NATO Trains Afghan Army To Guard Asian Pipeline

December 29th, 2010 by Rick Rozoff

On December 11 the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan and the energy minister of India met in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat to bring to fruition fifteen years of planning by interests in the United States to bring natural gas from the Caspian Sea to the energy-needy nations of South and East Asia.

Presidents Hamid Karzai, Asif Ali Zardari and Gurbangulu Berdimuhammedov along with Indian Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora signed agreements – an Inter-Government Agreement and the Gas Pipeline Transmission Agreement – to construct a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India. The initials of the first three countries involved lend themselves to the project’s acronym: TAP, now known as TAPI.

The Inter-Government Agreement “enjoins the four governments to provide all support including security for the pipeline.” [1]

The next day, Wahidullah Shahrani, Afghanistan’s Minister of Mines and Industries, confirmed that “Afghanistan will deploy about 7,000 troops to secure a major transnational gas pipeline slated to run through some of the most dangerous parts of the war-torn country.” [2]

Speaking at a press conference in the Afghan capital, Shahrani added: “This huge project is very important for Afghanistan. Five thousand to seven thousand security forces will be deployed to safeguard the pipeline route….We will also keep an eye on the security situation….If more troops are needed, we will take action.” [3]

Four days later U.S. Army Colonel John Ferrari, Deputy Commander of Programs for the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan, was quoted on the U.S. Defense Department’s website stating:

“Our mission is to help the government of Afghanistan generate and sustain the Afghan army and police, all the way from the ministerial systems – essentially, their version of the Pentagon – through their operational commands, down to the individual units.” [4]

Colonel Ferrari disclosed at the same time that in the next few days the U.S. Army “will finally award a much-delayed $1.6 billion contract for a private security firm to supplement [the] NATO training command’s efforts to professionalize Afghan cops.” The lucrative bid, according to an American news source, “touched off a bureaucratic tempest between Blackwater/Xe Services and DynCorp, which held an old contract for the same job….” [5]

On the same day North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen endorsed the U.S.’s Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review released on December 15 and stated:

“We will continue to train Afghan forces so they can provide security for the Afghan people.

“[A]s the long-term partnership that President Karzai and I signed at Lisbon demonstrates, our commitment to Afghanistan will continue well beyond 2014. NATO will also remain engaged with Pakistan….

“I welcome the release today of the United States’ annual review on Afghanistan and Pakistan. It builds on the decisions on Afghanistan that NATO Allies and Partners took at our summit in Lisbon.” [6]

What the Pentagon and NATO are training Afghan troops for is in part to ensure that the 1,700-kilometer (1,050-mile) TAPI pipeline running from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan to India – with transshipment to nations like Japan, South Korea and China in the offing – will function unimpeded.

The pipeline is to be started in 2012, completed two years later and provide 33 billion cubic meters (over one trillion cubic feet) of Turkmen gas to Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. According to the recently signed agreement, India and Pakistan will each receive 14 billion and Afghanistan 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year.

The undertaking is being financed by the Asian Development Bank in which the U.S. and Japan each hold 552,210 shares, the largest proportion of shares among its 67 members at 12.756 percent apiece.

The pipeline will run from Turkmenistan’s Dovletabat (also Dovletabad and Dauletabad) field along the 350-mile Herat-Kandahar Highway in Afghanistan to the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, Quetta, to the Fazlaka region on the Indian-Pakistani border.

Five years ago the Asian Development Bank estimated gross natural gas reserves at Dovletabat to be 49.5 trillion cubic feet (1.4 trillion cubic meters). Turkmenistan also intends to include the new Southern Yoloten-Osman field, where government geologists estimate there are over 21 trillion cubic meters of gas, to fill the TAPI pipeline.

The inauguration of TAPI is the realization of plans going back to four years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, 1995, the year before the Taliban consolidated control of Afghanistan. One of its prime movers was the Union Oil Company of California (Unocal), which merged with and became a subsidiary of Chevron in the same year.

Former Secretary of State and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Alexander Haig visited Turkmenistan in 1992, immediately after it became an independent state for the first time, after which he became “an unofficial adviser and confident” to President Saparmurat Niyazov, “screening foreign companies and helping arrange a Niyazov visit to Washington in 1993.” [7]

Haig’s dealings, which would later be augmented by the likes of Henry Kissinger and Zalmay Khalilzad, were part of U.S. strategy in the Caspian Sea region, which was to:

“Tap the Caspian mother lodes while giving as little leverage as possible to Russia in the north and Iran in the south.

“Across the Caspian, Azerbaijan had already enlisted U.S. oil companies and pulled the Clinton administration into a crusade to build pipelines that would skirt Russia on the way to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. In Kazakhstan, the Clinton administration [risked] provoking Moscow again by promoting pipelines that would carry Kazakh oil to western markets without Russian interference.”

In 1995 the White House blocked a deal between ConocoPhillips and Iran for the transiting of gas from Turkmenistan through the first country. “To State Department strategists, the perfect pipeline out of Dauletabad lay in a different direction: from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan, connecting the gas resources of Central Asia to the surging economies of South Asia. Such a line would deprive Iran of transit fees for Turkmen gas crossing its territory while capturing the South Asian gas market coveted by Iran.” [8]

In the same year the president of Unocal, John Imle, “wooed Niyazov and Benazir Bhutto, then prime minister of Pakistan…with a vision of a Unocal pipeline” running from Turkmenistan to Pakistan. According to the Washington Post three years after the fact: “A Unocal link had strong appeal for Niyazov. Afghanistan was in turmoil. A big American oil company could draw on the political muscle of the United States….” [9]

Later in the year President Niyazov announced the selection of Unocal to construct the pipeline, which Henry Kissinger – at the time a Unocal consultant – deemed “the triumph of hope over experience.” (Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, while Director of the Strategy, Doctrine, and Force Structure at the RAND Corporation, consulted for Cambridge Energy Research Associates, which at the time was conducting a risk analysis for Unocal on what is now the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. He later became U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan after the invasion of 2001, then ambassador to Iraq and the United Nations.}

Unocal opened an office in Kandahar, which the media unfailingly recall is the “spiritual birthplace of the Taliban,” in 1996 as the latter were completing their conquest of Afghanistan.

In 1997 a senior Taliban delegation arrived in the U.S. to meet with Unocal officials. At the time a Unocal spokesman said “the Taleban were expected to spend several days at the company’s headquarters in Sugarland, Texas” and it was confirmed that “Unocal says it has agreements both with Turkmenistan to sell its gas and with Pakistan to buy it.” [10]

After last week’s agreement was signed in Turkmenistan to complete 15 years of U.S. plans, the BBC reported that “The pipeline will have to cross Taliban-controlled regions and Pakistan’s troubled border region. The US has also encouraged the project as an alternative to a proposed Iranian pipeline to India and Pakistan.” [11]

In fact TAPI is the American alternative to what until then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressured – in fact blackmailed – Pakistan and India in 2005 to kill the project was referred to as the peace pipeline: One which was to transport Caspian Sea Basin natural gas from Iran to Pakistan and India (the IPI pipeline) and from there to China. The joint endeavor would indeed have promoted cooperation and peace not only between Pakistan and India but between India and China as well.

Washington – the White House, the State Department and Congress – linked India’s agreeing to abandon the IPI project and cooperate with the U.S. punishing Iran in the United Nations Security Council over its civilian nuclear power program with actualizing the provisions of the framework agreement signed by President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 18, 2005 on full nuclear collaboration. The U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative.

“The Americans had, so far, largely ignored India’s ties with Iran, which grew impressively during the late 1990s….The tipping point came when both sides, along with Pakistan, began seriously to consider the construction of the 2,600-km Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for the first time publicly aired her concerns about the prospective deal during her visit to New Delhi in March 2005.” [12]

Also in 2005 Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs E. Anthony Wayne told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

“Both Chinese and Indian firms have reportedly been involved in oil and gas-sector deals in Iran that raise concerns under US law and policy.

“For example, Indian and Pakistani officials are engaged in detailed discussions on the technical, financial and legal aspects of building a USD 4 billion pipeline that would bring Iranian natural gas to Pakistan and India, a project that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said also raises US concerns.” [13]

India formally withdrew from the project in 2009 and in January of this year Washington prevailed upon Pakistan to abandon the pipeline in exchange for the U.S. constructing a liquefied natural gas terminal and arranging the supply of electricity from Tajikistan through Afghanistan.

“With the Asian Development Bank backing the TAPI project unlike the IPI pipeline” currently:

“Besides putting the IPI pipeline in cold storage, the TAPI pipeline could also push back moves to bring Turkmenistan gas via northern Iran. Talks were held earlier in this respect on exchanging it with Iranian gas, which would have been sent to India and other countries from an under-sea pipeline. This pipeline would have been one of the branches of a Middle East natural gas gathering system.” [14]

Last month Turkmenistan was also recruited to supply natural gas for the Nabucco pipeline running in the opposite direction, west through Azerbaijan and Georgia to Europe, to further U.S. strategy to squeeze Russia out of that market.

“Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Baymyrad Hoyamuhamedov said the country would supply natural gas for the planned Nabucco pipeline. Hence, EU countries would no longer have to worry about uncertain natural gas supplies.” Which means “the European bloc will have to rely less on Russia for its growing gas requirement.”

“The pledge also means the construction of the planned 2046-mile pipeline can go ahead as uncertainty over its gas supplies had caused delay. Nabucco will transport gas from the Caspian region and the Middle East across Turkey into Europe.

“At present, Turkmenistan sells natural gas to Iran, China and Russia.” [15]

In fact, in late November the Turkmen government pledged to “provide up to 40 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, more than the planned capacity of Nabucco which is 31 billion per year.” [16]

As such Nabucco will be “drawing gas from Turkmenistan in addition to Azerbaijan and Iraqi Kurdistan” in what Christian Dolezal, spokesperson for the Nabucco Consortium (Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH), called a “remarkable step.”

“Dolezal said the first gas supplies for Nabucco are expected to come from Azerbaijan – about 8 billion cubic meters per year at first, of which 6 billion could come from the Shah Deniz 2 field. Another 10 billion cubic meters are expected from Iraqi Kurdistan, and the consortium is awaiting the outcome of talks with the Iraqi government.

“The construction of the Nabucco gas transit pipeline will start in 2012, and the first natural gas deliveries through it should be a fact in 2015….” [17]

The Nabucco pipeline will supplement previous Western-initiated projects like the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipelines beginning in Azerbaijan and proceeding westward through Georgia to Turkey.

A previous article in this series detailed that the overall strategy is “not limited to efforts to muscle into nations and regions rich in oil and natural gas (and uranium), nor to employing fair means or foul, peaceful or otherwise, to seize the commanding heights of the international energy market.

“The overarching objective is to control the ownership, transport and consumption of energy worldwide. To determine who receives oil and natural gas, through which routes and at which prices. And to dictate what the political and military quid pro quo will be for being invited to join a U.S.-dominated international energy transportation and accessibility network.

“Azerbaijan and Georgia are salient examples. The last two-named nations have increased their military budgets by well over 1,000 percent in the first case and by over 3,000 percent in the second in the span of a few years.

“In the Caspian Sea Basin and its neighborhood, which takes in the Afghanistan-Pakistan war theater and the turbulent and explosive Caucasus, Azerbaijan last week marked the fifteenth anniversary of what was called the Contract of the Century in 1994, engineered by the United States and Britain to open up the Caspian region to Western energy companies.

“The intent of all of them is to prevent Iran from exporting hydrocarbons to Europe and to expel Russia entirely from its previous contracts to provide Europe with natural gas and Caspian oil. Russia currently supplies the European Union with 30 percent of its gas, but the West – the U.S. and its EU allies – is well on its way to replacing Russian oil and gas with supplies from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan via Azerbaijan and from Iraq and North Africa through Turkey where all of the three pipelines [Nabucco, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum] end.” [18]

In addition to transforming Azerbaijan and Georgia into U.S. and NATO outposts in the South Caucasus and on the Caspian Sea – Azerbaijan borders both Iran and Russia and Georgia borders Russia – Washington and its North Atlantic military bloc are increasing military ties with the other Caspian coastal states, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

The expanding American and NATO role in Central and South Asia – in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – is inextricably connected with NATO nations’ Eurasian energy strategies.

In 2008 Matthew Bryza, then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, delivered an address which contained these assertions:

“The East-West Corridor we had been building from Turkey and the Black Sea through Georgia and Azerbaijan and across the Caspian became the strategic air corridor, and the lifeline, into Afghanistan allowing the United States and our coalition partners to conduct Operation Enduring Freedom.”

“Our goal is to develop a ‘Southern Corridor’ of energy infrastructure to transport Caspian and Iraqi oil and gas to Turkey and Europe. The Turkey-Greece-Italy (TGI) and Nabucco natural gas pipelines are key elements of the Southern Corridor.”

“Potential gas supplies in Turkmenistan and Iraq can provide the crucial additional volumes beyond those in Azerbaijan to realize the Southern Corridor.

“Washington and [Turkey] are working together with Baghdad to help Iraq develop its own large natural gas reserves for both domestic consumption and for export to Turkey and the EU.” [19]

The U.S. and Britain led NATO Partnership for Peace military exercises in Kazakhstan, from where the West plans to construct a pipeline under the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan, last August, and the country has recently agreed to allow overflights to the U.S. and NATO for the war in Afghanistan. [20]

In August it was disclosed that U.S. military equipment is being transferred from Iraq to Afghanistan “via Turkey, Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan.” [21]

Despite its formal status of neutrality, Turkmenistan has allowed the transit of American and NATO “armored vehicles, combat helicopters and crates of ammunition” to the Afghanistan-Pakistan war theater.

In addition, the U.S. “has gained access to use almost all the military airfields of Turkmenistan, including the airport in Nebit-Dag near the Iranian border” and “An American military contingent is located in Ashgabat to oversee the operations related to refueling of military airplanes. NATO is also trying to open up a land corridor to bring freight by road and rail….” [22]

The second station of the soon-to-be-launched Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline is Herat, the capital city of the Afghan province of the same name which borders eastern Iran.

From there it will head to Kandahar, where the U.S. and NATO have been conducting what the Western press refers to as the “battle for Kandahar” since August in an attempt to clear the area of Taliban fighters and sympathizers.

The pipeline will then proceed to Quetta, the capital of Balochistan.

The U.S. and NATO have expanded the Afghan war into Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and increasingly into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It has also launched attacks inside Balochistan and has pressured the Pakistani government to permit them to conduct full-scale military operations in the province.

In October NATO helicopters crossed 200 meters into Balochistan.

In the same month it was reported that “US officials may be eying a repeat of the cross-border incident by seeking raids into Balochistan.”

“US military officials [are] advocating crossing the border with US forces and expanding the war formally into Pakistan.” [23]

Last month the U.S. Defense Department presented a report to Congress revealing that “Pakistan Army General Headquarters recently approved an ODRP and Coalition presence at the PAKMIL 12 Corps HQ in Quetta, Balochistan.” [24]

ODRP stands for the Pentagon’s Office of Defense Representative, Pakistan and Coalition is a reference to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

A U.S. military buildup in Balochistan presents a direct threat to Iran, whose province of Sistan and Baluchistan borders the Pakistani province, the largest provinces in the respective nations. The U.S. is accused of supporting separatist elements in the Iranian territory and could exploit Baloch agents on the Pakistani side of the border in an attempt to destabilize Iran.

Three years ago China completed a port in Gwadar on Balochistan’s Arabian Sea coastline, which is to be expanded into a deep-sea port and naval base with Chinese technical and financial assistance.

China also intends to turn the port into an energy transit center for oil and natural gas originating from Iran and other parts of the Middle East as well as Africa and plans to construct an oil pipeline from Gwadar to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The TAPI and related pipeline projects will not only adversely affect Iran and Russia.

Turkmen gas that had formerly flowed through Russia and Iran will now be diverted via the TAPI and Nabucco pipelines – as many as 73 billion cubic meters – strengthening the West’s influence in the region in a number of spheres, including in regards to energy, transport, financial and economic, political and military matters.

….

The NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan (NTM-A) was launched at the military bloc’s sixtieth anniversary summit in Strasbourg, France and Kehl, Germany last year, and after this year’s summit in Portugal thousands of new trainers have been pledged by NATO member states.

According to the NATO website,

“NTM-A brings together efforts to train the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) with the aim of increasing coherence and effectiveness among all contributors. Support to the ANSF including the building of an Afghan institutional training base for both the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) and coordinating international efforts to train, equip and sustain these forces.

“The NATO Training Mission Afghanistan (NTM-A) operates under a dual-hatted command, with one commander for both the US-led Combined Security Transition Command- Afghanistan (CSTC-A) and the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan. The mission provides a higher-level training for the Afghan National Army (ANA), including defense colleges and academies, as well as being responsible for doctrine development, and training and advising Afghan National Police (ANP).” [25]


Iraqi Head of Navy during recent NATO Training Mission-Iraq visit

The NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan is modeled after the NATO Training Mission – Iraq [26], established by a decision made at the 2004 NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey. Its first commander was General David Petraeus, now in charge of over 150,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The NATO Training Mission – Iraq is the model for building from the top down the armed forces of a conquered and subjugated nation by the Western alliance, including training military and security forces to guard the country’s energy infrastructure.

In Iraq and now even more so in Afghanistan, NATO is assisting the U.S. in achieving vital geopolitical objectives in strategically vital parts of the world.

Notes

1) The Hindu, December 13, 2010
2) Daily Times, December 12, 2010/Asian News International, December 13, 2010
3) Agence France-Presse, December 13, 2010
4) NATO Training Mission Meets Procurement, Training Goals
U.S. Department of Defense, December 16, 2010
5) Spencer Ackerman, Army Set to Award Mega-Contract to Train Afghan Cops
Danger Room, December 16, 2010
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/12/army-set-to-award-mega-contract-to-train-afghan-cops
6) North Atlantic Treaty Organization, December 16, 2010
7) David B. Ottaway and Dan Morgan, Gas Pipeline Bounces Between Agenda] Washington Post, October 5, 1998
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/europe/caspian100598.htm
8) Ibid
9) Ibid
10) Taleban in Texas for talks on gas pipeline
BBC News, December 4, 1997
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/west_asia/37021.stm
11) BBC News, December 11, 2010
12) The Hindu, August 25, 2005
13) Press Trust of India, July 27, 2005
14) The Hindu, December 13, 2010
15) Industrial Fuels and Power, November 22, 2010
16) Nabucco Spokesman: Turkmenistan Natural Gas Promise ‘Remarkable’Sofia News Agency, November 25, 2010
http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=122557
17) Ibid
18) West Using Its Military Might To Control World Energy Resources:
Pentagon’s Global Mission To Secure Oil And Gas Supplies Stop NATO, September 22, 2009,
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/west-using-its-military-might-to-control-world-energy-resources
19) U.S. Department of State, June 24, 2008,
http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/rm/106232.htm
20) Kazakhstan: U.S., NATO Seek Military Outpost Between Russia And China Stop NATO, April 14, 2010
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/kazakhstan-u-s-nato-seek-military-outpost-between-russia-and-china
21) Azeri Press Agency, August 20, 2010
22) Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, Is the U.S. Violating Turkmenistan’s Neutrality with the NDN? EurasiaNet, August 1, 2010
http://www.eurasianet.org/node/61652
23) Asian News International, October 15, 2010
24) Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan November 2010
http://www.defense.gov/pubs/November_1230_Report_FINAL.pdf
25) North Atlantic Treaty Organization
http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_52802.htm
26) Iraq: NATO Assists In Building New Middle East Proxy Army
Stop NATO, August 13, 2010

Il 19 dicembre Aleksandr Lukashenko s’è assicurato il quarto mandato come presidente della Bielorussia con una maggioranza schiacciante dei voti. Denunciato come ‘ultimo dittatore dell’Europa’ dai media aziendali internazionali, gli ultimi 16 anni di presidenza di Lukashenko hanno visto l’aumento degli stipendi, la piena occupazione e l’aumento del tenore di vita. La popolarità di Lukashenko in Bielorussia è fuori discussione. Dopo le elezioni in Bielorussia, TNS Global Market Research, la seconda più grande società di ricerca al mondo, che ha sede a Londra, ha pubblicato le sue statistiche sugli exit poll bielorussi.

Il Dr. Nicolaj Churilov, uno scienziato sociale di TNS ha detto al canale televisivo ONT della Bielorussia: “Abbiamo intervistato oltre 11 mila persone, e ora siamo pronti a fornire i dati finali. Primo, Alexander Lukashenko – 74,2%, secondo – e Nyaklyaeu Sannikov (5,8%), terzo – Romanchuk (3,1%). Più significativi, dopo, sono Tereshchenko, Rymashevsky, Statkevich, Kostusev e Mikhalevich, e Uss”, secondo il dottor Churilov, il 5,6% della popolazione ha votato contro tutti i candidati.”[1]

TNS Global Research ha clienti in tutto il mondo compresi gli Stati Uniti e l’Europa, ed è altamente improbabile che rischierebbe la propria reputazione pubblicando informazioni inesatte, al fine di sostenere l’immagine democratica di un paese ignorato dalla ‘comunità internazionale’.

Le elezioni bielorusse sono state osservate da rappresentanti della Comunità degli Stati indipendenti (CSI) e dell’Organizzazione per la Sicurezza e la Cooperazione in Europa (OSCE). I delegati della CSI hanno dato all’elezione un certificato di buona salute attestante che non vi sono prove di brogli o conteggio fraudolento dei voti. Questa valutazione positiva delle elezioni è stata sostenuta anche da alcuni osservatori dell’OSCE, così come da molti osservatori indipendenti da tutto il mondo.

Il principale consigliere dell’Associazione degli imprenditori e produttori turchi, ex vice-presidente dell’Assemblea parlamentare della NATO ed ex ministro del Commercio e dell’Industria della Turchia Tahir Kessy, ha detto ai giornalisti della Bielorussia: “Spero che l’OSCE riconosca (così come faccio ora) che queste elezioni sono pienamente conformi con i suoi standard… quello che ho visto sui siti – era un voto libero e tranquillo. Le Elezioni in Bielorussia sono andate benissimo“. [2]

Questa opinione è stata condivisa dall’osservatore indipendente tedesco Frank Musser che ha detto: “Il voto anticipato in Bielorussia si è tenuto a un livello elevato in un clima aperto e cordiale. Ho visitato 22 seggi elettorali, come ex capo della polizia, posso dire che sono stati tutti accuratamente controllati.”[3]
Altri osservatori che hanno approvato il comportamento elettorale sono un membro del parlamento italiano, Andrea Rigoni e l’osservatore dell’OSCE/ODIHR (Ufficio per le istituzioni democratiche e i diritti umani) David Byrne Heysel che ha detto “Tra i seggi elettorali che abbiamo visitato, molti sono nelle zone rurali. Ci è piaciuto il fatto che non importa dove le cabine elettorali fossero, e nonostante la nevicata, vi era libero accesso con autostrade sgombre, anche nei villaggi. C’era una atmosfera molto amichevole presso gli stessi siti con molta gente accoglienti e sorridente.”[4]

L’ex primo ministro lituano Casimir Prunskiene ha detto ai giornalisti bielorussi: “E’ importante per le persone che l’economia della Bielorussia sia stabile in questo momento, nonostante la crisi economica. Ora non solo hanno conservato i risultati della Bielorussia, ma li hanno anche ingranditi. Questo incoraggia le persone a fare la scelta appropriata per la salvaguardia della stabilità“. [5]

Infatti, da Domenica sera tutto sembrava andare a favore di Lukashenko. He had won another landslide victory. Aveva vinto un’altra schiacciante vittoria. Per una volta, il CIS e l’OSCE sembravano concordare sul fatto che le elezioni sono state eque per gli standard internazionali.  Il capo della missione OSCE in Bielorussia, l’ambasciatore tedesco Geert Ahrens ha detto ai media bielorussi che i progressi fatti sono importanti, ma che una valutazione positiva delle elezioni dipenderà dal giudizio dell’OSCE sulla procedura del conteggio dei voti. [6] Le dichiarazioni di Ahrens erano piuttosto ambigue. Da un lato, sono stati fatti progressi, mentre, dall’altro, l’OSCE non era ancora pronta ad approvare il risultato. Tuttavia, alcune irregolarità sono state registrati dalla Commissione elettorale durante il voto. Uno dei candidati alla presidenza ha cercato di corrompere il presidente della commissione elettorale con 50.000 dollari. Intimidazioni e molestie nei confronti di donne da parte degli elettori dell’opposizione sono state anche notate. [7]

I problemi sono apparsi, però, quando un minibus di rivoltosi è arrivato nelle strade di Minsk per contestare i risultati elettorali.

Moti da parte di manifestanti della ’società civile’ e attivisti dei ‘diritti umani’

Subito dopo le elezioni, la sera di Domenica 19 dicembre, circa tremila manifestanti hanno preso d’assalto la piazza d’Ottobre nella capitale bielorussa, sventolando le bandiere del Granducato di Lituania. Queste bandiere erano particolarmente offensive per la maggioranza delle persone, in Bielorussia, come lo erano le bandiere usate dai collaborazionisti dei nazisti durante la Seconda Guerra Mondiale. La Bielorussia ha sofferto più atrocità commesse dai nazisti di qualsiasi altro paese durante la seconda guerra mondiale. Quando i funzionari di polizia hanno fermato un minibus di contestatori, teppisti hanno attaccato la polizia lasciando un ufficiale con gravi ferite al capo. La polizia ha trovato bombole di gas, sbarre di metallo e granate stordenti. [8]

Guidati da alcuni dei candidati dell’opposizione sconfitta, i teppisti hanno attaccato edifici governativi, rompendo finestre e porte. Ciò che la stampa occidentale presenta come una ‘mano pesante nel giro di vite’ da parte della polizia bielorussa verso i ‘pacifici’ manifestanti, era in realtà un attacco alla democrazia della Bielorussia da una banda di golpisti violenti, mobilitati dai candidati dell’opposizione. (Ma tutto questo, non ricorda qualcosa, qui in Italia? NdT)

Il Dr. Edmund Lengfelder è uno specialista tedesco in medicina della radiazione dell’Otto Hug Strahleninstitut a Monaco di Baviera, che ha lavorato in Bielorussia dopo il disastro di Chernobyl nel 1985. Lengfelder era tra la delegazione OSCE per l’osservazione delle elezioni. Questo è quello che aveva da dire sui ‘pacifici’ manifestanti lodati dai media internazionali: “I giovani armati di sbarre e pale cercavano di irrompere in un edificio amministrativo. Qualunque persona ragionevole avrebbe capito che era solo un tentativo di avviare una rivolta e contestare i risultati elettorali.”  Lengfelder ha difeso con forza lo svolgimento delle elezioni affermando che aveva visitato 25 seggi e non aveva notato alcuna violazione. “Non ho notato nulla che va contro la legge. E io sono guidato solo dai criteri e dalle raccomandazioni della missione ODIHR/OSCE per il controllo del processo elettorale“, ha detto. [9]

Invece di mostrare il video dei teppisti dell’opposizione che attaccano la polizia e gli edifici del parlamento, la stampa internazionale s’è incentrata sui tentativi della polizia di frenarli. Ma la prova del comportamento violento dei manifestanti è stato mostrato dalla televisione russa Russia Today. Molti giornalisti sono stati feriti negli scontri, tra cui Victor Tolochko, un fotoreporter per il primo canale nazionale della Bielorussia. I disordini di Domenica sera [19 dicembre 2010], hanno portato all’arresto di oltre 600 persone, che sono state arrestati ai sensi dell’articolo 293 del codice penale bielorusso. Vladimir Nyaklyaeu, uno dei candidati alla presidenza sconfitti, ha subito gravi ferite alla testa dopo aver guidato i rivoltosi negli edifici del Parlamento.

L’articolo 35 della Costituzione bielorussa afferma: ‘La libertà di tenere assemblee, comizi, cortei, manifestazioni e picchetti che non disturbano l’ordine pubblico o violano i diritti degli altri cittadini della Repubblica di Bielorussia, devono essere garantiti dallo Stato. La procedura per lo svolgimento degli eventi, è stabilita dalla legge.’ [10]

Le norme e i regolamenti che circondano le manifestazioni e raduni non sono diverse in Bielorussia dagli altri paesi europei. Manifestazioni e raduni devono essere sanzionati dalle autorità secondo le normali procedure giuridiche. L’OSCE, appoggiando i raduni impuniti supporta efficacemente le attività criminali. Tale comportamento si fa beffe delle loro pretese di essere il paragone delle‘norme internazionali’ della società civile e della democrazia.

Le conferenze stampa dell’OSCE e gli ’standard internazionali’

Poco dopo le rivolte, l’Ufficio dell’OSCE ha pubblicato un comunicato stampa in cui ha sostenuto che i risultati delle elezioni erano sbagliate e non è riuscito a seguire gli ’standard internazionali’. Il paragrafo due si riferisce all’arresto di centinaia di attivisti della ‘società civile‘ e per i ‘diritti umani’, nonché la detenzione dei candidati presidenziali dell’opposizione. Non vi è nessuna condanna nel comunicato stampa della violenza contro la polizia e gli edifici del parlamento. [11]

Il comunicato stampa dell’OSCE parla di voto ‘irregolare’, ma non specifica quali fossero esattamente tali irregolarità erano. In una conversazione telefonica privata con questo autore, al portavoce è stato chiesto se era al corrente delle accuse di corruzione formulate dalla Commissione elettorale contro uno dei candidati presidenziali. Ha risposto: “non siamo pronti a commentare le accuse fatte dal governo bielorusso“. A Eschenbaecher è stato anche chiesto se era a conoscenza delle dichiarazioni rese sui disordini da parte dell’osservatore dell’OSCE Dr. Edmund Lengfelder. “Non ero a conoscenza di queste affermazioni, ma voglio verificare con i miei colleghi“, ha detto. [12]

Secondo il Segretario Esecutivo della CSI Sergei Lebedev, la maggior parte degli osservatori OSCE presenti durante le elezioni bielorusse, hanno dichiarato che erano libere e democratiche [13]. Dopo le elezioni del 2001, il capo dell’Ufficio per le istituzioni democratiche e i diritti dell’uomo, Gerard Stoudmann ha detto ai giornalisti che le elezioni sono state ‘libera e aperta nel rispetto universale delle istituzioni democratiche’. [14]  I commenti di Stoudmann sono stati ignorati nella denuncia ufficiale dell’OSCE sui risultati delle elezioni bielorusse del del 2001, proprio come il dottor i commenti del Dr. Lengfelder sono stati ignorati il 20 dicembre 2010.

Nel 2006, l’OSCE ha nuovamente condannato l’elezione di Lukashenko come ingiusta e non libera, ma non era possibile sapere se era giusta o libera, poiché avevano rifiutato di osservarle! La violenza che seguì dopo le elezioni del 2006, recano una somiglianza con il comportamento dei riottosi visto il 19 dicembre 2010. Dopo le elezioni del 2006, l’opposizione sconfitta è scesa in strada nel tentativo di assaltare il parlamento. Uno dei candidati dell’opposizione, aveva anche chiamato al rovesciamento violento del governo e alla morte del presidente Lukashenko. L’OSCE ha accusato la polizia che aveva arrestato questi teppisti e i media mainstream hanno fatto del loro meglio per incolpare le autorità bielorusse per il loro ‘giro di vite’ verso l’opposizione‘democratica’. [15]

Per le agenzie di stampa aziendali internazionali, i movimenti di opposizione impopolare finanziati dal National Endowment for Democracy degli Stati Uniti e dell’Unione europea, hanno tutto il diritto di lanciare bottiglie e pietre, mentre invocano la morte di un leader eletto democraticamente. Si tratta dell’interpretazione dei ‘diritti umani’ dell’Unione Europea in paesi che si rifiutano di obbedire alle direttive economiche di Bruxelles e Washington.

I disordini che seguirono la vittoria del Presidente Lukashenko esplosero Domenica 19 dicembre seguendo un andamento analogo. Dieci candidati hanno partecipato alle elezioni. Le campagne di ciascun candidato sono state finanziate dallo Stato secondo la Costituzione bielorussa, ogni candidato riceveva uguali fondi dallo Stato per la propria campagna elettorale.

Uno dei siti dell’opposizione della Radio europea per la Bielorussia si rammarica del fatto che i candidati bielorusso non possono essere comprati da ricchi uomini d’affari, come in Polonia, Lituania e Russia. L’articolo la dice lunga sull’interpretazione della ‘democrazia’ dell’opposizione. [16]

Nonostante l’uguale finanziamento di tutti i candidati presidenziali e lo spazio televisivo generoso che hanno ricevuto su tutti i media bielorussi, hanno tutti perso miseramente. Questo perché nessuno dei candidati presidenziali aveva nulla di concreto da offrire. Invece di discutere le politiche concrete, i candidati dell’opposizione hanno trascorso la maggior parte del loro tempo insultando il presidente. Nessuno di loro è riuscito a convincere il popolo bielorusso che il capitalismo del libero mercato è il più grande dei mondi possibili.

Il comunicato stampa dell0OSCE deplora, inoltre, l’assenza di media ‘indipendenti’ in Bielorussia. Eppure, di tutti i paesi della CSI la Bielorussia ha il più alto accesso a Internet. Il governo blocca solo dei siti di traffici sessuali e di pornografia estrema, così come siti web razzisti comeStormfront. Non vi è nulla di insolito in tali controlli. L’accesso ai media internazionali è gratuito e aperto a tutti i cittadini.

Nel 2005, c’erano 776 giornali in Bielorussia. 555 di loro erano indipendenti. I media indipendenti prevalevano sulla televisione di stato in tutti i settori dei media, come TV e radio. Milioni di tasse pagate dei cittadini USA vanno a finanziare la propaganda anti-Lukashenko in Bielorussia, attraverso il National Endowment for Democracy, un’organizzazione di facciata della CIA che finanzia le quinte colonne pro-USA in tutto il mondo. Molte delle pubblicazioni anti-Lukashenko si sono spostate al di fuori della Bielorussia, in modo da evitare di pagare le multe  per diffamazione. La maggior parte dei documenti dei media dell’opposizione devono ricorrere agli insulti personali e alla diffamazione, al fine di demonizzare Lukashenko.

Reporter senza frontiere, un cane da guardia sostenuto dai media statunitensi, che sono regolarmente ostili ai governi che non piacciono a Washington, ha elencato alcuni dei giornali dell’opposizione in Bielorussia: Narodnaya Volya, Delovaya Gazeta, Zhoda, Regionalnaya Gazeta, Nasha Niva, Vetbskiy Kurier, Brestskiy Kruier, Inter -Press, Slonimskaya Gazeta, Borisovski Novosti, Vas DLYA, Volnay Hlybokaye, Chas Myastsoviy e Solidarnost. [17]

Quando si aggiungono a questi gli innumerevoli siti web e stazioni radio anti-Lukashenko e i loro giornalisti finanziati dagli Stati Uniti e dall’UE, è semplicemente assurdo pretendere che il popolo bielorusso non sia in grado di fare una scelta consapevole a causa della egemonia della propaganda di stato.  Ci sono più media indipendenti in Bielorussia che in qualunque altro paese in Europa. Se un supporto ai dissidenti nell’Unione europea o gli Stati Uniti ricevesse finanziamenti di analogo importo, ci sarebbe una vera e propria rivoluzione in Occidente!

Il problema con i media ‘indipendenti’ in Bielorussia è che non sono ‘indipendenti’. Il popolo Bielorusso sa chi sta pagando il pifferaio. Il problema per l’Occidente, quindi, è la superiorità intellettuale del popolo bielorusso. I bielorussi  semplicemente non abboccano all’esca occidentale!

I violenti disordini di Domenica 19, hanno fornito il pretesto perfetto all’OSCE per condannare i risultati delle elezioni. Con un piccolo aiuto da parte dei media internazionali, sono stati in grado di manipolare l’opinione pubblica mondiale, implicando che le azioni del governo bielorusso dopo le elezioni, hanno in qualche modo violato i ‘diritti umani’ degli oppositori. E’ stata una brillante operazione coordinata dall’intelligence. E’ stata, infatti, una ripetizione del tentato colpo di stato del 2006, la cosiddetta ‘rivoluzione denim’, una della grande serie di rivoluzioni colorate che investì l’Europa orientale e Asia centrale, progettata e finanziata dalla Central Intelligence Agency e dai suoi partner occidentali.

I ‘Diritti umani’ in Bielorussia e l’OSCE

Col mandato per le elezioni di osservazione, i diritti umani, il controllo degli armamenti e della sicurezza collettiva, l’Organizzazione per la Sicurezza e la Cooperazione in Europa è stato istituita durante la Guerra Fredda per coordinare le politiche di cooperazione tra i paesi dell’emisfero settentrionale. Dall’elezione di Lukashenko in Bielorussia nel 1994, l’OSCE ha assunto un interesse fondamentale per i diritti umani e la democrazia nell”ultima dittatura in Europa’.

Dopo la schiacciante vittoria di Aleksandr Lukashenko nel 2001, l’OSCE ha definito le elezioni ‘né libere né eque’ nonostante il fatto che avevano rifiutato di osservarle! In un discorso al Parlamento europeo, un mese dopo le elezioni politiche contestate, il francese Paul-Marie Couteaux ha detto:  “Alle elezioni legislative che hanno avuto luogo in Bielorussia il 15 ottobre, una delegazione di sette deputati europei hanno visitato Minsk il 13-17 per osservare il comportamento corretto del voto“. L’osservazione prese atto dei progressi della democrazia in questo paese, perché in tutti i seggi elettorali visitati, il voto è apparso regolare (cabine elettorali,  presenza di un membro dell’opposizione in ogni seggio, manifesti elettorali negli ingressi, ecc …).  Ahimè! Gli Stati Uniti, che sognano di rovesciare il regime di Lukashenko, che considerano favorevole agli interessi russi, avevano annunciato 15 giorni prima, che queste elezioni non erano democratiche, al fine di elaborare un piano che avrebbe autorizzato l’installazione di basi NATO a poche centinaia di chilometri da Mosca.

Quello che i deputati avevano visto non aveva nessuna importanza, la loro delegazione era incorporata in una missione OSCE guidata dall’ambasciatore tedesco, il signor Wieck, ex capo dei servizi segreti della Repubblica federale tra il 1985 e il 1989, che aveva deciso di seguire le orme delle virtuose denunce statunitensi… In una conferenza stampa, il signor Wieck ha avuto un momento difficile nel contenere la rabbia dei vari osservatori internazionali che avevano tutti preso atto dei progressi della democrazia in Bielorussia, che ricevettero l’appoggio dell’autore di queste righe, mostrando che la relazione OSCE era stata preparata in anticipo. Tuttavia, la stampa occidentale ha riportato solo la condanna dell’OSCE. Si noti che questa è la stessa organizzazione che un tempo definiva ‘normali’ le elezioni in Georgia, dove la stragrande maggioranza dei leader dell’opposizione era stata incarcerata PRIMA delle elezioni! Ma quella volta l’OSCE aveva deciso di sostenere Shevarnadze… [18]

I funzionari OSCE inviato a monitorare le elezioni in Bielorussia sono stati nominati dai governi occidentali. Il presidente del Parlamento dell’OSCE è attualmente il membro del Congresso USA Alcee Hastings. Nel 1989 Hastings, un giudice della corte federale degli Stati Uniti, è stato condannato per corruzione e falsa testimonianza negli Stati Uniti. Nella Camera dei rappresentanti Hastings fu accusato di atti di corruzione che ‘colpiscono il cuore della nostra democrazia’. [19] Hastings è stato uno dei membri del Congresso che hanno votato contro il riconteggio delle elezioni presidenziali degli Stati Uniti del 2000. Non aveva alcuna preoccupazione per la evidente irregolarità e frodi elettorali della campagna repubblicana.

Quando l’amministrazione Obama ha tentato di raccogliere il sostegno per il disegno di legge di riforma sanitaria, ai primi del 2010, il signor Hastings fece il seguente commento “Quando gli affari vanno giù, per tutto questo parlare di regole, li teniamo su mentre andiamo avanti“. Quindi, questo è l’uomo che si occupa della supervisione democratica delle norme, disposizioni e regolamenti in Bielorussia! Da un uomo come  questo, possiamo imparare tutto quello che c’è da sapere sugli ’standard democratici internazionali’ dell’OSCE, semplicemente sostenerle mentre vanno avanti!

Sulla possibilità che all’OSCE possa essere consentito di monitorare le elezioni negli Stati Uniti, lo scrittore neo-consevatore statunitense Daniel Pipes commenta: “Questo è un passo significativo verso l’erosione della sovranità americana, non tanto dal vista operativo (che male possono fare alcuni osservatori elettorali?) Ma concettualmente (sovrapponendo l’OSCE e, forse, altre istituzioni sulla sicurezza garanzie interna). Che un’amministrazione repubblicana acconsenta un tale passo lo rende doppiamente preoccupante.” Pipes continua a sottolineare che è semplicemente assurdo che un criminale condannato come Alcee Hastings dovrebbe essere co-presidente dell’OSCE. Pipes è indignato per la prospettiva che tali funzionari corrotti facciano monitoraggio delle elezioni statunitense. Cita il presidente del Centro di politica americana Tom De Weese, che scrive: “L’indignazione è ancor più oltraggiata. Non solo il Dipartimento di Stato ha invitato un gruppo di irresponsabili, burocrati stranieri ad immischiarsi nelle nostre libere elezioni, ma questi sono ficcanaso guidati da uno degli individui più corrotti al Congresso degli Stati Uniti.  Mentre si è lì, perché il Dipartimento di Stato non invita OJ Simpson a mettersi a capo del laboratorio della polizia criminale dell’FBI?” [20]

Il problema per Pipes è che queste persone potrebbero diventare gli osservatori delle elezioni negli USA. Ma, naturalmente, è perfettamente accettabile per i criminali condannati essere messi a capo degli osservatori della ‘democrazia’ in Bielorussia. E ‘difficile immaginare la continua frustrazione dei funzionari bielorussi che sono costretti ad ascoltare lezioni da parte di criminali, sugli ’standard internazionali’ della democrazia.

Come accennato in precedenza, l’attuale capo della sezione diritti umani dell’OSCE, l’Ufficio per le istituzioni democratiche e i diritti dell’uomo (OIDHR) è l’illustre diplomatico tedesco Geert Ahrens. Ahrens precedentemente fu ambasciatore tedesco in Jugoslavia negli anni ‘90. La sua missione era essere a capo di un gruppo di lavoro sul problema delle minoranze e dei conflitti etnici.  Se lo sapesse o no, proprio il suo governo è stato uno degli agitatori principali del conflitto etnico nel paese, quando il Bundesnachtrichtensdienst (Agenzia federale tedesca d’intelligence) unì le forze con la CIA per armare, addestrare e finanziare i narco-terroristi islamisti legati a Osama Bin Laden, sotto forma di esercito di liberazione del Kosovo. [21]

Lo scopo del sostegno segreto tedesco ai narco-terroristi era quello di finire il lavoro che Hitler aveva iniziato nel 1941, vale a dire la formazione di regimi clientelari in Croazia, Grande Albania e Bosnia. Durante la seconda guerra mondiale, i nazisti armarono e addestrarono la divisione SSSkanderbeg in Kosovo e Albania, e la divisione SS Handschar in Bosnia e Croazia. Questi islamo-fascisti sono stati utilizzati dal Terzo Reich come forze prossime per combattere i comunisti e i partigiani jugoslavi. Metodi simili sono stati utilizzati dalla Nato durante la distruzione della Jugoslavia. I terroristi islamici sono stati utili ai nazisti e poi sono stati utili alla NATO. Il clichès della storia è dolorosamente vero.

Nazisti tedeschi, fascisti bielorussi e la CIA

I collegamenti tra l’intelligence tedesca e la CIA risalgono a molto tempo fa. Reinhard Gehlen, uno dei migliori agenti dei servizi segreti di Hitler, fu  selezionato dalla CIA per dirigere l’apparato d’intelligence tedesco del dopoguerra, che ha eseguito fino al 1968. Ci sono molti esempi di nazisti che hanno prestato servizio nel dopoguerra nello stato tedesco-occidentale e negli apparati d’intelligence per l’agitazione per la ‘democrazia’, la ‘libertà’ e i ‘diritti umani‘ nei paesi dove avevano commesso indicibili crimini contro l’umanità.

Gli attivisti per i ‘diritti umani’ e della ’società civile’ sono principalmente composti da accaniti nazionalisti di destra russofobi che intimidiscono il popolo bielorusso con l’odiosa bandiera del Granducato di Lituania, la bandiera usata dai collaborazionisti nazisti bielorussi durante la seconda guerra mondiale.

Gli Stati Uniti, attraverso la loro organizzazione di facciata della CIA, National Endowment for Democracy, stanziano milioni di dollari ogni anno per finanziare la propaganda capitalista in Bielorussia. Ci sono innumerevoli siti web finanziati dagli statunitensi in Bielorussia, come il sito anti-Lukashenko capitolo 97, un sito sui ‘diritti umani’ che sostiene la guerra in Iraq, mentreRadio Liberty trasmette propaganda pro-USA nel paese ogni giorno. [22]

Molte persone in Bielorussia ricordano le trasmissioni pro-nazionaliste di Radio Liberty durante la Guerra Fredda. Molte delle trasmissioni di Radio Liberty esaltavano criminali di guerra bielorussi e ucraini che avevano collaborato con l’occupazione nazista della Bielorussia; come Dmitri Kasmovic, leader del Movimento di Liberazione bielorusso, che fu responsabile dell’assassinio di migliaia di comunisti ed ebrei durante l’Operazione Barbarossa. Kasmovic ha lavorato per l’intelligenza degli Stati Uniti durante la guerra fredda e aveva stretti legami con ambienti del Partito Repubblicano negli Stati Uniti.

E’ un grande merito del presidente Lukashenko e delle autorità bielorusse che abbiano trattato queste persone con tolleranza e rispetto. Questi ‘militanti civici’, trovandosi dalla parte sbagliata dei governi supportati dall’UE e dagli USA, come la Colombia, il Ruanda, o del Kosovo, avrebbero dovuto affrontare gli squadroni della morte.

Le nefaste metodologie della CIA non sono cambiate e molte persone in Bielorussia detestano la loro ideologia anti-umana dell’avidità e della guerra. Il popolo bielorusso ha combattuto eroicamente contro l’assalto fascista finanziato da quelle stesse istituzioni finanziarie internazionali che ora pretendono di parlare a nome dei ‘diritti umani’ e della ‘democrazia’. [23]

La Bielorussia è uno stato democratico e indipendente da oltre 16 anni. Ciò che le agenzie di intelligence occidentali non capiscono è che questo è un paese che ha perso milioni di vite umane a causa della rapacità selvaggia del capitalismo internazionale, nella forma del Terzo Reich.

La classe operaia bielorussa e i veterani della Grande Guerra Patriottica votano per Lukashenko perché ha rifiutato di soccombere all’egemonia del capitalismo finanziario, sotto l’autorità dell’Unione europea. Votano per Lukashenko, perché gli stipendi sono in aumento ogni anno, le pensioni sono sicure, vi è sanità gratuita universale, piena occupazione e istruzione gratuita. Queste sono le libertà concrete per cui milioni di cittadini sovietici sono morti. Non cedettero ai fascisti in passato e non lo faranno oggi.

Note
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] conversazione telefonica privata con l’autore 20 dicembre 2010.
[13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler di Anthony Sutton. Disponibile online qui

Gearoid Ó Colmáin è un giornalista inglese e gaelico di Metro Éireann, giornale multiculturale d’Irlanda. Il suo blog è Metrogael.

Coup d’état – The Historical Framework of Globalization

December 29th, 2010 by Dr. James Polk

Our era  is largely defined by two highly interlinked concepts: globalization and the so-called “war on terrorism.” As geopolitical-economic operatives, both concepts complement each other as significant means to specific ends; both shape important aspects of our daily lives and determine form and content of much that passes for public discourse. Particularly in Europe and in the United States, populations are kept vigilant to the “clear and present dangers” ostensibly posed by “international terrorism” through mnemonic icons of troop movements in Central Asia and/or strategically deployed bomb plots that are purportedly thwarted “just in time” by our intelligence services. As if copied from the lecture notes of Carl Schmitt, a totalitarian “enemy” has been constructed which can conveniently be called back into service at a moment’s notice should public memory begin to fade.

Globalization has proceeded by means of three distinct but clearly interwoven interpretations and representations of the world in toto: as the sociopolitical “cosmopolitan moment” [1] (to borrow a term coined by Seyla Benhabib)  of the globe as the embodiment of our lifeworld;  as the stage of operations for multinational corporate/financial interests; and as the battlefield on which incited conflicts are seen as requiring comprehensive, global solutions which are to be achieved through a New World Order. In its current development, the construct of a unified world is largely synonymous with the ideal world government as envisioned in the Sociocracy of French philosopher Auguste Comte in the 19th century [2], in which international bankers and elitest think tanks determine and execute public policies. 

Implied in this global ideal is of course the complete dissolution of the nationstate as such through the gradual but de facto irreversible integration of individual nations into the totalitarian framework of the political, economic, and chief judicial/juridical entities operating on a global scale (most significantly the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Bank for International Settlements, and the World Trade Organization).

The philosophical roots of this integrative process can be found in the determinant factors that led to the Treaty of Westphalia, which ended Europe’s horrendously brutal Thirty Years War. The treaty also buried the eius regio, quius religio principle and reinstated the tolerance of Protestants as spelled out in the Peace of Augsburg (1555), the revocation of which under the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II in the Edict of Restitution (1629) prompted the vicious counter-response from Protestant nobility in Austria and Bohemia. The terms of the peace accord also radically limited the territory and power of the Holy Roman Empire and acknowledged the sovereignty of the many principalities that constituted the realm of German influence, with France and Sweden entrusted as guardians of the peace.

But the Treaty of Westphalia was of major importance for one other significant reason. The councils of minds at Münster and Osnabrück were able to establish through rational discourse the concept of a peace accord based on the primacy of reason and rules of law that transcended warring national interests and belief systems, effecting in a truly Kantian sense the regulative idea of attainable peace as a principle of reason to guide all actions of the parties involved, and to which all participants, nolens volens, were to submit.  This is clearly evident in the way various clauses in the treaty assumed a meta-normative role. The treaty thus paved the way for an era of secularized thought in which the rule of law and political negotiation served as instruments of conflict resolution and as guidelines of national sovereignty based on principles of reason.

Parallel to the development of international principles of cosmopolitan conduct in our own time such as those found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the statutes of the Geneva Convention, economic and financial interests have exploited both the judicial codices formulated in international agreements and the juridical measures that now in many cases supersede pre-existing national laws through increasingly totalitarian bodies such as the World Trade Organization. [3] It is the power embodied in the domains of concentrated financial interests that today are in the process of transforming our lifeworld and realms of experience in previously unimaginable ways.

Coup d’état

Silently, and carefully hidden from public scrutiny, a coup d’état occurred in 1913 in the United States of America. The results of this bloodless coup are being felt today on a truly global scale. With careful, detailed planning, representatives of the most powerful financial institutions in both Europe and the United States succeeded through the enactment of the Federal Reserve Act (also known as the Glass-Owen bill) in radically and permanently altering the foundations of the nation as a whole.

