeli commandos may act similarly, Rachel Corrie and her passengers were not deterred and were ready to face Israeli brutality. Israel deployed four naval ships, two fast patrol boats and six zodiacs to intercept and hijack the Rachel Corrie to Israel. This was an act of cowardice by the Israelis – to deploy naval ships and armed commandos to hijack a small cargo ship with unarmed passengers and crew. By this single act of defiance, Rachel Corrie exposed Israeli cowardice to the world.

47. This is but a beginning in our collective efforts to bring peace to the long suffering Palestinians. Israel under tremendous international pressure declared that it would be easing the blockade and would allow more aid to enter Gaza. Israel must take us for fools to believe in her lies.

48. Let us not forget that Netanyahu is the prime minister of Israel, the same man who in 1996 commissioned the blue print, the Clean Break which rejected a comprehensive peace in the Middle East and opted for war – to be precise the destruction of Iraq, Iran and Syria so as to impose peace on its own terms. The present policy of Israel is but the continuation of the strategies laid down in that blue print.

49. Israel has succeeded in destroying Iraq and emboldened by this success is now moving to the next phase of the blue print, the destruction of Iran. The time tested modus operandi of imposing harsh sanctions followed by a vicious invasion has already started.  In the just concluded visit to the White House, Netanyahu made the following remarks at the joint press conference with President Obama. He said with regard to sanctions on Iran:

“I think the sanctions the President signed the other day actually have teeth. They bite. The question is – how much do you need to bite is something I cannot answer now. But if other nations adopt similar sanctions, that would increase the effect.”

50. Let us be very clear. Sanctions amount to laying siege, to starve and weaken the enemy. It pays to remind ourselves of what Dov Weisglass, an Israeli aid to Prime Ministers, said of sanctions;

“The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet but not to make them die of hunger.”The invasion would meet with little resistance after that. This is the US’ and Israeli strategy. It is a strategy based on cowardice.

51. But in spite of two years of sanctions against Gaza before the preceding invasion of December 2008 an invasion which lasted until mid-January 2009, the Gazans withstood the siege. The Palestinians were not so easily cowed.

52. Hence the blockade of food and medicine. It is not about preventing arms from reaching Gaza. The blockade of the food, medicine and cement convoy is about weakening the people of Gaza for the next orgy of slaughter. Israel and the United States have no intention to see a Palestinian State and for the Palestinians to live side by side with the Israelis. Netanyahu has not said since becoming the prime minister of Israel that he has abandoned the Clean Break blue print, and neither has President Obama demanded that he should.

53. The warmongers continue to propagate that the ideological enemy of the West is Islam and the Zionist controlled mass media have not ceased their efforts to demonise Muslims. In the circumstances, the path for all of us, the peace loving people of the world, is clear. We must be vigilant and be prepared to resist any attempt by the warmongers to unleash another war, be it with Iran, Syria and or any other country.

54. We must pursue with greater vigour our efforts to criminalise war. War is mass killing, is massacre and must be made a crime.  It is heartening to note that recently, the International Criminal Court is also of the view that war of aggression is a crime, but the United States under the present leadership of President Obama opposed vehemently this noble initiative. So once again, we are being confronted with the inevitable conclusion – there is no change, the status quo remains and for these leaders war is their preferred option.

55. In the circumstances, we must strive to create a broad coalition for peace and to expose and resist the grand designs of these warmongers. Rachel Corrie and Mavi Marmara have shown the way. The NGOs and the volunteers have cleared the path. We must build on this momentum and surge forward. We must call upon all governments not to be hypocritical and stand up to this rogue State called Israel.

56. Israel cannot be allowed to continue in its present path and exist as an Apartheid state. Just as the world would not stand for a White South Africa, it should also not allow an apartheid state to continue its oppression of the Palestinians. We will struggle for as long as it takes.

We will break the siege.

Palestine will be liberated from Israeli oppression.

Thank you.

Iran’s response to an attack could send oil prices through the roof, think tank argues

An Israeli attack on Iran would fail to stop Tehran’s alleged nuclear weapons program and would lead to a “long war” that would be marked by economic instability and mass civilian casualties, says a study from British think tank.

In a report (PDF) released Wednesday, the Oxford Research Group stated that, while the likelihood of a US attack on Iran’s nuclear program has been lessened by the Obama administration’s policies, advances in Israeli military technology have increased the potential for an Israeli attack.

The study, entitled “Military Action Against Iran: Impact and Effects,” also argues that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would galvanize the Iranian public behind the leadership of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and give the regime in Tehran more support and rationale for developing nuclear capabilities.

“An Iranian administration under attack would experience considerable national unity and would work rapidly to redevelop its weapons programs, withdrawing from the NPT and prioritizing nuclear weapons,” the report states.

As a result of that, the study concluded, Israel would be forced into repeatedly attacking Iranian facilities, “resulting in prolonged conflict — the start of a long war with potential regional and global consequences.”

Furthermore, the report — written by Paul Rogers, a professor of peace studies at Bradford University — suggested that any Israeli strike on Iran would cause a large number of civilian casualties because the Israeli strike would likely not be limited to the nuclear facilities themselves.

Israel “would hit factories and research centers, and even university laboratories, in order to do as much damage as possible to the Iranian expertise that underpins the program,” Rogers said in a press release. Any Israeli military attempt to neutralize Iran’s nuclear facilities “would probably include attempts to kill those technocrats who manage Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.”

“There would be many civilian casualties, both directly among people working on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, but also their families as their living quarters were hit, and secretaries, cleaners, laborers and other staff in factories, research stations and university departments,” Rogers said.

The ORG argues in its report that Iran would have many options in retaliating for an attack on its nuclear facilities. Chief among them would be Iran’s ability to block the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow body of water separating the Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf, through which oil tankers from the Middle East have to travel. If Iran were to block the Strait, oil prices would jump dramatically throughout the world.

Iran could also launch “paramilitary and/or missile attacks” on Western oil processing facilities in the Middle East, and could begin supporting groups fighting the US presence in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed into law another round of US sanctions against Iran, following on the heels of a fourth round of sanctions placed on the country by the UN.

Whether or not Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons has been an issue of controversy for years. While Iran says its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes, Israeli lawmakers have described it as an “existential threat” to the small Jewish state.

The ORG report says that Iran is “slowly developing the technologies and personnel to enable it to handle a range of nuclear-related systems.” If the country were to decide to use those capabilities to make weapons, it would take three to seven years for it to produce six usable weapons.

“There is no firm evidence that such a decision has been taken, but the nature of recent construction projects, especially those underground, suggests that the leadership at least wants the option of a capability, even if it is held in reserve rather than implemented,” the report states.

The Oxford Research Group describes itself as “an independent non-governmental organisation and registered charity, which works together with others to promote a more sustainable approach to security for the UK and the world.” It is not affiliated with Oxford University.

Previously secret papers show true extent of involvement in abduction and torture following al-Qaida attacks of 2001

Read the torture documents in full

The true extent of the Labour government’s involvement in the illegal abduction and torture of its own citizens after the al-Qaida attacks of September 2001 has been spelled out in stark detail with the disclosure during high court proceedings of a mass of highly classified documents.

Previously secret papers that have been disclosed include a number implicating Tony Blair’s office in many of the events that are to be the subject of the judicial inquiry that David Cameron announced last week.

Among the most damning documents are a series of interrogation reports from MI5 officers that betray their disregard for the suffering of a British resident whom they were questioning at a US airbase in Afghanistan. The documents also show that the officers were content to see the mistreatment continue.

One of the most startling documents is chapter 32 of MI6′s general procedural manual, entitled “Detainees and Detention Operations”, which advises officers that among the “particular sensitivities” they need to consider before becoming directly involved in an operation to detain a terrorism suspect is the question of whether “detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation”.

Other disclosed documents show how:

• The Foreign Office decided in January 2002 that the transfer of British citizens from Afghanistan to Guantánamo was its “preferred option”.

• Jack Straw asked for that rendition to be delayed until MI5 had been able to interrogate those citizens.

• Downing Street was said to have overruled FO attempts to provide a British citizen detained in Zambia with consular support in an attempt to prevent his return to the UK, with the result that he too was “rendered” to Guantánamo.

The papers have been disclosed as a result of civil proceedings brought by six former Guantánamo inmates against MI5 and MI6, the Home Office, the Foreign Office, and the Attorney General’s Office, which they allege were complicit in their illegal detention and torture.

The government has been responding to disclosure requests by maintaining that it has identified up to 500,000 documents that may be relevant, and says it has deployed 60 lawyers to scrutinise them, a process that it suggests could take until the end of the decade. It has failed to hand over many of the documents that the men’s lawyers have asked for, and on Friday failed to meet a deadline imposed by the high court for the disclosure of the secret interrogation policy that governed MI5 and MI6 officers between 2004 and earlier this year.

So far just 900 papers have been disclosed, and these have included batches of press cuttings and copies of government reports that were published several years ago. However, a number of highly revealing documents are among the released papers, as well as fragments of heavily censored emails, memos and policy documents.

Some are difficult to decipher, but together they paint a picture of a government that was determined not only to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States as it embarked upon its programme of “extraordinary rendition” and torture of terrorism suspects in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, but to actively participate in that programme.

In May, after the appeal court dismissed attempts to suppress evidence of complicity in their mistreatment, the government indicated that it would attempt to settle out of court.

Today the government failed in an attempt to bring a temporary halt to the proceedings that have resulted in the disclosure of the documents. Its lawyers argued that the case should be delayed while attempts were made to mediate with the six men, in the hope that their claims could be withdrawn in advance of the judicial inquiry. Lawyers for the former Guantánamo inmates said it was far from certain that mediation would succeed, and insisted the disclosure process continue.

In rejecting the government’s application, the court said it had considered the need for its lawyers to press ahead with the task of processing the 500,000 documents in any event, as the cases of the six men are among those that will be considered by the inquiry headed by Sir Peter Gibson. Last week, in announcing the inquiry, Cameron told MPs: “This inquiry will be able to look at all the information relevant to its work, including secret information. It will have access to all relevant government papers – including those held by the intelligence services.”

Cameron also made clear that the sort of material that has so far been made public with the limited disclosure in the Guantánamo cases would be kept firmly under wraps during the inquiry. “Let’s be frank, it is not possible to have a full public inquiry into something that is meant to be secret,” he said. “So any intelligence material provided to the inquiry panel will not be made public and nor will intelligence officers be asked to give evidence in public.”

The coalition government is anxious to draw a line under what is currently described in Whitehall as “detainee legacy issues”. It hopes that mediation, followed by the inquiry, will lift the burden of litigation that it is currently facing while restoring public confidence in MI5 and MI6.

It also wishes to preserve what it calls “liaison relationships” – operational links with overseas intelligence agencies, including those known to use torture – on the grounds that they are a vital part of the country’s counterterrorism strategy.

More than 1 million American households are likely to lose their homes to foreclosure this year, as lenders work their way through a huge backlog of borrowers who have fallen behind on their loans.

Nearly 528,000 homes were taken over by lenders in the first six months of the year, a rate that is on track to eclipse the more than 900,000 homes repossessed in 2009, according to data released Thursday by RealtyTrac Inc., a foreclosure listing service.

“That would be unprecedented,” said Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at RealtyTrac.

By comparison, lenders have historically taken over about 100,000 homes a year, Sharga said.

The surge in home repossessions reflects the dynamic of a foreclosure crisis that has shown signs of leveling off in recent months, but remains a crippling drag on the housing market.

The pace at which new homes falling behind in payments and entering the foreclosure process has slowed as banks continue to let delinquent borrowers stay longer in their homes rather than adding to the glut of foreclosed properties on the market. At the same time, lenders have stepped up repossessions in an effort to clear out the backlog of distressed inventory on their books.

The number of households facing foreclosure in the first half of the year climbed 8 percent versus the same period last year, but dropped 5 percent from the last six months of 2009, according to RealtyTrac, which tracks notices for defaults, scheduled home auctions and home repossessions.

In all, about 1.7 million homeowners received a foreclosure-related warning between January and June. That translates to one in 78 U.S. homes.

Foreclosure notices posted monthly declines in April, May and June, but Sharga said one shouldn’t read too much into that.

“The banks are really sort of controlling or managing the dial on how fast these things get processed so they can ultimately manage the inventory of distressed assets on the market,” he said.

On average, it takes about 15 months for a home loan to go from being 30 days late to the property being foreclosed and sold, according to Lender Processing Services Inc., which tracks mortgages.

Assuming the U.S. economy doesn’t worsen, aggravating the foreclosure crisis, Sharga projects it will take lenders through 2013 to resolve the backlog of distressed properties that have on their books right now.

And a new wave of foreclosures could be coming in the second half of the year, especially if the unemployment rate remains high, mortgage-assistance programs fail, and the economy doesn’t improve fast enough to lift home sales.

The prospect of lenders taking over more than a million homes this year is likely to push housing values down, experts say.

Foreclosed homes are typically sold at steep discounts, lowering the value of surrounding properties.

“The downward pressure from foreclosures will persist and prices will be very weak well into 2012,” said Celia Chen, senior director of Moody’s Economy.com.

She projects home prices will fall as much as 6 percent over the next 12 months from where they were in the first-quarter.

Economic woes, such as unemployment or reduced income, continue to be the main catalysts for foreclosures this year. Initially, lax lending standards were the culprit. Now, homeowners with good credit who took out conventional, fixed-rate loans are the fastest growing group of foreclosures.

There are more than 7.3 million home loans in some stage of delinquency, according to Lender Processing Services.

Lenders are offering to help some homeowners modify their loans. But many borrowers can’t qualify or they are falling back into default. The Obama administration’s $75 billion foreclosure prevention effort has made only a small dent in the problem.

More than a third of the 1.2 million borrowers who have enrolled in the mortgage modification program have dropped out. That compares with about 27 percent who have received permanent loan modifications and are making payments on time.

Among states, Nevada posted the highest foreclosure rate in the first half of the year. One in every 17 households there received a foreclosure notice. However, foreclosures there are down 6 percent from a year earlier.

Arizona, Florida, California and Utah were next among states with the highest foreclosure rates. Rounding out the top 10 were Georgia, Michigan, Idaho, Illinois and Colorado.

The Origins of War.

July 15th, 2010 by Fidel Castro Ruz

On July 4, I said that neither the United States nor Iran would give in: “one, prevented by the pride of the powerful, and the other because it has the capacity and the will to fight oppression, as we have seen so many times before in the history of mankind.”

In nearly every war, one party wishes to avoid it and, sometimes, the two parties do. This time it will happen although one of the parties does not wish it. That was the case of the two World Wars of 1914 and 1939, only 25 years one from the other.

The carnage was awful in both wars, which would not have erupted had it not been for previous miscalculations. Both defended imperialist interests and believed they could accomplish their goals without the exceedingly high price finally paid.

In the case in question, one of the parties involved advocates absolutely fair national interests. The other pursues illegitimate and coarse material interests.

An analysis of every war fought throughout the recorded history of our species shows that one of the parties has pursued such goals.

It’s absolutely wrong to entertain the illusion that this time such goals will be attained without the most dreadful of all wars.

In one of the best articles ran by the Global Research website, signed by Rick Rozoff, the author offers plenty of indisputable arguments, which every well-informed person should be aware of, about the intentions of the United States.

According to the author, the United States believes that “…you can win if the adversary knows that it is vulnerable to a sudden and undetectable, appalling and devastating strike that it has no possibility to respond to or to defend from.”

“…a country with the aspiration of continuing as the only one in history with full military predominance all over the Earth, in the air, the sea and in space.”

“A country that keeps and expands military bases and troops as well as fighting-groups of aircraft carriers and strategic bombers on practically every latitude and longitude, and which does so on a record war budget after World War II amounting to 708 billion dollars next year.”

It was also “…the first country to develop and use nuclear weapons…”

“…the United States has deployed 1,550 nuclear warheads while keeping 2,200 in storage (or 3,500 according to some estimates) and a triad of ground, air and submarine delivering vehicles.”

“The non-nuclear arsenal used to neutralize and destroy the air and strategic defenses, and potentially all the major military forces of other countries, will consist in intercontinental ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and hypersonic bombers, and super-stealth strategic bombers that can avoid radar detection and the ground- and air-based defenses.”

Rozoff enumerates the numerous press conferences, meetings and statements given in the past few months by the chiefs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the senior executives of the US administration.

He explains the NATO commitments and the reinforced cooperation with the Near East partners, meaning Israel in the first place. He says that “the US is also intensifying the space and cyber war programs with the potential to paralyze other nations’ military command and surveillance, control, communication, information and intelligence systems rendering them helpless except in the most basic tactical field.”

He refers to the signing by the US and Russia, on April 8 this year, in Prague, of the new START Treaty, “which contains no restriction as to the actual or planned potential for a US conventional prompt global strike.”

He also reports a number of news on the issue and offers a most striking example of the US objectives.

He indicates that “…the Defense Department is currently examining the entire range of technologies and systems for a Conventional Prompt Global Strike that could offer the president more credible and technically adequate options to tackle new and developing threats.”

I sustain the view that no president –and not even the most knowledgeable military chief– would have a minute to know what should be done if it were not already programmed in computers.

Rozoff proceeds undisturbed to relate what Global Security Network states in an analysis from Elaine Grossman under the title, The Cost of Testing a US Global Strike Missile Could Reach 500 Million Dollars.

“The Obama administration has requested 239.9 billion dollars for research and development of the prompt global strike by US military services in fiscal year 2011…if the level of funds remains as anticipated for the coming years, by the end of fiscal year 2015 the Pentagon will have spent 2 billion dollars in prompt global strike, according to budget documents introduced in Congress last month.”

“A comparable terrifying scenario of the effects of a PGS, in this case of the sea version, was described three years ago in Popular Mechanics:

“An Ohio-type nuclear submarine emerges in the Pacific ready to execute the President’s order for launching. When the order comes, the submarine shoots to the sky a 65-tons Trident II missile. Within 2 minutes, the missile is flying at 22,000 km/h. Over the oceans and out of the atmosphere it speeds for thousands of kilometers.

“At the top of its parabola, in space, the four warheads of the Trident separate and start descending on the planet.

“The warheads flying at 21,000 km/h are full of tungsten rods with twice the resistance of steel.

“Once on target, the warheads explode and thousands of rods fall on the area, each carrying 12 times the destructive force of a .50 caliber bullet. Everything within 279 square meters of that whirling metal storm is annihilated.”

Then Rozoff explains the statement made this year, on April 7, by the chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Leonid Ivashov, under the headline Obama’s Nuclear Surprise, where he refers to the US President remarks in Prague last year with the following words: “The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War,” and about the signature of the START II in that same city on April 8, the author points out:

“In the history of the United States during the past century, there is not one example of sacrifice of the US elites for humanity or for the peoples of other countries. Would it be realistic to expect that the arrival of an African-American president to the White House might change the political philosophy of that nation traditionally aimed at achieving global domination? Those who believe that something like that could happen should try to understand why the US –the country whose military budget exceeds that of all the other countries of the world combined– continues spending huge amounts of money in war preparations.”

“…the concept of Prompt Global Strike envisions a concentrated attack with the use of several thousand conventional precision weapons that within 2 to 4 hours would destroy the crucial infrastructure of the targeted country and force it to capitulate.”

“The concept of Prompt Global Strike is aimed at ensuring the US monopoly in the military field and to widen the gap between that country and the rest of the world. In combination with the defensive deployment of missiles that should supposedly preserve the US from retaliatory attacks from Russia and China, the Prompt Global Strike initiative will turn Washington into a global dictator of the modern era.”

“Essentially, the new US nuclear doctrine is part of the new US security strategy that could more adequately be described as a strategy of complete impunity. The US increases its military budget, gives free rein to NATO as a global gendarme, and plans exercises in a real situation in Iran to prove the efficiency of the Prompt Global Strike initiative.”

In substance, Obama intends to mislead the world talking about a world free of nuclear weapons that would be replaced with other extremely destructive weapons designed to terrorize the leaders of other States and to accomplish the new strategy of complete impunity.

The Yankees believe that Iran will soon surrender. It is expected that the European Union will inform about a package of its own sanctions to be signed on July 26.

The latest meeting of 5 plus 1 was held on July 2, after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated that “his country will resume the talks by the end of August, with the participation of Brazil and Turkey.”

A senior EU official warned that “neither Brazil nor Turkey will be invited to the talks, at least not at this point.”

“Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki remarked that he is in favor of challenging international sanctions and proceeding with the upgrading of uranium.”

Since Tuesday July 5, and in view of the European insistence in promoting additional measures against Iran, this country has responded that it will not negotiate until September.

Thus, with every passing day there are fewer possibilities to overcome the insurmountable obstacle.

What will happen is so obvious that it can be exactly foreseen.

As for me, I should be self-critical since I made the mistake of affirming in my Reflections of June 27, that the conflict would break out on Thursday, Friday or Saturday at the latest. It was known that Israeli warships were moving toward their target alongside the Yankee naval forces. The order to search the Iranian merchant ships had been issued.

However, I lost sight of a previous step: Iran’s continued refusal to allow the inspection of a merchant ship. In the analysis of the Security Council’s intricate language to impose sanctions on that country, I overlooked the detail of that previous step for the inspection order to be enforced. It was the only required step.

The 60-days period assigned by the Security Council on June 9, to receive information on the implementation of the Resolution, will expire on August 8.

But something more unfortunate still was happening. I was working with the latest material on the issue produced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba and the document did not include two crucial paragraphs which were the last of said Resolution and which literally read:

“It requests that, in a 90 days period, the Director General of the IAEA submits to the IAEA Board of Governors and, simultaneously, to the Security Council for its examination, a report indicating whether Iran has carried out the complete and sustained suspension of all the activities mentioned in Resolution 1737 (2006), and if it is implementing every measure demanded by the IAEA Board of Governors and observing the remaining provisions of Resolutions 1737, 1747, 1803 and the current Resolution;

“It affirms that it will examine Iran’s actions in the light of the report mentioned in paragraph 36, which shall be submitted in a period of 90 days and that a) it will suspend the implementation of the measures provided that Iran suspends every activity related to upgrading and reprocessing, including research and development, and while the suspension stands, the IAEA will verify, to allow the celebration of negotiations in good faith to reach a prompt and mutually acceptable result; b) it will cease to implement the measures specified in paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 12 of resolution 1737, as well as in paragraphs 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of resolution 1747, in the paragraphs 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of Resolution 1803 and in paragraphs 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23 and 24 of the current resolution, as soon as it determines, after receiving the report mentioned in the previous paragraph, that Iran has fully observed its obligations in compliance with the relevant Security Council resolutions and the requisites of the IAEA Board of Governors, a determination to be confirmed by the Board itself; and c) in case the report indicates that Iran has failed to abide by the provisions of Resolutions 1737, 1747, 1803 and the current resolution, it will adopt, in accordance with article 41 of chapter vii of the UN Charter, other appropriate measures to persuade Iran to do as provided in said resolutions and the requisites of the IAEA, and underlines that other decisions shall be adopted if such additional measures were necessary…”

Apparently, after many hours of hard work making copies of every document, somebody at the Ministry fell asleep, but my eagerness to seek information and exchange views on these sensitive issues enabled me to detect the omission.

From my viewpoint, the United States and its NATO allies have said their last word. Two powerful states with authority and prestige failed to exercise their right of vetoing the perfidious UN Resolution.

It was the only possibility to gain time in order to find a formula to save peace, an objective that would have given them more authority to continue struggling for it.

Today, everything hangs by a thread.

My main purpose was to warn the international public of what was developing.

I have done so partly watching what was happening as the political leader that I was for many long years facing the empire, its blockade and its unspeakable crimes. I’m not doing it for revenge.

I do not hesitate to take the risk of compromising my modest moral authority.

I shall continue writing Reflections on the subject. There will be others after this one to continue delving in the issue on July and August, unless an incident occurs that sets in motion the deadly weapons that are today aiming at each other.

I have greatly enjoyed the final matches of the Football World Cup and the volleyball matches, where our brave team is leading its group in the World League.

As a nation of conscripts fighting perpetual wars which its officials are quick to claim are all wars of vital existential need, the Israeli government is constantly aiming for ways to make their army go farther.

Enter “Spot and Shoot,” Israel’s answer to the often asked questions of how to kill Palestinians more conveniently, and how to depersonalize this killing even more than it already has been. The answer is joysticks.

Israeli military “operators,” young women with video screens and Playstation-styled joysticks, control “remote killing” devices deployed along the Gaza frontier. Press a button and kill a Gazan. At least, that’s the dream.

Israeli society has a taboo about placing women in front-line combat operations, which makes the dream of turning its female soldiers into killers by remote control particularly convenient. “Suspicious” Palestinians will be killed with impunity, all without leaving the comfort of the base.

The United Nations has expressed concerns that the “Playstation mentality to killing” is not desirable, and that extrajudicial execution by remote control isn’t necessarily a great use of technology. It seems however that the momentum within Israel is to deploy the system en masse, and as quickly as possible.

KUALA LUMPUR (July 11, 2010): Civil society must exert pressure on governments to shun hypocrisy and rise against Israel, Perdana Global Peace Organisation chairman and former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

In his address at the Breaking The Siege: In the Spirit of Rachel Corrie and Mavi Marmara international conference, Mahathir said: “We must call upon all governments not to be hypocritical and stand up to this rogue state called Israel.”

He also termed Israel an “apartheid state” which must not be allowed to continue such oppressive policies.

He said the world should not allow an apartheid state to continue its oppression of Palestinians.

He said the December 2008 invasion of Gaza not only resulted in the deaths of Palestinian civilians but also an outpouring of aid which did not reduce the suffering of the people.

“The invasion saw more than 1,400 civilians, men, women and children killed, and more than 20,000 homes, schools and hospitals were destroyed,” he said.

“Many countries pledged billions in aid, but the pledges were not translated into concrete action to alleviate the sufferings of the Palestinians in Gaza.

“It was hypocrisy at its worst.”

Later, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who closed the conference, said the government will push for an emergency special session at the United Nations General Assembly to bring up the issue of Israel.

He said Malaysia will continue to play an active role in standing up for Palestinians who are oppressed by the Israelis.

“We will demand at the UN General Assembly that action be taken against Israel,” he said.

“We will send a clear message to the world that Israel cannot continue oppressing Palestinians, that Palestinians must be free from the shackles of Israel.”

Other speakers at the conference related accounts of the flotilla attacks, and provided insight into the lives of Palestinians in Gaza and called for action against Israel.

They included international activist Jenny Graham  and former United Nations (UN) assistant secretary general Dennis J. Halliday who were on board the MV Rachel Corrie and Michel Chossudovsky from Ottawa University.

Graham said the passengers on board were scared when they saw the Israeli commandos each carrying six weapons.

“We were regular people. We did not want to be martyrs or heroes,” she said.

Halliday described the UN’s efforts as a “tragic embarrassment at ending violence and promoting peacemaking efforts” in the region.

On May 31, Israeli commandos stormed the six-ship freedom flotilla, one of which was the MV Mavi Marmara, in international waters off the coast of Gaza Strip.

The flotilla was carrying some 10,000 tons of aid and up to 700 human rights activists to the Palestinian enclave.

Nine activists, four of whom were Turkish, were killed and dozens were injured.

The MV Rachel Corrie, which left for Gaza later, was also seized.

“Now all my lies are proved untrue

And I must face the men I slew.

What tale shall serve me here among

Mine angry and defrauded young?”

(Epitaphs of War, Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936.)

We live in strange times. In October 2009, the fledgling President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for: ” .. his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.” He was: “surprised and deeply humbled”, accepting it as : “a call to action.” Oh good, more “… diplomacy and co-operation …?” Not quite.

Two months later  Barack Hussein Obama announced that killing more Afghans and throwing $’s millions in to doing it was his first priority. (He didn’t quite put it like that. He told an audience at West Point * that the deployment of 30,000 additional troops was a goal vital to: “the common security of the world.” It would: ” … break the Taliban’s momentum and increase Afghanistan’s capacity …” Goals would not be set: “…  beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests.”)

Six and a half months in to 2010 US ied (impovised explosive device) deaths alone are 188, already exceeding the 152 for the whole year of 2008, in “Operation Enduring Freedom.”  Total deaths for 2009 within Afghanistan were 317, this year they are already 231. (1) Youthful dismemberments, disfigurements, and deaths, on a hiding to nowhere, are seemingly part of those “interests.” Enduring freedom indeed, from life and limb, with of course, Afghan killings and casualties: “not productive to count.”

Under this shining example of all the Nobel Peace Prize now stands for, US drones are killing citizens of Pakistan,Yemen and Somalia. Iran is in the cross hairs and Poland has had the dubious honour of hosting US missiles, to protect it in case it is attacked by – Iran, according to the seemingly increasingly delusional US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton.

In to this Orwellian world, enter “Teflon Tony” Blair, set to collect the latest in a glittering array of Awards for services to humanity. His contribution to the betterment of mankind, has included enjoining the United States, in the Afghanistan invasion and between 1997 and 2003, in the silent cull of an average of six thousand Iraqi children a month, instructing Britain’s UN officials to veto everything from vaccines to ventolin, insulin to incubators and intubators, paper to pencils, female hygiene appliances, to aids for children at the schools for the blind and deaf.

After six years of this decimation, under his watch, added to the previous seven under his predecessor, John Major, Blair’s officials cooked up a pack of lies. He ignored the advice of his top Law Lord, Lord Goldsmith, and joined his little friend on Capitol Hill, in reducing what remained of the Cradle of Civilization, to an illegally invaded pile of rubble, the destruction of swathes of its ancient history and historical records, and the lynching, “disappearing” of and imprisoning of a legitimate government, whose sovereignty was guaranteed by the United Nations.

Recent estimates are than a further million Iraqis have died since the invasion, almost certainly an under estimate, since those in remoter areas are often unrecorded, as those who died in vast numbers at the sieges of Najav,Tel Afar, the two assaults on Falluja and numerous other mass murders.

Lord Goldsmith, it now transpires, had written in his advice, six weeks before the invasion of Iraq: “My opinion is that Resolution 1441 does not revive the authorisation to use force … in the absence of a further decision by the Security Council.” Barrister Blair scribbled in the margin: “I just do not understand this.” Did any one ask which part of “No”, he could not grasp?  Two weeks later the legal opinion was reiterated in a further note.

Blair of course, walked from this carnage, to be Middle East Peace Envoy, telling Parliament on his resignation: “As I learned … it is important to be able to bring people together …” He can undoubtedly do delusion with some of the greats. As William Blum recently pointed out :

‘General Augusto Pinochet of Chile, mass murderer and torturer: “I would like to be remembered as a man who served his country.”

P.W. Botha, former president of apartheid South Africa: “I am not going to repent. I am not going to ask for favours. What I did, I did for my country.”

Pol Pot, mass murderer of Cambodia: “I want you to know that everything I did, I did for my country.”

Tony Blair, former British prime minister, defending his role in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis: “I did what I thought was right for our country.” ‘(2)

Patriotism is indeed the last refugee of the scoundrel.

Blair certainly did what he “thought was right” for Tony Blair. As Peter Oborne pointed out in March : “We now know that the wretched Blair has multiplied his personal fortune many times over by trading off the connections he made while in Downing Street. Shockingly, he fought a long battle to conceal the source of his new-found wealth, and only this month did it finally become public that one of his largest clients was a South Korean oil company, the UI Energy Corporation, with extensive interests in Iraq … he has also made £1million from advising the Kuwaiti royal family. It can be fairly claimed that Blair has profiteered as a result of the Iraq War in which so many hundreds of thousands of people died … in the league of shame, Tony Blair is arguably the worst of them all.” (3)

And the rewards for being an ally in mass starvation and murder, keep rolling in.The latest is the 2010 Liberty Medal, awarded by the US Constitution Centre (plus $100,000 prize money. Small change compared to the estimated $20 million he’s raked in since leaving office, but every little helps.)

The Liberty Medal, according to the Constitution Center: “.. reflects the values of the US Constitution – a belief in justice, fairness, self-governance … a balance between individual rights and communal responsibility, in the power of the epople … and in resolving issues through deliberation,, compromise and respect for diverse viewpoints.”

It is to be presented to him by his close friend and fellow Iraqi childrens’ tormenter, “Bomber” Bill Clinton, who says of Blair :  ” … Tony continues to demonstrate the same leadership, dedication and creativity in promoting economic opportunity in the Middle East and the resolution of conflicts rooted in religion around the world, and is building the capacity of developing nations to govern honestly and effectively. I’m pleased the Constitution Center is awarding him the Liberty Medal in recognition of his work to promote the actions necessary to make peace, reconciliation, and prosperity possible.

“Economic opportunity” indeed.

If your head is not yet over a bucket, David Eisner, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, said: “Tony Blair has significantly furthered the expansion of freedom, self-governance, equality and peaceful coexistence. This award recognizes both his dedication to and his success in building understanding among nations and creating lasting solutions in areas of conflict.” 

“TeflonTony” responded: “It is an honor to receive the Liberty Medal … Freedom, liberty and justice are the values by which this medal is struck.  Freedom, liberty and justice are the values which I try to apply to my work … preparing the Palestinians for statehood.  They are the values which drive … as we try to show that people of different faiths can live together constructively, in peace and harmony.” 

He will be donating the prize money to two of his charities. He said the same thing when he won $’s one million in February 2009 with the Dan David Award, from the Tel Aviv based Dan David Foundation, for his: “..steadfast determination and morally courageous leadership …” Revolving doors come to mind.

A month earlier he had been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush for being ” … a true friend of the United States (who has) at his very centre (belief) in freedom.” Tell that to the Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians with the ghettoised people of Gaza. He was in good company, receiving it with Australia’s former Prime Minister John Howard and Columbian President Alvaro Uribe, both adherents to Blair and Bush’s particularly unique interpretation of freedom.  

In July 2009, he pitched up to collect his Fenner Brockway Award, in London (for: ” …shared vision … global role in working for justice and security.”) with a black eye. Had someone finally found a dark night, a dark alley and a baseball bat? 

Incidentally, six of those who were awarded the Liberty Medal, have gone on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. It was Tom Lehrer who said: “Satire became redundant the day Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” No longer.

Blair may already share something with Kissinger: checking with his legal advisers every time he boards a ‘plane, should he be arrested for war crimes on arrival.

And just another reminder, George Orwell’s real name was Eric Arthur Blair. 

With thanks to Neil Sheehan.

 

Notes

*30th November 2009.
1. http://www.icasualties.org   

2. http://www.killinghope.org

3. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1260204/Tony-Blairs-legacy-sleaze-cleaned-up.html#ixzz0tAqgpoDn

KUALA LUMPUR – Yesterday was unlike any ordinary Sunday as hundreds of visitors — locals or foreigners — thronged an international conference organised by Perdana Global Peace Organisation (PGPO) at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC).

The conference Breaking the Siege: In the Spirit of Rachel Corrie and Mavi Marmara began at 9am and drew many peace-loving people from all walks of life, many of whom stayed until it ended at 6pm.

PGPO chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said: “We are gathered here not only to honour the Turkish martyrs, who were brutally slaughtered by Israeli commandos on the MV Mavi Marmara, but also to counter the lies and propaganda by Israel and the Zionist-controlled international mass media claiming the passengers, specifically the martyrs, were terrorists and the killings justified.

“More importantly, we must send a message of hope and solidarity to the Palestinians that the peace-loving people of the world will never abandon them, come what may, and we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder in their struggle for liberation.

“The Muslim world continues to be taken in by (the United States) President Obama’s rhetoric he is committed to change and he is for peace.

“His actions contradict his spoken words. Upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama then escalated the war in Afghanistan, a war started by President George W. Bush. It is not surprising the UN chose not to allow a debate on Malaysia’s resolution condemning Israel for its dastardly acts.”

The conference was hosted by renowned television personality Wan Zaleha Radzi, and attracted several politicians, media practitioners, bloggers, students and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Among those present were Parit MP Mohd Nizar Zakaria, former Perlis Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kasim, Suhaimi Sulaiman of Bernama TV and film critic Mansor Puteh.

There were three sessions conducted with international and local panelists at the conference. The audience were initially exposed to the life of the Palestinians under the Israeli occupation with a multimedia presentation at the beginning of the conference.

During the first session “Freedom Flotilla — Eyewitness Accounts”, five of the panelists who participated in the Freedom Flotilla shared their views on what transpired during the tragedy of Mavi Marmara and MV Rachel Corrie mission.

They were former UN assistant secretary-general and PGPO international advisory panel member Denis J. Halliday, international activist onboard Rachel Corrie Jenny Graham, Turkish IHH’s (Insani Yardim Vakfi, Humanitarian Relief Fund, or IHH) Dr Hassan Huseyin Usyal who was onboard Mavi Marmara, Astro Awani broadcast journalist Ashwad Ismail and University of Ottawa Centre for Research on Globalisation Prof Michel Chossudovsky.

The first session was moderated by International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir and it focused on Israeli plans to stop the Freedom Flotilla ships.

Also discussed was how the passengers of both Mavi Marmara and Rachel Corrie were determined to get the humanitarian aid across as well as to send the message to break the siege, demanding the blockade in Gaza to be lifted.

In the second session, the audience were again presented the daily account of the Palestinians. International activist and leader of Rachel Corrie Derek Graham and foreign relations officer of Gaza House of Parliament Mohammmed D. Radwan called for the international community to support the Palestinians.

“No one can forget the heroes of Mavi Marmara and Rachel Corrie. Gaza is a small place, full of meaning and colour, but it is all dark. Gaza is like a prison and the Israelis seem to have thrown the key away,” Mohammed said.

The final and third session of the conference was moderated by Dr Mahathir himself. The panelists were Datin Seri Paduka Rosmah Mansor, wife of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, ambassador of Turkey to Malaysia Serap Ataay, and deputy head of mission Embassy of Iran and Chief Representative of the League of Arab States Mission in New Delhi Dr Ahmed Salem Saleh Alwasihi.

The session, titled A Call to Action, saw various plans of actions and ideas being discussed to continue with the humanitarian effort by the Freedom Flotilla mission.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who delivered the closing speech at the conference, said: “Malaysia will request the UN General Assembly to seek an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice.”

He also reaffirmed Malaysia’s stand to strongly urge members of the UN to reconvene the 10th Emergency of the General Assembly to deliberate on the attack of the Israeli Defence Force on Freedom Flotilla.

What the panelists say

Michel Chossudovsky

“I can unequivocally say the US was also behind the attack. The president would be briefed daily about the military operations by the intelligence and Defence Secretary. The issue of Gaza is not only with regards to political but also economical matters. Many did not know Gaza has substantial reserves of natural gas and it is one of the reasons why Israel would not want to forgo this land.”

Dr Hassan Huseyin Usyal
 
“It is such an unacceptable situation to be in, for any peace activists to be attacked when we are only acting for a humanitarian cause. Of course, I have never thought it could happen to the Freedom Flotilla. But it did. It was the Israelis who attacked and killed us, and claimed we had weapons when we had none with us.”

Dennis J. Halliday

“The UN is a tragic embarrassment as it has failed the Palestinians and to highlight the plight of the oppressed. Our Freedom Flotilla mission is not only about humanitarian aid, it is also about breaking the siege which has brought the Palestinians to the worst state any human being can endure. If we can pressure the Americans to back off from supporting the Israelis, then the whole world would eventually listen. The Israelis have considered themselves to be exceptional just like the Americans, and we need to stop that.”

Jenny Graham

“To be actively aware and involved in the whole Palestinian issue, you have to do your own research. Do not take my words alone. Read, get yourself educated with the whole issue and the history of the matter. Do not just take whatever it is available in the mainstream media. If you do not know, ask.”

Datin Seri Paduka Rosmah Mansor

“The spirit of the Freedom Flotilla and the people who lost their lives should not be allowed to dissipate. Their spirit must live on and continue to inspire others to forge ahead through peaceful means to assist the people of Palestine. We have the moral obligation to say no to aggression, no to oppression, no to abuse and torture, and especially no to the mistreatment of women and children.”

Derek Graham

“It is not the government which is going to make the difference but the people of the world who are going to bring the Zionists to stop their mistreatment of the Palestinians. Thanks to all the Malaysians, because of the relentless support and reports on Rachel Corrie, it has managed to keep the people on the ship safe. We are getting closer towards our own victory in obtaining the world’s awareness.”

Sebastian Junger’s new documentary “Restrepo” presents the story of US soldiers at an isolated combat outpost, keeping Afghan suffering safely off the screen.

I’ve never heard a shot fired in anger.  But I might know a little bit more about war than Sebastian Junger.

Previously best known as the author of The Perfect Storm, Junger, a New York-based reporter who has covered African wars and the Kosovo killing fields, and Tim Hetherington, an acclaimed film-maker and photographer with extensive experience in conflict zones, heard many such shots, fired by Americans and Afghans, as they made their new documentary film Restrepo — about an isolated combat outpost named after a beloved medic killed in a firefight. There, they chronicled the lives of U.S. soldiers from Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, during a tour of duty in eastern Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley.

The film has been almost universally praised by mainstream reviewers and was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.  A New York Times “critics’ pick,” Restrepo moved the newspaper’s A.O. Scott to end his glowing review by telling readers: “As the war in Afghanistan returns to the front pages and the national debate, we owe the men in ‘Restrepo,’ at the very least, 90 minutes or so of our attention.”  In the Los Angeles Times, reviewer Betsy Sharkey concluded in similar fashion: “What ‘Restrepo’ does so dramatically, so convincingly, is make the abstract concrete, giving the soldiers on the front lines faces and voices.”

Along with Hetherington, Junger, who has also recently experienced great success with his companion book War, shot about 150 hours of footage in the Korengal Valley in 2007 and 2008 during a combined 10 trips to the country.  “This is war, full stop,” reads website prose above their directors’ statement about the film. 

It isn’t. 

Junger and Hetherington may know something about Afghanistan, a good deal about combat, and even more about modern American troops, but there’s precious little evidence in Restrepo that — despite the title of Junger’s book — they know the true face of war.

War on Your Doorstep

Earlier this year, Junger reviewed a new Vietnam War novel, veteran Karl Marlantes’s Matterhorn, for the New York Times Book Review.  In a glowing front-page appraisal, he wrote, “Combat is not really what ‘Matterhorn’ is about; it is about war. And in Marlantes’s hands, war is a confusing and rich world where some men die heroically, others die because of bureaucratic stupidity, and a few are deliberately killed by platoon-mates bearing a grudge.”  Analyzing Junger’s misreading of Matterhorn helps to unlock his misconceptions about war and explains the problems that dog his otherwise cinematically-pleasing, and in some ways useful, film.

Millions of Vietnamese were killed and wounded over the course of what the Vietnamese call the “American War” in Southeast Asia.  About two million of those dead were Vietnamese civilians.  They were blown to pieces by artillery, blasted by bombs, and massacred in hamlets and villages like My Lai, Son Thang, Thanh Phong, and Le Bac, in huge swaths of the Mekong Delta, and in little unnamed enclaves like one in Quang Nam Province.  Matterhorn touches on none of this.  Marlantes focuses tightly on a small unit of Americans in a remote location surrounded by armed enemy troops — an episode that, while pitch perfect in depiction, represents only a sliver of a fraction of the conflict that was the Vietnam War. 

It’s not surprising that this view of war appealed to Junger.  In Restrepo, it’s his vision of war, too. 

Restrepo’s repeated tight shots on the faces of earnest young American soldiers are the perfect metaphor for what’s lacking in the film and what makes it almost useless for telling us anything of note about the real war in Afghanistan.  Only during wide shots in Restrepo do we catch fleeting glimpses of that real war. 

In the opening scenes, shot from an armored vehicle (before an improvised explosive device halts a U.S. Army convoy), we catch sight of Afghan families in a village.  When the camera pans across the Korengal Valley, we see simple homes on the hillsides.  When men from Battle Company head to a house they targeted for an air strike and see dead locals and wounded children, when we see grainy footage of a farm family or watch a young lieutenant, a foreigner in a foreign land, intimidating and interrogating an even younger goat herder (whose hands he deems to be too clean to really belong to a goat herder) — here is the real war.  And here are the people Junger and Hetherington should have embedded with if they wanted to learn — and wanted to teach us — what American war is really all about.

Few Americans born after the Civil War know much about war.  Real war.  War that seeks you out.  War that arrives on your doorstep — not once in a blue moon, but once a month or a week or a day.  The ever-present fear that just when you’re at the furthest point in your fields, just when you’re most exposed, most alone, most vulnerable, it will come roaring into your world.

Those Americans who have gone to war since the 1870s — soldiers or civilians — have been mostly combat tourists, even those who spent many tours under arms or with pen (or computer) in hand reporting from war zones.  The troops among them, even the draftees or not-so-volunteers of past wars, always had a choice — be it fleeing the country or going to prison.  They never had to contemplate living out a significant part of their life in a basement bomb shelter or worry about scrambling out of it before a foreign soldier tossed in a grenade.  They never had to go through the daily dance with doom, the sense of fear and powerlessness that comes when foreign troops and foreign technology hold the power of life and death over your village, your home, each and every day.

The ordinary people whom U.S. troops have exposed to decades of war and occupation, death and destruction, uncertainty, fear, and suffering — in places like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, and Afghanistan — have had no such choice.  They had no place else to go and no way to get there, unless as exiles and refugees in their own land or neighboring ones.  They have instead been forced to live with the ever-present uncertainty that comes from having culturally strange, oddly attired, heavily armed American teenagers roaming their country, killing their countrymen, invading their homes, arresting their sons, and shouting incomprehensible commands laced with the word “fuck” or derivations thereof. 

Since World War I, it’s been civilians who have most often born the disproportionate brunt of modern warfare.  It’s been ordinary people who have lived with war day after day.  In Restrepo such people — Afghan elders seeking information on someone the Americans detained, villagers seeking compensation for an injured cow the Americans butchered into fresh steaks, and a man who angrily asks the Americans and their translator to point out the Taliban among civilians killed by a U.S. air strike — are just supporting characters or extras. 

“[W]e did not interview Afghans,” Junger and Hetherington write in their directors’ statement.  These are, however, precisely the people who know the most about war.  And somehow I can’t believe Junger doesn’t intuitively know this.  Surely it stands to reason that Afghan civilians in the Korengal Valley and elsewhere — some of whom have lived through the Soviet occupation, the bloody civil war of the early 1990s that saw the Taliban take power, and now almost a decade of American and allied foreign occupation — have a better understanding of war than any of Junger’s corn-fed twenty-somethings who are combat tourists for about a year at a time (even if they serve multiple tours of duty). 

War in the Dark

This critical local knowledge, all but missing from Restrepo, is driven home in footage from a PBS Frontline report in which one of Restrepo’s “stars,” Captain Dan Kearney, speaks to an Afghan elder, Haji Zalwar Khan, in the Korengal Valley in July 2008.  It’s around the time Restrepo ends, just as Kearney is about to hand-off his command to another American officer-cum-war-tourist. 

“You people shoot at least one house a day.  Last night you shot a house in Kandalay,” says Khan.  In response, Kearney offers a visibly skeptical smile and predictable excuses. 

“You people are like lightning when you strike a house, you kill everything inside,” Khan continues.  Later, when Frontline correspondent Elizabeth Rubin is able to talk to him alone, the elder tells her that the conflict will end when the Americans depart.  “When they leave there will be no fighting,” he assures her. “The insurgents exist to fight the Americans.”

Perhaps it’s only natural that Junger is focused (or perhaps the more appropriate word would be fixated) not on Afghans wounded or killed in their own homes, or even guerillas seeking to expel the foreign occupiers from the valley, but on the young volunteers fighting the U.S. war there.  They are a tiny, self-selected minority of Americans whom the government has called upon again and again to serve in its long-festering post-9/11 occupations.  And presumably for reasons ranging from patriotism to a lack of other prospects, these mostly baby-faced young men — there are no female troops in the unit — volunteered to kill on someone else’s orders for yet others’ reasons.  Such people are not uninteresting.

For an American audience, they, and their suffering, provide the easiest entree into the Afghan war zone.  They also offer the easiest access for Junger and Hetherington.  The young troops naturally elicit sympathy because they are besieged in the Korengal Valley and suffer hardships.  (Albeit normally not hardships approaching the severity of those Afghans experience.)  In addition, of course, Junger speaks their language, hails from their country, and understands their cultural references.  He gets them. 

Even in an American context, what he doesn’t get, the soldiers he can’t understand, are those who made up the working-class force that the U.S. fielded in Vietnam.  That military was not a would-be warrior elite for whom “expeditionary” soldiering was just another job choice.  It was instead a mélange of earnest volunteers, not unlike the men in Restrepo, along with large numbers of draftees and draft-induced enlistees most of whom weren’t actively seeking the life of foreign occupiers and weren’t particularly interested in endlessly garrisoning far-off lands where locals sought to kill them.

In his review of Marlantes’s Matterhorn, Junger confesses:

“For a reporter who has covered the military in its current incarnation, the events recounted in this book are so brutal and costly that they seem to belong not just to another time but to an­other country. Soldiers openly contemplate killing their commanders. They die by the dozen on useless missions designed primarily to help the careers of those above them. The wounded are unhooked from IV bags and left to die because others, required for battle, are growing woozy from dehydration and have been ordered to drink the precious fluid. Almost every page contains some example of military callousness or incompetence that would be virtually inconceivable today, and I found myself wondering whether the book was intended as an indictment of war in general or a demonstration of just how far this nation has come in the last 40 years.”

As the American War in Vietnam staggered to a close, U.S. troops were in an open state of rebellion.  Fraggings — attacks on commanders (often by fragmentation grenade) — were rising, so was the escape into drug use.  Troops bucked orders, mutinied, and regularly undertook “search and evade” missions, holing up in safe spots while calling in false coordinates. 

AWOLs and desertions went through the roof.  During World War II, Marine Corps desertion rates peaked at 8.8 per 1,000 in 1943.  In 1972, the last full year of U.S. combat in Vietnam, the Marines had a desertion rate of 65.3 per 1,000.  And precious few Marines were even in Vietnam at that point.  AWOL rates were also staggering — 166.4 per 1,000 for the much more numerous Army and 170 per 1,000 for the Marines.  In a widely-read 1971 Armed Forces Journal article, retired Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr., wrote, “By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state of approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and noncommissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near-mutinous.” 

It didn’t take rocket-scientists to figure out that you couldn’t conduct long-term, wheel-spinning occupations in distant lands with a military like that.  And so the long-occupation-friendly all-volunteer force that Junger has come to know was born.  That he has such a hard time understanding the citizen-soldier response to the American lost cause in Vietnam essentially ensures that the civilian story of war, especially that of alien civilians in a distant land, would evade his understanding.  This is what makes the relative isolation of the unit he deals with in Restrepo so useful, even comfortable for him as he assesses a very American version of what war is all about. 

By 1969, it was apparent where the Vietnam War was going and, increasingly, soldiers balked at the prospect of being the last man to die for their country in a disastrous war.  While it turned out that about 15,000 Americans would die in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971 (almost as many as had died from 1965 to 1967), the troops were increasingly angry about it. 

Body armor, drone warfare, ultra-rapid medevacs, and a host of other technological innovations, not to mention battling tiny numbers of relatively weak, ill-armed, and generally unpopular guerillas, has meant that Junger’s new model military can fight its wars with minimal American casualties and, so far, less upset at home (or even perhaps in the field).  Today, the numbers of dead Americans like Juan S. Restrepo, the medic for whom the outpost in Junger’s film was named, remain relatively few compared, at least, to Vietnam.  Just over 1,100 U.S. troops have died in and around Afghanistan since 2001. 

On the other hand, who knows how many Afghan civilians have died over that span, thanks to everything from insurgent IEDs, suicide attacks, and beheadings to U.S. air strikes, special operations forces’ night raids, and road checkpoint shootings, not to speak of every other hardship the American war in Afghanistan has unleashed, exacerbated, or intensified?  Who knows their stories?  Who has documented their unending suffering?  Few have bothered.  Few, if any, have risked their own lives to chronicle day-to-day life for months on end in embattled Afghan villages.  Yet it’s there, not in some isolated American outpost, that you would find the real story of war to film.  In the place of such a work, we have Restrepo.

Even an all-volunteer army will eventually collapse if pushed too far for too long.  Soldiers will eventually slip, if not explode, into revolt or at least will begin to evade orders, but the prospect looks unlikely any time soon for the U.S. military.  Unlike Afghan civilians, U.S. troops go home or at least leave the combat zone after their tours of duty.  And if most Americans don’t necessarily give them much thought much of the time, they evidently have no problem paying them to make war, or engaging in effortless tributes to them, like rising at baseball games for a seventh-inning stretch salute.

In what passes for a poignant scene in Restrepo, Captain Kearney addresses his troops after a sister unit takes uncharacteristically heavy casualties.  He says that they can take a few moments to mourn, but then it’s time to get back into the fight.  It’s time for pay-back, time to make the enemy feel the way they’re feeling.  He then gives his men time for prayer.

If Kearney ever called his troops together and set aside a moment for prayer in memory of the civilians they killed or wounded, Junger and Hetherington missed it, or chose not to include it.  Most likely, it never happened.  And most likely, Americans who see Restrepo won’t find that odd at all.  Nor will they think it cold, insensitive, or prejudiced to privilege American lives over those of Afghans.  After all, according to Junger, “military callousness” has gone the way of America’s Vietnam-vintage F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber. 

If Americans care only sparingly for their paid, professional soldiers — the ones A.O. Scott says deserve 90 minutes of our time — they care even less about Afghan civilians.  That’s why they don’t understand war.  And that’s why they’ll think that the essence of war is what they’re seeing as they sit in the dark and watch Restrepo.


Nick Turse
is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com.  An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times,
the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives.  His latest book, The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso), which brings together leading analysts from across the political spectrum, will be published in September.  His website is NickTurse.com.

Resistance is not a band of armed men hell-bent on wreaking havoc. It is not a cell of terrorists scheming ways to detonate buildings.

True resistance is a culture.

It is a collective retort to oppression.

Understanding the real nature of resistance, however, is not easy. No newsbyte could be thorough enough to explain why people, as a people, resist. Even if such an arduous task was possible, the news might not want to convey it, as it would directly clash with mainstream interpretations of violence and non-violent resistance. The Afghanistan story must remain committed to the same language: al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Lebanon must be represented in terms of a menacing Iran-backed Hizbullah. Palestine’s Hamas must be forever shown as a militant group sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state. Any attempt at offering an alternative reading is tantamount to sympathizing with terrorists and justifying violence.

The deliberate conflation and misuse of terminology has made it almost impossible to understand, and thus to actually resolve bloody conflicts.

Even those who purport to sympathize with resisting nations often contribute to the confusion. Activists from Western countries tend to follow an academic comprehension of what is happening in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. Thus certain ideas are perpetuated: suicide bombings bad, non-violent resistance good; Hamas rockets bad, slingshots good; armed resistance bad, vigils in front of Red Cross offices good. Many activists will quote Martin Luther King Jr., but not Malcolm X. They will infuse a selective understanding of Gandhi, but never of Guevara. This supposedly ‘strategic’ discourse has robbed many of what could be a precious understanding of resistance – as both concept and culture.

Between the reductionst mainstream understanding of resistance as violent and terrorist and the ‘alternative’ defacing of an inspiring and compelling cultural experience, resistance as a culture is lost. The two overriding definitions offer no more than narrow depictions. Both render those attempting to relay the viewpoint of the resisting culture as almost always on the defensive. Thus we repeatedly hear the same statements: no, we are not terrorists; no, we are not violent, we actually have a rich culture of non-violent resistance; no, Hamas is not affiliated with al-Qaeda; no, Hizbullah is not an Iranian agent. Ironically, Israeli writers, intellectuals and academicians own up to much less than their Palestinian counterparts, although the former tend to defend aggression and the latter defend, or at least try to explain their resistance to aggression. Also ironic is the fact that instead of seeking to understand why people resist, many wish to debate about how to suppress their resistance.

By resistance as a culture, I am referencing Edward Said’s elucidation of “culture (as) a way of fighting against extinction and obliteration.” When cultures resist, they don’t scheme and play politics. Nor do they sadistically brutalize. Their decisions as to whether to engage in armed struggle or to employ non-violent methods, whether to target civilians or not, whether to conspire with foreign elements or not are all purely strategic. They are hardly of direct relevance to the concept or resistance itself. Mixing between the two suggests is manipulative or plain ignorant.

If resistance is “the action of opposing something that you disapprove or disagree with”, then a culture of resistance is what occurs when an entire culture reaches this collective decision to oppose that disagreeable element – often a foreign occupation. The decision is not a calculated one. It is engendered through a long process in which self-awareness, self-assertion, tradition, collective experiences, symbols and many more factors interact in specific ways. This might be new to the wealth of that culture’s past experiences, but it is very much an internal process. 

It’s almost like a chemical reaction, but even more complex since it isn’t always easy to separate its elements. Thus it is also not easy to fully comprehend, and, in the case of an invading army, it is not easily suppressed. This is how I tried to explain the first Palestinian uprising of 1987, which I lived in its entirely in Gaza:

“It’s not easy to isolate specific dates and events that spark popular revolutions. Genuine collective rebellion cannot be rationalized though a coherent line of logic that elapses time and space; its rather a culmination of experiences that unite the individual to the collective, their conscious and subconscious, their relationships with their immediate surroundings and with that which is not so immediate, all colliding and exploding into a fury that cannot be suppressed.” (My Father Was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story)

Foreign occupiers tend to fight popular resistance through several means. One includes a varied amount of violence aiming to disorient, destroy and rebuild a nation to any desired image (read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine). Another strategy is to weaken the very components that give a culture its unique identity and inner strengths – and thus defuse the culture’s ability to resist. The former requires firepower, while the latter can be achieved through soft means of control. Many ‘third world’ nations that boast of their sovereignty and independence might in fact be very much occupied, but due to their fragmented and overpowered cultures – through globalization, for example – they are unable to comprehend the extent of their tragedy and dependency. Others, who might effectively be occupied, often possess a culture of resistance that makes it impossible for their occupiers to achieve any of their desired objectives.

In Gaza, Palestine, while the media speaks endlessly of rockets and Israeli security, and debates who is really responsible for holding Palestinians in the strip hostage, no heed is paid to the little children living in tents by the ruins of homes they lost in the latest Israeli onslaught. These kids participate in the same culture of resistance that Gaza has witnessed over the course of six decades. In their notebooks they draw fighters with guns, kids with slingshots, women with flags, as well as menacing Israeli tanks and warplanes, graves dotted with the word ‘martyr’, and destroyed homes. Throughout, the word ‘victory’ is persistently used.

When I was in Iraq, I witnessed a local version of these kids’ drawings. And while I have yet to see Afghani children’s scrapbooks, I can easily imagine their content too.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com.

Ominous reports are leaking past the BP Gulf salvage operation news blackout that the disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico may be about to reach biblical proportions.

251 million years ago a mammoth undersea methane bubble caused massive explosions, poisoned the atmosphere and destroyed more than 96 percent of all life on Earth. [1] Experts agree that what is known as the Permian extinction event was the greatest mass extinction event in the history of the world. [2]

55 million years later another methane bubble ruptured causing more mass extinctions during the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum (LPTM).

The LPTM lasted 100,000 years. [3]

Those subterranean seas of methane virtually reshaped the planet when they explosively blew from deep beneath the waters of what is today called the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, worried scientists are increasingly concerned the same series of catastrophic events that led to worldwide death back then may be happening again-and no known technology can stop it.

The bottom line: BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling operation may have triggered an irreversible, cascading geological Apocalypse that will culminate with the first mass extinction of life on Earth in many millions of years.

The oil giant drilled down miles into a geologically unstable region and may have set the stage for the eventual premature release of a methane mega-bubble.

Ryskin’s methane extinction theory

Northwestern University‘s Gregory Ryskin, a bio-chemical engineer, has a theory: The oceans periodically produce massive eruptions of explosive methane gas. He has documented the scientific evidence that such an event was directly responsible for the mass extinctions that occurred 55 million years ago. [4]

Many geologists concur: “The consequences of a methane-driven oceanic eruption for marine and terrestrial life are likely to be catastrophic. Figuratively speaking, the erupting region “boils over,” ejecting a large amount of methane and other gases (e.g., CO2, H2S) into the atmosphere, and flooding large areas of land. Whereas pure methane is lighter than air, methane loaded with water droplets is much heavier, and thus spreads over the land, mixing with air in the process (and losing water as rain). The air-methane mixture is explosive at methane concentrations between 5% and 15%; as such mixtures form in different locations near the ground and are ignited by lightning, explosions and conflagrations destroy most of the terrestrial life, and also produce great amounts of smoke and of carbon dioxide…” [5]

The warning signs of an impending planetary catastrophe—of such great magnitude that the human mind has difficulty grasping it-would be the appearance of large fissures or rifts splitting open the ocean floor, a rise in the elevation of the seabed, and the massive venting of methane and other gases into the surrounding water.

Such occurrences can lead to the rupture of the methane bubble containment—it can then permit the methane to breach the subterranean depths and undergo an explosive decompression as it catapults into the Gulf waters.  [6]

All three warning signs are documented to be occurring in the Gulf.

Ground zero: The Gulf Coast

The people and property located on the greater expanse of the Gulf Coast are sitting at Ground Zero. They will be the first exposed to poisonous, cancer causing chemical gases. They will be the ones that initially experience the full fury of a methane bubble exploding from the ruptured seabed.

The media has been kept away from the emergency salvage measures being taken to forestall the biggest catastrophe in human history. The federal government has warned them away from the epicenter of operations with the threat of a $40,000 fine for each infraction and the possibility of felony arrests.

Why is the press being kept away? Word is that the disaster is escalating.

Cracks and bulges

Methane is now streaming through the porous, rocky seabed at an accelerated rate and gushing from the borehole of the first relief well. The EPA is on record that Rig #1 is releasing methane, benzene, hydrogen sulfide and other toxic gases. Workers there now wear advanced protection including state-of-the-art, military-issued gas masks.

Reports, filtering through from oceanologists and salvage workers in the region, state that the upper level strata of the ocean floor is succumbing to greater and greater pressure. That pressure is causing a huge expanse of the seabed-estimated by some as spreading over thousands of square miles surrounding the BP wellhead-to bulge. Some claim the seabed in the region has risen an astounding 30 feet.

The fractured BP wellhead, site of the former Deepwater Horizon, has become the epicenter of frenetic attempts to quell the monstrous flow of methane.

The subterranean methane is pressurized at 100,000 pounds psi. According to Matt Simmons, an oil industry expert, the methane pressure at the wellhead has now skyrocketed to a terrifying 40,000 pounds psi.

Another well-respected expert, Dr. John Kessler of Texas A&M University has calculated that the ruptured well is spewing 60 percent oil and 40 percent methane. The normal methane amount that escapes from a compromised well is about 5 percent.

More evidence? A huge gash on the ocean floor—like a ragged wound hundreds of feet long—has been reported by the NOAA research ship, Thomas Jefferson. Before the curtain of the government enforced news blackout again descended abruptly, scientists aboard the ship voiced their concerns that the widening rift may go down miles into the earth.

That gash too is hemorrhaging oil and methane. It’s 10 miles away from the BP epicenter. Other, new fissures, have been spotted as far as 30 miles distant.

Measurements of the multiple oil plumes now appearing miles from the wellhead indicate that as much as a total  of 124,000 barrels of oil are erupting into the Gulf waters daily-that’s about 5,208,000 gallons of oil per day.

Most disturbing of all: Methane levels in the water are now calculated as being almost one million times higher than normal. [7]

Mass death on the water

If the methane bubble—a bubble that could be as big as 20 miles wide—erupts with titanic force from the seabed into the Gulf, every ship, drilling rig and structure within the region of the bubble will immediately sink. All the workers, engineers, Coast Guard personnel and marine biologists participating in the salvage operation will die instantly.

Next, the ocean bottom will collapse, instantaneously displacing up to a trillion cubic feet of water or more and creating a towering supersonic tsunami annihilating everything along the coast and well inland. Like a thermonuclear blast, a high pressure atmospheric wave could precede the tidal wave flattening everything in its path before the water arrives.

When the roaring tsunami does arrive it will scrub away all that is left.

A chemical cocktail of poisons

Some environmentalist experts are calling what’s pouring into the land, sea and air from the seabed breach ’a chemical cocktail of poisons.’

Areas of dead zones devoid of oxygen are driving species of fish into foreign waters, killing plankton and other tiny sea life that are the foundation for the entire food chain, and polluting the air with cancer-causing chemicals and poisonous rainfalls.

A report from one observer in South Carolina documents oily residue left behind after a recent thunderstorm. And before the news blackout fully descended the EPA released data that benzene levels in New Orleans had rocketed to 3,000 parts per billion.

Benzene is extremely toxic and even short term exposure can cause agonizing death from cancerous lesions years later.

The people of Louisiana have been exposed for more than two months—and the benzene levels may be much higher now. The EPA measurement was taken in early May. [8]

Doomsday

While some say it can’t happen because the bulk of the methane is frozen into crystalline form, others point out that the underground methane sea is gradually melting from the nearby surging oil that’s estimated to be as hot as 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Most experts in the know, however, agree that if the world-changing event does occur it will happen suddenly and within the next 6 months.

So, if events go against  Mankind and the bubble bursts in the coming months, Gregory Ryskin may become one of the most famous people in the world. Of course, he won’t have long to enjoy his new found fame because very shortly after the methane eruption civilization will collapse.

Perhaps if humanity is very, very lucky, some may find a way to avoid the mass extinction that follows and carry on the human race.

Perhaps.

Notes

[1] The Permian extinction event, when 96% of all marine species became extinct 251 million years ago.

[2] “The Day The Earth Nearly Died,” BBC Horizon, 2002

[3] Report about the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum (LPTM), which occurred around 55 million years ago and lasted about 100,000 years. Large undersea methane caused explosions and mass extinctions.

[4] Ryskin Theory
Huge combustible clouds produced by methane gas trapped under the seas and explosively released could have killed off the majority of marine life, land animals, and plants at the end of the Permian era—long before the dinosaurs arrived.

[5] James P. Kennett, Kevin G. Cannariato, Ingrid L. Hendy, Richard J. Behl (2000), “Carbon Isotopic Evidence for Methane Hydrate Instability During Quaternary Interstadials,” Science 288.

[6] “An awesome mix of fire and water may lie behind mass extinctions

[7] “Methane in Gulf ‘astonishingly high’-US scientist

[8] Report: “Air Quality – Oil Spill” TV 4WWL video

Links

BP engineer called doomed rig a ‘nightmare well’”

History Channel Mega Disasters – Methane Explosion

BP Official Admits to Damage Beneath the Sea Floor

The Origins of War

July 15th, 2010 by Fidel Castro Ruz

SEOUL — The United States said Thursday it will likely hold joint exercises with South Korea in the Yellow Sea in the near future, raising tensions with North Korea ahead of key military talks with Pyongyang.

North Korea’s military is scheduled to hold the talks Thursday with the United Nations Command, the first since the sinking of a South Korean warship, after postponing the meeting from Tuesday for “administrative reasons.”

The talks are scheduled to be held at 10:00 am (0100 GMT) at the border village of Panmunjom, according to a statement Wednesday from the UN Command, which monitors the Korean War armistice.

Only hours before the meeting is due to start, the Pentagon said that the US intended to hold joint military exercises with South Korea, a move likely to anger North Korea and despite objections from China, the North’s main ally.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet their counterparts in Seoul on July 21 to “discuss and likely approve a proposed series of USD/ROK combined military exercises.”

These exercise will include “new naval and air exercises in both the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea,” Morrell said.

The war games will involve a wide range of assets and are expected to be initiated in the near future,” he said.

The announcement comes after China warned against the joint exercises near its waters, and urged the two allies to not add to tensions with North Korea.

Morrell, however, dismissed China’s criticism, insisting the drills are “a matter of our ability to exercise in the open seas, in international waters. Those determinations are made by us, and us alone.”

The exercises would be defensive in nature but “will send a clear message of deterrence to North Korea,” Morrell said.

“Where we exercise, when we exercise, with whom and how, using what assets and so forth, are determinations that are made by the United States Navy, by the Department of Defense, by the United States government,” Morrell added.

Earlier this month South Korea confirmed it would stage a naval exercise with the United States in the Yellow Sea, to deter North Korean’s “illegal provocation,” with defense ministry spokesman Won Tae-Jae again slamming the sinking of the South Korean warship, the Cheonan.

The South, backed up by the findings of a multinational investigation, accuses the North of torpedoing the Cheonan in March with the loss of 46 lives. Pyongyang denies the charge.

The North previously refused to hold discussions with the US-led UN Command over the sinking of the Cheonan, calling for talks only with South Korea, but it shifted its stance last Friday.

Thursday’s talks, between colonels, are intended to make arrangements for a later meeting at general-level.

After the North agreed last week to the talks, the UN Security Council issued a statement which condemned the attack but did not apportion blame — a result hailed by the North as a “great diplomatic victory”.

The statement was watered down under pressure from Pyongyang’s ally China.

In the wake of the UN statement, the North also reiterated its conditional willingness to return to stalled six-party nuclear disarmament negotiations.

But it also threatened “strong physical retaliation” if South Korea and the United States persist in “demonstration of forces and sanctions”.

Some analysts believe the North’s navy sank the corvette in revenge for damage it suffered in a firefight last November near the disputed sea border.

Analysts at a Seoul seminar did not specify who was to blame for the sinking, but said the North may also become more belligerent as it prepares for a power transfer from leader Kim Jong-Il to his youngest son Jong-Un.

David Kang, professor at the University of Southern California, said the new leadership could mean a “more belligerent North Korea that is less willing to negotiate with the outside”.

Progress is, as we have seen, “stalled” in Haiti six months after an earthquake that struck with the impact of a nuclear bomb. A country, we are told, that is trapped in its past actually may exemplify a more frightening future—a world whose institutions, agencies, governments and corporations are sinking in a swamp of their own making, unable and perhaps unwilling to repair catastrophic crises that are morphing into each other,

In Haiti, only 2% of pledged aid arrived, a sign not only of ineptitude and hypocrisy, but of deeper financial shortages in many countries that are cutting back across the world.  Haitians are living and dying in filth with the real threat of coming hurricanes poised to wash them all away, an outcome that some say is what the elite there wants to do with the country’s growing impoverished population.

The rubble there is a metaphor for all conflicts that can’t be resolved, and all the problems that are not being addressed. Call it apocalypse now but don’t call it over. Haiti is not the only country with tent cities. They have popped up in California and some are now called “Obamavilles.”

Here in the US, the financial “reform” bill is expected to pass now that Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown has signed on. His vote is probably the most expensive in history costing some $19 billion in lost revenues that the Congress had hoped to pass on to the banks to pay for the calamity they caused.  Democrats had to drop the provision to get his vote.

The Boston Globe reported on how financial interests prevailed.

“He signed onto the legislation only after winning several changes that benefited Boston-based State Street Corp. and Springfield-based MassMutual. He also used his leverage as a key swing vote to force top House and Senate lawmakers, including House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank, to change how the bill is financed.

Although Democrats embraced Brown’s support of the financial regulation bill, they have so far not been able to win his support on legislation that would extend unemployment checks for millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents.”

Even as the vote is due this week, the financial lobby still has its scalpels out weakening it further. Yves Smith of the excellent Naked Capitalism blog notes, “When I was in the UK earlier this year, I saw a very senior financial regulator speak. In the Q&A session, someone asked him to comment on US financial reform. His reply was tantamount to “Wake me when it’s over,” and it was clear his expectations were low.

One source of frustration is that the legislative battle over reform, which went through elephantine labor to produce, at best, a mouse, has gotten most of the media attention, while important fights on the regulatory front are largely hidden from view.” She is referring to the way the industry is hard at work softening the impact of expected rules and regulations to be adopted by the regulatory agencies the bill creates.

It was not reassuring to read that former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson, Bush’s Treasury Secretary and bailout engineer, likes the bill that President Obama who backed his TARP initiative, is now pushing for passage.

This will take time. Crains New York points out that the implementation of the bill will be stalled until “ federal authorities complete an estimated 150 studies required by the reform bill and draft what Barclays Capital estimates could be 20,000 pages of new rules, with 13 new agencies to be created. This is all expected to take at least two years.”

So much for the urgency we keep hearing about on why we need to rush to re-regulate Wall Street lest a new crash occur, one that seems likelier by the day. The “rubble” from the last crash has still not been moved even as corporate profits are up and as Bob Herbert writes in the New York Times, Wall Street “parties on.”

Financial reformers like Mary Bottari of Banksters USA is happy with the provision for a new consumer protection agency, explaining, “The Bureau has independent regulatory and enforcement authority over a wide array of consumer financial products such as credit cards, mortgages, and even payday loans. Unfortunately, auto dealers escaped its jurisdiction and the institution will be housed at the Federal Reserve.”

You have to be worried about that connect ion to the Fed not only because it failed to protect consumers when they needed that protection the most, Fed head Bernanke has been reduced to begging banks to start lending again to small business. The fact that they aren’t suggests that all the noise about easing the credit crunch has been bogus. The banksters continue to do what’s in their interest, the public interest be dammed. In Europe, new rules limit banker bonuses; here, they are free to continue to be obscenely rewarded.

At the same time, international summits have failed miserably to come with an agreement on any plan, just as there is still no plan to rebuild Haiti. As Larry Chin writes,

“Having seen the results that the G20 achieved prior to the Toronto Summit, in the height of the global crisis (from late 2008 to mid 2009), do we need to be alarmed that in Toronto, the basic outcome was that the G20 members ‘agreed to disagree’ on bank taxes and on exit strategies from their domestic fiscal stimulus packages?”

Now the IMF is pressuring the US not about financial reform but cutting social security. Notes economist Dean Baker:

“The IMF both bears much of the blame for the imbalances in the world economy and then for failing to clearly sound the alarms about the dangers of the bubble. While the IMF has no problem warning about retired workers getting too much in Social Security benefits, it apparently could not find its voice when the issue was the junk securities from Goldman Sachs or Citigroup that helped to fuel the housing bubble.”

It’s hard to believe that after all the speechifying and anguish, proposed “reforms” will not change much. The only hope is on two other fronts: the courts and the streets.

On the legal front, class action lawsuits are being filed by investors and homeowners. (We need suits like that by citizens.) Some federal agencies are sending out subpoenas to issuers of mortgage-backed securities and other entities in an effort to probe whether the firms misled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two of the biggest investors in privately issued bonds.

Others like ripped off customers at the Washington Mutual Bank (WaMu) have set up websites to organize and press for compensation. Groups like The Center for Responsible Lending are going after money-grubbing payday lenders while The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) is returning to Washington to serve homeowners threatened with foreclosure.

On the activist front, a new effort called ONE NATION hopes to organize a coalition to fight for jobs. The UAW is joining up with Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push to stage a march for jobs and economic reconstruction in Detroit on August 28, the anniversary of the big l963 March on Washington.

A New Way Forward, the group pushing for real financial reform will be launching a new website to help us keep track of what’s happening on the financial front, They also issued an action alert urging pressure on Bank of America to speak out on extending benefits to the unemployed, The want the bank to lean on John McCain, a politician they helped fund.

Jobs With Justice sums up the challenge, “Let’s be real:  The Dodd-Frank bill, already passed by the US House, is not the end of the struggle.  The big banks are still too big.  They still need to be broken up and reined in further, and Dodd-Frank will not end the foreclosure crisis nor put workers and communities in charge of corporate/bank decisions.  

The struggle between people and Wall Street must continue.”

News Dissector Danny Schechter directed Plunder The Crime of Our Time and wrote the companion book treating the financial crisis as a crime story (Plunderthecrimeofourtime.com) Comments to [email protected]

c

The US and South Korea are implementing joint military exercises this month in the Yellow Sea, with the possibility of deploying the US aircraft carrier George Washington.

The running of such exercises so close to China’s waters has left China strongly, and rightfully, dissatisfied.

The US and South Korea may argue that the exercise is not in China’s territorial waters, so China has no right to comment.

However, even if the joint exercises are not in Chinese sovereign waters, they may take place in the waters of China’s interests as the international waters at Yellow Sea near China’s exclusive economic zone are extremely important to China’s interests.

Though there is still no final words as to where exactly the US-South Korea joint drill will take place, the issue and the tension it has aroused in Northeast Asia will continue for a long time.

Military exercises aimed at provoking other countries in the waters of important Chinese interests can only be seen as a threat, and China should strongly oppose them.

Given the sophisticated equipment it carries, the George Washington poses a real potential threat to Chinese territory.

Even if the US-South Korea military exercises are outside China’s territory, the striking power of the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier also poses a serious threat to neighboring countries.

China’s strong reaction is also part of its defensive diplomacy, which aims at dissovling the tension before it escalates into a serious crisis.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the Soviet Union established nuclear missile bases on the island, the US objected to the close proximity of the Soviet weaponry even though they traveled only through international waters to reach Cuba, and the US set up a blockade to stop them being deployed.

When the US ponders the idea of deploying its nuclear aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea, very close to China, shouldn’t China have the same feeling as the US did when the Soviet Union deployed missiles in Cuba?

Historically speaking, for the Chinese public, the Yellow Sea area is also associated with a painful period in history when in 1894 China was defeated by the Japanese navy in the same waters.

Thus it is a sensitive area that could especially agitate Chinese sensitivites.

Such a provocative attitude damages US credibility in the region and its chance to build strong bilateral relations.

China may not have the military strength to forcibly prevent such exercises now, but it may do so in response to such provocative actions in the future.

The US and South Korea have said the military exercises are being held in order to deter North Korea because of the sinking of the South Korean Cheonan corvette and the death of 46 South Korean sailors.

But the case for the possible North Korean sinking of the Cheonan has not been thor-oughly established.

South Korea refused to let North Korean officials present their case against the evidence for their supposed complicity in the sinking.

When South Korea launched the so-called international survey, it refused the participation of China and other countries, which did not increase the credibility of the so-called findings.

The South Korean Defense Ministry also harassed South Korean politicians who ques-tioned the results of the investigation.

It is understandable that South Korea hopes China can help see justice done.

China has expressed its condolences to the families of Korean victims in the Cheonan incident. But in executing justice, it is not enough to listen to only one side.