Through the creation of the Federal Reserve system, the financial interests that conceived, wrote, and implemented the Glass-Owen bill took away the authority of the United States government as theoretical representative of the citizens of the country to print our own currency and placed that authority in the hands of a private banking cartel. According to Article 1, Section 8 of the American Constitution, it is Congress to whom the power is given “to coin money” and to “regulate the value thereof.” The Federal Reserve Act of course interprets this power quite literally as the coinage of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters; it is, however, the creation of money in the form of bank notes that lies at the heart of the act. When the government requires money, the United States treasury writes out IOUs in the form of U.S. treasury bonds, which it then sells to the privately owned Federal Reserve system in exchange for a Federal Reserve check. In reality, the “Federal” Reserve bank simply enters the corresponding numbers on its computer keyboard, once as a liability, and once as an asset. In other words, the numbers are created by the Federal Reserve out of nothing, for which it then demands repayment with interest. The funds are then credited to the government’s account, from which all the various bills are then paid. It is in that exact moment that “money” as such is created by the Federal Reserve bank out of nothing. But there is one additional trick used by all banks operating on the Federal Reserve system: fractional reserve lending. This scheme allows the bank to multiply the amount of money it lends to clients tenfold without having the actual funds in reserve to back it up. This entire scheme has allowed the hidden owners of the private “Federal” Reserve system to effectively extort money from the American people in the form of IOUs, also known as treasuries, which then must be repaid with interest.

The legal anchoring of this scandalous system in the Glass-Owen bill in the United States was only the beginning. Like other central bank signatories to the Bretton-Woods Agreement (and thereby to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund), the US Federal Reserve system is able to control the amount of money in circulation through several mechanisms, for example by raising or lowering interest rates and/or the minimum reserve requirements of banks in the fractional reserve lending system. Through the enactment of the Federal Reserve system, the essence of money has become debt. Through the creation of debt, money comes into existence in the system. It thus becomes obvious that it is never in the bank’s interest that clients, borrowers, actually pay off their debts because that would leave the banks without interest payments. When the borrowers happen to be sovereign nations, for example from the developing world, or now the United States and a number of countries in Western Europe, the interest payments earned by the banks easily go into the hundreds of billions. This is extraordinarily profitable for banks who have been able to “sit in on” the negotiation of peace accords (through which terms of surrender and repayment of damages are settled) and international trade agreement deliberations to regulate global commerce and finance.

World War I and its outcome provide a very enlightening example of just how this has been  accomplished. The terms forced on Germany through Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles laid the foundations for the consolidation of the enormously powerful financial interests in London, New York, Frankfurt, and Paris, which had been instrumental in pushing through, by hook and by crook, the Federal Reserve Act in the United States. (It should be noted that these are the same financial interests which also did their part to push the nations into military conflict in the first place. The focus here however remains restricted to the genesis and perpetration of the private central banking cartel as such and its connections to the current financial crisis and the war on terrorism.)

The horror of World War I quickly led to the realization  that the global  community of nations should not allow a recurrence of such cruelty, and that universally recognized and accepted principles of conduct were needed to guarantee international peace and harmony. Such principles of good will, intentionally redolent of the terms set out by the Peace of Westphalia, could only be implemented through a common general will or global consent. In other words, a League of Nations, a Völkerbund in the strictest Kantian sense, was needed to define and implement internationally valid principles of humanitarian, indeed cosmopolitan conduct to benefit the entire human species and our lifeworld.

It was this positive impulse among other things that led the participants in the “war to end all wars” to found the “Covenant of the League of Nations.” The agreement encompassed 26 principles to which the 58 member states committed themselves.  But the most central problem confounding the ideals of the League was the fact that the agreement was predicated on significant economic interests that essentially doomed  the treaty to failure from the start. The League was based on the status quo as defined by the victors of World War I, who, as simultaneous representatives of ostensibly “national interests” did everything in their power to ensure the richest gains possible for the elite bankers working behind the scenes in New York, London, Paris, and  Frankfurt. And the means to this end were found in the terms of reparation payments they then forced on Germany. An article featured in the May 31, 1922 issue of the New York Times outlined the most salient demands being made on Germany by the Allied entente powers:

“The Reparation Commission called on Germany to consent to the following undertakings before May 31:

1. Reduce  expenditures and balance the budget.

2. Halt the increase of the foreign debt and the growth of paper money in circulation.

3. Accept a light supervision of her efforts in that direction.

4. Take measures to prevent the further flight of capital and to get back $2,000,000,000  spirited out of the country in the last two years.

5. Assure the Reichbank’s  autonomy from politics.

6. Resume publication of Government fiscal statistics.” [4]

Attentive readers will immediately note the  unmistakable parallels to the demands (“austerity measures”) frequently imposed on developing nations through the international monetary fund in its policy proposals formerly known as “structural adjustment programs,” including demands for the privatization of the banking system, or  to use the phrase introduced by “Fed speak,” to guarantee the banks’ independence (“autonomy”) from politics. (In corrected translation, this is the simple demand that this private banking cartel as the sole source of phony money should be allowed to perpetrate its debt-based currency scam without any supervision or control by the people or their representatives.) A gamut of conditions imposed by the IMF has consistently led to widespread domestic hardship and economic crises  within the nations in question, because the interests and well-being of the general population are often clearly at odds with the IMF programs being implemented. Joseph Stiglitz put it this way:

“The IMF is pursuing not just the objectives set out in its original mandate, of enhancing global stability and insuring that there are funds for countries facing a threat of recession to pursue expansionary policies. It is also pursuing the interests of the financial community. This means the IMF has objectives that are often in conflict with each other.

The tension is all the greater because this conflict can’t be brought out into the open: if the new role of the IMF were publicly acknowledged, support for that institution might weaken, and those who have succeeded in changing the mandate almost surely knew this. Thus the new mandate had to be clothed in ways that seemed at least superficially consistent with the old.” [5]

And it is precisely this extraordinary expansion of the power  of the private bank cartels that was central to much of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering during and after World War I. In a very enlightening essay published in Foreign Affairs in 1936, Leon Fraser  brought the true hidden agenda of the banking elite into selective public view:

“The truth was that the experts [i.e., of the second Young Commission - jp]  seized the occasion of the new reparation adjustment as an excuse to repair a long recognized gap in the international financial fabric. The organization which they proposed had functions not connected with reparations, and these ostensibly secondary functions were, in the inner consciousness of the originators, the predominating motives for its establishment. By some of the members — in particular those connected with commercial banking — the institution was envisaged as an instrument for opening up new fields of world trade by means of fresh extensions of credit […]  While there was no unanimity about the opportuneness of creating more credit, all experts agreed that the Bank could fill one obvious hiatus in the financial organization of the world, namely provide a center for central bank collaboration and for corporation to improve the international monetary mechanism.” [6]

The bank Fraser was referring to, of course,  is none other than the central bank of all central banks, the Bank for International Settlements, with headquarters in Basel.

Louis McFadden, former banker-turned-congressman from Pennsylvania, condemned the hidden motives and operational methods of the Versailles Treaty in no uncertain terms. McFadden took particular aim at the Bank for International Settlements, which took charge of the gold Germany was required to deliver in reparations payments. Writing with reference to Grotius’s theory of just settlements of military conflicts (De Jure Belli ac Pacis),  McFadden argued that the Versailles Treaty had in fact been negotiated in bad faith, with the “House of Morgan” and the usual suspects from the clique of international bankers being the prime beneficiaries of the reparations bonds, and that substantial aspects of the treaty had been worked out in the financial centers of London well in advance of the actual negotiations in Paris.  McFadden prophetically augured the long-term  consequences of the treaty as laying the “foundation for the renewal of a dozen wars that are legally justifiable.” [7]

The consolidation of economic and financial power in the West at the end of World War II made possible the ensuing rapid and encompassing globalization of inchoate trends already visible in the League of Nations platform.  The establishment of the United Nations in 1945 as well as the foundation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as stipulated by the outcome of the Bretton-Woods Agreement (1944), contributed substantially to the international system of currency and finance of a distinctively Anglo-American character. This meant in particular that the central banks of all member nations were largely to adopt the modus operandi of the Federal Reserve system. The printing of national currencies, once the privilege of sovereign governments, was to be replaced by the system of government bonds or IOU issuance, which would then be lent or sold to the private banking cartel (spearheaded by the country’s respective “central-bank”) in exchange for currency notes — with interest due. The outcomes of two world wars, in which a private banking cartel had ultimately written the terms of economic and financial surrender, had forced the vanquished into participant roles in the greatest scam in human history: the creation of money out of thin air through debt, with interest payments in permanent flow to the elite sphere of private bankers — all on a global scale.

Many of the newest investment vehicles and resources discussed in growing numbers of studies have so successfully interlocked the political realm with the corporate/financial that a clear separation is no longer possible. Nevertheless, among wide segments of the populations in many countries, voting citizens are still convinced of the sanctity of the elected office. Such convictions are based on false advertising, and the voters have failed to see the fusion between capital and the successful campaign/office tenure regularly performed behind the smoke and mirrors screens of the mass media. In a number of important instances, even opposition/protest movements have been bought and staged. [8] Yes we can! Si, se puede!  should now be seen as the pitiful chants of all those who fell for the change they believed in. Change came in the form of continued bailouts for Wall Street banks, with the former head of the New York Federal Reserve placed comfortably by Obama himself on the throne of the US treasury, immune from critique and reprimand, despite his urgent e-mails to the legal counsel of AIG urging silence in response to congressional queries on the extent of the Fed’s bailout funds funneled into the pockets of Goldman Sachs. (Of course at the time these revelations became public (on the Internet!), the mainstream media was busy convincing the semi-conscious public of the importance of the then-and-now whereabouts of Tiger Woods’s genitalia.) It’s been all business as usual. But the teary-eyed and desperate seem to fall for the Hollywood hype every time: He’s the ONE!

The schematic procedures carried out by the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO often acquire an outright absurd character. Such was the case in the often-cited structural adjustment program developed for Bolivia in the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) Policy Framework Paper for 1998 – 2001. In exchange for much-needed IMF loans, Bolivia was required to transfer the “rights” of the Cochabamba water system to the private firm of Aquas de Tunari, a subsidiary of the International Water Ltd. / Bechtel Corporation consortium. (Bechtel gained international notoriety unter the George W. Bush administration as the recipient of generous no-bid military “reconstruction” contracts in Iraq.) The privatization of the water supply meant that prices for this necessity of life increased by more than 300%, becoming unattainable for many families. With public outrage and potential violence on the horizon, a report authored by World Bank experts advised: no public subsidies should be given to ameliorate the increase in water tariffs in Cochabamba. [9]

Recent machinations by the World Trade Organization have also led to precarious globalization strategies. According to Greg Palast, an internal report sent to his office at The Guardian revealed actual threats directed at the leftist government of Brazil if the country continued to refuse to sign the Financial Services Agreement of 1999. This agreement formed the international legal basis for the deregulation of so-called “financial products,” specifically derivatives such as “credit default swaps” and “mortgage backed securities,” which then led to the global financial meltdown.

The pattern of crisis followed by a ready-made plan for a global solution has been persistent since the early 1800s, when European banking elites pulled out all the stops in order to establish a central bank on American soil. These were the same structural interests which eventually led to the passage of the Glass-Owen bill. And it is within this pattern that the origins of the current financial crisis are also to be found, specifically within the highest echelons of the Federal Reserve system.

Subsequent to the September 11 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., the Federal Reserve was “forced” to lower interest rates to a minimum in order to avoid a potential collapse of a number of important services and industries. This move enabled the decision by all branch banks nationwide to make credit easily available, particularly for home mortgages.  Two years later, the entire country was in a house-buying frenzy with visions of homes increasing in value year after year until the end of time. Many buyers bought two or three in the hope of “flipping” them into untold thousands in profit. 

The foundations were laid for the initialization of a previously unknown financial instrument — BISTRO (Broad Index Secured Trust Offering) — developed in the think tanks of J P Morgan. At the speed of electronic funds transfers, BISTRO enabled unimaginable exponential profits through “credit default swaps” which the “House of Morgan” then divided up into packages and sold by the thousands to interested parties among corporations, banks, insurance giants, and investment funds worldwide. As the German magazine Der Spiegel so accurately put it, “bank managers and central bankers were the capitans of this ship, among them superstars such as J P Morgan manager Blythe Masters and former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan.” [10]

Attentive observers of financial history should recognize the concrete developmental pattern at work here. A putatively well-founded expansion of credit and a corresponding economic boom are followed by a sudden retraction of credit and an implosion of the markets. At the core of our current crisis is the banking industry and its ability to create money and derivatives out of thin air. The collapse was predictable, and in all likelihood carefully planned. No sooner had the collapse of 2008 begun than the directors of America’s leading banks began to issue ultimatums to the American people through their own representative, Henry Paulson (former CEO of Goldman Sachs), as the Secretary of the Treasury. If bank coffers were not replenished with ample public funds, Americans would soon wake up to martial law on the streets of many major cities.

And promptly, the see-no-evil representatives in Washington came to the rescue of the global financial elite, all at the expense of tax payers, and ultimately also at the expense of national sovereignty. Concomitant demands for “global solutions” to this admittedly global problem were promptly put on the national and international agenda by the G20 and by leading economists such as Kenneth Rogoff. The U.S. Congress recently ratified a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s financial system, and thereby granted increased authority to the Federal Reserve. On a global scale, financial and economic experts from around the world are in the process of developing fundamental revisions to the Basel Accord (Basel III) within the framework of the Bank for International Settlements. [11]

At the same time, the Federal Reserve’s late-2010 announcement that it would initiate a second round of “quantitative easing” in its efforts to free up credit and relieve financial institutions of moribund assets led to more vociferous calls for a new global reserve currency to replace the ailing dollar. The Federal Reserve’s decision to increase liquidity by printing more dollars is already seen as a potentially fatal mistake by many skeptics particularly in China, which holds an inordinately large sum of US dollars in its reserve currency trove. Russia and China, among others, have already agreed to a bilateral exchange of goods and services by using their own currencies, without the US dollar as intermediary.

Unavoidable inflationary pressures guarantee that the days of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency are numbered; this outcome does not bode well for the people of the United States, who very likely will see martial law if and when prices for daily necessities such as gasoline skyrocket beyond what is affordable. As the chief operative for all the clandestine forces intent on seeing a one-world government in control of the planet, the Federal Reserve has been actively destroying the US currency as an instrument of national sovereignty. And in close collaboration with the “Fed,” working groups within both the United Nations and the IMF have published key position papers in which a new global currency is proposed, to be printed or coined expectedly by a global central bank. [12]

The global “war on terror”

Accompanying the increased authority of global instruments such as the IMF, the WTO and the Bank for International Settlements, an international surveillance network is fully in the making with far-reaching consequences for individual life and liberty. At particular risk today is the integrity of the Internet as the last bastion of uncensored information exchange. With every publicized “cyber attack,“ whether a reality or an ad hoc creation, new demands go out for increased security measures and legislation to control both form and content online. New key supranational concepts such as “Al Qaeda,” “terrorist networks” or “suspicious money transfers” are now in common use in public discourse and enable the implementation of unprecedented military/political control measures and surveillance strategies over ordinary citizens. The readiness of governments worldwide to adopt anti-terror measures that are potentially inimical to all forms of individual freedom is predicated on the questionable acceptance of the official explanation offered by the US government and its intelligence services for the events that transpired on 9/11. The paucity of critique, particularly among  mainstream US media, of the implausible official narrative of all that transpired on 9/11 is itself sufficient evidence of a thoroughly top=down controlled American press.

The analyses of David Ray Griffin and Steven Jones (among many others) [13] of multiple inconsistencies and sheer impossibilities in the official explanation of the 9/11 attacks provide clear evidence that there were and are far more sinister plots at work than what the American public is ready to believe. Answers to the inevitable cui bono? question point to the long-term beneficiaries of global control which will ultimately allow  for no exceptions.

The pattern is always the same. Present a crisis of epoch proportions, and offer solutions on a global scale which ultimately consolidate the interests of a New World Order, one as envisioned by Auguste Comte, with bankers and a select intellectual elite in complete control. The Federal Reserve system should be seen for what it is – the agency of an international clique of banking elites who are hell-bent on obtaining a global government, with a single system of universal justice, a single currency, and an all-encompassing surveillance network as guarantors of a fail-proof, totalitarian, neo-feudalistic regime. Thanks to the efforts of this same global elite, the United States is in its last throes and will eventually succumb to the constraints its leaders have willingly adopted within the context of globalization.

As admirable as perpetual peace might be under a system of benevolent reason, with the sanctity of all terrestrial life on earth foremost in mind, the concrete historical track record of those most actively engaged in bringing the ideals of this New World Order into full fruition suffices completely as a reason to reject their goals.

Elite bankers in the United States and Europe conceived and enacted the Federal Reserve system as a major stepping stone toward eventual global governance of a neo-feudalistic society. The continuing global economic crisis was also conceived and implemented as a further essential tool in bringing about a one-world government controlled by bankers and their intellectual shills sitting in crucial positions and calling the shots — qui custodiet custodes?

The “Fed’s” covert policies and clandestine machinations are accelerating the “need” and “demand” for a global currency to replace existing national currencies. In previous eras, the implementation of such plans and intentions would have been deemed high treason and appropriately punished; in today’s parlance, it should most properly be categorized as an act of terrorism.

Deeply influenced by both the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory and twentieth-century phenomenology, James Polk pursued his graduate studies in philosophy at the Freie Universität Berlin, where he received his PhD for work on Kant and Heidegger. He is the author of Am Horizont der Zeit and The Triumph of Ignorance and Bliss – Pathologies of Public America.

Notes

1) Benhabib’s understanding of cosmopolitanism and its implications for human societies is presented in Another Cosmopolitanism (Berkeley Tanner Lectures), Robert Post, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) and in The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents, and Citizens (The Seeley Lectures), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

2) Auguste Comte, System of Positive Polity, transl. Richard Congreve, (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1877).

3) See in particular Michel Chossudovsky, “The Global Economic Crisis: An Overview,” The Global Economic Crisis. The Great Depression of the XXI Century, ed. Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall, (Montreal: Global Research Publishers, 2010) 3 – 60. 

4) Edwin L. James, “Reparations Issue Now Up To Bankers,” New York Times, 31 May 1922.

5) Joseph E. Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents (New York: W. W. Norton, 2002) 206 – 207.

6) Leon Fraser, “The International Bank and Its Future,” Foreign Affairs (New York: Council on Foreign Relations) vol. 14, number 3 (April, 1936), p. 454.

7) Louis T. McFadden, “The Reparations Problem and the Bank for International Settlements,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 150, Economics of World Peace (July, 1930), p. 53 – 64.

8) Michel Chossudovsky, “Manufacturing Dissent: the Anti-globalization Movement is Funded by the Corporate Elites. The People’s Movement has been Hijacked,” Center for Global Research, September 20, 2010, http://www.globalresearch.ca

9) IMF Bolivia Public Expenditure Review. www.wds.worldbank.org

10) The original Spiegel text: “Bankmanager und Zentralbanker waren auf diesem Schiff die Kapitäne, darunter Superstars wie die JP Morgan-Managerin Blythe Masters und der Ex-chef der US-Notenbank, Alan Greenspan.” (translation j.p.) “Der größte Diebstahl aller Zeiten – wie Finanzjongleure die Welt in eine Krise stürzten, die noch lange nicht beendet ist,“ Der Spiegel, number 47 (November 11, 2008) p. 47.

11) See Ellen Brown, “The Towers of Basel: Secretive Plan to Create a Global Central Bank,” The Global Economic Crisis. The Great Depression of the XXI Century, ed. Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall, (Montreal: Global Research Publishers, 2010) 330 – 342.

12) See in particular the International Monetary Fund paper entitled “Reserve Accumulation and International Monetary Stability” prepared by the Strategy, Policy and Review Department (April 13, 2010) and the United Nations’ “Report of the Commission of Experts of the President of the United Nations General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System” (September 21, 2009).

13) See especially David Ray Griffin, Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory (Northampton, Mass.: Olive Branch Press, 2007); idem., The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions (Northampton, Mass.: Olive Branch Press, 2004); Niels H. Harrit, Jeffrey Farrer, Steven E. Jones et al., “Active Thermite Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe,” The Open Chemical Physics Journal, 2009, 2, 7-31.

Filibuster

December 29th, 2010 by David Swanson

There’s a simple reason why the Democrats in Washington, D.C., can’t end the wars or shrink the military or close Guantanamo or legalize union organizing or create a real health coverage system or repeal NAFTA or tax carbon or (fill in the blank). 

But the simple reason keeps changing. 

In 2005 and 2006 it was that they were in a minority in the House and Senate. 

In 2007 and 2008 it was that they lacked the White House. 

In 2009 and 2010 it was the filibuster. 

In 2011 and 2012 it will be that they are a minority in the House.

The 2005-2006 reason was credible, even if Republicans seem to have no trouble passing tax bills in the minority.

The 2007-2010 reasons were not credible. Without passing a single bill, Congress could have stopped funding wars and/or impeached the top war criminals. And the filibuster was kept around by choice. It could have been eliminated in January 2009, or the credible threat to eliminate it in 2011 could have resulted in its elimination or reform at any time during the past two years, as has been done before.

Throwing out the filibuster rule this coming January (next week) wouldn’t eliminate the Republican majority in the House. A credible reason for not passing decent bills will have been restored just in time.  But some of our courts might have judges confirmed to sit at them for a change.  And horrible House legislation would not have to be made even worse to get it through the Senate — well, not as much worse anyway.  And if, at some point in the future, a majority of senators — from whatever party or combination of parties — is willing to work with the House to pass decent laws, it would be able to do so. 

The filibuster rule does not protect minority rights.  The filibuster rule creates minority rule.  In a democratic republic, every individual should have protected rights (remember when Americans had those?), but no minority should have the right to rule, certainly not 41 wealthy old white men elected in states containing 11 percent of the U.S. population.

The filibuster has roots in opposition to U.S. involvement in World War I.  There’s no reason a filibuster can’t be used to block an injustice.  When the whole Senate is bought and sold through corrupt elections, party control, corporate media, and lobbyist pressure, there is no reason to suppose that a majority of senators represents majority opinion in the country.  When Wyoming has as many senators as California, talk of majority representation in the Senate is outlandish to begin with.  But the filibuster rule makes these problems worse.  We are likely to always be better off on the whole with the rule of 51 senators than with the rule of 41.

Partial reforms, like ending senators’ power to place “secret holds” on bills or removing delays in the process of confirming nominees, are all good.  Such reforms limit the power of senators to block the work of the House and the will of the majority of the Senate.  But the most needed reform is the elimination of the filibuster rule, a change from requiring three-fifths of senators to move a bill to a vote to requiring a simple majority.  Such a change would not prevent Senator Bernie Sanders from making a long speech, as he did recently — an act widely mislabeled a “filibuster” despite the fact that he was not blocking any legislation.  Such a change would simply end the power of 41 senators to block bills or nominations.  A reform requiring any number between 41 and 51 would be an improvement as well.

Making the filibuster “real,” that is, requiring that senators stand and speak to maintain a filibuster, is much less of a real reform.  It might break some filibusters; it might not.  It would certainly give a platform to a minority of senators to mouth off while the corporate media compares them to Jimmy Stewart and describes their late-night heroics as they prevent any other senate business from occurring. 

There were no filibusters until the late 1830s.  The Senate originally functioned under the same rule the House still functions under, requiring a simple majority to move a bill to a vote.  Until we can eliminate the Senate, we should eliminate rules that have made it worse.  You may have less than a week to call your senators and say: About the filibuster: end it, don’t mend it.

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David Swanson is the author of “War Is A Lie” 

http://warisalie.org

http://davidswanson.org

http://warisacrime.org

[1]
French physicist and anti-nuclear activist Bruno Chareyron took this photograph of chidren in Arlit, Niger, who often play near garbage contaminated by France-Areva’s uranium mine there.
Arlit, Niger, in the Sahara Desert surfaced in international news in January 2003, when George W. Bush, in his State of the Union address, said what came to be known as “the 16 words” that became a central pretext for the Iraq War:

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

At the time, no one noted that France had used its former colony, Niger, as its national uranium mine ever since the conclusion of World War II as it developed its nuclear power and weapons industries or that it had severely contaminated Niger, home of the legendary Touareg [2] nomads, in the process.

Last week there was news of yet another radioactive waste spill in Arlit. It has contaminated 2 hectares, or roughly 5 acres, of land in Arlit since Dec. 11, 2010.

Bloomberg reported Dec. 18, in “Areva Uranium Mine in Niger Has Waste Spill, Greenpeace Says [3]”: “At least 200,000 cubic liters of radioactive waste has leaked at the Areva SA [4]-operated Somair uranium mine in Niger [5], Greenpeace [6] said today in an e-mailed statement.

“‘Almoustapha Alhacen, who carried out an inspection of the spill for NGO [7] Aghir in’Man, confirmed to Greenpeace that 2 hectares have been contaminated by the spill since Dec. 11,’ Greenpeace said.”

San Francisco writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View [8], Global Research [9], Colored Opinions [10], Black Star News [11], the Newsline EA (East Africa) and her own blog, Ann Garrison [12], and produces for AfrobeatRadio [13]on WBAI-NYC, Weekend News [14]on KPFA and her own YouTube channel, AnnieGetYourGang [15]. She can be reached at [email protected] [16]. This story [17] first appeared on her blog.

16 U.S. Cities Could Face Bankruptcy in 2011

December 29th, 2010 by Global Research

2011 will be the year of the municipal default. At least that’s what analysts like Meredith Whitney predict, as do bond investors that have been fleeing the muni market.

There are many reasons to be worried. First, the expiration of Build America Bonds will make it harder for cities to raise funds.

Second, city revenues are crashing and keep getting worse. Property taxes haven’t reflected the total damage from the housing crash. High joblessness is cutting into city revenues, while increasing costs for services.

The next default could be a major city like Detroit, or it could be one of hundreds of small cities that are on the brink. Did we leave off your ailing city? Let us know in the comments.

San Diego, Ca.

Deficit through June 2012 : $73 million

Budget in FY2011: $2.85 billion

Annualized gap: 1.7%

The city’s official have tried curbing the deficit by increasing sales taxes, but residents of the city strongly oppose this and have voted it down.

San Diego already cut over $200 million over the past two years, so these cuts won’t come easy.

New York, NY

Deficit through June 2012: $2 billion

Budget in FY2010: $63.1 billion

Annualized gap: 2.1%

Estimates of the NYC deficit range from $3.6 billion according to Comptroller John Liu to around $2 billion according to the Independent Budget Office. Everyone agrees that the deficit will be worse if New York state cuts aid as part of its own deficit reduction plan.

Mayor Bloomberg has already started to address the FY2012 deficit, calling for layoffs in all city agencies, closing 20 fire departments at night, and reducing services for seniors, libraries and cultural centers.

San Jose, Ca.

Deficit through June 2012: $90 million

Budget in FY2010: $2.7 billion

Annualized gap: 2.2%

After an audit of the San Jose police department, city officials found it to have too many high paid supervisors, costing the city too much money. The answer to this is converting some of those upper ranked officers to patrol positions. This could reduce the city’s debt by $33 million.

Last year’s deficit was $116 million, leading to brutal cuts including nearly 900 layoffs.

Cincinnati, Oh.

Deficit through December 2012: $60 million

Biennial budget FY2009/2010: $2.5 billion

Annualized gap: 2.4%

Helping the budget in Cincinnati depends largely on changes in the police and fire departments. The city can either get $20 million in concessions from the two unions, lay off 216 firefighters, or outsource the police force to neighboring city, Hamilton.

Honolulu, Hi.

Deficit through June 2012: $100 million

Budget in FY2011: $1.8 billion

Annualized gap: 3.7%

Mayor Peter Carlisle said police officers and fire fighters will be asked to make concessions in the upcoming budget and he will also end furloughs of two days per month for public workers. This will require the 2,900 officers to give back their 6% pay raises they have received in each of the past four years.

Last year Honolulu raised some property taxes to fill a huge $140 million deficit.

San Francisco, Ca.

Deficit through June 2012: $380 million

Budget in FY2011: $6.55 billion

Annualized gap: 3.9%

Mayor Gavin Newsom says this year’s deficit is completely manageable. Last year’s deficit approached $500 million and the city did not need to lay off any police or firemen. While Newsom’s term is coming to an end, he says he and his colleagues will leave detailed options for the incoming mayor.

Last year’s cuts were even larger, eliminating a $438 million deficit. The city is down to the bone.

Los Angeles, Ca.

Deficit through June 2012: $438 million

Budget in FY2011: $6.7 billion

Annualized gap: 4.4%

The Los Angeles City Administration Office plans to cut 225 civilian positions in the LAPD, reduce firefighting staffing, and eliminate a dozen positions in the City Attorney’s Office and General Service Department. The deficit will only get worse unless an effort to privatize parking garages is approved. If not, the city will require more layoffs, furloughs, and curtailed hiring.

Last year’s deficit was even larger, totalling nearly $700,000.

Washington, D.C.

Deficit through September 2012: $688 million

Budget in FY2011: $8.89 billion

Annualized gap: 4.4%

Council member Tommy Wells proposed tax rate increases which were voted down, but Wells says he will continue to push his proposal.  Wells’ proposal seems reasonable as residents making $100,000 a year would only pay $63 more in taxes per year. This is a small price to pay that would benefit the city immensely.

Newark, NJ

Deficit through December 2011: $30.5 million

Budget in FY2010: $677 million

Annualized gap: 4.5%

Newark’s deficit was $83 million before Mayor Cory Booker initiated a plan to sell city-owned buildings, raise property taxes to 16 percent and decimate the police force. Nontheless, Moody’s cut Newark’s rating to A3 citing its $30.5 million remaining deficit.

Detroit, Mi

Deficit through June 2011: $85 million

Budget in FY2011: $3.1 billion

Annualized gap: 5.5%

Detroit’s city government has cut costs with layoffs and by leaving currently vacant positions open. Mayor Bing’s emergency fiscal plan includes demolishing houses and cutting police and trash services to 20% of the city.

Last year the city council pushed through severe cuts to fill an over $700 million deficit.

Reading, Pa

Deficit through December 2011: $7.5 million

Budget in FY2010: $120 million

Annualized gap: 6.3%

One of Pennsylvania’s several distressed municipalities, which receive state aid, Reading has been running an operating deficit for years. In September the city council said their deficit was bigger than expected, soaring to $7.5 million for the current year, which means they will have to borrow around $17 million from the state to pay off total debts.

Joliet, Il

Deficit through December 2011: $21 million

Budget in FY2010: $274 million

Annualized gap: 7.7%

Last year, the city increased property tax by over 12 percent and hiked water and sewer rates by 45 percent over three years to help with the deficit. The city council also cut police and public sector jobs.

Camden, NJ

Deficit through December 2011: $26.5 million

Budget in FY2010: $178 million

Annualized gap: 15%

Despite holding title of second most dangerous city in America, Camden recently received approval to lay off half of its police force.

Hamtramck, Mi

Deficit through June 2012: $4.7 million

Budget in FY2011: $18 million

Annualized gap: 17%

City manager Bill Cooper was denied permission to declare bankruptcy. He says the city is owed millions of dollars in tax dollars from Detroit from a shared facility. The state offered the city a loan to stave off bankruptcy.

Cooper says he has already cut almost everything possible, going so far as to lay off the city’s five crossing guards.

Hamtramck might avoid bankruptcy, but also-broke Michigan can’t afford many of these deals. That’s why Gov. Rick Snyder predicts “hundreds of jurisdictions” going bankrupt in the next four years.

Central Falls, RI

Deficit through June 2012: $7 million

Budget in FY2011: $21 million

Annualized gap: 22%

Central Falls has been put in state receivership due to critical budget problems. State-appointed receiver Mark Pfeiffer thinks the best solution is for Central Falls to be annexed by its neighboring city, Pawtucket.

Paterson, N.J.

Deficit through December 2011: $54 million

Budget for FY2010: $225 million

Annualized gap: 24%

As a “last resort,” Paterson is considering laying off 30 percent of its police force, said councilman Steve Olimpio. This will put 150 police officers out of work.

BONUS: Chicago, Il

Deficit through December 2011: $654 million Closed

Budget in FY2010: $6.8 billion

Annualized gap: 9.6%

Mayor Richard Daley has balanced the budget, but absolutely ruined Chicago finances from here on.

His FY2011 plan uses up nearly the entire revenue from a long-term lease of the local parking system and airport, which he passed in 2008. The multi-billion lease deal was supposed to last for decades, but it only lasted two years. The best hope for the future is building a city-owned casino.

The Double Dip In Housing is Almost Here…

December 29th, 2010 by Washington's Blog

MarketWatch writes today:

The non-seasonally-adjusted S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite home-price index fell 1.3% on a monthly basis and 0.8% on an annual basis in October. Economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires had expected a 0.6% decline in the annual figure.

Prices hadn’t dropped on an annual basis since January and are 29.6% below their peak.

“The double dip is almost here, as six cities set new lows for the period since the 2006 peaks,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor’s. “There is no good news in October’s report. Home prices across the country continue to fall.”

S & P – as usual – is behind the curve. Meredith Whitney, Nouriel Roubini (and here), Zillow, Case-Shiller and others have been calling a double dip for some time.

Indeed, as I noted last month, the current real estate slump rivals the Great Depression:

Zillow’s Stan Humphries said:

The length and depth of the current housing recession is rivaling the Great Depression’s real estate downturn, and, with encouraging signs fading, will easily eclipse it in the coming months.

During the Great Depression, home prices fell 25.9 percent in five years. The U.S. housing market is now down around 25 percent from its peak in 2006.

As housing price expert Robert Shiller pointed out in September 2008:

Home price declines are already approaching those in the Great Depression, when they plunged 30% during the 1930s [i.e. over a 10-year period]. With prices already down almost 20%, it’s not a stretch to think we might exceed that drop this time around.

As I wrote in December 2008:

In the greatest financial crash of all time – the crash of the 1340s in Italy …. real estate prices fell by 50 percent by 1349 in Florence when boom became bust.

How does that compare to 2001-2007? The price of Southern California homes is already down 41% [that was before the first-time homebuyer credit, Hamp and other governmental programs temporarily boosted prices]. Southern California hasn’t fallen as fast as some other areas, and we’re nowhere near the bottom of the market.

Moreover, the bubble was not confined to the U.S. There was a worldwide bubble in real estate.

Indeed, the Economist magazine wrote in 2005 that the worldwide boom in residential real estate prices in this decade was “the biggest bubble in history”. The Economist noted that – at that time – the total value of residential property in developed countries rose by more than $30 trillion, to $70 trillion, over the past five years – an increase equal to the combined GDPs of those nations.

Housing bubbles are now bursting in China, France, Spain, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, and many other regions.

And the bubble in commercial real estate is also bursting world-wide. See this.

In addition, the percentage of Americans who owned houses during the 1930s was much lower than today, which means that a larger portion of the public is being hurt from falling home prices today as compared to the Great Depression.

Hillary attends ‘North American Union’ meeting Trilateral process with Mexico, Canada proceeds with little notice   

With little attention from mainstream media, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the foreign ministers of Canada and Mexico in a North American Foreign Ministers Meeting in Quebec, Canada.

The Dec. 13 meeting is a prelude to the next North American Summit Leaders meeting in 2011, a yet unscheduled trilateral summit that is the continuation of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. Under the low-key format, the continental meetings have been carried out with little fanfare and outside of congressional oversight.

The Canadian government website detailed that the Quebec meeting identified as important areas of trilateral cooperation” the following:

Engagement with the countries of Central America, with a view to creating a North America-Central America dialogue to strengthen regional cooperation and efforts against trans-national criminal organizations;

Trilateral cooperation on natural disaster reduction, prevention/mitigation, preparedness and response in the Americas;

A commitment to Haiti, specifically, that it remains a mutual priority and the subject of continued monitoring, including on the political transition and related democratic process. Also mentioned on the website of the Canadian government was “the importance of an integrated North American approach to climate change, clean energy, and environmental issues writ large,” as well as trilateral cooperation cyber security, Internet freedom and privacy.

Finally, the Canadian government noted that trilateral public health and safety officials had worked to revise the North American Plan for Avian and Pandemic Influenza, although changes to the agreement were not specified.

WND previously reported that the United States, under SPP, had agreed with Mexico and Canada to a “North American Plan for Avian Flu and Pandemic Influenza” that establishes U.N. law along with regulations by the World Trade Organization and World Health Organization as supreme over U.S. law during a pandemic. The agreement sets the stage for militarizing the management of continental health emergencies.

Published on the U.S. Department of State website, the comments of Mexican ForeignSecretary Patricia Espinosa made clear the Quebec North American Foreign Ministersmeeting covered a wide range of policy areas, including “a relevant agenda with regard to the environment, energy, and in creating a common basis to fight climate change among our countries.”

Espinosa also stressed “the importance of strengthening North America’s competitiveness to consolidate our economic recovery,” echoing the competitiveness theme of the “Prosperity Agenda” under SPP.

According to the State Department website, Clinton stated, “I want to say first and foremost that the partnership between Canada, Mexico, and the United States is of critical importance.”

Clinton said the U.S., Canada and Mexico work together every day, “whether it is to drive economic progress, or strengthen our security, or address urgent problems such as climate change or violent extremism in places like Afghanistan, or narco-traffickers or pandemic disease,” producing a profound impact on every level, “locally, regionally and globally.”

Building on the theme of “North American citizens,” Clinton stressed, “No partnership means more to the United States and to the hundreds of millions of North American citizens whose lives and futures are increasingly intertwined.”

In a report on the Quebec meeting, the Boston Globe made clear that diplomats in attendance were not authorized to speak publicly about the talks.

The trilateral communiqués coming from the North American Foreign Ministers suggested there would be another North American Leaders Summit in 2011, although no specific location or date appeared to have been set for the meeting.

The struggle for workplace health and safety is undoubtedly one of the most noble aspects of the labour movement. It is a struggle for human dignity, the refusal of workers to sacrifice their health and years of their lives in order to earn a living and support their families. It is also one of the most radical aspects of the labour movement because it challenges management prerogatives in an area that it has always jealously kept for itself: the organization of production. Quebec’s union movement has waged stubborn, sometimes heroic, struggles on this battlefield and has won significant victories, even if much remains to be done.

All the more troubling, therefore, was the reception that Quebec’s union federations reserved the other week for a delegation from Asia, consisting of a representative of the Building and Wood Workers’ International and victims of asbestos. The immediate aim of the delegation was to ask the government and people of Quebec not to give financial support to the exploitation of a new vein at the Jeffrey asbestos mine, whose production would be exported to Asia. Neither the FTQ (Fédération des travailleuses et des travailleurs du Québec) nor the CSN (Centrale des syndicats nationaux) saw fit to respond to the request for a meeting. Only the CSD (Centrale des syndicats démocratiques) met the delegation, but in the presence of a lobbyist of the Chrysotile Institute.

Government Subsidies

This institute is financed by the governments of Canada and Quebec and by the asbestos industry (presently bankrupt). Its mission is to promote the export of asbestos to developing countries – the wealthy industrialized countries have either banned its use or it is simply not used – and to cast doubt on the scientific consensus that there is no safe way to use this cancer-causing substance, which, therefore, should be banned. This position has been adopted to date by 53 countries, by the World Health Organization (WHO), the OIT, and by the International Trade-Union confederation, to which the FTQ, CSN and CSD belong. However, the President of the Chrysotile Institute is Clément Godbout whose CV includes: former president of the FTQ, and the Steelworkers/FTQ, the CSN Metallurgy Federation, and the CSD are members of the institute’s support group.

The Chrysotile Institute does not deny that the substance causes cancer, but it maintains that it can be safely used under controlled conditions. It insists that Quebec exporters demand assurances of such conditions from their clients. But the Quebec Minister of Economic Development – who did meet with the delegation – admitted that such assurances cover only the first 0.1 per cent of the life of the asbestos. The government and the industry thus wash their hands of the activities that follow, activities so dangerous that they are illegal in Quebec but very common in the developing world: cutting and breaking asbestos-cement building materials with a saw, without any protection; using pieces of broken asbestos-cement, without any protection; demolishing and renovating buildings containing asbestos, without any protection; living amidst the debris of asbestos-cement after a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, without any protection.

“Listen to us,” replied Anup Srivasta of the Building and Wood Workers’ International.

“I am here to tell you directly that the assurances that the asbestos industry gives you are completely false. It pretends that in the same strict regulations that exist in the developing world as in Quebec. That’s absurd. You will see across Asia workers cutting asbestos-cement roofing with abrasive saws without protection from the lethal fibres that this frees. That is completely illegal in Quebec but common in Asia.”

In 2006-07 the Quebec Workplace Health and Safety Commission, the National Institute of Public Health and the Ministry of Health and Social Services – the principle government health authorities – jointly conducted a study on the use of asbestos in Quebec industry. They visited 959 workplaces where asbestos was more likely to be used but found that only eight still used the material. And of these eight, not a single one used it in safe conditions.

Asbestos is the foremost cause of work-related deaths in Quebec. Following the rapid decline of asbestos mining from the 1970s, the prevalence of illness related to the mineral shifted from miners to workers in construction, maintenance and renovation. According to a spokesperson of the CSST (Commission for Workplace Health and Safety), “employees in construction more at risk, since too often they do not know that they are working with asbestos.” Roger Valois, vice-president of the CSN, has criticized the government for refusing to tell if there is asbestos in public buildings and infrastructures. The CSN has been trying for some time to get the government to certify entrepreneurs who would specialize in removing asbestos, but so far without success.

Could the situation possibly be different in countries where the majority of workers are hired by the day, are not informed of the dangers they incur, and have no say in their work conditions? Few among them have the possibility of obtaining diagnosis of a work-related sickness and even less of receiving compensation from the industry for themselves and their families. The workers, their families and their whole communities continue to live near asbestos dumps without any protection from this pollution.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Quebec unions, including the construction unions and the CAW-Quebec region, insists on bans on asbestos in their collective agreements. What is surprising, however, is that we do not hear their voices in Quebec – the only province that produces and exports asbestos – among those who condemn the role of their governments in promoting asbestos in developing countries and in sabotaging the UN (Rotterdam) convention that would oblige exporters to inform importing countries of the risks and give them the right to refuse entry to the product if it considered its workers unable to use it in safe conditions. On the contrary, as noted, certain unions actively support these policies, while others maintain a shameful silence. Meanwhile, in Asia unions are mobilizing to demand a ban on asbestos.

Jobs, Industry and Working-Class Solidarity

What perverted conception of working-class solidarity could explain this complicity with the policy of our governments and the asbestos industry? There is, of course, the issue of jobs in the asbestos industry. But even if we leave aside the moral dimension (the WHO estimated that 107,000 die annually across the world from asbestos), it is not as if the industry has a long future ahead of it. Just as the market in the wealthy countries dried up quickly from the 1970s, so too is the Asian market destined to shrink as people become aware of the harmfulness of asbestos. The new mine, if it opens, will create only 240 jobs at $14-16 an hour, described by the local union leader as “starvation wages.” And to get even that, the union had to sign a long-term collective agreement.

Workers and human rights activists demonstrate in front of FICCI House and call upon the governments of India and Canada to halt the trade in white asbestos. [BANI]

The communities of Asbestos and Thetford Mines deserve our solidarity. But can the accumulated defeats and the policy of “social partnership” of the union federations have so shrunk our horizons that we see ourselves today forced to defend – actively or by our silence – a corporatist position that makes us in solidarity with the bosses and their governments in a colonial and – let’s call things by their real name – deeply criminal enterprise? Have we so lost confidence in our own forces that we don’t believe it possible to mobilize ourselves to demand transitional measures for these communities and the creation by the state of decent jobs for their citizens?

In conclusion, we should note that the “social-democratic” Parti Québécois and the Bloc Québécois support without reservation the export of asbestos. But are we, the workers of Quebec, also obliged to limit ourselves to what the bosses and the ideologists consider acceptable? Only Québec solidaire has demanded a ban on the mining and export of asbestos, accompanied by transitional measures for the asbestos workers and their communities. •

David Mandel is a member of Professors’ Union (CSN), University of Quebec in Montreal.

Mr. Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, a private corporation, would have us believe that, quantitative easing is the only way to save the US economy and to reverse the unemployment problem. He conveniently forgets to tell you that he authored a paper in 1988 with Mr. Michael Baskin that concluded that what Mr. Bernanke is doing with QE does not work. He told watchers of “60 Minutes” that the jobless rate would have been far higher; something like it was in the “Great Depression” at 25%. If Mr. Bernanke had taken time to have his minions do the research, he would have found that U3 at the peak of the “Great Depression” was 25.2% and U6 was 37.6%. As we write U3 is 9.8% and U6 is 17%. If you strip out the bogus birth/death ratio, real unemployment on a U6 basis is probably close to 22-3/8%, as yet, considerably less than in the 1930s, but impressively unacceptable. As those interested now know over the past three years the Fed has bailed out financial firms and many other corporations with funds provided indirectly by the US taxpayer. Little of this largess has fallen into employment and as a result unemployment has risen. It lies in the face of reality for Mr. Bernanke to tell was that QE2 will create employment when QE1 certainly did not.

What Mr. Bernanke has done is add fuel to the fire, which has given us one of the greatest financial scams of all time.

Part of the Fed’s cover is the fiscal irresponsibility of government, which in 2010 created $2 trillion in net liabilities, as federal benefits rose. That was the result of the Financial Report of the US, which rightly applies corporate-style accrual accounting. That includes interest on debt and federal benefits payable when they are incurred. This method illustrates the mounting liabilities of government entitlement programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. 2010’s cash budget may have narrowed to $1.294 trillion from $1,417 trillion in 2009, but the real number was $2,080 trillion.

We have discussed bogus government statistics for more than 20 years, especially over the past ten years. Growth projections for the year are hard to make when the numbers are what government wants them to be. The result is no nonsense – it is premeditated fraud. It is called cooking the books and if it weren’t for John Williams our nation would be in the dark, as to what government is up too.

The term now being used within government is information management. In the inflation sphere when the desired result is needed in their basket of goods, and one element is rising, it is replaced with one that is not. This is a field where the goal is continually moved to suit those in control. As a result, the CPI has become useless. Substitution and hedonics are the name of the game. Thus, the pretension of no or lower inflation can be projected, then inflation supposedly is not an issue when in fact it is. This is the Fed’s fake justification for low or no interest rates. Using the 1990 inflation formula inflation is about 6-3/4% and using the 1980 formula the figure is 8-1/4%. That shows you the temerity and the arrogance of government and the Fed, which is well aware of what is going on.

The same fraud is committed in employment figures by the underestimation of real numbers of workers unable to find work. Then there is the notorious birth/death ratio, the ratio of the birth of new businesses and the death of old businesses and their net effect on the hiring and firing of workers. These government statistics are completely bogus. By way of example, U6 is 17%, but if you withdraw the B/D ration unemployment is 22-3/8%.

The heralded number by government and the mass media is the U3 figure of 9-3/4%, which is only the short-term unemployment number, certainly a false reflection of real unemployment.

As we noted in the last issue if consumers are saving and reducing debt how can consumption figures be growing? Does this mean that in order to maintain growth all the piggy banks have been emptied and all the cash has been removed from under the mattress? Of course not, it is because government figures are fake. Later they are revealed to be so, but that is too late. The desired psychological affect has already taken place. The lie of more consumption forces others to follow suit in what is termed the herd mentality.

The current method of quantitative easing will be as unsuccessful as was QE1 and what is worse is the government and the Fed are well aware of this. The elitists are buying time as they have for the past three years.

Government and the Fed engage in subterfuge, lies and psychological warfare to get the herd to buy generally on credit to increase consumer spending.

The Economic Crisis: Worse than the Great Depression?

December 29th, 2010 by Washington's Blog

Underneath the Happy Talk, Is This As Bad as the Great Depression?

The following experts have – at some point during the last 2 years – said that the economic crisis could be worse than the Great Depression:

How could that possibly be, when the stock market has largely recovered? (Let’s forget for a moment that the stock market rallied after 1929, but then crashed in a double dip).

To find out, we’ll look at a couple comparisons to get an idea of what is going on in the rest of the economy. And then we’ll compare the government’s efforts in the 1930s to today.

Housing Crisis Rivals Great Depression

As I noted last month, the current real estate slump rivals the Great Depression:

Zillow’s Stan Humphries said:

The length and depth of the current housing recession is rivaling the Great Depression’s real estate downturn, and, with encouraging signs fading, will easily eclipse it in the coming months.

During the Great Depression, home prices fell 25.9 percent in five years. The U.S. housing market is now down around 25 percent from its peak in 2006.

As housing price expert Robert Shiller pointed out in September 2008:

Home price declines are already approaching those in the Great Depression, when they plunged 30% during the 1930s [i.e. over a 10-year period]. With prices already down almost 20%, it’s not a stretch to think we might exceed that drop this time around.

As I wrote in December 2008:

In the greatest financial crash of all time – the crash of the 1340s in Italy …. real estate prices fell by 50 percent by 1349 in Florence when boom became bust.

How does that compare to 2001-2007? The price of Southern California homes is already down 41% [that was before the first-time homebuyer credit, Hamp and other governmental programs temporarily boosted prices]. Southern California hasn’t fallen as fast as some other areas, and we’re nowhere near the bottom of the market.

Moreover, the bubble was not confined to the U.S. There was a worldwide bubble in real estate.

Indeed, the Economist magazine wrote in 2005 that the worldwide boom in residential real estate prices in this decade was “the biggest bubble in history”. The Economist noted that – at that time – the total value of residential property in developed countries rose by more than $30 trillion, to $70 trillion, over the past five years – an increase equal to the combined GDPs of those nations.

Housing bubbles are now bursting in China, France, Spain, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, and many other regions.

And the bubble in commercial real estate is also bursting world-wide. See this.

In addition, the percentage of Americans who owned houses during the 1930s was much lower than today, which means that a larger portion of the public is being hurt from falling home prices today as compared to the Great Depression.

Meredith Whitney, Nouriel Roubini (and here), Zillow, Case-Shiller and even S&P have been calling a double dip in housing.

States and Cities In Worst Shape Since the Great Depression

States and cities are in dire financial straits, and many may default in 2011.

California is issuing IOUs for only the second time since the Great Depression.

Things haven’t been this bad for state and local governments since the 30s.

Loan Loss Rate Higher than During the Great Depression

In October 2009, I reported:

In May, analyst Mike Mayo predicted that the bank loan loss rate would be higher than during the Great Depression.

In a new report, Moody’s has just confirmed (as summarized by Zero Hedge):

The most recent rate of bank charge offs, which hit $45 billion in the past quarter, and have now reached a total of $116 billion, is at 3.4%, which is substantially higher than the 2.25% hit in 1932, before peaking at at 3.4% rate by 1934.

And see this.

Here’s a chart summarizing the findings:

(click here for full chart).

Indeed, top economists such as Anna Schwartz, James Galbraith, Nouriel Roubini and others have pointed out that while banks faced a liquidity crisis during the Great Depression, today they are wholly insolvent. See this, this, this and this. Insolvency is much more severe than a shortage of liquidity.
Unemployment at or Near Depression Levels

USA Today reports today:

So many Americans have been jobless for so long that the government is changing how it records long-term unemployment.

Citing what it calls “an unprecedented rise” in long-term unemployment, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), beginning Saturday, will raise from two years to five years the upper limit on how long someone can be listed as having been jobless.

***

The change is a sign that bureau officials “are afraid that a cap of two years may be ‘understating the true average duration’ — but they won’t know by how much until they raise the upper limit,” says Linda Barrington, an economist who directs the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

***

“The BLS doesn’t make such changes lightly,” Barrington says. Stacey Standish, a bureau assistant press officer, says the two-year limit has been used for 33 years.