When South Korea started the field investigation, it should have requested that all parties participated, rather than exclude China. The US and South Korea have leapt to conclusions too soon.

These exercises are needlessly provocative, and will eventually backfire on the US and South Korea.

Shen Dingli is professor and executive dean of the Institute of International Studies and director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University. [email protected]  

Kampala Bombings Cause Somali Blackout

July 15th, 2010 by James Gundun

Somalia has finally “surprised” and “shocked” the world – but predictability doesn’t make the obtuse international reaction any easier to digest. The bombings in Kampala are atrocious. Yet with inane reports like “Who is al-Shabab” and “al-Shabab seeks to replace government,” the setup is clearly on too.

The lights have been switched off.

Reporting from the Western media
is dangerously blacked out, distorting Somalia’s instability to generate the appropriate reaction in their populaces. Africa’s media offers a more complete account, although it’s trending in the same direction. The possibility of military retaliation has quickly arisen as Western governments orchestrate the media machine to their best ability.

“The links between al Qaeda and al Shabaab are stronger” and training together, according to some brilliant analysis by David Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and “expert on al Shabaab.”

But using public relations to deflect reality ends in futile strategy. Rather than illuminating Somalia’s crisis, the Kampala bombings are being exploited to destroy incriminating evidence. Why single out al-Shabab and al-Qaeda when so many other factors are equally to blame? “Evil terrorists” only explains so much. All the blame is being pinned on them in the heat of the moment.

Thus less attention has fallen on the weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG), whose commendable attempt to survive merely funnels US arms to al-Shabab through Somalia’s black market. Corruption of millions in US and EU aid remains rampant. Child soldiers wielding US arms go unmentioned as do heavy-handed, unpopular African Union (AU) troops untrained in counterinsurgency and responsible for scores of civilian deaths. African experts recently testified to the US Congress that supporting the TFG without oversight does more harm than good.

Meanwhile Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, al-Qaeda’s former chief in Somalia, pops up sparingly and only to invoke the SEAL strike that killed him in September 2009. That al-Shabab and al-Qaeda officially allied together in February 2010 goes unsaid. It’s useless for people to realize that targeted assassinations have minimal effect.

And scant reporting has downplayed Uganda’s new deployment of 2,000 emergency troops to Mogadishu, as requested by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Uganda’s story runs deeper than being one of two contributors to the AU force (Burundi being the other), and the deployment sparked fears that Ethiopia, generally disliked in Somalia, is on deck. Specific references that Somalia had reached a tipping point are similarly neglected; most reports opt for the standard copy-and-paste biography. Yet Blackhawk Down hasn’t been referenced much either. None of Washington’s sordid history in Somalia is.

All the back-story to Kampala has been edited out, leaving it the hollow shell of a “pointlessly brutal” al-Qaeda attack. A freeze frame of explosions and blood soaked American teenagers for Western consumption.

Kampala’s tragedy isn’t isolated, but orbits the larger tragedy in Somalia. Uganda deployed more troops without a strategy and al-Shabab retaliated. This war is ongoing and more troops beget more violence, as they’ve already started to do. One cannot expect Uganda or other African nations to deploy troops without consequence when blood has stained everyone’s hands. Nor can one blame al-Qaeda for outmaneuvering America from Afghanistan into Somalia.

Unfortunately President Barack Obama automatically pledged “any support and assistance” to Uganda. Helping a US ally is one thing but FBI teams are just the beginning of a security rollout, thus Obama’s decision will likely exacerbate the conflict. Lt. Col. Felix Kulaigye, army spokesman for Uganda, ominously told reporters, “Al-Shabab is the reason why we should stay in Somalia. We have to pacify Somalia.”

That attitude has brought and will continue to bring chaos to Somalia.

Glints of truth can still be spotted amidst the smoke of Kampala. William Braniff, a US instructor at the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, advises, “Regionalization of the conflict is a rational strategy for al Shabaab. They are stronger when there are foreign boots on the ground, and weaker otherwise.” Where he is at a time like now?

Afyare Abdi Elmi, another al-Shabab expert, predicts of the bombing, “It will invoke an interventionist mood in the region and within the international community. This might create an atmosphere where Somalia is a free for all and a number of troops are invited and come and go.”

Many Somalis themselves, much as they dread al-Shabab, also fear that overreaction from the West or Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia – all US allies.

Unfortunately none of this seems to matter. The world’s strategy up until Kampala and its subsequent reaction offers few reasons to expect a sound counter-response. In fact the main hope is that very overreaction. Washington officials closely monitoring the US and international media understand the threat of military retaliation is highly anticipated. But al-Shabab and al-Qaeda’s actions suggest that its bombs possess dual motives: deterrence against additional forces and bait into the trap. They expect retaliation and will strike US allies if attacked by US forces; if not they continue about their war.

Either outcome serves their purpose.

The West can keep blaming al-Shabab and al-Qaeda, but that won’t stabilize the conflict. Though the temptation may be to perceive AU or US troops as liberators, given that al-Shabab’s popular support is low, they would likely throw dynamite on the fire. Going in is easy. Instead Somalia needs a full-spectrum exit strategy, and the countdown for a solution is running out. The smart political play thus aligns with the best counterinsurgency: fusing international and regional diplomacy into a tone-down reaction that doesn’t further inflame the region.

What’s needed to avert a military catastrophe is a grand political strategy – an international Task Force for Somalia. The failed state rivals Iraq or Afghanistan and yet receives a fraction of the time and resources. Not only does a Task Force appear to be the most realistic solution to the conflict (despite its apparent idealism), nearly every actor is calling for international intervention.

Last week President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, armed with an AK-47, spearheaded the front lines to rally the nation. He told Reuters after returning to Mogadishu, “Things have gone beyond a level we can tolerate so there is an urgent need for international or regional help. My government can do little to forge its institutional duties because of constant attacks.”

The same demand came from Sunni militia Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a, formerly allied with the government and now dangerously isolated after falling out with the TFG. Upon denouncing the TFG group spokesman Abu Yusuf Al-Qadi added, “We are requesting from the international community to know and see that the government had violated the deal signed.” He wants international assistance too.

And Kenya’s Foreign Minister, Moses M. Wetangula, warned days before the Kampala bombings, “The levels of engagement of the United States, the levels of commitment, have been below our expectations. America, remember, enjoys the status currently of the only superpower, expected to have the capacity to do some of the things countries with limited capacity like ourselves cannot do, including enforcing Security Council resolutions.”

Now add in General David Petraeus’s Special Forces directive that expanded operations in Somalia, plus the SEAL raid on Nabhan, an event which solidified al-Qaeda and al-Shabab’s alliance. It becomes clear that the West’s response to Somalia has remained military-centric despite a change in rhetoric. Reversing this mindset is critical to the mission.

Wetangula illuminates what a potential Task Force may look like: several US officials to act in the UN, EU officials to oversee regional initiatives, a heavy African unit comprised of high-level officials from all of Somalia’s neighbors, and representation from Somaliland and Puntiland to exercise regional authority with TFG. Egyptian and Saudi Arabian officials may also be enlisted for the purpose of Islamic reintegration programs. A dozen or so members could form the team, America operating from the back and Africans up front.

Restoring the TFG to working order would be the first task, either by reforming it or disbanding and replacing it with a more solid structure. This would necessitate a deep level of participation from Somalia’s local power-brokers, who must be recruited to play an active role in the Task Force. A bottom-up strategy will never succeed without assistance from the top, making it essential to promote diplomats who sincerely understand they serve the Somali people.

Among many secondary issues to address are investigations into the TFG’s use – and America’s arming – of child soldiers and the harassing of journalists who reported on the story. At the top of the list: a regional construct for Somalia, Somaliland, and Puntland, a peace treaty with Ethiopia, piracy (which will never be solved at sea), and proxy negotiations with militant groups. None of this will be easy, cheap, or quick.

The Task Force’s ultimate objective, as politics alone won’t resolve the conflict, is devising an all-encompassing framework to run potential AU/EU/US military operations through, or a more robust UN peacekeeping mission. This isn’t advocation of those operations, only the acceptance of their inevitability. The Task Force must minimize the need for military action and alleviate negative reaction through the proper political and cultural knowledge. And it must act before al-Qaeda strikes a Western target from Somalia, before Ethiopian or US brigades are forced to storm Mogadishu and other al-Shabab positions.

Before the war is lost for good.

James Gundun is a political scientist and counterinsurgency analyst based in Washington D.C. Contact him in The Trench, a realist foreign policy blog, at www.hadalzone.blogspot.com.

5

Economics in Freefall

July 15th, 2010 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

I admire Joselph E. Stiglitz, because he has a social conscience and a sense of justice, the absence of which turns economists into monsters. Despite his virtues and Nobel Prize, Stiglitz sometimes falls down as an economist.  Readers of my new book, How The Economy Was Lost, will be aware that I take him to task for the Solow-Stiglitz production function, which seriously misleads economics about the scarcity of nature’s capital.

Another of Stiglitz’s shortcomings, one that he shares with most economists, is his habit of reifying the market economy.  The market is a social organization. The results of market activity reflect the behavior of the human participants in the market. When economists reify the market, they attribute the behavior, ethics, and morality–or lack thereof–of humans to the market itself. Thus, Stiglitz describes human failures as “market failures,” and he asks in his new book, Freefall, “why didn’t the market exercise discipline on bad corporate governance and bad incentive structures?”

Social institutions are inanimate. They do not possess life and cannot impose good outcomes on human action.

Libertarians also reify markets, but instead of blaming markets for human failures, they imbue the market with human virtues and even with the super-human virtue of producing results that human intelligence cannot improve upon.  Economists’ “risk models” for which Nobel Prizes have been awarded and Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan attributed the social institution with economic wisdom beyond man’s.

It is likely that the practice of reifying the market economy developed as a form of shorthand. It was convenient to say that the market did this and that rather than to have to describe the human interactions that produced the results. The market was transformed from an abstraction into a life form and became the actor instead of the humans operating within the institution.

If the outcomes are good, libertarians attribute the good results to the market’s virtues; if bad, libertarians blame human interference–government regulation. Economists of Stiglitz’s persuasion see it in the opposite way. Good results are produced by regulation; bad results are the result of allowing the market to make decisions on its own.

This way of thinking, which reifies a social institution, is ingrained in economics. It is the source of enormous confusion and has resulted in a pointless long-running ideological battle that Stiglitz calls “a battle of ideas.”

It is possible to clear away the confusion. First, understand that a free market is one in which prices are free to respond to supply and demand. Economists of all persuasions understand that to fix a price below the price at which supply and demand equate results in shortages. Economists have learned this from rent control. Fixing a price above the price at which supply and demand equate results in surpluses. Economists have learned this from agricultural subsidies. A free market does not mean a market in which human behavior is not regulated. A free market is one in which supply and demand are permitted to equate.

Second, understand that regulation regulates human behavior, not the market. It is the actors in the market who are charged with regulatory infractions, not the institution itself. Regulation is necessary because of human faults, such as greed, fraud, carelessness, not because of market faults. Regulation is necessary because of human failure, not because of market failure.

Third, understand that the problem of regulation is that it is done by flawed humans. Human flaws do not disappear by moving human action from the economy to government. Most likely the flaws worsen as government decisions are often unaccountable. Many economists assume that regulators act in the public interest. However, as George Stigler, another Nobel Prizewinner, pointed out several decades ago, regulators are invariably captured by the industries that they regulate.

There are endless examples of regulators–indeed, entire governments–captured by the private interests that they are supposed to regulate. For example, in a recent subscriber’s edition of CounterPunch (June 16-30), Jeffrey St. Clair describes in detail the incestuous relationship between the government’s Minerals Management Service and the oil industry. An agency charged with regulating the impact of oil drilling on the environment became “a bureaucratic facilitator of big oil.”  Thus, the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and looming catastrophes along Alaska’s fragile coastline.

Indeed, economists themselves and academics are often captured by private interest groups and turned into shills.  In How The Economy Was Lost, I accuse economists of shilling for transnational corporations when they falsely describe jobs offshoring as the beneficial workings of free trade. Like the Israel Lobby, corporations have found that money will purchase professors, academic departments and think tanks, as well as journalists.

Offshoring transforms American workers’ wages into performance bonuses for executives, capital gains for shareholders, and honoraria and research grants for economists who shill for the practice.

The problem that the US economy faces is far more serious than the financial crisis resulting from financial deregulation. The reason that traditional monetary and fiscal policies cannot produce an economic recovery is that so much of the US economy has been moved offshore. As the jobs have departed, there is no work to which low interest rates and massive government spending can recall workers.  This is the real freefall.

My eyes are burning as I type this. We’ve just returned from spending the day down in Barataria, located about an hour’s drive south of New Orleans. The community of fishermen is swimming in oil. Within minutes of arriving, our eyes begin to burn and we begin to feel dizzy from airborne chemicals from the oil and dispersant.

Like most of the rest of the Louisiana estuary, the further south one drives, the more one enters a culture that lives, eats, breaths and loves the water. Moss-laden oak trees, some with trunks more than four feet in diameter, line the road in places, before quickly giving way to canals, bayous and swamps that lap against the pavement.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

We went to Barataria to meet with Tracy Kuhns, the executive director of Louisiana Bayoukeeper, a group whose goal is “To engage and empower coastal communities for the purpose of promoting sustainable management of Coastal Louisiana’s Bayou Country and its natural resources for the benefit of all citizens.” Tracy, who is also a member of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, is talking rapidly before I can get my recorder started.

Tracy is concerned about the dispersant BP has been using on the oil.

The dispersants Tracy references are Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527, both of which BP has used and continues to use (more than 1,400,000 gallons to date and counting) to disperse crude oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and near the wellhead 5,000 feet below the surface where the volcano of oil gushes toxicity into the Gulf. The pathways of exposure are inhalation, ingestion, skin and eye contact. Health impacts include headaches; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; abdominal pains; dizziness; chest pains and tightness; irritation of eyes, nose, throat and lungs; difficulty breathing; respiratory system damage; skin irrigation and sensitization; hypertension; central nervous system depression; neurotoxic effects; genetic damage and mutations; cardiac arrhythmia and cardiovascular damage; among several others.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest analysis of dispersant toxicity released in the document “Comparative Toxicity of Eight Oil Dispersant Products on Two Gulf of Mexico Aquatic Test Species,” Corexit 9500, at a concentration of 42 parts per million, killed 50 percent of mysid shrimp tested.

Tracy tells us of the 44 reports for exemption BP has been issued to use dispersant.  She and her husband Mike, who are both fisherpersons, are tortured by what they are witnessing where they live, fish, work and play.

“Just days ago Barataria Bay was full of oil,” Tracy informs us, while sweeping an arm out toward the south, where the large Bay sits, toxified, “Then they hit it with dispersants and the oil goes to the bottom. But then during the day, it heats up and the oil bubbles up to the surface.”

Tracy, like many other shrimpers with whom I will soon speak, refers to this effect as that similar to a “Lava lamp.”

“The oil, after they hit it with dispersants, moves around beneath the surface and they can’t track it,” she continues, “they are using dispersants so they can minimize their liability.”

She shows us several photos and video clips on her computer. In some, a whitish foam lines marsh areas. Others show an emulsified, off-white paste floating atop water. Several times over the next hours that we talk, Tracy complains of a persistent headache she can’t get rid of and feeling nauseous. She also complains of feeling “out of it” often.

Barely two hours after our arrival, I pull Erika aside. My eyes are burning with pain, I feel dizzy and lightheaded. “So are mine and so do I,” she says, “And my skin burns. Look at this.” She turns her head and one of her cheeks has a light-red rash.

Pressure pulses against my forehead and I can feel my heartbeat in my nose. We are both already exhibiting several symptoms of exposure to the dispersant. I’m shocked by the rapidity of the onset of symptoms.

But we’re in the majority, because according to every shrimper with whom we talk today, everyone has some, or more commonly, most, of the symptoms of exposure.

Tracy, who, given her position, is up on what most of the shrimpers in the area are up to, is as up to date on how the community is being affected as anyone. She informs us that most of the fishermen are now working for BP laying out boom. “If you’re not doing this cleanup work, you’re not working,” she says, “They feel like they are helping by doing clean up work and they can’t stand to just sit here and not do something to help. They feel helpless sitting at home and that’s when the depression, suicide and drinking kick in.”

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Our conversation never veers too far in another direction before it comes back to the air quality and water. This is a given, because the longer we sit with our eyes open and breathing air into our lungs, the more our eyes burn and the pulsing headache and dizziness increase.

“Bad air moves in off the bay anytime the wind is from the south or southeast,” Tracy adds, “and we’re trying to get BP to have air monitors on the boats of the fishermen who are helping clean up, but they won’t do it.” Kim Chauvin, from Chauvin, Louisiana, has gotten NOAA to put an air monitor on her husband’s boat in the Gulf.

Tracy’s passion for the Gulf and marine eco-systems it supports is always evident. “90 percent of the species in the Gulf of Mexico spend some part of their lives in the Louisiana estuaries,” she adds, “BP is killing our hope of getting these restocked for the future.”

Her concerns mirror, almost exactly, those of Paul Orr. Just a few days ago, in Baton Rouge, we visited the offices of the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, a group focused on keeping the lower Mississippi River pollution-free.

“This is the second most important delta in the Western Hemisphere and one of the most important deltas on the planet,” Orr said during an interview, “And we just have no idea what this amount of oil in this close of proximity to the delta could do. The decision was made to use the dispersants intensively to sink the oil – the rationale to minimize shore impacts at all cost. But now it seems like the real reason they’ve been doing that is to get the oil to disappear because if it was staying on the surface, at least you could collect it, even if it starts impacting the shore in some way. But now we have an unknown millions of barrels of oil floating around in the water column and sticking to the sea floor. We may not ever know some of the long-term damages.”

Tracy embarks on a longer explanation of the horrible timing of the BP oil disaster (as if there would ever be “better” timing) and how the massive amounts of oil and dispersant cascading into the estuary has basically annihilated much of this year’s brown and white shrimp populations. She then goes on to inform us of milky, subsurface clouds of dispersed oil that have been floating around in their canals since early June and micelles comprised of oil surrounded by dispersant that turn into mist when boats pass through it. “You can’t help but breathe it in when this happens,” she adds, “Every time we ride out in the bay your chest tightens for days … I still have it. And if you can smell it, you’ve already been overexposed. And the fish, their gills are as affected by this as our lungs are. But BP and the government keep saying they don’t want to scare the public with this stuff, so they are trying to keep it quiet.”

But all anyone needs to do is come down here. To Barataria, Lafitte, and numerous other small fishing communities in the marshland of southeast Louisiana. Your eyes will burn. You will smell the oil and sheen. Your chest will tighten and your heartbeat will be felt in your head after just a few hours, tops. BP and the government cannot hide this. And it is worsening by tens of thousands of barrels of Louisiana sweet crude and untold thousands of gallons of dispersant every day.

The denials from BP, the Obama administration, the Coast Guard, and other governmental organizations like NOAA are what enrage Tracy more than anything else. In fact, BP is having response workers in Mississippi and Alabama go through metal detectors so they can’t even take their cell phones out with them when they go and do their response work.

“We’re living here and see this everyday. You can’t tell us we don’t have the BP cough that we’ve never had before. It makes us feel like the government thinks we are stupid little toddlers and that concerns me. They are constantly telling us not to be afraid and that is what scares the hell out of me. We shouldn’t have to trade our estuary and our kid’s lives to protect someone else’s investment. We shouldn’t have to trade ourselves.”

I breach the question of what she and her husband Mike Roberts are going to do. Mike has been shrimping and crabbing here for more than 35 years. His anguish is written all over his face. They know as well as anyone how incredibly toxified their home is now. “How can anyone just leave their home and never come back again,” she asks me back. “My grandson cries if he has to leave the bayou. He’s been trawling since he was in diapers. This summer he’s 12 and was supposed to be learning more navigation skills. Now he can’t, so he’s like a little lost soul.”

Tracy has been working with eco-activists and fisherfolk in all five Gulf states. She says the BP catastrophe has transcended all usual barriers that usually keep people at odds with one another. “This transcends all other issues because everyone must breath this air. We are all connected by this water. And now we’re all connected by BP’s oil. We all know what’s going on. What planet do they live on in Washington D.C.? Not this one. They need to come here and breath this shit everyday and swim in this soup and tell us it’s just fine. All the kids around here have rashes, asthma problems, ear infections and the majority of our fishermen are out there working in this stuff 24/7 because it’s now the only job in town and they’re all getting sick.”

Tracy is distraught. She pauses and looks out to the nearby canal, then looks back at us. “We’re seeing crabs crawling out of the water. We’ve never seen this before. Ever. Why are crabs trying to escape from the water?”

She learned of the crabs from her friend Gene Hickman. Gene, a commercial and charter fisherman, lives with his wife Vicky a short ways down the road. Gene and Vicky come over.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

Gene has cancer and decided not to work for BP in the response effort so as not to make himself more sick. Gene shows me a video he took on Thursday, at night, of dozens of crabs crawling out of the canal onto his bulkhead.

I’d long since heard of the dispersant poisoning the water as well as removing oxygen from it. Many toxicologists have already stated that Corexit is much more harmful to human and marine life health than we’ve been told. Marine toxicologist Dr. Susan Shaw has written: “Corexit is particularly toxic. It contains petroleum solvents and a chemical that, when ingested, ruptures red blood cells and causes internal bleeding. It is also bioaccumulative, meaning its concentration intensifies as it moves up the food chain.”

On July 9, in an interview with CNN, Dr. Shaw said this of the toxic soup that is the combination of oil and dispersants: “Shrimpers [were] throwing their nets into water … [then] water from the nets splashed on [one's] skin…. [He experienced a] headache that lasted 3 weeks … heart palpitations … muscle spasms … bleeding from the rectum … And that’s what Corexit does, it ruptures red blood cells, causes internal bleeding and liver and kidney damage…. This stuff is so toxic combined … not the oil or dispersants alone…. Very, very toxic and goes right through skin.”

A June 30 story in The Guardian informed us, “Scientists are confronting growing evidence that BP’s ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico is creating oxygen-depleted ‘dead zones’ where fish and other marine life cannot survive.”

Two research voyages of independent scientists detected “what were described as ‘astonishingly high’ levels of methane, or natural gas, bubbling from the well site, setting off a chain of reactions that suck the oxygen out of the water.” In the article, Larry Crowder, a marine biologist, said, “The animals are already voting with their fins to get away from where the oil spill is and where potentially there is oxygen depletion. When you begin to see animals changing their distribution that is telling you about the quality of water further offshore. Basically, the fish are moving closer to shore to try to get to better water.”

Samantha Joye, a scientist at the University of Georgia studying the effects of the spill at depth, has said that the ruptured well was producing up to 50 percent as much methane and other gases as oil.

“Joye said her preliminary findings suggested the high volume of methane coming out of the well could upset the ocean food chain,” The Guardian continued, “such high concentrations, it is feared, would trigger the growth of microbes, which break up the methane, but also gobble up oxygen needed by marine life to survive, driving out other living things.

“Joye said the methane was settling in a 200-meter layer of the water column, between depths of 1,000 to 1,300 meters in concentrations that were already threatening oxygen levels.

“That water can go completely anoxic [extremely low oxygen] and that is a pretty serious situation for any oxygen-requiring organism. We haven’t seen zero-oxygen water but there is certainly enough gas in the water to draw oxygen down to zero,” she said.

“It could wreak havoc with those communities that require oxygen,” Joye said, wiping out plankton and other organisms at the bottom of the food chain.”

I’m horrified by the video. Tears well in my eyes. Gene takes one look at my face and says, “It’s not natural for crabs to come out of the water like this. They never want to come out of the water if they can help it. They are trying to escape.”

Tracy chimes in. “We are seeing this all over the Gulf now – dolphins, fish, running from the dispersant and oil because they can’t breath. Marine life knows to run out of the way, but we don’t.”

Gene tells us, “This is ripping my heart to pieces. I’m living in high anxiety.” Vicky says that BP and the government are playing down the disaster, when in reality, “anything out there should not be eaten” while pointing out to the water.

Disturbingly, the day after Gene filmed the crabs fleeing the water, residents living near Lake Pontchartrain reported finding thousands of dead fish and crabs in the canals near their homes.

We drive over to Gene and Vicky’s after they inform us of dead crabs and fish floating in sheen-covered water by their boat. Outside their mobile home, from which they are about to be evicted, Gene walks us over to where his boat sits in a nearby bayou.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

Dead crabs float in a sheen of oil. It is a toxic soup of stench and death that fouls the air and burns my nose. As I stand looking on in horror, with more tears welling up in my eyes, Gene says, “I’m 52 years old and I’ve never seen crabs crawl out of the water at night. I also saw shrimp swimming in little circles on the surface.”

Vicky, standing nearby, says, “I think this is just the beginning. This is just the small stuff. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Over time bigger and bigger stuff will be washing up here.”

Gene looks out to the water, to nearby Bayou Rigolettes and holds back tears as he says, “I smell oil all the time. It’s like it’s stuck in my nose. You know why all this hits so close to home? See those crab traps?”

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

“I guess those are relics now,” Gene says. “I can’t fish now and probably won’t ever be able to again, so where does this leave me? I feel like that old Indian from that old commercial, who looks out at all the garbage and pollution and sees his whole world polluted. That’s how I feel now.”

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

The day before, in Chalmette, Louisiana, I spoke with Dr. Riki Ott. Dr. Ott is a marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor who has been monitoring BP’s actions and how they are affecting what we know about the damage the oil disaster is causing and threats posed to those working in the polluted zone.

“This is a hazardous waste cleanup,” she told me as we sat in the city hall chambers where she was soon to hold a public forum, “BP needs to be evacuating the Gulf coast and paying for that, in addition to costs for relocating people and compensating them for what they’ve lost.”

It is that serious. My eyes still burn and my chest is tight, long after we exited the toxic soup of air and water that is south of New Orleans. Toxic chemicals from dispersed oil and the dispersant itself now permeate all the air, leaves, water and wildlife of the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Florida and Texas. You are breathing this same air as you read this.

The only question is, how many parts per million of toxics are now in your lungs as well?

Will the current crisis in Kyrgyzstan lead to greater instability, and perhaps an expansion of the current conflict in Central Asia? There are good reasons to be concerned. Deep forces, not adequately understood, are at work there; and these forces have repeatedly led to major warfare in the past.

The pattern of events unfolding in Kyrgyzstan is ominously reminiscent of how America became involved in Laos in the 1960s, and later in Afghanistan in the 1980s. American covert involvement in those countries soon led to civil wars producing numerous casualties and refugees. It will take strenuous leadership from both Obama in Washington and Medvedev in Moscow to prevent a third major conflict from breaking out in Kyrgyzstan.

I call the pattern I refer to “a Laotian syndrome” of coups, drugs, and terror, since it was first clearly illustrated by American interventions in Laos in the late 1950s and 1960s. The syndrome involves a number of independent but interactive elements whose interconnection in the past has not generally been recognized. What it reflects is not a single agenda, but a predictable symbiosis of divergent groups, responding to the powerful forces that the drug traffic creates.

In this syndrome, something like the following pattern emerges.

1) Covert U.S. activity results in the ousting of a moderate government, and its replacement by a more corrupt and unpopular one, unsupported by the culture of the country on which it is imposed.

2) A successor regime, to maintain its uncertain grip on power, intensifies its control over the local drug traffic.

3) This control involves collaboration with local drug mafias, leading to their expansion.

4) The flow of drugs from the country (or through, in the case of Kyrgyzstan) increases significantly.

5) Eventually, in the context of weakened legitimacy and strengthened illegitimacy, a successor government is ousted.

6) What ensues is a violent civil war.

7) The final outcome is a government not to America’s liking.

The pattern does not repeat itself identically. In Laos, CIA intrigue and money in 1959 produced an unpopular pro-American regime under right-wing general Phoumi Nosavan, which lasted eighteen months.1 Similar CIA intrigues in Afghanistan two decades later completely backfired, and produced instead an equally unpopular anti-American regime under Nur Mohammed Taraki, which  lasted sixteen months.2

But the root problem was the same: the CIA’s gratuitous destabilization of an inoffensive country encouraged local intrigues and paranoia, and soon produced an unstable and divisive government without a popular base. Eventually a resulting weakened government (the next in Laos, a little later in Afghanistan) favored both drug and terrorist activity in its territory, as predictably as a pine forest weakened by drought will invite an infestation of beetles.

The longer-term result was a country where civil politics had been replaced by civil war. In the case of Laos and Afghanistan U.S. covert activity, waged as part of the Cold War, produced Soviet military and intelligence responses. (It may, in the case of Afghanistan, have been designed to produce such responses.) Former Carter advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who authorized the CIA’s covert Afghan operations of 1978-79, later boasted to a French newspaper:

The secret operation was an excellent idea. It drew the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? On the day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, saying, in essence: ‘We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.’”…

When asked whether Islamic fundamentalism represented a world menace, Brzezinski replied, “Nonsense!”3

The last decade of Kyrgyz history suggests that U.S. and Russian covert operators have continued to tussle in the “great game” of dominating the Central Asian heartland. And once again, while the leaders of both countries to evolve common policies for Kyrgyzstan, there may be bureaucrats below them who harbor more belligerent intentions.

Central Asia

To the general public, it would seem obvious that none of these developments have been in the interests of either America or the world. Yet American agencies have still not learned from the obvious fiasco of their Laotian venture, which resulted in a huge increase in opium production, before this peaceful Buddhist nation ceased (thanks to American efforts) to be neutralist, and instead became nominally Communist.

America’s destabilization of remote Laos, a neutral and harmless nation, was in accordance with the ideological doctrine being peddled in a book by three policy hawks at the time: A Forward Strategy for America, by Robert Strausz-Hupé. William R. Kintner and Stefan T. Possony. The book rejected coexistence as a foreign policy, and argued for “a strategy of active pressures directed against the communist bloc,” wherever it was seen to be vulnerable.

The American sponsored “Tulip Revolution” in Kyrgyzstan (March 2005) is a conspicuous product of the forward strategy doctrine. This is no accident: it came at a time when George W. Bush repeatedly spoke of a “forward strategy of freedom,” or a “forward strategy for freedom.”4 But by the 21st century the forward strategy in countries with drug economies had a track record, which its advocates in Washington might well have reviewed before advocating an intervention so close to both Russia and China.

In 1959 the CIA attempted to impose a right-wing government in Laos:  after a decade and a half of expanding drug trafficking and a futile, bloody, drug-financed war, Laos became (at least nominally) a communist nation. Undeterred by the dismal outcome in Laos, in 1978-79 Zbigniew Brzezinski, Robert Gates, and the CIA mobilized right-wing elements again in Afghanistan, another nation contiguous to the then Soviet Union.5 The immediate result was the same as Laos: the replacement of a neutralist regime by a radical and polarizing one (in this case communist), followed by another radical increase in drug trafficking, and another decade of bloody and unsuccessful war.

What were the forward strategists hoping for in Kyrgyzstan? In April of this year the unpopular regimeinstalled by the 2005 Tulip Revolution was itself replaced. Although it is too early to predict the outcome of these dislocations, thousands of lives have been lost in the ethnic violence of June 2010, and drug traffickers are apparently profiting from the near anarchy to consolidate their hold on southern Kyrgyzstan. That is just what happened to Laos in 1959; it is what Jimmy Carter’s drug advisor David Musto warned would happen in Afghanistan in 1980.6 Did someone want it to happen again?

All in all, the coup-drug-terror syndrome in Kyrgyzstan well illustrates the Marxist dictum that history repeats itself, first as tragedy (Afghanistan in 1978-80), and the second time as farce.

The Coup-Drug-Terror Syndrome in Kyrgyzstan

After the break-up of the former Soviet Union in 1991, Kyrgyzstan, under the leadership of Askar Akayev, was relatively the most moderate and open government among the six post-Soviet “stans” of Central Asia. Alone among the successor strong men, Akayev was not a long-time Communist Party apparatchik, but an intellectual who read Heine, a physicist, “a researcher in St Petersburg and an associate of legendary Russian physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.”7

It is true that Akayev’s initial efforts to make Kyrgyzstan an open and pluralistic democracy did not last long: an on-going economic crisis made his regime increasingly unpopular.8 Meanwhile he soon came under pressure from neighboring Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, and China to crack down on the dissidents who were using Kyrgyzstan as a base for mobilizing against their home countries.9 Eventually the country’s economic problems led to popular protests and their brutal suppression.

But in international policy Akayev managed at first to maintain good relations with both the U.S. and Russia. In December 2001, following 9/11, he granted America a vital base at Manas, for support of its war effort in land-locked Afghanistan. Almost immediately, the Pentagon awarded the Akayev family payoffs on fuel supplies to Manas, via two Gibraltar-based companies (named Red Star and Mina) set up by a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel.10 American dollars proceeded to accelerate government corruption, just as they had earlier in Laos and Afghanistan.

Then in October 2003 Akayev allowed Putin to reopen an old Soviet base in Kant, as what was described as “a deterrent to international terrorism” in nearby Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.11 This move was not well received.

Though [Kant was] less than a quarter of the size of Manas, Akayev’s decision landed him on America’s “watch list” and increased aid flowed to the Kyrgyz opposition via American NGOs. In 2004 Washington in assisting the democratic process directed $12 million, an amount six times the ‘formal” rent for Manas, into Kyrgyzstan in the form of scholarships and donations, while the State Department even funded TV station equipment in the restive southern provincial town of Osh. George Soros through his various foundations also helped fund the opposition, while Freedom House operated a printing press in Bishkek.12

The So-Called Tulip Revolution of 2005

For the reasons cited above, Akayevlost acceptance in Washington, just like the neutralist Prince Souvanna Phouma in Laos in the 1950s, or Mohammed Daud in Afghanistan in the 1970s. Akayev was overthrown in the so-called “Tulip Revolution” of March 2005, by far the bloodiest and least democratic of all the so-called “color revolutions” that had already changed governments in Serbia (2002), Georgia (2003), and the Ukraine (2004). Those regime changes had been essentially nonviolent. In the Tulip Revolution, however, the London Independent reported on March 26, 2005 that, “According to hospital officials, two people had been killed and 360 wounded in the violence, and 173 were still in hospital.”13

In truth the so-called Tulip Revolution was no revolution in the true sense at all, but a palace coup, replacing the northern Kyrgyz coterie behind Akayev with a new southern coterie behind his replacement, Kurmanbek Bakiyev.Craig Smith in the New York Times acknowledged as much even before the coup was over:

A malaise is settling over this country as the uprising a week ago begins to look less like a democratically inspired revolution and more like a garden-variety coup, with a handful of seasoned politicians vying for the spoils of the ousted government.

”Let’s not pretend that what happened here was democratic,” said Edil Baisalov, one of the country’s best-known democracy advocates, speaking to clearly disheartened students beneath huge Soviet-era portraits of Lenin, Marx and Engels in the auditorium of what has been the American University since 1997.

Mr. Baisalov bemoaned what he said Kyrgyzstan lost out on when the presidential palace was stormed and President Askar Akayev fled: the kind of cathartic national experience that he witnessed in Ukraine as its Orange Revolution unfolded. That was a slow-building, well-organized event that took two months to reach a successful conclusion.

”What Ukraine went through was very important to their democratic development,” he said. ”We didn’t have that great emotional experience of civic education.”14

As a symptom that the deep politics of Kyrgyzstan were unchanged, the U.S. Manas supply contracts, which earlier benefited Akayev’s family, were promptly taken over by Bakiyev’s son Maksym.

Nevertheless Ariel Cohen claimed in the Washington Times that “the people of Kyrgyzstan have won their freedom;” and he attributed the changeover, with good reason, to President George W. Bush’s words spoken in his Inaugural Address and State of the Union speech.”15

President Bush himself gave an imprimatur to the changeover. Visiting Georgia in May 2005, he told Georgian President Saakashvili,

Georgia will become the main partner of the United States in spreading democracy and freedom in the post-Soviet space. This is our proposal. We will always be with you in protecting freedom and democracy….. You are making many important contributions to freedom’s cause, but your most important contribution is your example. Hopeful changes are taking places from Baghdad to Beirut and Bishkek [Kyrgyzstan].16

And indeed it was true that, as the right-wing Jamestown Foundation in Washington revealed, “three Georgian parliamentarians, once active engineers of Georgia’s Rose Revolution, had paid an unofficial visit to Kyrgyzstan to support the attempted ‘Tulip Revolution’ there.”17

But this was only one aspect of a U.S.-coordinated effort. According to Der Spiegel in April 2005,

As early as February, Roza Otunbayeva [one of Bakiyev’s co-conspirators in 2005] pledged allegiance to a small group of partners and sponsors of the Kyrgyz revolution, to ‘our American friends’ at Freedom House (who donated a printing press in Bishkek to the opposition), and to George Soros, a speculator who previously helped unseat Edward Shevardnadze’s government in Georgia. Trying to help the democratic process, the Americans poured some $12 million into Kyrgyzstan in the form of scholarships and donations.18

The Post-Tulip Bakiyev Government – and Drugs

There seems little doubt that although the Akayev government had been corrupt, corruption only increased under the new post-Tulip Bakiyev regime. In the words of Columbia University Professor Alexander Cooley, the Bakiyev family “ran the country like a criminal syndicate.”19

Bakiyev and Rumsfeld

More specifically, the Bakiyevfamily, according to Peter Leonard of Associated Press, took complete control of the drug traffic transiting the country.

Authorities and analysts have little doubt that Bakiyev and his relatives are at the heart of the drug trade.

“The whole Bakiyev family is involved in drug trafficking,” said Alexander Knyazev, a respected independent political analyst in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital.

“After Kurmanbek Bakiyev came to power, all drug lords were killed, and (his elder brother) Zhanybek Bakiyev consolidated most of the drug trafficking in his hands.”

Acting deputy prime minister and general prosecutor Azimbek Beknazarov also endorses the view that Bakiyev and his family have interests in the drug trade, although no specific criminal probes have yet been initiated into those allegations.20

In October 2009 Bakiyev abolished the Kyrgyz Drug Control Agency, leading the Jamestown Foundation to speculate that Bakiyev was “centralizing illegal control over the drug economy, [and was] disinterested in international initiatives to control narcotics.” It added that

Overall, roughly five identifiable criminal groups control drug transit through Kyrgyzstan. Although they are known to the security structures, these groups have ties to the government, or at times represent government and therefore are free to carry out their activities with impunity.21

In May 2010 former Kyrgyz Deputy Security Council Secretary Alik Orozov told a Bishkek newspaper that the Drug Control Agency had been closed by Janysh Bakiyev, who wished to take full control over drug trafficking. The charge was endorsed by the former deputy head of the former Drug Control Agency, Vitaliy Orozaliyev, who added that

problems started to emerge at the level of the US Department of State. All initiatives to extend the financing of the Drug Control Agency were axed exactly there. All previous US ambassadors were regular guests of the Drug Control Agency. However, with the arrival of [US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan] Tatiana Gfoeller [in 2008], all contacts were cut as if they were cut with a knife. She demonstrated full indifference to the agency, she fully distanced herself from this project and she did not accept our invitations. She even did not want to give accommodation to our US colleagues [in the DEA] – who wanted to set up something like a bureau of their own in Bishkek – in the territory of the US embassy. What caused such a sharp turn in US diplomacy to the problems of fighting drug-related crimes in Kyrgyzstan is only anyone’s guess.22

The Counter-Coup of April 2010

Bakiyev’s drug involvement does not appear to have aroused any protest in Washington. But in February of 2009 Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted 78-1 to close the U.S. air base at Manas, and in the same month Bakiyev announced in Moscow that he would close Manas and accept more than $2 billion in emergency assistance and investments from Russia. However,

the Kyrgyz government ended up double-crossing Moscow by accepting an initial $300 million payment before it renegotiated a higher rent with the United States for the renamed “Manas Transit Center.” As a result, relations between Moscow and Bishkek plummeted to an all-time low, while Bakiyev’s government gleefully cashed in the new checks provided by both Moscow mostly minority Uzbeks, say they were attacked by the Kyrgyz military and the police, and their accounts have been backed up by independent observers.23

But Bakiyev’s glee was short-lived. His political opponents, aware of and appalled by his mercenary manipulations, united in April 2010 in a successful, Russian-supported effort to overthrow him. According to the Christian Science Monitor,

Many believe the coup in Kyrgyzstan was staged by the Russians, who were quietly unhappy with the previous leader. The Kremlin considered Mr. Bakiyev not loyal enough, as he appeared reluctant to close America’s Manas air base, which plays a critical role in resupplying US troops in nearby Afghanistan.24

Russia’s displeasure with Bakiyev was also spelled out by a writer for the PNAC-linked Jamestown Foundation:

Medvedev was uncompromising in asserting Russian domination of the post-Soviet space. He insisted that the government of the Kyrgyz President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was overthrown in a bloody revolution last week that left over 80 dead and some 1,500 wounded, due to Bakiyev’s inconsistency in opposing the US military presence in Central Asia. According to Medvedev, Bakiyev first ordered the US and its allies to leave the airbase, Manas, near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. Then he allowed the Americans to continue to use Manas to transfer personnel and supplies into Afghanistan, renaming the airbase into “a transit center” and increasing payments for the lease. Now, Medvedev joked, all may see the results of “such a consistent policy” (www.kremlin.ru, April 14).

The message sent to the Washington elite is obvious: keep out of Moscow’s sphere of influence. Medvedev insisted the US “must not teach Russia how to live” (RIA Novosti, April 14).25

Deep Forces and the Kyrgyz crisisof June 2010

It is too early to speak with confidence about who was responsible for the major ethnic violence of June 2010, with more bloodshed than in the previous episode of 1990. There seems no reason however to doubt the finding of UN observers that the fighting was not spontaneous, but “’orchestrated, targeted and well-planned’ — set off by organized groups of gunmen in ski masks.”26

Since the June events, the new Kyrgyz regime has charged that they were fomented by the Bakiyev family, in conjunction with at least one drug lord and representatives of the jihadi Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU):

The head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Security Service, Keneshbek Duishebaev, is claiming that relatives of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev conspired with Islamic militants to destabilize southern Kyrgyzstan.

According to Duishebaev, Maxim Bakiyev, the son of ousted president Bakiyev, met with representatives of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in Dubai, while the former president’s brother Janysh brokered deals with Afghan Taliban and Tajik fighters. “The transfer of militants to the south of the republic was made on the eve of the June events from Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province via Tajikistan’s Khorog and Murghab districts. Cooperation in transferring [the militants] was made by a former Tajik opposition commander and drug baron, whose contact was Janysh Bakiyev,” Duishebaev said.

Taliban, Tajik, IMU, and Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) fighters were offered $30 million in payment, he added….. Duishebaev warned that Islamic militants are seeking to exploit the unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan. “Recently, IMU leaders and warlords held a meeting in south Waziristan, Pakistan. The participants of the meeting concluded the current situation in Osh and Jalal-abad provinces are favorable for sparking destructive activities across the all over the region,” he said.27

The Times (London) reported these charges, and added:

The interim president, Roza Otunbayeva, said that “many instigators have been detained and they are giving evidence on Bakiyev’s involvement in the events”. Kyrgyzstan’s deputy security chief, Kubat Baibalov, claimed that a trained group of men from neighbouring Tajikistan had fired indiscriminately at Uzbeks and Kyrgyz last week from a car with darkened windows to provoke conflict.”28

According to many sources, the IMU is a network grouping ethnic Uzbeks from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and relying heavily on narcotics to finance its anti-government activities.29

However the new government’s charges against Bakiyev and the IMU may have been self-serving. It has become increasingly clear that the victims of the massacre were “mostly minority Uzbeks [who] say they were attacked by the Kyrgyz military and the police, and their accounts have been backed up by independent observers.”30 The Uzbek neighborhoods were left in ruins, while ethnic Kyrgyz areas were largely untouched.31 It may emerge that the violence grewout of a prior conflict in May involving local mafia leaders, in the wake of the April 2010 coup.32 This led in late May to riots that former President Bakiyev was suspected of organizing.33

The situation calls for an impartial international investigation. If the current conflict is not thoroughly resolved, it is likely that both Islamic extremists and local drug traffickers will be drawn into it.34

The Kyrgyz Crisis and TransnationalTerror-Drug Mafias

One cannot lightly dismiss the Kyrgyz government charge that the IMU had met in South Waziristan to plan violence in Central Asia. Even before the June riots, there had been a disturbing report that the IMU (and its Turkic split-off, the Islamic Jihad Union or IJU) had established control over parts of South Waziristan, and were planning and training for extended activities in Central Asia.35 Of particular concern was the following paragraph:

The News International recently reported that affluent settlers from the Uzbek and Tajik areas of Afghanistan had come to Waziristan and Tank and had established mini-states. The Uzbek- and Tajik-Afghans were growing in both numbers and wealth, posing a threat to local tribesmen, the story said.36

This raises the crucial question of the source of this jihadi wealth. Was it just from wealthy jihadi sympathizers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, as has been alleged of the IMU?37 Was it also a by-product of the heroin traffic, as others have surmised? Were external intelligence agencies exploiting the situation for their own political agendas? Or, most alarming of all, was it from a milieu fusing jihadi activity, the actions of intelligence networks, and the alarming heroin traffic?38 Whatever the answer, it is obvious that the current disturbances in Kyrgyzstan, and corresponding breakdown of weak central authority, are a boon to extremism and drug trafficking alike.

The last possibility, that there is a deep force behind drug, intelligence, and jihadi activity, would be consistent with the legacy of the CIA’s earlier interventions in Afghanistan, Laos, and Burma, and with America’s overall responsibility for the huge increases in global drug trafficking since World War II. It is important to understand that the more than doubling of Afghan opium drug production since the U.S. invasion of 2001 merely replicates the massive drug increases in Burma, Thailand, and Laos between the late 1940s and the 1970s. These countries also only became major sources of supply in the international drug traffic as a result of CIA assistance (after the French, in the case of Laos) to what would otherwise have been only local traffickers.

As early as 2001 Kyrgyzstan’s location had made it a focal point for transnational trafficking groups. According to a U.S. Library of Congress Report of 2002,

Kyrgyzstan has become a primary center of all aspects of the narcotics industry: manufacture, sale, and drug trafficking. Kyrgyzstan’s location adjacent to major routes across the Tajik mountains from Afghanistan combines with ineffectual domestic smuggling controls to attract figures from what a Kyrgyz newspaper report characterized as “an international organization uniting an unprecedentedly wide circle of members in the United States, Romania, Brazil, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan…These are no half-literate Tajik-Afghan drug runners, but professionals who have passed through a probation period in the mafia clans of the world narcotics system…”39

Others, notably Sibel Edmonds in the United States, have alleged that there is a network of drug-financed and intelligence-related terror activities stretching from Kyrgyzstan to Azerbaijan, Chechnya, and Turkey.40

It is because of this possible convergence of disparate elements on the Kyrgyz intelligence-terror-drug scene that I have described the topic of this paper as a syndrome, not as a single-minded scheme or stratagem. Some of the possible components in this syndrome are barely visible. In his monumental book Descent into Chaos, Ahmed Rashid refers to the existence of a “Gulf mafia,” to which the Taliban by 1998 was selling drugs directly.41 A search of Lexis-Nexis yields no results for “gulf mafia,” and there is no other hit in Google Books. Yet there is abundant evidence for such a mafia or mafias, even if little is known about it or them.42

Perhaps the most notorious example of such a drug mafia in the Persian Gulf is the D-Company of Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, one of the two men (the other is Mexico’s Joaquin Guzman) to be listed both on the Forbes’ Most Wanted Fugitives list and also on the Forbes list of billionaires. Dawood Ibrahim merits a special section in a recent Congressional Research Service report on the nexus between criminal syndicates and terrorist groups. Entitled “International Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Security Threats, U.S. Policy, and Considerations for Congress,” the report described Dawood’s involvement with al Qaeda, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).43 This detailed report did not mention the allegation by Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times, that Ibrahim had “worked with the U.S. to help finance the Afghan mujahideen during the 1980s, and that because he knows too much about the America’s ‘darker secrets’ in the region, Pakistan could never turn him over to India.’”44

The Congressional Research Service Report cites Dawood Ibrahim’s D-Company as its prime example of what it calls a fusion crime-terror organization (its next example is the FARC in Colombia). It is possible that the leading Mexican cartels should also be regarded as fusion networks, since their practice of terroristic violence has become such an integral part of the political process in Mexico. We can perhaps predict that such fusion networks will continue to dominate both the heroin and the cocaine traffics, because terrorism and trafficking are so useful to each other. Terrorism creates the kind of anarchy that favors drug production and trafficking, while drug trafficking provides the most convenient and local source of funds for terrorism. Add the demonstrated interest of ISI and other intelligence agencies in both activities, and you have the right environment to foster what I have called the coup-drug-terror syndrome.

In all there are many discrete components of the coup-drug-terror syndrome, beginning with the naïve American belief that imposing American political values on distant countries benefits all concerned, including the peace and security of the globe. The various elements do not have to collude together. But past experience suggests what are the likely outcomes of ill-considered policies that may have been meant to achieve something quite different.

Moscow, Washington, and the Kyrgyz Crisis

What is particularly alarming about this syndrome is that, both in Laos and in Afghanistan, the outcome was a decade of devastating and incompletely settled war. At present there are no signs that Moscow and Washington are willing to fight over Kyrgyzstan. Fortunately the new leader for the moment, Roza Otunbayeva, has good relations with both capitals, and they are promising her support.

Yet there are signs that in both capitals there is tension between the dominant policy and militant factions less willing to compromise. In Washington, for example, Michael McFaul, Obama’s senior director for Russian affairs, said of Bakiyev’s overthrow in April: “This is not some sponsored-by-the-Russians coup, there’s just no evidence of that.”45 As previously noted, there were many in Washington who disagreed, including the ideologically motivated Jamestown Foundation. Fred Weir has since described the April events in the Christian Science Monitor as “a Moscow-backed coup d’etat that was thinly disguised as a popular revolt.”46

In Moscow too there are signs that some desire a more militant approach to the Kyrgyz crisis than that advocated by President Medvedev. When Roza Otunbayeva appealed to Medvedev for Russian troops to help quell the spiraling ethnic crisis in Osh, Medvedev turned her down: “’”It is an internal conflict, and so far Russia doesn’t see conditions for participating in its resolution,’ Russian presidential press secretary Natalia Timakova said.”47 Medvedev’s caution reflected his underlying concern about the treacherous instability of Kyrgyzstan, and his concern not to involve in the conflict the ethnic Russians in Kyrgyzstan. (Russia did dispatch a paratrooper battalion to its base at Tank in the north of the country where most ethnic Russians reside.)48 As Medvedev warned Washington in April, “Kyrgyzstan risked splitting into North and South. If that happens, extremists might start flowing in, turning the country into a second Afghanistan.“49

The approach of Viktor Ivanov, a senior advisor to Putin, was more interventionist. He told a Russian newspaper on June 20 of this year that the Osh area was a major region of Islamist-controlled drug trafficking, and thus a Russian military base should be established there.50 Nevertheless, in Washington four days later, Medvedev repeated to Obama that, “I think that the Kyrgyz Republic must deal with these problems itself. Russia didn’t plan and is not going to send contingent of peacekeeping forces though consultations on this issue were held.”51 Later Nikolay Bordyuzha, Secretary-General of the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), asserted that “there was no decision made on setting up a Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan, particularly, near Osh.”52

Viktor Ivanov wears two hats: he is both a senior member of Russia’s National Antiterror Committee, and he also heads Russia’s Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics. For some time he has been in the forefront of those Russian officials expressing frustration at the American failure to limit Afghan drug production.53 He is far from alone in his concern about the virtual explosion of Afghan drugs reaching Russia since 2001, which many Russian observers have labeled “narco-aggression.”

As early as February 2002, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov raised the issue of “narco-aggression” with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, telling them that whereas Russian border guards seized only 2 kg of heroin in 1996 on the Afghan-Tajik border, and about 800 kg in 2000, in 2001 more than five metric tons of drugs were seized, and half of the drugs were heroin.54

According to Sergei Blagov, a reporter in Moscow for ISN Security Watch,

Russian officials have estimated that the country’s drug addiction rates have increased several fold since the US-led invasion and the offensive against the Taliban’s in 2002, which was followed by hikes in Afghan opium production. Russia is now the largest heroin consumer in the world, with an estimated 5 million addicts.

Facing what it perceives as western willingness to allow opium production to flourish in Afghanistan, Russia’s top officials have described the situation as “narco-aggression” against Russia and a new “opium war.” They also suggest that the international alliance undertake aerial spraying against Afghanistan’s poppy fields.

The Russian press has been even less diplomatic, claiming that US and NATO forces were directly involved in the drug trade. Russian media outlets allege that the bulk of the drugs produced in Afghanistan’s southern and western provinces are shipped abroad on US planes.

Not surprisingly, Russia regards with resentment NATO’s liberal approach toward the Afghan drug industry and the alliance’s reluctance to cooperate in fighting the drug trade. Continued NATO inaction on the drug issue could potentially undermine Russia’s security cooperation with the West on crucial matters such as strategic arms reduction and non-proliferation.55

Repeatedly Viktor Ivanov has appealed to America to eradicate poppy fields in Afghanistan as systematically as it has attacked coca plantations in Colombia, and for the international community to join Russia in this appeal.56 On June 9, 2010, both he and President Medvedev addressed an International Forum on Afghan Drug Production (which I attended), in an effort to muster this international support.57 I myself share the American conclusion that spraying opium fields would be counterproductive, because it would fatally weaken efforts to woo Afghan farmers away from the Taliban. But I do think that the interests of peace and security in Central Asia would be well served if America brought Russia more closely into joint activities against the global drug trade.

And as a researcher, I believe that Russia has a legitimate grievance against America’s current Afghan strategy, which has left wide open a major drug corridor into Russia from the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan.

“Narco-Aggression” and America’s Skewed Opiate Strategy in Afghanistan

For this reason America should revise its skewed drug interdiction strategy in Afghanistan. At present this is explicitly limited to attacking drug traffickers supporting the insurgents, chiefly the Pashtun backers of the Taliban in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.58 Such strategies have the indirect effect of increasing the drug market share of the north and northeastern provinces.

These provinces support the past and present CIA assets in the Karzai regime (headed by Hamid Karzai, a former CIA asset),59 including the president’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, an active CIA asset, and Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former CIA asset.60 In effect America has allied itself with one drug faction in Afghanistan against another.61

United Nations Department of Safety and Security, map of 2007-08 drug cultivation and security situation in Afghanistan by province. Link

This strategy has seen repeated attacks on the poppy fields and markets of the southern provinces. Meanwhile production in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, the home of the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance, has continued, despite denials, to dominate the economy of that province.62

(The statistics for Badakhshan, the most inaccessible of the Afghan provinces, have been much contested. A UN map of Afghan poppy production for 2007-2008 showed Badakhshan as the provincewith the least opium cultivation: 200 hectares, as opposed to 103,590 for Helmand.63 But LonelyPlanet.com posted an article in 2009, claiming that “Badakhshan is second only to Helmand for opium production. Controlled by Northern Alliance, opium is the backbone of the local economy.“64 And a detailed article in 2010 reported,

The biggest economic asset of the province, the one business most of the would-be Badakhshan VIPs find necessary and profitable to enter into sooner or later, is in fact cross-border smuggling. Actually, some sources claim that the local control of routes and border crossings in Badakhshan corresponds to the map of political power grouping in the province. Even if Badakhshan has lost its former status as one of the principal opium producing regions in Afghanistan, the local expertise and trade links have been maintained. Many laboratories for heroin processing are active in the province…65

Meanwhile there have also been occasional reports over the last decade of IMU terrorist movements from South Waziristan through both Afghan and Tajik Badakhshan.

The Badakhshan drug corridor is a matter of urgent concern for Russia. The Afghan opiates entering Russia via Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the chief smuggling route, come from Badakhshan and other northeastern provinces. The reductions of the last three years in Afghan drug production, while inadequate overall, have minimally impacted the northeast, allowing opiate imports into Russia to continue to grow. Meanwhile the much-touted clearing of opium poppy from the Afghan northern provinces has in some cases simply seen a switch “from opium poppies to another illegal crop: cannabis, the herb from which marijuana and hashish are derived.”66

As a result, according to U.N. officials, Afghanistan is now also the world’s biggest producer of hashish (another drug inundating Russia).67 This has added to the flow of drugs up the Badakhshan-Tajik-Kyrgyz corridor. In short, the political skewing of America’s Afghan anti-drug policies is a significant reason for the major drug problems faced by Russia today.

What are the reasons for America’s relative inactivity against Badakhshan drug flows? Some observers, not only Russian, have wondered if there is a larger strategy directed against Russia itself. An article in India’s major journal The Hindu, entitled “Russia: victim of narco-aggression,”included the following suggestive reference by John MacDougall, writing for Agence France-Presse:

In 1993, Russian border guards returned to Tajikistan in an effort to contain the flow of drugs from opium-producing Afghanistan. In 2002 alone they intercepted 6.7 tonnes of drugs, half of them heroin. However, in 2005 Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon, hoping to win financial aid from the U.S., asked the Russian border guards to leave, saying Tajikistan had recovered enough from a five-year civil war (from 1992-97) to shoulder the task. Within months of the Russian withdrawal, cross-border drug trafficking increased manifold.68

And we have already noted the Kyrgyz charge that in 2009 the U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Tatiana Gfoeller, “demonstrated full indifference” as Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s brother Janysh closed down the Drug Control Agency there.69

Whatever the causes for the spectacular drug flow, it should be both a global priority and an American priority to address this crisis more vigorously. The reasons for doing so are not just humanitarian. Earlier this year Ivanov told Newsweek,

I have no doubts that drug traffic feeds terrorism in Russia. Huge amounts of illegal money flow to radical groups from the drug trade. At a recent meeting of the Security Council in Mineralniye Vody [in the North Caucasus], we saw reports that the drug traffic coming to Dagestan has increased by 20 times over the last year. That is what fuels terrorism, because terrorists buy their communication equipment and weapons with drug money.70

Conclusion: The Global Banking System and the Global Drug Trade

I believe that Ivanov is correct in linking terrorism to local drug money. I fear also that there might be an additional dimension to the problem that he did not mention: transnational deep forces tapping into the even more lucrative market for drugs in western Europe and America. Undoubtedlyproceeds from the global opiate traffic (estimated at $65 billion in 2009), are systematically channeled into major banks, as has also been well documented for the profits from cocaine trafficking into U.S. banks. When just oneU.S. bank – Wachovia – admits that it violated U.S. banking laws to handle $378 billion in illicit cocaine funds, this supplies a measure of how important is the transnational dimension underlying local fusion drug-terror networks, whether in Dagestan or the Persian Gulf.71

Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, has alleged that “Drugs money worth billions of dollars kept the financial system afloat at the height of the global crisis.” According to the London Observer, Costa

said he has seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were “the only liquid investment capital” available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result… Costa said evidence that illegal money was being absorbed into the financial system was first drawn to his attention by intelligence agencies and prosecutors around 18 months ago. “In many instances, the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital. In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system’s main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor,” he said.72

As a former diplomat, I sincerelyhope that the U.S. and Russian governments will collaborate to address these drug-related problems together, in Kyrgyzstan, in Afghanistan, and on the level of curbing? a venal global banking system.

As a researcher, I have to say that I see the U.S. Government as part of the problem, not as a very likely solution to it. We have too often seen the U.S. habit of turning to drug traffickers as covert assets in areas where it is weak, from Burma in 1950 right down to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.73

I conclude that some other major force will have to be assembled to force a change in U.S. government behavior. Russia is right in bringing this problem to the attention of the Security Council, but this is a problem transcending governments. Perhaps religious organizations around the world could be one place to start mobilizing an extra-governmental force. Journalists and other researchers could also supply a component. Somehow the world must be made aware that it does indeed face a triple threat: the threat of drugs, the threat of drug-financed terrorism, and eventually the threat of war.

Meanwhile it is far too early to predict what may eventually transpire between America and Russia in Kyrgyzstan. But it is none too soon to assert that history is repeating itself in an alarming and predictable way, and to recall that the ingredients of the coup-drug-terror syndrome have led to major warfare in the past.

My personal conclusion is that deep forces, not fully understood, are at work now in Kyrgyzstan, as they have been earlier in Afghanistan and other drug-producing countries. My concern is heightened by my increasing awareness that for decades deep forces have also been at work in Washington.

This was demonstrated vividly by the U.S. government’s determined protection in the 1980s of the global drug activities of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which has been described as “the largest criminal corporate enterprise ever.”74 A U.S. Senate Report once called BCCI not just a “rogue bank… but a case study of the vulnerability of the world to international crime on a global scope that is beyond the current ability of governments to control.”75 Governments indeed long failed to regulate BCCI, because of its ability to influence governments; and when BCCI was finally brought down in 1991, it was as the result of relative outsiders like Robert Morgenthau, District Attorney of New York:

In going after BCCI, Morgenthau’s office quickly found that in addition to fighting off the bank, it would receive resistance from almost every other institution or entity connected to BCCI [including] the Bank of England, the British Serious Fraud Office, and the U.S. government.”76

I have tried to show elsewhere that BCCI was only one in a series of overlapping banks with similar intelligence connections, dating back to the 1940s.77

When I first wrote about Washington’s protection of BCCI, I assumed that the BCCI benefited from its status as an asset or instrument for covert U.S.and British intelligence strategies. Since then I have come to wonder if CIA and BCCI were not both alike instruments for some deeper force or forces, embedded in the state but not confined to it, which has or have been systematically exploiting the drug traffic as a means to global power.

Not until there is a more general awareness of this deep force problem can we expect Washington to respondwith a more rational drug policy. My hope in this essay is to provide a further step in the effort to clarify just what these deeper forces are, and the extent to which they are responsible for America’s current, grave, constitutional crisis.

Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Drugs Oil and War, The Road to 9/11, The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War. His American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection and the Road to Afghanistan is in press, due in fall 2010 from Rowman & Littlefield.

He wrote this article for The Asia-Pacific Journal.

Recommended citation: Peter Dale Scott, “Kyrgyzstan, the U.S.and the Global Drug Problem: Deep Forces and the Syndrome of Coups, Drugs, and Terror,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 28-3-10, July 12, 2010.

Notes

1 Martin Stuart-Fox, A History of Laos  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 112-26.

2 Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11, 77-78; Diego Cordovez and Selig S. Harrison, Out of Afghanistan: the Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal  (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 16.

3 Le Nouvel Observateur, January 15-21, 1998. In his relentless determination to weaken the Soviet Union, Brzezinski also persuaded Carter to end U.S. sanctions against Pakistan for its pursuit of nuclear weapons (David Armstrong and Joseph J. Trento, America and the Islamic Bomb: The Deadly Compromise (Hanover, N.H.: Steerforth Press, 2007). Thus Brzezinski’s obsession with the Soviet Union helped produce, as unintended byproducts, both al Qaeda and the Islamic atomic arsenal. 

4 For instance, President Bush, State of the Union address, January 20, 2004; and, President Addresses American Legion, February 24, 2006: [W]e’re advancing our security at home by advancing the cause of freedom across the world, because, in the long run, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of human freedom. . . . [T]he security of our nation depends on the advance of liberty in other nations.”

5 Scott, Road to 9/11, 71-73, 77; Robert Dreyfuss,  Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2005), 254.

6 McCoy, Politics of Heroin, 461-62.

“Touching Base,” AsiaTimesOnLine, November 15, 2003. Even America’s Freedom House, which helped to overthrow Akayev, described him in 2002 as “Once regarded as Central Asia’s most democratically minded leader and a self-professed admirer of Russian human rights advocate Dr. Andrei Sakharov” (Press release of September 20, 2002).in 2005 

8 According to the Akayev government’s statistics from 2002, more than four-fifths of Kyrgyz families lived below the poverty line, while nearly 40 percent of the country’s 5 million inhabitants lived on less than $3 per month. From 1990-96 economic growth declined 49 percent (John C.K. Daly, “Sino-Kyrgyz relations after the Tulip Revolution,” Association for Asian Research, June 7, 2005).

9 Ahmed Rashid, Jihad (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 70-71, 198-99.

10 Aram Roston, Nation, April 21, 2010: “Red Star had the same London address and phone number as Iraq Today, a purportedly independent and short-lived newspaper launched in the wake of the invasion of Iraq. The paper had been set up by a former journalist who worked with Mina Corp.“

11 “Touching Base,” AsiaTimesOnLine, November 15, 2003. A year later Akayev proclaimed at a public event that all Kyrgyzstan was “firmly and forever devoted to friendship with great Russia” (Kyrgyz Television Channel One, in BBC Sumary of World Broadcasts, October 12, 2004).

12 John C.K. Daly, “Kyrgyzstan: Business, Corruption and the Manas Airbase,” OilPrice, April 15, 2010. A parenthetical aside: in 2005 Kyrgyzstan had a population of 5.5. million and the capital Bishkek less than 800,000. One wonders what might have happened if the U.S. had devoted $12 million to reinforcing the nascent democracy first fostered by Akayev, instead of spending it later to overthrow him. But that is a utopian thought.

13 “Kyrgyzstan’s Leaders Struggle to Cope with Rioting and Looting,” Independent (London), March 26, 2005.

14 Craig S. Smith, “Kyrgyzstan’s Shining Hour Ticks Away and Turns Out To Be a Plain, Old Coup,” New York Times, April 3, 2005, 6.

15 Ariel Cohen, “Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution,” Washington Times, March 27, 2005, B3. In his Second Inaugural Address Bush had proclaimed: “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.  The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world… So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world” (Second Inaugural Address of U.S. President George W. Bush, January 20, 2005).

16 “Bush: Georgia’s Example a Huge Contribution to Democracy,” Civil Georgia, May 10, 2005. Likewise Zbigniew Brzezinski was quoted by a Kyrgyz news source as saying “I believe revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan were a sincere and snap expression of the political will” (Link, March 27, 2008). 

17 “Georgian Advisors Stepping Forward in Bishkek,” Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor, March 24, 2005: “These members of parliament are Givi Targamadze, chair of parliament’s committee for defense and security; Kakha Getsadze, a delegate from the ruling United National Movement Party’s faction, and Temur Nergadze, a legislator from the Republican Party.”

18 “Revolutions Speed Russia’s Disintegration,” Der Spiegel, April 4, 2005. cf. F. William Engdahl,  “Revolution, geopolitics and pipelines,” AsiaTimesOnLine, June 30, 2005. I have written elsewhere about the role of the Albert Einstein Institution in the Georgian “Rose Revolution,” in “The Global Drug Meta-Group: Drugs, Managed Violence, and the Russian 9/11″, Lobster, October 31, 2005.

19 Owen Matthews, “Despotism Doesn’t Equal Stability,” Newsweek, April 7, 2010.

20 Peter Leonard, “Heroin trade a backdrop to Kyrgyz violence,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 24, 2010.

21 “Kyrgyzstan Relaxes Control Over Drug Trafficking,” Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor, 7:24, February 4, 2010.

22 “Kyrgyz ex-drug official says ousted leader’s brother behind abolishing agency,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, July 3, 2010; citing Delo [Bishkek], May 19, 2010, June 2, 2010.

23 Alexander Cooley, “Manas Hysteria: Why the United States can’t keep buying off Kyrgyz leaders to keep its vital air base open,” Foreign Policy, April 12, 2010.

24 Dmitry Sidorov, “To make progress on Afghanistan and Russia, Obama must get Kyrgyzstan right,” Christian Science Monitor, June 24, 2010.

25 Pavel Felgenhauer, “Moscow Opens the Prospect of an Iranian Arms Embargo,” Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor, 7:73, April 15, 2010.

26 ‘Violence in Kyrgyzstan orchestrated and well-planned,” Ummid.com, June 16, 2010: “The declaration by the U.N. that the fighting was “orchestrated, targeted and well-planned” — set off by organized groups of gunmen in ski masks — bolsters government claims that hired attackers marauded through Osh, shooting at both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks to inflame old tensions. Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, “It might be wrong to cast it, at least in origin, as an inter-ethnic conflict. There seems to be other agendas driving it initially.”

27 Deirdre Tynan, “Kyrgyz Provisional Government Alleges Bakiyev-Islamic Militant Link,” EurasiaNet, June 24, 2010. General Abdullo Nazarov, head of the National Security Ministry office in the Tajik region of Badakhshan, later denied “reports by some media outlets that Nazarov met in Tajikistan with Janysh Bakiev, former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev’s brother, before the violence broke out in Kyrgyzstan.” He “blamed the ethnic clashes on some `superpowers’ who he said wanted to `ignite a fire’ in Kyrgyzstan in order to embed themselves in the region’s affairs” (“Tajik General Denies Involvement In Kyrgyz Violence,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, July 1, 2010).

28 Tony Halpin, “Snipers and dread linger in aftermath of pogrom,” Times (London), June 16, 2010.

29 E.g. “Involvement of Russian Organized Crime Syndicates, Elements in the Russian Military, and Regional Terrorist Groups in Narcotics Trafficking in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Chechnya,” Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, October 2002, 1: “The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is known to rely heavily on narcotics trafficking over a number of Central Asian routes to support its military, political, and propaganda activities. That trafficking is based on moving heroin from Afghanistan through Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, into Russia, and then into Western Europe.”

30 Andrew E. Kramer, “After Kyrgyz Unrest, a Question Lingers: Why?” New York Times, June 27, 2010.  

31 Andrew E. Kramer, “Investigation by Kyrgyz police said to be corrupted; Uzbeks are being blamed for violence that targeted them, rights groups say,” International Herald Tribune, July 2, 2010.

32 Sanobar Shermatova, “Kyrgyz South and Uzbek issue,” Ferghana.ru, June 9, 2010.  The story did not identify the mafia leaders. On April 21, Radio Free Europe reported that the Kyrgyz interim government was seeking to arrest a naturalized American citizen, Yevgeniy Gurevich, for embezzling state money together with Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s son, Maksim. One month earlier, Italian authorities announced that Gurevich was wanted in Rome for embezzling some $2.7 billion from divisions of Telecom Italia and the Fastweb telecom company (“Kyrgyzstan Wants Business Partner Of Ex-President’s Son Arrested,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 21, 2010; cf. “Business Associate Of Kyrgyz President’s Son Wanted By Italy,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, March 10, 2010). Rosa Otunbaeva, then in opposition, denounced Gurevich as “an accountant for the Italian mafia” (“Kyrgyz Opposition Party Demands President And His Son Resign,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, March 12, 2010). Cf. John Daly, OilPrice.com, July 2, 2010: “On 9 March, the Italian media reported that Judge Aldo Mordzhini in Rome had issued an arrest warrant for Gurevich on charges of embezzling $2.7 billion from Italian telecom companies, money laundering and ties to the Mafia.”

33 Aleksandr Shustov, “South Kyrgyzstan: An Epicenter of Coming Conflicts?” Strategic Cultural Foundation, May 25, 2101. Shustov astutely predicted the June massacres, warning that “the tensions are likely to evolve into a conflict similar in character to a civil war.” Cf. Kramer, New York Times, June 27, 2010: “Former government officials say the new leaders stumbled early in their rule by failing to win over the police or oust commanders appointed by the former president. Bolot E. Sherniyazov, the interior minister, acknowledged difficulties assuming command of the police, but he said in an interview on Saturday that he was now largely in control. ‘I am in command of 80 percent of the Ministry of Interior,” he said. ‘The other 20 percent is still waffling.’ The problems first emerged as early as May 13, they say, in a little-noticed but in hindsight critical confrontation after supporters of Mr. Bakiyev seized a provincial government building in Jalal-Abad, a city in the south. Faced with a regional revolt and unable to appeal to the police, members of the government asked a leader of the Uzbek minority in the south, Kadyrzhan Batyrov, a businessman and university director, to help regain control with volunteer gunmen, which he did. In the tinderbox of ethnic mistrust in the south, this decision turned out to be a fateful error, according to Alikbek Jekshenkulov, a former foreign minister, recasting the political conflict in ethnic terms. ‘They got the Uzbeks involved in a Kyrgyz settling of scores,’ Mr. Jekshenkulov said. The next day, a crowd of thousands of Kyrgyz gathered to demand that the interim government arrest Mr. Batyrov. ‘Instead of standing up to this mob, they opened a criminal case against Batyrov,’ even though he had been responding to the government’s plea for help, said Edil Baisalov, who served as Ms. Otunbayeva’s chief of staff until he resigned this month.”

34 Aleksandr Shustov, who in May foresaw the June ethnic riots, warned further: “In case a new conflict erupts, Uzbekistan – and, possibly Tajikistan… would inevitably be drawn into it, and thus the escalation… would breed broader hostilities between three of the five Central Asian republics and a serious threat to the region’s overall stability” (Shustov, “South Kyrgyzstan: An Epicenter of Coming Conflicts?”).

35 Javed Aziz Khan, “Foreign Militants Active in Waziristan,” CentralAsiaOnline, May 27, 2010. Cf. Einar Wigen (2009) Islamic Jihad Union: al-Qaida’s Key to the Turkic World?

36 Ibid.

37 Poonam Mann, “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan: Will It Strike Back?” Strategic Analysis, 26:2, Apr-Jun 2002: ‘The IMU also gets funds from the Uzbek émigré community in Saudi Arabia. ‘These Uzbek Saudis are very rich, they hate Karimov and they have enlisted Arabs across the Gulf States to help Namangani’, says a Tajik politician and friend of Namangani.”

38 Experts differ as to whether the forces underlying jihadism and the drug traffic are the same or different. Russian drug tsar Viktor Ivanov has alleged that “Not a single [instance of] drug trafficking goes on [in Kyrgyzstan] that is not controlled by this terrorist network” of fundamentalist organizations. (“Russian drugs tsar suggests setting up military base in Kyrgyzstan,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, June 21, 2010). Contradicting him, his deputy Nikolay Tsvetkov has asserted, “In general, drugs and political extremism, just as drugs and terrorism, are separate major topics. Obviously, drugs, or more to the point, the billions of drug-dollars are being used to finance and arm bandits in a great variety of ‘ideological’ hues” (“Russian narcotics service official views 9-10 June forum on Afghan drug industry.” Interview by Igor Yavlyanskiy of Nikolay Tsvetkov, deputy chief of Russia’s Anti-Drug Service, BBC Worldwide Monitoring, June 20, 2010).   

39 “Involvement of Russian Organized Crime Syndicates, Elements in the Russian Military, and Regional Terrorist Groups in Narcotics Trafficking in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Chechnya,” Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, October 2002, 26; citing 

Aleksandr Gold, “Bishkek, Heroin, Interpol?” Vecherniy Bishkek [Bishkek], 28 December 2001 (FBIS Document CEP 20020107000187).

40 Sibel Edmonds, American Conservative, November 2009.

41 Ahmed Rashid, Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia (New York: Viking, 2008), 320.

42 See for example the abundant references on the Internet to Dawood Ibrahim, discussed also in Gretchen Peters, Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and Al Qaeda (New York: Macmillan, 2009), 165ff.

43 Congressional Research Service, “International Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Security Threats, U.S. Policy, and Considerations for Congress,” January 5, 2010, 15; cf. Bill Roggio, “Dawood Ibrahim, al Qaeda, and the ISI,” Longwarjournal.org, January 7, 2010: “D-Company is believed to have both deepened its strategic alliance with the ISI and developed links to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), which was designated by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) in 2001. During this time period, some say D-Company began to finance LeT’s activities, use its companies to lure recruits to LeT training camps, and give LeT operatives use of its smuggling routes and contacts.66 Press accounts have reported that Ibrahim’s network might have provided a boat to the 10 terrorists who killed 173 people in Mumbai in November 2008.67 The U.S. government contends that D-Company has found common cause with Al Qaeda and shares its smuggling routes with that terrorist group.68 The United Nations has added Ibrahim to its list of individuals associated with Al Qaeda.” A rising successor to D-Company is the split-off Ali Budesh gang, now based in Bahrain. In March 2010 Ali Budesh declared an open war, “Operation D,” against Dawood Ibrahim and D-company.

44 Jeremy Hammond, “Role of Alleged CIA Asset in Mumbai Attacks Being Downplayed,” Foreign Policy Journal, December 10, 2008. Cf. Peter Dale Scott, American War Machine: Deep Politics, the Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010), forthcoming.

45 Guardian, April 10, 2010.

46 Christian Science Monitor, June 28, 2010.

47 Sergei L. Loiko, “Kyrgyz riot toll rises to 77: Russia rejects a plea to send troops to quell ethnic clashes in the ex-Soviet republic,” Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2010, A4. According to Steve LeVine, “Before Kyrgyzstan turned to Russia, it informally asked Washington for military assistance including a supply of rubber bullets to quell ethnic bloodletting in the south of the country, but was turned down” (“Kyrgyzstan requested U.S. military aid and rubber bullets but was turned down,” Foreign Policy, June 13, 2010).

48 Canberra Times (Australia), June 17, 2010.

49 “Kyrgyzstan Risks Turning Into Second Afghanistan – Medvedev,” Voice of Russia, reissued on GlobalResearch.ca, April 14, 2010.

50 ФСКН обвиняет наркобаронов в событиях в Киргизии,” Commersant.ru, June 21, 2010. Cf. “Russian drugs tsar suggests setting up military base in Kyrgyzstan,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, June 21, 2010: “ITAR-TASS quoted Ivanov as saying that drug trafficking was one of the causes of instability in Kyrgyzstan. ‘A massive flow of drugs from Afghanistan is going through Kirgizia. Osh, the Kirgiz [city of] Dzhalal-Abad, the Fergana valley – that is the region which is unfortunately involved in drug trafficking,’ he said. ‘Not a single [instance of] drug trafficking goes on that is not controlled by this terrorist network” of fundamentalist organizations, Ivanov went on.’ 

51 Daniyar Larimov, “Dmitry Medvedev: Kyrgyzstan has to settle order itself,” Bishkek News Agency, June 25, 2010. Ivanov’s proposal was also strongly opposed in Moscow on June 28 by the anti-Kremlin Russian current affairs website Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal (BBC Worldwide Monitoring, June 29, 2010).

52 RIANovosti, July 1, 2010, supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring.

53 Sergei Blagov, “Moscow Accuses West of ‘Narco-Aggression,’” International News and Security Network, April 1, 2010.

54 “Russian defence minister calls for fight against drug trafficking,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, February 3, 2002. Cf. “The Drug Flow from Afghanistan Is Skyrocketing!” Website report from Delo [Bishkek], April 24, 2002 (FBIS Document CEP20020425000145). 