***

Although “this feels like something we’ve not experienced” since the Great Depression, she says, economists need more information to be sure.

The following chart from Calculated Risk shows that this is not a normal spike in unemployment:

As I noted in October:

It is difficult to compare current unemployment with that during the Great Depression. In the Depression, unemployment numbers weren’t tracked very consistently, and the U-3 and U-6 statistics we use today weren’t used back then. And statistical “adjustments” such as the “birth-death model” are being used today that weren’t used in the 1930s.

But let’s discuss the facts we do know.

The Wall Street Journal noted in July 2009:

The average length of unemployment is higher than it’s been since government began tracking the data in 1948.

***

The job losses are also now equal to the net job gains over the previous nine years, making this the only recession since the Great Depression to wipe out all job growth from the previous expansion.

The Christian Science Monitor wrote an article in June entitled, “Length of unemployment reaches Great Depression levels“.

60 Minutes – in a must-watch segment – notes that our current situation tops the Great Depression in one respect: never have we had a recession this deep with a recovery this flat. 60 Minutes points out that unemployment has been at 9.5% or above for 14 months:

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David M. Kennedy notes in Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (Oxford, 1999) that – during Herbert Hoover’s presidency, more than 13 million Americans lost their jobs. Of those, 62% found themselves out of work for longer than a year; 44% longer than two years; 24% longer than three years; and 11% longer than four years.

Blytic calculates that the current average duration of unemployment is some 32 weeks, the median duration is around 20 weeks, and there are approximately 6 million people unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.

Moreover, employers are discriminating against job applicants who are currently unemployed, which will almost certainly prolong the duration of joblessness.

As I noted in January 2009:

In 1930, there were 123 million Americans.

At the height of the Depression in 1933, 24.9% of the total work force or 11,385,000 people, were unemployed.

Will unemployment reach 25% during this current crisis?

I don’t know. But the number of people unemployed will be higher than during the Depression.

Specifically, there are currently some 300 million Americans, 154.4 million of whom are in the work force.

Unemployment is expected to exceed 10% by many economists, and Obama “has warned that the unemployment rate will explode to at least 10% in 2009″.

10 percent of 154 million is 15 million people out of work – more than during the Great Depression.

Given that the broader U-6 measure of unemployment is currently around 17% (ShadowStats.com puts the figure at 22%, and some put it even higher), the current numbers are that much worse.

But it is important to look at some details.

For example, official Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers put U-6 above 20% in several states:

  • California: 21.9
  • Nevada: 21.5
  • Michigan 21.6
  • Oregon 20.1

In the past year, unemployment has grown the fastest in the mountain West.

And certain races and age groups have gotten hit hard.

According to Congress’ Joint Economic Committee:

By February 2010, the U-6 rate for African Americans rose to 24.9 percent.

34.5% of young African American men were unemployed in October 2009.

As the Center for Immigration Studies noted last December:

Unemployment rates for less-educated and younger workers:

  • As of the third quarter of 2009, the overall unemployment rate for native-born Americans is 9.5 percent; the U-6 measure shows it as 15.9 percent.
  • The unemployment rate for natives with a high school degree or less is 13.1 percent. Their U-6 measure is 21.9 percent.
  • The unemployment rate for natives with less than a high school education is 20.5 percent. Their U-6 measure is 32.4 percent.
  • The unemployment rate for young native-born Americans (18-29) who have only a high school education is 19 percent. Their U-6 measure is 31.2 percent.
  • The unemployment rate for native-born blacks with less than a high school education is 28.8 percent. Their U-6 measure is 42.2 percent.
  • The unemployment rate for young native-born blacks (18-29) with only a high school education is 27.1 percent. Their U-6 measure is 39.8 percent.
  • The unemployment rate for native-born Hispanics with less than a high school education is 23.2 percent. Their U-6 measure is 35.6 percent.
  • The unemployment rate for young native-born Hispanics (18-29) with only a high school degree is 20.9 percent. Their U-6 measure is 33.9 percent.

No wonder Chris Tilly – director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UCLA – says that African-Americans and high school dropouts are experiencing depression-level unemployment.

And as I have previously noted, unemployment for those who earn $150,000 or more is only 3%, while unemployment for the poor is 31%.

The bottom line is that it is difficult to compare current unemployment with what occurred during the Great Depression. In some ways things seem better now. In other ways, they don’t.

Factors like where you live, race, income and age greatly effect one’s experience of the severity of unemployment in America.

In addition, wages have plummeted for those who are employed. As Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter David Cay Johnston notes:

Every 34th wage earner in America in 2008 went all of 2009 without earning a single dollar, new data from the Social Security Administration show. Total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined ….

And see this, this, and this.

Food Stamps Replace Soup Kitchens

1 out of every 7 Americans now rely on food stamps.

While we don’t see soup kitchens, it may only be because so many Americans are receiving food stamps.

Indeed, despite the dramatic photographs we’ve all seen of the 1930s, the 43 million Americans relying on food stamps to get by may actually be much greater than the number who relied on soup kitchens during the Great Depression.

Inequality Worse than During the Great Depression

I recently reported that inequality is worse than it’s been since 1917:

Most mainstream economists do not believe there is a causal connection between inequality and severe downturns.

But recent studies by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty are waking up more and more economists to the possibility that there may be a connection.

Specifically, economics professors Saez (UC Berkeley) and Piketty (Paris School of Economics) show that the percentage of wealth held by the richest 1% of Americans peaked in 1928 and 2007 – right before each crash:

Figure 1

As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein wrote in June:

Thumbnail image for inequalitygraph.jpg

***

Krugman says that he used to dismiss talk that inequality contributed to crises, but then we reached Great Depression-era levels of inequality in 2007 and promptly had a crisis, so now he takes it a bit more seriously…

Robert Reich has theorized for some time that there are 3 causal connections between inequality and crashes ….

Reuters wrote an excellent piece on the issue of inequality and crashes (discussing the first three factors) last month:

Economists are only beginning to study the parallels between the 1920s and the most recent decade to try to understand why both periods ended in financial disaster. Their early findings suggest inequality may not directly cause crises, but it can be a contributing factor.

***

Inequality is actually worse now than it’s been since 1917.

The War Isn’t Working

Given the above facts, it would seem that the government hasn’t been doing much. But the scary thing is that the government has done more than during the Great Depression, but the economy is still stuck a pit.

Specifically, many economists credit World War II with getting us out of the Depression. (I disagree, but that’s another story).

This time, we’ve been at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan far longer than we were in World War II. But our economy is still stuck in a rut.

Moreover, the amount spent in emergency bailouts, loans and subsidies during this financial crisis arguably dwarfs the amount which the government spent during the New Deal.

For example, Casey Research wrote in 2008:

Paulson and Bernanke have embarked on the largest bailout program ever conceived …. a program which so far will cost taxpayers $8.5 trillion.

[The updated, exact number can be disputed. But as shown below, the exact number of trillions of dollars is not that important.]

So how does $8.5 trillion dollars compare with the cost of some of the major conflicts and programs initiated by the US government since its inception? To try and grasp the enormity of this figure, let’s look at some other financial commitments undertaken by our government in the past:

As illustrated above, one can see that in today’s dollar, we have already committed to spending levels that surpass the cumulative cost of all of the major wars and government initiatives since the American Revolution.

Recently, the Congressional Research Service estimated the cost of all of the major wars our country has fought in 2008 dollars. The chart above shows that the entire cost of WWII over four to five years was less than half the current pledges made by Paulson and Bernanke in the last three months!

In spite of years of conflict, the Vietnam and the Iraq wars have each cost less than the bailout package that was approved by Congress in two weeks. The Civil War that devastated our country had a total price tag (for both the Union and Confederacy) of $60.4 billion, while the Revolutionary War was fought for a mere $1.8 billion.

In its fifty or so years of existence, NASA has only managed to spend $885 billion – a figure which got us to the moon and beyond.

The New Deal had a price tag of only $500 billion. The Marshall Plan that enabled the reconstruction of Europe following WWII for $13 billion, comes out to approximately $125 billion in 2008 dollars. The cost of fixing the S&L crisis was $235 billion.

CNBC confirms that the New Deal cost about $500 billion (and the S&L crisis cost around $256 billion) in inflation adjusted dollars.

So even though the government’s spending on the “war” on the economic crisis dwarfs the amount spent on the New Deal, our economy is still stuck in the mud.

Given that the government has done so much, but we are still mired in a situation which in many ways is comparable to the Great Depression, it is not a very radical statement to say that the government is doing the wrong things to address the downturn.

I hope that the economy recovers. But the above comparisons are worrisome, indeed.

Towards a New Iron Curtain: The US-NATO Missile Shield Encircles Eurasia

December 28th, 2010 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Western Europe through NATO and the E.U. forms the primary bridgehead of America into Eurasia.

According to Brzezinski: “[NATO and the E.U. constitute] America’s most important global relationship. It is the springboard for U.S. global involvement, enabling America to play the decisive role of arbiter in Eurasia — the world’s central arena of power — and it creates a coalition that is globally dominant in all key dimensions of power and influence.” [1]

The secondary bridgeheads of America into Eurasia are: (1) Japan and South Korea; (2) the Arabian Peninsula; and (3) the U.S. and NATO military forces in occupied Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is why the expansion of the U.S. missile shield from a U.S. project to a NATO project should come as no surprise. The globalization of NATO is part of that process. The inclusion of the missile shield project under the helm of NATO was already in the pipeline in the 1990s. In fact, the statements that NATO just adopted the missile shield project in 2010 are bold faced lies.

U.S. and NATO Missile Proliferation

Records of active NATO missile system proliferation go all the way back to 2006 with the Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (ALTBMD) program. Within NATO, the U.S., Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and the Czech Republic have been working together for years in establishing a missile shield system. While Israel, India, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, and Ukraine under its former Orangist government have all been partners.

NATO even drafted a missile coordination policy in the same year as the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, 2003. The draft was ratified by NATO the next year, in 2004. France was also working on its own ballistic missile (SAMP-T) system, while the Dutch, Germans, and Americans were jointly developing the integrated Extended Air/Theater Missile systems through Project Optic Windmill.

“The Ring of Fire” and the New Iron Curtain: The Three Theatres of the Inter-Continental Missile Shield Project

The missile shield project is really a triad of three missile shields that form a global missile shield system surrounding Eurasia. The three theatre segments of the missile shield are based in Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia. East Asia includes both Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. Moreover, there are also overlapping zones that link the triad of missile shields. These are: (1) the Mediterranean, which links Europe and the Middle East; (2) the Indian Ocean, which links the Middle East and East Asia; and (3) North America.

North America acts as the strategic depth of this weapons system and in reality is its command centre. The system is linked to North American missile defences over the U.S., Canada, and Greenland. North America also serves to augment the missile systems in both East Asia and Europe.

While Iran has been cited as a justification for a missile shield in Europe, the location of military facilities in Greenland says something else. Geographically, Greenland is not a proper location to monitor any possible North Korean missile threat or located in the best place to monitor any possible Iranian missile threat. Greenland is ideal for monitoring Russian missiles that would travel over the Arctic Circle as the most logical route.

The European missile project is primarily aimed at Russia, while the East Asian missile project is aimed primarily at China under the pretext of defence against North Korea. The Middle Eastern portion of the missile project is in Israel and the Persian Gulf, hosted by countries like Saudi Arabia, and aimed at Iran and Syria. The establishment of a missile shield in Turkey will primarily be aimed against Iran and Syria and will also provide the cover for an Israeli attempt to attack Iran. In this context, many voices in Turkey have been raised in opposition to Turkish participation in the NATO missile shield project. This includes the leader of the People’s Voice Party of Turkey who has said that the missile shield project could lead to World War III. [2]


From New Iron Curtain to Star Wars: The Militarization of Space

In regards to the Asiatic missile project, Australia has also been working with the U.S. and Japan. There is also a drive to raise a missile shield in South Asia with India. This effectively means that Eurasia would be encircled by a ring of missile systems.

This is also why Russia has been working closely with its allies in Kazakhstan, Belarus, and China on missile defences and China has developed a missile system that can destroy U.S.-NATO satellites.

The multi-layered U.S. and NATO global missile shield system is tied into the militarization of space.


Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
is a Research Associate at the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).


NOTES

[1] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Geostrategic Triad: Living with China, Europe, and Russia (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies Press, November 3, 2000), p.29.
[2] Serkan Demirtaş, “NATO shield could cause World War III, Turkish party leader says”, Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review, November 24, 2010.

Post Election Violence and Crimes against Humanity in Kenya

December 28th, 2010 by Leigh Brownhill

The International Criminal Court’s naming of six Kenyans suspected of committing crimes against humanity has opened up a gulf between members of the country’s political class and ordinary citizens. The sources quoted here decry the erosion of democratic gains in Kenya after parliament reacted to the naming of suspects by voting to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). This review of seven days in December (20-27) heralds the emergence of evermore forceful demands for a new democratic turn in Kenya.

December 28th is known by many as Innocents’ Day, or the Feast of the Day of Innocents. It commemorates the deaths of infants massacred in Bethlehem by King Herod, who had been told that a baby (Jesus) had been born who would one day challenge Herod’s rule. To protect his power, the king ordered the killing of all children under the age of two.

Innocents’ Day 2010 takes on a special meaning in light of recent events in Kenya. In a Christmas Day sermon, Mombasa Archbishop Boniface Lele reminded parishioners of Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. “Jesus was born in a situation of violence and if it was today, He will be born in an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp to empathise with us” (Nation Team, “Clergy ask politicians not to protect suspects from justice,” Sunday Nation (Nairobi), 26 December 2010).

Three years ago, between 28 December 2007 and the end of February 2008, some 1,500 Kenyans were killed and more than 500,000 evicted from their homes after a disputed presidential election. On 15 December 2010, the International Criminal Court named six men who chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo suspects hold highest responsibility for the crimes committed in Kenya between December 2007 and February 2008. Ocampo requested that ICC judges indict them on charges of crimes against humanity. The suspects include three Members of Parliament, Uhuru Kenyatta, Henry Kosgey and William Ruto; the former Chief of Police, Mohammed Hussein Ali; the head of the Civil Service, Francis Muthaura; and a vernacular language radio show host, Joshua arap Sang.

If found guilty the suspects will become “hostis humani generis, or “enemies of humanity.” Ocampo’s news was received very peacefully by Kenyans, even in Eldoret, a presumed centre of tensions, where John Githongo reported the town as “totally cool, calm and collected” (Githongo, John, “Now that Ocampo has dropped his bombshell, we must watch our step,” The East African (Nairobi), 20 December 2010). The press had covered the potential threats to the peace largely to the exclusion of the more vibrant, popular and widespread workings and gains of country-wide peace movements.  
 

The post-election violence of 2007-2008 had a particular impact on women. Nairobi doctors who treated an estimated 500 rape survivors within the first weeks of the post-election chaos, said that 95% of these patients had been gang-raped. Scores of women were feared to have been infected with HIV.

At the same time, Kenyan women were the key peace makers both during and after those violent months. For instance, in early January 2008 at the height of ongoing attacks,  two hundred women in the Nairobi slum of Kibera joined together across party and ethnic lines to march through the streets and call for peace and reconciliation.

A woman politician, who in January 2008 led healing circles at a camp for internally displaced people in the Rift Valley, asked displaced women when they felt they were “at peace.” The refugees answered that they had peace “when they are able to provide food, shelter and health to their families, including being able to educate their children” (Ringera, Karambu, “The Heart of the Kenya Violence and Peace,” Pambazuka News, Issue 341, 31 January 2008).

These are among the hundreds of peace initiatives that ordinary Kenyans launched in efforts to forestall further violence. Behind these initiatives are thousands of long-standing, multi-ethnic, social, cultural, ecological, spiritual and political organizations, both formal and informal, many founded and autonomously organized by women.

These peace initiatives did not stop in February 2008, when the post-election crisis was brought to an end by a negotiated settlement brokered by Kofi Annan. Annan helped construct a coalition government and secured assurances that the Kenyan parliament would set up a local process to try the masterminds of the post-election violence. If they failed to do so, Annan said, he would refer the Kenyan case to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Annan’s willingness to refer the Kenyan case to The Hague was the first formal acknowledgement of suspected high-level culpability for the violence.

In 2008 and 2009, partisanship and fears of political interference kept lawmakers from coming to any kind of agreement on setting up a local tribunal. Consequently, the case ended up at The Hague. For the first time, those allegedly bearing “highest responsibility” for the eruption of election-related violence in Kenya (there were several previous elections with violence) were going to be brought to book.

December 2010 saw a dramatic erosion of the legitimacy of the Kenyan government. This followed upon the naming of the Ocampo Six. It was intensified by the astonishing reaction of Kenyan parliamentarians to the possibility of some of their members facing justice in The Hague.

Immediately upon the naming of the six alleged masterminds, President Kibaki declared that the suspects would not be asked to step aside or resign from their public posts, contrary to the new constitution’s high ethical bar for all holding public office. They would stay in office unless and until ICC judges confirmed the prosecutor’s charges against them, some time in early 2011.

This was quickly followed by an announcement by Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), offering six suspects “moral” support. Within days, politicians from across party lines called for harambees (fundraisers) to raise the hundreds of millions of shillings (approximately Canadian $1,240,000) required by each suspect to hire the best legal defence teams.

The next day, December 17th, parliamentarians introduced a motion seeking to withdraw Kenya from the Rome Statute which binds the country to the International Criminal Court. The House Speaker dismissed the motion as unconstitutional. Some MPs called the motion “mundane” and an attempt to “save friends.” Within days it was resubmitted with minor modifications.

Vice President Kilonzo Musyoka intervened to have the motion considered late in the day on 22 December. At that point, all Parliamentarians present in the House, except one, Martha Karua, voted in favour of the motion.

Speaking in support of the motion to withdraw, energy minister Kiraitu Murungi said “It is only Africans from former colonies who are being tried at the ICC. No American or British will be tried at the ICC and we should not willingly allow ourselves to return to colonialism. The fears that we had when we were introducing the international criminal justice system are no longer there. There is nothing we cannot handle. As a sovereign country, no other Kenyan will be tried on foreign land. Let the six go but we have now learnt our lessons’’ (Regene, Njeri, “Parliament pulls Kenya from ICC treaty,” Daily Nation, 22 December 2010).

The legal procedure for withdrawal from the Rome Statute is outlined in Article 127 of the International Crimes Act. A state seeking to withdraw must write to the UN Secretary General. Such withdrawal can only take effect one year after the Security Council receives the submission. All cases begun before the date of the submission remain intact.

Even if Kenya’s Principals request withdrawal, the ‘Ocampo Six’ will be spared The Hague trials only under specific conditions. Amongst these are that the same suspects be tried in a local tribunal with the same charges, and that the ICC prosecutor’s office approves the formation of the local tribunal or other legal mechanism established to address election-related crimes.

For the six, the next move rests with three ICC judges, who will confirm Ocampo’s charges, modify them or reject the charges altogether. If the judges do assent to charging the suspects, a possible modification would be to issue arrest warrants for the suspects rather than the simple summonses now being sought by Ocampo.

Ocampo’s action contributed to a confluence of crises within the ruling class (these include Wikileaks revelations and politicians’ reactions; constitutional logjams; along with corruption and drug cases among government Ministers and other officials). These tensions are splitting old alliances, and at the same time bolstering new ones. The tidal wave of delegitimization has now engulfed everyone from the president who refused to ask the suspects to step aside, to the politicians and state officers who have vowed to support the suspects “morally” and “financially,” to parliamentarians who passed a Motion on 22 December 2010 to withdraw from the ICC process, after which they agreed to adjourn for “an indefinite recess.”

The government has been inundated by legal challenges. Over 50,000 cases were pending before the passage of the new constitution on 4 August 2010. With the new rights enshrined in the constitution, the government is worried about an “avalanche” of further cases. 

A flurry of court cases for the dissolution of parliament began in mid-November 2010. Litigation was spurred by parliament’s failure to hold to deadlines for the establishment of key committees for the implementation of the constitution. The calls for parliament’s dissolution began with the peoples’ demand for the preservation of the sanctity, including the deadlines, of the country’s popular new constitution.

The second round of questioning of the legitimacy of the parliamentarians’ right to hold office followed seamlessly in mid-December 2010 after MPs moved to withdraw Kenya from the International Criminal Court (see Appendix below).

The ICC has forced the opening of political space in Kenya. Three years after the election that prompted a Herod-like slaughter of innocents, the possibility of justice has given rise to a new popular anticipation of positive changes in the dispensation of power.

Ng’ang’a Mbugua, in a 26 December Sunday Nation article tellingly entitled “Change of seismic proportion is on the way,” reminded readers “that the number of political vacancies has increased tremendously with the coming of county governments.” Even more political vacancies are promised by the popular demand that those now in office step down. Polls indicate most MPs will not be re-elected.

The demand for the benefits of peace is growing day by day. The momentous Kenyan events take place in the context of an approaching referendum for the succession of southern Sudan in January 2011, a hotly contested presidential election in Uganda in 2011 and the approach of Kenya’s next presidential election in August 2012 (in which two of the ICC’s named suspects had hoped to stand). Additional geo-political developments in the region include oil discoveries, pipeline route negotiations, new enclosures due to carbon trade projects, new GMO field trials, bio-fuel plantations and ramped-up military manoeuvres.

Beneath the drama unfolding at the level of Kenyan parliament and the International Criminal Court is the mobilization of vital grassroots movements for peace and participation. These are poised to alter the political landscape significantly in the coming year.

The focus here has been on seven days in December. Among the issues that will emerge more prominently in the near future are responses by Kenya’s Executive to parliament’s demand to get Kenya out of the ICC; the diverse political strategies employed by multitudes of grassroots actors, especially women; and class and factional conflict amongst those rushing to fill the vacancies created by the delegitimization of the incumbent section of the political class.
 


Appendix: Voices opposing Kenya’s parliamentary decision to withdraw from the ICC

These excerpts from online Kenyan newspapers (Standard, East African and Daily Nation), largely from 20-27 December 2010, show that Kenyan parliamentarians’ actions are widely at variance with the views and demands of the citizenry that is challenging the government’s legitimacy. Our comments are included in italics.

Letters to the Editor

“For a minister to confidently face the cameras and suggest that taxpayer money be used for the convenience of people suspected to have instigated the violence that killed many, and displaced thousands who still live in misery is sad indeed. Widows, widowers, orphans and people who were maimed are crying out for justice.” (Chagema, Alexander, “Asking widows and widowers to bail out suspects insensitive,” Letter to the Editor, Daily Nation (Nairobi), 21 December 2010). 

 “I had long felt that an MP’s job was to represent constituents. How wrong I was. They vote to withdraw from ICC, yet opinion polls show a large majority in favour of ICC. Time to invoke the recall clause.” (Gittens, Anthony, “Recall Clause,” Letter to the Editor, Daily Nation (Nairobi), 23 December 2010. 

“The decision by Parliament to pass the Bill withdrawing Kenya from the Rome Statute is tantamount to equating the country to the Ocampo Six. This is unacceptable. Even if half of the current crop of leaders were to be indicted, Kenya must remain. What we should be asking these fellows is to tell the truth about what happened during our darkest hour. Therefore, the MPs pushing for the exoneration of the suspects at whichever cost, including spoiling the good name of the nation, are the greatest enemies of Kenya and not Mr Moreno-Ocampo” (Bernard Amera, “MPs who want Ocampo Six exonerated are public enemies,” Letter to the Editor, Daily Nation (Nairobi), 27 December 2010)  

“They are talking of a local mechanism, which they first rejected, presumably because they thought the ICC would bring suspects to book in 2090. No one has said the named suspects are guilty; what is required is the due process of the law to take its course. Let the suspects being referred as sacrificial lambs go and tell the International Court whom they were working for instead of stirring futile ethnic passions. It seems they have left Gichugu MP Martha Karua to be the only voice of the voiceless in the House. The best New Year’s gift President Kibaki can give the nation is to dissolve Parliament because it has become an eyesore” (Apollo, Joab, “Dissolve House; it’s become an eyesore,” Letter to the Editor, Standard (Nairobi), 27 December 2010). 

Public statements

“Speaking on behalf of the NGO Council, activist Ken Wafula said that the move by Parliament “smacks of betrayal of the public mandate accorded it. Kenya signed and ratified the Rome Statute voluntarily. With the International Crimes Act in place, one arm of government can not purport to decide on behalf of the country on a matter as heavy as our ICC membership.”  He challenged the MPs to subject the issue to a public referendum.” (Daily Nation, “Parliament move draws criticism,” Daily Nation (Nairobi), 23 December 2010).  

“It’s a show of utmost cowardice. Why think of pulling out [of the ICC] when there is a problem yet the suspects have an opportunity to clear their names and come out as heroes?” posed Prof Wangari Mwai, a lecturer at Kenyatta University. (Nation Correspondent, “Scholars fault move to pull out of accord,” Daily Nation (Nairobi), 23 December 2010). 

Joab Okello, a Kenyan-American administrative judge for the US State of New York, asked Kenyans to protest the decision by the legislators:

“I was outraged by that move because Kenya cannot afford to be a pariah state. We are one of the most important countries in Africa, and we’ve maintained that for years. And, for Parliament to pass this Motion, just because six people have been indicted, is outrageous,” he said. “The six individual must still answer to the ICC. What they are trying to do is protect these people so that they are not arrested. So, that means the ICC can only arrest the individuals if they leave the country. But, if Kenya was a signatory, (to the ICC), then Kenya would have to arrest them if needed.” (Standard Team, “The Hague: Ocampo works on despite politics,” Standard (Nairobi), 24 December 2010). 

The Executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, L. Muthoni Wanyeki, wrote in a 27 December 2010 editorial:

“The last week has been a sickening show of both contempt for and ignorance of the law by the House — its members proving themselves to be blithely unconcerned about their lack of support among the public. They have not been representing the public in their actions. They have been representing themselves — and their disgusting calculations to retain power for those they have latched their financial and political fortunes to come 2012. The statements emanating from the MPs — and, lower down, the Councillors who have, in turn, attached their own financial and political fortunes to them — have been almost unbelievable. …

“The cause for disgust and nausea: How dare the Grand Coalition Government even consider utilising public funds (our funds, our hard-earned taxes) to pay for the legal defence of any of the accused? How dare the ethnic-political cabals on either side of the House ask “their” constituents and supporters to fundraise to this end? It is not the Grand Coalition Government that’s been summoned. Neither is it the parties to the Grand Coalition Government. And it is especially not the ethnic communities deemed to be homogenously in support of the would-be presidential candidates apparently being foisted upon them.

“Our two Principals should also be ashamed of themselves. Once again, they have failed to whip their parties into shape and lead. Once again, they have let parliament run rogue. Once again, they have, apparently meekly and weakly but, in fact, ever so calculatedly, let parliament get its hands dirty in their name. So they can throw up their own hands, supposedly helplessly, and say: Sorry, we ourselves of course understand the need to move forward, but these helpless hands of ours are tied. We are a democracy, after all. And parliament needs to check the executive.

“They are all sick. They are sick with the assumption of being above the law. They are sick from having, too many times, been able to get away with whitewashed investigations, whose feeble and ineffectual findings are quickly swept under the carpet and eventually, if not forgotten, at least rendered unable to touch them.

“But it is only check, not yet checkmate. Politically, yes, in the short-term, parliament’s move will give the executive what it needs to drag its feet on co-operation with the ICC. But, in the longer-term, parliament has alienated itself farther from the people and the world it wishes to remain part of than it seems to realise. And legally, parliament’s move is meaningless. Utterly meaningless. Whether the International Crimes Act is eventually repealed and whether the executive does move to disengage from the Rome Statute, the fact is that the latter had jurisdiction at the material time. The cases will continue. And only the strength of the Prosecutor’s evidence and witnesses — and the relative strength of the defence — matter at this point in time.” (Wanyeki, L. Muthoni, “Our MPs really should be ashamed of themselves,” The East African (Nairobi), 27 December 2010). 

On 26 December 2010 in an opinion piece in the Sunday Nation, Former MP and political prisoner, Koigi wa Wamwere summed up the clamour for a new political dispensation:

“At last, violent reactions by Parliament to the naming of The Hague Six have confirmed that our President and Prime Minister, ethnic elite and MPs are incorrigible self-preservationists with impunity saturating their blood. When our MPs saw Luis Moreno-Ocampo would not retreat, they saw red, threw all caution to the wind, shed democratic pretensions, embraced the Hague Six, threw out the threatening Ouko report and hurriedly passed a Motion to withdraw Kenya from the Rome Statute for self-insulation against prosecution for crimes against humanity or genocide. … The Minister for Planning wants the State to foot their legal bill. Even more shockingly, some IDPs want to contribute their beggared coins for the legal fees of some billionaires who may have put them where they are today! Most important, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga have offered The Hague Six an economic lifeline. While ministers suspected of corruption are asked to step aside, the suspects of greater crimes against humanity have their jobs guaranteed! The defence of The Hague Six is, however, not couched in justification of crime, but in clever, yet warped moral appeal for sympathy to human suffering rendered equally to killers and their victims!” (wa Wamwere, Koigi, “With the Hague Six,” Sunday Nation (Nairobi), 26 December 2010). 

Internally Displaced People (IDPs)

“Internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in Central Province criticized MPs for suggesting that money be raised to hire lawyers for Uhuru Kenyatta [who hails from the area]. “We have now spent three years in camps and yet the MPs do not think about us. All they want is to fight for political positions and yet we voted for them,” noted the IDPs’ chairperson Martin Ndung’u. “It is a shame that the leaders who made us live in camps do not think about us anymore. Uhuru can afford to hire prominent lawyers but we who are in camps cannot even afford a meal for ourselves,” he said.

“According to Beatrice Nyokabi, the chairlady [of] Ebenezer Camp in Mai Mahiu, the three years have been punishing for the IDPs. … For Nyokabi, the plan to raise funds for Uhuru Kenyatta’s defence and other suspects is like rubbing salt into a festering wound. “Does it mean that the lives of six suspects are more important than the hundreds of IDPs languishing in poverty and enduring hardship?” she posed. “We are in the camps because of these politicians, yet they have the audacity to tell us to raise funds for the suspects!” Nyokabi chuckled.” (Munyeki, James, “IDPs tell off MPs over funds drive for Uhuru,” Standard (Nairobi), 19 December 2010).

Polls

“Most Kenyans will not opt for their current MPs were elections to be held today, a new opinion poll has shown. The latest Infotrak survey released yesterday shows 56 per cent of Kenyans were of the view that they would not re-elect their MPs, 28 per cent said they would while 16 per cent were undecided.” (Omango, Beauttah, “Most voters won’t re-elect their MPs,” Standard (Nairobi), 24 December 2010). 

“Six out of ten Kenyans want the trial of the six suspected masterminds of post-election violence by the International Criminal Court to go on uninterrupted, according to a new poll. … The poll is also unanimous that the ICC suspects as well as others not in the list should face justice. The poll shows that a fairly large proportion of Kenyans (73 per cent) are optimistic that the trial of the suspects named by ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will take place” (Menya, Walter, “Kenyans want Ocampo Six tried in Hague,” Daily Nation (Nairobi), 24 December 2010). 

Daily Nation, 27 December 2010  

Clergy

“Mombasa Archbishop Boniface Lele appealed to the President to consider the possible repercussions that would befall the country if ostracised by the international community. “We feel cheated by Parliament over the motion of pulling Kenya out of its international obligations just to protect some of their colleagues mentioned as suspects of the post-elections violence,” he said.” (Mwajefa, Mwakera, “Kibaki urged to reject ICC motion,” Sunday Nation (Nairobi) 26 December 2010).

Diplomatic Envoys 

“British High Commissioner Rob Macaire warned that if Kenya walked away from the ICC, after all the public demands for The Hague to come in, it would be terribly damaging to the country’s reputation. “The ICC is an impartial body: You have to ask questions about the motivation of parliamentarians who have suddenly decided that the court is biased or political. These were the very MPs who called for the ICC’s involvement, and voted out a local tribunal! Perhaps what they are really saying is that they just want to prevent anyone being held to account for crimes against humanity,” Mr Macaire said.” (Daily Nation, “Parliament move draws criticism,” Daily Nation (Nairobi), 23 December 2010). 

“Kenya has been rebuilding its international image since the post-election violence. Withdrawal from the ICC process potentially risks all this,” the envoys from the United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, said in a statement. …The envoys, whose countries are state parties to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, … urged the government to allow The Hague prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to go on with the prosecutions of the six people he believes bear the most responsibility for the post-election violence in 2008. They also called for reforms in the Judiciary to try other suspects.” (Namunane, Bernard, “13 envoys oppose plan to ditch ICC,” Daily Nation (Nairobi), 24 December 2010).  

Members of Parliament

Kenyan MPs are now coming out against the motion to withdraw from the Rome Statute:

“Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Mutula Kilonzo urged President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to ignore the recommendation by Parliament for Kenya to sever its relations with the world court” (Namunane, Bernard, “13 envoys oppose plan to ditch ICC,” Daily Nation (Nairobi), 24 December 2010).

Prime Minister Raila Odinga equivocated: “The Hague is not one’s own house where he can go in and come out at will. We must give one-year notice and still it won’t help the suspects.” At the same time, he said, Kenya would form a local tribunal to try the Ocampo Six and other suspects. The ICC would have to inspect and approve the credibility of the tribunal before it accepted to hand over the six suspects to be tried locally. “Whether we pull out of the ICC or not, Moreno-Ocampo will still have them. But after the inspection, if things will be fine then they will try our people locally,” he said.” (Anyuor, Nicholas, “Raila: We can run but not hide,” Standard (Nairobi), 27 December 2010). 

“On 27 December 2010, ministers James Orengo (Lands), Otieno Kajwang’ (Immigration) and Education Assistant Minister Ayiecho Olweny challenged the approval of the motion, arguing Kenya should not withdraw from the ICC. “We signed the protocol because of its benefits and we shall protect it because we need it,” said Kajwang’. Orengo urged Kenyans to give ICC unwavering support. “Those implicated should carry their own cross,” he added. Ayiecho said, “It is unfortunate for Kenya to pull out of the ICC because of the list of the six suspects.””(Anyuor, Nicholas, “Raila: We can run but not hide,” Standard (Nairobi), 27 December 2010). 

Blogs

In the on-line version of Kenya’s daily newspapers, readers can submit comments on particular stories. Within 18 hours of the MPs vote, more than 200 people had written in to the Daily Nation decrying the move to withdraw from the Rome Statute. The selection below represents numbered postings as they appeared on the Daily Nation website on 23 December 2010.  (see growing list of contributions to this blog at http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/Parliament%20pulls%20Kenya%20from%20ICC%20treaty/-/1064/1077336/-/v0uyxsz/-/index.html):

1. This is unbelievable. Talk of sovereignty is nonsense and short-sighted. We have murderers and rapists among our leaders. The remainder of the leaders are people who want to protect them. All political parties have failed Kenyans here. Support the wealthy, criminals holding us hostage through parliament. Business as usual. I weep for my country. Can this be repealed? Can Kenyans come together and act?

2. and how many MPs were present to debate such an important matter? This is almost like a constitutional issue that requires a referendum.. two-thirds

21. Kibaki should override the parliament on this vote. Or the court should rule the parliament unconstitutional

22. These thugs don’t pay taxes and yet they expect us to pay for the circus in our local courts/tribunals in the name of a sovereign state trying its beloved 6 thugs. ICC is offering the trial for free and their fellow thugs not on the six list are willing to foot their 7star accommodation and legal team at Hague. Since the 6 are all innocent, they will get a free holiday in Europe and return with a hefty package as damages after successfully suing ICC for tainting their good image.

24. This is legislative banditry and judicial hooliganism. By domesticating ICC WE made it OUR court. The claim that ICC is foreign and colonial is utter gibberish!! These are rascals out to vandalise the Constitution as they did with the Westminster one.

28. It is impunity for the rich and no justice for the poor.

30. My only worry is, how can we keep these crooks in Parliament up to 2012? Is there a way all of them, except Hon. Martha Karua, can be recalled back to their villages, to avoid further damages and shame to our Country? Is there a way??

42. The 6 will still go to The Hague as the process to withdraw takes one year. Meanwhile the ICC machinery continues with the two cases. In fact, this move by MPs will probably strengthen the resolve of the ICC to not politely “summon” the suspects but rather issue arrest warrants instead as it is now evident that the government is not cooperating with the ICC.

66. It shows the political elite is untouchable, that regardless of tribe they have a common agenda, that they eat donors’ money like no one else but at the same time call them neocolonialists – the peak of hypocrisy, etc. Please note: Sovereignty is based on legitimacy and this parliament has lost its legitimacy in representing Kenyans.

104. No reasons the mps give make any sense. ICC seems to be on trial for PEV. Parliament should be dissolved so that Kenyan can elect mps who can save our country. (House Speaker Kenneth) Marende should lead them home . People were killed, raped and displaced, nobody cared, but when the suspected killers are named every single cent will be collected for their defence. We are sick. It is time for the Kenyans to storm Parliament and close it. It is a house of shame.

135. OMG someone please tell me how to sue the Kenyan Government, am tired of being an IDP (internally displaced person), how else will I get my rights as a Kenyan if the big fishes are covering for each other. I am so sick and tired of being a second class citizen.

149. Fellow Kenyans, I suggest that a referendum be sought by Martha Karua to seek for public view on this matter. It is not safe at all to leave this important matter in the hands of these hooligans we have always known as such.

150. Do these Lords of Impunity expect us to trust them with a local tribunal?? What purpose does withdrawing serve? It does not take effect until one year after GOK (Government of Kenya) notifies UN. And cases begun before withdrawal are not affected. Moreover judges now have an added reason to issue arrest warrants instead of summons to appear- that is the price the six will pay for the ignorance and stupidity of their friends.

152. This thoughtless, knave action proves our MPs, with a couple of exceptions are all at heart tribalists, rapists, arsonists and chicken brained. Will they now go ahead proscribe ICC or sack its prosecutor? Kenya is in the vice grip of impunity. Cry, My Beloved Country!

154. Over 1300 citizens lost their lives and now some 222 persons are standing in the way of justice? The time for Kenyans to exercise their right of recall is now. Under the new constitution, Article 104 of Chapter 8, Kenyans have a right to recall their MPs. Other MPs want to fundraise to defeat justice same way they did to kill Kenyans. Let them know that Kenyans now have a way out. Perpetrators must be brought to book.

158. Now!!! This government needs to be overthrown and wiped out completely and this is not a joke. I mean it

167. And we KPC (Kenya People’s Court) have identified the ENEMIES of the people and Kenya, we kick them out en-masse come 2012! And Kenya will remain in the ICC, wapende wasipende (whether they like it or not), they are the ones to be seeing Bunge (Parliament) from outside, selfish unjust kleptos they are.

 178. What?? No they DID NOT! If what I am reading is true – then Mr President the best you can do for Kenya is something called VETO. Do not send my motherland to the dogs. The Ocampo six are not more human beings than the over thousand lives that were lost. Justice aside, but it is immoral for the parliament to amend the law to benefit themselves. Media, please be the voice of the voiceless on this one. Inform Kenyans including the 212 waheshimiwas (“Honourables” – the MPs) the pros and cons of pulling out from ICC. Martha Karua is the only sane representative.

 181. WTF!! go on protect your own, you are all guilty in our eyes, you’ve just confirmed that wananchi’s (citizens’) interest are not represented in parliament. There has to be a way to get these guys to the Hague, pliz someone confirm this is true!

 183. The MPs, by voting that Kenya be out of the Rome statute, have proved that never worthy to represent Kenyans. They should be voted out save for Martha Karua.

 187. These self-seeking, half-brained, self serving nincompoops have done it again! Now since they realize that the system might work against them so it must be bad!!! Why didn’t they pull out before there was ever a case? Sovereignty my foot! Just how stupid are these people but worse we people for recycling them over the years!!!

196. We can only end impunity by voting out all these MPs come 2012. They do not deserve to make decisions on behalf of this nation. All their decisions are made to defend the perpetrators of PEV.

200. Now, Kenyans prepare and vote in all new MPs so we can get back on the Rome statute.

Leigh Brownhill is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto and a Visiting Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University, Montreal. She is the author of Land, Food, Freedom: Struggles for the Gendered Commons in Kenya, 1870‑2007 (African World Press, 2009). As a co‑founder of First Woman: The East and Southern African Women’s Oral History and Indigenous Knowledge Network, she has recorded the life stories of elderly Mau Mau women in Kenya since 1994. She is active in the National Farmer=s Union in Canada and is the eco-feminist editor of the journal Capitalism Nature Socialism and a member of the Canadian Dimension editorial collective. She has taught and published on gender, climate change, food sovereignty and social movements.

Terisa E. Turner is Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. She edited Oil and Class Struggle (1980), Arise Ye Mighty People! Gender, Class and Race in Popular Struggles (1994), Gender, Feminism and the Civil Commons (2001) and Women and Global Climate Change (2007); and has written widely on fossil fuel moratoria, resource conflict, international political economy, gender and subsistence. Since 2006 she has focused on ‘commoners against climate change.’ She is a founder and co-director of the International Oil Working Group, a non-government organization registered at the Department of Public Information of the United Nations in New York. She is also a member of the Canadian Dimension editorial collective

Perpetual War Versus Perpetual Peace

December 28th, 2010 by Michael Carmichael

At the outset of 2011, we find ourselves one decade into a New Age of War.

The War on Terror is reconfiguring every dimension of our lives into its own image. 

The psychology of the New Age of War on Terror is altering the DNA of our civilization.

Racial profiling for terrorists is disturbing deep racisms within our fragile psyches, creating fears of foreigners and demonizing ‘illegal aliens’ as if they were all agents of the dreaded Al-Qaeda.

  • Many of our fellow citizens in the USA are deeply frightened by the mere appearance of foreign nationals.  
  • Many of our fellow Americans are deeply afraid of each and every Muslim on our planet.   
  • Congresswoman Sue Myrick of Charlotte is one of the most acute cases of Islamophobia in our nation. 
  • Islamophobia has swiftly overtaken Anti-Semitism as the acceptable form of xenophobia in the 21st century. 
  • Many of our leaders in government, politics, the military and the clergy advocate a long World War on Terror – in effect, committing America to a long and perpetual war with no end in sight. 

The goal of the neoconservatives who back perpetual war is a towering planetary monstrosity consisting of security checkpoints, cameras, armed guards – a malevolent and hostile place bristling with machine-gun wielding soldiers at border crossings and the ever present and watchful eyes of invisible intelligence agents who survey and supervise and map every minute detail of every human life on our planet.  This menacing tower of concrete and steel stands proud atop a massive infrastructure of prisons, jails and courthouses that control the flow of criminals and incarcerate the convicts, the accused and the merely suspicious among us.

Years ago and long before 9/11, the great historian, Charles Beard, observed that America engages in perpetual war for perpetual peace. 

Since the end of WWII, the United States has bombed, invaded, blockaded, bombarded, barraged and intimidated other nations with well over 200 violent acts of unilateral aggression.

But, the fine American tradition of promiscuous military intervention was not born with Pearl Harbor.  The roots of perpetual war dig much deeper into historical time than WWII.

The Americas were discovered and colonized by explorers working for the Spanish crown. 

Motivated by sheer greed rationalized by Roman Catholic religious dogma, Cortes and Pizarro launched genocidal attacks on Golden Age cultures demonized by Jesuits who testified that Native Americans worshipped the devil.

In contrast to the Spanish Conquistadores, Capitalistic colonists from northern Europe settled North America, but soon they, too, joined in the genocidal depopulation of Native Americans.  They introduced the importation of massive numbers of black slaves from Africa to propel the economic engines of the Sugar Islands and the plantation colonies of the South. 

Thomas Jefferson, the enlightened author of the Declaration and the Constitution, articulated the official Indian policy:  Clearance – ie. genocide or transportation beyond the frontier.  

That other great Democratic president, Andrew Jackson, a politician that North Carolina claims as her very own native son, executed the Jeffersonian policy in a genocidal military campaign that killed, maimed and transported Indian tribes and their nations en masse beyond the western frontier of the growing nation that rejected them and forced them outward into an oblivion beyond the howl of the wolf, “down the pathway of the dead men .   .    .   to the land of ghosts and shadows.”

Manifest Destiny was the driving ideology of James K. Polk, the second North Carolinian who reached the presidency.  The drive for the remote western frontier meshed with slavery to legitimize the onslaught of genocidal wars against Native Americans and the enslavement of the black race and their lighter descendants by white plantation owners, the bedrock of the economy of the antebellum South.

But, let us make no mistake — the cycle of conquest and war was not unique to the Americas. 

Ancient empires globalized their economies through the brutalities of genocide, slavery and colonization from ancient Mesopotamia to the horrific and prolific public mass executions of Ancient Egypt through the Assyrian Conquest, the Persian Conquest, the Babylonian Conquest, the rise of Alexander the Great and the career of Julius Caesar.

The Iliad of Homer records the blood-drenched hostilities between the kingdoms and city-states of ancient Greece locked in conflict for one entire decade with their Anatolian colony, Troy, over a single case of adultery.

In The Iliad, we learn not only of the blood-soaked savagery of ancient war, but also the practice of espionage, covert operations and psychological warfare—all insidious components of the strategy of war.

The Old Testament records accounts of prolific racial genocide; yet it is a text sacred to three of the world’s great monotheistic religions.

Ancient China was racked by three centuries of brutal civil war that led to the reign of the first Emperor, Huang Ti who founded the Chin Dynasty.

The Warring States period in China produced the literary contribution of Sun Tzu, who wrote The Art of War to extol the professionalization of the military and the overarching importance of secret intelligence operations.

By the year zero–the paradigm of highly organized genocide, subjugation, taxation and slavery established itself deeply in the DNA of civilization.

The tides of genocide and slavery led to the concentration of capital in the leading empires. 

The wealth of empires produced jealousy and rivalry that led to a rollicking rollercoaster ride of centuries of genocidal surges punctuated with splurges of blood-splattered violence on massive scales in Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia.

Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, Pope Urban II, Pope Gregory VIII, Richard the Lionheart, Pope Innocent III, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Suleiman the Magnificent, Henry IV, Pope Julius II, Ivan the Terrible and Frederick the Great all locked into the horrific trend of ultra-violence:  war, racism, genocide and slavery.

The democratic revolutions that followed the French Revolution and Napoleon eventually established a new generation of nation states including Germany and Italy that were anxious to compete with the bloated global empires of Britain, France, Spain, Austria-Hungary, and Russia. 

In the closing decades of the 19th century, wars and nationalistic competition for capital led to a radical intensification of the intrigues of espionage and diplomacy, realpolitik and the articulation of ultra-violence through the harsh implementation of blood and iron – ‘Blut und gutte’ in the words of Bismarck, the architect of atrocities who posed and preened his elaborate uniforms with the egomania of a power-mad narcissist. 

Eventually, the interlocking diplomatic treaties – both public and secret — led to a crisis triggered by the assassination of a frankly tertiary figure in world history – the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by an agent of the Black Hand in Sarajevo in 1913. 

World War I elevated the level of inhumanity to stratospheric altitudes never before envisioned.  The pace of technology was quickly geared to manufacture an exponential explosion of lethality. 

The mass manufacture of machine guns, bombs, huge cannons, battleships, the submarine and, of course, the airplane all converged to render human frailty unto the horrific tortures of No Man’s Land; trench warfare and heroic battles in the sky before the invention of the parachute.

Millions of heroic men, women and children were slaughtered.  The Somme, Paschendale, the Marne, Gallipoli, the Western Front and Ypres produced an infinitude of corpses of unknown soldiers reduced to detached fragments of flesh, blood and bone.

America remained aloof from the European slaughter – until German torpedoes sank the Lusitania and the engines of propaganda revved up the fear and hatred of our nation to enter the most blood-soaked conflict in world history – fully three years after that conflict started. 

America finally entered World War I in 1917 and flooded the old continent with doughboys armed with rifles, a modicum of military discipline and a new wave of racist propaganda demonizing the Hun, Germany and everything Axis.

After securing Peace at the end of 1918, President Wilson went to Versailles to codify the Treaty and to launch his concept for a League of Nations – an idea he borrowed from Immanuel Kant who proposed a Federation of Nations to impose Permanent Peace through international law in 1795.

While war torn Europe hastened to organize and sustain Wilson’s League of Nations, the ‘Irreconcilable’ Republicans led by William Borah, a progressive trust-busting and devoutly isolationist Senator from Idaho objected to Wilsonian globalism compelling America to abstain from the first serious experiment in international law enforcement aimed at Perpetual Peace.

The unstoppable slide from WWI to WWII is well known.  The Versailles Treaty created massive economic hardship, impoverishment and resentment in Weimar Germany. 

The tide of fear, hatred and anti-Semitic racial jealousy of Jewish capital coagulated in the tortured mind of Adolf Hitler who articulated his doctrine of National Socialism predicated on Aryan Supremacy and the freedom of the State — not the freedom of the individual, mind you – the freedom of the State.

In Hitler’s mind, the State morphed into the Reich – the wonderful Empire that would recreate the classical supremacy of Greece and Rome by military conquest and the suppression of racial minorities from Jews to Gypsies and from the deformed to the disabled to the gay. 

The rise of Nazism surged uncontrollably through the veins of Europe.  Fascism swept across the classical architecture and landscape of the continent. 

Fascism, Nazism and that other totalitarianism, Communism, reconfigured the world as they threatened to ‘bury’ Capitalism in a sealed sarcophagus and sink it into a deep and inescapable tomb carved into the marbled veins of history.

Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Stalin were Bismarckian supermen. 

Propelled by massive doses of drugs and adoring cults of personality, Hitler and Mussolini pratted and strutted like political popes posing and posturing on their balconies of power to hypnotize their audiences through monotonous harangues extolling Aryan Supremacy to project themselves as the reincarnations of Caesars who would return Europe to the unsurpassable glories of classical Athens and Rome. 

Josef Stalin led the Russian Revolution away from the blood-drenched past of classical capitalistic elitism toward the shining new city of a socialist Atlantis and the arrival of a new generation of humanity – sans greed, sans ego, sans personal desire in a future society sans class and sans state.

Hitler conned and cowered the British into appeasement, then he accomplished the unbelievable — a diplomatic treaty with his archenemy — Stalin.

That sagacious Imperialist, Churchill instantly recognized this dictatorial diplomatic anomaly for what it was, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma — a freakish and ectoplasmic hermaphrodite that would soon vanish from the pages of time.

Carnage returned to Europe as Hitler unleashed his dogs of war – the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe surged across Europe sending waves of blitzkrieg to shock and awe the Dutch, the Belgians and the French into swift submissions to Nazi power.

Britain was another matter.  Protected by the English Channel, the Luftwaffe screamed over the white cliffs of Dover and bombarded the civilian populations of London in a brutal series of Blitzen bombings that gave terrorism its name.

Across the Atlantic, FDR armed Churchill with ships while he was politically restrained by isolationist Republicans collaborating with a few isolationist Democrats like Joseph Kennedy who proclaimed that America had no quarrel with Hitler whatsoever and no reason to be concerned about his treatment of the Jews, either. 

Turning away shiploads of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany was popular everywhere in Europe and America in the 1930s. 

Anti-Semitism was especially popular on the Republican right led by the Dulles family and their fair-haired boy, Thomas Dewey. 

The future Director of Central Intelligence, Allen Dulles, exchanged ribald anti-Semitic jokes with Adolf Hitler in Die Fuhrer’s palatial office in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin. 

A long complicated and largely secret series of strategies led to the clash of cultures we now know as WWII. 