55 Sergei Blagov, “Moscow Accuses West of ‘Narco-Aggression,’” International News and Security Network, April 1, 2010.

56 “Afghan drug trade threat to global stability – Russian drug chief,” RIANovosti, June 8, 2010; “Viktor Ivanov: The real price of Afghanistan,” Independent (London), June 10, 2010.

57 See Andrei Areshev, “The Afghan Drug Industry — a Threat to Russia and an Instrument of Geopolitical Gains,” The Global Realm, June 15, 2010.

58 James Risen, “U.S. to Hunt Down Afghan Lords Tied to Taliban,” New York Times, August 10, 2009: ”United States military commanders have told Congress that… only those [drug traffickers] providing support to the insurgency would be made targets.”

59 Nick Mills, Karzai: the failing American intervention and the struggle for Afghanistan (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley, 2007), 79. 

60 New York Times, October 27, 2009.

61 See Matthieu Aikins, “The master of Spin Boldak: Undercover with Afghanistan’s drug-trafficking border police,” Harper’s Magazine, December 2009. Cf. Richard Clark, “United States of America, Chief Kingpin in the Afghanistan Heroin Trade?” OpEdNews, December 4, 2009, (no longer viewable at http://www.opednews.com/author/author8235.html): “What we have is essentially a drug war in Afghanistan, and US forces are simply helping one side against the other. Unbeknownst to American taxpayers, drug lords collaborate with the U.S. and Canadian officers on a daily basis. This collaboration and alliance was forged by American forces during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and has endured and grown ever since. The drug lords have been empowered through U.S. money and arms to consolidate their drug business at the expense of drug-dealing rivals in other tribes, forcing some of them into alliance with the Taliban.”

62 This route is of major concern to Russia. It is however secondary in importance to the so-called “golden route” that “goes overland from Pakistan’s Balochistan province across the border into Iran, then passes through the northwestern region, which is inhabited by Kurds, and finally into laboratories in Turkey, where the opium is processed” (Syem Saleem Shahzad, “Opium gold unites US friends and foes,” Asia Times Online, September 2, 2005). Some of this heroin also reaches Russia through the Caucasus.    

63 Cf. “Narcotics,” Institute for the Study of War (2009): “Poppy cultivation is now exclusively limited to the particularly Pushtun provinces in south and southwest, particularly Farah, Nimroz, Hilmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul.”

64 “Introducing Badakhshan,” Lonely Planet, February 17, 2009.

65 Fabrizio Foschini, “Campaign Trail 2010 (1): Badakhshan – drugs, border crossings and parliamentary seats,” Afganistan Analysts Network, June 19, 2010.

66 Kiurk Semple, “The War on Poppy Succeeds, but Cannabis Thrives in an Afghan Province,” New York Times, November 4, 2007.

67 Vivienne Walt, “Afghanistan’s New Bumper Drug Crop: Cannabis,” Time, April 1, 2010.

68 Vladimir Radyuhin , “Russia: victim of narco-aggression,” The Hindu, February 4, 2008; quoting John MacDougall, “Russia, facing a catastrophic rise in drug addiction, accuses the U.S. military of involvement in drug trafficking from Afghanistan,” Agence France-Presse, February 23, 2008, emphasis added.

69 “Kyrgyz ex-drug official says ousted leader’s brother behind abolishing agency,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, July 3, 2010.

70 “Moscow’s Terror Fighter,” Newsweek, April 1, 2010.

71 Michael Smith, “Banks Financing Mexico Gangs Admitted in Wells Fargo Deal,” Bloomberg, June 29, 2010: “Wachovia admitted it didn’t do enough to spot illicit funds in handling $378.4 billion for Mexican-currency-exchange houses from 2004 to 2007. That’s the largest violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, an anti-money-laundering law, in U.S. history — a sum equal to one-third of Mexico’s current gross domestic product. ‘Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations,’ says Jeffrey Sloman, the federal prosecutor who handled the case.” 

72 Rajeev Syal, “Drug money saved banks in global crisis, claims UN advisor,” Observer, December 13, 2009.

73 Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War, 27-33, 59-66, 185-99; Scott, Road to 9/11, 124-25.

74 Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne, The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride into the Secret Heart of BCCI (New York: Random House, 1993), xxiv; David C. Jordan, Drug Politics: Dirty Money and Democracies (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999), 109.

75 U.S. Congress. Senate, 102nd Cong., 2nd Sess. The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from Senator John Kerry, Chairman, and from Senator Hank Brown, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations, September 30, 1992, 17.

76 Senate, The BCCI Affair, 241.

77 Scott, American War Machine, forthcoming. An early example was the Kincheng Bank in Taiwan, part-owner of the CIA proprietary airline CAT Inc., which supplied the forward KMT bases in Burma which managed the local drug traffic. The Kincheng Bank was under the control of the so-called Political Science Clique of the KMT, whose member Chen Yi was the first postwar KMT governor of Taiwan (Chen Han-Seng, “Monopoly and Civil War in China,” Far Eastern Survey, 15:20 [October 9, 1946], 308).

Britain and the US did not believe Iraq’s weapons programmes posed a “substantial threat” before launching the 2003 invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein, the inquiry into the war has heard.

Former UK diplomat Carne Ross claimed that the Government “intentionally and substantially” exaggerated its assessment of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in public documents.

Mr Ross, who was First Secretary responsible for the Middle East at the UK’s mission to the United Nations from 1997 to 2002, alleged that nuanced intelligence was “massaged” into “more robust and terrifying” statements about Saddam’s supposed WMD.

He said in a statement to the inquiry: “It remains my view that the internal Government assessment of Iraq’s capabilities was intentionally and substantially exaggerated in public Government documents during 2002 and 2003.

“Throughout my posting in New York, it was the UK and US assessment that while there were many unanswered questions about Iraq’s WMD stocks and capabilities, we did not believe that these amounted to a substantial threat.

“At no point did we have any firm evidence, from intelligence sources or otherwise, of significant weapons holdings.

“Most of the unanswered questions derived from discrepancies in Iraq’s accounting for its past stocks and the destruction of these stocks.”

More than 15 million Americans are unemployed, homelessness has increased by 50 percent in some cities, and 38 million people are receiving food stamps, more than at any time in the program’s almost 50-year history.

Evidence of rising economic hardship is ample. There’s one commonly used standard for measuring it: the U.S. Census Bureau’s poverty rate. It guides much of federal and state spending aimed at helping those unable to make a decent living.

But a number of states have become convinced that the federal figures actually understate poverty, and have begun using different criteria in operating state-based social programs. At the same time, conservative economists are warning that a change in the formula to a threshold that counts more people as poor could lead to an unacceptable increase in the cost of federal and state social service programs.

When Census publishes new numbers for 2009 in September, experts predict they’ll show a steep rise in the poverty rate. One independent researcher estimates the data will show the biggest year-to-year increase in recorded history.

According to Richard Bavier, a former analyst for the federal Office of Management and Budget, already available data about employment rates, wages, and food stamp enrollment suggest that an additional 5.7 million people were officially poor in 2009. That would bring the total number of people with incomes below the federal poverty threshold to more than 45 million. The poverty rate, Bavier expects, will hit 15 percent — up from 13.2 percent in 2008, when the Great Recession first started to take its toll.

Still, the U.S. Census Bureau’s new numbers will offer only a partial picture of how the nation’s sputtering economy is affecting the poorest Americans — a problem state officials and the Obama administration want to address.

Overestimating food costs

The current formula for setting the federal poverty line — unchanged since 1963 — takes the cost of food for an individual or family and multiplies the number by three, under the assumption that people spend one-third of their incomes putting meals on the table. While the formula may have been a good way to estimate a subsistence cost of living in the early 1960s, experts say food now represents only one-eighth of a typical household budget, with expenses such as housing and child care putting increasing pressure on struggling families.

In addition, the official measure fails to account for regional differences in the cost of housing, it doesn’t include medical expenses or transportation, and at $22,000 for a family of four, the poverty line is considered by many to be simply too low.

Equally worrisome for policy makers is the Census Bureau’s failure to consider in-kind federal and state aid in calculating income. The existing formula counts only pre-tax cash income, leaving out such benefits as food stamps, housing vouchers and child-care subsidies, as well as federal and state tax credits for the working poor. 

As a result, the nation’s official poverty count is unaffected by the billions spent on safety-net programs. Yet it remains by far the most frequently used measurement of how well governments are taking care of their most vulnerable citizens.

Conservatives have consistently argued that if safety-net programs were taken into account, the poverty rate would be much lower. At the same time, advocates for the poor have argued that poverty counts would be much higher if the cost of housing, child care and other expenses were factored in.

Nearly two decades ago, Congress asked the National Academies of Science (NAS) to revisit the official poverty measure and come up with recommendations for a new measure that would satisfy critics on both ends of the spectrum. 

This past March, the Obama administration said it would use the NAS 1995 guidelines to update the federal government’s poverty calculation and promised to unveil the first new “supplemental poverty measure” in September of 2011.

“The new supplemental poverty measure will provide an alternative lens to understand poverty and measure the effects of anti-poverty policies,” Under Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank said. “Moreover, it will be dynamic and will benefit from improvements over time based on new data and new methodologies.”

Under the NAS recommendations, Commerce Department expenditure data for food, clothing, shelter and other household expenses would be used to set a poverty threshold for a reference family of four — two adults and two children. Then a family or individual’s resources would be compared to that line by including income and in-kind benefits, with taxes and other non-discretionary expenses, such as medical expenses and child care, excluded.

Because many expect the new calculation will result in a higher poverty count, the March announcement met with fiery criticism from some conservatives who charged the federal government could ill afford to increase its safety-net spending.

State experiments

But state and local policy makers applauded the move because they said it would give them the tools they need to assess the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs.

In New York City, for example, where an NAS-type poverty measure was adopted three years ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the new data would allow the city to pinpoint who needs assistance most and which of the city’s social services have been most effective at improving its residents’ standard of living.

Using an updated measurement, New York City found that children — the recipients of a broad range of social welfare programs — were less poor than originally thought, while elders, who were struggling with previously unaccounted for medical expenses, were poorer.

As states become increasingly challenged by shrinking revenues and rising numbers of people in need, more than a dozen have set up commissions to help low-income families and many have set poverty reduction goals.

Among them, Minnesota and Connecticut have used NAS-like formulas to assess the effectiveness of current and proposed anti-poverty measures.

With technical assistance from the public policy research group The Urban Institute, both states used the results to support aggressive anti-poverty campaigns. Minnesota has a Legislative Commission to End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020, and Connecticut created a Child Poverty and Prevention Council with the goal of cutting child poverty in half by 2014.

Connecticut found only a slight increase in the number of people living in poverty when using the updated calculation — 21,000 people in 2006, compared to 20,000 using the existing Census measure.

But it got very different results when determining which public assistance programs did the most to reduce poverty. Under previous assumptions, child care subsidies and adult education and job training were seen as the most highly effective at moving people out of poverty over time. But the new formula showed that increasing enrollment in programs such as food stamps, energy assistance and subsidized housing was a more effective way to reduce child poverty in the near term. As a result, the state redoubled its outreach efforts to sign up as many low-income families as possible for these federally-funded programs.

In Minnesota, where the results were similar, a bipartisan legislative committee recommended the state refine its definition of poverty, build public awareness, and carefully monitor the impact of all major legislation on existing anti-poverty programs.

Both states joined 12 others earlier this year in calling on the federal government to adopt an NAS-like formula that would “consider the increased financial burden of housing, child care, and health care on the modern American family while recognizing the benefit of critical work supports such as tax credits, food stamps, and other non-cash subsidies.”

The administration’s supplemental poverty measure remains controversial, and some leaders on both ends of the political spectrum are urging Congress and the administration not to adopt the new formula for purposes of allocating federal funding or determining individual eligibility anytime soon.

If used to parse federal grants among states, it could radically change the amount of money each state receives. It stands to reason, for example, that a family of four trying to make it on $22,000 would have an easier time in rural Alabama than they would in suburban Massachusetts. And should the new measure be used to set individual eligibility for safety net programs, some are fearful that current recipients would be disqualified if all of their federal and state benefits were counted.

For the Obama administration, the Census Bureau’s current measure is problematic because it will fail to show the benefits of at least $100 billion in 2009 stimulus money spent for low-income families.  Even so, as those direct subsidies and other job-creating federal funds are phased out, advocates expect the poverty rate will shoot up again next year, when the data is in for 2010.

Contact Christine Vestal at [email protected]

Israel’s New ‘Video Game’ Executions

July 14th, 2010 by Jonathan Cook

Nazareth — It is called Spot and Shoot. Operators sit in front of a TV monitor from which they can control the action with a PlayStation-style joystick.

The aim: to kill terrorists.

Played by: young women serving in the Israeli army.

Spot and Shoot, as it is called by the Israeli military, may look like a video game but the figures on the screen are real people — Palestinians in Gaza — who can be killed with the press of a button on the joystick.

The female soldiers, located far away in an operations room, are responsible for aiming and firing remote-controlled machine-guns mounted on watch-towers every few hundred metres along an electronic fence that surrounds Gaza.

The system is one of the latest “remote killing” devices developed by Israel’s Rafael armaments company, the former weapons research division of the Israeli army and now a separate governmental firm.

According to Giora Katz, Rafael’s vice-president, remote-controlled military hardware such as Spot and Shoot is the face of the future. He expects that within a decade at least a third of the machines used by the Israeli army to control land, air and sea will be unmanned.

The demand for such devices, the Israeli army admits, has been partly fuelled by a combination of declining recruitment levels and a population less ready to risk death in combat.

Oren Berebbi, head of its technology branch, recently told an American newspaper: “We’re trying to get to unmanned vehicles everywhere on the battlefield … We can do more and more missions without putting a soldier at risk.”

Rapid progress with the technology has raised alarm at the United Nations. Philip Alston, its special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, warned last month of the danger that a “PlayStation mentality to killing” could quickly emerge.

According to analysts, however, Israel is unlikely to turn its back on hardware that it has been at the forefront of developing – using the occupied Palestinian territories, and especially Gaza, as testing laboratories.

Remotely controlled weapons systems are in high demand from repressive regimes and the burgeoning homeland security industries around the globe.

“These systems are still in the early stages of development but there is a large and growing market for them,” said Shlomo Brom, a retired general and defence analyst at the Institute of National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

The Spot and Shoot system — officially known as Sentry Tech — has mostly attracted attention in Israel because it is operated by 19- and 20-year-old female soldiers, making it the Israeli army’s only weapons system operated exclusively by women.

Female soldiers are preferred to operate remote killing devices because of a shortage of male recruits to Israel’s combat units. Young women can carry out missions without breaking the social taboo of risking their lives, said Mr Brom.

The women are supposed to identify anyone suspicious approaching the fence around Gaza and, if authorised by an officer, execute them using their joysticks.

The Israeli army, which plans to introduce the technology along Israel’s other confrontation lines, refuses to say how many Palestinians have been killed by the remotely controlled machine-guns in Gaza. According to the Israeli media, however, it is believed to be several dozen.

The system was phased-in two years ago for surveillance, but operators were only able to open fire with it more recently. The army admitted using Sentry Tech in December to kill at least two Palestinians several hundred metres inside the fence.

The Haaretz newspaper, which was given rare access to a Sentry Tech control room, quoted one soldier, Bar Keren, 20, saying: “It’s very alluring to be the one to do this. But not everyone wants this job. It’s no simple matter to take up a joystick like that of a Sony PlayStation and kill, but ultimately it’s for defence.”

Audio sensors on the towers mean that the women hear the shot as it kills the target. No woman, Haaretz reported, had failed the task of shooting what the army calls an “incriminated” Palestinian.

The Israeli military, which enforces a so-called “buffer zone” — an unmarked no-man’s land — inside the fence that reaches as deep as 300 metres into the tiny enclave, has been widely criticised for opening fire on civilians entering the closed zone.

In separate incidents in April, a 21-year-old Palestinian demonstrator was shot dead and a Maltese solidarity activist wounded when they took part in protests to plant a Palestinian flag in the buffer zone. The Maltese woman, Bianca Zammit, was videoing as she was hit.

It is unclear whether Spot and Shoot has been used against such demonstrations.

The Israeli army claims Sentry Tech is “revolutionary”. And that will make its marketing potential all the greater as other armies seek out innovations in “remote killing” technology.

Rafael is reported to be developing a version of Sentry Tech that will fire long-range guided missiles.

Another piece of hardware recently developed for the Israeli army is the Guardium, an armoured robot-car that can patrol territory at up to 80km per hour, navigate through cities, launch “ambushes” and shoot at targets. It now patrols the Israeli borders with Gaza and Lebanon.

Its Israeli developers, G-Nius, have called it the world’s first “robot soldier”. It looks like a first-generation version of the imaginary “robot-armour” worn by soldiers in the popular recent sci-fi movie Avatar.

Rafael has produced the first unmanned naval patrol boat, the “Protector”, which has been sold to Singapore’s navy and is being heavily marketing in the US. A Rafael official, Patrick Bar-Avi, told the Israeli business daily Globes: “Navies worldwide are only now beginning to examine the possible uses of such vehicles, and the possibilities are endless.”

But Israel is most known for its role in developing “unmanned aerial vehicles” – or drones, as they have come to be known. Originally intended for spying, and first used by Israel over south Lebanon in the early 1980s, today they are increasingly being used for extrajudicial executions from thousands of feet in the sky.

In February Israel officially unveiled the 14 metre-long Heron TP drone, the largest ever. Capable of flying from Israel to Iran and carrying more than a ton of weapons, the Heron was tested by Israel in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in winter 2008, when some 1,400 Palestinians were killed.

More than 40 countries now operate drones, many of them made in Israel, although so far only the Israeli and US armies have deployed them as remote-controlled killing machines. Israeli drones are being widely used in Afghanistan.

Smaller drones have been sold to the German, Australian, Spanish, French, Russian, Indian and Canadian armies. Brazil is expected to use the drone to provide security for the 2014 World Cup championship, and the Panamanian and Salvadoran governments want them too, ostensibly to run counter-drug operations.

Despite its diplomatic crisis with Ankara, Israel was reported last month to have completed a deal selling a fleet of 10 Herons to the Turkish army for $185 million.


Jonathan Cook
is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is
www.jkcook.net.

 

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.

Devastation of Food Farming: Expansion of Biofuels in Sub-saharan Africa

July 14th, 2010 by Friends of the Earth Europe

Brussels, July 14 – Friends of the Earth has strongly criticised an agreement expected to be announced today by EU and Brazilian leaders to expand biofuels in Mozambique. The agreement to promote biofuels in Africa to power European cars is described as “immoral and perverse” by the green group.

Adrian Bebb, food and agriculture campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said:

“The ever-growing expansion of biofuels across the globe is not just damaging the environment but often harming people’s livelihoods and access to food too. Using millions of hectares of agricultural land for jatropha and sugar-cane plantations in Mozambique, a country that suffers persistent hunger, to grow crops to power European cars is immoral and perverse. Biofuels are not a solution to the problems of global climate change, nor energy security or poverty in Mozambique.”

Anabela Lemos from JA/Friends of the Earth Mozambique said: “The expansion of biofuels in our country is transforming natural forest and vegetation into fuel crops, is taking away fertile farmland from communities growing food, and creating poor working conditions and conflicts with local people over land ownership. We want real investment in agriculture that allows us to produce food and not fuel for foreign cars.”

A new Friends of the Earth International report, ‘The Jatropha trap’, evaluates jatropha production in Mozambique and highlights the significant gap between the rhetoric and reality. [1]

The presidents of the European Commission and European Council, José Manuel Barroso and Herman van Rompuy, along with Brazilian premier Lula da Silva are today due to launch a partnership agreement with Mozambique to develop bioethanol and biodiesel projects at the Fourth EU-Brazil Summit in Brasilia [2]. During his visit to Brazil, Van Rompuy will also visit COSAN, one the world’s biggest ethanol producers and exporters, on Thursday (July 15).

The expansion of biofuel crops in Mozambique has already been widely criticised for taking away fertile farmland used by communities to grow food, poor working conditions for local workers and conflicts with local people over land ownership. Biofuel investors, mainly European and other foreign companies, have already applied for the rights to use around 4.8 million hectares of land in Mozambique – nearly one-seventh the country’s available arable land.

Adrian Bebb continued: “European biofuels targets are what is driving this global expansion. EU policies are already causing land grabs and deforestation across the South. Instead of doing deals to grab more land in the South, the EU should be scrapping its biofuel policy, investing in environmentally friendly agriculture and decreasing the energy we use for transport.”

For more information, please contact:

Adrian Bebb, food and agriculture campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe,
Tel: +49 1609 490 1163, +49 1609 490 1163, [email protected]

Anabela Lemos, coordinator of Friends of the Earth Mozambique, +258 843106010 [email protected]

Francesca Gater, communications officer for Friends of the Earth Europe, Tel: +32 (0) 2 893 10 10, +32 (0) 2 893 10 10, +32 4 85 93 05 15 (mobile), [email protected]

Notes

[1] Friends of the Earth have produced a report and special briefing on the situation in Mozambique.

‘The Jatropha trap? The realities of farming jatropha in Mozambique’ report by Friends of the Earth International and SwissAid is available at: http://www.foei.org/en/resources/publications/pdfs-members/2010/the-jatropha-trap-the-realities-of-farming-jatropha-in-mozambique

‘Biofuels, Land Grabbing, the EU and Mozambique’ briefing from Friends of the Earth Europe is available at: www.foeeurope.org/agrofuels/FoEE_Mozambique_biofuels_briefing_July2010.pdf

[2] Reuters “EU, Brazil, Mozambique to sign bioenergy pact” http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE66B0SL20100712?sp=true

You all are the house, you’re the bookie. [Your clients] are booking their bets with you. I don’t know why we need to dress it up. It’s a bet.”
      Senator Claire McCaskill, Senate Subcommittee on Investigations,  investigating Goldman Sachs (Washington Post, April 27, 2010)

Ever since December 2008, the Federal Reserve has held short-term interest rates near zero.  This was not only to try to stimulate the housing and credit markets but also to allow the federal government to increase its debt levels without increasing the interest tab picked up by the taxpayers.  The total public U.S. debt increased by nearly 50%  from 2006 to the end of 2009 (from about $8.5 trillion to $12.3 trillion), but the interest bill on the debt actually dropped (from $406 billion to $383 billion), because of this reduction in interest rates.  

One of the dire unintended consequences of that maneuver, however, was that municipal governments across the country have been saddled with very costly bad derivatives bets.  They were persuaded by their Wall Street advisers to buy credit default swaps to protect their loans against interest rates shooting up.  Instead, rates proceeded to drop through the floor, a wholly unforeseeable and unnatural market condition caused by rate manipulations by the Fed.  Instead of the banks bearing the losses in return for premiums paid by municipal governments, the governments have had to pay massive sums to the banks – to the point of bankrupting at least one city (Montgomery, Alabama). 

Another unintended consequence of the plunge in interest rates has been that “savers” have been forced to become “speculators” or gamblers.  When interest rates on safe corporate bonds were around 8%, a couple could aim for saving half a million dollars in their working careers and count on reaping $40,000 yearly in investment income, a sum that, along with social security, could make for a comfortable retirement.   But very low interest rates on bonds have forced these once-prudent savers into the riskier and less predictable stock market, and the collapse of the stock market has forced them into even more speculative ventures in the form of derivatives, a glorified form of gambling.  Pension funds, which have binding pension contracts entered into when interest was at much higher levels, are so strapped for returns that they actually seek out the riskier investments, which have higher returns.  That means they can and do regularly get fleeced when the risk occurs.

Derivatives are basically just bets.  Like at a racetrack, you don’t need to own the thing you’re betting on in order to play.  Derivative casinos have opened up on virtually anything that can go up or down or have a variable future outcome.  You can bet on the price of tea in China, the success or failure of a movie, whether a country will default on its debt, or whether a particular piece of legislation will pass.  The global market in derivative trades is now well over a quadrillion dollars – that’s a thousand trillion – and it is eating up resources that were at one time invested in productive enterprises.  Why risk lending money to a corporation or buying its stock, when you can reap a better return betting on whether the stock will rise or fall? 
 
The shift from investing to gambling means that not only are investors making very little of their money available to companies to produce goods and services, but the parties on one side of every speculative trade now have an interest in seeing the object of the bet fail, whether a company, a movie, a politician, or a country.   Worse, high-speed program traders can actually manipulate the market so that the thing bet on is more likely to fail. 

High frequency traders — a field led by Goldman Sachs — use computer algorithms to automatically bet huge sums of money on minor shifts in price.  These bets send signals to the market which can themselves cause the price of assets to shoot up or tumble down.  By placing high-volume trades, the largest speculative traders can thus intentionally “fix” prices in any direction they want.

“Prediction” Markets

Casinos for betting on what something will do in the future have been promoted as reliable “prediction” markets, and they can cover a broad range of issues.  MIT’s Technology Review launched a futures market for technological innovations, in order to bet on upcoming developments.  The NewsFutures and TradeSports Exchanges enable people to wager on matters such as whether Tiger Woods will take another lover, or whether Bin Laden will be found in Afghanistan.

A 2008 conference of sports leaders in Auckland, New Zealand, featured Mark Davies, head of a sport betting exchange called Betfair. Davies observed that these betting exchanges, while clearly gambling forums, are little different from the trading done by financial firms such as JPMorgan.  He said:
“I used to trade bonds at JPMorgan, and I can tell you that what our customers do is exactly the same as what I used to do in my previous life, with the single exception that where I had to pore over balance sheets and income statements, they pore over form and team-sheets.”

The  online news outlet Slate monitors various prediction markets to provide readers with up-to-date information on the potential outcomes of political races.  Two of the markets covered are the Iowa Electronic Markets and Intrade.  Slate claims that these political casinos are consistently better at forecasting winners than pre-election polls.  Participants bet real money 24 hours a day on the outcomes of a range of issues, including political races. Newsfutures and Casualobserver are similar, smaller exchanges.

Besides shifting the emphasis to gambling (“Why Vote When You Can Bet?” says Slate’s “Guide to All Political Markets”), prediction markets can be manipulated so that they actually affect outcomes.  This became evident, for example, in 2008, when the John McCain campaign used the InTrade market to shift perception of his chances of winning.  A supporter was able to single-handedly manipulate the price of McCain’s contract, causing it to move up in the market and prompting some mainstream media to report it as evidence that McCain was gaining in popularity. 

Betting on Terrorism

The destructive potential of betting on political outcomes became particularly apparent in a notorious prediction market sponsored by the Pentagon, called the “policy analysis market” (PAM) or “terror futures market.”  PAM was an attempt to use the predictive power of markets to forecast political events tied to the Middle East, including terrorist attacks. Trading in American Airlines shares in the days before the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center was one of the bases of the Pentagon’s justification for the program. According to the New York Times, the PAM would have allowed trading of futures on political developments including terrorist attacks, coups d’état, and assassinations.

The exchange was shut down a day after it launched, after commentators pointed out that the system made it ridiculously easy to make money with terror attacks.
At a July 28, 2003 press conference, Senators Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) spoke out against the exchange.  Wyden stated, “The idea of a federal betting parlor on atrocities and terrorism is ridiculous and it’s grotesque,” while Dorgan called it “useless, offensive and unbelievably stupid”.
“This appears to encourage terrorists to participate, either to profit from their terrorist activities or to bet against them in order to mislead U.S. intelligence authorities,” they said in a letter to Admiral John Poindexter, the director of the Terrorism Information Awareness Office, which developed the idea. A week after the exchange closed, Poindexter offered his resignation.

Carbon Credit Trading

A massive new derivatives market that could be as destructive as the derivatives that contributed to the current economic meltdown is the trading platform called Carbon Credit Trading, which is on its way to dwarfing world oil trade.  The program would allow trading not only in “carbon allowances” (permitting companies to emit greenhouse gases) and “carbon offsets” (allowing companies to emit beyond their allowance if they invest in emission-reducing projects elsewhere), but carbon derivatives — such as futures contracts to deliver a certain number of allowances at an agreed price and time.  Eoin O’Carroll cautioned in the Christian Science Monitor:

“Many critics are pointing out that this new market for carbon derivatives could, without effective oversight, usher in another Wall Street free-for-all just like the one that precipitated the implosion of the global economy. . . . Just as the inability of homeowners to make good on their subprime mortgages ended up pulling the rug out from under the credit market, carbon offsets that are based on shaky greenhouse-gas mitigation projects could cause the carbon market to tank, with implications for the broader economy.”

Robert Shapiro, former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration and a cofounder of the U.S. Climate Task Force, warns, “We are on the verge of creating a new trillion-dollar market in financial assets that will be securitized, derivatized, and speculated by Wall Street like the mortgage-backed securities market.”

The proposed form of cap and trade has not yet been passed in the U.S., but a new market in which traders can speculate on the future of allowances and offsets has already been launched.  The largest players in the carbon credit trading market include firms such as Morgan Stanley, Barclays Capital, Fortis, Deutsche Bank, Rabobank, BNP Paribas, Sumitomo, Kommunalkredit, Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch and Cantor Fitzgerald.  Last year, the financial services industry had 130 lobbyists working on climate issues, compared to almost none in 2003. The lobbyists represented companies such as  Goldman Sachs and  JPMorgan Chase.

Billionaire financier George Soros says cap-and-trade will be easy for speculators to rig. “The system can be gamed,” he said last July at a London School of Economics seminar. “That’s why financial types like me like it — because there are financial opportunities.”

Time to Board Up the Casinos and Rethink Our Social Safety Net?

At one time, gambling was called a sin and was illegal.  Derivative trading was originally considered an illegal form of gambling.  Perhaps it is time to reinstate the gambling laws, board up the derivatives casinos, and return the stock market to what it was designed to be: a means of funneling the capital of investors into productive businesses.

Short of banning derivatives altogether, the derivatives business could be slowed up considerably by imposing a Tobin tax, a small tax on every financial trade.  “Financial products” are virtually the only products left on the planet that are not currently subject to a sales tax.  

A larger issue is how to ensure adequate retirement income for the population without forcing people into gambling with their life savings to supplement their meager social security checks.  It may be time to rethink not only our banking and financial structure but the entire social umbrella that our Founding Fathers called the Common Wealth.  

Deficit hawks cry that we cannot afford more spending.  But according to Richard Cook, who formerly served at the U.S. Treasury Department, the government could print and spend several trillion new dollars into the money supply without causing price inflation.  Writing in Global Research in April 2007, he noted that the U.S. Gross Domestic Product in 2006 came to $12.98 trillion, while the total national income came to only $10.23 trillion; and at least 10 percent of that income was reinvested rather than spent on goods and services.

Total available purchasing power was thus only about $9.21 trillion, or $3.77 trillion less than the collective price of goods and services sold.  Where did consumers get the extra $3.77 trillion?  They had to borrow it, and they borrowed it from banks that created it with accounting entries on their books.  If the government had replaced this bank-created money with debt-free government-created money, the total money supply would have remained unchanged.  That means a whopping $3.77 trillion in new government-issued money could have been fed into the economy in 2006 without increasing the inflation rate.

In a 1924 book called Social Credit, C. H. Douglas suggested that government-issued money could be used to pay a guaranteed basic income for all.  Richard Cook proposes a national dividend of $10,000 per adult and $5,000 per dependent child annually.  In 2007, that would have worked out to about $2.6 trillion to provide a basic security blanket for everyone.

The Federal Reserve has funneled $4.6 trillion to Wall Street in bailout money, most of it generated via “quantitative easing” (in effect, printing money); yet hyperinflation has not resulted.  To the contrary, what we have today is dangerous deflation. The M3 money supply shrank in the last year by 5.5 percent, and the rate at which it is shrinking is accelerating.  The explanation for this anomaly is that the Fed’s $4.6 trillion added by quantitative easing fell far short of the estimated $10 trillion that disappeared from the money supply when the “shadow lenders” exited the market, after discovering that the “triple-A” mortgage-backed securities they had been purchasing from Wall Street were actually very risky investments.   

Whether or not a national dividend is the best way to reflate the money supply, the important point here is that the government might be able to issue and spend several trillion dollars into the economy without creating hyperinflation.  The money would merely make up for the shortfall between GDP and purchasing power, replacing the debt-money created as loans by private banks.  As long as resources are sitting idle and people are unemployed — and as long as the new money is used to put these resources together productively to create new goods and services — price inflation will not result.  Creating the national money supply is the sovereign right of governments, not of banks; and if the government wants to remain sovereign, it needs to exercise that right.

Ellen Brown developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this 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 www.webofdebt.comwww.ellenbrown.com, andwww.public-banking.com.

Niko Kyriakou contributed to this article.

Read Ellen Brown’s two chapters in this recently released title from Global Research 

The Global Economic Crisis
The Great Depression of the XXI Century

Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall (Editors)

Montreal, Global Research Publishers. Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), 2010.

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In all major regions of the world, the economic recession is deep-seated, resulting in mass unemployment, the collapse of state social programs and the impoverishment of millions of people. The meltdown of financial markets was the result of institutionalized fraud and financial manipulation. The economic crisis is accompanied by a worldwide process of militarization, a “war without borders” led by the U.S. and its NATO allies.

This book takes the reader through the corridors of the Federal Reserve, into the plush corporate boardrooms on Wall Street where far-reaching financial transactions are routinely undertaken.

Each of the authors in this timely collection digs beneath the gilded surface to reveal a complex web of deceit and media distortion which serves to conceal the workings of the global economic system and its devastating impacts on people`s lives.

Michel Chossudovsky is an award-winning author, Professor of Economics (Emeritus) at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal. He is the author of The Globalization of Poverty and The New World Order (2003) and America’s “War on Terrorism” (2005). He is also a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His writings have been published in more than twenty languages.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent writer both on the contemporary structures of capitalism as well as on the history of the global political economy. He is a Research Associate with the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

“This important collection offers the reader a most comprehensive analysis of the various facets – especially the financial, social and military ramifications – from an outstanding list of world-class social thinkers.” -Mario Seccareccia, Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa

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“Provides a very readable exposé of a global economic system, manipulated by a handful of extremely powerful economic actors for their own benefit, to enrich a few at the expense of an ever-growing majority.” -David Ray Griffin, author of The New Pearl Harbor Revisited

The complex causes as well as the devastating consequences of the economic crisis are carefully scrutinized with contributions from Ellen Brown, Tom Burghardt, Michel Chossudovsky, Richard C. Cook, Shamus Cooke, John Bellamy Foster, Michael Hudson,  Tanya Cariina Hsu, Fred Magdoff,  Andrew Gavin Marshall, James Petras, Peter Phillips, Peter Dale Scott, Bill Van Auken, Claudia von Werlhof and Mike Whitney.

Despite the diversity of viewpoints and perspectives presented within this volume, all of the contributors ultimately come to the same conclusion: humanity is at the crossroads of the most serious economic and social crisis in modern history.

“This meticulous, vital, timely and accessible work unravels the history of a hydra-headed monster: military, media and politics, culminating in “humanity at the crossroads”; the current unprecedented economic and social crisis… From the first page of the preface of The Global Economic Crisis, the reasons for all unravel with compelling clarity. For those asking “why?” this book has the answers.” –Felicity Arbuthnot, award-winning author and journalist based in London.

“The current economic crisis, its causes and hopefully its cure have been a mystery for most people. I welcome a readable exposition of the global dimensions of the crisis and hope for some clarity on how to better organize money locally and internationally for the future.”  -Dr. Rosalie Bertell, renowned scientist, Alternative Nobel Prize laureate and Regent, International Physicians for Humanitarian Medicine, Geneva

“This work is much more than a path-breaking and profound historical analysis of the actors and institutions, it is an affirmation of the authors’ belief that a better world is feasible and that it can be achieved by collective organized actions and faith in the sustainability of a democratic order.” -Frederick Clairmonte, distinguished analyst of the global political economy and author of the 1960s classic, The Rise and Fall of Economic Liberalism: The Making of the Economic Gulag

“Decades of profligate economic policies and promiscuous military interventions reached a critical mass, exploding in the meltdown of globalization in 2008. Today, the economic meltdown is reconfiguring everything – global society, economy and culture. This book is engineering a revolution by introducing an innovative global theory of economics.” -Michael Carmichael, prominent author, historian and president of the Planetary Movement

The Global Economic Crisis
The Great Depression of the XXI Century

Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall (Editors)

TO READ THE PREFACE, CLICK HERE

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall

PART I THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS

Chapter 1 The Global Economic Crisis: An Overview Michel Chossudovsky
Chapter 2 Death of the American Empire Tanya Cariina Hsu
Chapter 3 Financial Implosion and Economic Stagnation John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff
Chapter 4 Depression: The Crisis of Capitalism James Petras
Chapter 5 Globalization and Neoliberalism: Is there an Alternative to Plundering the Earth? Claudia von Werlhof
Chapter 6 The Economy’s Search for a “New Normal” Shamus Cooke

PART II GLOBAL POVERTY

Chapter 7 Global Poverty and the Economic Crisis Michel Chossudovsky
Chapter 8 Poverty and Social Inequality Peter Phillips

PART III WAR, NATIONAL SECURITY AND WORLD GOVERNMENT

Chapter 9 War and the Economic Crisis Michel Chossudovsky
Chapter 10 The “Dollar Glut” Finances America’s Global Military Build-Up Michael Hudson
Chapter 11 Martial Law, the Financial Bailout and War Peter Dale Scott
Chapter 12 Pentagon and Intelligence Black Budget Operations Tom Burghardt
Chapter 13 The Economic Crisis “Threatens National Security” in America Bill Van Auken
Chapter 14 The Political Economy of World Government Andrew Gavin Marshall

PART IV THE GLOBAL MONETARY SYSTEM

Chapter 15 Central Banking: Managing the Global Political Economy Andrew Gavin Marshall
Chapter 16 The Towers of Basel: Secretive Plan to Create a Global Central Bank Ellen Brown
Chapter 17 The Financial New World Order: Towards A Global Currency Andrew Gavin Marshall
Chapter 18 Democratizing the Monetary System Richard C. Cook

PART V THE SHADOW BANKING SYSTEM

Chapter 19 Wall Street’s Ponzi Scheme Ellen Brown,
Chapter 20 Securitization: The Biggest Rip-off Ever Mike Whitney  

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On July 5, I sat down with Marlon Santi, President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), in his office in Quito. We discussed the increasing contradictions between the demands of the indigenous movement, on the one hand, around water rights and anti-mining resistance, and the positions of the government of Rafael Correa, on the other, which has labelled indigenous resistance to large-scale mining and oil exploitation as “terrorism and sabotage.”

Can you describe you political formation and personal political trajectory?

Before becoming president of CONAIE I was from a very small indigenous community that is called Sarayaku. In this community, since about 1996, I was involved in the struggle against Chevron and other oil companies. In that period, we successfully drove these companies out of our territory. After that I was involved in organizing in my community at a very local level, not even at the provincial or regional levels. So, it’s been a huge jump from being a representative in a community to a national representative of CONAIE.

Can you briefly describe the history of CONAIE, and your role today inside the organization?