In a clandestine danse macabre, both sides orchestrated the world’s leading scientists in pursuit of a new technologique of megadeath. 

Both sides developed terrifyingly potent secret weapons. 

In underground caves at Peenemunde, the Nazis produced the scintillating rocket technology of Werner Von Braun that terrorized Britain until the final days of the war. 

In darkened chambers from Philadelphia to Los Alamos, the Americans and the British nurtured the Manhattan Project.

FDR died before Manhattan produced that massive and mysterious mushroom cloud over White Sands in the bright summer of 1945. 

In Potsdam, Harry Truman met Stalin face-to-face and eyeball-to-eyeball in a cold-blooded poker game for control of the postwar world amid an atmosphere crackling with the threat of World War III. 

In his secret chamber, Truman pressed the button of Atomic War and synchronized that massive pulse of death over Hiroshima in a calculated ploy to coincide with his diplomatic poker game with Stalin at Potsdam. 

In less than one second, Truman’s secret orders launched the Enola Gay and dropped “Little Boy” – a comic book name for an atomic bomb that vaporized the bodies, minds and spirits of more than one hundred thousand Japanese civilians whose existences instantaneously transformed in one nanosecond from normal to a searing explosion into microscopic fragments of flying globules of sizzling flesh and broken double-helixes of DNA. 

To underscore the postwar pecking order, Truman ordered the cosmic incineration of Nagasaki three days later by an even stronger blast from “Big Boy” – the code name for the largest explosion ever created in world history.

A world weary with wars was shocked and awed and jolted and traumatized into the new postwar reality—cosmic death hung over every human being like an atomic sword of Damocles. 

Truman did not stop there.  Soon, Truman’s secret orders organized the Pentagon and created the Central Intelligence Agency, the primary and secondary engines of American military supremacy.

Without a second thought, Truman issued even more secret orders that led to the launch of the Cold War – a Permanent War for Permanent Peace as Gore Vidal paid homage to Beard in his brilliant book about the follies of Truman’s infernal vision of the America of the future.

In the lifetimes of most of those present here today, the world arrived at the precipice of permanent war and blindly crossed over — like The Fool of Tarot — onto the threshold of Mars, the red planet, the ruler of war.

While it is true that Wilsonian ideals and Kant’s vision of permanent peace inspired the formation of the United Nations, that organization has been able to do very little to contain much less restrain the ultra-violence boiling out of the volcanic superpowers over the past six decades.

Vying for control of the future and the wealth of the planet, the two remaining superpowers — the USSR and the USA fought fiercely against one another through a long and debilitating series of catastrophes:  Korea; covert operations and coup d’etats across the planet; revolutions in Cuba and Africa; the Arms Race; the Space Race; Vietnam; détente, Afghanistan unto the era of Reagan and Gorbachev.

With the restructuring (perestroika) and openness (glasnost) of the Soviet Union, the Cold War came to an end in the political reconfiguration of Eurasia into Russia with its former satellites emergent as new nation states — paralleled by the soaring political hegemony of the United States and its scintillating economic boom of the 1990s.

Throughout the Cold War, successive American governments of both parties prosecuted brutal and savage foreign policies with only a few exceptions.

JFK — for all his personal faults and human frailty — reconfigured the CIA by jettisoning its outmoded carapace with its Machiavellian role of espionage, covert operations and its factory for the mass production of coups to the simple but complex primary task of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons. 

JFK fired Allen Dulles — one of the most powerful people on the planet, a man who wielded immense personal power to topple governments, assassinate heads of state and their scores of subordinates, as well as to sabotage factories, laboratories and battleships at the whims of Eisenhower, Nixon or simply his own highly informed volition. 

In place of an amoral criminal mastermind like Dulles, JFK appointed John McCone, a scientist who had been the head of the Atomic Energy Administration, now charged to redirect the CIA in pursuit of Kennedy’s crucial mission — global nuclear non-proliferation.

To redirect and control science and technology that had become massive top secret laboratories modeled on the Manhattan Project for the development of larger and more dangerous bombs and weapons, JFK proposed the Space Race — a non-violent form of scientific and technological competition aimed at the exploration of the universe.

After JFK’s assassination, LBJ appointed Richard Helms – a consummate covert operative in the classical mold of Alan Dulles — to head the CIA and business swiftly returned to the usual counterproductive rigamarole of coups, assassinations and covert operations.

In the raging current of American history, Richard Nixon emerged as a common criminal with imperial and dictatorial pretensions who transformed from Quaker innocence into a presidential Mr. Hyde — a recklessly conspiratorial president eventually hoist on his own petard by Watergate.

Nixon’s protégé, the haughty Henry Kissinger, openly admired Bismarck and attempted to emulate his principles of realpolitik throughout the latter third of the 20th century — a period dominated by a plague of increasingly vicious and racist wars.  A little known fact is that since leaving his office as Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger has operated an unbelievably lucrative practice of “consultancy” that provided a wealth of consistently wrong-headed advice at a cost of millions of dollars to his clientele — mostly the US government during the Reagan Era.  Kissinger’s latest contribution to world affairs was to lend his heavyweight political support to the candidacies of John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008.

When Jimmy Carter arrived in the Oval Office, he changed gears on the Pentagon and the CIA’s tempo and pace of brutal covert assassinations and coups to become the only president of the past century who never ordered troops into battle on foreign soil.  That abortive military fiasco in the desert of Iran was not an invasion — it was a botched rescue mission.

That corny actor, Ronald Reagan, perpetrated a savage and brutal foreign policy in Central America to enforce discipline throughout Latin America, a region that began flexing its democratic aspirations after Carter returned sovereignty over the Panama Canal in accordance with longstanding international agreements originally authorized by Teddy Roosevelt.

Under the authority of Reagan and Bush, Sr. perpetual war ground on and on to the strains of evangelical hymns of masses of Moral Majoritarians led by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell supporting the doomed presidency of the hack actor whose credibility collapsed with the revelations of the Iran-Contra scandal.  Photos of Reagan dead asleep during Cabinet meetings and the discovery of his reliance on the counsel of an astrologer who designed a palpable part of his official schedule simultaneously exonerated and humiliated his presidency.

The denouement of the Reagan Era imploded in the promiscuous military adventurism in Panama and the Persian Gulf under America’s first spy chief to ascend to the presidency, George Herbert Walker Bush.

Promising to fix the ailing economy, Bill Clinton confidently dispatched the badly out of touch Bush, Sr.

Clinton’s first term was relatively peaceful with Jimmy Carter and Warren Christopher defusing potentially explosive situations in North Korea and Haiti, but when Dick Morris replaced James Carville — Clinton shifted hard right. 

In swift succession, Clinton fired Warren Christopher and replaced him with Madeleine Albright, a stern, doctrinaire and hawkish Secretary of State who helped set the stage for neoconservatism and the ill-conceived expansion of NATO.

In Clinton’s last term, the neocons rose from the ashes of Reaganism to impose their vision of a hegemonic American Empire predicated on military domination of the Middle East and its vast energy reserves that would yield dominion over our tiny planet for years to come.

Yearning for a “new Pearl Harbor” — a triggering event that would permit them to press the launch button on the military subjugation of the planet — the neocons coalesced behind the candidacy of George W. Bush in 1999.

At a low-profile conference in Texas in September 1999, intelligence chiefs from Russia, China, Europe, Asia and America met to anoint George W. Bush as the next President of the United States of America.  The world intelligence community got the message — a secret and powerful military junta was moving into position in America to impose a new world order that would launch the dream of the neocons — a New American Century.

Today, America presides over a global empire of 900 military bases spread across our tiny planet with two wars blazing away in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our nation is poised to launch the next phase of global war against Iran with a dazzling array of armaments led by the US Fifth Fleet, a massive flotilla of ships of war stationed from the Persian Gulf from the Straits of Hormuz to Kuwait and in the Arabian Sea.  In this tense region of the planet, the US Fifth Fleet is supported by a flotilla of three Dolphin class submarines from the Israeli Seventh Flotilla reportedly armed with up to twelve highly accurate Popeye Turbo cruise missiles fitted with nuclear warheads with a range of 930 miles.

For those amongst us who are opposed to war — those of us who favor peace — we are locked in a struggle against a tsunami of time — and we are losing the battle. 

Even so, we are more organized that any time in world history. 

The internet is a powerful platform to inform and organize, and there is literally everything to play for in this game of life versus death. 

The stakes are high, but more and more people demand progress from their governments, and we must keep doing what we are doing.

The future belongs to people willing to make a difference—people like those in this room here today.

 

A lecture delivered to the Elders for Peace, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, July 19, 2010


Michael Carmichael is a historian and political consultant.  Carmichael has worked in the US presidential campaigns of:  Robert Francis Kennedy; Eugene McCarthy; Hubert Horatio Humphrey; George S. McGovern; Jimmy Carter and Dennis J. Kucinich.  In addition to his work in many US and international political campaigns, Carmichael spent twenty-two years conducting multidisciplinary research in Oxford.  While in Great Britain, Carmichael was a spokesman for Democrats Abroad on the BBC, ITN and other television networks.  At international forums, Carmichael has been a featured speaker in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.  Carmichael has debated at the Oxford Union.  In 2003, Carmichael founded Planetary, a non-governmental organization that promotes world peace and social progress. 

Michael Carmichael is the author of:

  • “Propaganda & the Politics of Perception,“ a lecture before the War Crimes Conference, Kuala Lumpur, 2007;
  • “Government by Public Relations from the Assassination of Caesar to Bush,” published in A Complicated, Antagonistic and Symbiotic Affair, Milan, 2007, and
  • “The Crisis in Zimbabwe,” Minutes of Evidence, published by The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, The House of Commons, Westminster, 2003.

www.planetarymovement.org

[email protected]

On December 22 both houses of the U.S. Congress unanimously passed a bill authorizing $725 billion for next year’s Defense Department budget.

The bill, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011, was approved by all 100 senators as required and by a voice vote in the House.

The House had approved the bill, now sent to President Barack Obama to sign into law, five days earlier in a 341-48 roll call, but needed to vote on it again after the Senate altered it in the interim.

The proposed figure for the Pentagon’s 2011 war chest includes, in addition to the base budget, $158.7 billion for what are now euphemistically referred to as overseas contingency operations: The military occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.

The $725 billion figure, although $17 billion more than the White House had requested, is not the final word on the subject, however, as supplements could be demanded as early as the beginning of next year, especially in regard to the Afghan war that will then be in its eleventh calendar year.

Even as it currently is, the amount is the highest in constant dollars (pegged at any given year’s dollar and adjusted for inflation) since 1945, the final year of the Second World War. With recent U.S. census figures at 308 million, next year the Pentagon will spend $2,354 for every citizen of the country at the $725 billion price tag alone.

Last year’s Pentagon budget, by way of comparison, was $680 billion, a base budget of $533.8 billion and the remainder for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In July of this year Congress approved the 2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act which contained an additional $37 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Next year’s defense authorization of $725 billion compares to, according to the Center for Defense Information, a Pentagon budget of $444.6 billion in 1946; $460.4 billion in 1968, the highest yearly amount during the Vietnam War; and $443.4 billion in 1988, the highest during the eight years of the Ronald Reagan administration’s massive military buildup. (Numbers in 2004 constant dollars.) [1]

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates American military spending for 2009 to have accounted for 43 percent of the world total. Carl Conetta, co-director of the Project on Defense Alternatives, earlier this year estimated the 2010 U.S. defense budget to constitute 47 percent of total worldwide military expenditures and to amount to 19 percent of all American federal spending.

In addition, Pentagon spending has increased by 100 percent since 1998 and “the Obama budget plans to spend more on the Pentagon over eight years than any administration has since World War II.” [2]

With 2.25 million full-time civilian and military personnel, excluding part-time National Guard and Reserve members, the Defense Department is the U.S.’s largest employer, outstripping Walmart with 1.4 million employees and the U.S Post Office with 599,000. [3]

“Add in what Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and the Energy departments spend on defense and total US military spending will reach $861 billion in fiscal 2011, exceeding that of all other nations combined,” according to Todd Harrison, senior fellow for Defense Budget Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. [4]

In April Robert Higgs of The Independent Institute advocated that the budgets – in part or in whole – of the departments of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Energy, State and Treasury and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) should be calculated in the real military budget, which would in 2009 would have increased it to $901.5 billion.

“Adding [the] interest component to the previous all-agency total, the grand total comes to $1,027.8 billion, which is 61.5 percent greater than the Pentagon’s outlays alone.”

His numbers are:

National Security Outlays in Fiscal Year 2009
(billions of dollars)

Department of Defense 636.5

Department of Energy (nuclear weapons and environmental cleanup) 16.7

Department of State (plus international assistance) 36.3

Department of Veterans Affairs 95.5

Department of Homeland Security 51.7

Department of the Treasury (for the Military Retirement Fund) 54.9

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (1/2 of total) 9.6

Net interest attributable to past debt-financed defense outlays 126.3

Total 1,027.5 [5]

The above-cited Carl Conetta stated at the beginning of this year that the 2011 Pentagon budget will mark a milestone in that “the inflation-adjusted rise in spending since 1998 will probably exceed 100% in real terms by the end of the fiscal year.

“Taking the 2011 budget into account, the Defense Department has been given about $7.2 trillion since 1998, when the post-Cold War decline in defense spending ended. Approximately $2.5 trillion of this total is due to spending above the annual level set in 1998. This added amount constitutes the post-1998 spending surge.”

Based on constant 2010 dollars, Conetta further details that the Ronald Reagan administration spent $4.1 trillion on the Defense Department, the Georgia W. Bush administration spent $4.65 trillion and “Barack Obama plans to spend more than $5 trillion.”

He also compares the two previous largest post-World War Two surges in U.S. military spending to the current one:

From 1958-1968: 43 percent

From: 1975-1985 57 percent

In regards to which he said, “the 1998-2011 surge is as large as these two predecessors combined.”

His calculations also include a growth in Pentagon contract employees of 40 percent since 1989, thereby freeing up uniformed service members for more direct combat roles.

The U.S. share of global military spending grew from 28 percent during the Cold War to 41 percent by 2006 and that of North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states, including the U.S., from 49 percent to 70 percent in the same period.

Contrariwise, the “group of potential adversary and competitor states has gone from claiming a 42% share to just 16% in 2006.

“Had Ronald Reagan – who is generally regarded a hawkish president – wanted to achieve in the 1980s the ratio between US and adversary spending that existed in 2006, he would have had to quadruple his defense budgets.

“And, of course, since 2006, the US defense budget has not receded, but instead grown by another 20% in real terms.

“By 2011, the United States will probably account for more than half of all global military spending calculated in terms of ‘purchasing power parity’ (which corrects for differences between national economies).” [6]

The defense authorization bill passed on December 22, despite its monumental and unprecedented size, has been routinely described in the American press as stripped-down, scaled-down and pared-down because an arms manufacturer or two, their lobbyists and obedient congresspersons didn’t get every new defense contract and weapons project they desired three days before Christmas.

The December 22 vote in the House was, as Associated Press accurately described it, conducted without debate or discussion – and “without major restrictions on the conduct of operations” – particularly in regards to the $158.7 billion for the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, $75 million to train and equip the armed forces of Yemen for the counterinsurgency campaign in that country and $205 million more to fund Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield.

Regarding the first vote on December 17: “This year’s bill is mostly noteworthy for its broad bipartisan support during wartime….Unlike during the height of the Iraq War when anti-war Democrats tried to use the legislation to force troops home, the House passed the defense bill Friday with almost no debate on Afghanistan.” [7]

Aside from voting for the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as a stand-alone measure, excising an amendment to allow abortions to be performed on military bases, and refusing reparations to victims of the World War Two Japanese occupation of the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam (apparently $100 million for the purpose was considered excessive in the $725 billion authorization), there was no meaningful dissent in either house of Congress.

Increasing the U.S. war budget to the highest level it’s been since the largest and deadliest war in history while no nation or group of nations poses a serious threat to the country, and to a degree where it effectively exceeds the defense spending of the rest of the world combined, is all in the proper order of things for the world’s sole military superpower.

Notes

1) Center for Defense Information
http://www.cdi.org/news/mrp/us-military-spending.pdf

2) Christian Science Monitor, March 29, 2010
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/David-R.-Francis/2010/0329/Defense-budget-After-Afghanistan-and-Iraq-withdrawal-a-peace-dividend

3) Christian Science Monitor, June 28, 2010
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/David-R.-Francis/2010/0628/Cuts-to-US-defense-budget-look-inevitable

4) Ibid

5) Robert Higgs, Defense Spending Is Much Greater than You Think The Independent Institute, April 17, 2010
http://www.independent.org/blog/index.php?p=5827

6) Carl Conetta, Trillions to Burn? A Quick Guide to the Surge in Pentagon Spending Project on Defense Alternatives, February 5 2010
http://www.comw.org/pda/1002BudgetSurge.html

7) Associated Press, December 17, 2010

 

dubai mossad credit card dataList submitted by Dubai to State Dept. of credit cards used by Mossad killers

On February 25, 2010, State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley lied when he told a press conference that he wasn’t aware of any request from Dubai for assistance in tracking the Mossad killers of Mahmoud al-Mabouh.  To those who say that Wikileaks hasn’t told us anything we didn’t already know–think again.

Wikileaks has just released a February 24, 2010 cable in which the embassy relays the specific credit card numbers used by 14 of the 27 known Mossad suspects to State with a request for assistance from authorities investigating the killing, and confirms that the UAE foreign minister made the exact same request directly to Secretary Clinton on February 23rd:

On the margins of a meeting with visiting Secretary [of Energy] Chu, on Feb 24 MFA Minister of State Gargash made a formal request to the Ambassador for assistance in providing cardholder details and related information or credit cards reportedly issued by a U.S. bank to several suspects in last month’s killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai.   According to a letter Gargash gave the Ambassador (which transmitted details of the request from Dubai Security authorities to the UAE Central Bank), the credit cards were issued by MetaBank, in Iowa.

Comment: Ambassador requests expeditious handling of and reply to the UAEG request, which was also raised by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in a February 23 meeting with Secretary Clinton in Washington.

Twelve of the cards were provided by MetaBank and Payoneer, the latter a payment processing service with close ties to Israeli intelligence services.

At the time, I expressed strong doubts about the interest on the part of the U.S. in playing any constructive role in rooting out these killers.  Which of course is tremendously ironic considering that we’re the ones wagging our fingers at Muslim states for not doing enough to root out terror from their midst.  Here we have a case of Israeli intelligence committing cold-blooded murder, using the financial services of U.S. companies to do so, and we take a pass on investigating or cooperating.  How do you spell h-y-p-o-c-r-i-s-y?

Yesterday, I reported that incoming Mossad director Tamir Pardo was prepared to concede Israeli responsibility for the Dubai hit.  To any who might view this as an Israeli official seeking to take responsibility for Israeli misdeeds or some such…Wikileaks is rumored to be about to publish cables in which the lid is blown on Mossad involvement.  So it’s no skin off Pardo’s back if he admits to a crime which was about to be exposed anyway by others.

¿Quién está detras de WikiLeaks?

December 28th, 2010 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

 

Agradecimientos de Global Research: Traducido para Rebelión por Silvia Arana

“Los grandes banqueros, al mover algunas simples palancas que controlan el flujo de dinero, pueden determinar el éxito o el fracaso de la economía de un país. Al controlar los comunicados de prensa sobre las estrategias económicas que delinean tendencias nacionales, la élite es capaz no sólo de tomar las riendas de poder de la estructura económica de esta nación sino también de extender el control a todo el mundo. Aquéllos que poseen un poder tal quieren lógicamente permanecer en un segundo plano, ser invisibles para los ciudadanos comunes.” (Aldous Huxley)

WikiLeaks ha sido reconocido como una cuña en la batalla contra la desinformación de los medios y las mentiras del gobierno de EE.UU.

Los documentos revelados constituyen, sin duda, un importante y valioso banco de datos. Los documentos han sido usados por investigadores cruciales desde el inicio del proyecto de WikiLeaks. Las primeras revelaciones se enfocaron tanto en los crímenes de guerra cometidos por EE.UU. en Afganistán (julio 2010) como en temas relacionados con los derechos civiles y la “militarización de la patria”. (Véase Militarizing the “Homeland” in Response to the Economic y Political Crisis, de Tom Burghardt, Global Research, 11 de octubre, 2008.)

En octubre de 2010, se reportó que WikiLeaks había revelado unos 400.000 documentos secretos de la guerra de Irak, que cubrían sucesos desde 2004 a 2009 (Tom Burghardt, The WikiLeaks Release: US Complicity and Cover-Up of Iraq Torture Exposed, Global Research, 24 de octube, 2010). Las revelaciones contenidas en los reportes de WikiLeaks sobre la guerra de Irak aportaron “más pruebas del papel del Pentágono en la tortura sistemática de ciudadanos iraquíes por el régimen post-Sadam instalado por EE.UU.” (Cita de la misma fuente.)

Las organizaciones progresistas han elogiado el trabajo de WikiLeaks. Nuestro sitio web, Global Research, ha brindado una extensa cobertura del proyecto de WikiLeaks. Las filtraciones se han calificado como una victoria extraordinaria contra la censura de los medios corporativos. Pero hay algo más.

Incluso antes del lanzamiento del proyecto, los medios habían contactado con WikiLeaks. También hay reportes de mensajes de e-mail entre WikiLeaks y Freedom House. WikiLeaks inició el contacto al comenzar el proyecto en enero de 2007, pidiéndoles asesoramiento e incluyendo una invitación para que formaran parte de la junta de asesores de WikiLeaks. Freedom House, con sede en Washington, es una “organización de control de los gobiernos que promueve la libertad en el mundo”. Dice un mensaje:

“Buscamos uno o dos miembros para la junta -procedentes de FH que nos aconsejen en lo siguiente:

1. Las necesidades de FH como receptáculo de filtraciones que denuncien corrupción política y comercial

2. Las necesidades de fuentes de filtraciones según la experiencia de FH

3. Recomendaciones de FH de otras personas que puedan ser miembros de la junta de asesores.

4. Recomendaciones generales sobre financiamiento, desarrollo de alianzas, operaciones descentralizadas y contexto político”. (WikiLeaks, Leaks, enero 2007)

WikiLeaks también inició negociaciones con varias fundaciones corporativas en busca de financiamiento (WikiLeaks, Leaks, enero 2007):

El eje de la red de financiamiento de WikiLeaks es la organzación alemana Wau Holland Foundation: “Estamos registrados como una biblioteca en Australia, como una fundación en Francia, como un periódico en Suecia”, dice Assange. WikiLeaks está asociada en EE.UU. con dos organizaciones caritativas que gozan de exención de impuestos, conocidas como 501C3, que “sirven de fachada” para el sitio web, agrega Assange. No da los nombres diciendo que ellas “podrían perder alguna fuente de financiamiento por sensibilidades políticas”.

Assange dice que WikiLeaks recibe cerca de la mitad de su dinero de donaciones modestas conseguidas por el sitio web, y la otra mitad de “contactos personales” , incluyendo “gente millonaria que nos contacta por iniciativa propia…” (WikiLeaks Keeps Funding Secret, WSJ.com, 23 de agosto, 2010)

En un comienzo, a principios de 2007, WikiLeaks reconoció que el proyecto había sido “fundado por disidentes chinos, matemáticos y técnicos que trabajaban en compañías nuevas de EE.UU., Taiwán, Europa, Australia y Sudáfrica… (su Directorio de Consejeros) incluyendo expatriados de Rusia y refugiados del Tíbet, reporteros, ex analistas de inteligencia y criptógrafos estadounidenses”. (mensaje de WikiLeaks Leaks, enero, 2007)

WikiLeaks delineó sus propósitos en el sitio web de la siguiente manera: “[WikiLeaks será] una versión sin censura de Wikipedia para la filtración y el análisis de documentos de procedencia secreta. Nos centraremos principalmente en los regímenes opresivos de Asia, el antiguo bloque soviético, África subsahariana y Oriente Medio, aunque también esperamos ofrecer un espacio para aquéllos en Occidente que deseen revelar comportamientos antiéticos de sus propios gobiernos y corporaciones” (CBS News – Website wants to take whistleblowing online, 11 de enero, 2007, énfasis agregado)

Estos propósitos fueron confirmados por Julian Assange en la entrevista hecha por The New Yorker en Junio de 2010:

“Nuestros objetivos principales son aquellos extremadamente opresivos regímenes de China, Rusia y Eurasia Central, aunque esperamos ofrecer un espacio para quienes en Occidente que desean revelar conductas ilegales o inmorales de sus propios gobiernos y corporaciones. (énfasis del autor)

En la misma entrevista, Assange advirtió de que “exponer secretos” podría hacer caer gobiernos que ocultan la realidad, incluyendo el gobierno de EE.UU.

Desde un principio, el enfoque geopolítico de WikiLeaks en los “regímenes opresivos de Eurasia y Medio Oriente era “atractivo” para las elites estadounidenses, puesto que parecía coincidir con los objetivos de la política exterior estadounidense. Más aún, la composición del equipo de WikiLeaks (que incluía disidentes chinos), sin mencionar la metodología de “exponer secretos” de gobiernos extranjeros, estaban a tono con las prácticas de las operaciones encubiertas de EE.UU. (y con el apoyo de Freedom House) en pos de desencadenar “cambios de régimen” y promover “revoluciones de colores” en diferentes partes del mundo.

El papel de los medios corporativos: El rol central de The New York Times

WikiLeaks no es un proyecto típico de los medios alternativos. Los periódicos The New York Times, The Guardian y Der Spiegel están directamente involucrados en la edición y selección de los documentos filtrados. The London Economist también ha tenido un papel importante.

Mientras que el proyecto y su editor Julian Assange muestran un compromiso y una preocupación por el respeto a la verdad en la información, las filtraciones recientes de WikiLeaks de los cables de la embajada han sido cuidadosamente “redactados” por los medios corporativos en consulta con el gobierno de EE.UU. (Véase Interview with David E. Sanger, Fresh Air, PBS, diciembre 8, 2010.)

La colaboración entre WikiLeaks y los medios seleccionados no es fortuita, fue parte de un arreglo entre los principales periódicos estadounidenses y europeos y el editor de WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.

La pregunta esencial es: ¿Quién controla y supervisa la selección, distribución y edición de los documentos para el público en general?

¿Qué objetivos de la política exterior de EE.UU. se ven beneficiados con este proceso de redacción?

¿Tiene WikiLeaks alguna participación en el despertar de la opinión pública, en una batalla contra las mentiras y fabricaciones publicadas diariamente en los medios impresos y en la TV?

Si así fuera, ¿cómo es posible que esta batalla contra la desinformación de los medios se lleve a cabo con la participación y colaboración de los arquitectos corporativos de la desinformación?

WiliLeaks ha convocado a los arquitectos de la desinformación mediática para luchar contra la desinformación mediática: un procedimiento incongruente y autodestructivo.

Los medios corporativos de EE.UU. y específicamente The New York Times son una parte integral del establishment económico, conectado a Wall Street, los “think tanks” de Washington y el Consejo de Relaciones Exteriores (CFR, según sus siglas en inglés).

Más aún, los medios corporativos de EE.UU. han desarrollado una relación de largo plazo con el aparato de inteligencia del país desde la Operación “Mocking Bird”, un proyecto de la Oficina de Proyectos Especiales de la CIA que funciona desde principios de los años cincuenta.

Incluso antes del lanzamiento del proyecto WikiLeaks, los medios corporativos estuvieron involucrados. Su papel fue definido y acordado por los medios corporativos no sólo en la publicación de las filtraciones sino también en su selección y edición. Como una amarga ironía, los “medios profesionales”, usando la frase de Assange en una entrevista con The Economist, han sido socios del proyecto WikiLeaks desde el principio. Algunos periodistas claves conectados con funcionarios de seguridad de política nacional y extranjera han trabajado estrechamente ligados a WikiLeaks en la distribución y diseminación de los documentos filtrados.

Irónicamente, el socio de WikiLeaks, The New York Times, que ha constantemente promovido la desinformación ha sido acusado de conspiración. ¿Por qué? ¿Por revelar la verdad? ¿Por manipularla? Según el Senador Joseph Liberman:

“Creo que WikiLeaks ha violado el Acta de Espionaje, pero, ¿qué pasa con las organizaciones periodísticas -incluyendo The New York Times- que aceptaron distribuir las filtraciones? Para mí, The New York Times ha cometido, al menos, un acto anticívico y si ha cometido un delito o no, creo que merece ser objeto de una investigación a fondo por parte del Departamento de Justicia.” (WikiLeaks Prosecution Studied by Justice Department – NYTimes.com, 7 de diciembre de 2010)

El papel del NYT en la redacción de las filtraciones fue francamente reconocido por David Sanger, corresponsal en jefe de la oficina de Washington:

“Revisamos los cables cuidadosamente para tratar de reescribir el material que pensamos podría perjudicar a individuos o afectar a operaciones en proceso. Hasta tomamos la medida inusual de mostrar alrededor de 100 cables al gobierno de EE.UU. y preguntarle si tenía sugerencias sobre la redacción de los cables.” (Véase PBS Interview; The Redacting and Selection of WikiLeaks documents by the Corporate Media, PBS Interview on “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross: 8 de diciembre, 2010, énfasis agregado por el autor de la nota.)

Sin embargo Sanger también dice en la entrevista:

“Es la responsabilidad del periodismo de EE.UU., desde la fundación del país, dar la cara, tratar de involucrarse en los temas más difíciles de la actualidad y hacerlo independientemente del gobierno.”

¿Cómo lo pueden hacer independientemente del gobierno y al mismo tiempo pidiéndole al gobierno de EE.UU. que hagan sugerencias sobre la redacción de la noticia?

No se puede describir a David Sanger como un modelo de periodista independiente. Es miembro del Consejo de Relaciones Exteriores (CFR) y del Grupo Estratégico del Instituto de Aspen, al que pertenecen entre otros Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice, el ex Ministro de Defensa William Perry, el ex director de la CIA John Deutch, el presidente del Banco Mundial Robert. B. Zoellick y Philip Zelikow el ex director ejecutivo de la Comisión 9/11 (Veáse F. William Engdahl, Wikileaks: A Big Dangerous US Government Con Job , Global Research, 10 de diciembre, 2010).

Vale la pena señalar que varios periodistas estadounidenses miembros del Consejo de Relaciones Exteriores han entrevistado a WikiLeaks incluyendo Richard Stengel, Time Magazine (30 de noviembre, 2010) y Raffi Khatchadurian, The New Yorker (11 de junio, 2007)

The New York Times ha estado históricamente al servicio de la familia Rockefeller en el contexto de una larga relación. El actual presidente Arthur Sulzberger Jr. es miembro del Consejo de Relaciones Exteriores, hijo de Arthur Ochs Sulzberger y nieto de Arthur Hays Sulzberger, quien fue administrador (trustee) de la Fundación Rockefeller. Ethan Bronner, Deputy Foreign Editor del periódico, al igual que Thomas Friedman entre otros, son miembros del Consejo de Relaciones Exteriores (CFR).

Los Rockefellers, a su vez, poseen una porción considerable de acciones en varias corporaciones de medios estadounidenses.

Cables de la Embajada y del Departamento de Estado

Nadie debería sorprenderse de que David Sanger y sus colegas del NYT centren su atención en una difusión altamente selectiva de los cables de WikiLeaks, enfocándose en áreas que apoyan los intereses de la política extranjera de EE.UU.: el programa nuclear de Irán, Corea del Norte, Arabia Saudí y el apoyo de Pakistán a Al-Qaida, las relaciones de China y Corea del Norte, etc. Estas filtraciones se usaron como material para artículos y comentarios del NYT.

Los cables de la Embajada y del Departamento de Estado publicados por WikiLeaks fueron editados y filtrados. Se usaron con fines de propaganda. No conforman un conjunto de memorandos completo ni tienen continuidad.

De una lista selectiva de cables, las filtraciones se usan para justificar la agenda de política exterior. Un caso ilustrativo es el supuesto programa nuclear de Irán, al que se refieren numerosos cables del Departamento de Estado, al igual que el apoyo de Arabia Saudí al terrorismo islámico.

El programa nuclear de Irán

Se están usando los cables filtrados para alimentar la campaña de desinformación sobre las Armas de Destrucción Masiva de Irán. Mientras que los cables se usan como “prueba” de que Irán representa una amenaza, las mentiras y fabricaciones de los medios corporativos referentes al supuesto programa iraní de armas nucleares no tienen ningún sustento en los cables puesto que en ellos no aparece ninguna mención al respecto.

Una vez que las filtraciones son canalizadas por los medios corporativos, editadas y redactadas por el NYT, van a servir inevitablemente a los intereses de la política exterior de EE.UU., incluyendo las preparaciones de la guerra de EE.UU.-OTAN-Israel contra Irán.

En referencia a la “inteligencia filtrada” y la cobertura del supuesto programa nuclear de Irán, David Sanger ha tenido un papel clave. En noviembre de 2005, el NYT publicó un reporte conjunto de David Sanger y William Broad titulado “Relying on Computer, U.S. Seeks to Prove Iran’s Nuclear Aims”.

El artículo se refiere a documentos misteriosos robados de una computadora iraní que incluía “una serie de dibujos de un vehículo para transportar misiles que supuestamente correspondería a un arma nuclear iraní”:

“A mediados de julio, oficiales de inteligencia estadounidenses convocaron a dirigentes de la Agencia Internacional de Inspección de Armas Atómicas. La reunión fue en el ático de un rascacielos en Viena, desde el que se veía el Danubio, y les mostraron el material que habría sido robado de una computadora “laptop”.

Los estadounidenses proyectaron en una pantalla y desplegaron sobre la mesa de conferencia materiales de más de mil páginas de simulaciones por computadora y testimonios de experimentos, diciendo que demostraban un largo esfuerzo invertido en el diseño de una cabeza nuclear, según media docena de europeos y estadounidenses que participaron de la reunión.

Los documentos, según reconocieron los estadounidenses desde el principio, no eran una prueba de que Irán tuviera la bomba atómica. Presentaban los materiales como la prueba más contundente, hasta la fecha, de que a pesar de las declaraciones de Irán de que su programa nuclear tiene fines pacíficos, el país está tratando de “construir una cabeza nuclear compacta que encaje sobre sus misiles Shahab, que podrían llegar hasta Israel y otros países de Oriente Medio”. (William Broad y David Sanger, “Relying on Computer, U.S. Seeks to Prove Iran’s Nuclear Aims”, NYT, 13 de noviembre, 2005, énfasis del autor)

Estos “documentos secretos” fueron entregados por el Departamento de Estado a la Agencia Internacional de Inspección de Energía Atómica para demostrar que Irán estaba desarrollando un programa de armas nucleares. Era también un pretexto para reforzar las sanciones económicas contra Irán, llevadas adelante por el Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas.

La autenticidad del material se cuestionó y finalmente un artículo del periodista de investigación Gareth Porter confirmó contundentemente que los documentos de la misteriosa “laptop” son falsos. (Véase Gareth Porter, Exclusive Report: Evidence of Iran Nuclear Weapons Program May be Fraudulent, Global Research, 18 de noviembre, 2010)

Los dibujos de los documentos filtrados por William J. Broad y David E. Sanger no representan los misiles Shahab sino los obsoletos misiles norcoreanos que fueron decomisados por Irán a mediados de la década de 1990. Los dibujos correspondían a “cabezas nucleares incorrectas”:

En julio de 2005 Robert Joseph, vicesecretario para Control Armanentístico y Seguridad Internacional de EE.UU. hizo una presentación oficial de los supuestos documentos referidos al programa iraní de armas nucleares a los dirigentes de la agencia en Viena. Joseph desplegó fragmentos de los documentos en una pantalla de computadora, enfatizando las series de dibujos técnicos sobre 18 diferentes maneras de encajar una carga de explosivos en una cabeza nuclear de un misil iraní de medio alcance, el Shahab-3. Cuando los analistas de IAEA analizaron los documentos descubrieron que los esquemas correspondían a cabezas nucleares que los militares iraníes habían descartado para trabajar con un nuevo diseño. Las cabezas nucleares dibujadas correspondían al diseño de los misiles norcoreanos No Dong, que Irán había adquirido a mediados de la década del noventa… Los documentos de la “laptop” se referían a un modelo anterior de las cabezas nucleares que ya había sido rediseñado… (Gareth Porter, énfasis del autor de la nota)

David Sanger, que trabajó diligentemente con WikiLeaks, bajo el estandarte de la verdad y la transparencia, tuvo también un papel clave en la “filtración” que Gareth Porter describe como información falsa.

El programa nuclear de Irán

Al revelarse que era falsa la información de que Irán estaba desarrollando armas nucleares, quedaba invalidada por completo la denuncia de Washington. Sin embargo, el tema fue prácticamente ignorado por la prensa. También quedó cuestionada la legitimidad de las sanciones contra Irán tomadas por el Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas.

Más aún, como amarga ironía, la lectura selectiva del NYT de los cables de la Embajada ha servido no sólo para dejar de lado el tema central de la información falsa sino también para reforzar, a través de la desinformación mediática, las denuncias de Washington de que Irán están desarrollando armas nucleares. Un caso ilustrativo es el artículo de noviembre de 2010, en el que su coautor David Sanger, dice citando los cables de WikiLeaks:

“Irán obtuvo 19 misiles de Corea del Norte, según un cable fechado el 24 de febrero de este año… Estos misiles tendrían la capacidad de atacar capitales de Europa Occidental o fácilmente llegar a Moscú; y los oficiales estadounidenses advierten que poseen propulsión de avanzada, lo que podría acelerar el programa iraní de misiles balísticos intercontinentales.” (Archivo WiliLeaks – Iran Armed by North Corea -NYTimes.com, 28 de noviembre, 2010)

WikiLeaks, Irán y el mundo árabe

Los cables filtrados de WikiLeaks también fueron usados para crear divisiones entre Irán por un lado, y Arabia Saudita y los estados del Golfo por el otro:

“Después de que WikiLeaks denunciara que ciertos estados árabes estaban preocupados con el programa nuclear iraní y pidieron a EE.UU. que tomara represalias militares contra Irán, la Secretaria de Estado Hillary Clinton aprovechó la oportunidad para decir que los cables filtrados muestran que la comunidad internacional comparte la preocupación de EE.UU. por el programa nuclear iraní. (Tehran Times: WikiLeaks promoting Iranophobia, 5 de diciembre, 2010)

Los medios de comunicación occidentales han saltado a esta oportunidad, y han citado los memorandums del Departamento de Estado filtrados por WikiLeaks con el fin de señalar a Irán como una amenaza a la seguridad global, y promover divisiones entre Irán y el mundo árabe.

“La guerra global contra el terrorismo”

Las filtraciones citadas por los medios de comunicación occidentales revelan el apoyo de los estados del Golfo y Arabia Saudita a varias organizaciones musulmanas terroristas, un hecho conocido y extensamente documentado.

Lo que los reportes no mencionan, sin embargo, es algo esencial para la comprensión de “la guerra global contra el terrorismo”: que los servicios de inteligencia de EE.UU. han canalizado históricamente su ayuda a organizaciones terroristas vía Pakistán y Arabia Saudita. (Véase Michel Chossudovsky, America’s “War on Terrorism”, Global Research, Montreal, 2005.) Estas son operaciones de inteligencia encubiertas patrocinadas por EE.UU. usando agentes sauditas y pakistaníes como intermediarios.

Con respecto a esto, los medios corporativos tienden a usar los documentos de WikiLeaks para mantener la ilusión de que la CIA no tiene nada que ver con las redes terroristas, y que Arabia Saudita y los estados del Golfo son los principales financistas de Al-Qaida, Talibanes, Lashkar-e-Taiba y otros, cuando en realidad el financiamiento se hace en conexión y en consulta con sus colegas de los servicios de inteligencia de EE.UU.:

“La información sale a la luz en la última ronda de documentos entregados el domingo por WikiLeaks. En los comunicados dirigidos al Departamento de Estado, las embajadas de EE.UU. en Arabia Saudita y los estados del Golfo describen una situación en la que adinerados donantes privados, a menudo de manera abierta, apoyan con mucho dinero a los mismos grupos que Arabia Saudita dice combatir.” (WikiLeaks: Saudis, Gulf States Big Funders of Terror Groups -Defense/Middle East – Israel News- Israel National News)

Algo similar, con respecto a Pakistán:

“Los cables, obtenidos por WikiLeaks y entregados a varios medios periodísticos, dejan en claro que por debajo de los acuerdos públicos hay conflictos profundos (entre EE.UU. y Pakistán) sobre los objetivos estratégicos en temas como el apoyo de Pakistán a los talibanes afganos y la actitud tolerante con Al-Qaida…” (Wary Dance With Pakistan in Nuclear World, The New York Times, 1 de diciembre, 2010)

Reportes de esta naturaleza sirven para dar legitimidad a los ataques de EE.UU. contra supuestos blancos terroristas en Pakistán.

El uso y la interpretación que hacen los medios corporativos de los cables de WikiLeaks sirven para perpetuar dos mitos relacionados entre sí:

1) Irán tiene un programa de armas nucleares y representa un peligro para la seguridad global.

2) Arabia Saudita y Pakistán son estados patrocinadores de Al-Qaida. Financian las organizaciones terroristas musulmanas, las que se proponen atacar a EE.UU. y sus aliados de la OTAN.

La CIA y los medios corporativos

Las relaciones de la CIA con los medios corporativos de EE.UU. están extensamente documentadas. The New York Times sigue manteniendo una relación estrecha no sólo con los servicios de inteligencia de EE.UU. sino también con el Pentágono y más recientemente con el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (Homeland Security).

La operación “Mocking Bird” fue un proyecto de la Oficina de Proyectos Especiales de la CIA, fundada a principios de la década de 1950, con el objetivo de ejercer influencia sobre la prensa nacional y extranjera. Desde su fundación, miembros de los medios estadounidenses fueron reclutados por la CIA.

En 1977, Carl Bernstein describe los entretelones de la relación entre la CIA y los medios de comunicación en un artículo para Rolling Stones titulado The CIA and the Media:

“Más de 400 periodistas estadounidenses han desempeñado tareas secretas para la CIA, según documentación de la misma agencia. [1950-1977] Las relaciones entre algunos de estos periodistas con la Agencia eran tácitos; otros eran explícitos… Los reporteros compartían sus notas con la CIA. Los editores compartían sus ayudantes. Algunos de estos periodistas habían ganado el Premio Pulitzer… La mayoría eran menos destacados: corresponsales en el extranjero que se dieron cuenta de que su asociación con la CIA les era beneficiosa para su carrera…

Entre los ejecutivos que colaboraron con la CIA se contaban William Paley de Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce de Time Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger de The New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. de Louisville Courier Journal y James Copley de Copley News Service. Entre otras organizaciones que colaboraron con la CIA se incluyen: American Broadcasting Company, National Broadcasting Company, Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps-Howard, Newsweek Magazine, Mutual Broadcasting System, Miami Herald, y el viejo Saturday Evening Post y New York Herald-Tribune. (The CIA and the Media by Carl Bernstein)

Bernstein sugiere al respecto que “el uso que la CIA realizó de los medios de comunicación estadounidenses ha sido mucho más extenso de lo que reconocieron funcionarios de la CIA públicamente o en sesiones con miembros del Congreso”.

En los últimos años, la relación de la CIA con los medios se ha vuelto más sofisticada y compleja. Nos encontramos frente a una red de propaganda masiva, de la que forman parte varias agencias del gobierno.

La desinformación de los medios se ha institucionalizado. Las mentiras y fabricaciones son más y más descaradas, cuando se las compara con las de los años setenta. Los medios estadounidenses se han convertido en portavoz de la política exterior de su país. Agentes de la CIA “plantan” rutinariamente desinformación en las salas de redacción de los principales periódicos, revistas y canales de televisión: “Unos relativamente pocos corresponsales con buenas conexiones proporcionan las primicias, que reciben cobertura en las relativamente pocas fuentes de noticias dominantes en el medio, donde los parámetros del debate están fijados de antemano y la “realidad oficial” está establecida por los que se alimentan la basura de la cadena de noticias.” (Chaim Kupferberg, The Propaganda Preparation of 9/11, Global Research,19 de septiembre, 2002)

Desde 2001, los medios de EE.UU. han tomado un nuevo papel en la sustentación de la “Guerra Global contra el Terrorismo” y en el camuflaje de los crímenes de guerra patrocinados por EE.UU. Después del 11 de septiembre, el Secretario de Defensa Donald Rumsfeld estableció la Oficina de Influencia Estratégica, u “Oficina de Desinformación” como fuera apodada por sus críticos: “El Departamento de Defensa dice que necesita hacerlo, y van a plantar historias falsas en países extranjeros con el fin de influir en la opinión pública mundial.” (Entrevista con Steve Adubato, Fox News, 26 December 2002; véase también Michel Chossudovsky, War Propaganda, Global Research, 3 de enero, 2003).

Hoy los medios corporativos de EE.UU. son un instrumento de la propaganda de guerra, por ello hay que preguntarse: ¿Por qué el NYT va repentinamente a promover la transparencia y la verdad en los medios apoyando a WikiLeaks en la difusión? ¿Y por qué la gente en el mundo no se detiene a cuestionar las bases de esta relación incongruente?

En la superficie no hay ninguna prueba de que WikiLeaks sea una operación encubierta de la CIA. Sin embargo la relación estrecha y estructurada de los medios corporativos con los servicios de inteligencia de EE.UU., sin mencionar las conexiones de ciertos periodistas con el aparato de seguridad nacional, hacen que la cuestión del patrocinamiento de la CIA sea relevante.

El entorno social y corporativo de WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks y The Economist han entrado en la fase de lo que podría llamarse una relación contradictoria. Julian Assange, editor de WikiLeaks, recibió en 2008 el premio “The Economist’s New Media Award”. Este medio tiene una estrecha relación con las élites financieras de Gran Bretaña. Es un medio periodístico que en general ha apoyado la guerra de Irak. Lleva el sello de la familia Rothschild. Sir Evelyn Robert Adrian de Rothschild ha sido el Director desde 1972 hasta 1989. Su esposa Lynn Forester de Rothschild es miembro de la Junta Directiva actual. La familia Rothschild es dueña de una porción considerable de acciones de la publicación.

La pregunta esencial es por qué Julian Assange recibiría el apoyo de uno de los medios de prensa británicos más emblemáticos por su continua participación en la campaña de desinformación.

Si no estamos ante un caso de “disidencia manufacturada”, el proceso de apoyar y premiar a WikiLeaks por sus acciones, es una manera de controlar y manipular el proyecto de WikiLeaks y al mismo tiempo captarlo para los medios corporativos.

Es apropiado mencionar otra conexión importante. El abogado de Julian Assange, Mark Stephens de Finers Stephens Innocent (FSI), una firma de abogados de la élite londinense, es el consejero legal de Rothschild Waddesdon Trust. Esto no prueba nada, pero debería ser examinado en el contexto del entorno social y corporativo de WikiLeaks: el NYT, el CFR, The Economist, Time Magazine, Forbes, Finers Stephens Innocent (FSI), etc.

Disidencia manufacturada

WikiLeaks tiene las características de un proceso de disidencia manufacturada. Busca exponer mentiras gubernamentales. Ha filtrado información de crímenes de guerra de EE.UU. Pero una vez que el proyecto ha sido vertido en el molde del periodismo corporativo, es usado como un instrumento de desinformación.

“Las élites corporativos , por su propio interés, deben aceptar el disenso y la protesta como una característica del sistema, siempre y cuando, esto no sea una amenaza para el orden social preestablecido. El propósito no es reprimir la disidencia sino, todo lo contrario, manipular el movimiento de protesta para establecer los límites del disenso. Los medios mantienen su legitimidad, y las élites económicas limitan y controlan las formas de oposición… Para ser eficientes, aquellos que son el objeto del movimiento de protesta, deben regular y controlar cuidadosamente a dicha protesta. (Véase Michel Chossudovsky, “Manufacturing Dissent”: the Anti-globalization Movement is Funded by the Corporate Elites, septiembre 2010.)

Este análisis del proyecto WikiLeaks también sugiere que los mecanismos de propaganda del “Orden del nuevo mundo”, en particular en el aspecto militar, se han vuelto más y más sofisticados.

Ya no descansan en la supresión abierta de los hechos referentes a los crímenes de guerra de EE.UU.-OTAN. Ni dependen de que se proteja la reputación de los funcionarios de alto rango del gobierno, incluyendo el Secretario de Estado. En el nuevo orden, los políticos son prescindibles; pueden ser reemplazados. Lo que debe protegerse y reforzar son los intereses de las élites económicas, quienes controlan el aparato político desde las sombras.

En el caso de WikiLeaks, los hechos están en un banco de datos; muchos de ellos, en particular los referidos a gobiernos extranjeros sirven a los intereses de la política exterior estadounidense. Otros hechos tienden, por su parte, a desacreditar el gobierno. Con respecto a la información financiera, la filtración de datos de un banco específico, entregada a WikiLeaks por una institución rival, podría desencadenar el colapso o la bancarrota del banco denunciado.

Todos los Wiki-hechos han sido redactados selectivamente, luego son “analizados” e interpretados por los medios corporativos al servicio de las élites económicas.

Todo el material informativo del banco de datos de WikiLeaks está disponible, pero el público en general no se toma el trabajo de consultarlo; lo más probable es que lea las selecciones redactadas e interpretadas por los medios corporativos.

Estos presentan una parcialidad sesgada. Las versiones redactadas son aceptadas por el público porque llevan el sello de “fuente confiable”, cuando en realidad lo que aparece en las páginas de los periódicos principales y los canales de televisión es una cuidadosa manipulación y distorsión de la verdad.

Las formas limitadas del debate crítico y la “transparencia” son toleradas mientras refuercen el apoyo del público a las premisas básicas de la política exterior de EE.UU., incluyendo la “Guerra Global contra el Terrorismo”. Esta estrategia ha sido exitosa con grandes segmentos del movimiento antibélico de EE.UU.: “Estamos en contra de la guerra pero apoyamos “la guerra contra el terrorismo”.

Esto significa que la verdad en los medios de comunicación sólo se puede lograr desmantelando el aparato de propaganda, es decir, atacando la legitimidad de los medios corporativos al servicio de los intereses de las élites económicas y del aparato militar global de EE.UU.

Por otra parte, debemos asegurarnos de que la campaña contra WikiLeaks en EE.UU., usando la ley de 1917 Espionage Act, no sea utilizada para controlar el internet. Debemos actuar con firmeza para evitar que Julian Assange sea enjuiciado en EE.UU. 

Fuente. ingles: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22389

Massive Atrocities in The Congo

December 28th, 2010 by Global Research

Coalition to UN Security Council: Address UN Congo Mapping Report and enforce justice for victims

This month the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council must choose: Will they hold accountable major perpetrators of continued atrocities in the Congo or collaborate with them to put the blame on a few guilty but minor scapegoats and some innocent people who are guilty only of challenging the major offenders?

On Dec. 8, several U.S.-Congolese organizations and numerous individuals sent a letter to Congressman David Wu asking Congress to seek justice for the victims of an ongoing holocaust in the Congo and specifically asking that the long-suppressed U.N. “Mapping Report” showing complicity of the current government of Rwanda seriously examined and addressed.1

Recently, the Dutch legislature and thousands of people in Brussels as well as some officials put Paul Kagame on notice that he cannot escape the consequences of his acts.2

So far, Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, has been successful in his efforts to bury reports of his atrocities in the Congo without serious examination. The Security Council agreed not to look further into the “Mapping Exercise Report” and, a few days ago, added several individuals and a small militia to its list of people or organizations to be sanctioned for use of child soldiers. However, implicitly exempted were Uganda and Rwanda from sanctions for this or for any of the other crimes revealed in the report and related abuses reported by others, which continue to this day.3

As this month’s chair of the Security Council, the U.S. has a moral obligation to take the “Mapping Exercise Report” off the table and deal with its contents seriously. The U.S. also has a moral obligation to implement the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006, sponsored by then-Sen. Barack Obama.4

The U.N. “Mapping Exercise Report,” released only after it had been leaked, makes it clear that the governments of Uganda and Rwanda are implicated in massive atrocities in the Congo continuing long after they invaded the Congo. Yet, Uganda has not been forced to pay the court-mandated financial penalty, and both invaders are given license to continue their incursions on the pretext of hunting down smaller offenders, such as the LRA, FDLR and various “mai mai.”5 6

The president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, reacted to the report with threats and with diversions. He threatened to withdraw “peacekeeping” forces from Sudan if the U.N. report was not disavowed or modified.

The unsuitability of Rwanda as an instrument of peace and stability in the Great Lakes region of Africa is augmented by its president’s efforts to divert attention from the “Mapping Exercise Report” by imprisoning political opponents absurdly charged with conspiring to renew genocide in Rwanda. Within days of the October “Mapping Report” release, he re-arrested Victoire Ingabire, who had been arrested for “genocide denial” last spring to prevent her standing as a 2010 presidential candidate challenging his re-election. Now, to divert attention from his documented culpability, he jailed her in life-threatening conditions and introduced the more serious charge of conspiring to overthrow his government by force and perpetuate genocide, naming a bizarre set of co-conspirators.7

American lawyer Peter Erlinder went to Rwanda last spring to defend Victoire Ingabire after her first arrest, and he too was arrested and imprisoned under life-threatening conditions that provoked an outcry from U.S. citizens and legislatures, resulting in an official U.S. request for his release on humanitarian grounds. He is home and safe, but Rwanda demands his return for trial “dead or alive.”8

Bizarrely, Paul Rusesabagina, the hero of “Hotel Rwanda” who rescued so many Tutsis who might otherwise have been killed in 1994, has been called a “genocider” conspiring with Victoire to attack Rwanda, overthrow the government and kill Tutsis. He would be in a Rwandan jail if he had not already in sought safety in exile.9 10

Some call Victoire Ingabire the Aung San Suu Kyi of Africa or the female Mandela, but she is not just a symbol of resistance to oppression by a dictator; she is a real person – a wife and mother whose husband and children plead for people to intervene and free her from a squalid and dangerous prison in which she has been held without trial for two months.11

We join in their plea, seeking justice for courageous individuals wrongly imprisoned as well as for the millions who have died and the millions who continue to suffer in the Congo, and endorse the letter sent to Congress on Dec. 8 providing details, additional documentation, and precise steps the U.S. and U.N. need to take to bring justice, healing, stability and a better future for a long-abused people.

The coalition issuing this statement includes among many organizations the Africa Faith and Justice Network, Friends of the Congo, Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, Foundation for Freedom and Democracy in Rwanda and the International Humanitarian Law Institute of Minnesota. For more information, contact Friends of the Congo at +1-202-584-6512 or [email protected].

Notes

1. “Seeking Justice for the Victims: The U.N. mapping report of October 1, 2010 on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Letter sent to Congressman David Wu on Dec. 8, 2010, by Africa Faith and Justice Network, Friends of the Congo, Neema Corp., Chicago Congo Coalition and others: http://afjn.org/focus-campaigns/promote-peace-d-r-congo/71-policy-objectives/908-seeking-justice-for-the-victims-un-mapping-exercise-report-of-october-1-2010-on-the-democratic-republic-of-the-congo-ngo-letter-to-congressman-david-wu.html [↩]

2. “’The president of Rwanda is a criminal,’ says Paul Rusesabagina. The famous manager of Hôtel des Mille Collines is one of the demonstrators who gathered on Albertina Square in Brussels … President Kagame didn’t hold his announced speech during the European Congress. He left early to Rwanda for more pressing issues. His minister of foreign affairs replaces him and thanks Europe for all the support … Ms. Mushikwabo says: ‘We respect the decision of the Netherlands to stop direct aid for Rwanda. But our relationship with the European Union remains very friendly.’” http://www.rnw.nl/africa/article/europe-stays-true-rwanda [↩]

3. Agreed Dec. 1, 2010: “(T)hree FDLR leaders and one individual responsible for targeting children in situations of armed conflict, to be added to the list of individuals and entities subject to a worldwide travel ban and asset freeze …” http://ukun.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=News&id=286240682 [↩]

4. “Despite the conclusion of a peace agreement and subsequent withdrawal of foreign forces in 2003, both the real and perceived presence of armed groups hostile to the governments of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi continue to serve as a major source of regional instability and an apparent pretext for continued interference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by its neighbors.” – Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006, sponsored by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s109-2125 [↩]

5. International Court of Justice Reports of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders Case Concerning Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda) – Judgment of 19 December 2005. Excerpt: “(T)he Republic of Uganda, by the conduct of its armed forces, which committed acts of killing, torture and other forms of inhumane treatment of the Congolese civilian population, destroyed villages and civilian buildings, failed to distinguish between civilian and military targets and to protect the civilian population in fighting with other combatants, trained child soldiers, incited ethnic conflict and failed to take measures to put an end to such conflict; as well as by its failure, as an occupying Power, to take measures to respect and ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law in Ituri district, violated its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law…” http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/116/10455.pdf [↩]

6. “Oil, African Genocide and the USA’s LRA Excuse,” Dec 6, 2010: “President Obama seemed either unaware or unconcerned about the U.N. Mapping Report, released on October 1st, which documents Ugandan President …” http://www.blackstarnews.com/news/135/ARTICLE/…/2010-12-06.html [↩]

7. “Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire arrested”: “Rwandan government security operatives surrounding her home in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, had been replaced by police with firearms, and that six of them were visible from inside. Others reported that there were Rwandan troops in her neighborhood and that shops had been ordered to close.” http://sfbayview.com/2010/rwandan-opposition-leader-victoire-ingabire-arrested/, “Ingabire trial: Rwanda prosecution fails ‘evidence test’” http://rwandinfo.com/eng/tag/martin-ngoga/ [↩]

8. “Kagame wants U.S. law professor brought to Rwanda ‘dead or alive’”: “According to high-level Rwandan officials at a meeting in Kigali in mid-October, President Kagame ordered that IHLI Director and WMCL law professor Peter Erlinder be brought back to Rwanda ‘dead or alive.’” http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/300669#ixzz17aSQxGSP [↩]

9. “Rwandan Prosecutor wants to bring ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero Rusesabagina to justice”: “(E)xiled opposition politician Paul Rusesabagina and jailed Victoire Ingabire have been in constant contact and fundraising for the FDLR rebels, says the Prosecutor General.” http://rwandinfo.com/eng/rwandan-prosecutor-wants-to-bring-hotel-rwanda-hero-rusesabagina-to-justice/ “Kagame’s Rwanda accuses real-life Hotel Rwanda hero of terrorism” http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/291869#ixzz17aSBcfLa [↩]

10. “Kagame regime demands Professor Peter Erlinder return to Kigali to stand trial”: “The Kagame regime continues on the offensive in the wake of the ‘U.N. Mapping Report on Human Rights Abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1993-2003,’ released on Oct. 1, which documents the Rwandan army’s war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocidal massacres of civilian Rwandan Hutu refugees and Congolese Hutus in Congo.” http://sfbayview.com/2010/kagame-regime-demands-professor-peter-erlinder-return-to-kigali-to-stand-trial/, KPFA News: “Kagame wants Peter Erlinder back in Rwanda ‘dead or alive’” http://anngarrison.blogspot.com/2010/11/kpfa-news-professor-peter-erlinder-on.html [↩]

11. “Meet the daughter of Victoire Ingabire”: “Even though it is difficult for me, I would let her leave again, because my mother does what she thinks is just. To prevent her from being involved in politics and fighting for a more just Rwanda would be to destroy a part of my mother.” http://sfbayview.com/2010/meet-the-daughter-of-victoire-ingabire, KPFA Radio interview with Victoire Ingabire’s daughter Raissa, Dec. 12, http://anngarrison.blogspot.com/2010/12/kpfa-news-victoire-ingabires-daughter.html [↩]

Big Brother USA: Monitoring America

December 28th, 2010 by Dana Priest

Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.

The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation’s history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The government’s goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, which is in charge of terrorism investigations in the United States.

Other democracies – Britain and Israel, to name two – are well acquainted with such domestic security measures. But for the United States, the sum of these new activities represents a new level of governmental scrutiny.

This localized intelligence apparatus is part of a larger Top Secret America created since the attacks. In July, The Washington Post described an alternative geography of the United States, one that has grown so large, unwieldy and secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs or how many programs exist within it.

Today’s story, along with related material on The Post’s Web site, examines how Top Secret America plays out at the local level. It describes a web of 4,058 federal, state and local organizations, each with its own counterterrorism responsibilities and jurisdictions. At least 935 of these organizations have been created since the 2001 attacks or became involved in counterterrorism for the first time after 9/11.

(Search our database for your state to find a detailed profile of counterterrorism efforts in your community.)

The months-long investigation, based on nearly 100 interviews and 1,000 documents, found that:

* Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America.

* The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously. It is accessible to an increasing number of local law enforcement and military criminal investigators, increasing concerns that it could somehow end up in the public domain.

* Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies.

* The Department of Homeland Security sends its state and local partners intelligence reports with little meaningful guidance, and state reports have sometimes inappropriately reported on lawful meetings.

Counterterrorism on Main Street In cities across Tennessee and across the nation local agencies are using sophisticated equipment and techniques to keep an eye out for terrorist threats — and to watch Americans in the process.Launch Gallery » The need to identify U.S.-born or naturalized citizens who are planning violent attacks is more urgent than ever, U.S. intelligence officials say. This month’s FBI sting operation involving a Baltimore construction worker whoallegedly planned to bomb a Maryland military recruiting station is the latest example. It followed a similar arrest of a Somali-born naturalized U.S. citizen allegedly seeking to detonate a bomb near a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore. There have been nearly two dozen other cases just this year.

“The old view that ‘if we fight the terrorists abroad, we won’t have to fight them here’ is just that – the old view,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told police and firefighters recently.

The Obama administration heralds this local approach as a much-needed evolution in the way the country confronts terrorism.

Top Secret America is a project two years in the making that describes the huge security buildup in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Today’s story is about those efforts at the local level, including law enforcement and homeland security agencies in every state and thousands of communities. View previous stories,explore relationships between government organizations and the types of work being done, and view top-secret geography on aninteractive map. However, just as at the federal level, the effectiveness of these programs, as well as their cost, is difficult to determine. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, does not know how much money it spends each year on what are known as state fusion centers, which bring together and analyze information from various agencies within a state.

The total cost of the localized system is also hard to gauge. The DHS has given $31 billion in grants since 2003 to state and local governments for homeland security and to improve their ability to find and protect against terrorists, including $3.8 billion in 2010. At least four other federal departments also contribute to local efforts. But the bulk of the spending every year comes from state and local budgets that are too disparately recorded to aggregate into an overall total.

The Post findings paint a picture of a country at a crossroads, where long-standing privacy principles are under challenge by these new efforts to keep the nation safe.

The public face of this pivotal effort is Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, which years ago built one of the strongest state intelligence organizations outside of New York to try to stop illegal immigration and drug importation.

Napolitano has taken her “See Something, Say Something” campaign far beyond the traffic signs that ask drivers coming into the nation’s capital for “Terror Tips” and to “Report Suspicious Activity.”

She recently enlisted the help of Wal-Mart, Amtrak, major sports leagues, hotel chains and metro riders. In her speeches, she compares the undertaking to the Cold War fight against communists.

“This represents a shift for our country,” she told New York City police officers and firefighters on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary this fall. “In a sense, this harkens back to when we drew on the tradition of civil defense and preparedness that predated today’s concerns.”

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In the last year, the bilateral process has been the primary means used to advance North American integration, which has drawn little attention. With the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) seemingly stalled after being exposed and discredited, the U.S. channelled trilateral negotiations to parallel bilateral discussions with both Canada and Mexico. Recent reports of a tentative Canada-U.S. security and trade agreement has once again highlighted the whole process of deep continental integration. The U.S. is formulating a strategy with the aim of implementing a North American security perimeter.

NAFTA has allowed the U.S. to further extend its political and economic influence over the continent. Through the SPP, it has evolved to include more security issues. Based on the war on drugs and the war on terrorism, the U.S. is developing a North American security strategy with the goal being to push out its security perimeter. The Merida Initiative conceived in 2007 and launched the following year by the Bush administration, signalled a new era of U.S.-Mexico security collaboration. The plan has provided Mexico with millions in funding for law enforcement, military equipment and surveillance technology. Under the pretext of combating illegal drug-trafficking and fighting transnational organized crime, the U.S. has been able to exert more authority over Mexican security policies.

President Obama has continued and expanded the Merida Initiative. The U.S. and Mexico have further broadened and deepened their cooperation. A U.S. State Department fact sheet entitled United States-Mexico Security Partnership: Progress and Impact proclaimed how both, “governments have built on the foundations of the Merida Initiative to establish four strategic areas to guide our cooperation and institutionalize our partnership: disrupt organized criminal groups; strengthen institutions; create a 21 st century border; and build strong and resilient communities.” A New Border Vision for the 21st century is, “based on the principles of joint border management, co-responsibility for cross-border crime, and shared commitment to the efficient flow of legal commerce and travel.” A U.S.-Mexico declaration issued in May, further highlights key goals in strengthening border security. In order to better coordinate the implementation of joint initiatives, the Twenty-First Century Border Bilateral Executive Steering Committee (ESC) was also established.

On December 15, the ESC’s inaugural meeting was held where a Bilateral Action Plan was adopted. This included initiatives in areas of bi-national infrastructure coordination, risk management, pre-clearance, pre-screening and pre-inspection, along with greater law enforcement cooperation. The ESC also announced other cross-border and pilot projects. They agreed to expand trusted traveler and shipper programs in order to facilitate the flow of people and goods between the two countries. The specific goals that were laid out set in motion a bilateral agenda for the next year. They represent a move towards a common perimeter approach to border management and security, which could later require harmonization of immigration and customs standards.

It is unclear whether the Obama administration will attempt to overhaul immigration laws in the coming year. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 S. 3982 was introduced in September, but never came to a vote in the last Congress. In SEC 121. Annual Report on Improving North American Security Information Exchange, it refers to, “developing and implementing an immigration security strategy for North America that utilizes a common security perimeter by enhancing technical assistance for programs and systems to support advance automated reporting and risk targeting of international passengers.” Previous failed security and immigration bills have also contained similar language pertaining to a shared security perimeter around the continent.
 
There are fears that a leaked draft declaration between Canada and the U.S. entitled Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Competitiveness could concede more control to American interests. According to the draft proposal, the agreement would work towards establishing a perimeter approach to security. This includes closer cooperation between law enforcement agencies, an integrated cargo strategy, as well as joint programs for port and border security and screening. The aim is to further facilitate travel and trade across the northern border. The draft document also reveals that both countries intend to establish the Beyond the Border Working Group which will, “report to their respective Leaders within one hundred and twenty days of the signing of this Declaration with, a joint Plan Of Action to realize the goals.” Many of the key objectives of the tentative Canada-U.S. deal mirror those found in the U.S.-Mexico vision for a 21st century border. This includes the whole process of implementing the various bilateral initiatives. Both border plans represent a continuation of the SPP agenda.

The Canada-U.S. security perimeter agreement also appears to contain elements of the US-VISIT program which involves, “the collection of biometrics—digital fingerprints and a photograph—from international travelers at U.S. visa-issuing posts and ports of entry.” The leaked draft declaration states, “We intend to work towards common standards for the use of biometrics, the sharing of information on travelers in real time, more precisely tailored screening, and improved methods of threat notification.” It goes on to say, “In order to promote mobility between our two countries, we expect to work towards an integrated United States-Canada entry-exit system by identifying and screening at the earliest opportunity – including through use of biometrics.” A common security perimeter would demand an even greater level of collaboration and would ultimately be defined by U.S. priorities. It also represents an important step in the creation of a North American Union.

After being tight-lipped on the subject, Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a recent interview, “confirmed Canada is holding ‘discussions’ with the United States on a deal that would tighten security against external terrorist threats and improve two-way trade between the countries.” He acknowledged that negotiations continue, but an agreement has yet to be reached. There have been reports that a deal could be announced early in new year. Some believe that a common security perimeter would constitute erasing the borders between the two countries. Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom suggests that, “The U.S. would be happy to control Canada’s borders to the outside world. But no U.S. politician who wants to get re-elected would ever agree to weakening America’s northern border with Canada.” He goes on to say, “So the upshot of any perimeter deal will be to give the U.S two borders — an outer one around North America and an inner one at the 49th parallel.” The same concept could also be applied to the southern border. A North American security perimeter goes well beyond keeping the U.S. safe from any perceived threats. It is a means to secure trade, resources and corporate interests.

After a one year hiatus, Canada is set to host the next edition of the North American Leaders Summit in 2011. The recent North American Foreign Ministers Meeting was used to build on the progress made since the last leaders summit which was held in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2009. It helped shape the agenda for the upcoming summit, where the whole trilateral process in regards to continental integration could be recast. As 2010 comes to a close, it appears as if North American integration is back on the front burner.
 
Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: [email protected]. Visit his blog at beyourownleader.blogspot.com.

It was two years ago today, 27 December, that Israel launched its invasion of Gaza, carrying out 22 days of murder and mayhem, killing 1400 and leaving 5400 civilians crippled for life. Since then it has continued to besiege the 1.5 million Gazans, causing hundreds more unnecessary deaths. Its actions were deemed war crimes by the UN Goldstone Report.

Israel remains unpunished, hiding behind the skirts of its US lobbyists, who put unremitting pressure on every single congressman, senator and the president to prevent any condemnation of its crimes.

But its attempt to cow the Palestinians have failed. What Israel has succeeding in doing is to confirm beyond a doubt, for millions around the world, its inhuman, racist agenda.

The past two years have witnessed an awakening of world citizens to the plight of the brave Gazans. There have been more than a dozen convoys and flotillas, including Free Gaza boats that broke the siege five times, the Gaza Freedom March, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla — people of all faiths and nationalities risking life and limb to bring Gazans emergency help.

The latest, the “Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan”, the first from south of the equator, represents 18 countries. It reached Turkey last week having started in India, and passing through Pakistan and Iran. It timed its peaceful “invasion” of Gaza to coincide with the anniversary of Israel’s day of infamy.
 
These efforts to bring relief to suffering Gazans are essential but far from enough. They can be conceived of the positive tactics in a peaceful war by the Palestinians and all people of good will against apartheid Israel. This war goes by the name Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). The war aims are to penalise Israel both politically and economically to end the siege and make a just peace with the Palestinians. 

Politically BDS has coaxed more and more governments to legitimise Palestine, even going as far as to delegitimise an apartheid Israel. Important steps include:

-Venezuela and Bolivia cutting diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009 after the invasion of Gaza, Nicaragua after the attack on the Freedom Flotilla in May 2010.
-Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay recognising a “free and independent” Palestine with 1967 borders in 2010, with Paraguay to follow suit in the spring.
-Norway and Britain upgrading their Palestinian Authority representative to consul, with the new year promising more European countries to follow suit.
-Edinburgh city council rejecting a bid by French company Veolia to take over public services due to its complicity with Israeli crimes.
-also in Scotland, Stirling city council approving a comprehensive boycott campaign against Israel’s “open aggression and disregard for international law.”
-Marrickville, Australia, a sister city to Bethlehem since 2007, recently voting to support a comprehensive BDS campaign.

Israel besieges Gaza. BDS calls on the world to “besiege the siege”, to starve Israel of its export and import markets and pressure it to make a just peace with its captives. There were many victories on this economic front in 2010 too. Examples include:

-Qatar cutting its trade relations with Israel.
-deals cancelled with Turkey, the UK, Egypt and Gulf States.
-a Turkish company demanding that Israeli companies sign a document condemning the Israeli massacre in Gaza to continue doing business. Israeli businessmen in Turkey now have to hide their identity.
-Japan’s MUJI abandoning plans to invest in Israel, facing immense pressure from citizens in Japan and South Korea.
- European Union guidelines requiring supermarkets to mark the origin of produce on labels to allow consumers to distinguish between Palestinian, Israeli and settlement produce.
-Dutch pension fund PFZW disposing of the Israeli companies in its portfolio. Major Swedish and Norwegian investment funds sold their shares in all Israeli companies involved in building settlements and the separation wall.
-the Chilean parliament’s decision to adopt a boycott of Israeli products made in settlements.
-the decision by companies such as Multilock to close their West Bank businesses because of human rights organisation pressure.

Dozens of BDS groups around the world, including in the US, are singing, dancing and otherwise demonstrating in front of and inside stores selling Israeli products, urging management and customers to join the boycott.

But the biggest impact on Israel, ironically, has come from the beleaguered Palestinians themselves. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has made it illegal for anything produced in settlements to be sold in Palestinian stores. The West Bank market is worth around $200 million a year to Israeli businesses, with some settlement factories selling up to 30 per cent of their output to the Palestinian market. Seventeen factories in Mishor Adumim, a large industrial estate between East Jerusalem and Jericho, closed as a direct result of the PA boycott.

As 22,000 Palestinians are employed by settlement businesses, the PA has established a $50 million fund to both discourage Palestinians from working in the settlements and help those who lose their jobs due to BDS successes.

While Israel’s economic media passes no judgment on Israel’s political and moral failings, BDS is forcing it to wake up. The Marker warned about the growing boycott of Israeli high-tech companies by European and US companies which find they cannot invest in Israel for moral reasons. Nehemia Strassler, Israel’s leading economic analyst, attacked Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai, for calling on the military to “destroy one hundred homes in Gaza for every rocket that falls in Israel”.

“The operation in Gaza hurts the economy. The horror sights on television and the words of politicians in Europe and Turkey change the behavior of consumers, businessmen and potential investors. Many European consumers boycott Israeli products in practice. Intellectuals call for an economic war against us and to enforce an official and full consumer boycott.”

The world is changing before our eyes. Five years ago the anti-Israel movement was limited to the far left or Arabs and Muslims. Now the campaign is entering the mainstream as a principled red and green — leftwing and Muslim — alliance

The boycott is an especially effective weapon against Israel because Israel is a small country, dependent on exports and imports. BDS was the key to ending the apartheid regime in South Africa and is fuelling world citizens with energy to do the same to Israeli apartheid.

And it is all thanks to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, which let the world watch Israel pound Gaza with bombs on live television. Israeli-American artist Theordore Bikel, a recent convert to BDS, points to the legendary Pablo Casals, who refused to play in fascist Spain, saying, “My cello is my weapon; I choose where I play, when I play, and before whom I play.” There are many weapons mightier than the sword.

Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/ You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com/

Expulsion of Bedouins in Israel’s Negev Desert

December 28th, 2010 by Jonathan Cook

Half a million trees planted over the past 18 months on the ancestral lands of Bedouin tribes in Israel’s Negev region were bought by a controversial Christian evangelical television channel that calls itself God-TV.

A sign posted a few kilometres north of Beersheba, the Negev’s main city, announces plans to plant a total of a million trees over a large area of desert that has already been designated “God-TV Forest”.

The Jewish National Fund, an international non-profit organisation in charge of forestation and developing Jewish settlements in Israel, received $500,000 from God-TV to plant some of the trees, according to the channel’s filings to US tax authorities last year.

A coalition of Jewish and Bedouin human rights groups have denounced the project, accusing God-TV and the JNF of teaming up to force the Bedouin out of the area to make way for Jewish-only communities.

No one from God-TV was available for comment, but in a video posted on its website, Rory Alec, the channel’s co-founder, said he had begun fundraising for the forest after receiving “an instruction from God” a few years ago. He said God had told him: “Prepare the land for the return of my Son.”

Standing next to the “God-TV Forest” sign, Alec thanked thousands of viewers for making donations to “sow a seed for God”, adding: “I tell you Jesus is coming back soon!”

Part of the forest has been planted on land claimed by the Aturi tribe, whose village, al-Araqib, is nearby.

Al-Araqib has been demolished eight times in recent months by the Israeli police as officials increase the pressure on the 350 inhabitants to move to Rahat, an under-funded, government-planned township nearby.

Earlier this year, Joe Stork, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, criticised the repeated attempts by Israeli authorities to eradicate the village and displace its residents.

“Tearing down an entire village and leaving its inhabitants homeless without exhausting all other options for settling long-standing land claims is outrageous,” he said.

Human Rights Watch and other international human rights groups have criticised Israel for harsh measures taken against the people of al-Araqib and the other 90,000 Bedouin who live in Negev villages that the Israel refuses to recognise. They accuse the government of trying to pre-empt a court case moving through Israeli courts aimed at settling the Bedouin ownership claims.

God-TV’s involvement in the dispute has prompted fresh concern.

Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, said the JNF, which has semi-governmental status in Israel, had set a “dangerous precedent” in accepting money from God-TV.

“The Israeli authorities are playing with fire,” he said. “This dispute between the Israeli government and the Bedouin is a long one that until now focused on the question of land rights. But the involvement of extremist Christian groups like God-TV is likely to turn this into a religious confrontation, and that will be much harder to resolve.”

The JNF did not respond to questions about its involvement with God-TV or the Negev forest.

Gordon said it was particularly worrying that Alec was using the language of Biblical prophecy in justifying his decision to finance the forest.

The channel, which has become one of the most popular global evangelical stations since its founding in Britain 15 years ago, claims a potential audience of up to a half-billion viewers, including 20 million in the United States.

Stephen Sizer, a British vicar and prominent critic of Christian Zionist groups, described God-TV as part of an evangelical movement that believes Israel’s establishment and expansion are bringing nearer the “end times” – or the moment when, according to Christians, Jesus will return for the second time.

Its followers, he added, believed that, by dispossessing Palestinians of their land and replacing them with Jews, Jesus’s return could be expedited.

“Funding aliyah [Jewish immigration] and planting trees in the desert may look innocuous but it’s actually their way to side with the Israeli right’s hardline policies towards the Palestinian population.”

Sizer said there was increasing co-operation between Israeli institutions and Christian evangelical groups, which have begun basing their operations in Israel.

God-TV has proclaimed itself the only television channel to broadcast globally from Jerusalem, following its relocation there from the UK in 2007.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the head of the Union of Reform Judaism in the US, has repeatedly called on Israel to sever contacts with Christian Zionist and evangelical groups, describing them as opposed to “territorial compromise under any and all circumstances”.

God-TV has close ties to Christians United for Israel (Cufi), an umbrella group founded in 2006 by John Hagee, a Texan pastor, that lobbies on behalf of Israel in Congress.

Hagee, a frequent preacher on the TV channel, has regularly courted controversy with comments seen as anti-Semitic. Most notoriously, in a sermon in the late 1990s, he called Adolf Hitler “a hunter” who carried out God’s plan for the Jews to return to Israel by leaving them “no place to hide” in Europe.

Cufi and the other evangelical groups have lobbied strenuously in Washington on behalf of the illegal settlements in the West Bank and for Israeli control over the holy sites in East Jerusalem, said Sizer.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has been especially keen to seek out support from Christian evangelical groups, according to Shalom Goldman, a professor at Atlanta’s Emory University, who recently published a book on the Christian Zionist movement.

Last year Cufi announced a $38 million marketing drive to bring more Christian tourists to Israel, including the establishment of a “task force on global Christian relations” jointly overseen by Hagee and Netanyahu.

Haia Noach, the director of the Negev Coexistence Forum, which campaigns for Bedouin rights, said her organisation feared more of God-TV’s trees would be planted on Bedouin lands in the coming weeks. A depot has recently been established close to al-Araqib to store four bulldozers.

“The villagers refuse to abandon al-Araqib, even though it has been destroyed many times. But once a forest is planted there, there will be no chance to go back,” she said.

She said she feared the goal was to build Jewish communities on Bedouin land. She cited the case of Givat Bar, which was secretly established by the government on part of al-Araqib’s lands in 2003.

Repeated letters to the JNF for information about their forestation programme had gone unanswered, she said.

Awad Abu Freih, a community leader at al-Araqib, said the house demolitions and forest-planting were only the latest measures by the government to remove the villagers.

Repeated destruction of al-Araqib’s crops by spraying them with herbicides was ruled illegal by Israel’s Supreme Court in 2004.

Efforts to move 90,000 Bedouin off their lands close to Beersheba have been intensifying since 2003, when the Israeli government announced plans to move them into a handful of townships.

The Bedouin have resisted, complaining that the official communities are little more than urban reservations that languish at the bottom of the country’s social and economic tables.

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.

¿Fue el 11/S el Comienzo de la Tercera Guerra Mundial?

December 28th, 2010 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Los trágicos atentados del 11 de septiembre de 2001 han dado lugar a casi diez años de guerra perpetua. El 11 de septiembre 2001 fue el primer tambor, o las salvas de apertura, de un conflicto mucho más amplio. El despliegue de tropas de Estados Unidos y la OTAN en Afganistán se ha asegurado una cabeza de puente en el corazón de Eurasia, que está situado geográficamente en o cerca de las fronteras de Irán, China, India, Pakistán, Rusia y las ex repúblicas soviéticas de Asia Central.

¿Fue Afganistán la batalla inicial de una guerra global? La invasión de Afganistán puede compararse con el desembarco de los aliados occidentales, especialmente los americanos, en el norte de África como cabeza de puente hacia Italia y Europa. Al mismo tiempo, la OTAN ha estado presionando desde Europa hacia el Corazón de Eurasia, como el desembarco de las fuerzas invasoras de los Aliados Occidentales en Francia.

¿Fue el 11 de septiembre de 2001 el comienzo de la 3º Guerra Mundial?

Históricamente hablando, se debe señalar que las distinciones entre tiempos de guerra y paz no siempre son claras y los conflictos no siempre se corresponden con las fechas establecidas y estandarizadas por los historiadores. La guerra incluso no fue declarada en muchos conflictos del pasado, como a principios de 1700 cuando Augusto II de Sajonia-Polonia invadió Livonia o cuando Federico IV de Dinamarca invadió Holstein-Gottorp. Además, en muchos conflictos, se intentó siempre de encubrir u ocultar la naturaleza del conflicto como una guerra o un acto de agresión. Los romanos y otras potencias imperiales operaron regularmente bajo este tipo de conducta.

Ejemplos en la historia son las abstractas fechas cronológicas habitualmente utilizadas por los historiadores para señalar puntos importantes en la Segunda Guerra Mundial y el comienzo de la Guerra Fría. En Europa Occidental y América del Norte, se considera que la fecha de inicio de la Segunda Guerra Mundial fue el 1 de septiembre de 1939, cuando Alemania invadió Polonia. Para la ex Checoslovaquia, el 16 de marzo de 1939 (la fecha en que Alemania invadió Checoslovaquia) fue la fecha de inicio de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. En Rusia y la Antigua URSS la fecha de inicio de la Segunda Guerra Mundial es 1941, fecha en que los alemanes invadieron la Unión Soviética. Incluso la fecha de finalización de la Segunda Guerra Mundial en Europa es diferente, porque Alemania se rindió oficialmente a los Aliados Occidentales (es decir, a Estados Unidos, Gran Bretaña y Francia) el 8 de mayo de 1945 y ante la Unión Soviética el 9 de mayo de 1945.

Las fechas anteriores son todas establecidas desde una perspectiva europea etnocéntrica, que deja fuera a Asia. La historia de la Segunda Guerra Mundial comienza mucho antes en Asia. Muchos consideran que el comienzo de la Segunda Guerra Mundial fue cuando Japón invadió China en la Segunda Guerra Sino-Japonesa de 1937, dos años antes de 1939. Incluso antes de 1937, desde 1931, los chinos y los japoneses estaban en conflicto y 1931 también puede ser visto como el inicio de la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Las fechas y eventos para el inicio de la Guerra Fría también varían, debido a la identificación de varios eventos como salva inicial de la Guerra Fría. El 1945 las tensiones entre Estados Unidos y la Unión Soviética durante la ocupación de la península de Corea, la Crisis de Azerbaiyán (1947-1948) derivadas de la ocupación soviética de las provincias de Irán, la cercana victoria de los comunistas en las elecciones nacionales celebradas en Francia e Italia (1947-1948), la lucha por el poder entre comunistas y no-comunistas en Checoslovaquia (1947-1948), y el bloqueo de Berlín Occidental (1948-1949) son también vistos como fechas de inicio de la Guerra Fría.

Incluso los acontecimientos que tienen lugar durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, tales como la Conferencia de Yalta, la Conferencia de Teherán, y el lanzamiento de la bomba atómica sobre los japoneses en Hiroshima y Nagasaki por el presidente Harry Truman como amenaza a los soviéticos (por la supremacía estadounidense en el orden de post-guerra) son considerados como fechas de inicio de la Guerra Fría.

Esta pregunta acerca de las fechas también da lugar a otro punto en la historiografía. La naturaleza de la historia es imperfecta y no es la arbitraria hecha sin intenciones por los historiadores y los libros de historia. Una serie de eventos llevan a otros. Así como la Primera Guerra Mundial condujo a la Segunda Guerra Mundial y la Segunda Guerra Mundial condujo a la Guerra Fría, la Guerra Fría ha dado lugar a la “Guerra Global contra el Terrorismo.”

El punto es que, en retrospectiva, fechas y acontecimientos históricos se definen por personas en el futuro y a veces las personas necesitan dar un paso atrás para ver la foto más grande.

Las invasiones de la OTAN y anglo-estadounidenses de Afganistán e Irak están claramente vinculadas al 11 de septiembre de 2001. Estos eventos también están relacionados con las amenazas militares contra Irán y Siria, las tensiones en el Líbano y África Oriental, así como las amenazas de Estados Unidos y la OTAN contra China y Rusia. En ese sentido, los historiadores del futuro podrán decir que la Tercera Guerra Mundial comenzó el 11 de septiembre de 2001, o que los trágicos acontecimientos del 11 de septiembre de 2001 fueron el preludio de la Tercera Guerra Mundial.

Revelaciones de los Medios Estadounidenses en la Guerra Israel-Líbano de 2006: ¿Estamos en una Guerra Mundial?

Como nota respecto a si la Tercera Guerra Mundial está siendo librada en este momento, el supervisor de medios estadounidenses, Media Matters for America, tomó nota de que la mayor parte de los medios de comunicación daba a entender que Estados Unidos estaba en medio de una guerra global días después de que Israel comenzara su guerra contra el Líbano. Media Matters for America informó lo siguiente el 14 de julio de 2006:

Más recientemente, en la edición del 13 de julio [de 2006] de The O’Reilly Factor en Fox News, Bill O’Reilly dijo “Tercera Guerra Mundial… Creo que estamos en ella.” Del mismo modo, en la edición del 13 de julio [de 2006] de MSNBC’s Tucker, aparecía un gráfico diciendo: “¿Al Borde de la Tercera Guerra Mundial?” Como ha apuntado Media Matters for America, el presentador de CNN Headline News, Glenn Beck comenzó su programa el 12 de julio [de 2006] con una discusión con el ex agente de la CIA, Robert Baer, señalando que “tenemos que luchar la Tercera Guerra Mundial”, al tiempo que advirtió “impedir el apocalipsis.” Beck y el [ex] oficial Robert Baer tuvieron una discusión similar el 13 de julio [de 2006], donde Beck señaló: “Tengo la absoluta certeza de que tenemos que prepararnos para la Tercera Guerra Mundial. Está aquí.” [1]

Los medios de comunicación sirven de herramientas para la élite económica y política. Están en la línea de propagar y apoyar a la política estatal interior y exterior. En ese sentido los medios de comunicación son un componente vital de un complejo militar-industrial-financiero-mediático que ayuda a dar forma a las visiones de lo que el sociólogo C. Wright Mills ha denominado sociedad de masas.

Es evidente que un escenario de Tercera Guerra Mundial fue posible en 2006. El ataque israelí sobre el Líbano podría haberse extendido a Siria. Esto habría provocado la intervención de Irán, que habría detonado que Estados Unidos y la OTAN entraran como combatientes en la guerra para ir en ayuda de Tel Aviv. Eso podría haber resultado en un peligroso escenario de guerra mundial emergiendo desde Medio Oriente, que será examinado después.

Los peligros de una intervención militar de Estados Unidos y la OTAN eran muy reales. El Pentágono había planeado lanzar una invasión de la OTAN al Líbano, que incluía el despliegue de marines estadounidenses para luchar contra la resistencia libanesa. Esto también fue confirmado por Alain Pellegrini, ex comandante de las fuerzas armadas de Naciones Unidas en el Líbano (FPNUL), en una entrevista con el periódico As-Safir.

Los Valles y las Montañas de Afganistán: Sólo el Comienzo de la “Larga Guerra”

The Weekly Standard, al mes siguiente del 11 de septiembre de 2001, pasó a esbozar ominosamente la campaña militar más amplia que se venía, en un editorial de Robert Kagan y William Kristol publicada el 29 de octubre de 2001:

Cuando esté todo dicho y hecho, el conflicto en Afganistán será para la guerra contra el terrorismo, lo que la campaña del norte de África fue en la Segunda Guerra Mundial: un comienzo esencial en el camino a la victoria. Pero para lo que se cierne sobre el horizonte – una amplia guerra localizada de Asia central al Medio Oriente y, desgraciadamente, de nuevo para Estados Unidos – Afganistán probará ser nada más que una batalla de apertura. [2]

La editorial de The Weekly Standard, como un guión, pasa a indicar claramente que la guerra de múltiples frentes que se encontraba en preparación se desarrollaría de forma igual o similar al modelo de conflictos post-Guerra Fría del “Choque de Civilizaciones” esbozado por Samuel P. Huntington:

[L] a guerra no terminará en Afganistán. Va a propagarse y asentarse en varios países en conflictos de diversa intensidad. Bien podría requerir el uso del poder militar estadounidense en varios lugares al mismo tiempo. Se parecerá al choque de civilizaciones que todo el mundo espera evitar. Y colocará bajo una enorme y tal vez insoportable presión a una coalición internacional que se regodea en un consenso de satisfacción. [3]

En 2001, tanto Robert Kagan como William Kristol eran muy conscientes de la conflagración de guerra en Eurasia. Ambos hombres son insiders de la política estadounidense conscientes de la dirección de política exterior que podrían tomar los militares estadounidenses. Después de todo, Kagan y Kristol se asociaron con Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld y Paul Wolfowitz, a través del think tank del Project for a New American Century (PNAC), que esbozó una hoja de ruta militar global para un “nuevo siglo americano”.

¿Tercera Guerra Mundial en el Horizonte?

Desde la invasión al Afganistán controlado por los talibanes ,la guerra se ha extendido desde Asia Central al Medio Oriente, Pakistán, el Cáucaso y África Oriental. ¿Qué se avecina en el horizonte? ¿Es la “Guerra Global contra el Terrorismo”, otro nombre para el “Gran Juego?”

El “Gran Juego” por el control de toda Eurasia, desde Europa del Este y Medio Oriente hasta Asia Central, está en marcha. Se están armando las tensiones internacionales. En Eurasia y en todo el mundo hay rivalidades geopolíticas entre el bloque y alianza militar liderada por Estados Unidos y una contra-alianza ruso-chino-iraní.

Hay numerosos frentes que pueden desencadenar una guerra global, pero Medio Oriente es el de más alto riesgo. Si los ataques de Israel en 2006 amenazaron con arrastrarnos a una guerra global, ¿A qué nos arrastraría un ataque contra Irán? Un ataque israelí-estadounidense contra Irán y sus aliados podrían evolucionar rápidamente en una guerra global con el uso de las armas nucleares.

Original en: Global Research
 Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya es Investigador Asociado en el Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

NOTAS

[1] “Right-wing media divided: Is U.S. now in World War III, IV, or V?” Media Maters for America, July 14, 2006: http://mediamatters.org/research/200607140017>.
[2] Robert Kagan and William Kristol, “The Gathering Storm,” The Weekly Standard, October 29, 2001, p.13.
[3] Ibid.

Hashim Thaci had exactly one day to bask in the glory of winning an election so shamelessly stolen, it would have made Hamid Karzai blush. On Monday came the news that Richard Holbrooke, that embodiment of Imperial “diplomacy” in the Balkans over the past two decades, passed away after aortic rupture. Holbrooke had been “a friend… a voice that protected the interest of the Republic of Kosovo,” Thaci wrote in the condolences telegram to Emperor Obama.

On Tuesday morning, the Guardian published excerpts from a Council of Europe report, claiming that Thaci and his “Kosovo Liberation Army” are a “mafia-like” organization involved in narcotics and arms trafficking and human organ trade.

The report, published by Dick Marty, a Swiss member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), was a result of a two-year investigation into allegations first mentioned in the memoirs of former ICTY prosecutor Carla Del Ponte. After retiring from her job as NATO’s Vyshinsky in January 2008, Del Ponte was free to reveal that she had considerable evidence of KLA’s macabre atrocities: murder of captive civilians in a house in northern Albania, and the sale of their body parts on the illegal organ market. The claim caused a firestorm in Imperial circles; Del Ponte was silenced and sent off to Latin America. Thaci and the KLA — now calling itself the “government of the Republic of Kosovo” — had dismissed the claims as “Serbian propaganda,” as if Del Ponte had not spent years persecuting the Serbs. The ICTY conducted a half-hearted investigation, destroyed the physical evidence, and shrugged the whole thing off. It appeared as if the story was dead and buried, just like the witnesses against Ramush Haradinaj.

Until now.

The Suppressed Truth

Before she was gagged by her government, Del Ponte did manage to get the Council of Europe, a continental parliamentarian body (independent of the EU), to commission an inquiry with Marty, Del Ponte’s fellow Swiss, in charge. For the next two years, he struggled to talk to potential witnesses and informants, hampered by the “genuine terror” of KLA’s retribution. He pored over classified intelligence documents, FBI and Interpol records. In the end, he came to the conclusion that was known to some back in 1999, but suppressed in the interest of Imperial policy ever since: Hashim Thaci and the KLA weren’t just terrorists, they were an organized crime syndicate.

Worse yet, the law enforcement and intelligence services of NATO countries — which had brought Thaci to power in 1999, after occupying the Serbian province — had known about this all along. Thaci and the KLA were Empire’s chosen allies in the region, and detaching Kosovo from Serbia was a policy priority; anything that interfered with their designated role as virtuous victims of evil Serbs was to be suppressed. And so it was — until now.

Marty’s report not only exposed the long-buried truth, but revealed details about the cover-up. This is why its impact in Europe has been far greater than the WikiLeaks cables. Del Ponte has already told the media she felt “vindicated” by the findings.

Media Soul-Searching

The British press in particular has been all over Marty’s report. The Labor-friendly Guardian, usually stolidly pro-Albanian, broke the story. On its website, leftist commentator Neil Clark blasted the hypocrisy of liberal interventionism, pointing out that Kosovo 1999 was as immoral as Iraq 2003.

The Conservative Daily Mail called Thaci a “monster” – language it normally reserves for Serbs — and cited as proof of former PM Tony Blair’s depravity that he accepted a “Gold Medal of Freedom” from Thaci earlier this year. A Sky News foreign affairs blogger called Kosovo a “black hole.”

Granted, even the harshest criticism of Blair’s Kosovo adventure and Thaci’s organ-harvesting ways still operates within the confines of conventional wisdom: the “Kosovars” (i.e. the KLA) were “oppressed” by the “brutal” regime of Slobodan Milosevic, who engaged in “ethnic cleansing.” Fictitious figures of “10,000 Albanian civilians” killed in the war are referenced, while KLA’s eviscerations are described as “revenge attacks,” much like their 1999 campaign of terror that saw the very real ethnic cleansing of most Serbs and other non-Albanians from the province. As one might recall, the Anglophone press similarly spun the 2004 Kristallnacht-like pogrom as “ethnic clashes.”

On this side of the Atlantic, the response has been more subdued. The current administration is staffed by Clinton veterans, who very much insist that their Balkans adventures of the 1990s were brilliant successes. Support for the KLA runs strong in both parties.

It may only be a matter of time, however, before someone begins to wonder whether those who have lied about and covered up the KLA atrocities for years may have lied about other things as well. Sooner or later, a reporter may put the two and two together and conclude that Thaci was not named “Snake” by his KLA compatriots for an excess of humanitarianism. This does not bode well for the narrative that underpins the self-proclaimed “Republic of Kosovo.”

Snake Bites Back

Thaci’s first response was the same as two years ago: he dismissed the report as “scandalous… filled with defamation and lies and is recycling propaganda from certain people that do not want the best for Kosovo.” The allegations, he told the press, were “construed to damage the image of Kosovo and the war of the KLA.” By Thursday, when the report was adopted by PACE, he was threatening legal action against Marty and the Council of Europe, accusing them of libel.

KLA’s Imperial patrons have also awakened to the danger of the report to their reputations, and are already pressuring Marty to “provide evidence.” Never mind that the evidence was contained in the actual report, or that they hardly offered any evidence for their claims against Milosevic, or Saddam Hussein, or Julian Assange… The EU bureaucracy is waffling on the issue, since they stand to lose the most. After all, it is their “law and order” mission currently supervising the “independent” Kosovo.

A Ready Replacement?

This does not mean Thaci should rest easy and believe the Empire still has his back. If there is one constant in Washington’s dealings around the world, it is that its “allies” are ultimately expendable.

Last week, the Guardian confirmed reports that former U.S. diplomat William Walker had endorsed Vetevendosje, a party belonging to the bloc agitating for the establishment of “Natural Albania.” Walker headed the OSCE observer mission in 1999, was instrumental in the “Racak massacre” hoax, and subsequently became a staunch supporter of the KLA. Now he has thrown in his lot with the people who consider Thaci and the KLA too soft, and the U.S. establishment — which usually reacts forcefully when one of its former diplomats goes “off the reservation” — has remained entirely silent. Reports on the sham election indicate that “Vetevendosje” actually outpolled the party of Ramush Haradinaj, former “Prime Minister” of Kosovo and a long-time Washington favorite.

Walker reappeared this week with a quote in a Reuters analysis of the organ trade scandal. “There’s a lot of thugs around, a lot of criminal activity,” Reuters quotes Walker as saying. “I fault the international community as much as the Albanians. They feel that the PDK [Thaci's party] represents stability.” Reuters speculates that the furor over Marty’s report may eventually amount to nothing, since the Empire has invested too much in Kosovo “independence” to reverse course now.

It is indeed extremely unlikely that Washington will abandon Holbrooke’s legacy. Part of the problem with the failed satrapies in the Balkans is that they are woven into the very foundations of present-day Atlantic Empire, and that abandoning or dismantling them would unravel the Empire itself. Though entropy is already taking care of that, the Imperial establishment persists in the illusion it can somehow freeze history in a moment of its supposed ultimate triumph.

However, while the Empire is unlikely to abandon its client state, it may still decide its support for the “Republic of Kosovo” would become easier if Hashim Thaci, mob boss and dealer in weapons and human body parts, were no longer in charge.

Journalism of Appeasement. Corruption, Smoke and Mirrors

December 27th, 2010 by David DeGraw

Here’s a brief summation of my recent reporting:

If we continue to let our politicians and wealthy members of society live in comfort, free from the consequences of their actions, we are complicit in our own demise.

Our country is so overrun with corruption, we cannot remain passive and expect things to get any better.

The economy is propped up by smoke and mirrors and will inevitably collapse. Without immediately breaking up the banks and holding the thieves accountable, we will continue on our downward spiral with increasingly severe and devastating consequences.

These are extremely unpleasant truths that we are now forced to confront. We have to act now. If you are not calling for revolution or organizing, you are either unaware of what’s happening around you, horribly naïve or a fascist sympathizer.

In response to statements like those above, I’ve been exchanging emails with colleagues (journalists and news editors) who have become “uncomfortable” with my reporting style and been saying some variation of the following: “You’re being too radical. This is too extreme for us to publish.”

While I appreciate their opinions, I want to make something 100% clear. I am fully aware that these words are harsh, and may turn off some people. However, in extreme times, telling the truth will make you sound extreme. Ultimately, I don’t mind if you think I sound “too extreme,” I don’t care if I make people “uncomfortable,” or if, in your opinion, I’ve become “too radical.” Try telling that to the 52 million Americans who are now living in poverty. Tell that to the millions of American families who have lost their homes and jobs. Tell that to the 59 million people who can’t afford health insurance. Tell that to the overwhelming majority of the population who are stressed out, living paycheck to paycheck, buried in debt they will never get out of and desperately struggling to make ends meet.

Try telling that to all the people who have emailed me explaining their dire situations due to this economic crisis. Tell that to all the people I personally know who have taken major pay cuts.

I will not participate in the journalism of appeasement.

What has to happen for you to stop being a status quo supporting naïve journalist and realize that we are in the middle of a war? More accurately, it is a slaughter. An all-time record-breaking slaughter.

I refuse to “normalize the unthinkable.”

Here’s a list of stats that I am sure you are already extremely sick of hearing, what we have already passively accepted as “the new normal,” some new ALL-TIME RECORDS for you:

  • 3 million families foreclosed upon;

  • 30 million people in need of employment;

  • 43 million people on food stamps;

  • 52 million people in poverty;

  • 59 million people without healthcare;

  • 239 million living paycheck to paycheck;

  • $144 billion in Wall Street bonuses;

  • $13 Trillion in investible wealth within 1% of US population.
  • Ask yourself this question: How sick and depraved of a society do you have to live in to get an outcome like this?

    We now have the highest and most severe inequality of wealth in the history of the United States. We have witnessed an economic shock and awe campaign, acts of financial terrorism have impoverished tens of millions of people and put our future prospects in an urgently dire situation. We know who is responsible for it, yet nothing is done to hold them accountable, and most astounding of all, the people responsible for this (a financial terrorism network) are still in power!

    This is the largest criminal racket in world history. We need prosecutions under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, right now!

    Another important point in response to emails that I get: when I write that Obama is a puppet, some people still get upset with me. Are you kidding me? What kind of president allows this to happen without holding people accountable? What kind of president allows our tax dollars to be taken and handed out as all-time record-breaking bonuses while we have an all-time record-breaking number of people living in poverty? What kind of president puts career-long preeminent economic imperialists Tim Geithner and Larry Summers in charge of our economy, and supports Ben Bernanke’s reconfirmation as Fed Chairman? This is all absurd and inexcusable! These three people would be in prison if we lived in a nation ruled by law. Obama is a bullshit artist – Period, Full Stop.

    This is a quintessential banana republic ruled by a puppet president. If that truth is too much for you to handle, stop reading this right now and go retreat into your “reality TV” world while you still can.

    Let me defer to Senator Bernie Sanders. He recently said what I’ve been screaming about and gave us one of those very rare moments when truth was actually spoken on the Senate floor:

    “There is a war going on in this county and I’m not referring to the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan. I’m talking about a war being waged by some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country against the working families of the United States of America, against the disappearing and shrinking middle class of our country.

    The reality is that many of the nation’s billionaires are on the war path. They want more, more, more. Their greed has no end, and apparently there is very little concern for our country or for the people of this country if it gets in the way of the accumulation of more and more wealth, and more and more power….

    Today… the crooks on Wall Street… the people whose actions, illegal actions, reckless actions, have resulted in millions of Americans losing their jobs, their homes, their savings… After we bailed them out, the CEOs today are now earning more money than they did before the bailout…. While the middle class of this country collapses and the rich become much richer… the United States now has, by far, the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on earth.