CONAIE began to organize itself in the 1970s. It had to do so clandestinely, because in this period indigenous movements were considered allies of communism, and communism was seen as a threat by authorities throughout Latin America. By the 1980s CONAIE took its form as an indigenous movement.

CONAIE: Land, Justice, and Liberty

Officially, CONAIE was founded in 1986. After this point it began its political work, with three axes of struggle: land, justice, and liberty for the indigenous peoples. In 1990 there was one of the biggest demonstrations in Latin America, which became known as the Indigenous Uprising. This uprising demonstrated that in Ecuador the indigenous movement had moved from the margins to the centre. It surged forth as a movement with its own perspective, and began demanding a plurinational state, collective rights, and territorial rights for indigenous peoples in the 1990s.

Throughout the 1990s the demand for a plurinational state was not taken into account because neoliberalism held sway in the country and the neoliberals said that the indigenous movement wanted to create a state within a state. The objective of framing the issue in this way was obviously to avoid recognizing indigenous nations in Ecuador.

In spite of this neoliberal dismissal, the leaders of CONAIE at the time maintained the argument that the creation of a plurinational state was a way of recognizing social diversity – the mestizos, indigenous, and the various cultures that make up Ecuador.

CONAIE was constituted from the outset by three different nationalities, and 18 different peoples, and it now includes 28 peoples. There is a distinction between peoples and nationalities. Peoples have a single language but have distinct cultural expressions, such as those of the Otavalos, Salasacas, Chibuleos. Nationalities are, specifically, organizations that group together in a single language, with a single culture, in a single space, a territory in which they live. Today CONAIE is constituted by three different nationalities, represented by the different organizations that make up the confederation – Ecuarunari, Confeniae, and Conaice.

After these early struggles, CONAIE also began struggling for inclusion, and struggling to make participation part of the structure of the state, a state that would be what we called plurinational and communitarian. A state that would include all social actors, indigenous and non-indigenous. A state that would make programs and policy, and build political relationships, in a way that obeyed the people, obeyed the social masses. This is still the struggle.

The rights demanded by indigenous peoples since the 1970s have continued to go unrecognized. The rights of indigenous peoples are not recognized and they are not included in the public policies of governments.

The emphasis of my period in the leadership of CONAIE (2008-2010) is on forcing the national government to take account of indigenous rights in its public policies. This implies respect for indigenous cosmovision, ways of life, and cultures of the indigenous peoples. This is an important struggle, so that every law that is passed in the National Assembly is made with the participation of all social sectors, not just indigenous, but all citizens.

We believe in building a country that is just, sovereign, and rooted in solidarity, rather than an authoritarian country under the imposition of outside powers.

In the current conjuncture, what are the most important struggles in which CONAIE is involved?

In the current conjuncture, the indigenous movement has four axes of struggle.

First, there is resistance against the extraction of natural resources. The current programs of the government of Rafael Correa make a lie out of the traditional Quichua phrase, sumak kawsay [to live well]. In this context, the indigenous movements are saying that within the territorial spaces inhabited by indigenous peoples that there be respect for Pachamama [Mother Earth], and for the indigenous peoples. But the government wants to create massive projects in these areas, such as large-scale mining operations, forestry, and oil exploitation. There’s a big difference between respect and development. This is one of the issues that has caused a clash between the indigenous movement and the government. It is based in the problems of the economic model of this country.

The second axis around which we have been struggling is the liberation and democratization of water. Water is being privatized in the current moment. 78 percent of water in this country is under private control, by private corporations, flower exporters, agro-exporters, and mining companies. We are demanding that in Ecuador that everyone should have equal access to water, without any privileges for private corporations.

There are cases that would make you cry. There are indigenous communities, like some of those here in the Sierra, which have essentially no access to water, but where flower exporting companies use massive amounts. So, there is the struggle for water.

Third, we are demanding that our indigenous governments, that have been legally established in their territories, be recognized as the sixth level of government. The government does not want to recognize this. It wants to stop at the level of the parroquia, or parish. But indigenous peoples have our own territorial administration, justice, and economic forms based in the mingas and communitarian forms of work.

The fourth point of struggle is around forcing the government to respect the international agreements it has signed, such as those with the International Labour Organization (ILO) on indigenous rights, declarations from the United Nations, the Inter-American Convention on Indigenous Rights, and so on – that all of these be recognized here as the standard for living well and coexisting between the indigenous, mestizo, and non-indigenous communities.

Can you explain your critique of the politics of the Rafael Correa government? On the one hand, Correa seems to employ the rhetoric of twenty-first century socialism and citizens’ revolution, while, on the other hand, there are clearly stark clashes between this government and various social movements. Can you explain this dynamic?

Correa entered the presidency in 2006 with the support of all the social movements – indigenous, environmentalists, human rights movements. But all of the social and political programs being introduced by this government have nothing to do with the program of his party, Alianza País, or a citizens’ revolution. The programs the government is introducing are based on other foundations, foundations that do not respect the collective ideas and demands of the grassroots that supported him.

It’s clear that in the current conjuncture, what is being advanced under the slogan of twenty-first century socialism and citizens’ revolution has nothing to do with socialism. The government’s rhetoric suggests that because we’re all citizens of Ecuador we are a part of this citizens’ revolution and a new type of socialism. But in reality, there is no new type of socialism or socialist perspective. They talk about the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA), the liberation of Latin America, and being against transnational capitalists.

But inside these alliances indigenous peoples are absent. It’s similar to the paradox of independence in the early nineteenth century. There’s an important popular saying around our independence: the last day of oppression, and the first day of the same.

So they are talking about getting rid of the imperialists and all the mechanisms of capitalism. But what we see in Latin America is the creation of new oligarchies. Look at the new companies that are involved in the project, Integración de la Infraestructura Regional Suramericana (Integration of South American Regional Infrastructure, IIRSA). The bureaucratic elite of Latin America are involved in this project, the new capitalism in Latin America.

Indigenous peoples are not seen as being a part of this process. Rather, indigenous peoples and other sectors are seen as a disturbance. Because we’re opposed to IIRSA, for example. It’s going to have a negative impact on indigenous territories and indigenous rights. Just imagine it, from Manta-Manaos Brazil to the Ecuadorean Amazon they’re going to build a giant highway. For what? To exploit oil, minerals, and forests. And the countries that are going to buy these primary products – Japan, Brazil, and Europe – are the same capitalist countries as always. At the moment, Peru and Colombia are negotiating new trade agreements with Europe.

It is simply the case that the mask has changed. Because capitalism continues in Latin America. Socialism of the Twenty-First century is not a communitarian socialism that respects indigenous rights. It’s a copy of Western capitalism, which was clearly a failure. It’s a new type of capitalism in Latin America. And it too is going to prove to be a failure.

The Pachamama, or the environment, is not going to survive. The Amazon basin is tremendously fragile, and has been exploited since the 18th century.

What kind of development would be better?

Indigenous peoples have long been arguing for a sustainable development model that would break with the extractive model we have today. I’ll speak, for example, of the South, and Central-South Amazonian region. In these regions the indigenous peoples are struggling for conservation – a type of conservation that will utilize natural resources only in order to survive, in order to live with dignity. This is quite distinct from overexploitation. The exploitation of natural resources under the current model – whether by transnational corporations or state companies – is an aggressive exploitation. In one day, for business purposes, they want to extract millions and millions of dollars worth of natural resources in order to accumulate capital.

We have argued, however, that the accumulation of capital doesn’t serve our needs. Why would we want to accumulate capital? It’s been a complete failure.

In Ecuador, agricultural production, communitarian agriculture production, has been one of the principal axes of our well being, because these agricultural producers meet the food needs of those living in the cities. But investment is moving out of agriculture and going toward natural resource extraction. There is also a lack of investment in tourism, but we’ve seen from the example of Costa Rica that investment in tourism is one possible alternative. We’ve argued that communitarian, ecological, responsible, and sustainable tourism is one possible alternative.

I’ve heard Rafael Correa’s discourse. That we’re sitting on a mountain of gold and that it would be stupid not to exploit it. But this is short-term thinking, thinking only in the present. What about our future?

From your perspective can you explain the contrast between the discourse that Correa uses – citizen’s revolution, twenty-first century socialism, and so on – and the reality of sharp contradictions between this government and popular social movements? He’s even accused indigenous movement leaders of “terrorism and sabotage.”

This has to do with the government’s commitment to a technocratic and developmentalist economic model. Indigenous peoples are against this perspective. The indigenous movements was at the forefront of struggles against free trade agreements with the United States, the proposal for a Free Trade Area of the Americas, struggles against capitalism. So, now we don’t want a government that continues with this model.

Ecuador has immense potential in its four regions – the Galapagos, Litoral, Andean Sierra, and Amazon – to use the visible resources of natural beauty rather than extraction of natural resources. When we struggle against the model that Correa falsely calls twenty-first century socialism, we are saying that this model has nothing to do with socialism. It’s the same capitalism as before, in other words, the continuation of neoliberalism.

You can’t say that this is a development model of the left, because it has simply created a new privileged bureaucracy. Right now what we’re witnessing is a struggle between the new and old bureaucrats. The signs of continuity suggest that there’s been no change.

Communitarian Development

When we make these objections, the first thing Rafael Correa says, to the indigenous movement and other popular sectors – is that we are trying to destabilize his government, and that we’re bent on overthrowing him. But you can’t find, in any of CONAIE’s positions, a call for the overthrow of this government. We are simply demanding that a new communitarian development model be recognized and adhered to. Rather than recognize our reasoned demands, Correa simply calls us terrorists and saboteurs. In today’s El Comercio, the national newspaper, you can read that I’m a terrorist.

We want inclusion and we want to support the Ecuadorean nation with our positions. What we know is that in the history of socialism and communism, as in the history of capitalism, indigenous people have never been incorporated.

Likewise, if we look at the independence liberation led by Simón Bolívar, indigenous liberation wasn’t a part of this. Bolívar liberated Latin America only to copy the colonialists, leaving intact a system which exploited indigenous peoples. Independent Latin America was just a new type of colonialism for indigenous peoples. We were still slaves and serfs in the Republican period.

The “socialism” proposed by Rafael Correa, like the right-wing projects that preceded it, does not take indigenous peoples into account.

We are not rising up violently. We’re acting within the limits of the new Constitution, which guarantees the right to resist. This includes taking to the streets so that our voices are heard. Taking to the plazas so that we’re heard. Going directly to the National Assembly so that our demands are taken into account.

Last week, when the presidents of the countries involved in the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) were meeting here in Ecuador, in Otavolo, they talked about indigenous rights. But the main representatives of the indigenous movement in the country, that is to say CONAIE, was never invited to the meeting. And we wanted to have a voice in ALBA. We wanted to say to the governments of ALBA that without the indigenous peoples of Latin America ALBA can’t exist. We will not be excluded any longer. And for saying this in protests outside the ALBA meeting we’ve been given this new name of terrorists and saboteurs. We’re supposedly against the nation. But we believe the truth will rise to the surface about these claims.

For Canadian readers, can you say a few words about the role of Canadian companies in mining exploration and what open-pit mining projects might mean for the dispossession of indigenous and peasant communities in Ecuador? What types of popular resistance have arisen against the activities of these companies?

Under the current government, the first law that they tried to approve was the new Mining Law. The government straightforwardly lied that mining under the new law would be nationalized, Ecuadorean, etc. The government said that its mining initiatives were going to be responsible and would respect the Pachamama, or Mother Earth.

I’ve been to mining sites in Canada. I went to Toronto, and from there to an indigenous community where there was mining on a large scale. And even with all the technology that is available in the Global North, it’s obvious that the environmental damage that this kind of mining produces can’t be avoided. And in Chile, in the Pascua Lama mining site, and throughout Peru, we can see that it’s even worse.

But the government says that large-scale mining projects here are going to be responsible. This is what bothers me the most, because he is simply lying. It’s a lie to say that nothing is going to happen. Mining is going to pollute massive parts of our water systems, amongst other disasters.

Canadian mining transnationals have a massive presence in mining exploration in Ecuador. These companies want to engage in large scale mining projects, but they haven’t been able to because there’s been massive anti-mining resistance, especially in the southern mountains of Ecuador, as well as part of the Amazon.

So they tried to approve this law, but they couldn’t because of the resistance. The people are saying no to large-scale mining. And so they’ve arrested many activists and put them on trial for terrorism and sabotage and all of this. I was in a mining forum together with President Correa. And I said to him personally that I was very familiar with the consequences of large-scale mining, and that he can’t lie to the people.

In the current conjuncture, the government is finding it impossible to execute its plans in mining in Ecuador. Because there is a huge struggle.

The major deposits of minerals are in indigenous territories, where indigenous peoples live. Maybe the Pachamama knew that if indigenous peoples were in the territories where there were forests, minerals, and oil we would protect these territories.

For the last ten years there have been plans to execute large-scale mining in Ecuador. If these go ahead, all of the water basins of the Amazon and the communitarian agriculture will be fucked. It’s not going to be responsible mining. So there is massive resistance, and CONAIE supports this resistance. And I’ve personally gone to the mining communities and confronted the police and military as part of the resistance.

We want to live in peace. Nothing more. We don’t want this mining because we think it threatens the future for our children.

In the long term, what are you struggling for? What do you want to change in Ecuador?

In the long term, those governing this country are creating a disaster, an environmental disaster. It’s not as visible in the cities as it is in the countryside and Amazon, in the rivers and the lakes. We’re living through a drastic change in the environment.

In the long term, Ecuadorean citizens are going to recognize that the demands of the indigenous movement, the idea of respecting the Pachamama, are the correct position. We’re living through an environmental catastrophe. You can see the effects in the Litoral. And there are going to be impacts in the Andean Sierra. The glaciers are disappearing.

We believe that our future is grave, and we want all Ecuadorean citizens to know what’s going to happen if we continue on this path. We hope that in spite of the claims that we’re against the state, that we’re terrorists and so on, that our demands will be understood by the people.

We want justice and equality for all Ecuadoreans. We want governments in the future to respect the ethnic realities of the country, the plurinational and pluricultural nature of Ecuador. We want them to respect our right to save our ways of life. •


Jeffery R. Webber
teaches politics at the University of Regina. He is the author of Red October: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia (Brill, 2010), and Rebellion to Reform in Bolivia: Class Struggle, Indigenous Liberation and the Politics of Evo Morales (Haymarket, 2011).

Hillary Clinton’s Latest Lies

July 13th, 2010 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

The BBC reported on July 4 that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the US ballistic missile base in Poland was not directed at Russia.  The purpose of the base, she said, is to protect Poland from the Iranian threat.

Why would Iran be a threat to Poland? What happens to US credibility when the Secretary of State makes such a stupid statement?  Does Hillary think she is fooling the Russians?  Does anyone on earth believe her?  What is the point of such a transparent lie? To cover up an act of American aggression against Russia?

In the same breath Hillary warned of a “steel vise” of repression crushing democracy and civil liberties around the world. US journalists might wonder if she was speaking of the United States. Glenn Greenwald reported in Salon on July 4 that the US Coast Guard, which has no legislative authority, has issued a rule that journalists who come closer than 65 feet to BP clean-up operations in the Gulf of Mexico without permission will be punished by a $40,000 fine and one to five years in prison. The New York Times and numerous journalists report that BP, the US Coast Guard, Homeland Security, and local police are prohibiting journalists from photographing the massive damage from the continuing flow of oil and toxic chemicals into the Gulf.

On July 5 Hillary Clinton was in Tbilisi, Georgia, where, according to the Washington Post, she accused Russia of “the invasion and occupation of Georgia.” What is the point of this lie?  Even America’s European puppet states have issued reports documenting that Georgia initiated the war with Russia that it quickly lost by invading South Ossetia in an effort to destroy the secessionists.

It would appear that the rest of the world and the UN Security Council have given the Americans a pass to lie without end in order to advance Washington’s goal of world hegemony.  How does this benefit the Security Council and the world? What is going on here?

After President Clinton misrepresented the conflict between Serbia and the Albanians in Kosovo and tricked NATO into military aggression against Serbia and after President Bush, Vice President Cheney, the secretary of state, the national security advisor and just about every member of the Bush regime deceived the UN and the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, thus finagling an invasion of Iraq, why did the UN Security Council fall for Obama’s deception that Iran has a nuclear weapons program?

In 2009 all sixteen US intelligence agencies issued a unanimous report that Iran had abandoned its weapons program in 2003.  Was the Security Council ignorant of this report?

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s weapons inspectors on the ground in Iran have consistently reported that there is no diversion of uranium from the energy program. Was the Security Council ignorant of the IAEA reports?

If not ignorant, why did the UN Security Council approve sanctions on Iran for adhering to its right under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to have a nuclear energy program? The UN sanctions are lawless. They violate Iran’s rights as a signatory to the treaty. Is this the “steel vice” of which Hillary spoke?

As soon as Washington got sanctions from the Security Council, the Obama regime unilaterally added more severe US sanctions. Obama is using the UN sanctions as a vehicle to which to attach his unilateral sanctions. Perhaps this is the “steel vice of oppression” of which Hillary spoke.

Why has the UN Security Council given a green light to the Obama regime to start yet another war in the Middle East?  

Why has Russia stepped aside? At Washington’s insistence, the Russian government has not delivered the air defense system that Iran purchased. Does Russia view Iran as a greater threat to itself than the Americans, who are ringing Russia with US missile and military bases and financing “color revolutions” in former constituent parts of the Russian and Soviet empires?

Why has China stepped aside?  China’s growing economy needs energy resources. China has extensive energy investments in Iran.  It is US policy to contain China by denying China access to energy. China is America’s banker. China could destroy the US dollar in a few minutes.

Perhaps Russia and China have decided to let the Americans over-reach until the country self-destructs.

On the other hand, perhaps everyone is miscalculating and more death and destruction is in the works than the world is counting on.

Like the Gulf of Mexico.

Huge U.S.-India Arms Deal To Contain China

July 13th, 2010 by Global Research

US President Barack Obama’s visit to New Delhi in November may secure $5 billion worth of arms sales to India, Russia’s Vzglyad newspaper reported Monday.

The deal, if signed during Obama’s visit, would make the US replace Russia as India’s biggest arms supplier, the paper said, adding that the deal would also help India curb China’s rise.

India’s shortlist includes Patriot defense systems, Boeing mid-air refueling tankers and certain types of howitzers, and the total cost of the deal may exceed $10 billion, the paper added.

The report came a day after The Economic Times in New Delhi reported that talks are underway between Indian and US officials over a deal to sell 10 Boeing C-17 military transport aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The talks focus on the price and onboard equipment of the T-tailed C-17 Globemaster-III, which has passed validation trials and meets the requirements of the IAF, the newspaper said.

According to an official Boeing statement, the C-17 can carry a maximum payload of 74,797 kilo-grams for 2,400 nautical miles (4,444.8 kilometers) without refueling, and 45,495 kilograms for 4,000 nautical miles (7,408 kilometers) without refueling, the paper added.

Wang Mingzhi, a military strategist at the PLA Air Force Command College, told the Global Times that those reported military deals reflect Washington and New Delhi’s needs in the region.

“To assist the Afghan war and the fight against the Pakistani Taliban, the US has been trying to improve its presence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean,” Wang said. “Those arms sales will improve ties between Washington and New Delhi, and, intentionally or not, will have the effect of containing China’s influence in the region.”

“For example, once India gets the C-17 transport aircraft, the mobility of its forces stationed along the border with China will be improved. Mobility includes transportation, lifting, landing and deployment,” he added.

When Teachers Unions Back War Escalation

July 13th, 2010 by David Swanson

On July 12th I received an Email from the American Federation of Teachers with a soft pink headline and an image of a heart.  It said: “Pink Hearts.  Not Pink Slips.”  That sounded nice.  The text continued:

“Now is the time to tell the Senate to put our children first.  The House of Representatives approved an emergency spending bill that included $10 billion to save educator jobs and $5 billion for Pell Grants. It is now up to the Senate to do its part and approve the same level of assistance when it returns to Washington, D.C., this week.”

That was true, I suppose, in as far as it went, but horribly misleading because of what it left unsaid.  Congress had not passed an emergency bill to save teachers’ jobs.  Congress doesn’t treat such things as emergencies.  This was a bill that had been sat on for half a year, and the teacher funding was an amendment tacked onto it.  The bill itself served primarily to dump $33.5 billion into escalating a war in Afghanistan by sending 30,000 more troops plus contractors.  It was called an “emergency” bill purely in order to keep war spending off the books and make the government’s overall budget look less imbalanced than it is.

Now, it’s hard to blame teachers unions for promoting a bill, any bill, that saves teachers’ jobs.  The National Education Association, too, has been promoting the same bill.  It’s easy enough to blame the peace movement for not building relationships with the teachers unions.  And no doubt the Democratic House Leadership gets the lion’s share of blame for packaging teacher funding together with war funding.  But there’s something extraordinarily revolting about an Email that asks us to “put our children first” by escalating a criminal foreign war.

There are activists within the teachers unions and the labor movement as a whole advocating for school and jobs funding only if it is clean of war money.  The National Education Association Peace and Justice Caucus and U.S. Labor Against the War are examples of grass roots movements for peace within the world of organized labor.  But they have an uphill struggle.  At its recent convention, the NEA voted down a proposal to support the sort of measure recently legislated in Maryland requiring that parents give permission before the military gets access to students’ test results and contact information.  The NEA is now on record supporting such access for the military without parental consent.  Surely that’s not contributing to the well being of our children, the state of our economy, or the availability of public funds for non-military educational purposes.

The cynical view on war funding bills maintains that wars will be funded no matter what, and so we should use those opportunities to tack good things onto the same legislation.  If the Senate won’t pass teacher funding by itself, then the House is actually being responsible and moral by packaging it into war funding that the Senate won’t dare vote against.  Thus explains the cynic.

But there’s another way to look at this.  If war and military funding is eating our economy and our public treasury out from the inside, then we must stop it, regardless of how much more comfortably we can rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.  The bill that the House passed on July 1st and sent to the Senate put three times the money into war that it put into schools, and thereby (if it becomes law) escalated a war, guaranteeing much larger expenses going forward.  The same bill also advanced the cause of dismantling Social Security.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi buried in this legislation a requirement that if the Senate passes any proposals from the President’s deficit commission, the House will vote on them, regardless of what they are.  And we know what they are most likely to be.  So, this bill fundamentally advances the transfer of our resources from retirement funding to war funding.  Should the tacking on of a relatively small amount of teacher funding redeem such legislation?  Isn’t there another way we could fund our schools?

If war funding were separated from human needs funding in the U.S. House of Representatives, then the war funding would have to be passed, as long as it can continue to be passed at all, by the Democratic leadership and primarily Republican congress members.  This process would be educational and useful in identifying who really stands where, and who deserves to be voted out of office.  Meanwhile, teacher funding would pass with primarily Democratic votes.  In the Senate, war funding would pass easily with bipartisan support, up until the House stopped passing it, at which point the Senate would be powerless to keep it flowing.  The funding of useful items, like schools, on the other hand, would involve a tougher fight, but only as long as the Democratic Senate leadership chose to keep the filibuster rule in place.  Even then, the senators deserving of unelection would be clearly identified. 

As of now, Senator Tom Udall has promised to create a vote on reforming or eliminating the filibuster rule in January, but that vote could be brought about earlier if the necessary leadership were pressured into existence.  And the same pressure that could eliminate the filibuster and minority rule in the U.S. Senate could also pass through both houses of Congress the funding of an educational system beyond our wildest imaginations.  A movement that combined the strengths of labor with peace and justice advocates could shift the vast bulk of our public spending from wars and the military to education and other useful, non-destructive endeavors.  Such a shift could fund top quality free public education from preschool through graduate school.  That sounds like a fantastical dream at a moment when we’re just hoping to avoid more layoffs, but it is a plausible strategy for a movement that takes a different direction.

The labor movement does not actively promote and cheer for wars the way it used to do so reliably and so self-destructively.  But neither does it, by and large, oppose the single biggest pit into which we dump our hard-earned pay.  At the same time, the peace movement does not sufficiently work for justice and peace in our own cities and towns.  Rather than building a broad-based coalition movement to shift public spending from where we don’t want it to where we need it, the peace movement tends to focus on non-binding resolutions that avoid the subject of funding and thereby also avoid the possibility of gaining allies in the struggle. 

There is nothing altruistic in the idea of peace activists helping workers and the unemployed here at home.  That’s how you build a movement for any political end, and that’s how you keep our young people from becoming cannon fodder.  There’s also nothing selfless in unions advocating for only the clean funding of jobs and human needs.  The wars are endangering us all and bankrupting us all and all of our children.  I know people in both movements who agree with this.  I don’t know how to build a united front willing to take risks for it.

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David Swanson, special to the International Labor Communications Association, is the author of the new book “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union” by Seven Stories Press.  You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town: http://davidswanson.org/book

Moscow — A Russian expert with the Social Academy on Geopolitical Affairs, Stanislav Shuvanov, warns of the factors that could lead to a war unleashed by the US and its allies against Iran.

When analyzing a possible combat zone in the Persian Gulf, Shuvanov said he takes into consideration President Barack Obama’s evident disagreement with Republican hawks, who could push the White House chief to an action of that kind.

Another factor Shuvanov referred to in his comment was Obama’s change to US priorities for the National Security and Defense Strategy agreed this year, which put priority on the fight against new attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The Russian academic also noted that if the cyclical process of the world capitalist crisis worsens, Washington could unleash an armed conflict as a safety valve.

Referring to the UN Security Council’s resolution linked to the package of sanctions against Tehran, he stated it represents a victory for the United States and other First World countries to force Iran to abandon its nuclear program, which he regards as peaceful.

That measure, the Russian expert sustained, is the result of US pressure on the Council’s permanent members, and was improved in the internal order to raise the prestige of Obama, whose popularity rating has plunged within the United States.

South Korea could face a period of increased tensions with China due to the joint naval exercise it plans to hold with the U.S. in the Yellow Sea in spite of objections by Beijing.

The joint South Korea-U.S. naval exercise is meant to send a warning to North Korea about provocative actions in the Yellow Sea after the North’s sinking of the Cheonan in March.

But Beijing has opposed the anti-submarine exercise, which may include the U.S.S. George Washington, a U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, because the drill will take place close to its territorial waters.

South Korea’s relations with China have already been strained in recent months following the sinking of the Cheonan because of China’s efforts to water down any international condemnation of North Korea.

Security analysts in Seoul say that South Korea could ease tensions with Beijing by inviting Chinese observers to the upcoming exercise or reduce the scale of the operation.

China’s media and security analysts have had harsh words about the exercise after the U.S. Department of Defense announced on June 28 that the drill would take place this month.

Qu Xing, president of the state-run China Institute of International Studies, said China felt “very sensitive” about the exercise, adding that Seoul needed to take into account the reaction of North Korea when the inter-Korean relations had sunk to their lowest level in at least a decade.

“Even when you use the exclusive economic zone [of South Korea] for peaceful purposes, you still need consensus from neighboring countries,” Qu told journalists. “You need to make a decision on the military exercise very cautiously by considering inter-Korea relations, Korea-China relations and U.S.-China relations.”

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Beijing “resolutely opposes” foreign military warships and aircraft coming close to Chinese waters.

“Our stance is consistent and clear,” Qin said. “We have already expressed our resolute interest and concerns to related parties.”

Global Times, a Chinese newspaper, said the exercise had the potential to “destabilize the Northeast Asia region more than the Cheonan incident.”

“Is South Korea trying to take revenge on China for not joining the criticism of North Korea regarding the Cheonan issue?” said the paper in an editorial. It added, the military exercise “is something South Korea should not do to China, its biggest trading partner.”

South Korea has shown no attempt to appease China. Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said, “I am pretty sure China understands well the nature of this joint drill.”

But analysts say that Seoul must take into account that China agreed to a presidential statement from the UN Security Council last week condemning the attack on the Cheonan, although it did not name North Korea as the guilty party.

One senior Foreign Ministry official said China made a “very significant, painful but right decision” in supporting the statement.

Lee Su-seok, a senior analyst at the Institute for National Security Strategy, said Seoul needs to work harder to avoid political disputes with China, which views the involvement of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea as having a possible link to plans by the U.S. to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack on the island.

“You can give China some options, like inviting Chinese officials to view the drill or keeping them updated about the drill’s progress and activities to some degree,” he said.

Kim Ki-jung, a professor of political science at Yonsei University, said another option to ease China’s opposition is to reduce the scale of the exercise, which is now expected to include nuclear submarines, Aegis-class destroyers and F-15 combat fighters in addition to the aircraft carrier.

“You can’t just cancel the scheduled military drill because China opposes it,” he said. “But you can minimize the diplomatic disputes by scaling back the exercise and strategically choosing the timing of the event.”

However, some China-based analysts believe that fears over a rise in tensions between South Korea and China are exaggerated.

Zhang Baohui, a professor of political science at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, told Yonhap that the U.S. and China have been cooperating closely on how to deal with North Korea, as shown by the UN statement, and this “might deflect attention on the U.S.-South Korean naval exercise.”

Jung Ha-won can be reached at [email protected]

We live at a time that might be appropriately called the age of the disappearing intellectual, a disappearance that marks with disgrace a particularly dangerous period in American history. While there are plenty of talking heads spewing lies, insults and nonsense in the various media, it would be wrong to suggest that these right-wing populist are intellectuals. They are neither knowledgeable nor self-reflective, but largely ideological hacks catering to the worst impulses in American society. Some obvious examples would include John Stossel calling for the repeal of that “section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that bans discrimination in public places.”[1] And, of course, there are the more famous corporate-owned talking heads such as Glenn Beck, Charles Krauthammer, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, all of whom trade in reactionary world views, ignorance, ideological travesties and outlandish misrepresentations – all the while wrapping themselves in the populist creed of speaking for everyday Americans.

In a media scape and public sphere that view criticism, dialog and thoughtfulness as a liability, such anti-intellectuals abound, providing commentaries that are nativist, racist, reactionary and morally repugnant. But the premium put on ignorance and the disdain for critical intellectuals is not monopolized by the dominant media, it appears to have become one of the few criterion left for largely wealthy individuals to qualify for public office. One typical example is Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who throws out inanities such as labeling the Obama administration a “gangster government.”[2] Bachmann refuses to take critical questions from the press because she claims that they unfairly focus on her language. She has a point. After all, it might be difficult to support statements such as the claim that “the US government used the census information to round up the Japanese [Americans] and put them in concentration camps.”[3] Another typical example can be found in Congressman Joe Barton’s apology to BP for having to pay for damages to the government stemming from its disastrous oil spill.

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This “upscaling of ignorance”[4] gets worse. Richard Cohen, writing in The Washington Post about Sen. Michael Bennett, was shocked to discover that he was actually well-educated and smart but had to hide his qualifications in his primary campaign so as to not undermine his chance of being re-elected. Cohen concludes that in politics, “We have come to value ignorance.”[5] He further argues that the notion that a politician should actually know something about domestic and foreign affairs is now considered a liability. He writes:

[W]e now have politicians who lack a child’s knowledge of government. In Nevada, Sharron Angle has won the GOP Senate nomination espousing phasing out Social Security and repealing the income tax as well as abolishing that durable conservative target, the Education Department. Similarly, in Connecticut, Linda McMahon, a former pro wrestling tycoon, is running commercials so adamantly anti-Washington you would think she’s an anarchist. In Arizona Andy Goss, a Republican congressional candidate, suggests requiring all members of Congress to live in a barracks. This might be tough on wives, children and the odd cocker spaniel, but what the hell. Nowadays, all ideas are equal.[6]

The embrace of a type of rabid individualism, anti-intellectualism and political illiteracy is also at work in the Tea Party movement. As social protections disappear, jobs are lost, uncertainty grows and insecurity prevails, Tea Party members express anger over a weakened social state that represents one of the few institutions capable of providing the capital, policies and safety nets necessary to protect those who have been shaken by the economic recession. And, yet, in light of what Bob Herbert calls “the most painful evidence imaginable of the failure of laissez-faire economics and the destructive force of the alliance of big business and government against the interests of ordinary Americans,”[7] the Tea Party movement wants to abolish government and expand even more the deregulated capitalism that has unsettled the lives of so many of its members. Ignorance prevails around both the movement’s policy recommendations and its often racist protest against “the election of a “foreign born’ – African-American to the presidency.” As J. M. Bernstein pointed out in a New York Times opinion piece:

When it comes to the Tea Party’s concrete policy proposals, things get fuzzier and more contradictory: keep the government out of health care, but leave Medicare alone; balance the budget, but don’t raise taxes; let individuals take care of themselves, but leave Social Security alone; and, of course, the paradoxical demand not to support Wall Street, to let the hard-working producers of wealth get on with it without regulation and government stimulus, but also to make sure the banks can lend to small businesses and responsible homeowners in a stable but growing economy.[8]

As the belief in the libertarian agent, free of all dependencies and social responsibilities blows up in the face of the current economic meltdown, anger replaces critique and ignorance informs politics. Bernstein thinks that members of the Tea Party are angry because they have been jolted into recognizing how fragile their so-called individual freedom actually is and that it is the government that is somehow responsible for making them feel so vulnerable. Maybe so, but there is also something else at work here, less metaphysical and more pedagogical – a kind of intellectual vacuum produced at different levels of American society that cultivates ignorance, limits choices, legitimates political illiteracy and promotes violence.

Another version of anti-intellectualism prevails in universities where students are urged by some conservative groups to spy on their professors to make sure they do not say anything that might actually get students to think critically about their beliefs. At the same time, faculty are being relegated to nontenured positions and because of the lack of tenure, which offers some guarantees, are afraid to say controversial things inside and outside the classroom for fear of being fired.[9] Moreover, as the university becomes more corporatized, intellectual and critical thought is transformed into a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. I am not suggesting that so called professed intellectuals are not influencing policy, appearing in the media or teaching in the universities, but that these are not critical intellectuals. On the contrary, they are accommodating ideologues, content to bask in the politics of conformity and the rewards of official power. Underlying this drift toward the disappearing critical intellectual and the erasure of substantive critique is a regime of economic Darwinism in which a culture of ignorance serves to both depoliticize the larger public while simultaneously producing individual and collective subjects necessary and willing to participate in their own oppression. The cheerful robot is not simply an opprobrium for ignorance, it is a metaphor for the systemic construction in American society of a new mode of depoliticized and thoughtless form of agency.

With the advent of neoliberalism, or what some call free-market fundamentalism, we have witnessed the production and widespread adoption throughout society of what I want to call the politics of economic Darwinism. As a theater of cruelty and a mode of public pedagogy, economic Darwinism undermines all forms of solidarity while simultaneously promoting the logic of unrestricted individual responsibility. But there is more at stake here than an unchecked ideology of privatization.[10] For example, as the welfare state is dismantled, it is being replaced by the harsh realities of the punishing state as social problems are increasingly criminalized and social protections are either eliminated or fatally weakened. The harsh values of this new social order can be seen in the increasing incarceration of young people, the modeling of public schools after prisons and state policies that bail out investment bankers, but leave the middle and working classes in a state of poverty, despair and insecurity. But it can also be seen in the practice of socialism for the rich. This is a practice in which government supports for the poor, unemployed, sick and elderly are derided because they either contribute to an increase in the growing deficit or they undermine the market-driven notion of individual responsibility. And yet, the same critics defend, without irony, government support for the rich, the bankers, the permanent war economy, or any number of subsidies for corporations as essential to the life of the nation, which is simply an argument that benefits the rich and powerful and legitimates the deregulated wild west of casino capitalism.

Of course, this form of economic Darwinism is not enforced simply through the use of the police and other repressive apparatuses; it is endlessly reproduced through the cultural apparatuses of the new and old media, public and higher education, as well as through the thousands of messages and narratives we are exposed to daily in multiple commercial spheres. In this discourse, the economic order is either sanctioned by God or exists simply as an extension of nature. In other words, the tyranny and suffering that is produced through the neoliberal theater of cruelty is unquestionable, as unmovable as an urban skyscraper. Long-term investments are now replaced by short-term gains and profits, while compassion is viewed as a weakness and democratic public values are scorned because they subordinate market considerations to the common good. Morality in this instance becomes painless, stripped of any obligations to the other. As the language of privatization, deregulation and commodification replaces the discourse of the public good, all things public, including public schools, libraries and public services, are viewed either as a drain on the market or as a pathology. At the same time, inequality in wealth and income expands and spreads like a toxin through everyday life, poisoning democracy and relegating more and more individuals to a growing army of disposable human waste.[11]

The giant oil spill in the Gulf is rarely viewed as part of a much broader systemic crisis of democracy. Instead, it is treated as an unfortunate disaster caused by corporate greed or negligence. Celebrity culture puts much of the population in a moral coma and perpetual state of ignorance. Coupled with a pedagogy of economic Darwinism that is spewed out daily in the mainstream media, large segments of the population are prevented from connecting the dots between their own personal troubles and larger social problems. In this case, the larger structural elements of a corrupt economic system disappear, while the suffering and hardship continues and the bankers and other members of the financial criminal class run to the banks to deposit their obscene bonuses.

Under such circumstances, to paraphrase C. W. Mills, we are seeing the breakdown of democracy, the disappearance of critical thought and “the collapse of those public spheres which offer a sense of critical agency and social imagination.”[12] Since the 1970s, we have witnessed the forces of market fundamentalism strip education of its public values, critical content and civic responsibilities as part of its broader goal of creating new subjects wedded to the logic of privatization, efficiency, flexibility, consumerism and the destruction of the social state. Tied largely to instrumental purposes and measurable paradigms, many institutions of higher education are now committed almost exclusively to economic growth, instrumental rationality and preparing students for the workforce.

The question of what kind of education is needed for students to be informed and active citizens is rarely asked.[13] Hence, it not surprising, for example, to read that “Thomas College, a liberal arts college in Maine, advertises itself as Home of the Guaranteed Job!”[14] Faculty within this discourse are defined largely as a subaltern class of low-skilled entrepreneurs, removed from the powers of governance and subordinated to the policies, values and practices within a market model of the university.[15] Within both higher education and the educational force of the broader cultural apparatus – with its networks of knowledge production in the old and new media – we are witnessing the emergence and dominance of a form of a powerful and ruthless, if not destructive, market-driven notion of governance, teaching, learning, freedom, agency and responsibility. Such modes of education do not foster a sense of organized responsibility central to a democracy. Instead, they foster what might be called a sense of organized irresponsibility – a practice that underlies the economic Darwinism, public pedagogy and corruption at the heart of both the current recession and American politics.