    When we were in school, we used to read the text books which talked about the banana republics in Latin America… about countries in which a handful of people owned and controlled most of the wealth in those countries. Well, guess what? That is exactly what is happening in the United States today.”

    What will it take to make you understand this? Don’t you get it? This is a war! This is a mass slaughter carried out by economic policy. This is the elimination of the existence of a middle class. These are financial terrorists committing crimes against humanity. Our country is being attacked! My family is under attack! My child is under attack! I am under attack!

    We are under attack!

    I know that TV news propaganda confuses people, but on a basic and profound level, whether people want to admit it or not, the overwhelming majority of the population knows that our nation has been taken over by a global banking cartel. We know that our future has gone up in flames. We know that both political parties have been paid off and don’t represent us. If the politicians don’t drastically change course and start representing the people, we have a duty, a Constitutional commitment and obligation to launch a revolution.

    If you are not calling for revolution or organizing, you are either unaware of what’s happening around you, horribly naïve or a fascist sympathizer. If we continue to let our politicians and wealthy members of society live in comfort, free from the consequences of their actions, we are complicit in our own demise.

    Our country is so overrun with corruption, we cannot remain passive and expect things to get any better. The economy is now propped up by smoke and mirrors and will inevitably collapse. Without immediately breaking up the banks and holding the thieves accountable, we will continue on our downward spiral with increasingly severe and devastating consequences. These are extremely unpleasant truths that we are now forced to confront. We have to act now.

    People who still delude themselves into apathy by clinging to the belief that giving trillions of dollars to the banks had to be done, are buying into a baseless propaganda line. Use your commonsense. What kind of fool would think that the best way to solve the economic crisis would be to give trillions of dollars to the people who are most responsible for causing it. That is absurd! Instead of holding them accountable for the crimes they committed, they were given trillions in taxpayer funds which they used to further consolidate power and give themselves all-time record-breaking bonuses – and they deliberately impoverished tens of millions of people in the process. People are either confused as to what happened or they are in denial and afraid to confront the colossal crime committed. Whatever the case may be, there is no escaping the consequences. The implications are staggering. If you think it’s been bad over the past two years, get ready, you haven’t seen anything yet.

    So are we going to start fighting back, or should I just move my family to another country? Most everyone who understands our economic and political situation are having this debate now and contemplating moving outside the country. Is that what we should do? Should we just leave the country and let it collapse?

    Those who are aware have reached the point where our survival instinct is kicking in. Fight or flight?

    I’m ready to fight, but I’m not ready to fight a losing battle. We all need to do what is best for our family.

    Are you with me? Or should I start packing now?

    – David DeGraw is the founder and editor of AmpedStatus.com. He is the author of The Economic Elite Vs. The People of the United States. His new book is The Road Through 2012.

    2011: “Dissent is what rescues Democracy”

    December 27th, 2010 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

     

    ”Dissent is what rescues democracy from a quiet death behind closed doors.”–Lewis H. Lapham

    The year 2011 will bring Americans a larger and more intrusive police state, more unemployment and home foreclosures, no economic recovery, more disregard by the US government of US law, international law, the Constitution, and truth, more suspicion and distrust from allies, more hostility from the rest of the world, and new heights of media sycophancy. 

    2011 is shaping up as the terminal year for American democracy. The Republican Party has degenerated into a party of Brownshirts, and voter frustrations with the worsening economic crisis and military occupations gone awry are likely to bring Republicans to power in 2012. With them would come their doctrines of executive primacy over Congress, the judiciary, law, and the Constitution and America’s rightful hegemony over the world.

    If not already obvious, 2010 has made clear that the US government does not care a whit for the opinions of citizens.  The TSA is unequivocal that it will reach no accommodation with Americans other than the violations of their persons that it imposes by its unaccountable power.  As for public opposition to war, the Associated Press reported on December 16 that “Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. can’t let public opinion sway its commitment to Afghanistan.”  Gates stated bluntly what has been known for some time: the idea is passe that government in a democracy serves the will of the people. If this quaint notion is still found in civics books, it will soon be edited out.

    In Gag Rule, a masterful account of the suppression of dissent and the stifling of democracy, Lewis H. Lapham writes that candor is a necessary virtue if democracies are to survive their follies and crimes.  But where in America today can candor be found? Certainly not in the councils of government.  Attorney General John Ashcroft complained of candor-mongers to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Americans who insist on speaking their minds, Ashcroft declared, “scare people with phantoms of lost liberty,” “aid terrorists,” diminish our resolve,” and “give ammunition to America’s enemies.”

    As the Department of Justice (sic) sees it, when the ACLU defends habeas corpus it is defending the ability of terrorists to blow up Americans, and when the ACLU defends the First Amendment it is defending exposures of the lies and deceptions that are the necessary scaffolding for the government’s pretense that it is doing God’s will while Satan speaks through the voices of dissent. 

    Neither is candor a trait in which the American media finds comfort. The neoconservative press functions as propaganda ministry for hegemonic American empire, and the “liberal” New York Times serves the same master. It was the New York Times that gave credence to the Bush regime’s lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and it was the New York Times that guaranteed Bush’s re-election by spiking the story that Bush was committing felonies by spying on Americans without obtaining warrants.  Conservatives rant about the “liberal media” as if it were a vast subversive force, but they owe their beloved wars and coverups of the Bush regimes’ crimes to the New York Times.

    With truth the declared enemy of the fantasy world in which the government, media, and public reside, the nation has turned on whistleblowers. Bradley Manning, who allegedly provided the media with the video made by US troops of their wanton, fun-filled slaughter of newsmen and civilians, has been abused in solitary confinement for six months. Murdering civilians is a war crime, and as General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the National Press Club on February 17, 2006, “It is the absolute responsibility of everybody in uniform to disobey an order that is either illegal or immoral” and to make such orders known. If Manning is the source of the leak, he has  been wrongfully imprisoned for meeting his military responsibility. The media have yet to make the point that the person who reported the crime, not the persons who committed it, is the one who has been imprisoned, and without a trial.

    The lawlessness of the US government, which has been creeping up on us for decades, broke into a full gallop in the years of the Bush/Cheney/Obama regimes. Today the government operates above the law, yet maintains that it is a democracy bringing the same to Muslims by force of arms, only briefly being sidetracked by sponsoring a military coup against democracy in Honduras and attempting to overthrow the democratic government in Venezuela. 

    As 2011 dawns, public discourse in America has the country primed for a fascist dictatorship.The situation will be worse by 2012. The most uncomfortable truth that emerges from the WikiLeaks saga is that American public discourse consists of cries for revenge against those who tell us truths. The vicious mendacity of the US government knows no restraint. Whether or not international law can save Julian Assange from the clutches of the Americans or death by a government black ops unit, both executive and legislative branches are working assiduously to establish the National Security State as the highest value and truth as its greatest enemy.

    America’s future is the world of Winston Smith.

    Preface: If you believe in man-made global warming, please read this essay from the beginning to the end. If you are skeptical of man-made global warming, please skip ahead to the last two sections of this essay so that you see where I’m going.

    Europe, the U.S. East Coast, and many other places are suffering through one of the coldest winters on record.

    How can this be when we are supposedly experiencing global warming?

    Is the Gulf Stream Shutting Down?

    Climate scientists have long speculated that global warming could cause a new ice age in.

    As I noted in May:

    As the red arrows at the left of the following drawing show, the Gulf Stream runs from Florida up the Eastern Coast of the United States:


    [Click here for full image.]

    ***

    Global warming activists have warned for years that warming could cause the “great conveyor belt” of warm ocean water to shut down. They say that such a shut down could – in turn – cause the climate to abruptly change, and a new ice age to begin. (This essay neither tries to endorse or refute global warming or global cooling in general: I am focusing solely on the oil spill.)

    The drawing above shows the worldwide “great conveyer belt” of ocean currents, which are largely driven by the interaction of normal ocean water with colder and saltier ocean currents.

    And see this, this and this.

    Did the Oil Spill Make It Worse?

    An Italian PhD professor of physics at the Frascati National Laboratories and the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (Gianluigi Zangari) argues that an analysis of satellite data shows that the loop current was stopped for the first time a month or two after the BP oil spill started, and concludes:

    Since comparative analysis with past satellite data until may 2010 didn’t show relevant anomalies, it might be therefore plausible to correlate the breaking of the Loop Current with the biochemical and physical action of the BP Oil Spill on the Gulf Stream.

    It is reasonable to foresee the threat that the breaking of a crucial warm stream as the Loop Current may generate a chain reaction of unpredictable critical phenomena and instabilities due to strong non linearities which may have serious consequences on the dynamics of the Gulf Stream thermoregulation activity of the Global Climate.

    Professor Zangari does not propose a mechanism by which the oil stops the loop current, but on May 2nd (2 weeks after the start of the oil spill), I proposed a mechanism, but noted that such an event was extremely unlikely:

    The Associated Press notes:

    Experts warned that an uncontrolled gusher could create a nightmare scenario if the Gulf Stream carries it toward the Atlantic.

    This would, in fact, be very bad, as it would carry oil far up the Eastern seaboard.

    ***

    How could the oil get all the way from Louisiana to Florida, where the Gulf Stream flows?

    [The Loop Current].

    In a worst-case scenario – if the oil leak continued for a very long period of time – the oil could conceivably be carried from the Gulf Stream into world-wide ocean currents (see drawing above).

    I do not believe this will happen. Even with the staggering quantity of oil being released, I don’t think it’s enough to make its way into other ocean currents. I think that either engineers will figure out how to cap the leak, or the oil deposits will simply run out. It might get into the Gulf loop current, and some might get into the Gulf Stream. But I don’t believe the apocalyptic scenarios where oil is carried world-wide by the Gulf Stream or other ocean currents.

    Changing the Climate

    There is an even more dramatic – but even less likely – scenario.

    ***

    Conceivably – if the oil spill continued for years – the greater thickness or “viscosity” of the oil in comparison to ocean water, or the different ability of oil and seawater to hold warmth (called “specific heat“), could interfere with the normal temperature and salinity processes which drive the ocean currents, and thus shut down the ocean currents and change the world’s climate.

    However, while this is an interesting theory (and could make for a good novel or movie), it simply will not happen.

    Why not?

    Because there simply is not enough oil in the leaking oil pocket to interfere with global ocean currents. And even if this turns out to be a much bigger oil pocket than geologists predict, some smart engineer will figure out how to cap the leak well before any doomsday scenario could possibly happen.

    I certainly hope that what I wrote in May – before the Loop Current allegedly shut down – was right, and that there wasn’t enough oil to affect climate. But one season does not make a trend, and we will have to see if the Loop Current is back to normal next year or is permanently weakened.*

    Jet Stream Shifting North?

    Scientists say that the jet stream – - has moved North.

    For example, the University of Arizona created the following graphic in 2008 to illustrate the Northern shift of the jet stream between 1978 and 1997 (via Scientific American):

    X Click here to find out more!
    STORM TRACKER: The jet stream that carries
    moisture from Pacific storms over the U.S.
    has shifted north in recent decades, making
    the arid Southwest even drier.
    Image: COURTESY OF STEPHANIE MCAFEE
    UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA/2008

    Associated Press wrote in 2008:

    The jet stream — America’s stormy weather maker — is creeping northward and weakening, new research shows.

    ***

    That potentially means less rain in the already dry South and Southwest and more storms in the North. And it could also translate into more and stronger hurricanes since the jet stream suppresses their formation. The study’s authors said they have to do more research to pinpoint specific consequences.

    From 1979 to 2001, the Northern Hemisphere’s jet stream moved northward on average at a rate of about 1.25 miles a year, according to the paper published Friday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The authors suspect global warming is the cause, but have yet to prove it.

    The jet stream is a high-speed, constantly shifting river of air about 30,000 feet above the ground that guides storm systems and cool air around the globe. And when it moves away from a region, high pressure and clear skies predominate.

    Two other jet streams in the Southern Hemisphere are also shifting poleward, the study found.

    ***

    The study looked at the average location of the constantly moving jet stream and found that when looked at over decades, it has shifted northward. The study’s authors and other scientists suggest that the widening of the Earth’s tropical belt — a development documented last year — is pushing the three jet streams toward the poles.

    Climate models have long predicted that with global warming, the world’s jet streams would move that way, so it makes sense to think that’s what happening, Caldeira said. However, proving it is a rigorous process, using complex computer models to factor in all sorts of possibilities. That has not been done yet.

    ***

    “We are seeing a general northward shift of all sorts of phenomena in the Northern Hemisphere occurring at rates that are faster than what ecosystems can keep up with,” he said.Dian Seidel, a research meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who wrote a study about the widening tropical belt last year, said she was surprised that Caldeira found such a small shift.

    Jet Stream Temporarily Shifting South?

    However, neither a shutdown of the conveyor belt or a Northward-shifting jet stream would explain the extremely cold being experienced right now in the U.S. East Coast, Southern California, Australia and many other southerly locations. Specifically, if either condition was occurring, England and other parts of Europe would indeed be getting hit with blizzards, but Southerly locations shouldn’t also be getting walloped. In other words, neither theory can explain what we are currently seeing.

    Indeed, the Met – England’s official climate agency – says that the problem isn’t that the jet stream has shifted North, but that it has temporarily shifted South. As the Daily Mail noted last week:

    Daily mean temperature anomalies around the world between 1st December and 20th December Daily mean temperature anomalies around the world between 1st December and 20th December compared with the 30 year long term average between 1961 and 1990

    During these grey winters, Britain’s prevailing winds come from the west and south west, and bring with them warm and moist air from the sub-tropical Atlantic.

    This year a high-pressure weather system over the Atlantic is blocking the jet stream’s normal path and forcing it to the north and south of Europe.

    The areas of high pressure act like stones in a stream – blocking the normal flow of milder air from the west and instead forcing colder air from the north down across the UK.

    In California more than 12 inches of rain has fallen in parts of the Santa Monica Mountains in the south and 13 feet of snow has accumulated at Mammoth Mountain ski resort.

    And Australians expecting to bask in early summer sun this Christmas are instead shivering as icy gusts sweeping up from the Southern Ocean have blanketed parts of east coast states New South Wales and Victoria with up to four inches of snow.

    When the jet-stream is blocked by high pressure it dips southwards and lets freezing air flood in from the Arctic regions.

    ***

    Other weather patterns are also causing havoc across the may also be affecting the weather, such as the current in the tropical Pacific Ocean, called La Nina, which is disturbing the jetstream over the north Pacific and North America.

    A combination of our usual wet Atlantic weather systems striking these freezing cold fronts results in huge amounts of snowfall – and brings Britain grinding to a halt.

    A Met Office spokesman: ‘The problem is we are not getting the warmer Atlantic air that normally keeps our winters mild.’

    ‘We can see that it is unseasonably warm over Canada and Greenland, this is where warm air has been diverted.’

    He said that any change in the pressure over the Atlantic would need to last for several days before we would notice any change in the weather in Europe.

    Freezing-cold winters and milder winters tend to cluster in groups, as the jet stream changes its path.

    Experts are still unsure why this is but suspect it may be related to the EL Nino weather system as well as changes in sea temperatures and solar activity.

    A system of high pressure

    A system of high pressure has forced the jet stream further south, allowing biting cold winds in from the north

    In January, Weather.com explained last year’s cold snap in terms of the “Greenland Block”:

    Jet Stream Pattern during a Greenland Block

    Although there are other determining factors which caused the recent prolonged arctic cold spell, one of main culprits was something called the Greenland Block.

    The Greenland Block is a very strong area of high pressure located over the country of Greenland.

    The block does what you may think it does – it creates an atmospheric traffic jam.

    Air currents want to move west to east (in the northern hemisphere) but when the Greenland Block is in place it is has to navigate around the block. So air currents either flow up and around the block or dig south.

    In the graphic above, the block is designated by a ridge of high pressure with the jet stream buckling northward up and around the high pressure area.

    On either side of the ridge, the jet stream buckles southward creating two troughs – one located over the central and eastern United States and another over western and central Europe.

    As the trough digs south, arctic air is no longer locked in the…well…arctic. It is free to spill away from the cold dungeon.

    The cold air surges southward and depending on how far south the jet stream digs, is sometimes capable of reaching typically mild or warm areas such as south Texas, the Deep South and Florida.

    Over Europe, the cold air originates out of Siberia and spill south and west overwhelming much of the continent.

    Stuck Low Pressure System Means a Persistent Northerly Flow

    In an Op-Ed in the New York Times, climate scientist Judah Cohen focuses on Siberia’s role in the process:

    As global temperatures have warmed and as Arctic sea ice has melted over the past two and a half decades, more moisture has become available to fall as snow over the continents. So the snow cover across Siberia in the fall has steadily increased.

    The sun’s energy reflects off the bright white snow and escapes back out to space. As a result, the temperature cools. When snow cover is more abundant in Siberia, it creates an unusually large dome of cold air next to the mountains, and this amplifies the standing waves in the atmosphere, just as a bigger rock in a stream increases the size of the waves of water flowing by.

    The increased wave energy in the air spreads both horizontally, around the Northern Hemisphere, and vertically, up into the stratosphere and down toward the earth’s surface. In response, the jet stream, instead of flowing predominantly west to east as usual, meanders more north and south. In winter, this change in flow sends warm air north from the subtropical oceans into Alaska and Greenland, but it also pushes cold air south from the Arctic on the east side of the Rockies. Meanwhile, across Eurasia, cold air from Siberia spills south into East Asia and even southwestward into Europe.

    That is why the Eastern United States, Northern Europe and East Asia have experienced extraordinarily snowy and cold winters since the turn of this century. Most forecasts have failed to predict these colder winters, however, because the primary drivers in their models are the oceans, which have been warming even as winters have grown chillier. They have ignored the snow in Siberia.

    Do We Really Know What’s Causing It?

    The Independent reported last week:

    Scientists have established a link between the cold, snowy winters in Britain and melting sea ice in the Arctic and have warned that long periods of freezing weather are likely to become more frequent in years to come.

    An analysis of the ice-free regions of the Arctic Ocean has found that the higher temperatures there caused by global warming, which have melted the sea ice in the summer months, have paradoxically increased the chances of colder winters in Britain and the rest of northern Europe.

    The findings are being assessed by British climate scientists, who have been asked by ministers for advice on whether the past two cold winters are part of a wider pattern of climate change ….

    Some climate scientists believe that the dramatic retreat of the Arctic sea ice over the past 30 years has begun to change the wind patterns over much of the northern hemisphere, causing cold, Arctic air to be funnelled over Britain during winter, replacing the mild westerly airstream that normally dominates the UK’s weather.

    ***

    The researchers used computer models to assess the impact of the disappearing Arctic sea ice, particularly in the area of the Barents and Kara seas north of Scandinavia and Russia, which have experienced unprecedented losses of sea ice during summer.

    Their models found that, as the ice cap over the ocean disappeared, this allowed the heat of the relatively warm seawater to escape into the much colder atmosphere above, creating an area of high pressure surrounded by clockwise-moving winds that sweep down from the polar region over Europe and the British Isles. Vladimir Petoukhov, who carried out the study at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said the computer simulations showed that the disappearing sea ice is likely to have widespread and unpredictable impacts on the climate of the northern hemisphere.

    One of the principal predictions of the study was that the warming of the air over the ice-free seas is likely to bring bitterly cold air to Europe during the winter months, Dr Petoukhov said. “This is not what one would expect. Whoever thinks that the shrinking of some far away sea-ice won’t bother him could be wrong. There are complex interconnections in the climate system, and in the Barents-Kara Sea we might have discovered a powerful feedback mechanism,” he said.

    In the paper, submitted in November 2009 but published last month in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Dr Petoukhov and his colleague Vladimir Semenov write: “Our results imply that several recent severe winters do not conflict with the global warming picture but rather supplement it.”

    ***

    Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of physics of the oceans at the Potsdam Institute, said the floating sea ice in winter insulates the relatively warm seawater from the bitterly cold temperatures of the air above it, which can be around -20C or -30C.

    “The Arctic sea ice is shrinking and at the moment it is at a record low for mid-to-late December, which provides a big heat source for the atmosphere,” Professor Rahmstorf said. “The open ocean actually heats the atmosphere above because the ocean in the Arctic is about 0C, and that’s much warmer than the atmosphere about it. This is a massive change compared with an ice-covered ocean, where the ice operates like a lid. You don’t get that heating from below.

    “The model simulations show that, when you don’t get ice on the Barents and Kara seas, that promotes the formation of a high-pressure system there, and, because the airflow is clockwise around the high, it brings cold, polar air right into Europe, which leads to cold conditions here while it is unusually warm elsewhere, especially in the Arctic,” he explained.

    The scientists emphasised that the climate is complex and there were other factors at play. It is, they said, too early to be sure if the past two cold winters are due to the ice-free Arctic.

    “I want to be cautious, but basically in the past couple of months the sea ice cover has been low and so, according to the model simulations, that would encourage this kind of weather pattern,” Professor Rahmstorf said.

    “The last winter of 2009-10 turned out to be fitting that pattern very well, and perhaps this winter as well, so that is three data points. I would say it’s not definite confirmation of the mechanism, but it certainly fits the pattern,” he said.

    The computer model used by the scientists also predicted that, as the ice cover continues to be lost, the weather pattern is likely to shift back into a phase of warmer-than-usual winters. Global warming will also continue to warm the Arctic air mass, Professor Rahmstorf said.

    “If you look ahead 40 or 50 years, these cold winters will be getting warmer because, even though you are getting an inflow of cold polar air, that air mass is getting warmer because of the greenhouse effect,” he said. “So it’s a transient phenomenon. In the long run, global warming wins out.”

    Even the leading proponents of this theory admit that their theory is only tentative, and that further research is needed to confirm or deny that the theory explains the last couple of winters.

    Indeed, the BBC recently chalked up the variation in the jet stream to random cycles:

    Under “normal” circumstances, this jet stream brings in weather systems from the Atlantic, causing the wet, windy, cloudy weather that is typically associated with mild British winters.

    But the path of the jet stream, like this year, can wander, meaning the mild weather systems are not being brought to the UK in the same way.

    During these periods of “weakening westerlies” the cold weather from the north moves in.

    ***

    Years of weakening westerlies have come in clumps of three and four in recent decades. So we could well get another very cold winter next year.

    But it does not mean the UK is getting colder. The cold winters of the last couple of years contrast with the mild winters that preceded them. But in the 1960s and 1940s there were very cold winters too.

    A handful of cold winters means no more than a handful of hot summers.

    Solar Variation?

    Skeptics of man-made global warming point to the sun as the cause of climate change.

    As I noted last year, the sun and other things beyond our atmosphere do, in fact, affect the Earth more than scientists previously realized:

    National Geographic reported in 2006 that the Earth’s magnetic field is changing rapidly.

    ***

    [Some] scientists have concluded that the Earth’s magnetic shield does affects climate.

    In addition, two Danish geophysicists at Aarhus University in western Denmark propose that the increased cosmic radiation allowed by a weakened magnetic shield in turn changes the amount of rainfall at the tropics, thus affecting climate (they acknowledge that CO2 also affects climate, but state that climate is more complex than generally believed).

    Nigel Marsh of the Danish Space Research Institute in Copenhagen also argues that clouds are scarce near the equator and thicker towards the tropics, because cosmic rays have a hard time punching through Earth’s magnetic field at the equator, but can leak in through the relatively weaker field nearer the poles. If correct, this bolsters the Danish geophysicists’ hypothesis that changes to the Earth’s magnetic shield affect cloud cover (and thus precipitation and climate in general).

    Moreover, it is known that intense solar activity can destroy ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere, thus affecting climactic temperatures. See this, this, this, this and this. Indeed, the effects of solar energy on ozone may be one of the main ways in which the sun influences Earth’s climate.

    The sun itself also affects the Earth more than previously understood. For example, according to the European Space Agency:

    Scientists … have proven that sounds generated deep inside the Sun cause the Earth to shake and vibrate in sympathy. They have found that Earth’s magnetic field, atmosphere and terrestrial systems, all take part in this cosmic sing-along.

    ***

    Scientists have recently discovered that cosmic rays from a “mysterious source” are bombarding the Earth (and see this). This is occurring at the same time that the protective bubble around the sun that helps to shield the Earth from harmful interstellar radiation is shrinking and getting weaker.In addition, a recent study shows that increased output from the Sun might be to blame for 10 to 30 percent of the global warming that has been measured in the past 20 years. The sun is simply getting hotter. Indeed, solar output has been increasing steadily ever since scientists have been able to measure it. Another study shows that solar activity variations have a “marked influence” on the Earth’s climate.

    If extra-planetary events affect Earth’s climate, wouldn’t other planets in the solar system be affected as well?

    Yes. In fact, there is evidence of global warming [around 10 years ago] on Pluto, Mars, Jupiter and Neptune’s moon. See also this.

    The sun also apparently affects the amount of rainfall on Earth, which in turn affects climate.

    As Nasa pointed out last year:

    The sunspot cycle is behaving a little like the stock market. Just when you think it has hit bottom, it goes even lower.

    2008 was a bear. There were no sunspots observed on 266 of the year’s 366 days (73%). To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go all the way back to 1913, which had 311 spotless days…. Prompted by these numbers, some observers suggested that the solar cycle had hit bottom in 2008.

    Maybe not. Sunspot counts for 2009 have dropped even lower. As of March 31st, there were no sunspots on 78 of the year’s 90 days (87%).

    It adds up to one inescapable conclusion: “We’re experiencing a very deep solar minimum,” says solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center.

    “This is the quietest sun we’ve seen in almost a century,” agrees sunspot expert David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

    As one scientific site noted in August:

    Solar cycle 23, which ended recently, lasted longer than previous cycles, with a prolonged phase of low activity that scientists had difficulty explaining.

    Nasa predicts that sun activity will pick up again in cycle 24, but not nearly as much was seen at the height of the last cycle around 10 years ago:

    Proponents of human-caused global warming argue that solar variation is not enough to account for recent changes in climate.

    So What Should We Do?

    Given the different theories about what is causing the extreme cold weather, some argue that we should do nothing until the science is settled. Indeed, given that – in the 1970s – leading scientists (including Obama’s current science advisor) believed we were facing a catastrophic ice age, and considered pouring soot over the Arctic to melt the ice to make the world warmer, caution should be exercised by all.

    Indeed, the Washington Post noted that the government forced a switch from one type of chemical to another because it was believed the first was enlarging the ozone hole. However, according to the Post, the chemical which the government demanded be used instead is 4,470 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

    Currently, “government scientists are studying the feasibility of sending nearly microscopic particles of specially made glass into the Earth’s upper atmosphere to try to dampen the effects of ‘global warming.’ ” Others are currently suggesting cutting down trees and burying them. Other ways to geoengineer the planet are being proposed.

    So we should approach climate change from the age-old axiom of “first, do no harm”, making sure that our “solutions” to not cause more damage than the problems.

    On other other hand, global warming activists say that global warming will win out in the end, that the cold snap is temporary, and that delaying action could doom us to an unpleasant – and very warm – future.

    So what should we do?

    Well, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, everyone should agree on two things:

    The Carbon Footprint of War

    First, as Harvey Wasserman notes, continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will more than wipe out any reduction in carbon from the government’s proposed climate measures. Writing about the escalation in the Afghanistan war, Wasserman says:

    The war would also come with a carbon burst. How will the massive emissions created by 100,000-plus soldiers in wartime be counted in the 17% reduction rubric? Will the HumVees be converted to hybrids? What is the carbon impact of Predator bombs that destroy Afghan families and villages?

    The continuance of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars completely and thoroughly undermines the government’s claims that there is a global warming emergency and that reducing carbon output through cap and trade is needed to save the planet.

    I can’t take anything the government says about carbon footprints seriously until the government ends the unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For evidence that the Iraq war is unnecessary, see this. Read this for evidence that the U.S. could have taken Bin Laden out years ago and avoided a decades long war in Afghanistan. And for proof that the entire war on Muslim extremists is unnecessary for our national security, see this.

    War is also very harmful to the economy. See this, this and this.

    Carbon Trading

    Second, the proposed solution to global warming – cap and trade – is a scam. Specifically:

    • The economists who invented cap-and-trade say that it won’t work for global warming
    • Many environmentalists say that carbon trading won’t effectively reduce carbon emissions
    • Our bailout buddies over at Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and the other Wall Street behemoths are buying heavily into carbon trading (see this, this, this, this, this and this). As University of Maryland professor economics professor and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission Peter Morici writes:

      Obama must ensure that the banks use the trillions of dollars in federal bailout assistance to renegotiate mortgages and make new loans to worthy homebuyers and businesses. Obama must make certain that banks do not continue to squander federal largess by padding executive bonuses, acquiring other banks and pursuing new high-return, high-risk lines of businesses in merger activity, carbon trading and complex derivatives. Industry leaders like Citigroup have announced plans to move in those directions. Many of these bankers enjoyed influence in and contributed generously to the Obama campaign. Now it remains to be seen if a President Obama can stand up to these same bankers and persuade or compel them to act responsibly.

      In other words, the same companies that made billions off of derivatives and other scams and are now getting bailed out on your dime are going to make billions from carbon trading.

    In addition, as I have extensively discussed, soot has been discovered to be a leading cause of snow and ice melting in the Arctic and the Himalayas, soot has a much faster influence on temperature than CO2, and it is relatively easy to reduce soot. (Breathing soot is also horrible for people’s health, so reducing it is a win-win). Both global warming activists and skeptics should demand international treaties which reduce soot.

    Finally, Noam Chomsky and James Lovelock (environmentalist and creator of the “Gaia hypothesis”) have both said that they would be okay with an authoritarian approach to tackling global warming. But whatever one might think about climate change, we should agree that fascism is not justified.

    * Note: No one has even asked whether or not the currents could be affected by dumping millions of gallons of dispersant into the Gulf. Dispersant is apparently still being applied.

    Quantitative Easing 2: the Fed’s Window Dressing

    December 27th, 2010 by Bud Conrad

     
     
    My estimates included this change in structure because I accounted for those declines. The window dressing from the Fed made it sound less extreme, but make no mistake, the Fed is working full time to expand our money supply. That is what the foreign central banks are so upset about because they hold dollars in the form of Treasuries that will be diluted as the dollar weakens from printing money to buy the Treasuries.

    The Fed says that it is doing this to help the economy through lower rates intended to increase business borrowing and to lower unemployment. That is also a deception because evidence shows that such programs will not have much effect on unemployment. The real reason is to bail out the deficit of the federal government – a deficit that is too big to be bought by the traditional buyers, which for many years were the foreigners.

    http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/bud-conrad/quantitative-easing-two-as-projected-and-announced

    The Dream Of Democracy

    December 27th, 2010 by Ralph J Dolan

    Finally it must be recognized that lying is an essential ingredient of statecraft in these times.  Governments lie in an attempt to uphold their legitimacy in the hearts of the people.

    Democratic governments do not exist.  Not in this world.  Many attempts have been made, many faltering half-measures.  All ultimately have failed to live up to the dream.  But the people hold the dream of democracy close to their hearts.  The people understand that systems of justice are a sham without democracy.  Governments lie in order to create the illusion of democracy so that the people are more willing to comply. Governments create an illusion and then act in ways that advance the political and economic interests of a small group.

    This is the political and economic reality of these times.

    In the eyes of politicians the people are mere clay to be molded to be compliant to whatever governments do.  The people do not understand political realities.  The people are incapable of understanding what is in their best interests.  The people are worn down by the day-to-day burdens of survival.  They do not have the time nor the leisure to cast a critical eye upon the behaviors of their governments.  This is exactly where governments want the people to be.  Overburdened, distracted, desperate, voiceless, disorganized people are more easily led.

    Such a phenomenon as an enlightened populace is possible.  Such a phenomenon as a populace with enough leisure time, enough energy left over after the basic necessities of life are met, is quite possible.  Already the modern world has the understanding of economic systems that tend to create a society in which the people are relatively content, enlightened and prosperous so that they can be engaged in the political, economic and social issues of the day.  An equitable distribution of the wealth of a nation among all the people is a basic necessity of such a society.  In such a society the idea of democracy has a chance of coming to fruition.

    Why do we not see democratic governments thriving among the nations of the world?  It is because, despite the flowery rhetoric about freedom and brotherhood, the world has not yet outgrown totalitarian political and economic ideologies.

    Asserting that a totalitarian political and economic ideology still dominates our world suggests that there exists a ruling class.  How can it be denied?  From country to country one sees ruling families, juntas, crony capitalism, brutal regimes, fat oligarchs amidst vast squalor, domination of the political and economic mechanisms by small, wealthy, entrenched, ruthless, privileged groups.

    This is the global ruling class.  They are an elite club.  They look out for each others’ political and economic interests.  They lead double lives.  They are all double agents.  They pretend to serve one master but actually serve an entirely different master.  They wear masks.  In public they sing of the glories of the idea of democratic governance, of the march toward the liberation of the human race from tyranny and oppression.  In private they ridicule such notions, despise the people and seek to manipulate the dumb masses to augment their own power, wealth and prestige.

    These are the gods of the ruling class:  power, wealth and prestige.  They vie with each other to see who can gain the uppermost pinnacle of the global economic pyramid.  They all individually seek to make of their own individual selves into a Sun God to whom all the masses bow in adoration.

    The very last thing the ruling class wants is to create a political and economic landscape in which the people are well-educated, liberated from the day-to-day grind for survival and engaged in the issues related to their own governance.  If the people are thriving, then too much of the wealth of the nations is being squandered.  If the people are thriving, then they may grow into such engaged citizens that they challenge the political leadership, make them accountable, demand openness and honesty, infiltrate the entrenched political mechanisms with the attitudes and demands of a true democracy.  

    In order to preserve the interests of the ruling class the people must not thrive.  The people must not have economic security, good schools, good health care, fair bargaining powers in the work place, clean, safe non-oppressive working conditions, strong healthy families, vibrant communities, equal justice for all.  These characteristics of a good life, of a healthy, strong, unified, happy populace are well within reach.  The resources are there in abundance.   But it does not happen.  The wealth of nations is sucked up to the top of the economic pyramid into the hands of the ruling class.  They have no intention of sharing it with the dumb masses.  The dumb masses must be kept in a state of want, desperation, subservience.

    The dumb masses are the many.  The ruling class is the few.  How is it that the few so effectively dominates the many?

    Those who accumulate the wealth, by whatever means, own everything and can bend the political and economic conditions to their advantage.  They run governments from ‘behind the scenes’ by putting up the money and using political and social leverage to get people who do their bidding into the seats of power.  Thereby do governments and supreme courts become ‘business friendly.’  Thereby economic mechanisms are created that willfully deprive the people of the fruits of their own labor, willfully extort those fruits in the name of offering the people the privilege of working for a pittance.  The rulers rule!  The rulers have a right to rule by the mere fact that they rule.  Their wealth allows them to buy protection.  They maintain standing armies of mercenaries.  They create strong, well-equipped, obedient police forces to protect their properties, to protect the very idea of private property.  Might makes right!  The people are there to be manipulated, to be exploited, to be worked to death and then thrown in the garbage heap.  The history books are filled with the false heroics and the false humanity of tyrants.

    The ruling class is composed of individuals in all the countries of the world who get together in lush conference rooms and lay out in detail how they will manipulate the political realities so that the people are always afraid.  Some enemy is about to ‘come over the wall’ to rape and pillage.  A fearful populace is more likely to acquiesce to the implementation of draconian and costly policies which claim to be necessary to keep the people safe.  The individuals that comprise the ruling class get together and lay out economic conditions that are widely advertised to be in the best interests of the people.  But the inevitable outcome of these policies is that the people are not made safe nor do they prosper but rather are increasingly cowering, increasingly impoverished, increasingly subservient.  The inevitable outcome is that those in power have even more control, more wealth, more undisputed dominance over the people.

    This is the game plan!

    Every human being who chooses to step into a position in the ruling class has chosen to wear a mask, to be a double agent, to say one thing and do something completely different, to live a lie.  These human beings have agreed that in order to advance their own interests they must take on the mantle of ruthlessness.  They must turn their hearts into stone.  Their eyes must no longer reflect the light.  They have agreed to offer their lives in service to a brutal machine – a government, to do everything in their power to advance the interests of that machine and to dispose of anyone who dares get in the way.  They must lie continuously.  They convince themselves that the atrocities that they perpetrate or condone are for the ‘greater good’ of the people, that the people are too innocent, too naive to understand, that they in the ruling class itself are the chosen ones to carry the heavy burden of leadership.  For them democracy is an impossibility.  As a form of governance democracy is ludicrous, laughable.  But the game of democracy must be played on the surface of brute reality because the hearts of the people have been infected by the dream of democracy.

    The people are like a powerful, slumbering dragon.  Even as it slumbers this dragon is filled with a sense of injustice.  None of the pomp and grandeur of the contemporary mechanisms of jurisprudence are able to cause it to be blinded to the pervasive, underlying injustice that prevails in the world.  A small, seemingly insignificant event, some last straw like the imposition of harsh governmental austerity programs, might be the breeze that awakens the dragon.  Once awakened it begins to unfold its wings and feels a hunger in its belly.  One small act of courage, of standing up to the powers-that-be, can inspire other acts of courage.  One brave individual like Rosa Parks may be looked upon as creating the spark that grows into a conflagration.  But the conflagration is a cumulative mass movement.  In the process tyrants are bought low and the will of the people begins to assert itself.  It is true that in this vulnerable time some new tyrant may come and take the place of the old tyrant.  But the fear of this happening again cannot prevent new experimentation.  What is life, after all?  What is all this cosmic evolution if not one experiment laid on top of another experiment?  At some point the people will hit the exact, right cord.  The critical mass will have been attained.  The collective consciousness will have arrived at that blessed plateau where justice ‘flows down like water’ and true brotherhood prevails.

    This dream is embedded in the hearts of all humans and cannot die.

    Ralph J Dolan, Vietnam Veteran

    Nearly six months have gone since the G20 Summit in Toronto when we supposedly entered what some have referred to as “permanent austerity” – the “new normal” of capitalist social relations. Whilst using the significant resources of the state to inject liquidity into markets and ensure corporate and banking profits, ruling classes simultaneously are cutting public services across the board, imposing user fees and letting public transit rot, and, in the specific case at hand, kicking labour’s ass while convincing the public bureaucracy that there is no alternative.

    This austerity cannot be merely interpreted as a ‘shrinking’ of the state. Public sector workers are being asked to tighten their belts, for example, but the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is getting a big boost in funding, even after the debacle of the Toronto G20 summit and numerous reports of CSIS harassment of activists particularly within indigenous and Palestinian solidarity movements. Welfare and ‘special diet’ transfers and plans to expand public transit are being trimmed, yet new fighter planes that even military hawks are questioning are being ordered. The austerity agenda isn’t about big versus small government: it is about increasing the repressive and punitive aspects of governments and shrinking redistributive programmes and democratic gains. All things considered, the central agenda governments are pursuing is, as it were, ‘Saving Private Power.’

    Under Funding Ontario Hospitals

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    Mike Constable union-art.com

    In Ontario (and, indeed, across Canada), public sector unions, against significant – if uncoordinated – rank and file dissent, have been in on/off consultations with the government. This has raised significant issues for trade unions and rank and file members. On the one hand, public sector unions have been attempting to act as responsible participants in a pluralistic public sphere, as ‘stakeholders’ responsibly negotiating with employers over wages and service provisions. On the other, the ‘consultations’ between the province and unions have been about austerity and how the cost of the crisis will be shared out amongst public sector employees and users of public services, rather than the financial and business sector that caused the crisis and that has massively gained economically from neoliberal policies. And behind all sorts of procedural manoeuvring, public sector union leaderships have often left their rank and file members in the dark – and very confused – over the negotiations.

    A Legal Trap?

    The wage restraint consultations between the Ontario government and public sector unions that has been going on since the release of the 2010 Budget suggests a trap may be set for organized labour. This trap has been put in place by the language of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in its recent, although quite particular, recognition that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects from government intervention workers’ ability to organize and to collectively bargain. Since the Charter‘s enactment in 1982, the absence of any protection for labour rights was generally seen as a major limit and contradiction in setting a framework for modern liberal rights. The recent recognition of labour rights seemed as if it could be a straightforward labour victory. But it is now clear that governments might be able to engage in even more repressive restraint measures because, paradoxically, labour rights are now constitutionally enshrined via the Charter ruling.

    Public sector unions in Ontario have been invited by the Ontario government to enter into “consultations” on wage restraint. A particular ‘legal trap’ is, however, set by the word ‘consultation’ especially if modified by the word ‘meaningful.’ This phrase – “meaningful consultation” – comes from the SCC, who took it from the International Labour Organization (ILO). This phrase is a trap because it allows the government to justify whatever sort of wage restraint measures they want as being consistent with labour rights because the measures come from a process that putatively respects consultation; and therefore the measures are ‘reasonable.’ This is true even if no agreement is reached as a result of the consultations, and the government unilaterally legislates wage freezes, contracting out of unionized positions, re-organization, or whatever else.

    This peculiar ‘legal trap’ was created in a decision of the SCC called “BC Health Services” (cited as Health Services and Support – Facilities Subsector Bargaining Assn. v. British Columbia, [2007] 2 S.C.R. 39).[1] In this decision, the SCC, perhaps in an attempt to remedy the contradiction of the exclusion of Canadian workers from the Charter, founded an even deeper contradiction because of the way the Court had to limit the recognition of labour rights in order to make it consistent with Canadian capitalism.

    BC Health Services concerned restraint measures imposed by the BC government in the health care sector. Except for a quick phone call on the eve the legislation was passed, there was no consultation between the BC government and the unions who represented health care workers whose wages would be reduced and jobs would be subject to contracting out as a result of the legislation.

    In their decision, the SCC found that section 2(d) of the Charter, which protected “freedom of association,” protected those workers against unilateral measures of that type. But the SCC also found that the right to collectively bargain only protects against: (1) substantive interference with the procedure of bargaining; (2) over important matters; and (3) in a way that does not respect the duty to bargain in good faith. All of (1), (2), and (3) must be applicable in order for a violation to be found. Thus, the right only guarantees a process. If the process is respected, and an agreement is attempted, even if the outcome is the unilateral imposition of restraint measures, there is no violation.

    This right, as with all rights and freedoms in the Charter, is also subject to section 1 of the Charter, which has sometimes been called the ‘capitalism clause’ for the way it has been invoked, as it states that all rights and freedoms are subject to “reasonable limits.” Thus, even where legislation does (1), (2), and (3), it can still be saved by section 1 if it is a “reasonable limit.” This means, for example, legislation that violates the right in order to legislate measures concerning “essential services, vital state administration, clear deadlocks and national crisis” can be argued to be “reasonable” (at para. 108 of BC Health Services). The SCC’s list here is again taken from the ILO.

    Throughout the decision, it is clear that the SCC’s concern is that all the BC government did to consult was that one phone call. The word “consultation” appears over and over in the decision. The SCC points out that when legislation unilaterally changes portions of collective agreements, even if “the changes substantially touch on collective bargaining, they will still not violate s. 2(d) if they preserve a process of consultation and good faith negotiation” (at para. 94). This is because if they preserve a process of consultation, then (3) will not be applicable – the process was respected.

    Thus, if governments engage in a process of “meaningful consultation” before instituting restraint measures, this would go a long way to undermine any Charter challenge. This is the trap. Yet, even if public sector unions refuse to consult, the government still may cite that refusal as a justification in the preamble to their restraint legislation – they tried to preserve a process of consultation, but the union wouldn’t have it. So, either way the language of the SCC in giving a right to collectively bargain justifies the overwhelming limitation of that right. We saw this with the use of the phrase “clear deadlock” in both examples of the back to work legislation that forced Toronto Transit (TTC) workers and the CUPE 3903 workers back to work. This phrase is another trap taken from the SCC who took it from the ILO.

    So, public sector unions are snookered: they have to bargain for restraint, because if they don’t it will just be legislated and insulated from any challenge either because the union refused to bargain, or because they did bargain. The only recourse is the strike. But this will seem increasingly ‘unreasonable’ to rank and file workers, if done during the life of collective agreement (even if terms of the agreement are imposed by legislation) the strike would be ‘illegal,’ and either way, ‘the government tried to consult!’ Furthermore, even with the strike, the SCC’s language also allows the government to justify back-to-work legislation. Organized labour is forced to accept insanity, or else be taken to be insane.

    The Constitutionalization of Permanent Austerity

    The institution of “permanent austerity” by governments in Canada is a political process. But it may be given some aid by the legalistic parameters for unions in Canada and the way that the constitutional recognition of labour rights has arrived. In Canada, constitutional recognition has come with the cost of making labour rights ‘reasonable,’ and thus limited. The right to collectively bargain only protects a process of consultation. This could then be used to justify the unilateral imposition of repressive restraint measures as being ‘reasonable,’ and therefore consistent with labour rights. Hence, restraint is a part of the ‘reasonable’ trade-off labour has to make in order to get rights. This is not only a neoliberal innovation. From the beginning of the provincial turn to austerity, Ontario provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath has refused to condemn the wage freeze, adding that “workers will understand that they have to do their part as well.”[2]

    Comparing the roles played by various public sector unions is an instructive exercise. The relative strength of different unions is less reflective, it seems, upon the willingness of the unions to fight the province, and more dependent, upon the specific trade or profession represented by the unions. At the start of consultations, CUPE-Ontario (Canadian Union of Public Employees) sent an official communiqué to its members announcing that CUPE would be entering consultations with the provincial government, and reassuring members that they wouldn’t stand for any “concessionary” wage freeze. CUPE’s statement is short, and to the point. Claiming that “everyone” is frustrated, the letter also suggests that “CUPE continues to do our best to present alternatives that will protect and strengthen public services.”[3] But this falls quite short of opposing the consultations and conveys the hope that being “at the table” will somehow strengthen public services. And has been left quite unclear what steps CUPE will be taking to mobilize its membership, work with community organizations in fighting service cuts and to undertake education on the capitalist causes of the economic crisis and the public sector cuts. In other words, CUPE does nothing to convey the kind of political campaign it will undertake as opposed to its consultation tactics.

    OPSEU’s (Ontario Public Service Employees Union) position has been even more accommodating toward the consultations process. The OPSEU leadership has limited involvement of some local presidents in the consultations, and particularly demands that the process be subject to democratic participation by members. Any strategies about bargaining tradeoffs between professionals and lower income members of the workforce have been left unclear, as this recalls the low-income-cut-off of the Bob Rae Social Contract of the 1990s. There has been hints about strategically pursuing non-monetary gains like protection against workplace violence and emphasizing the importance of protecting the lowest income workers. But where the OPSEU leadership is on any of this is quite unclear, nor is there any attempt to engage the membership systematically in how to oppose austerity and engage in defences of public sector services with user groups. And at the outset of a major period of public sector struggle in Ontario and Canada, there is the bizarre spectacle of NUPGE (National Union of Public and General Employees), OPSEU’s national affiliate, leaving the national labour federation.

    In contrast, Ontario nurses, who have no legalized right-to-strike, may be in the best position vis-à-vis the wage freeze. As there have been scattered examples of arbitrators ignoring the provincial wage freezes, the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) is poised to enter bargaining with the province in a position of strength. They could pursue a not insignificant settlement, allow the process to ‘drag out,’ and engage in a range of disruptive workplace tactics to break the wage freeze and concessions demands. The question is also how to relate such actions and strategies to the non-unionized nurses (one quarter of Ontario’s RNs) who have had their wages frozen. That would be a real test of challenging the Ontario government’s pursuit of ‘permanent austerity.’ The nurses have more public support than most unions. A slight to them – perhaps disruption of attempts to organize non-union nurses at Sick Kids Hospital and elsewhere, may be a spark that lights a larger blaze of resistance that the Dalton McGuinty government will have difficulty putting out.

    Opposing the Consultations for Austerity

    Of course, more than a few professionals in the public sector and unions buy into the legalistic ideology of liberal democracy and responsible trade unionism. Today, this is often under the belief that it will help protect public services. There may be some room to get the McGuinty government to increase some funding to key public services if the unions play ball. This will justify the liberal rhetoric of reasonableness and preserve the ideology of the neutrality of the law.

    But in capitalism, with its formal separation of political relations and economic exploitation, the political sphere in which juridical decisions are made only appears to be neutral. Consultations between unions and government sustain the appearance of neutrality, but the very premise of consultations, such as those going on in Ontario over austerity, reveal the class biases of the austerity policies they are meant to help implement. This is the class reality of the law and its trap, which unions and workers need to be aware of.

    In the public sector in the last few years, there have been a few significant strikes that have been militant and challenges to neoliberal policies. Two of these ended in back to work legislation. There is plenty of capacity, and even militancy, among and across the public sector to challenge the consultations over public sector austerity. It is certainly possible, particularly if the economic crisis takes another negative turn, that public sector workers might feel forced into the situation of taking to formally ‘illegal’ strikes to back up their demands for fair collective bargaining. This certainly has been the case across Europe, and there are more than a few precedents in Canada as well.

    A first step toward building such a fight-back, however, is to demand that public sector unions keep away from austerity consultations, with the McGuinty government and other such processes across Canada. The next steps, of organization building and mounting a fight-back to preserve free collective bargaining in the public sector and the issue of who should be paying for the crisis. This effort can’t be limited to an isolated battle at a single workplace. Instead, it is a battle in which all public sector workers – and even public sector managers who want nothing to do with the wage freeze – unite across workplaces, across sectors, and across unions. It is clear that any anti-neoliberal exit to the economic crisis will depend upon public sector workers and unions using the power that they potentially have in new tactics and deployed to more militant ends. •

    Jordy Cummings is a PhD candidate at York University, a member of CUPE Local 3903 and the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly.

    Patrick D. LeGay is a PhD candidate at York University, a member of the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly, and a student at law articling in Toronto.

    Endnotes:

    1. You can find the text of this decision by the Supreme Court of Canada at: scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/2007/2007scc27/2007scc27.html.

    2. Adam Radwanski, “Opposition flubs attack on McGuinty budget,” Globe and Mail, March 30, 2010.

    3.Update to CUPE members re discussions with Ontario government,” September 10, 2010.

    The UN Mission in Haiti

    December 26th, 2010 by Gearóid Ó Colmáin

    The Special Representative for the Organisation of American States Ricardo Seitenfus was relieved of his duties 24 hours after he gave a candid interview to the Swiss newspaper Le Temps  on Monday December 20th  in which he lambasted the UN occupation of Haiti.

    In an interview with the Swiss paper Le temps (December 20th 2010), Ricardo Seitenfus, blamed international capitalism for the ills of Haiti. Referring to Haiti’s 200 year national liberation struggle the Brazilian born academic said:

    “The original sin of Haiti on the international scene was its liberation. Haitians committed an unacceptable crime in 1804: a crime of lesé-majesté for a troubled world. The West was a world of colonialism, slavery and racism whose wealth was based on the exploitation of conquered lands. So the Haitian revolutionary model scared superpowers. The United States did not recognize Haiti’s independence until 1865. And France required payment of a ransom to accept this release. From the beginning, independence was compromised and hampered the development of the country. The world has never known how to deal with Haiti, so it ended up ignoring it. This led to two hundred years of solitude for Haiti on the international stage. Today, the UN   has blindly applied Chapter 7 of its charter; it deploys its troops to impose its peace operation. It is solving nothing, and even making things worse. We want to make Haiti a capitalist country, an export platform for the  U.S. market. It is absurd.”

    In 2004 Jean Bertrand Aristide was removed from office after a coup organised by the governments of France, the United States and Canada. Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party enjoyed overwhelming support among Haiti’s poor population.

    Aristide’s emphasis on social justice, equality and participative democracy threatened the interests of the financial and political elites of the developed world whose conception of democracy involves private control by multinational corporations over all means of production, education and health.

    According to Seitenfus, Haiti’s tragedy has always been its proximity to the USA, who have ruthlessly oppressed the island in the pursuit of their own economic interests.

    Seitenfus went on to denounce the role of NGOS in Haiti stating that many NGOs behaved more like businessmen than humanitarian workers and were using Haiti as a laboratory to test out new technologies and recruiting young people with neither experience nor knowledge of the Haitian people.

    Seitenfus lamented that fact that Haitian doctors trained in Cuba were emigrating to the United States, Canada and France rather than staying in their own country to help the poor. Seitenfus also criticised the attempt by the ‘international community’ to keep Haiti dependent on aid, citing fair trade and sustainable local agriculture as well as  a tourism industry based on respect for Haitian identity and culture as the way in which the country should be developed.

    Speaking about his experience in Haiti Mr Seitenfus said:

    “In two months, I completed a two-year mission in Haiti. To stay here and not be overwhelmed by what I saw I had to create a number of psychological defenses. I wanted to remain an independent voice despite the weight of the organization I represent. I stayed because I wanted to express my profound doubts and tell the world that is enough is enough. It is time to stop playing with Haiti” [1]

    Approximately 24 hours after this interview Mr. Seitenfus was no longer the Special Representative of the Organisation of American States. Speaking the truth about Haiti cost him his job. But Mr. Seitenfus can take comfort in the knowledge that he spoke up for the people of Haiti when others were too greedy, too cowardly or too indifferent to do so.

    Setenfus referred to Haiti’s geographical misfortune, being so close to the USA. This is indeed true, but Europe’s role in Haiti’s misery has been no less destructive than that played by the United States.

    There is a common conception in Europe that the problem in the world today is the United States, that if the European Union were to be sufficiently centralized, it could play a more constructive role in the world, providing a balance to US global hegemony.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. The EU is every bit as cruel, corrupt and despotic as the United States of America. Every time the subject of Haiti is mentioned in French media, maudlin pity and condescension infuse the mendacious discourse. The French media have never honestly acknowledged France’s direct role in the destruction of Haiti from their support for the Duvalier dictatorships in the Cold War to the kidnapping of the democratically elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Nor have the French media ever reported on the atrocities committed by the MINUSTAH UN troops currently occupying the island, against the wishes of the population.

    The European Union has arrogated to itself the role of international arbiter in matters concerning democracy, sending out anonymous delegates to other countries to judge their political systems in terms of ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’.

    In 2003, the European Union worked with Initiative de la Societé Civile, an offshoot of Group of 184, headed by André Apaid,  an American sweat shop owner with an impressive record on ‘human rights’. The European Union gave Apaid’s ‘civil society’ organisation 773,000 Euro. According to the Centre for the Study of Human Rights, Apaid paid Thomas “Labanye” Robinson to murder members of the Fanmi Lavalas party. Apaid’s opposition to Jean Bertrand Aristide intensified when he doubled the minimum wage of workers in Haiti. Raising the wages of the world’s poorest workers is clearly a ‘human rights’ violation in the eyes of the EU and the USA!

    In the elections in December 2010, approved by the US and the EU, the country’s most popular party Fanmi Lavalas was banned from participation. In other words, the European Union and the United States advocated the exclusion of the majority of Haitian citizens from the democratic process. Until such a time as the rebellious slums of Haiti realize what the rich countries mean by ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ UN troops will patrol the streets of Port Au Prince keeping, in the words of Mr. Seitenfus, ‘the peace of the cemetery’.

    Gearóid Ó Colmáin is a columnist in English and Gaelic with Metro Éireann, Ireland’s multicultural newspaper. His blog is at www.metrogael.blogspot.com . He can be contacted at [email protected].

    Zimbabwe and the Steep Road to Vindication

    December 26th, 2010 by Netfa Freeman

    Western corporate media assaults on Zimbabwe often center on the alleged corruption and recklessly “anti-white” nature of the country’s land reform program. But a recent British academic study tends to refute European and North American propaganda, arguing that land reform has not been a failure, and is not designed to benefit political cronies. Another study shows that, “compared to rural and urban violence in South Africa, Ireland or Brazil, the level in Zimbabwe has been quite low.”

    When Zimbabwe initiated fast track land redistribution in 2000 it was big news for corporate media to echo several patented denunciations, characterizing the process as rife with corruption, violence, and inefficiency and doomed to fail. More than eager to join the fray was the liberal left whose pseudo analysis reiterated the same line accompanied by an aversion to anything that seemed even remotely favorable to Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF party.

    Given all that media fanfare, it would be easy to assume an independent study examining results from the last ten years of land reform would get the same attention. Not likely. In fact we can be sure more attention will be given to the dispatches from the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe publicized by WikiLeaks. One cable by former U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell reveals nothing unexpected or compelling except Dell’s aptitude for writing subjective diatribes that are able to pass for concrete information to the politically uncritical eye. Ambassador Dell’s publicized cable exposes the lack of confidence he has for many of the leaders in their neo-colonial pawn party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that he and the U.S. brazenly support along with the rest of the Western powers. A friend of mine had this to say about the cable “I think it’s funny that they’ve been predicting his [Mugabe’s] imminent demise for so long. I’ve always said that the biggest Achilles’ heel of the imperialists is that they actually believe their own horse****, especially since the aforementioned [the Dell cable] self-delusional horse**** is oftentimes the basis for their actions.”

    Dell dispatched the cable in 2007 and at this point most if not all of the assertions in it have been disproven over time, bringing us to the real meat of this article – meat that will be overshadowed in Western press by the recent WikiLeaks release. Not that they would endeavor to report this at all even in the absence of WikiLeaks.

    You see, the major study of 10 years of land reform in Zimbabwe actually exists and was released in mid November. As we said, if one assumed it would get big media coverage they would assume wrongly since such a study doesn’t conform with the acceptable and imposed imperial narrative. It appears the study, released by Institute for Development Studies fellow Ian Scoones at Britain’s University of Sussex and detailed in the book Zimbabwe’s Land Reform Myths & Realities, was able to lure the usual Mugabe and ZANU PF detractors into resuming their typical propaganda pot-shots, indicating that something unfavorable to them is afoot. An article by staunch Mugabe critic Patrick Bond in the online magazine Counterpunch, “A New Tyranny: Will Zimbabwe Regress Again?” was published just as the new study evaluating the land redistribution program in Zimbabwe was released. It almost seemed that Bond’s article was meant to serve as damage control from the revelations of the study.

    Before assuming the land study is the topic of Bond’s article, revealingly not one mention of the study was in the article. While this was interesting it was not surprising, given that the study contradicts a collection of major narrative myths Bond has been complicit in popularizing. The study “challenges five myths through the examination of the field data from Masvingo province:

    “Myth 1 Zimbabwean land reform has been a total failure

    “Myth 2 The beneficiaries of Zimbabwean land reform have been largely political ‘cronies’ (specifically, cronies of Robert Mugabe)

    “Myth 3 There is no investment in the new resettlements

    “Myth 4 Agriculture is in complete ruins creating chronic food insecurity

    “Myth 5 The rural economy has collapsed

    “By challenging these myths, and suggesting alternative policy narratives, this book presents the story as it has been observed on the ground: warts and all.”

    Over the past year or so things had been relatively quiet on the ZANU PF-Mugabe vilifying front, leaving one to wonder about the timing between the land redistribution study and any new ZANU PF-Mugabe vilification resurrecting its ugly head. Even more deafening is the silence over the study by Western media and the Western beholden civil society organizations, right wing or “progressive.” While Bond does deal quite a bit in his article with land redistribution it is mostly to continue the notion that it was a disingenuous exercise that was largely a failure. Just like Ambassador Dell’s cable to the US State Department, Bond backs none of this up with the type of information that can be either proven or disproven.

    And even with the wholly inadequate coverage the land study has gotten, like that of the BBC, coverage tries to divert attention to a “process which these farms were seized off white farmers, often very, very violently,” as remarked by the host of BBC News Worldwide while interviewing Ian Scoones. Lacking the sensitivities that come from identifying with the indigenous African’s from which the land was brutally stolen in the first place using methods exponentially more violent than any used to reclaim it by the African descendants who have the only rightful claim to it, Scoones could not articulate the more fitting come-back for such Euro-centrically biased questioning.

    The imperialists, along with their pseudo-progressive civil society organizations, must believe that if they just keep repeating the same lies and misrepresentations over and over they will transform them into truths. Like the facts of the 2008 elections whose depiction is another obstacle in Zimbabwe’s road to vindication. In his article Bond repeats the refutable claim that “Since paramilitary violence forced Tsvangirai to pull out of the mid-2008 run-off presidential election (after winning the first round – but, claimed Mugabe’s vote-counters, with less than 50%),…” When one’s purpose is only to generate unsubstantiated assertions it’s easy to pack a lot of misinformation into a single sentence.

    The devil, or shall we say the real truth is in the details. While Bond’s assertion follows the standard imperialist propaganda line, facts reveal that the results of that election were not under the control of “Mugabe’s vote-counters” but instead a Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that included representatives, ballot counters, and poll watchers from all the political parties of the country who each had to sign off on the results during each stage of tallying. Bond also claims his imperialist-backed MDC presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai was the winner even though the country’s constitution dictates that there is only a winner when a candidate receives over 50% of the vote. Instead of a claim by “Mugabe’s vote-counters” as Bond put it, it was even according to the figures peddled by the MDC at the time a run off was warranted. Unlike Bond, an April 4, 2008 article in the Zimbabwe Guardian clarified this fairly recent history with more concrete and verifiable information, saying:

    “Morgan Tsvangirai might aspire to be president of Zimbabwe, but he has difficulty with simple mathematics. Yesterday, he claimed to have won 50.3 per cent of the vote in Zimbabwe’s election. This figure is vital because it puts him just above the crucial 50 per cent threshold needed to avoid a second round against Robert Mugabe.

    “But anyone with a calculator can work out that someone got their sums wrong. According to the MDC, Tsvangirai took 1,169,860 votes against Mugabe’s 1,043,451 and Simba Makoni’s 169,636.

    “These figures appear in an official statement carried on the MDC’s website today, along with the claim that “President Tsvangirai has 50.3 percent of the total Presidential vote and he has won the election with no need for a run-off.”

    Get out your calculator and check the percentages. In fact, the MDC’s voting figures show Tsvangirai with 49.1 per cent, Mugabe with 43.8 per cent and Makoni winning 7.1 per cent.

    So on the MDC’s own figures, a second round is needed.”

    These weren’t the only shenanigans the MDC attempted during the first round of voting and conveniently overlooked by Bond. Some may recall the long time it took for the results of the first round of voting to be released, emboldening the opposition and Western forces to claim ZANU PF was stalling in order to put in the fix. And the pitiful Christopher Dell cable released by WikiLeaks actually adds to misleading the public about the real context of that time. For example, that some ZEC officials were “arrested on allegations of tampering with election results and prejudicing ZANU-PF presidential candidate President Mugabe of 4,993 votes cast in four constituencies in the just-ended harmonized elections” as reported in an April 8th 2008 article in Zimbabwe’s The Herald. The article went on to detail that investigations around the same improprieties where taking place in “two other constituencies in Manicaland where the Zanu-PF presidential candidate was also allegedly prejudiced of 1,392 votes.

    “In Mashonaland Central, it is alleged, the same candidate was prejudiced of 773 votes while investigations also revealed that the same candidate lost 1,000 votes in two Matabeleland North constituencies and 1,828 votes in Masvingo…

    “…The anomalies were detected following a close scrutiny of V11 and V23 forms.

    “A V11 form is an original document carrying results at polling stations and is signed by all agents of contesting parties.

    After the signing of the V11 form, information is then recorded on the V23 forms that collate polling station results within a ward.

    “These forms also show the results of the council elections.

    “The Sunday Mail reported at the weekend that at Rimbi Primary School in Manicaland Province, the V11 form showed that President Mugabe got 612 votes but the V23 form that was forwarded to the National Command Centre shows that the President received 187 votes.

    “This anomaly was detected in a number of constituencies.”

    Instead of believing the false, typical and unsubstantiated claim that paramilitary violence forced Tsvangirai to withdraw from the 2008 run-off that followed the first round of voting, a real and more plausible explanation is detailed here.

    So while it is easy to foster confusion with grandiose, albeit brief, assertions barren of concretely verifiable information, it often takes pages of critically assembled information to unravel it. To properly digest the WikiLeaks released cable of Dell we can learn from CISPES, Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. In looking at the WikiLeaks cables from the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, CISPES has made some very astute observations. It would be wise for us to consider that much may be similar regarding Zimbabwe and El Salvador: “While Wikileaks’ release of leaked diplomatic cables provides an unprecedented opportunity to reveal the workings and motives of U.S. foreign policy, the process grants large international news agencies the decision-making power as to which cables to release and the opportunity to craft the first analysis that the public will hear.”

    CISPES continues: “Considering more than 1,000 cables about El Salvador were reportedly leaked, we must ask what criteria were used to select these particular cables for first publication; cables that right-wing Salvadoran news sources are now using in a continued attempt to undermine new government.” … “Overall, the cables reveal an Embassy that is out of touch with the leading role played by the FMLN in El Salvador’s current political reality.”

    The IDS land study in Zimbabwe does provide what could be considered an unbiased account of land reform in Zimbabwe. However, much of what it reveals had already been documented by anti-imperialist author Gregory Elich and in many ways more comprehensively. IDS fellow Ian Scoones insists that his study focused only on the results of land reform over time, occasionally seeming to accept the Western narrative on the means by which the redistribution took place. Zimbabwe’s land issue is consistently characterized by unprecedentedly and indiscriminately violent takeovers from white landowners deliberately instigated by Mugabe and ZANU PF. Elich refutes this in his meticulously researched and referenced book Strange Liberators; Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit, showing that farm “invasions” involved “temporary visits of a few days and sporadic repeat visits. They [did] not entail the extended stays” and that the farms targeted tended to be those of landowners who “had mistreated workers, paid excessively low wages or exhibited overt racism.” Regarding the use of violence Elich also showed that “…compared to rural and urban violence in South Africa, Ireland or Brazil, the level in Zimbabwe has been quite low.” Incidents perpetrated by those who were legitimately dissatisfied with what had been inadequate land delivery were curtailed by the ZANU PF fast track land redistribution program.

    The IDS study merely validates Elich’s job of disproving the myth that beneficiaries of the land reform had been political “cronies” of Mugabe and that the process was largely corrupt. Elich also pointed out that land confiscated by the Zimbabwe government for redistribution was “unused land, underutilized land, land owned by absentee owners, land owned by a person possessing multiple farms, land exceeding size limits (which varied by region), and land contiguous with communal lands.” Rather than Mugabe being in cahoots with what in reality was a miniscule 0.3 percent of cases where the process was abused (5% according to the IDS study), Elich demonstrates something different. The investigation that uncovered such abuse and corruption in the process by government and party officials was actually initiated by the President’s Land Resettlement Committee. (Elich, p. 343-344)

    While Patrick Bond’s writings and WikiLeaks documents might seem a compelling source of truth, such truth is unfortunately harder to come by. One “wiki-leaked” cable indicates that because “many MDC-T local councilors and parliamentarians elected in 2008 had no independent income…they were now turning to graft.” Such disclosures don’t tell the relevant complicity of the World Bank in secretly bankrolling MDC-T officials. While the IDS study on the land reform pushes Zimbabwe further down the road to vindication an anti-imperialist and revolutionary perspective of Zimbabwe’s struggles will continue to require a very scrutinizing and critical approach.

    Netfa Freeman is the Director of IPS’ Social Action & Leadership School for Activists and an activist in the internationalist and Pan-African liberation movements. He can be reached at [email protected]
    Zimbabwe and the Steep Road to Vindication

    Tue, 12/14/2010 – 12:08 — Nefta Freeman

    by Netfa Freeman

    http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/zimbabwe-and-steep-road-vindication

    Western corporate media assaults on Zimbabwe often center on the alleged corruption and recklessly “anti-white” nature of the country’s land reform program. But a recent British academic study tends to refute European and North American propaganda, arguing that land reform has not been a failure, and is not designed to benefit political cronies. Another study shows that, “compared to rural and urban violence in South Africa, Ireland or Brazil, the level in Zimbabwe has been quite low.”

    When Zimbabwe initiated fast track land redistribution in 2000 it was big news for corporate media to echo several patented denunciations, characterizing the process as rife with corruption, violence, and inefficiency and doomed to fail. More than eager to join the fray was the liberal left whose pseudo analysis reiterated the same line accompanied by an aversion to anything that seemed even remotely favorable to Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF party.

    Given all that media fanfare, it would be easy to assume an independent study examining results from the last ten years of land reform would get the same attention. Not likely. In fact we can be sure more attention will be given to the dispatches from the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe publicized by WikiLeaks. One cable by former U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell reveals nothing unexpected or compelling except Dell’s aptitude for writing subjective diatribes that are able to pass for concrete information to the politically uncritical eye. Ambassador Dell’s publicized cable exposes the lack of confidence he has for many of the leaders in their neo-colonial pawn party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that he and the U.S. brazenly support along with the rest of the Western powers. A friend of mine had this to say about the cable “I think it’s funny that they’ve been predicting his [Mugabe’s] imminent demise for so long. I’ve always said that the biggest Achilles’ heel of the imperialists is that they actually believe their own horse****, especially since the aforementioned [the Dell cable] self-delusional horse**** is oftentimes the basis for their actions.”

    Dell dispatched the cable in 2007 and at this point most if not all of the assertions in it have been disproven over time, bringing us to the real meat of this article – meat that will be overshadowed in Western press by the recent WikiLeaks release. Not that they would endeavor to report this at all even in the absence of WikiLeaks.

    You see, the major study of 10 years of land reform in Zimbabwe actually exists and was released in mid November. As we said, if one assumed it would get big media coverage they would assume wrongly since such a study doesn’t conform with the acceptable and imposed imperial narrative. It appears the study, released by Institute for Development Studies fellow Ian Scoones at Britain’s University of Sussex and detailed in the book Zimbabwe’s Land Reform Myths & Realities, was able to lure the usual Mugabe and ZANU PF detractors into resuming their typical propaganda pot-shots, indicating that something unfavorable to them is afoot. An article by staunch Mugabe critic Patrick Bond in the online magazine Counterpunch, “A New Tyranny: Will Zimbabwe Regress Again?” was published just as the new study evaluating the land redistribution program in Zimbabwe was released. It almost seemed that Bond’s article was meant to serve as damage control from the revelations of the study.

    Before assuming the land study is the topic of Bond’s article, revealingly not one mention of the study was in the article. While this was interesting it was not surprising, given that the study contradicts a collection of major narrative myths Bond has been complicit in popularizing. The study “challenges five myths through the examination of the field data from Masvingo province:

    “Myth 1 Zimbabwean land reform has been a total failure

    “Myth 2 The beneficiaries of Zimbabwean land reform have been largely political ‘cronies’ (specifically, cronies of Robert Mugabe)

    “Myth 3 There is no investment in the new resettlements

    “Myth 4 Agriculture is in complete ruins creating chronic food insecurity

    “Myth 5 The rural economy has collapsed

    “By challenging these myths, and suggesting alternative policy narratives, this book presents the story as it has been observed on the ground: warts and all.”

    Over the past year or so things had been relatively quiet on the ZANU PF-Mugabe vilifying front, leaving one to wonder about the timing between the land redistribution study and any new ZANU PF-Mugabe vilification resurrecting its ugly head. Even more deafening is the silence over the study by Western media and the Western beholden civil society organizations, right wing or “progressive.” While Bond does deal quite a bit in his article with land redistribution it is mostly to continue the notion that it was a disingenuous exercise that was largely a failure. Just like Ambassador Dell’s cable to the US State Department, Bond backs none of this up with the type of information that can be either proven or disproven.

    And even with the wholly inadequate coverage the land study has gotten, like that of the BBC, coverage tries to divert attention to a “process which these farms were seized off white farmers, often very, very violently,” as remarked by the host of BBC News Worldwide while interviewing Ian Scoones. Lacking the sensitivities that come from identifying with the indigenous African’s from which the land was brutally stolen in the first place using methods exponentially more violent than any used to reclaim it by the African descendants who have the only rightful claim to it, Scoones could not articulate the more fitting come-back for such Euro-centrically biased questioning.

    The imperialists, along with their pseudo-progressive civil society organizations, must believe that if they just keep repeating the same lies and misrepresentations over and over they will transform them into truths. Like the facts of the 2008 elections whose depiction is another obstacle in Zimbabwe’s road to vindication. In his article Bond repeats the refutable claim that “Since paramilitary violence forced Tsvangirai to pull out of the mid-2008 run-off presidential election (after winning the first round – but, claimed Mugabe’s vote-counters, with less than 50%),…” When one’s purpose is only to generate unsubstantiated assertions it’s easy to pack a lot of misinformation into a single sentence.

    The devil, or shall we say the real truth is in the details. While Bond’s assertion follows the standard imperialist propaganda line, facts reveal that the results of that election were not under the control of “Mugabe’s vote-counters” but instead a Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that included representatives, ballot counters, and poll watchers from all the political parties of the country who each had to sign off on the results during each stage of tallying. Bond also claims his imperialist-backed MDC presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai was the winner even though the country’s constitution dictates that there is only a winner when a candidate receives over 50% of the vote. Instead of a claim by “Mugabe’s vote-counters” as Bond put it, it was even according to the figures peddled by the MDC at the time a run off was warranted. Unlike Bond, an April 4, 2008 article in the Zimbabwe Guardian clarified this fairly recent history with more concrete and verifiable information, saying:

    “Morgan Tsvangirai might aspire to be president of Zimbabwe, but he has difficulty with simple mathematics. Yesterday, he claimed to have won 50.3 per cent of the vote in Zimbabwe’s election. This figure is vital because it puts him just above the crucial 50 per cent threshold needed to avoid a second round against Robert Mugabe.

    “But anyone with a calculator can work out that someone got their sums wrong. According to the MDC, Tsvangirai took 1,169,860 votes against Mugabe’s 1,043,451 and Simba Makoni’s 169,636.

    “These figures appear in an official statement carried on the MDC’s website today, along with the claim that “President Tsvangirai has 50.3 percent of the total Presidential vote and he has won the election with no need for a run-off.”

    Get out your calculator and check the percentages. In fact, the MDC’s voting figures show Tsvangirai with 49.1 per cent, Mugabe with 43.8 per cent and Makoni winning 7.1 per cent.

    So on the MDC’s own figures, a second round is needed.”

    These weren’t the only shenanigans the MDC attempted during the first round of voting and conveniently overlooked by Bond. Some may recall the long time it took for the results of the first round of voting to be released, emboldening the opposition and Western forces to claim ZANU PF was stalling in order to put in the fix. And the pitiful Christopher Dell cable released by WikiLeaks actually adds to misleading the public about the real context of that time. For example, that some ZEC officials were “arrested on allegations of tampering with election results and prejudicing ZANU-PF presidential candidate President Mugabe of 4,993 votes cast in four constituencies in the just-ended harmonized elections” as reported in an April 8th 2008 article in Zimbabwe’s The Herald. The article went on to detail that investigations around the same improprieties where taking place in “two other constituencies in Manicaland where the Zanu-PF presidential candidate was also allegedly prejudiced of 1,392 votes.

    “In Mashonaland Central, it is alleged, the same candidate was prejudiced of 773 votes while investigations also revealed that the same candidate lost 1,000 votes in two Matabeleland North constituencies and 1,828 votes in Masvingo…

    “…The anomalies were detected following a close scrutiny of V11 and V23 forms.

    “A V11 form is an original document carrying results at polling stations and is signed by all agents of contesting parties.

    After the signing of the V11 form, information is then recorded on the V23 forms that collate polling station results within a ward.

    “These forms also show the results of the council elections.

    “The Sunday Mail reported at the weekend that at Rimbi Primary School in Manicaland Province, the V11 form showed that President Mugabe got 612 votes but the V23 form that was forwarded to the National Command Centre shows that the President received 187 votes.

    “This anomaly was detected in a number of constituencies.”

    Instead of believing the false, typical and unsubstantiated claim that paramilitary violence forced Tsvangirai to withdraw from the 2008 run-off that followed the first round of voting, a real and more plausible explanation is detailed here.

    So while it is easy to foster confusion with grandiose, albeit brief, assertions barren of concretely verifiable information, it often takes pages of critically assembled information to unravel it. To properly digest the WikiLeaks released cable of Dell we can learn from CISPES, Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. In looking at the WikiLeaks cables from the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, CISPES has made some very astute observations. It would be wise for us to consider that much may be similar regarding Zimbabwe and El Salvador: “While Wikileaks’ release of leaked diplomatic cables provides an unprecedented opportunity to reveal the workings and motives of U.S. foreign policy, the process grants large international news agencies the decision-making power as to which cables to release and the opportunity to craft the first analysis that the public will hear.”

    CISPES continues: “Considering more than 1,000 cables about El Salvador were reportedly leaked, we must ask what criteria were used to select these particular cables for first publication; cables that right-wing Salvadoran news sources are now using in a continued attempt to undermine new government.” … “Overall, the cables reveal an Embassy that is out of touch with the leading role played by the FMLN in El Salvador’s current political reality.”

    The IDS land study in Zimbabwe does provide what could be considered an unbiased account of land reform in Zimbabwe. However, much of what it reveals had already been documented by anti-imperialist author Gregory Elich and in many ways more comprehensively. IDS fellow Ian Scoones insists that his study focused only on the results of land reform over time, occasionally seeming to accept the Western narrative on the means by which the redistribution took place. Zimbabwe’s land issue is consistently characterized by unprecedentedly and indiscriminately violent takeovers from white landowners deliberately instigated by Mugabe and ZANU PF. Elich refutes this in his meticulously researched and referenced book Strange Liberators; Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit, showing that farm “invasions” involved “temporary visits of a few days and sporadic repeat visits. They [did] not entail the extended stays” and that the farms targeted tended to be those of landowners who “had mistreated workers, paid excessively low wages or exhibited overt racism.” Regarding the use of violence Elich also showed that “…compared to rural and urban violence in South Africa, Ireland or Brazil, the level in Zimbabwe has been quite low.” Incidents perpetrated by those who were legitimately dissatisfied with what had been inadequate land delivery were curtailed by the ZANU PF fast track land redistribution program.

    The IDS study merely validates Elich’s job of disproving the myth that beneficiaries of the land reform had been political “cronies” of Mugabe and that the process was largely corrupt. Elich also pointed out that land confiscated by the Zimbabwe government for redistribution was “unused land, underutilized land, land owned by absentee owners, land owned by a person possessing multiple farms, land exceeding size limits (which varied by region), and land contiguous with communal lands.” Rather than Mugabe being in cahoots with what in reality was a miniscule 0.3 percent of cases where the process was abused (5% according to the IDS study), Elich demonstrates something different. The investigation that uncovered such abuse and corruption in the process by government and party officials was actually initiated by the President’s Land Resettlement Committee. (Elich, p. 343-344)

    While Patrick Bond’s writings and WikiLeaks documents might seem a compelling source of truth, such truth is unfortunately harder to come by. One “wiki-leaked” cable indicates that because “many MDC-T local councilors and parliamentarians elected in 2008 had no independent income…they were now turning to graft.” Such disclosures don’t tell the relevant complicity of the World Bank in secretly bankrolling MDC-T officials. While the IDS study on the land reform pushes Zimbabwe further down the road to vindication an anti-imperialist and revolutionary perspective of Zimbabwe’s struggles will continue to require a very scrutinizing and critical approach.

    Netfa Freeman is the Director of IPS’ Social Action & Leadership School for Activists and an activist in the internationalist and Pan-African liberation movements. He can be reached at [email protected]

    Época épica

    December 26th, 2010 by Daniel Vanhove

    El fin de año se acerca a pasos agigantados. En las grandes ciudades los escaparates se engalana con sus bazas más hermosas para seducirnos, llenos de tentadoras ideas y de regalos que se han vuelto indispensables para que “las fiestas” sean un éxito. Las luces centellean por todas partes. Como cada año, el alcalde de París inauguró oficialmente la iluminación mágica de “la avenida más bella del mundo” (según los parisinos) pero con unas bombillas de bajo consumo, según nos señala. ¡Ah, uf, que tranquilos nos quedamos! Porque, al fin y al cabo, hay crisis, ¿no?

    No es como en Iraq, un país que, devastado por veinte años de embargo y de guerras fomentadas por Occidente y por la intervención ilegal británica-estadounidense, se encuentra en un estado de deterioro tal que unas horas de electricidad al día son un auténtico lujo …

    De la fiesta de San Nicolás a la de Papá Noel, sin olvidar la de San Silvestre, se va a sacar partido de las próximas semanas para tentarnos y, sobre todo, para vaciarnos los bolsillos en nombre de la “fiesta”, esta ideología dominante que querría hacernos creer que la vida se articula así: una fiesta permanente, a la menor ocasión, desde la cuna a la tumba, hasta el punto de vaciarla de sentido. Y, sin embargo, ¡hay crisis!

    No es como en Haití, este trozo de tierra en el extremo del mar donde la mayoría de la población ni siquiera tiene un techo bajo el que cobijarse, sin contar con el cólera que causa estragos en medio de una indiferencia casi general …

    Estación obliga, los centros de deportes de invierno no son menos. Los medios de comunicación dedican a ellos una parte cada vez mayor de sus anuncios, tanto en la prensa escrita y audiovisual como en Internet. Algunos anuncios aquí y allá preguntan además si, ¡pobre distraído!, no se habrá olvidado usted de reservar fechas y lugares para esquiar. Entre foie gras y champán, pino de Navidad rebosante de los últimos artilugios para divertir a los niños que tanto nos gustaría seguir siendo, no tenemos sino la dificultad de elegir. ¡Aunque, a pesar de todo, haya crisis!

    No es como en Gaza, donde desde hace años una población de un millón y mediode personas trata de sobrevivir a su estrangulamiento escrupulosamente orquestado por la ocupación sionista, con la abyecta pasividad de una clase política europea cobardemente cómplice …

    En otro dominio el Estado francés, al que obsesionan sus indicadores económicos peores que los de Alemania, acaba de anunciar que se prolonga durante varias semanas la prima para la sustitución de los coches viejos por los nuevos modelos que contaminan menos. ¡Ah, uf, otra vez! Las personas reticentes y dubitativas van a poder, como las demás, pensar en hacer un acto de ciudadanía y calmar sus conciencias comprando in extremis un vehículo bautizado “limpio”. Y como señalaba un sagaz internauta, o apenado según se mire, contaminemos menos… para poder contaminar durante más tiempo. Pero, sin embargo, ¡hay crisis!

    No es como para las personas sin techo de nuestras iluminadas ciudades que desde hace muchos días padecen frío hasta el punto de morir a causa de él, sin ruido, como los copos blancos que cubren los países del norte y que son portada de los telediarios. Fíjense en las prioridades…

    En otro dominio completamente diferente (si bien…), las últimas revelaciones de Wikileaks siguen levantado oleadas por todas las cancillerías del planeta. Y desde la publicación de 250.000 cables litigiosos, el personal diplomático de la mayoría de los países concernidos no ha dejado de fustigar a quien presentan unas veces como un anarquista, otras como el Robin Hood de los tiempos modernos, pero siempre como un inconsciente que no se da cuenta de hasta qué punto estas revelaciones pueden poner en peligro la vida de ciertas personas. La secretaria de Estado estadounidense Hillary Clinton, en una situación más bien mala, lleva la mentira (aunque eso parece ser un rasgo de familia, como el otro enredado en su momento en su caso Lewinsky) hasta pretender que Julian Assange ponía en peligro a todos los responsables cuya sola y única preocupación (¿para cuando la canonización?) es el bienestar de los ciudadanos de todo el mundo. ¡Uno creería estar soñando al oír estas revelaciones en la misma boca de una responsable política de país más belicoso que pueda existir y al que le importan un bledo los daños irreversibles que ocasionan sus múltiples intervenciones militares! De dónde se puede concluir que, efectivamente, crisis, la hay… Queda por determinar bien cuál.

    No es como en Afganistán, donde los drones [aviones teledirigidos] de la coalición prosiguen con sus asesinatos llamados “selectivos”, flanqueados de sus múltiples daños colaterales que pasan rápidamente bajo el silencio cómplice de nuestros medios de comunicación vendidos a quienes detentan el poder, y donde más vale permanecer agazapado en casa de cada uno…

    Todavía en otro dominio, las últimas semanas han estado llenas de gritos de alarma de nuestros diversos gobiernos a propósito del endeudamiento insoportable de los Estados. Hasta el punto de que los planes de austeridad centrados principalmente contra los ciudadanos florecen por todas partes y ya no saben qué nuevo recorte inventar. Es como si jugaran a ver quién se atreve a golpear más duramente a su población. Porque, de todos modos, los gerifaltes del FMI que querrían ser guardianes del rigor presupuestario (como si ya se tratara del valor más noble que hay que defender), estos nuevos amos de una ortodoxia planetaria (los mismos a los que se paga exageradamente más que a cualquiera) no han dejado de decirnos y de repetirnos que nosotros, el pueblo llano, vivimos por encima de nuestras posibilidades y que esta deuda que corremos el riesgo de legar a nuestros hijos es una herencia vergonzosa, envenenada y rotundamente irresponsable. Porque, al fin y al cabo, tenemos que rendirnos a la evidencia de que, de todos modos, ¡hay crisis!

    No es como en la mayoría de los países de África dónde la búsqueda de un poco de comida y agua potable sigue siendo una prioridad diaria, por no hablar de una higiene muy relativa, y que ve así alejarse cada vez más los pomposos Objetivos del Milenio, enésima promesa de los países ricos…

    ¡Y me quedo corto, me quedo corto… en este mundo profundamente enfermo!

    Así, el capitalismo del que nos han repetido una y otra vez que era un “modelo insuperable” y que funcionaba principalmente en nuestras sociedades de consumo en las que se animaba a los ciudadanos a comprar a crédito, parece de pronto volver sobre el mismo principio que le ha hecho prosperar durante años. Aunque aquéllos nos repetían la cantinela según la cual “quien paga sus deudas se enriquece”… esto parece haberse convertido de golpe en la peor de las catástrofes anunciadas. Sin embargo, como señalaba otro internauta, si nuestros Estados están endeudados, también poseen valores. Lo mismo que el ciudadano que se endeuda para comprar su causa la reembolsa a lo largo del tiempo y en contrapartida se convierte en propietario de un bien. La deuda se transforma así en un contravalor del bien que permite adquirir, conservar y mantener. Pero, sin duda es porque hoy ¡hay que persuadirnos de que hay crisis!

    A decir verdad, si todo esto contuviera un mínimo de seriedad en términos de “herencia envenenada para nuestras generaciones futuras”, es extraño que estas deudas (que no son más que juegos de escritura negociables en cualquier momento) adquieran de pronto una importancia fundamental cuando al mismo tiempo la herencia de nuestros residuos nucleares, auténtico suicidio planetario, no parece asustar en absoluto a las mismas personas que gritan que viene el lobo ante un euro o un dólar que se tambalea o una deuda completamente teórica. Y en el mismo orden de ideas, como señalaba pertinentemente Hugo Chávez, “si el clima fuera un banco ya lo habrían salvado”… Pero, qué quieren ustedes, ¡es la crisis!

    Tratemos, pues, de ser serios por un momento. Aquí se rasgan las vestiduras por un problema para el que existen varias soluciones cuando ahí reina un silencio de oro. Por un lado nos culpabilizan repitiéndonos machaconamente que nuestros hijos tendrán un tributo imposible de soportar cuando en el caso de lo nuclear hipotecamos el futuro no ya de nuestros hijos ¡sino de todo el planeta durante más de 100.000 años! Para hacernos una idea de lo que esto representa, recordemos las dificultades que supone siquiera imaginar cómo vivían nuestros ancestros hace 5.000 años… No, pero, ¡menuda broma! ¿Cómo pretenden que les tomemos siquiera un poco en serio? Por una parte, se agitan como marionetas por una preocupación temporal y fluctuante en función de unas paridades monetarias completamente teóricas (hacer que suba o baje el dólar, el yuan, el euro o el yen por medio de un juego financiero especulativo a beneficio de unos pocos) y, por otra parte, el propio reto de la supervivencia de nuestro planeta les deja indiferentes mientras puedan llenar los bolsillos por medio de una red nuclear que tiene un beneficio inmediato y colosal. ¡Busquen el error o, más exactamente, el perjurio!…

    Conclusión: seamos lúcidos, la crisis existe, ¡sin lugar a dudas! Pero es mucho peor que aquélla en la que querrían hacernos creer: se esconde en lo más profundo de algunos cerebros enfermos que nos gobiernan. ¿Acaso no es urgente impedir que nos hagan aún más daño?

     

    Texto original en francés : http://www.mondialisation.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22251

    Traducido del francés para Rebelión (http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=119248) por Beatriz Morales Bastos

    Daniel Vanhove es observador civil, autor de La Démocratie Mensonge, 2008, Ed. Marco Pietteur, colección Oser Dire.

    The Gulf of Mexico is Dying

    December 26th, 2010 by Dr. Tom Termotto

    It is with deep regret that we publish this report.  We do not take this responsibility lightly, as the consequences of the following observations are of such great import and have such far-reaching ramifications for the entire planet.  Truly, the fate of the oceans of the world hangs in the balance, as does the future of humankind.

    The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) does not exist in isolation and is, in fact, connected to the Seven Seas.  Hence, we publish these findings in order that the world community will come together to further contemplate this dire and demanding predicament.  We also do so with the hope that an appropriate global response will be formulated, and acted upon, for the sake of future generations.  It is the most basic responsibility for every civilization to leave their world in a better condition than that which they inherited from their forbears.

    After conducting the Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Conference for over seven months, we can now disseminate the following information with the authority and confidence of those who have thoroughly investigated a crime scene.  There are many research articles, investigative reports and penetrating exposes archived at the following website.  Particularly those posted from August through November provide a unique body of evidence, many with compelling photo-documentaries, which portray the true state of affairs at the Macondo Prospect in the GOM.

    http://phoenixrisingfromthegulf.wordpress.com/

    The pictorial evidence tells the whole story.

    Especially that the BP narrative is nothing but a corporate-created illusion – a web of fabrication spun in collaboration with the US Federal Government and Mainstream Media.  Big Oil, as well as the Military-Industrial Complex, have aided and abetted this whole scheme and info blackout because the very future of the Oil & Gas Industry is at stake, as is the future of the US Empire which sprawls around the world and requires vast amounts of hydrocarbon fuel.

    Should the truth seep out and into the mass consciousness – that the GOM is slowly but surely filling up with oil and gas – certainly many would rightly question the integrity, and sanity, of the whole venture, as well as the entire industry itself.  And then perhaps the process would begin of transitioning the planet away from the hydrocarbon fuel paradigm altogether.

    It’s not a pretty picture.

    The various pictures, photos and diagrams that fill the many articles at the aforementioned website represent photo-evidence about the true state of affairs on the seafloor surrounding the Macondo Prospect in the Mississippi Canyon, which is located in the Central Planning Area of the northern Gulf of Mexico.  The very dynamics of the dramatic changes and continuous evolution of the seafloor have been captured in ways that very few have ever seen.  These snapshots have given us a window of understanding into the true state of the underlying geological formations around the various wells drilled in the Macondo Prospect.

    Although our many deductions may be difficult for the layperson to apprehend at first, to the trained eye these are but obvious conclusions which are simply the result of cause and effect.  In other words there is no dispute around the most serious geological changes which have occurred, and continue to occur, in the region around the Macondo wells.  The original predicament (an 87 day gushing well) was extremely serious, as grasped by the entire world, and the existing situation is only going to get progressively worse.

    So, just what does this current picture look like.  Please click on the link below to view the relevant diagrams and read the commentary:

    http://phoenixrisingfromthegulf.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/an-autopsy-of-the-bp-gulf-oil-well-at-the-macondo-prospect/

    As the diagrams clearly indicate, the geology around the well bore has been blown.  This occurred because of drilling contiguous to a salt dome(1), as well as because of the gas explosions which did much damage to the integrity of the well casing, cementing, well bore, well head, and foundation around the well head.  Eighty-seven straight days of gushing hydrocarbon effluent under great pressure only served to further undermine the entire well system.  Finally, when it was capped, putting the system back under pressure forced the upsurging hydrocarbons to find weaknesses throughout the greater system, which revealed all sorts of compromised, fractured and unsettled geology through which the hydrocarbons could travel all the way to the seafloor and into the GOM.

    (1)“The rock beds in the vicinity of a salt dome are highly fractured and permeable due to stress and deformation which occur as the salt dome thrusted upwards.” (Per BK Lim, Geohazards Specialist)

    We also have faults* to deal with in this scenario of which there are both deep and shallow.  Depending on the current vital stats of the blown out well, especially its actual depth; the number, location and severity of the breaches throughout the well system; the pressure at the wellhead; as well as the type and status of geological formations/strata it has been drilled into, these faults will become prominently configured into the future stability of the whole region.  Larger faults can open up much greater opportunities for the hydrocarbons to find their way to the seafloor via cracks and crevices, craters and chasms.  In fact the numerous leaks and seeps throughout the seafloor surface, which are quite apparent from various ROV live-feeds, give testimony to sub-seafloor geological formations in great turmoil and undergoing unprecedented flux.

    *“Once the oil gets into the shallow faulted zones, we have an uncontrollable situation.  The place where most of the oil and gas is coming out  is at the foot hills of the continental shelf as shown in figure 134-1 in the article “BP continues to dazzle us with their unlimited magic”.  The discovery by WHOI of the 22 mile long river of oil originated from these leaks.  So the leaks will be mainly along the faults where I have marked (shallow) in “What is going on at West Sirius” and deep strike-slip faults (red line)  on fig 134-1.” (Per BK Lim, Geohazards Specialist)

    Just how bad is this situation?

    There are actually three different ongoing disasters – each more grave and challenging than the previous one – which must be considered when assessing the awesome destruction to the GOM by the Oil & Gas Industry.

    I.  A single gushing well at 7o – 100,000 barrels per day of hydrocarbon effluent for 87 days into the GOM at the Macondo Prospect along with two smaller rogue wells

    II. Numerous leaks and seeps within five to ten square miles of the Macondo well with an aggregate outflow of an unknown amount of hydrocarbon effluent per day into the GOM

    III.  Countless gushers and spills, leaks and seeps, throughout the Gulf of Mexico, where drilling has been conducted for many decades, with an aggregate outflow that can not even be estimated, but is well in excess of any guesstimate which would ensure the slow and steady demise of the GOM.

    It is the last scenario which we all face and to which there is no easy or obvious solution.  The truth be told, there currently does not exist the technology or machinery or equipment to repair the damage that has been wrought by the process of deep undersea drilling, especially when it is performed in the wrong place.  Therefore, wherever the oil and gas find points of entry into the GOM through the seafloor, these leaks and seeps will only continue to get worse.  Here’s why:

    Methane gas mixed with saltwater and mud makes for a very potent corrosive agent.  Under high pressure it will find every point of egress through the rock and sediment formations all the way up to the seafloor where it will find any point of exit that is available.  The longer and more forcefully that it flows throughout the fractured area, which is dependent on the volume, temperature and pressure at the source of the hydrocarbons, the more its corrosive effects will widen, broaden and enlarge the channels, cracks and crevices throughout the sub-seafloor geology, thereby creating a predicament that no science, technology or equipment can remedy.

    Dire realities of the methane hydrate predicament

    The Macondo Prospect in the GOM is just one of many throughout the oceans of the world where the seafloor has beds of methane hydrate locked in place by very high pressure and low temperatures.  Likewise, there are myriad repositories and large “reservoirs” of methane clathrates in the sub-seafloor strata, and especially within the more superficial geological formations, which are being greatly impacted by all oil and gas drilling and extraction activities.  It does not take much imagination to understand how the upsurging hydrocarbons (very hot oil and gas) are quickly converting the frozen hydrates to gas, thereby causing innumerable “micro-displacements”, the cumulative effect of which will translate to larger “macro-displacements” of rock, sediment and other geological formations.

    When you factor in this constant vaporization of methane hydrates/clathrates both sub-seafloor as well as those scattered around the seafloor surface to the existing scenario, this devolving situation becomes that much more difficult to effectively remedy.  With the resulting shifts and resettling and reconfiguration of the entire seafloor terrain and underlying strata occurring in the wake of these dynamics, we are left with a situation that is not going to get better through the use of even more invasive technology and intrusive machinery.


    Question: How many times can you grout a seafloor crack that was caused by an underlying superficial fault after drilling into an old mud volcano?

    Answer: “In the attempt to seal the oil from oozing through the faults, BP resorted to high pressure grouting.  Basically it is like cementing the cracks in the rock by injecting grout (cement mixture) at high pressure. The way they do this is by drilling an injection hole into the shallow rocks and pumping in the grout. The grout in “slurry” state will permeate into the cracks, cure and seal up the cracks. However it is not working because of the presence of gas and oil. It is like super-glue. You need to clean the surfaces before you apply the glue; otherwise it won’t stick and will come off eventually after a few days or weeks. That is why we can see a few blown out craters – shown in my article – Is the last rite for the Macondo Well for real?(Per BK Lim, Geohazards Specialist)

    Likewise, how do you fill a newly emerging gash in the seafloor which is caused by a deep fault due to low level seismic activity, or worse, a full blown earthquake?!

    Seismic activity in the GOM and the uptick in earthquakes in the Mississippi River Basin and surrounding region


    The oil and gas platforms that were in operation throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico in 2006 (per Wikipedia).

    We now come to the most serious issue regarding the relentless drilling for oil and gas throughout the Gulf of Mexico.  The map above clearly illustrates the density of drilling throughout the northern GOM as of 2006.  Likewise, the map below demonstrates the extraordinary and increasing intensity of these very same operations off the coast of Louisiana alone.



    Green lines represent active pipes (25,000 miles in all). Yellow dots represent oil rigs.

    The map that follows, however, tells a story which demands the attention of every resident of the GOM coastline.  The video link below the map shows the development timeline of the successively deeper wells being drilled during the last decade.  Of course, with greater depths come much greater risks, as the technology and machinery have not been proportionately upgraded to accommodate the extraordinary demands and unforeseen contingencies of such a speculative and dangerous enterprise*.

    *Oil and gas drilling in seawater depths of over 4000 feet, and through 15,000 to 25,000 feet of the earth’s crust and mantle, is considered extremely dangerous to those from whom reason and common sense have not yet fled.



    Click on the map to enlarge.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh_wNVUx9SI

    It’s critical to understand the location and current activity of the various faults which exist throughout the GOM and how they connect to the New Madrid Fault Line, as well as other major faults at much greater distance.  There does appear to be a emerging uptick in earthquake activity in the greater Louisiana area, as well as contiguous regions in the GOM as demonstrated by unprecedented, albeit low level earthquakes.  Correlations between these earthquakes/seismic activity and major operations at the Macondo Prospect have been alluded to in our previous postings.

    Earthquake Activity in Gulf of Mexico Prompts 2003 Study for MMS

    Gulf of Mexico Subsea Structures May Be in Seismic Danger Zone – Part 2

    Now then, the question remains just how vulnerable has the GOM been made to a truly catastrophic event, ending up with an overwhelming displacement of water producing tidal waves, in the aftermath of an undersea earthquake.

    There is no question that the ceaseless fracturing of the seafloor and fissuring of the sub-seafloor geological strata by the Oil & Gas Industry has set up a quite conducive environment for HUGE unintended consequences.  We leave it up to the experts to conduct the necessary risk assessments, which will most assuredly let loose a sea of red flags about what Big Oil has done, and is currently doing, in the Gulf of Mexico.  Furthermore, we are deeply concerned that, if a permanent moratorium on all new oil and gas drilling and extraction in the GOM is not put into place poste haste, the coastal communities will remain in a very precarious situation.

    Worsening GOM predicament is reflective of the status quo around the globe

    Now consider the following scenario: that this very same predicament, which we have all witnessed in the Gulf of Mexico, is happening wherever oil and gas drilling is conducted in the various water bodies throughout the planet.  Therefore we can multiply the Macondo Prospect disaster a hundred times and still not come close to the impacts that these ongoing gushers and spills, leaks and seeps are having the world over.

    Perhaps the BP Gulf Oil Spill was the defining moment in modern history when all the nations of the world community were called by Mother Earth herself to begin transitioning the planet away from the Hydrocarbon Fuel Paradigm.  After all, we may never get another chance!

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Transitioning-The-Planet-Away-From-The-Hydrocarbon-Fuel-Paradigm/154984831192787?v=wall&ref=ts

    Tom Termotto is National Coordinator of the Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Conference

    [email protected]
    SKYPE: Gulf_Advocate
    http://oilspillsolutionsnow.org/

    In a cable that was released by Wikileaks, there is clear collusion between the Italian and the US governments to bury the story of Nicola Calipari’s murder and to deter any future investigations into this case. This cable has unleashed an outcry for justice and chorus of calls for a reopening of the Calipari/Sgrena investigation. His wife Rosa Villecco Calipari now a Member of parliament for the Democratic Party in Italy, called the revelations proof that her husband had been betrayed not just once, but two times by the Italian and American Governments and secret service agencies. Giuliana Sgrena has also called for a reopening of the case as have journalists and activists alike.

    It is important to note here that the US investigation into Calipari’s shooting was begun five days prior to the Italians joining in the “joint” investigation and that the crime scene was not secured. Interviews were conducted with all the chain of command involved prior to the Italians arriving on the scene, the one caveat mentioned in point 7. At the top of that chain of command was John Negroponte, ambassador to Iraq in 2005 and in transition to become the Director of National Intelligence under George Bush. He was perceived as an expert on covert actions geared to protect American interests and cover up American lies and war crimes. All investigations should logically point Negroponte’s way and not at a soldier fall guy as they have thus far with the Italian magistrates closing an investigation into one of the supposed trigger men Mario Lozano. The case against Lozano, just so fittingly an Italian American who loves his country of origin, was dropped due to the case being considered out of jurisdiction.

    Why would they want this case buried? Since the end of the second world war, Italy has played the role of subservient partner to American Imperial crusades. Through the CIA and other agencies the United States government spent millions of dollars to defeat the Italian Communists in 1948 even working with components of the Fascist regime from which they had supposedly helped liberate Italy. After this the US remained an almost constant part, often illegally, of Italian politics in order to keep a fortuitous hold on the peninsula as the most strategic NATO military location in the Mediterranean.

    Article 11 of Italy’s constitution states: “Italy rejects war as an instrument of aggression against the freedom of other peoples and as a means for the settlement of international disputes. Italy agrees, on conditions of equality with other States, to the limitations of sovereignty that may be necessary to a world order ensuring peace and justice among the Nations. Italy promotes and encourages international organizations furthering such ends.”

    Through his work as an Italian Secret Service agent Nicola Calipari had become well aware of the lies that had taken Italy into the Iraq war in violation of its constitution. It was said that he had grown frustrated with Rome’s participation in the fabrication of those lies. Can we remember back to the forged Niger yellow cake uranium documents turned over to the American Embassy in Rome? Giuliana Sgrena’s work as a journalist was exposing the brutal war crimes of the American military in Fallujah. Just by taking a look at the car that has far more than 8 to 10 shots as the official story stated in 2005, it seems likely that she was a target of an assassination as well. Could it have all been a well laid trap to rid the ranks of this pesky Italian Agent and communist anti-war journalist? How quickly we might forget the words “if your not with us your are against us”.