The anti-democratic values that drive free-market fundamentalism are embodied in policies now attempting to shape diverse levels of higher education all over the globe. The script has now become overly familiar and more and more taken for granted, especially in the United States and increasingly in Canada. Shaping the neoliberal framing of public and higher education is a corporate-based ideology that embraces standardizing the curriculum, supporting top-down management, implementing more courses that promote business values and reducing all levels of education to job training sites. For example, one university is offering a master’s degree to students who commit to starting a high-tech company while another allows career officers to teach capstone research seminars in the humanities. In one of these classes, the students were asked to “develop a 30-second commercial on their ‘personal brand.’”[16]

The demise of democracy is now matched by the disappearance of vital public spheres and the exhaustion of intellectuals. Instead of critical and public intellectuals, faculty are increasingly defined less as intellectuals than as technicians, specialist and grant writers. Nor is there any attempt to legitimate higher education as a fundamental sphere for creating the agents necessary for an aspiring democracy. In fact, the commitment to democracy is beleaguered, viewed less as a crucial educational investment than as a distraction that gets in the way of connecting knowledge and pedagogy to the production of material and human capital. In short, higher education is now being retooled as part of a larger political project to bring it in tune with the authority and values fostering the advance of neoliberalism. I think David Harvey is right in insisting, “the academy is being subjected to neoliberal disciplinary apparatuses of various kinds [while] also becoming a place where neoliberal ideas are being spread.”[17]

As a core political and civic institution, higher education rarely appears committed to addressing important social problems. Instead, many have become unapologetic accomplices to corporate values and power and, in doing so, increasingly make social problems either irrelevant or invisible. Steeped in the same market driven values that produced the 2008 global economic recession along with a vast amount of hardships and human suffering in many countries around the globe, higher education mimics the inequalities and hierarchies of power that inform the failed financial behemoths – banks and investment companies in particular – that have become public symbols of greed and corruption. Not only does neoliberalism undermine civic education and public values, confuse education with training, but it also treats knowledge as a product, promoting a neoliberal logic that views schools as malls, students as consumers and faculty as entrepreneurs. Just as democracy appears to be fading in the United States so is the legacy of higher education’s faith in and commitment to democracy. As the humanities and liberal arts are downsized, privatized and commodified, higher education finds itself caught in the paradox of claiming to invest in the future of young people while offering them few intellectual, civic and moral supports.

Higher education has a responsibility not only to search for the truth regardless of where it may lead, but also to educate students to make authority and power politically and morally accountable. Though questions regarding whether the university should serve strictly public rather than private interests no longer carry the weight of forceful criticism they did in the past, such questions are still crucial in addressing the purpose of higher education and what it might mean to imagine the university’s full participation in public life as the protector and promoter of democratic values.

What needs to be understood is that higher education may be one of the few institutions we have left in the United States where knowledge, values and learning offer a glimpse of the promise of education for nurturing public values, critical hope and a sense of civic responsibility. It may be the case that everyday life is increasingly organized around market principles; but confusing a market-determined society with democracy hollows out the legacy of higher education, whose deepest roots are moral, not commercial. This is a particularly important insight in a society where the free circulation of ideas are not only being replaced by ideas managed by the dominant media, but where critical ideas are increasingly viewed or dismissed as banal, if not reactionary.

But there is more at stake than simply the death of critical thought, there is also the powerful influence of celebrity culture and the commodification of culture, both of which now create a powerful form of mass illiteracy that increasingly dominates all aspects of the wider cultural educational apparatus. But mass illiteracy does more than undermine critical thought and depoliticize the public; it also becomes complicit with the suppression of dissent. Intellectuals who engage in dissent or a culture of questioning are often dismissed as either irrelevant, extremist, or un-American.

Anti-public intellectuals now dominate the larger cultural landscape, funded largely by right-wing institutes, eager to legitimate the worst forms of oppression as they nod, smile, speak in sound bites and willingly display their brand of moral cowardice. At the same time, there are too few critical academics willing to defend higher education for its role in providing a supportive and sustainable culture in which a vibrant critical democracy can flourish.

As potential democratic public spheres, institutions of higher education are especially important at a time when any space that produces “critical thinkers capable of putting existing institutions into question” is under siege by powerful economic, military, and political interests.[18] The increasing disappearance of any viable public sphere coupled with the reduction of the university to an outpost of business culture represents a serious political and pedagogical concern that should not be lost on either academics or those concerned about the purpose and meaning of higher education, if not the fate of democracy itself.

Democracy places civic demands upon its citizens and such demands point to the necessity of an education that is broad-based, critical and supportive of meaningful civic values, participation in self-governance and democratic leadership. Only through such a formative and critical educational culture can students learn how to become individual and social agents, rather than merely disengaged spectators, able both to think otherwise and to act upon civic commitments that “necessitate a reordering of basic power arrangements” fundamental to promoting the common good and producing a meaningful democracy. The current neoliberal regime that is wreaking havoc on the planet and the lives of millions cannot be addressed by future generations unless they have the capacities, knowledge, skills and motivation to think critically and act courageously. This means giving them the knowledge and skills to make power visible and politics an important sphere of individual and collective struggle.

One measure of the degree to which higher education has lost its moral compass can be viewed in the ways in which it disavows any relationship between equity and excellence, eschews the discourse of democracy and reduces its commitment to learning to the stripped down goals of either preparing students for the workforce or teaching them the virtues of measurable utility. While such objectives are not without merit, they have little to say about the role that higher education might play in influencing the fate of future citizens and the state of democracy itself, nor do they say much about what it means for faculty to be more than technicians or hermetic scholars.

In addition to promoting measurable skills and educating students to be competitive in the marketplace, academics are also required to speak a kind of truth, but as Stuart Hall points out, “maybe not truth with a capital T, but … some kind of truth, the best truth they know or can discover [and] to speak that truth to power.”[19] Implicit in Hall’s statement is an awareness that to speak truth to power is not a temporary and unfortunate lapse into politics on the part of academics: it is central to opposing all those modes of ignorance, whether they are market-based or rooted in other fundamentalist ideologies, that make judgments difficult and democracy dysfunctional.

In my view, academics have not only a moral and pedagogical responsibility to unsettle and oppose all orthodoxies, to make problematic the commonsense assumptions that often shape students’ lives and their understanding of the world, but also to energize them to come to terms with their own power as individual and social agents. Higher education, in this instance, as Pierre Bourdieu, Paulo Freire, Stanley Aronowitz, and other intellectuals have reminded us, cannot be removed from the hard realities of those political, economic and social forces that both support it and consistently, though in diverse ways, attempt to shape its sense of mission and purpose.[20] Politics is not alien to higher education, but central to comprehending the institutional, economic, ideological and social forces that give it meaning and direction. Politics also references the outgrowth of historical conflicts that mark higher education as an important site of struggle. Rather than the scourge of either education or academic research, politics is a primary register of their complex relation to matters of power, ideology, freedom, justice and democracy.

Talking heads who proclaim that politics have no place in the classroom can as Jacques Ranciere points out “look forward to the time when politics will be over and they can at last get on with political business undisturbed,” especially as it pertains to the political landscape of the university.[21] In this discourse, education as a fundamental basis for engaged citizenship, like politics itself, becomes a temporary irritant to be quickly removed from the hallowed halls of academia. In this stillborn conception of academic labor, faculty and students are scrubbed clean of any illusions about connecting what they learn to a world “strewn with ruin, waste and human suffering.”[22]

As considerations of power, politics, critique and social responsibility are removed from the university, balanced judgment becomes code, as the famous sociologist C. Wright. Mills points out, for “surface views which rest upon the homogeneous absence of imagination and the passive avoidance of reflection. A … vague point of equilibrium between platitudes.”[23] Under such circumstances, the university and the intellectuals that inhabit it disassociate higher education from larger public issues, remove themselves from the task of translating private troubles into social problems and undermine the production of those public values that nourish a democracy. Needless to say, pedagogy is always political by virtue of the ways in which power is used to shape various elements of classroom identities, desires, values and social relations, but that is different from being an act of indoctrination. Writing about the role of the social sciences, Mills had a lot to say about public intellectuals in the academy and, in fact, directly addressed the argument that such intellectuals had no right to try to save the world. He writes:

I do not believe that social science will ‘save the world’ although I see nothing at all wrong with ‘trying to save the -world’ – a phrase which I take here to mean the avoidance of war and the re-arrangement of human affairs in accordance with the ideals of human freedom and reason. Such knowledge as I have leads me to embrace rather pessimistic estimates of the chances. But even if that is where we now stand, still we must ask: if there are any ways out of the crises of our period by means of intellect, is it not up to the social scientist to state them? … It is on the level of human awareness that virtually all solutions to the great problems must now lie.[24]

A large number of faculty exist in specialized academic bubbles cut off from both the larger public and the important issues that impact society. While extending the boundaries of specialized scholarship is important, it is no excuse for faculty to become complicit in the transformation of the university into an adjunct of corporate and military power. Too many academics have become incapable of defending higher education as a vital public sphere and unwilling to challenge those spheres of induced mass cultural illiteracy and firewalls of jargon that doom critically engaged thought, complex ideas and serious writing for the public to extinction. Without their intervention as engaged intellectuals, the university defaults on its role as a democratic public sphere capable of educating an informed public, a culture of questioning and the development of a critical formative culture connected to the need, as Cornelius Castoriadis puts it, “to create citizens who are critical thinkers capable of putting existing institutions into question so that democracy again becomes society’s movement.”[25]

For education to be civic, critical and democratic rather than privatized, militarized and commodified, educators must take seriously John Dewey’s notion that democracy is a “way of life” that must be constantly nurtured and defended.[26] Democracy is not a marketable commodity[27] and neither are the political, economic and social conditions that make it possible. If academics believe that the university is a space for and about democracy, they need to profess more, not less, about eliminating inequality in the university, supporting academic freedom, preventing the exploitation of faculty, supporting shared modes of governance, rejecting modes of research that devalue the public good and refuse to treat students as merely consumers. Academics have a distinct and unique obligation, if not political and ethical responsibility, to make learning relevant to the imperatives of a discipline, scholarly method, or research specialization. But more importantly, academics as engaged scholars can further the activation of knowledge, passion, values and hope in the service of forms of agency that are crucial to sustaining a democracy in which higher education plays an important civic, critical and pedagogical role. If democracy is a way of life that demands a formative culture, educators can play a pivotal role in creating forms of pedagogy and research that enable young people to think critically, exercise judgment, engage in spirited debate and create those public spaces that constitute “the very essence of political life.”[28]

Economic Darwinism shapes more than economies; it also produces ideas, values, power, morality and regimes of truth. Most importantly, regardless of its arrogance, it has to legitimate its power and theater of cruelty. Challenging its modes of legitimation and misrepresentations at the point of production is precisely an important task and mode of politics that should be addressed by critical intellectuals. Central ideological issues pushed by the advocates of neoliberalism extending from the myth of free markets, free trade, the limitless power of individual responsibility, the evils of the welfare state, the necessity of low taxes, the economic benefits of a permanent war economy, deregulation, privatization and commodification, along with the danger of giving the government any sense of public responsibility should be challenged head on in numerous venues by critical intellectuals.

As David Harvey points out, academics have a “crucial role to play in trying to resist the neoliberalization of the academy, which is largely about organizing within the academy … creating spaces within the academy, where things could be said, written, discussed and ideas promulgated. Right now those spaces are more under threat then they have been in many years.”[29] All the more reason for academics to view the academy as a viable sphere worth struggling over. Intellectuals outside of the academy can also work to use their specific skills at various points of production to raise consciousness and the level of intellectual discourse in the spirit of creating agents capable of challenging and seeing beyond the existing neoliberal mode of economic Darwinism. Such actions not only help intellectuals to engage in self-critical reflection, play a viable role in creating the conditions for emergent critical public spheres, but they also contribute to a formative culture of change that enables the development of a broad anti-capitalist movement.

What Harvey is rightfully suggesting is that academics can do more than “teach the conflicts” and provide the conditions that enable young people to speak truth to power. They can also organize within the academy to prevent the ongoing militarization and neoliberalization of higher education. They can work together with staff, students, part-time faculty, and other interested parties to form unions, embrace a notion of democratic governance and help to position the university as public sphere that can become a vital resource in which people can think, engage in critical dialog, organize and connect to a broader public and movements eager for economic and social transformation. Academics can work to develop diverse intellectual institutes, sites and organizations both within and outside of North America to contest the right-wing media machine and its army of anti-public intellectuals. Intellectuals trade in ideas, help to raise consciousness and are crucial to offering new coordinates for how to think about freedom, justice, equality, sustainability and the elimination of human suffering.

Jacques Ranciere is informative here in his call for intellectuals to engage in a form of dissensus, which he defines as an attempt to modify the coordinates of the visible and ways of perceiving experience. Dissensus is an attempt “to loosen the bonds that enclose spectacles within a form of visibility…. within the machine that makes the “state of things” seem evident, unquestionable.”[30] Ideas matter not only because they can promote self-reflection, but because they can reconstitute our sense of agency, imagination, hope and possibility. And it is precisely in their ability to extend the reach and understanding of how ideas, power and politics work not simply in the interest of domination, but also critical hope and collective struggle that the importance of ideas and the role of intellectuals matter in such dark times.

As the commercial machinery and repressive apparatuses run by the neoliberal and right-wing zombies undermine public space and condemn more and more people to the status of disposable populations, it is all the more crucial that academics, artists, and other intellectuals mobilize their resources in order to fight the loss of vision and the exhaustion of politics that has paralyzed American society for decades. As stated in the manifesto from “Left Turn,” the key here is to “link struggles that have for decades been seen as discrete, with a broad anti-capitalist project whose objective is the radical transformation of economic, political, personal and social relations.”[31]

It is precisely over the creation of alternative democratic public spheres that such a struggle against neoliberal, economic Darwinism can and should be waged by academics, intellectuals, artists, and other cultural workers. Higher education, labor unions, the alternative media and progressive social movements offer important sites for academics and other intellectuals to form alliances, reach out to a broader public and align with larger social movements. Critical intellectuals must do whatever they can to nurture formative critical cultures and social movements that can dream beyond the “mad-agency that is power in a new form, death-in-life.”[32] At the same time, they must challenge all aspects of the neoliberal disciplinary apparatus – from its institutions of power to its pedagogical modes of rationality – in order to make its politics, pedagogy and hidden registers of power visible. Only then will the struggle for the renewal of peace and justice become possible.

Notes

1. Danila Perdomo, “Is John Stossel More Dangerous Than Glenn Beck,” Alternet (July 3, 2010). Online here.
2. Michael Leahy, “Michele Bachmann is Cool to Mainstream Media, and an Increasingly Hot Property,” The Washington Post (June 4, 2010), p. CO1.
3. Ibid.
4. The term upscaling of ignorance was posted to my Facebook page by David Ayers.
5. Richard Cohen, “When Politics Goes primitive,” The Washington Post (July 6, 2010), p. A13.
6. Ibid.
7. J. M. Bernstein, “The Very Angry Tea Party,” New York Times (June 13, 2010). Online here.
8. Ibid.
9. Robin Wilson, “Tenure, RIP: What the Vanishing Status Means for the Future of Higher Education,” The Chronicle of Higher Education (July 4, 2010. Online here.
10. Zygmunt Bauman, “The Art of Life,” (London: Polity Press, 2008), p. 88
11. On the pernicious effects of inequality in American society, see Tony Judt, “Ill Fares the Land,” (New York: Penguin Press, 2010). Also see, Göran Therborn, “The Killing Fields of Inequality,” Open Democracy (April 6, 2009). Online here.
12. C. Wright Mills, “The Politics of Truth: Selected Writings of C. Wright Mills,” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 200.
13. Stanley Aronowitz, “Against Schooling: Education and Social Class,” (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2008), p. xii.
14. Kate Zernike, “Making College ‘Relevant’,” The New York Times, (January 3, 2010), p. ED16.
15. While this critique has been made by many critics, it has also been made recently by the president of Harvard University. See Drew Gilpin Faust, “The University’s Crisis of Purpose,” The New York Times, (September 6, 2009). Online here.
16. Kate Zernike, “Making College ‘Relevant’,” P. ED 16.
17. Harvey cited in Stephen Pender, “An Interview with Davidy Harvey,” Studies in Social Justice 1:1 (Winter 2007), p. 14.
18. Cornelius Castoriadis, “Democracy as Procedure and democracy as Regime,” Constellations 4:1 (1997), p. 5.
19. Stuart Hall, “Epilogue: Through the Prism of an Intellectual Life,” in “Brian Meeks, Culture, Politics, Race, and Diaspora: The Thought of Stuart Hall,” (Miami: Ian Rundle Publishers, 2007), pp. 289-290.
20. See also Henry A. Giroux and Susan Searls Giroux, “Take Back Higher Education,” (New York: Palgrave, 2004).
21. Jacques Ranciere, “On the Shores of Politics,” (London: Verso Press, 1995), p. 3.
22. Edward Said, “Humanism and Democratic Criticism,” (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), p. 50.
23. C. Wright Mills, “Culture and Politics: The Fourth Epoch,” “The Politics of Truth: Selected Writings of C. Wright Mills,” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 199.
24. C. Wright Mills, “On Politics,” The Sociological Imagination, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 193.
25. Cornelius Castoriadis, “Democracy as Procedure and Democracy as Regime,” Constellations 4:1 (1997), p. 10.
26. See, especially John Dewey, “The Public and Its Problems,” (New York: Swallow Press, 1954).
27. John Keane, “Journalism and Democracy Across Borders,” in Geneva Overholser and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, eds. The Press: The Institutions of American Democracy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 92-114.
28. See, especially, H. Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” third edition, revised (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968); and J. Dewey, “Liberalism and Social Action,” orig. 1935 (New York: Prometheus Press, 1999).
29. Cited in Stephen Pender, “In Interview with David Harvey,” Studies in Social Justice 4:1 (Winter 2007), p.14.
30. Fulvia Carnevale and John Kelsey, “Art of the Possible: An Interview with Jacques Rancière,” Artforum, (March 2007), pp. 259-260.
31. Manifesto, “Left Turn: An Open Letter to U.S. Radicals,” (New York: The fifteenth Street Manifesto Group, March 2008), p. 6.
32. I have borrowed this term from my colleague David L. Clark.

Due to popular rage at the ban on reporters and photographers from within 65 feet of the oil spill, Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen has rescinded the ban.

Specifically, Allen announced tonight that the media will have full access, as long as they do not interfere with safety or security:

National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen today announced new procedures to allow media free travel within the 20-meter boom safety zones if they have followed simple procedures for credentialing, and provided they follow certain rules and guidelines.

“I have put out a direction that the press are to have clear, unfettered access to this event, with two exceptions — if there is a safety or security concern,” said Allen. “This boom is critical to the defense of the marshes and the beaches.”

“We need to discriminate between media, which have a reason to be there and somebody who’s hanging around when we know that we’ve had equipment vital to this region damaged,” Allen said.

Previously, media were required to contact local authorities each time they wished to access booming operations. The 20-meter safety zone was created to prevent boats from going over the top of booms; it is not intended to limit media access.

This step will further expand media access to frontlines of the BP oil spill response, and ensure that media representatives have the access they need to report this historic response-while maintaining the effectiveness of more than 560 miles of protective boom currently deployed to protect sensitive shorelines along the Gulf Coast.

A credential will be issued for media representatives to carry and display as needed for the duration of the response. Media representatives can obtain credentials by providing their name, media affiliation, and contact information to the Unified Area Command Joint Information Center at [email protected].

The credential outlines safety and security guidelines for media access-including adherence to all federal, state and local navigation rules and regulations, and other common-sense guidelines designed to protect boom while keeping everyone safe.

“We have provided unprecedented media access to the largest oil spill response in US history. We want the media and the public to see the tremendous unity of effort of 40,000 federal, state and local responders. We have provided hundreds of embarks on CG vessels and aircraft and we are offering overnight visits on a 210-foot Cutter forty miles offshore at the well site. We believe that by providing the media credentials for vessels, we will increase the ability of the media and the public to see the response effort,” said Captain Jim McPherson, USCG spokesman.

Reporters who are denied access to any part of the response can call the UAC JIC at (713) 323-1670 for immediate assistance.

Congratulations to photographers like Julie Dermansky, who have tirelessly documented what’s really going on.

Congratulations to Anderson Cooper, who showed that a mainstream reporter can demand access.

Congratulations to the First Amendment.

Picture: Agents provocateurs at SPP protest in Montebello in 2007

Smoke and Mirrors

Two weeks after the G20 protests in Toronto it is becoming more and more apparent that what many of us suspected is indeed true: the June 26 ‘violence’ (i.e. property damage and police-car fires) was most likely perpetrated by agents provocateurs of the police. I recall walking back down Yonge Street after the June 26 demonstration and seeing smashed commercial windows and later watching the spectacle of burning police cars on the mainstream news; it all seemed surreal and quite staged.  It felt a bit like being in a parallel universe.  The demonstration broadcast on TV was not the demo I had just come from. None of the folks I was with during the demonstration saw windows being smashed or cars being set on fire, and when we saw the spectacle plaid out in the media we instantly knew that the vandalism was either staged or provoked, or both. Now evidence is beginning to surface that proves that these acts were at least partly carried out by undercover agents. As was the case at the ‘Security and Prosperity Partnership’ meeting protests at Montebello Quebec on August 20, 2007, it is the agents’ boots that gives them away. In a recent article, Terry Burrows draws on photos from the Globe and Mail to demonstrate that ‘black bloc’ provocateurs and the uniformed armoured police were wearing in Toronto (as at Montebello) the identical government issued combat boots” [1]. 

It’s likely that the agents provocateurs went off with other ‘black block’ people away from the larger march to set the stage for what Burrows aptly calls a “massive government / media propaganda fraud.” This orchestrated spectacle of violence and destruction has at least three main functions or effects: it diverts attention away from the G8/G20 and any discussion on how they serve to plunder and exploit the world’s resources, peoples and economies (the very issues raised by protestors); it serves to demonize demonstrators and delegitimize much-needed dissent and protest against global capitalism and its aforementioned devastation and; it serves to justify the billion dollar security bill that Harper put on the Canadian people. After weeks of insisting that the grounds for a one billion dollar police presence was specifically to stop so called black block tactics and ‘violent groups,’ when the time came police were no where to be seen and/or were given clear orders from the command centre that said “Do not engage,” meaning to stand down and do nothing [2].

Rather than ‘protect’ the downtown district from violence and property damage, police actually used their resources and hugely disproportionate presence to demonize, intimidate and corral protestors. In Toronto police used what Catherine Porter of the Toronto Star calls the Miami Model [3]. This model is used by police agencies at demonstrations across the globe from Genoa to Pittsburgh. As Porter explicates, the formula includes a number of now-common police tactics: The first is information warfare. Leading up to the demonstrations protestors are criminalized and dehumanized, presented as ‘terrorists’ and ‘threats’ that the city needs to defend against. Then there is intimidation, wherein police conduct random searches of perceived activists, midnight raids on organizers’ homes before demonstrations etc. Another tactic is the self-defense rationale by police that “they threw rocks” so we had to use tear gas, rubber bullets and make arrests. In Toronto, rock-throwing, window-smashing  “thugs” (as Harper called them), burning cars, and the over 1000 people arrested—only 263 of whom were charged with anything other than breach of the peace [4]—are part of a carefully orchestrated diversion and serve as scapegoats that allow the Canadian national security state to justify the insane cost of security for the summit as well as its police-state tactics and the increased militarization of public engagement. The last ingredient of the model is the police congratulating themselves for a “job well done” regardless of how many people are needlessly arrested (most of them never charged) or abused in the process.

The corporate media are complicit in this model and, as one would expect the result of implementing it is that protestors are demonized in the mainstream and legitimate dissent is therefore delegitimized. The real issues and the grievances of the protestors unfortunately never make the news and instead the act of demonstrating becomes the point of focus. The spectacle of ‘violent protests’ and/or ‘riots’ dominates the headlines and is subterfuge for any discussion on or critique of the G8/G20 and global capitalism.

The Truth Will Come Out

It is hopeful that in the days, weeks and months to come government and police will be forced to admit (under similar circumstances as in Montebello, Quebec in 2007) that much of the vandalism and fire-setting was undertaken by those encouraged, directly or indirectly, by agents provocateurs. It is also hopeful that police will have to answer for their disgraceful tactics—bolstered by regulation—during the G20 demonstrations (in fact a June 9 announcement was made that the Ontario Ombudsman is launching an investigation into the controversial security regulation passed by the province prior to the June 26-27 G20 summit) [5]. These tactics, apart from mass indiscriminate arrests, include arresting and beating a deaf man; arresting without-cause and violently removing the prosthetic leg of an amputee; strip searching young women in the make shift detention centre and threatening an Independent Media Centre (IMC) journalist with “gang rape;” and also using an electrical Taser device on another IMC reporter with a heart pacer despite having been informed of his condition and told not to use the devise on him [6].

It has also recently surfaced that the much-feared five-meter rule never even existed. As it turns out a temporary regulation affecting the Public Works Protection Act, which was approved in secret by Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet on June 2 on the request of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, never existed in the manner that protestors and legal counsel were led to believe. The media was complicit in underreporting the approval of the regulation initially on June 2 until they finally dropped the bombshell only days before the demonstrations, not allowing protestors and their legal team to properly and thoroughly examine the regulation. As a result the regulation was misinterpreted by protestors and misapplied by the police to an area beyond the security fence, when in actuality it was in regards to an area inside the security zone all along [7]. Toronto Police chief Bill Blair has admitted that he allowed the five-metre rule to be “misinterpreted” by citizens in order to “keep the criminals out.” Ultimately, it was little more than a trap—one that led both the police on the ground and the protestors to exaggerate the powers police legally had to search individuals and demand identification.

Exposing duplicitous regulatory maneuvers and ‘black block’ agents in government issued attire is without question a necessity and a positive thing for our movements. So too are the demands for a public inquiry into the heinous and illegal tactics of the police against people on the streets.  It is critical that we expose the state as corrupt and demonstrate that it will break the law and trample all over our charter and human rights in the process of protecting global capital. If these issues are given more than cursory attention in the mainstream media it will serve to show the state’s despotic hand, and delegitimize police claims and actions against protestors. Still the images of burning cars and broken windows will forever live in the public imagination and many are likely to think of protestors as thugs, even after the police admit they placed agents provocateurs in our midst. 

If 9/11 has taught us anything it is that holes in the ‘official story’ unfortunately do little to raise mass suspicion or scrutiny. Simply put, focusing on exposing police and government fraud, lies and abuses is very important but also puts us in a reactionary position with respect to the state. While a focus on the abuses of civil liberties and human rights that occurred during the G20 demonstrations in Toronto is hugely important, it simultaneously serves as yet another departure from the issues we initially came out to protest (the systematic global devastation of people and the environment wrought by the policies of the G8 and G20, and global capitalism generally).

Time to Reassess our Tactics

What is ever more apparent and frustrating is that our movements seem to be increasingly unwilling pawns in a larger systematic strategy designed to distract people away from any critique of the international banking structure and global capitalism while undermining the tactics and hindering the transformative potential of resistance movements. At sanctioned and even unsanctioned marches protestor’s physical movements are increasingly limited and dictated by police and the state. During the G20 demonstrations police corraled and herded us, holding us where they wanted us, stopping the march long enough for riot cops to get into position ahead of us, blocking off key intersections, and attempting to insight some form of ‘violent’ response.  As Porter explains, a popular police tactic is “kettling.” Here, “Officers on bike or horses herd protesters into an enclosed space, so they can’t leave without trying to break through the police line. Take the bait; you provoke a beating or arrest.” In the end, the June 26 march in Toronto did not get anywhere near the much hyped about security fence. And even if it had, focusing on “getting to the fence” is not the goal or purpose of the global justice movement (one should hope). It was hard not to feel herded during the demonstration, almost like walking into a trap. They ultimately used our march to create media distractions/spectacles and set us up as being “violent.” As has happened before, our message did not get out; it did not reach the public. In other words, the police state/media used our demonstrations to create and/or perpetuate a negative image of protest in the public eye.

Maybe we need to change our tactics, perhaps holding our demonstrations away from downtown/summit locations so that the state will have no one to frame and scapegoat for their staged vandalism, fires etc., and no ways of justifying these huge security budgets [8]. Simply put, perhaps it is time to change our organizational, mobilization and agitation model(s) since the police state seems to repeatedly set traps for activists and demonstrators, and use us—with the help of the corporate media—as a diversion from any real discussion of the global social justice issues we are attempting to raise and promote. It may be necessary to consider whether existing forms of resistance and agitation serve to help our movements and causes or undermines them and put us in harms way. Alternative strategies that may be worth exploring could involve organizing in a more covert fashion so that the state does not know exactly when and where to expect us.  We could even use the fact that they infiltrate our meetings and mobilization campaigns against them. Here we could purposely spread misinformation at meetings and online about proposed events and demonstrations, leading the state and police to deploy resources and security goons to protests that never materialize. In the case of the G20 demonstrations in Toronto, if we were not there to be arrested by the hundreds and framed for smashing windows and burning cars, the Canadian security state would not be able to justify its billion dollar security budget. What if instead of protesting downtown in the designated zones they expect us to be in, beside the summits, we held our acts of resistance and opposition outside of the city altogether [9]? Then what?  Could they blame or frame us for their staged acts of violence if there is no one there to ‘police’ save for a handful of undercover agents posing as ‘black bloc’? If we refused to play our part in the “Miami Model” it may help to show their hand.

It seems clear by now that the state’s policy is one of staging or inciting violence one day (while conveniently not arresting anyone during the actual occurrence of the violence) and then rounding up hundreds of protectors the next day and throwing them in jail (though they are not linked to the violence). The media helps create the manufactured connection between the arrests and the violence by incessantly looping images of smashed windows and burning cars one day and then images of mass arrests and sound bite headlines about the numbers of arrests etc. without any explanation or contextualization so as to suggest (without words) that the arrests must be somehow linked to the violence of the day before. We could deploy a counter-tactic that is fluid—such that if violence and/or property damage were to occur due to so-called black bloc tactics; we do not stick around waiting to be arrested the next day. We could have a contingency plan that dictates that when/if (staged) violence erupts; we disband and regroup according to media savvy back-up plans, perhaps moving our actions completely outside of the downtown area. This is one way to send the public a message of disowning the violence so that we cannot be faulted or scapegoated for it. Ultimately, our publicized plans for demonstrations should be used as bait to mislead and expose the police and media [10]. In turn we gain politically by humiliating the police and leaving nothing for the media to photograph except legions of over-funded riot cops and their undercover agents.  

I want to suggest to all of those who are opposed to global capitalism (and its goon the capitalist police state) and the myriad destructions it renders unto the majority of the world and the environment, that perhaps it is time for our resistance movements to get a little more savvy and creative; to use misinformation and infiltration as they have done on us, and perhaps to move our organization and mobilizations underground instead of listing every planned event or action on our websites for the state to read and the media to broadcast. No more being pawns in a rigged game. This is not a retreat; quite the contrary it is a movement toward an evolution in strategy and tactics that may put us a few steps ahead of the capitalist state and ensure both the survival of our movements and the advancement of our agendas and causes.  It is time for us to consider whether protests/ demonstrations (and social movement organization and mobilization generally) in their current form further our cause(s) and affect palpable change. Stop being their pawn and start playing with the system. Just something to think about…

Ghada Chehade is a doctoral candidate, activist and poet living in Montreal

 
 

Notes

[1] http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=19928  

[2] http://m.torontosun.com/14564416.1?fullscreen  

[3] http://www.thestar.com/article/828876–porter-when-police-stick-to-phony-script  

[4] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto/independent-review-of-toronto-police-g20-conduct-moves-ahead/article1629887/  

[5] http://www.ombudsman.on.ca/en/media/press-releases/2010/ontario-ombudsman-to-investigate-g20-security-regulation.aspx  

[6] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/g8-g20/toronto/deaf-man-arrested-in-g20-protest-gets-bail/article1619559  

http://niagaraatlarge.com/2010/07/05/thorold-ontario-amputee-has-his-artificial-leg-ripped-off-by-police-and-is-slammed-in-makeshift-cell-during-g20-summit-–-at-least-one-ontario-mpp-calls-the-whole-episode-“shocking/  

http://vimeo.com/12925239  

http://vimeo.com/12924829  

[7] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/adam-radwanski/a-timeline-on-the-g20-five-metre-rule-that-didnt-exist/article1626001/  

[8] & [9]- I want to thank my comrades Malinda Francis and Katherine Francis for turning me onto this idea and helping to flush it out.

[10] To my knowledge this counter-tactic of misinforming, trapping, and/or misleading police and the media is not one that has been previously proposed. It grows out of a larger argument I am currently formulating as part of my doctoral research.

Scare-Mongering Keeps Us from Fixing the Economy

July 13th, 2010 by Mike Whitney

There are remedies for recession, and the remedies are well known. But fixing the economy requires special medicine, fiscal stimulus, and if the patient does not take the medicine, he will not improve. It’s not enough to have the medicine sitting on one’s nightstand. It must be ingested before recovery can begin.

Opponents of stimulus say that it doesn’t work. But before Obama launched his $787 billion recovery program, the economy was shedding 750,000 jobs per month for 6 consecutive months. Manufacturing and exports were plunging faster then during the Great Depression. Now unemployment has leveled off at 9.5% and manufacturing, exports, retail and personal consumption have all rebounded. This did not happen by accident. The economy is responding to government spending. Stimulus works.

There’s nothing mysterious about stimulus. It’s quite simple and does not require a degree in economics to understand. Spending creates economic activity; economic activity creates growth. Full stop. The economy does not care if households  are spending or if the government is spending. It doesn’t matter. The result is the same–more economic activity, more growth. The opposite of spending is saving. When consumers save–as they are now because their balance sheets are underwater– and businesses save–because consumer demand drops off; then the economy can shrink very fast unless the government steps in and keeps the economy running with deficit spending. Thus, personal savings equal government deficits.

This is what British economist John Maynard Keynes figured out; how to soften the business cycle, how to make capitalism less savage and less crisis prone. Keynes developed his theories during a period when many intellectuals and workers groups had given up on capitalism altogether and turned to Marxism as an alternative. These people saw a version of capitalism that we see today, where bankers and corporate chieftains control the political system and use it to rip off investors with toxic mortgages, or drag the country to war on a pack of lies, or despoil the environment with impunity. Every generation has its Tony Haywards and Goldman Sachs.

Keynes dignified capitalism; elevated it. (perhaps more than it deserved)  He believed that free markets created a better environment for personal liberty and happiness. But he did not believe that the market was “self correcting”, or that markets operated best when left alone. Government has a role to play in the business cycle, and when it performs as it should, a great deal of pain and human suffering can be avoided.

Keynes believed that governments should try to keep their budgets in surplus. It’s true; Keynes was not the “Big spender” that his critics think. In Robert Skidelsky’s timely and invaluable book, “Keynes: The Return of the Master”, the author dispels many of the illusions about Keynes. Skidelsky believes that Keynes would have opposed the “financial innovations” which led to the present meltdown. As he notes, “Complexity for its own sake had no appeal for him.”

So there is a way out of recession, a way to sidestep the excruciating downward spiral of debt deflation, high unemployment and social unrest. There are ways to tame capitalism so that a criminal elite are not killing people in foreign countries, or fleecing investors with their garbage securities, or poisoning entire sections of the country with their  pollutants. But fixing the system requires medicine; regulation, stimulus (when needed) and accountability.

Right now, demand is weak, Obama’s stimulus is running out, and the economy is beginning to teeter. Housing prices have begun to fall (again), consumer spending is off, businesses are hoarding, consumer credit is shrinking by nearly 5% per year, manufacturing has begun to slow, bank lending is down, and the Fed has ended its bond purchasing and liquidity programs. Without additional government spending, the economy will slip back into recession. The recovery is stimulus driven; it is not self sustaining.

Austerity measures are precisely the wrong remedy, just as cutting off unemployment benefits or slashing federal aid to the states is the wrong remedy. These actions reduce spending, weaken the economy and clear the way for depression. Again, this is already “settled” economics. The GOP needs Obama’s recovery plan to fail to improve their chances for a landslide in the November midterms. It’s all politics. The fearmongering about the deficits is more of the same; politics. Belt-tightening is not the way out of a slump.

Principled conservatives believe that “the bad debt must be purged” before the economy can recover. But this is economics, not religion. The economy functions according to some very basic principles and doesn’t care about our moral pretensions. 

Some conservatives are too focused on the money supply. But in a liquidity trap–where interest rates are already “zero-bound”–the Fed can pump up the money supply (the Fed has increased banks reserves by over $1 trillion) and the economy will still contract. Milton Friedman was wrong; money supply does not drive the economy. Spending does. The money must get into the hands of the people who will spend it, which is why the economy runs better at full employment.

What’s needed now, is more investment. But businesses have set aside a record amount of cash because there’s no need to increase capacity when the health of the consumer is in doubt. Who will buy their products, that’s the question? That’s is why Keynesians focus  aggregate demand rather than on money supply. Consumption and investment are both spending and–as we noted earlier–spending generates activity and grows the economy. Money sans velocity (the rate of spending) achieves nothing; the economy will continue to languish. Presently, there is no suitable outlet for investment because households are cutting back to patch their balance sheets. Government can help by increasing deficits and putting people to work. Then business investment will resume, state revenues will increase, and the economy will rebound. Deficits work.

Fear-mongering about the deficits is a political calculation to win elections and strangle popular social programs. It has no economic value. If deficits were a problem, the yields on government debt (US Treasuries) would go up. But yields are historically low and headed lower. The GOP says that deficits are a problem. The market says that deficits are not a problem. Who is right and who is wrong? Smart people will trust the market and ignore the political opportunists.

There is no danger of inflation. The inflationists are wrong, just like the deficit hawks are wrong. They have been wrong for the last three years and they will continue to be wrong for the foreseeable future. The CPI is falling, commodities are teetering, gold is hanging by a thread. Without fiscal stimulus the economy will contract. And Fed chair Ben  Bernanke is likely to let the economy contract by suspending quantitative easing (the bond purchasing program) until after the midterm elections. Why? Because Wall Street is mad that Obama criticized the banks publicly.  The financial sector has its shifted support to the GOP. As an agent of the big banks, Bernanke will act on their behalf and withhold support until after the elections.  That will ensure  two years of political gridlock until Obama steps down in 2004.

The reason that so many professional economists (Stiglitz, Baker, Reich, Thoma, Weisbrot, Krugman etc) are frustrated with policymakers, is not because they are “ideological” or “Keynesian” or narrow minded, but because the matter has already been settled. We know what needs to be done to revive the economy. It’s just a matter of doing it.

Libyan Ship with Humanitarian Supplies Sails to Gaza

July 13th, 2010 by Global Research

Gaza, — Al-Amal, aid boat continued its trip to Gaza despite the Israeli threats of preventing by any means to reached blocked Gaza Strip and contradictory reports about his destination.

 
The aid ship of Moldavian flag renamed Al-Amal which means “Hope” in Arabic, sailed on Saturday from Cypriot port of Lavrio, south of Athens, carrying 2,000 tones of humanitarian aid donated by a Libyan charity foundation.

Activists in solidarity with the Palestinian people warned about an apparent campaign of misinformation of Israeli government intended to generate confusion and to the discourage peace initiative.

The ship sailed in Greece after being subjected to inspection by the authorities of that country, although no official confirmation versions report that under a subsequent agreement the aid ship shall make shore in the Egyptian port of Al-Arish.

In the middle of the confusion, the organizers of the aid ship and Palestinian Islamist lawmakers reiterated on Sunday that they will keep the original itinerary, despite diplomatic assurances from Greece supposed to finally go to Al-Arish.

Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister said that the further attempt to reach Gaza coasts challenging the naval and land blockade imposed since 2006 will be averted because Tel Aviv considers it an unnecessary provocation.

The administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also intensified its diplomatic efforts with Moldova and Greece to try to divert the ship to Egypt and to transferred the aid by land through the Rafah crossing.

Israel imposed a naval and land blockade to this area after the electoral victory of Hamas Islamist group, which they consider terrorist, and it intensified it after the organization took control of territory by driving out opponent Fatah in June 2007.

Israeli threat takes place after the Zionist navy intercepted at sea Liberty aid fleet carrying more than 10 thousand tons of humanitarian aid and construction materials, killing nine and wounding 48 pacifists.

Joshua Frank is an American progressive journalist and noted anti-war columnist. His articles and commentaries have appeared on CounterPunch, Z Magazine, AntiWar.com, Truthout and Alternet. He is author of “Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush” and co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland.

Joshua took part in an interview with me to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East region, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the prospect of Israel-U.S. relations, the recent controversy over the Freedom Flotilla attack and the media propaganda against Iran. Here is the complete text of our interview.

Kourosh Ziabari: What’s the main reason behind the United States’ unconditional support for the state of Israel? In his early days of assuming office, President Obama failed to address the international community’s concern regarding the Operation Cast Lead in which the Israeli forces killed more than 1,300 Palestinian citizens. Moreover, it seems that the United States has retreated from its stance regarding the ongoing Israeli settlements on the Palestinian lands. Why is the relationship between the United States and Israel so profound that makes Israel immune to international law? Why is the United States always “committed” to the security of Israel?

Joshua Frank: I believe that the U.S.’s seemingly unconditional support of Israel is a complicated, multifaceted issue. First and foremost, Israel is a strategic ally for the U.S. interests in the region. As you know, there aren’t many countries in the Middle East that support the United States’ military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor do many countries see much of the benefit of the U.S. companies’ profiting from their imperial resource extraction ventures. So Israel plays a powerful role in supporting the U.S. in these endeavors, if not directly, then at least politically and tactically. Military-wise, Israel is the most powerful country in the area, with a large nuclear cache and airports the serve the U.S. military uses often for its endeavors. After the Camp David Accords the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers actually helped construct Israeli Air Bases in the Negev Desert.

Likewise, Israel needs the U.S. to support its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. Without U.S. backing, the Israel government could not afford its ongoing military forays. Indeed, the U.S. also plays a substantial role in deflecting criticism of Israel’s ongoing human rights violations, whether by flexing muscle on the UN Security Council or in the court of public opinion. Israel can most often rely on the U.S. to support its actions, illegal or otherwise, be they the invasion on Lebanon or the recent Flotilla attack. A lot of critics of Israel point their finger solely at the pro-Israeli lobby in the U.S. as the primary reason behind the U.S. close relationship to Israel. While the lobby is certainly strong, the U.S. Empire is stronger, and in fact I would argue, actually uses the Israel lobby to its benefit. It’s a symbiotic relationship, and not entirely one-sided as many Zionist-conspiracy theorists seem to argue.

KZ: Israel possesses up to 200 nuclear warheads and this figure is confirmed by a number of international organizations, including the Federation of American Scientists; however, it’s Iran which is being pressured over its nuclear program. How do the United States and its European allies justify their double standards regarding Iran’s nuclear program? There’s no proof that Iran has moved towards building nuclear weapons, but everybody knows that the Israeli nuclear technician Mordecai Vanunu has released the evidences which indicate that Israel has accumulated a number of nuclear bombs in its arsenal. What’s your idea?

JF: I think you sort of answered your own question. The U.S. doesn’t have to justify their double standards to anyone, especially not the international community. It’s also about how the western world views itself, that our actions are always genuine and justified. Through this distorted lens Israel can view itself as the victim and not the perpetrator. So whereas Iran’s alleged nuclear program, real or mythical, is seen as a threat, Israel’s existing arsenal that could detonate the entire Middle East is for peace of mind, because you just never know when those darn Arabs will attack for no reason at all!

It may sound ridiculous, sure, but there are many people who follow this line of thinking. Of course, they can blame it on militant strains of Islam, which certainly has its problems, but by and large the outrage directed toward Israel is cross-sectional because so many of the country’s policies are overtly arrogant. Of course, even within the country you have plenty of lively dissent, much of which does not get its due attention in the mainstream press. Vanunu is one historical figure example of this movement, a movement that is growing by the day.

KZ: Iran is under the spates of black propaganda by the western mainstream media. The western media depict Iranian nation as a backward, uncivilized and extremist people. How is it possible to acquaint the western public with the unseen and concealed realities of Iran?

JF: I think the new media is already breaking through this propaganda very effectively. I also believe there are plenty of people in western countries that know governments don’t always represent the interests of the masses. The Iranian government is reckless to be sure, but that doesn’t mean all Iranians agree with every single policy; same story for voting Jews that live in Israel. It is naiive to think all Jews support the occupation of Palestine. Many do of course, but there are many that also believe it is illegal, unjust and counterproductive to achieving peace in the region.

The bigger issue is that Westerners are consistently inundated with misinformation. The U.S. government for example, has to continually sedate its citizens into compliance. It’s brilliantly executed time and again and it’s the reason why the antiwar movement, for instance, is virtually non-existent in this country at the moment. Even those that oppose the escalation of war in Afghanistan are by and large silent. That wasn’t the case during the Bush era, where a surge in troop levels combined failure of an exit strategy would have forced tens of thousands into the streets. But since liberals and progressives now have their liberal Obama, mums the word. They’ve been scared into complacency by the propaganda of “change” and “hope”. They are literally afraid to resist the man they worked so hard to elect. It’s a special kind of trepidation. Meanwhile, the PATRIOT Act gets reaffirmed, billions more is passed for war funding and U.S. soldiers continue to die in two endless, directionless wars.

KZ: It seems that whoever wants to rise to prominence as a potential choice for presidency in the United States should avow his commitment to the security and stability of Israel, even at the cost of killing thousands of people or destructing the other countries. As you quoted him in one of your articles, Barack Obama had told a crowd of pro-Israeli Americans that he would never put the military option off the table concerning Iran’s nuclear program. My question is that, is the Israeli lobby so powerful and influential in the United States that even determines the destiny of White House?

JF: It’s bigger than that, I think. Like I said, it’s not the lobby that determines the destiny of the White House, it is the Empire apparatus that does. For example, Obama, had he challenged U.S. imperialism during his campaign and tenure in the Senate, would never have been supported by the arms industry, the oil companies and the like. The Israel lobby is just one of these major forces and shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. The energy cartels, I think, have just as much or even more sway over the administration, as the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico so boldly symbolizes. Same goes for the corporate GM food giants, the pharmaceutical industry, military contractors among others. Ultimately it is about corporate and military domination of public policy and the pro-Israel lobby is one of the big players, but not the only one that holds the US government and the U.S. people hostage.

KZ: Some analysts believe that Israel has paved the ground for its growing isolation by unjustifiably attacking the Freedom Flotilla. As an instance, the government of Nicaragua decided to sever its diplomatic ties with Israel. What’s your estimation? Will the state of Israel succeed in getting through with this pivotal juncture safely?

JF: The Freedom Flotilla was a horrific, bloody episode that will surely be notched up as another military defeat for Israel. Anytime this sort of thing happens, Israel has to work overtime to save face. Previously, and to a greater extent, I think the attack on Lebanon for dubious reasons was also a blemish for Israel power. They ended up having to halt their excursions and bombings because the international community by-and-large believed their actions were not justified.

I think, as Alexander Cockburn and others have pointed out, that this is an example of Israel’s power rapidly dwindling. The fact that Israel felt threatened by a Freedom Flotilla should be enough for anyone to realize that their use of force was not only illegal under international law, but unethical and a sign that they are losing the fight they started. Such bullying acts won’t win Israel many new supporters; it will only harden its militarist admirers.

KZ: Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren has called the IDF incursion into the Freedom Flotilla a human and responsible action. He likened the massacre of civilians onboard the Freedom Flotilla to the America’s fight against the Nazi Germany in the Second World War. What do you think about what he has said?

JF: Honestly I don’t think much about it. Military talking heads like Oren are pure vessels of propaganda. They will do whatever they can, soul already sold, to defend Israeli military actions. Internationally such rhetoric is taken at face value: never believe half of what Israel taking heads say — or any other political leaders for that matter — who spout in defense of such brutal actions. If anything, Oren is quite adept at employing the very Nazi propaganda he so despises.

KZ: It’s widely believed that the political regime of Israel will immediately collapse should the White House lift its support to Tel Aviv. Is it possible for Israel to survive without the U.S. backing? Will the influence of Israeli lobby over the corporate government of the United States allow any independent president to rise to power and oppose to Israel ideologically?

JF: Israel would certainly survive without U.S. backing, but in a much more modest capacity. As a supporter of a one state solution, I don’t believe any peace between Palestine and Israel will occur until the U.S. takes a more brokered approach. If Israel makes concessions and the U.S. backs off its monetary support, the international community will ensure that a new Israel, one that is truly democratic and less economically stratified, will survive in its place. I think that the American people would support a candidate that spoke truth to power with regard to Israel. They really haven’t had a chance to do it. Would the lobby accept this? Not likely, but nor would any of the other corporate and military powers that capitalize on American intentions in the Middle East.

KZ: What do you think about the U.S. and UK mainstream media which are said to be controlled by the Zionist owners and media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch? How do these media outlets shape reach-out to their international audiences and shape their opinions?

JF: Biased news and commentary is just that, biased, and plenty of outlets spew gross lies and propaganda. However, the new media is breaking ground every day. Here in the U.S. Glenn Greenwald’s analysis has become widely read, mainly because it’s free and uncensored on the web. As a result of his popularity, he is consistently being interviewed in the mainstream press and on popular cable news programs. This is just one example of alternative views making their way to the public. The freer the media, the more informed the public and the less censorship that ultimately occurs. So I’m hopeful that the Murdochs of the world will continually be challenged by this new reality.

KZ: What’s your prediction for the destiny of Israel in the Middle East? With a U.S. government which offers its unconditional support to Tel Aviv and the EU countries that follow the U.S. trajectory passively, can Israel rescue itself from the growing isolation it’s facing internationally?

JF: Israel will have to make large and significant compromises if it is to survive as a Jewish state. The world is watching their every move very closely. Despite the media blackout and the power of pro-Israel forces, the plight of Palestinians is being exposed daily, not only in other countries, but within Israel itself. Israelis are not all in support of the occupation and do not by any means believe it makes them any safer. On the contrary, it makes them less safe.

The bigger question is, can the U.S. survive in its current state? Can the U.S. continue to exploit the resources and people of the Middle East for its own profit and greed? Can it abuse and exploit its own people for much longer? I don’t believe so. Our economy is crumbing and our military is overextended and local budgets continue to dip into the red. We simply cannot continue to expand U.S. Empire. And when the U.S. Empire falls, Israel’s power and ego will be deflated as well. Again, it’s a symbiotic relationship and intimately intertwined.

VIDEO: Afghan Protests Against NATO Raid in Full Swing

July 12th, 2010 by Global Research

 

Afghans hold a banner which reads” We want to form our Islamic government to stop the wilful operations of the foreign forces in Afghanistan” during a demonstration in Mazar-i- Sharif, Balkh province, north of Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday, July 10, 2010

In northern Afghanistan, over 1,000 people have joined a protest to demand foreign troops get out of the country.

The rally in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif was sparked by a NATO raid on a market in which two local security guards were killed.

The demonstrators insist the two posed no threat, but the alliance says they were shot after refusing to put down their weapons.

The raid has added to the growing anger over the number of civilian deaths in the country.

On Friday, NATO accepted blame for accidentally killing six civilians in eastern Afghanistan.

Lizette Potgieter, a journalist in Kabul, gave RT her view on why the number of casualties keeps rising.

“I think one of the main reasons is because the allied forces are not collaborating with the Afghan government,” she argued.

“You also have the issue of the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police that have not been fully and properly trained by the foreign military forces,” Potgieter said. “And on the other hand, you have issues in the trouble areas with foreign troops who do not gather the correct information – they gather their own information, and it’s the wrong intelligence. They should actually work with the Afghan national government, get the correct information, and then launch operations.”

On June 30th, I noted that the Department of Energy had found that there were two section of drilling pipe lodge in the blowout preventer.

Yesterday, the Times-Picayune gave an update on this story, which includes competing interpretations about where the second section came from and what that means for the relief wells:

For the first time Friday, the Coast Guard and BP acknowledged that a mysterious second pipe, wedged next to the drill pipe in what remains of the Deepwater Horizon’s riser, is fouling up the works where the well is spewing hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“We used a diamond saw and we got inside. We found there was actually two sets of drill pipe there,” said retired Adm. Thad Allen, the top U.S. Coast Guard official overseeing the response to America’s worst-ever oil spill.

***

It “presumably fell down beside it as a result of the explosion and the riser pipe being bent over,” Allen said. He noted that the second pipe does not have oil shooting from it.

BP officials said late Friday that they believe the second pipe is drill pipe. Pictures show it is similar in diameter to the known drill pipe.

While Allen said he believes the second pipe fell from above, some experts have advanced another explanation. They believe poorly cemented casings — tubes that are supposed to form solid walls down thousands of feet of the well bore — may have been dislodged by the blast of natural gas that shot up out of the well and above the sea floor.

***

The idea that a loose pipe shot up from deeper in the well and prevented the shear ram from closing has been espoused by such experts as oil industry investment banker Matt Simmons and Bob Bea, a University of California at Berkeley engineer leading a scientific investigation into the blowout [Bea is an expert in offshore drilling and a high-level governmental adviser concerning disasters]. But others have wondered if the mystery pipe isn’t just a section of the same drill pipe that came loose, or even a pipe that fell down the riser from the rig 5,000 feet above.

The source of the second segment is key to determining the condition of the oil well beneath the seafloor. If Simmons and Bea are proven right, drilling the relief wells will be a lot more challenging.

Therefore, I hope they are wrong, and that the second drill pipe came from:

(1) a collapse of pipe above the blowout preventer;

or

(2) a miscellaneous segment of drilling pipe (drilling pipe is temporarily used in drilling a well, and is not the same as well casing or even well lining, which are permanently installed to support the well).

The second section of drill pipe is key to the oil leak story for another reason. As the Times-Picayune notes, it has contributed to problems in securely capping the leak from the point where it’s leaking so that more oil can be captured:

The presence of two pipes could have also contributed to BP’s failure to make a clean cut on the riser when securing the existing containment dome, inhibiting its ability to collect the maximum amount of oil.

***

Allen said the second pipe also led to a jagged cut on the larger riser pipe, forcing the response team to use the loose cap with a rubber seal. And now, the two pieces are forcing the team to spend several days tying them together and clearing the way for a new, hopefully more solid connection.

Finally, the two sections of drill pipe are important because they may have been one of the reasons that the blowout preventer failed in the first place.

As the Times-Picayune notes:

Some experts say a second piece of drill pipe in the riser could have prevented shear rams on the rig’s blowout preventer from sealing the well and permanently cutting off the flow of oil after the April 20 explosion.

Even if it turns out that this is one of the causes of the BOP’s failure, it might not be the only cause.

As I pointed out in May:

[Mike Williams, the chief electronics technician on the Deepwater Horizon, and one of the last workers to leave the doomed rig] claimed that the blowout preventer was then damaged [Several weeks before the Gulf oil explosion] when a crewman accidentally moved a joystick, applying hundreds of thousands of pounds of force. Pieces of rubber were found in the drilling fluid, which he said implied damage to a crucial seal. But a supervisor declared the find to be “not a big deal”, Mr Williams alleged.

I first knew Mozambique through close contact in Dar es Salaam with FRELIMO in the early and difficult years – the 1960s and the first-half of 1970s – of its armed liberation struggle. Then Mozambique was seeking both to unite itself and to find political and military purchase against an intransigent and arrogant Portuguese colonialism. And FRELIMO – under the leadership of, first, Eduardo Mondlane (to be assassinated by the Portuguese) and, after him, of Samora Machel – did indeed manage, by 1975, to lead the country to victory. Along the way, FRELIMO succeeded in liberating zones in Mozambique adjacent to its rear bases in Tanzania and Zambia where it built a new social infrastructure of agricultural coops, schools and health services. Equally important, it forged an impressive corps of politically conscious and disciplined leadership cadres (see Cabaço, 2001 and 2009).

Building Socialism

Then, in the very first years of Mozambique’s independence, FRELIMO also launched a bold experiment in socialist development. The intention: to implement a society-wide programme that would liberate the country’s economic potential while also meeting the needs of the vast majority of Mozambique’s population. The result? As Norrie MacQueen, a careful chronicler of the The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa (1997: pp. 236-7), would firmly state of former “Portuguese Africa,” the initial plans of Portugal’s “guerilla enemies” did offer “a clear alternative to the cynical manipulation of ethnicity and the neo-colonial complaisance of the kleptocratic elites who increasingly defined African governance in the 1970s and 1980s.” In sum,

“Whatever their fate, the projects of the post-independence regimes of lusophone Africa were probably the most principled and decent ever proposed for the continent. They have not been superseded in this regard and seem unlikely to be.”

This seems to me (as I have argued at length elsewhere) to have been especially true of the new Mozambique during its first heroic decade of independence. Equally dramatic, however, has been the reversal of direction that has taken place in the country since that time. For what we have now witnessed, in Alice Dinerman’s words (2006: pp. 19-20), is nothing less than a “rapid unraveling of the Mozambican revolution,” with the result that Mozambique:

“once considered a virtually peerless pioneer in forging a socialist pathway in Africa, … now enjoys an equally exceptional, if dialectically opposed, status: today the country is, in the eyes of the IMF and the World Bank, a flagship of neoliberal principles.”

Moreover, as Dinerman concludes,

“predictably, many of the leading government and party officials rank among the primary beneficiaries of the new political and economic dispensation. Those who enthusiastically promised that Mozambique would turn into a graveyard of capitalism are now the leading advocates of, and avid accumulators in, capitalism’s recent, full-blown resurrection.”

There are a number of possible explanations for such an outcome, and commentators have continued endlessly to debate their relative weight and significance. Certainly the country’s inheritance from colonial domination was a poor one, reflected in such weaknesses as the paucity of trained indigenous personnel and in an economic dependence that pulled the country strongly toward subordination to global dictate despite efforts to resist it. There was also the on-going regional war that made Mozambique the target of destructive incursions by white-dominated Rhodesia and South Africa and of the long drawn-out campaign of terror waged so callously and destructively by these countries’ sponsored ward, the RENAMO counter-revolutionary movement. Finally, and despite FRELIMO’s benign intentions, there were the movement’s own sins once in power, sins of vanguardist high-handedness and impatience and of the over-simplification of societal complexities and challenges. The latter weaknesses created additional obstacles of their own to further progress.

The results, in fact, have been bleak. For what now occurred, Bauer and Taylor suggest (2005: pp. 134-5), was the extremely rapid growth and dramatic spread of corruption (more or less unknown in the initial days of independence) in Mozambique, as well as a fevered “pursuit of individual profit [that has undermined] much of the legitimacy of FRELIMO party leaders, who [have taken] advantage of market-based opportunities, like privatization, to enrich themselves.” In short, as these authors then observe:

“the election of Guebuza [as the new President in 2002, and since], holder of an expansive business network and one of the richest men in Mozambique, hardly signals that FRELIMO will attempt to run on anything but a globalist, neoliberal agenda – regardless of the abject poverty suffered by most of its electorate.”

Such a somber conclusion seems to many observers an all too accurate one, unfortunately.

The Present Neoliberal Situation

Here, however, the main task of the present article comes clearly into focus: What is the nature of the present “globalist, neoliberal agenda”? What kind of prospects, if any, does it promise for the country? What alternatives to it exist, concretely? For it is much too late in the day for an article like the present one to stop at “mere” historical investigation or to preoccupy itself with the task of post-mortem and “might-have-beens.” Rather we must carefully assess the actually-existing moment in present-day Mozambique – while also seeking cautiously to divine the future. This is no small challenge, as we will see.

There are a number of competing paradigms that are proposed in order to shape any such assessment. One, quite straightforwardly, sees the current unapologetically capitalist project as marking a promising revival of sobriety in Mozambique. Here, at last (or so it is argued by elites both global and local), is an acceptance by FRELIMO and by the country it governs of the beneficent logic of global capitalism and the slow but certain working of the system’s developmental magic. And certain figures as to growth rate are generally cited to support this claim: for example, a report from the UNDP’s International Poverty Centre in 2007 quotes a growth rate for the preceding year of 7.9%, a rather impressive figure![1]

Yet the report also states this kind of growth rate – like similar statistics that are said to signal the country’s socio-economic progress since the end of the country’s wasting war in 1992 and the linked introduction of ever more accelerated “free market” reforms – to be “illusory at best.” As it affirms, “most of the growth in income and consumption actually occurred among the population’s richest quintile, with less than 10% of the growth affecting the country’s poorest.” Indeed, in the United Nation’s 2007/2008 Human Development Index, the country still ranked 172 out of 177 countries listed.

Two linked dimensions of this apparent growth stand out starkly here. First is the inescapable fact of the deep and widespread poverty thus alluded to. For even if some of the results in “growth” terms can seem mathematically positive, the national development and poverty reduction dividends of this impressive growth rate are virtually absent. In fact, the reality in terms of extreme maldistribution and its impact on people’s lives is most distressing. Hanlon (2009, and also 2007) gives a particularly clear account of the social distemper which “desperate poverty and hunger” has produced in both the rural and urban spaces, and he documents the “panic and rage of the poor” as “local people make a desperate attempt to regain some power – as a disempowered group finally taking a stand to defend its very survival.”

True, the organized working class does retain some space to negotiate better wages and working conditions and otherwise act to defend itself. Unions are able to operate freely and workers are able to choose whether or not to join a union. Central labour bodies have formed a “concertation” structure for acting upon issues of common interest and to participate in national policy discussions around public policy questions like establishment of minimum wage levels and changes in the labour law. Some unions, of the security guards for example, have acted especially militantly, taking wage and hours of work issues to labour tribunals and undertaking strike actions in the face of companies like the large transnational security company, G4S, which has flagrantly refused to follow Ministry of Labour rulings in the union’s favour.[2]

This being said, however, the space for workers challenges still remains severely limited, not only because of the structural factors that favour capital’s interests but also because the trade unions themselves seem to have too little sense of workers’ entitlements[3] – this in a context where (as Pitcher [2006] states, with impressive supportive citation) any apparent concessions to such workers must be balanced against “the reality of growing unemployment; a minimum wage that is insufficient to meet people’s needs; and inadequate efforts by the government to enforce aspects of the labour law regarding paid holidays, the regular payment of salaries and the punishment of employers who violate workers’ rights.”

A second dimension is the clear pattern of recolonization by global capital of the new Mozambique that is revealed. For the present salience of transnational firms and their “mega-projects” – on which the Mozambican elite has itself banked so heavily, not least in order to obtain lucrative sub-contracts for their own fledgling economic initiatives – virtually negates the presumed independence that “liberation” was said to have brought. The case of Mozal is a particularly graphic demonstration of the pattern, an aluminum plant that is said to be

“a symbol of Mozambique’s red-hot economy, touted as [indicative] of the investor-friendly environment that has led the Wall Street Journal to declare the country ‘An African success story.’ Mozal’s exports have increased Mozambique’s Gross Domestic Product by between 3.2 and 5 percent. Its output represents almost half the country’s growth in manufacturing.”

However, as the article continues,

“In spite of these apparent benefits this has contributed little to the country’s development. Initial investment in the project amounted to approximately 40 percent of GDP, but only created around 1,500 jobs, of which nearly a third are held by foreigners. The smelters use more electricity than the rest of Mozambique combined. The company imports most of its raw material and equipment duty-free, and enjoys an extensive list of incentives ranging from discounted electricity to a prolonged tax holiday. It also has the right to repatriate profits. The result is an isolated economic enclave that uses large quantities of scarce resources without returning revenue or jobs to the economy.”[4]

Castel-Branco (2008) and Pitcher (2006) document similar patterns, linked to mega-projects and to corporate free-booting, elsewhere throughout the Mozambican economy. Pitcher, for example, specifies the case of CFM, a public enterprise in the port and railways sector that was, until recently, “the largest employer in Mozambique,” where management has sought aggressively “to rationalize the work-force” and make other kinds of adjustments thought to be appropriate to the new era – albeit, as with related practices that Pitcher also documents for Mozal, this has not occurred without some attempted resistance from the workers concerned.

Meanwhile, Judith Marshall finds an even rawer example of the nature of the “new Mozambique” in the key role being played by the giant Brazilian multi-national, Vale, in a range of big mining, hydro-electric and transport projects in Tete Province. This is both central to the heralding (not least by President Guebaza himself) of a “Tete Corridor” initiative, but also of a new “high octane global economy that feeds China’s industrialization and in which Vale’s role is [to provide] unprocessed minerals.”[5] And what about Mozambique? All this, Marshall concludes, “has nothing to do with building a national economy – whether socialist or capitalist – or creating jobs and development for the citizens of a particular geo-political space.”[6] Recolonization by the Empire of Capital you say: you wouldn’t be wrong if you did.

Two Pillar Strategy

In practice, Mozambique seems to have come up with a two pillar development strategy. The first pillar is to open the economy to private investors to bring mega-projects to the energy and extractive sectors. These mega-projects are driven by the external demands of the industrialized countries, and include the active roles played by capital from countries like South Africa, Brazil and China. The role of the Mozambican state, the corporations themselves and civil society in these new projects is highly problematic, as Marshall and others demonstrate.

Moreover, such mega-projects have come on stream as merely one part of the tide of neoliberal economic and social restructuring. As a result, they are very far from feeding into a strategy of national economic development, one that might highlight job creation and links to plans for expanded industrialization – with royalties and taxes then being employed to benefit the surrounding communities and to underpin a broad range of social and redistributive programmes. Instead, they have been established in a way that implicitly negates the possibility of any kind of nationalist or developmental state emerging.

Indeed, such an influx of mega-projects in the extractive sector suggests an overall trend in Mozambique that has come to mirror what has also been happening with the “mining boom” in Latin America.[7] All kinds of conditions are being created to attract foreign private investment – from tax holidays to changes in mining and labour codes, to the waiving of environmental regulations. Of course, much public discourse turns on “corporate social responsibility” and on the promise of mining company largesse for the building of schools, clinics, roads and malaria eradication. Yet, behind the scenes, high stakes negotiations turn on tax and tariff waivers, changes in land, mining and labour legislation, the easing of environmental regulations and a distinctly casual attitude toward forced human resettlement. The stakes in these less than transparent negotiations are all the higher in that the complementary business opportunities related to these mega-project investments seem all too likely to be linked to the entrepreneurial interests of various government leaders.

With mega-projects in the extractive sector as one pillar of Mozambique’s economic strategy, the other pillar of the national economy, much documented by Hanlon, is defined by Mozambique’s having become a “donors’ darling”: a country that, as an apparent reward for its eager compliance with IMF and World Bank prescriptions and the periodic holding of multi-party elections (albeit with some donor concern about “irregularities” in their execution), receives significant amounts of foreign aid in order to finance social programmes. Of course, this has even produced a significant role for the state – linked to the provision of agriculture, health and education services – albeit one heavily subsidized by western donors.

The more cynical suggest that, even were quite modest levels of taxes and royalties demanded of investors, the Mozambican government could itself readily finance all the social programmes that it desired. Yet it chooses to establish no such taxes and royalties and to suffer instead the indignity of western donors who hover at the elbows of the Ministers of Health, Agriculture and Education. In fact, this pattern – low taxes, little government oversight – seems designed to clinch investment deals while also permitting government leaders to ingratiate themselves with investors, thereby laying the groundwork for such leaders, in their entrepreneurial capacity, to then seal lucrative private partnerships. Meanwhile, foreign donors wind up funding social costs: in such a way Canadian taxpayers – and those in other donor countries – find themselves subsidizing transnational mining companies in Mozambique![8]

Are there countervailing trends to these disturbing patterns – and ways of interpreting them – that bear more promise? As seen, Hanlon is both a clear-sighted observer of the cruel inequality between elite and mass that has come to mark contemporary Mozambique and has also been a sharp critic of the overall multinationals-driven economic strategy championed by the country’s elite in recent decades. Now, however, he seems to have come to a rather startling conclusion. As he and his co-author Teresa Smart (Hanlon and Smart, p. 3) put it, “in the contemporary world, development tends to be capitalist in some form.” Hence they endorse the view of President Armando Guebuza that, in their words, “Mozambique cannot wait with hands outstretched for mythical foreign investors, but must create, support and promote its own business people” – people, it bears emphasizing, like President Guebuza himself and other such members of Mozambique’s fledgling national bourgeoisie!

In his more recent writings Hanlon has, rather surprisingly, continued to make the case – if not entirely convincingly – for the developmental vocation of such a “national bourgeoisie” (his erstwhile elite of Mozambican robber barons to now suddenly be transformed into captains of industry and of genuine development, a startling notion from Hanlon the articulation of which I register in an Appendix, below). Make no mistake. Hanlon is, of course, massively well-informed and also cares deeply about Mozambique, about its prospects for genuine development, and about the fate of its numberless poor. But would it not be possible for him and for us, instead, to look downwards, to the impoverished populace itself, instead of upwards, to the indigenous bourgeoisie, for any real promise of realizing fair and meaningful change? In sharp contrast to Hanlon’s vision, at once nationalist and bourgeois, there remains a final scenario to be considered, a prospect that pins its hopes on a revival of the country’s progressive vocation.

Is this any less fanciful and fugitive a hope than is Hanlon’s? Certainly the immediate prospects along these lines are not great – though not any less so, one senses, than are those for an heroic and developmental future forged by a national bourgeoisie! Yet Anne Pitcher (2006) – though herself well aware of the growing wealth and power that the Mozambican elite is creating for itself – can still talk hopefully about the negative impact of elite self-aggrandizement on the attitudes and actions of those many millions of citizens, abandoned and often quite desperate, who seem consigned to languish “at the bottom” and well “below” the status and comfort afforded those at the top of Mozambican society.

Indeed, she goes further, suggesting a particularly tantalizing way of thinking about this reality. On the one hand, Pitcher finds that the elite is busily rewriting history and recasting its public pronouncements, in ways she documents extremely clearly, so as to block any popular recall – especially any positive recall – of an earlier socialist and progressive FRELIMO. Yet, she continues, the ordinary Mozambicans are not so easily convinced, sickened by and angry at the dramatically escalating corruption and rampant greed they see to be everywhere around them in the “new Mozambique,” while also both holding on to their own memories of a more promising time and manifesting their continued expectations of a state that protects its citizens.

Pitcher places more hope than may be warranted in the Mozambican trade unions perhaps, some of whose weaknesses we noted above. Nonetheless, she does forcefully argue the importance of widespread worker protests that centre on demands for “benefits and subsidies that the government guaranteed to them in the past.” And she also emphasizes the importance of other realities like

“the robust sales of the recorded speeches of President Samora Machel, who oversaw the implementation of socialism from 1977 until his death in 1986 [that] reveal an ongoing popular dissatisfaction with the current mode of governance and lingering attachments to another time.”

Moreover, it is the case that industries in the extractive sector – some of which, as in mining, also have an insatiable appetite for land – often find themselves increasingly to be in conflict with rural communities. Indeed, with the withdrawal of the state from regulating and protecting its citizens’ rights, the companies and such communities are actually advancing quite different and competing visions of development! Local demands for job creation, for localized control of new business opportunities such as transport, food services and security, for adequate compensation to those displaced, for environmental protection of water sources, and the like: around each of these issues there is the likelihood of growing resistance.[9]

In fact, drawing on recent evidence of protests, strikes and other instances of overt resistance in present-day Mozambique, Pitcher concludes that, even if a recent letter of protest (which she quotes) to the editor of Noticias in Maputo may be “somewhat romantic about the good old days, it [does show] that a counter-hegemonic strategy rooted in socialist ideals may be (re)emerging in Mozambique.” Aiming not so much, it would seem, to revive FRELIMO’s original project as to imagine the possibility of recasting the present in order that it might again embody something that will be (for them) much more positive. Grasping at straws? Note that this sometimes populist strain of resistance to penury and oppression can often be randomly violent, xenophobic and malfocussed, as Hanlon has emphasized. Moreover, it is, even in its very best expressions, still a long way from embodying the principled and organized force for change that could expect soon to present an alternative – and winning – counter-hegemonic “strategy” (such as Pitcher evokes) to the FRELIMO elite’s now self-indulgent and largely self-serving rule. But perhaps it can at least be said that, at the present grim time in Mozambique, the struggle for a more genuine liberation is far from being wholly moribund.

Appendix:

From Robber Barons to Captains of Industry?

In his most recent writings Joe Hanlon has continued to make a strong (and, for him, novel) case for the developmental vocation of a “national bourgeoisie.” Thus, with Mosse, he asks, startlingly, whether “Mozambique’s elite [is] moving from corruption to development?” (2009b). In another recent article he sees that elite to be “finding its way in a globalized economy” (2009c). In these articles, he explores, revealingly, the precise make-up of that elite and the wide range of their various holding and economic interests. Writing with Mosse, for example, he places particular emphasis on the role of the President and the “Guebuza family companies,” noting Guebuza’s aggressive business sense and the roots of the degree to which he and other key members of the elite (former President Chissano for example) have built on bases derived from their stake in the “gangster capitalism,” and “greed is good” days, of the 1990s when they were able “to expand their interests under the party and state umbrella.”

And the list of the holdings of Guebuza, his immediate family and other relatives (and of other close associates like Celso Correia), is quite staggering. But the Guebuza group is also distinguished, says Hanlon, by a less “predatory,” more “developmental,” approach than many others of the elite – a development he sees to be most promising. Recall that Hanlon was once amongst those who more effectively excoriated that very Mozambican elite as it became, over time, more and more visibly corrupt and opportunist in the seizing of all manner of market opportunities. Now such is Hanlon’s attraction to Guebuza’s charisma, to his nationalism and to his savvy, that, by means of his (Hanlon’s) authorial magic, Mozambique’s elite of robber barons is suddenly to be transformed into captains of industry – and of genuine development! Indeed, the key questions Hanlon and Mosse now wish to pose seem to be

“whether the development of presidential companies should be more openly encouraged as a way of creating firms and groups which are dynamic and effective enough to be competitive and developmental. Can these presidential companies through their privileged access to the state, potentially grow to a critical mass allowing them to become major players in the development of Mozambique and southern Africa, as happened with the privileged companies in the Asian Tigers, Latin America and South Africa?”

And whether “the Mozambican elite [can] develop the culture of hard work, saving and delayed consumption that was central to the economic development of the Asian tigers?”

But even if some such transformation were to occur (and he and his co-author by no means convince the reader that it can) to whose benefit would it be in any case? To the “robber-barons” own, self-evidently. And what of the impoverished mass of the population? It would surely take a pretty powerful “trickle-down effect” to see Mozambique move up from no.172 on the world table to be able to establish any convincing comparison with the Asian Tigers as Hanlon implies to be possible. Nonetheless, this kind of capitalist transformation, driven by just this kind of indigenous bourgeoisie, seems to be the best scenario, the best hope, that Hanlon can conjure up for Mozambique and for Mozambicans (but see also, rather paradoxically, Hanlon’s most recent paper [Cunguara and Hanlon, 2010] entitled “Poverty is Not Being Reduced in Mozambique”!).

Is this where the experience of both the failure of Mozambique’s socialism and the subsequent recolonization – both socially damaging and, in any transformative sense, economically unsuccessful – of the country by global capitalism must drive the well-intentioned observer: into the arms of the country’s local elite who have, in fact, themselves been amongst the chief architects of the country’s present sorry situation?

John S. Saul is professor emeritus of political science at York University, Toronto. His latest book is Revolutionary Traveller. This article originally published at At Issue eZine.

Notes

1. This report, itself readily available, is summarized in the article “Mozambique: What price the benefits of foreign investment.”

2. Interestingly, some of the staunchest defense of workers’ rights in recent years has come not from the unions but from the FRELIMO Minister of Labour, Helena Taipo. Acting on her own conviction that the role of the government is to maintain balance and mutual respect amongst the main actors in the economy, she has intervened on multiple occasions where workers’ rights have not been respected, coming down hard on employers ranging from large transnationals like the G4S security company and Mozal to Chinese state companies and senior government leaders turned businessmen.

3. True, the unions themselves sometimes seem to act in such a way as to mediate labour conflicts away rather than to take a militant stand for workers’ rights to a living wage, a safe workplace and dignified treatment. Moreover, many workers seem to read the strong government support for new mega-projects like those of BHP-Billiton and Vale and the modest government role in defending those whose lands and livelihoods are lost to these projects as an indication that fighting these companies for better wages and working conditions is almost tantamount to anti-government activity.

4. Op. cit. (footnote 1).

5. On Vale’s egregious role in Canada, since 2006 the owner of Inco (now Vale Inco), see Bryan Evans and Greg Albo, “Celebrating and Struggling This May Day: The Long, Hard Haul at the Vale Inco Strike,” The Bullet, #349, May 1, 2010.

6. Judith Marshall, personal communication. Here and elsewhere in this text Marshall’s advice and assistance have been particularly important to its preparation, helping me to ground it firmly in contemporary reality. Comments from both Noaman Ali and Jesse Ovadia have also been of great assistance.

7. While the following (in Liisa North et. al., Community Rights and Corporate Responsibility [Toronto: Between the Lines, 2006]) was written about Latin America, it has much relevance to contemporary Mozambique; it warrants quoting in extenso here:

“In response to the new incentives created by the neoliberal state, the mining industry has enjoyed a new boom. Production has been reactivated in many traditional mining areas, and operations in new zones have been aggressively pursued. But in many respects the new incentive under which these enterprises were established signaled a return to the conditions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Reduced taxation, reduced regulation, and forced labour-market flexibility meant that the countries where mineral exports grew in importance received a small share of the wealth generated by corporate mineral extraction regimes. As capital markets were liberalized, profits could be more easily transferred to, and invested in, outside countries rather than in communities and nations in which the mining operations were located. Since the new mining was even more capital-intensive and employed more sophisticated technologies than did mining operations in the past, it created even fewer jobs than before and often those jobs went to highly specialized or skilled workers brought to the mines from outside. Meanwhile local people experienced the environmental contamination and social disruptions created by mineral extraction.”

Joan Kuyek underscores, in her article “Legitimating Plunder: Canadian Mining Companies and Corporate Social Responsibility” in the same volume, a firm (and ugly) Canadian connection to such dismaying realities in the Global South.

8. The previous several paragraphs draw heavily on the suggestions and formulations of Judith Marshall, as cited in footnote 6, above. She further notes that even “the donors” began to become uneasy with the Mozambican elite’s behaviour. Thus “the beginning of 2010 found these arrangements fraying at the edges. The donors delayed their transfers to the social ministries until such time as the Mozambican government was prepared to introduce changes in its electoral law and regulations regarding conflict of interest”! (personal communication).

9. For there is also the promising fact that transnational mining companies are not the only players that have begun to establish complex multinational linkages: civil society networks concerned with mining issues are also connected. Indeed, as the African experience comes to mirror that of Asia and South America where these kinds of new mining investments are more advanced, Mozambican organizations will, in all likelihood, soon be sharing even more experiences and strategies with other communities in resistance around the world.


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