    The collusion on this case was under Berlusconi’s watch but seems to go much further into the mechanisms of Italy’s heavily US influenced and corrupt political caste. Massimo D’Alema who was foreign minister under the Center Left’s Romano Prodi now heads Italy’s COPASIR — Parliamentary Committee on the Security of the Republic. His nomination to committee chair was supported by Berlusconi and despite his communist roots D’Alema has always moved toward the center of the neoliberal body politic. It was his announcement on the floor of the senate of Italy’s continued support for the so called War on Terror in Afghanistan that led to Romano Prodi’s center left coalition failing a vote of confidence and subsequent downfall of the center left government.

    In 1999 D’Alema was prime minister and led Italy to join NATO in bombing the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He has always been willing to violate Italy’s constitution in order to please the Americans and has earned the praises of Berlusconi for his commitment to the American alliance as illustrated in another wikileaks cable: (reprinted here as link is no longer available).

    In another wikileaks release from the Gulf War Logs in October sketchy details are laid out about the ambush on the car in which Calipari and Sgrena were passengers. This report states that the ex-leader of the Baghdad cell of al Qaida Sheik Husain, was responsible for the kidnapping and that after receiving his 500,000 dollar payoff he called the Iraqi foreign ministry to tell them that the car carrying Sgrena and Calipari was equipped with a bomb. The story here just doesn’t seem to add up though as the car is described as a blue chevy celebrity and not the white Toyota Corolla that Sgrena and Calipari were driving in. This document from wikileaks talks of independent unverified sources and has never been a part of the official story, another layer of confusion to help let bygones be bygones.

    Michael Leonardi is currently living in Toledo, Ohio and can be reached at [email protected]

    U.S. officials were lying when they claimed to have attempted to restrain Ethiopia from invading neighboring Somalia in late 2006. Newly unveiled documents show that “the Bush Administration pushed Ethiopia to invade Somalia with an eye on crushing the Union of Islamic Courts,” which had established relative peace in much of the country. The U.S. also tried to assemble a “coalition of the willing” to overthrow Robert Mugabe’s government in Zimbabwe.

    By mid 2007, the 50,000 Ethiopian troops that invaded Somalia in late 2006 found themselves increasingly bogged down, facing much fiercer resistance than they had bargained for as Somalis of all stripes temporarily put aside their differences to stand together against the outside invader.

    As the military incursion turned increasingly sour, then US Under Secretary of State for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, who taught at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies in the 1990s, insisted that, prior to the invasion, the United States had counseled caution and that Washington had warned Ethiopia not to use military force against Somalia. Frazer was a close collaborator with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for whom there also is a strong University of Denver connection. Frazer certainly tried to distance the United States from responsibility for the Ethiopian invasion in a number of interviews she gave to the media at the time.

    But one of the released WikiLeaks cables, suggests a different picture, one that implicates Frazer in pressing Ethiopia’s President Meles Zenawi to invade its neighbor. The content of the cable is being widely discussed in the African media. It exposes a secret deal cut between the United States and Ethiopia to invade Somalia.

    If accurate — and there is no reason to believe the contrary — the cable suggests that Ethiopia had no intention of invading Somalia in 2006 but was encouraged/pressured to do so by the United States which pushed Ethiopia behind the scenes. Already bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time, the Bush Administration pushed Ethiopia to invade Somalia with an eye on crushing the Union of Islamic Courts, which was gaining strength in Somalia at the time.

    At the time of the invasion there was little doubt that the Ethiopian military incursion was “made in Washington.” Like so many other WikiLeaks cables, this one merely puts a dot on the “i” or crosses the “t” on what was generally known, although it does give specific information about Jendayi Frazer’s deep involvement in the affair.

    According to the cable, as the main U.S. State Department representative in Africa, Frazer played a key role, spearheading what amounted to a U.S.-led proxy war in conjunction with the Pentagon. At the same time that she was pushing the Ethiopians to attack, Frazer was laying the groundwork both for the attack in the U.S. media and for a cover-up, by claiming that although the United States did not support Ethiopian military action, she could understand “the Somali threat” and why Ethiopia might find it necessary to go to war.

    Frazer spread rumors of a possible jihadist takeover in Somalia that would threaten Ethiopian security. Turns out that media performance was little more than a smokescreen. The U.S. military had been preparing Ethiopia for the invasion, providing military aid and training Ethiopian troops. Then on December 4, 2006, CENTCOM Commander, General John Abizaid was in Addis Ababa on what was described as “a courtesy call.” Instead, the plans for the invasion were finalized.

    At the time of the Somali invasion, Zenawi found himself in trouble. He was facing growing criticism for the wave of repression he had unleashed against domestic Ethiopian critics of his rule that had included mass arrests, the massacres of hundreds of protesters and the jailing of virtually all the country’s opposition leaders. By the spring of 2006 there was a bill before the U.S. Congress to cut off aid to Zenawi unless Ethiopia’s human rights record improved. (His human rights record, by the way, has not improved since. Given how the United States and NATO view Ethiopia’s strategic role in the “war on terrorism” and the scramble for African mineral and energy resources, Western support for Zenawi has only increased in recent years).

    In 2006, dependent on U.S. support to maintain power in face of a shrinking political base at home — a situation many U.S. allies in the Third World find themselves — and against his better judgement, Zenawi apparently caved to Frazer’s pressure. Nor was this the first time that Frazer had tried to instigate a U.S. proxy war in Africa. Earlier as U.S. ambassador to South Africa, she had tried to put together a “coalition of the willing” to overthrow Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe, an initiative that did not sit so well with South Africa’s post-apartheid government and went nowhere.

    The 2006 war in Somalia did not go well either for the United States or Ethiopia. Recently a State Department spokesperson, Donald Yamamoto, admitted that the whole idea was “a big mistake,” obliquely admitting U.S. responsibility for the invasion. It resulted in 20,000 deaths and according to some reports, left up to 2 million Somalis homeless. The 50,000 Ethiopian invasion force, which had expected a cake walk, instead ran into a buzz saw of Somali resistance, got bogged down and soon withdrew with its tail between its legs. The political result of the invasion was predictable: the generally more moderate Union of Islamic Courts was weakened, but it was soon replaced in Somalia by far more radical and militant Islamic groups with a more openly anti-American agenda.

    As the situation deteriorated, in an attempt to cover both the U.S. and her own role, Frazer then turned on Zenawi, trying to distance herself from fiasco using an old and tried diplomatic trick: outright lying. Now that the invasion had turned sour, she changed her tune, arguing in the media, that both she and the State Department had tried to hold back the Ethiopians, discouraging them from invading rather than pushing them to attack. The WikiLeaks cable tells quite a different story. In 2009, the Ethiopian forces withdrew, leaving Somalia in a bigger mess and more unstable than when their troops went in three years prior. Seems to be a pattern here?

    Rob Prince is the publisher of the Colorado Progressive Jewish News

    Last week, Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of giving classified materials to Wikileaks, spent his 23rd birthday in the brig of the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia. He has been convicted of no crime, but endures the kind of highly restrictive detention that’s usually reserved for the most dangerous criminals in America’s supermax prisons. He is kept isolated in his cell 23 hours a day, where he is cut off from most human contact, denied reading materials and personal items, prevented by the guards from exercising and regularly awakened from his sleep. He has been at Quantico for five months, following two months of detention in Kuwait.

    The circumstances of Manning’s detention gained prominence last week after Salon’s Glenn Greenwald wrote a scathing exposé of what he called “conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture.” As AlterNet’s Sarah Seltzer noted, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture has started a probe to determine whether Manning’s solitary confinement constitutes torture under international law.

    The Pentagon reacted to the story by claiming that Manning is “a maximum custody detainee” who can “receive the same privileges that a detainee classified as general population may receive … [including] daily television, hygiene call, reading and outside physical activity without restraint.” But David House, one of the few people able to visit Manning, said that Manning told him he’d only been allowed outdoors sporadically, and his exercise consisted of being placed in a room where he can only walk around in circles.

    Manning also has a “Prevention of Injury” (POI) order that requires him to be constantly monitored by guards, and prevents him from having normal bedding. He has to strip down to his underwear and surrender his clothes to the guards each night before sleeping under a “suicide blanket” – he told House it’s “similar in weight and heft to lead aprons used in X-ray laboratories, and similar in texture to coarse and stiff carpet.” Manning “expressed concern that he had to lie very still at night to avoid receiving carpet burns.” According to Greenwald, prison medical officials are administering him antidepressants.

    POI orders are usually issued for brief periods of time for inmates who are judged to be suicidal or have not yet undergone a psychological evaluation. Manning has been evaluated, and there is no indication he is a threat to himself or others. He has been, by all accounts, a model prisoner.

    Clinical psychologist Jeff Kaye spoke to House after his visit with Manning, and while he stressed that a complete evaluation of Manning’s well-being is impossible without personal contact, he predicted that “Solitary confinement will slowly wear down the mental and physical condition of Bradley Manning.”

    Solitary confinement is an assault on the body and psyche of an individual. It deprives him of species-specific forms of physical, sensory and social interaction with the environment and other human beings. Manning reported last weekend he had not seen sunlight in four weeks, nor does he interact with other people but a few hours on the weekend. The human nervous system needs a certain amount of sensory and social stimulation to retain normal brain functioning. The effects of this deprivation on individuals varies, and some people are affected more severely or quickly, while others hold out longer against the boredom and daily grind of dullness that never seems to end.

    Over time, isolation produces a particular well-known syndrome which is akin to that of an organic brain disorder, or delirium. The list of possible effects upon a person is quite long, and can include an inability to tolerate ordinary stimuli, sleep and appetite disturbances, primitive forms of thinking and aggressive ruminations, perceptual distortions and hallucinations, agitation, panic attacks, claustrophobia, feelings of loss of control, rage, paranoia, memory loss, lack of concentration, generalized body pain, EEG abnormalities, depression, suicidal ideation and random, self-destructive behavior.

    According to Kaye, the detention is already having effects on Manning – he appears to have difficulty concentrating and his physical condition is deteriorating.

    As Glenn Greenwald notes, prolonged solitary confinement is, “widely viewed around the world as highly injurious, inhumane, punitive, and arguably even a form of torture.”

    In his widely praised March, 2009 New Yorker article– entitled “Is Long-Term Solitary Confinement Torture?” — the surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande assembled expert opinion and personal anecdotes to demonstrate that, as he put it, “all human beings experience isolation as torture.” By itself, prolonged solitary confinement routinely destroys a person’s mind and drives them into insanity. A March, 2010 article in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law explains that “solitary confinement is recognized as difficult to withstand; indeed, psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture.” 

    It’s important to recognize that Manning is a true whistleblower – according to chat logs obtained by Wired magazine, Manning saw what he viewed as serious crimes committed by U.S. forces in Iraq, and felt compelled to release the information in the hope that it would spark “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms.” “I want people to see the truth,” he wrote, “regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.” He succeeded in that – the release of video showing an American helicopter attack on a group of unarmed civilians, and subsequent attack on rescuers rushing to evacuate the survivors, was an eye-opening look at the horrors of war that’s never seen in the sanitized footage released by the military.

    Given that Manning has not been shown to be suicidal or a threat to others, it’s hard to disagree with Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange’s claim that “Manning is being held as a political prisoner in the United States.”

    Greenwald wrote that what Manning’s solitary confinement “achieves is clear.”

    Having it known that the U.S. could and would disappear people at will to “black sites,” assassinate them with unseen drones, imprison them for years without a shred of due process even while knowing they were innocent, torture them mercilessly, and in general acts as a lawless and rogue imperial power created a climate of severe intimidation and fear. Who would want to challenge the U.S. government in any way — even in legitimate ways — knowing that it could and would engage in such lawless, violent conduct without any restraints or repercussions?

    Bradley Manning’s detention is not comparable with the horrific measures imposed on Jose Padilla, an American citizen who was accused of plotting to detonate a “dirty bomb” and held as an “enemy combatant” for six years before being convicted on a lesser charge. Padilla’s attorneys alleged that he was subjected to sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and tortured with psychotropic drugs until he lost his mind. But Manning is also a 23-year-old who, whether he is right or wrong, thought he was doing the right thing, and has now run into the maw of a vindictive American security state.

    Fyodor Dostoevsky famously said that “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” The Web site FireDogLake has asked people to sign a letter urging the military to stop its “inhumane” treatment of Bradley Manning. You can add your name here.

    Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America). Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.

    Afghanistan: “Open for Business”

    December 26th, 2010 by Michael Skinner

    Bottom of the 4th Inning of the Great Game:

     

    Many of the Canadian military, police, and civilian personnel who risk their lives in Afghanistan truly believe they are fighting a just war of good against evil. But America’s and Britain’s claims that the unsanctioned unilateral invasion of Afghanistan, which began the Global War on Terror, was justified by the terrorist attacks of 9/11 are as credible as claims the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian terrorist justified Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war against Serbia to begin WWI.

    It is time to look beyond faith in baseless beliefs to investigate facts. What interests are at stake in Afghanistan?

    When I visited Afghanistan in 2007, many Afghans told me they distrust our motivations for invading and occupying their land. Many initially held some hope for positive change, but they had good reasons to be wary of Western interests. There is even more evidence today to back their fears.

    Afghans know why invaders throughout history sought control of Afghan real estate. Not only does Afghanistan contain some of the richest mineral deposits in the world, but it also sits astride the shortest trade routes between China and Europe as well as between Russia and India. In this age of globalizing free trade and an accelerating scramble for natural resources, Afghanistan sits at the epicentre of Eurasia.

    And as Zbigniew Brzezinski noted in 1997: “What happens with the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America’s global primacy and historical legacy.”

    Regional Ambitions

    American military and economic strategists recognize Afghanistan is a necessary bridgehead to engage America’s competitors China, Russia, and India on their home field as well as to contain and pacify potential spoilers to the expansion of free trade in Iran, Pakistan, and the volatile Central Asian states. Plans to develop Afghanistan’s abundant natural resources and reopen the ancient Silk Road as a modern transportation, communications, and energy transmission network are well underway.

    The first two industrial-scale development projects have proceeded beyond planning to implementation. In 2008, the Afghan government sold the concession to mine Aynak, one of the largest copper deposits in the world. On 11 December 2010, the presidents of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India signed a deal to proceed with the 1,700 kilometre TAPI pipeline, which will transport natural gas from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan and Pakistan to energy-hungry India. Many more mega-projects currently in the planning stages will soon be implemented.

    The Great Game: Liberating Afghans or liberating capital?

    The industrial-scale developments now underway and other planned mega-projects hold the promise of liberating Afghans from their miserable poverty. However, Afghans recognize the Western intervention that began, in the 17th century, with the British East India Company’s relentless push into Asia was primarily about liberating capital to return profits for investors. There is no evidence anything is different today.

    Blackwater services for hire.

    Liberating Afghans, even if it is a genuine concern of many people in the West, is secondary to corporate profit seeking and the geopolitical interests of powerful states.

    In the early 19th century, Arthur Conolly, an officer of the East India Company, called the geopolitical competition for state-backed corporate control of Eurasia the Great Game. Today, we are at the bottom of the fourth inning of this centuries-long Great Game, with no end in sight. The current score: Afghanistan has been forcibly pried open for business. What might happen in the next inning is anyone’s guess, but some powerful investors are betting they will profit.

    The U.S./NATO occupation of Afghanistan, now in its tenth year, has failed to institute a democratic Afghan state capable of adequately providing the basic necessities of life – food distribution, water supplies, basic sanitation, housing, energy supplies, education, healthcare, and a legitimate system of law and order.

    The bottom-line is human development projects are not where either private investors or states are investing their resources. The bulk of public money, thus far, has gone into military and security spending. Of the little capital that has gone toward human development, only a fraction reached Afghans. Most of the money returns to the originating states to pay salaries and supply costs, while corrupt Western and Afghan agents siphon off much of the rest.

    It is clear the promises of liberating Afghans, particularly Afghan women, are not materializing and are unlikely to materialize in the foreseeable future. The UN reports that 96 per cent of Afghans have been negatively affected by the war. The Red Cross observes that current conditions are the worst in 30 years.

    But it is equally clear that the liberation of capital is successfully proceeding. Resource and infrastructure development projects on multi-billion dollar scales are rapidly proceeding. It is evident that states and investors are beginning to invest heavily in large-scale industrial development. Whether these investments will return profits for investors is yet unsure.

    It is more uncertain whether these investments will have any positive effect for most Afghans. Judging by the centuries of Western intervention in Afghanistan and the well-known effects of the “resource curse” experienced by resource rich but poor people around the world, it seems unlikely many Afghans have much to hope for.

    In 2010, the U.S. State Department reported Afghanistan “has taken significant steps toward fostering a business-friendly environment for both foreign and domestic investment.” Afghanistan’s new investment law allows 100 per cent foreign ownership and provides generous tax allowances to foreign investors, without providing any protection for Afghan workers or the environment.

    If nothing else, the Global War on Terror
    Opened Afghanistan for Business

    Developing the Aynak copper deposit – one of the largest in the world – is the first mega-project to begin in Afghanistan, since the 1970s. Coincidently, buildings that Soviet miners built at Aynak, in the 1970s, which those miners were forced to vacate during the war in the 1980s, later housed al-Qaeda’s base in Afghanistan.

    Vancouver-based Hunter-Dickinson’s bid to buy the concession to mine Aynak was initially touted as the most likely to win. But, in 2008, a subsidiary of the China Metallurgical Group (CMCC) won the contract for the mining concession with a bid media reports estimated at 3 to 3.5-billion U.S. dollars. Records of the sale peg the actual investment at 4.39-billion U.S. dollars.

    Chinese state enterprises are also building the massive infrastructure needed to develop the Aynak mine, including electric power generators, and a railway from China via Tajikistan, which will connect to the extensive Pakistani rail system.

    The recent announcement that the long-anticipated TAPI gas pipeline will proceed indicates not the end game sought by American strategists, but the beginning of a long-term strategic process to construct a contemporary equivalent of the ancient Silk Road to reconnect the disparate regions of Eurasia.

    Why would the U.S., the UK, and Canada sacrifice lives and resources to protect foreign investors in Afghanistan?

    Prominent media pundit Robert Caplan questions why the two parallel military operations in Afghanistan – the American-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) – should protect the investment of a Chinese state enterprise at the Aynak mine. He will likely ask the same question about the TAPI gas pipeline and other mega-projects soon to come online such as the mining concession for the massive Hajigak iron deposit.

    In the specific case of the Aynak copper mine, no private company was prepared to invest the massive amount of capital needed not only to develop the mine itself, but also to develop the necessary transportation, communications, and energy infrastructure. Developing Aynak requires a huge long-term investment, which will likely far exceed 10-billion U.S. dollars with no return for at least a decade – all this to produce a commodity prone to price volatility in the global markets as well as high risk from the ongoing insurgency and political uncertainty in Afghanistan.

    The Canadian, American, and British mining corporations that bid on Aynak can rely on state-financed insurance schemes to insure their foreign investments, but not to insure anywhere near the capital needed for this risky project. The Chinese state-enterprise, on the other hand, could rely both on the deep reserves of the Chinese state and China’s need to satisfy its own insatiable demand for copper. While it might seem ludicrous that the U.S./NATO forces are protecting a Chinese investment, it makes strategic sense for a state – the United States – whose primary explicit interest is globalizing free trade.

    China is financing all the risk in the Aynak project. However, private investors from any state will potentially share the benefits of the Chinese financed transportation, communications, and energy infrastructure when developing future projects. For example, the Hajigak iron mine will require only a relatively short railway to connect to the Chinese built mainline with its connections to global markets. Most importantly, the Chinese are dependent on the continued presence of the U.S./NATO forces in Afghanistan, as well as the training and equipping of Afghan army, air force, and police force to insure the security of their investment.

    In the case of the TAPI gas pipeline, the U.S. supported this project to forestall a competing Iranian plan to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan through Iran. Both the Aynak mine and the TAPI gas pipeline are consistent with America’s explicitly stated strategy of engaging China in the globalizing system of liberalization, while containing Iran in an attempt to modify its behaviour.

    America’s Globalizing Liberalization Strategy

    The American strategy is explicitly (although not necessarily clearly) stated in two Bush era documents – the U.S. National Security Strategy 2002/2006 (aka The Bush doctrine) and the U.S. National Defense Strategy 2008 – both of which continue to guide the Obama administration and the foreign policies of America’s closest allies including Canada.

    In a chapter titled, “Ignite a New Era of Global Economic Growth through Free Markets and Free Trade,” the Bush Doctrine explains that “real freedom” is free trade. Globalizing this so-called “real freedom” whether through diplomacy, economic coercion, or warfare is the explicit strategy of the USA.

    America’s strategy to globally liberate capital investors is not new, nor is the more publicized feature of the Bush Doctrine – pre-emptive military action. The U.S. was globalizing free trade and regularly using pre-emptive military force as a tactic to implement its strategy throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. What is new in the Bush Doctrine is that this strategy is explicitly stated.

    U.S.-led military operations are currently – in the best-case scenario – establishing a bridgehead in Central Asia to further engage China, Russia, India, and Pakistan in the globalization of free trade, while containing Iran until it might modify its behaviour. In a worst-case scenario, U.S. forces will contain any state, including China, which might deviate from globalizing free trade. American strategists outline this two-track engagement-containment policy in the 2008 U.S. National Defense Strategy.

    American-led military forces in Afghanistan and throughout Asia provide the muscle to implement any range of possible tactics, which might be necessary to support this engagement-containment strategy. Even after the planned “departure” of American combat forces, large numbers of U.S. and allied forces will remain based in Afghanistan as they have after almost every American military occupation in history from the Philippines to Cuba.

    Regardless of the possible range of outcomes of the liberalization via engagement-containment strategy – at one extreme, pacification of all spoilers and total trade liberalization across Eurasia, or, at the other horrific extreme, total inter-state war – the Global War on Terror generates huge profits for some businesses. Public wealth is transferred not only to businesses in the military industrial complex, but also to those in many peripheral industries such as transportation, construction, and communications.

    Contrary to Canada’s pacifist myth, Canadian industries are at the core of the globalizing military industrial complex. War has been good for these Canadian industries. Since 2001, Canada has risen from the seventh largest global exporter of military products to sixth with exports barely trailing those of China. In the same time, the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) increased its membership from a few hundred companies to more than eight hundred, which can boast of adding more than 10-billion CDN dollars to the economy in 2010.

    Spending on the Canadian Forces, the RCMP, and other Canadian police and security forces engaged in the Global War on Terror, while an expense to most taxpayers, transfers public resources to private profits.

    The American-led Global Protection Racket

    Today, as in previous eras, the state, coalition of states, or empire that can seize the position of arbiter and protector of trade can rule as a hegemonic sovereign in the global system.

    Reminiscent of Buck Henry’s brilliant 1960s spoof of the Cold War, Get Smart, Western state leaders and opinion-shapers tell us our only choice is control versus chaos. Without an omnipotent American empire, so the story goes, our world, as we know it, will devolve into chaos.

    The challenge for the U.S., as Zbigniew Brzezinski has argued since the 1990s, is that whoever controls Central Asia including Afghanistan will control Eurasia and consequently the world. The problem for the U.S. is that, other than its military power, it has no comparative advantage economically, politically, or socially over other powerful states in the competition for influence in Central Asia. A constant state of insecurity in the region is, thus, to America’s advantage.

    Liberalization, whether in economic, political, or social terms, is in a state of disrepute globally. Liberalization has lost its attraction. Seemingly, the only viable alternative to globalizing liberalization is coercion – force the foreigners to liberalize. However, this tactic is not working in Afghanistan.

    Roots of Afghan Resistance – Four Innings of the Great Game

    Neoliberal theorists promise that liberating capital liberates people. However, reality demonstrates that, even in the best of liberal states, unless mitigating factors such as strong labour unions and social movements exist, liberating capital enriches and empowers stockholders with little excess left to trickle down to anyone else. Likewise, profit-seeking behaviour is proven to be environmentally destructive, unless corporations and states are constantly held to account by other social forces.

    It should not be surprising then that Afghans are sceptical that imposing the neoliberal system of economic liberalization on Afghanistan will work in their favour.

    Afghans of all Afghanistan’s multicultural nations, even those who Westerners might judge as illiterate, have rich traditions of oral history through which they learn their own histories. Considering Afghan history, it should not be surprising, as Afghans constantly reminded me during my visit, that they are sceptical of promises they will be liberated as a result of Western intervention.

    The 1st Inning – 19th Century to WWI

    Throughout the 19th century the leaders of the British, Russian, and Persian (Iranian) empires redrew the borders of Afghanistan, so this fledgling multi-cultural nation-state would serve as a buffer zone between their empires. This purpose for Afghanistan as a buffer state, which was thrust upon it by competing empires would prevail throughout the first three innings of the Great Game until the collapse of the USSR left the U.S. as the sole superpower.

    After losing three wars in Afghanistan, the British finally withdrew from Afghanistan after WWI to end the first inning of the Great Game. The Russian Tsar facing a popular revolution had his own domestic problems to deal with, so Russians briefly lost interest in Afghanistan as well.

    The 2nd Inning – Development During the Early Cold War

    After a brief respite from Western intervention during the interwar period and WWII, Afghanistan was again forced into the role of a buffer state – this time separating the empires of the American “First World” and Soviet “Second World” during the Cold War.

    The second inning of the Great Game was played in Afghanistan, as it was in many parts of the so-called Third World, via competing development projects rather than warfare. But the development competition between the First and Second Worlds was only marginally less destructive than warfare for many Afghans. The Helmand-Arghandab Valley Authority (HAVA) project directed by the U.S. from the 1940s to the 1970s is one example of the direct destruction caused by so-called development.

    Whether well-intentioned, or not, the net result of the HAVA, according to historian Nick Cullather in his 2002 article “Damming Afghanistan” was disastrous. Afghans were left with a devastated environment and on the hook to pay millions of dollars to the American construction contractor Morrison Knudesen.

    Cullather reports that beginning in 1946, the salaries of Morrison Knudsen’s staff cost the equivalent of Afghanistan’s total exports. The Afghan government passed these costs on to agricultural producers, which offset any gains irrigation produced. “Although it pulled in millions in international funding,” Cullather notes, “the HAVA soaked up the small reserves of individual farmers and may well have reduced the total national investment in agriculture.”

    Prior to the HAVA project, pastoralist wool producers had produced the primary export and greatest foreign exchange, but they were entirely displaced by the project. Moreover, rather than providing irrigation for existing farmers, many farmers were displaced from their traditional land holdings. Consequently, “the bulk of the reclaimed land was farmed by tenants of Morrison Knudsen, the government, or contractors hired by the government,” according to Cullather.

    Perhaps the greatest long-term effect of the mega-dam project is the waterlogging and salinization, which led to desertification of much of the formerly productive farmland of Kandahar and Helmand. In 1949, before even the first dam was completed, salinization was evident. But demolishing half-completed dams would have been a loss of face for the Afghan government and a loss of income for Morrison Knudeson. A 1965 study Cullather cites concluded: “crop yields per acre had actually dropped since the dams were built, sharply in areas already cultivated but evident even in areas reclaimed from the desert.”

    Consequently, opium poppy is one of the few viable crops that can grow in what was previously a fertile food-producing area suitable for vineyards and orchards, which fed not only Afghans, but provided substantial income from agricultural exports.

    In an article the New York Times Magazine published in 1956 titled, “Lessons in Foreign Aid Policy,” the authors observe the burden of U.S. loans and lack of tangible results created “a dangerous strain on both the Afghan economy and the nation’s morale” which “may have unwittingly and indirectly contributed to driving Afghans into Russian arms.”

    By 1970, according to Cullather, agricultural yields in the HAVA area “were among the lowest in the world” and “farm incomes in the valley were below average for Afghanistan and declining.” In 1972, Afghans suffered an acute food shortage followed by a drought in 1973, which compounded the crisis.

    As its signature development project to justify its participation in the Global War on Terror, the Canadian government chose to reconstruct the Dahla dam – one of the many HAVA dams originally built by Morrison Knudsen. The Canadian contractor, SNC Lavalin, is likely to be the only beneficiary of this 50-million CDN dollar boondoggle. At present, it is unclear whether SNC Lavalin will complete the reconstruction after Canadian Forces withdraw from Kandahar.

    While American and Soviet development projects could at times be directly destructive, there was an even more destructive political problem. Various Afghan political leaders developed allegiances to serve their respective American or Soviet patrons as opposed to being accountable to Afghans. Consequently, and sparked by the intensifying food crisis, in 1973, Afghans violently overthrew the constitutional monarchy to create a republic, which was itself soon overthrown, in 1978, to create a state that was democratic-socialist in name only.

    The 3rd Inning – the Anti-Socialist Jihad During the Late Cold War

    The PDPA (People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan) that seized power, in 1978, was as paranoiac and brutal as Stalin at his worst. The party leadership not only purged its opposition, it purged its potential Maoist allies as well as the members of a critical faction within the PDPA. Nevertheless, the PDPA government did institute (albeit, by ham-fisted and ultimately counter-productive means) some progressive socialist policies such as land redistribution, the banning of dowries for brides, and legislation protecting freedom of choice within marriages.

    In March 1979, legislation instituting the universal education of Afghan girls and boys sparked a violent revolt in Herat by Islamic radicals led by a former Afghan army major Ismail Khan. During the uprising a number of visiting Soviet political advisors and their families were killed. Steve Coll, in his research of both American and Soviet government documents for his book Ghost Warriors, notes that leaders of both superpowers were at a loss as to how to react.

    Soviet leaders retaliated immediately by bombing Herat. However, the gradually democratizing Soviet leadership, according to Coll, were loath to further support the heavy-handed Stalinistic PDPA government in Kabul.

    Then on 3 July 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter, acting on the advice of his security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, secretly provided military aid, via the Pakistani ISI military intelligence service, to the mujahedeen insurgents (Mujahedeen translates as warriors for Islam, but was sanitized in Western accounts as “freedom fighters”).

    The conventional Western narrative of the war begins when the Soviet military later invaded Afghanistan, on 25 December 1979. The ensuing war between the allied Soviet and Afghan militaries versus American-backed mujahedeen insurgents was devastating for most Afghans, except for the few warlords who gained wealth and power.

    The Soviet withdrawal in 1989 did not end the war. The mujahedeen insurgents, still backed by the U.S. among other states, continued to fight, but could not topple the PDPA government until 1992. One of seven competing mujahedeen factions then instituted the first Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

    Afghans criticize the hypocrisy of Western leaders who profess to uphold liberal social values, but, for the sake of power, supported the rise of an Afghan political regime based on religious zealotry. The mujahedeen began their ascent to power specifically opposed to universal education among other progressive reforms congruent with both socialist and liberal social values.

    The mujahedeen were explicitly congratulated in the Bonn Agreement. Many of the leaders of the Islamic insurgency, including its instigator Ismail Khan, despite many credible allegations against them as war criminals, were rewarded with powerful political positions in the post 9/11 Islamic Republic of Afghanistan constructed by the U.S.-led military alliance.

    The 4th Inning – New World Order, American Primacy & the Empire of Capital

    With the collapse of the Soviet empire, the need to use Afghanistan as a buffer state ceased, but its geopolitical and economic importance on the Eurasian supercontinent remains. Unlike the three previous innings of the Great Game during which Afghanistan was used to contain competitors, Afghanistan is now a bridgehead to engage America’s competitors China, Russia, and India. Nonetheless, it is still used to contain and pacify potential spoilers to the expansion of free trade in Iran, Pakistan, and the volatile Central Asian states. In a worst-case scenario, if the current environment deteriorated, U.S./NATO forces based in Afghanistan could be used to contain China, Russia, or India.

    George Bush Sr. re-proclaimed Woodrow Wilson’s dream of a New World Order as the Soviet empire collapsed. However, rather than a multilateral world order of united nations, this is a hierarchical world order in which the U.S. declares its exceptional right to unilaterally invade any state that threatens American primacy. It is a liberal world order ruled by an American-led although not exclusively American Empire of Capital engaging in pre-emptive war as a tactic to further globalize economic liberalization.

    The Aynak mine and the TAPI gas pipeline, along with dozens of other mega-projects for trade, resource extraction, and commercial infrastructure development, were envisaged decades ago. The Silk Road Strategy Act of 1997, which was introduced to the U.S. Congress, but failed to pass into law, is one of many documented indications that, in the 1990s, American strategists were intent on opening Afghanistan and all of Central Asia to business by re-establishing under-utilized trade routes not only for gas pipelines, but for every conceivable medium for transportation, communication, and energy transmission.

    However, in Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic the U.S. had helped create, in 1992, instantly began to collapse at its inception. This was not a good environment for investors other than arms suppliers.

    The seven factions of mujahedeen insurgents the U.S. had variously supported throughout the jihad against the PDPA government in Kabul turned against one another in a competition to control Afghanistan. Each faction drew support from myriad foreign sources. While one faction held power in Kabul, three others shelled the city from the surrounding hills. Eighty per cent of the city was destroyed during the next four years of civil war.

    As Afghanistan descended deeper into the chaos of this civil war, the Taliban movement emerged in 1994, in Kandahar, promising to bring order guided by Sharia law to Afghans. In 1996, the Taliban gained control of Kabul and most of Afghanistan instituting the second Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Leaders of the first Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and two formerly warring mujahedeen factions retreated to the north allied as the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan. Western media invented a more palatable translation of the United Islamic Front (UIF) – the Northern Alliance.

    From 1996 to 2001, the U.S. tacitly recognized the de facto governments of both Islamic Republics, and frequently played one against the other in negotiations to among other things, proceed with the original TAPI gas pipeline proposal.

    In the end, the significant difference between the two opposing regimes was not that the Taliban was a regressive and brutal regime and the UIF were benevolent. In fact, both regimes were regressive and brutal. Leaders of both regimes are alleged to have committed egregious war crimes and crimes against humanity. The significant difference was that the Taliban were less willing to bend to American demands; whereas, the UIF leaders were prepared to profit from a closer relationship with the U.S. and its closest allies.

    The events of 9/11 provided the pretext to eliminate the Taliban along with al-Qaeda to begin a Global War on Terror with overt and covert military operations in every region of the world from the Philippines to Africa and Latin America.

    The Next Inning of the Great Game – Corporate Expansion and Social Repression?

    The first Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, with Canadian help has been re-instituted as the Karzai led third Islamic Republic. Like its predecessors, it began collapsing at its inception. For almost ten years Canadians fought to protect it. Soon the Canadian role will change from combating the Afghan resistance to training some of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of thousands more police who will replace U.S./NATO forces in Afghanistan as well as profitably supplying them with their weapons and equipment.

    The war in Afghanistan is escalating, but we Canadians might content ourselves with the knowledge that our military and police personnel, relegated to a new training mission, will no longer be in harms way. However, there are no firm assurances that Canadian Special Forces the JTF2, and the newly created CSOR, and SOAS will not continue combat operations in Afghanistan as well as in the numerous other overt and covert battlefronts of the Global War on Terror.

    Regardless, the issue of protecting Canadian Forces (CF) personnel from harm is a red-herring. CF personnel recognize their personal risk and are prepared to take that risk, if their mission is justified. The question is not whether we should protect CF personnel from harm. The question is whether any military intervention in Afghanistan is justified. Whether engaged in direct combat or only in military and police training as well as military and security equipment supply, Canada remains engaged in an illegitimate military intervention.

    If Afghans had a legitimate government to govern a legitimate system of law and order, there might be some justification for providing training services as well as for providing military and security equipment even though the invasion of Afghanistan that created that government was itself illegal and unjustified. However, no such system of legitimate governance exists or is likely to exist soon in Afghanistan. We have been propping up an illegitimate government with military force for almost a decade.

    With Afghanistan opening for business there are promises Afghans will reap the rewards. However, if the history of development of other states “blessed” with natural resources in the past few centuries holds true, Afghans are most likely to suffer the negative political, social, and environmental effects of the so-called “resource curse.”

    Any profits that might be directed toward Afghans will likely be needed to pay Western military and security equipment suppliers who are equipping the hundreds of thousands of national security forces and rebuilding an Afghan air force that is likely to cost many hundreds of billions of dollars.

    What Are We Training Afghans For?

    Are we training Afghan soldiers and police only to kill terrorists, or are we training them to also suppress any Afghan activists who might resist their loss of freedom or destruction of their environment during the inevitably conflictual process of economic liberalization and industrial development?

    The American record, in recent decades, of training military and police who then become war criminals and human rights abusers is horrific. The former School of Americas at Fort Benning Georgia, now called WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Co-operation) is a prime example. Many of the 60,000 alumni of this training school became prominent leaders of right-wing military coups and perpetrators of torture and repression of democratic movements throughout Latin America.

    Do we think sustaining the Global War on Terror whether by direct combat, or by providing training and arms supplies, will transform the people Michael Ignatieff dismissively refers to as “barbarians” in his book Empire Lite?

    If so, imagine if the War of 1812 had never ended in North America, or that the Fenian raids (the American-based terrorist attacks on Canada between 1866 and 1871) had continued with little respite until today. I suspect Canadian society would be far different – it would probably be like the war-torn society in Afghanistan where the world powers continue to play the Great Game of geopolitics. Consider that most people of means would flee gutting the intelligentsia and middle class. Every founding and immigrant nation, backed by various foreign powers with their own agendas, would fight one another. The survivors would be those who can either fight well or remain subservient to the warriors.

    This is the legacy of several centuries of economic liberalization and warfare in Afghanistan. As chaotic as it is, it presents a better environment for returning large profits on capital investment than one in which social movements, environmental movements, and labour unions might freely form to resist and mitigate if not eliminate the prime interest of corporate profit seeking. •

    Michael Skinner is studying international relations at York University and is a long-time activist with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

    New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed a civil suit Tuesday in the state’s Supreme Court charging the giant accounting firm Ernst & Young with complicity in massive fraud committed by Lehman Brothers in the months leading up to the investment bank’s September 2008 collapse.

    In a statement, Cuomo said that Lehman used an accounting gimmick that “was a house of cards business model designed to hide billions in liabilities in the years before Lehman collapsed.” He continued, “Just as troubling, a global accounting firm, tasked with auditing Lehman’s financial statements, helped hide this crucial information from the investing public.”

    The lawsuit charges that Ernst & Young was aware of the transactions and sanctioned them. It also asserts that the accounting firm failed to object when Lehman misled analysts about its debt levels during its earnings calls.

    Lehman used the accounting sleight of hand to temporarily “park tens of billions of dollars” with European banks just before it had to issue quarterly financial reports. It did this in order to reduce debt on its balance sheet and give investors a “false” impression of its financial health, the lawsuit alleges.

    The bankruptcy filing of Lehman, a long-time Wall Street fixture, triggered the crash of US and global credit markets, which in turn ushered in the deepest recession since the 1930s. More than two years later, no federal regulator or agency has filed charges against Lehman, its executives or its auditing firm Ernst & Young. The suit filed Tuesday by Cuomo, who will become governor of New York next month, is the first significant legal action arising from Lehman’s collapse.

    Cuomo’s action, however, is civil, not criminal. And it fails to name former Lehman CEO Richard Fuld or any other top Lehman executive. It asks that Ernst & Young be required to pay the state of New York $150 million, the amount the accounting firm earned while serving as Lehman’s auditor between 2001 and Lehman’s failure in 2008. The suit also seeks damages and other monies from Ernst & Young.

    The task of conducting the case will be turned over to Cuomo’s successor as attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman. Ernst & Young is one of the “Big Four” US accounting firms. It audits, among other major companies, Coca-Cola and Google.

    Ernst & Young issued a statement Tuesday denying the charges and saying it would vigorously contest them. However, it is widely expected that a settlement will be reached between it and the state of New York in which the company will pay a fine and avoid a court case that would undoubtedly expose embarrassing facts about its actions and those of Lehman.

    The New York suit comes more than nine months after the court-appointed examiner of Lehman’s bankruptcy, Anton Valukas, issued a 2,200-page report documenting Lehman’s systematic efforts to manipulate its balance sheet in order to deceive investors and the public about its staggering and unsustainable levels of debt. The March 11 document concluded that Lehman issued financial statements that were “materially misleading” and that its top executives engaged in “actionable balance sheet manipulation.”

    According to the examiner’s report, Lehman specialized in vastly overvaluing its mortgage-backed securities and manipulating its books to produce end-of-quarter financial reports that concealed its true level of indebtedness. The bank’s major accounting gimmick was known internally as “Repo 105.”

    Repos, short for repurchasing agreements, are a standard practice on Wall Street. To obtain short-term cash to fund operations, a bank will borrow from another bank, giving that bank some of its assets with the stipulation that it will buy back the assets within a set number of days.

    For accounting purposes, such transactions are recorded as financings, not sales, and the assets that are shifted, often overnight, remain on the balance sheet of the bank doing the borrowing. Lehman, however, valued its repo assets at 105 percent or more of the cash it received, and on that basis recorded its “Repo 105s” as sales―moving bad debts off of its balance sheet just long enough to doctor its quarterly financial reports.

    According to the examiner, Lehman by such means shed $39 billion from its balance sheet at the end of the fourth quarter of 2007, $49 billion in the first quarter of 2008, and $50 billion in the second quarter.

    The accounting scam was so smelly that Lehman was unable to find a US law firm that would sign off on its legality. In the end, it retained a British firm that sanctioned the maneuver as legitimate under British law. Lehman had to conduct its “Repo 105” operations through its London-based branch and shift funds from the US to Europe to carry out the deals.

    Valukas asserted that CEO Richard Fuld and three chief financial officers knew of and approved the shady transactions, and that Ernst & Young covered up for the executives. The examiner concluded that the four executives breached their “fiduciary duty” to Lehman’s shareholders and board of directors, and added that there was “sufficient evidence” to support a legal claim that Fuld was “at least grossly negligent.”

    The examiner’s report further detailed the role of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in allowing Lehman to exchange worthless securities for public funds from March of 2008, when Bear Stearns collapsed and was taken over by JPMorgan Chase in a deal subsidized by the Fed, to September of that year, when Lehman filed for bankruptcy protection. The president of the New York Fed at the time was Timothy Geithner. Obama rewarded Geithner for his services as chief bagman for Wall Street by making him his treasury secretary.

    Neither Fuld, whose compensation for 2007 totaled $22 million, nor any other Lehman executive has been prosecuted for their crimes. Nor has any other top executive on Wall Street.

    Both the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Justice Department have announced investigations into the Lehman collapse, but neither has utilized the wealth of incriminating evidence contained in Valukas’ report to indict either Lehman or Ernst & Young or prosecute any of the executives involved.

    Since the examiner’s report, Bank of America and Citigroup have acknowledged falsely classifying billions of dollars in repo transactions as sales rather than financings, akin to Lehman’s Repo 105s. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday: “Many banks have engaged in window dressing on a broader scale—systematically reducing their debt before reporting financial results. The practice isn’t illegal, though intentionally masking debt to deceive investors violates guidelines set by regulators…

    “In a speech this month, SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said ‘misleading window dressing in quarterly reports’ was one factor that has fostered investor skepticism. But the SEC said it hasn’t found any widespread inappropriate practices in companies’ repo accounting. It hasn’t taken any public action against any companies over the issue beyond requiring more disclosure.”

    In other words, Lehman’s fraudulent methods were, and remain, pervasive on Wall Street and the actual role of federal regulators is to cover them up and tacitly condone them.

    The Journal quoted William K. Black, a bank regulator during the 1990s savings-and-loan crisis who now teaches at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, as saying, “They haven’t taken any significant action in pretty much forever. It’s the usual problem of what you do with a ubiquitous practice.”

    All of the major banks employed—and continue to employ—intricate accounting schemes to shift their losses off of their balance sheets. They precipitated the financial crisis by making billions repackaging what they knew to be dubious sub-prime home loans and selling them as “collateralized debt obligations.”

    Lehman’s practices have been partially exposed only because it was the weakest of the big Wall Street firms and was forced into bankruptcy, in part because its bigger rivals, smelling blood, took aggressive actions to push their struggling rival over the edge. The bigger firms—Citigroup, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, American International Group (AIG)—were deemed “too big to fail” and made the beneficiaries of hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout funds.

    As a Financial Times columnist noted Wednesday: “But then comes the question: what about other banks and auditors that used similar tricks? Citigroup and Deutsche Bank (audited by KPMG) and Bank of America (audited by PwC) all used Repo 105-style transactions, albeit in lower quantities than Lehman. The fact these banks did not explode will probably see them, and their auditors, avoid legal problems. These auditors should be relieved that Citi and BofA were both too big to fail and so received bailouts from Uncle Sam.”

    Guantanamo Closure Recedes Into Distance

    December 25th, 2010 by Jim Lobe

    Washington – President Barack Obama’s hopes of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility appear as far from being realised as ever in the wake of new legislation approved by Congress this week.

    Wednesday’s approval by the Senate of an amendment banning the use of Pentagon funds for 2011 to transfer detainees at Guantanamo, the U.S. naval base on Cuba, to the United States or its territories appears to guarantee that the facility will remain open for business at least through next September.

    The House of Representatives, which passed a similar provision last week, is expected to quickly approve the Senate version.

    Despite the administration’s objections, the amendment is unlikely to be vetoed by Obama. It was strongly denounced by human rights groups that have campaigned for Guantanamo’s closure since it first began receiving detainees allegedly captured in what became the George W. Bush administration’s “global war on terror” in 2002.

    At its height, it held more than 700 terrorist suspects. The facility currently holds 174 prisoners of whom 90 – most of them Yemenis – have reportedly been cleared for repatriation, and 36 are due to be prosecuted in federal courts, although, with the Senate action, that plan may now be in jeopardy.

    The remaining 48 are being held indefinitely without trial because evidence of their past ties to terrorist groups is unlikely to be admissible in a court – in some cases, due to its acquisition by torture – and because the government believes that they would return to such activities if they were released.

    “Today’s vote will only serve to further erode the U.S. government’s human rights record and hamper the administration’s ability to bring terrorism suspects to justice,” said Vienna Colucci, a senior policy advisor at the U.S. section of Amnesty International (AIUSA) shortly after the Senate attached the amendment to the 2011 defence authorisation bill.

    “This law will also effectively prevent the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, prolonging a human rights scandal whose closure national security and foreign policy experts agree is essential to improve U.S. counter-terrorism efforts and mend the international standing of the United States,” she added.

    Human Rights Watch (HRW) also assailed the bill, noting that it will effectively prevent detainees, such as alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, from being tried in civilian courts has said he intends to do.

    Calling the Senate’s action a “reckless and irresponsible affront to the rule of law”, Tom Malinowski, the head of HRW’s Washington office charged that “Congress has denied the president the only legally sustainable and globally legitimate means to incarcerate terrorists.”

    The amendment’s attachment to the defence bill – which authorises the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars by the Pentagon next year – comes on the heels of a report by the investigative group Pro Publica and the Washington Post that the administration is drafting an executive order that would set up a system to periodically review the cases of Guantanamo prisoners under indefinite detention without trial.

    Unlike the Bush administration’s military-run “annual review boards” – the now-defunct mechanism used to assess whether such detainees could be safely repatriated – the draft plan reportedly would establish review panels whose members would be drawn from a number of different government agencies.

    In addition, detainees would be represented by attorneys and gain greater access to the evidence compiled by the government against them than was the case under Bush’s review boards, which were denounced by human rights and civil liberties groups as flagrant violations of elemental due process.

    While praising some of the proposed changes, some of those same groups have expressed serious reservations about the reported plan.

    Noting that an executive order, which can easily be modified or lifted, was preferable to a law enacted by Congress, Elisa Massimino, the director of Human Rights First said any preventive detention regime – whether administrative or legislative – “pose(s) a serious threat to fundamental rights and are no substitute for criminal justice”.

    “Reliance on indefinite detention as a path of least resistance is part of how we ended up in the Guantanamo mess in the first place,” she said.

    “Where credible evidence exists against Guantanamo detainees, they should be charged and prosecuted under our criminal justice system,” added Laura Murphy, director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She noted that federal courts have successfully completed hundreds of trials of suspected terrorists over the past decade.

    During his press conference Wednesday, Obama himself stressed that he still hoped to close Guantanamo, calling it “probably the number one recruitment tool” used by al Qaeda and other “jihadist organisations”.

    “One of the toughest problems is what to do with people that we know are dangerous, that …have engaged in terrorist activity, are proclaimed enemies of the United States, but because of the manner in which they were originally captured, the circumstances right after 9/11 in which they (were) interrogated, it becomes difficult to try them whether in an Article III court or in a military commission,” he went on, adding, “Releasing them at this stage could potentially create greater danger for the American people.”

    “The bottom line is that striking this balance between our security and making sure that we are consistent with our values and our Constitution is not an easy task, but ultimately that’s what’s required for practical reasons,” he said.

    The result, according to Adam Serwer, writing on a Washington Post blog, “is basically what we’ve come to expect from the Obama administration on security and civil liberties. Having promised to reverse the trajectory of Bush-era national security policies, Obama has settled on making them marginally more lawful and humane.”

    “It’s not nothing, but it’s not what Obama promised,” he added.

    Meanwhile, however, the Senate action prompted much greater concern among rights groups because it appears to rule out both Guantanamo’s closure over the next year and the possibility that detainees held there will be tried in the federal courts.

    That leaves the much-criticised, error-plagued military commissions, which have successfully prosecuted only five cases in the last eight years, as the only tribunal where detainees can be tried.

    Attorney General Eric Holder had strongly opposed the amendment, arguing in a statement released earlier this month that it would “tak(e) away one of our most potent weapons in the fight against terrorism”.

    In addition to banning the transfer onto U.S. territory of any Guantanamo detainees, the amendment forbids the government from transferring them to another country unless the defence secretary certifies that such a transfer will not jeopardise U.S. security.

    Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.lobelog.com.
     

    Today, December 27, marks the second anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s brutal offensive against the Gaza Strip. In 22 days of relentless air and land attacks, more than 1400 Gazans, mostly civilians, were killed in what the United Nations ‘Goldstone Report’ described as war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

    Two years later, the perpetrator – Israel – remains unpunished. Two years later, Gaza remains  in ruins, largely due to the reluctance of the international community to stand up to the bully, and deliver the materials necessary for Gaza’s reconstruction.

    For all of their resources, and all of their moral authority the United nations and numerous other international humanitarian organizations have failed to deliver more than rhetoric, leaving it to the ordinary citizens of the world, in the form of humanitarian aid convoys, to break the blockade of Gaza and deliver essential medicines, educational resources and equipment to its suffering population.  This is a fraction of what they need – water and sewage treatment systems, cement and building materials to repair and rebuild homes, hospitals, schools and public buildings, energy to generate electricity, even just flour to make bread are all desperately required – and blocked by Israel.

    The international community meekly accepts the dictates of this rogue state, and its imposition of an illegal, immoral and inhuman blockade. They observe it, act in complicity with it, and fail to defy it by establishing an aid corridor through Egypt or directly by sea into Gaza, to deliver the materials they themselves require to fulfill their own independent and impartial functions and mandates as humanitarian assistance providers.

    Meanwhile, yet another civilian aid convoy is arriving in Gaza – this time from Asia. Another group of world citizens disgusted with their governments’, their NGOs’ and international organizations’ miserable failure to alleviate the suffering and reconstruct any semblance of normality in Gaza, another group of world citizens expressing their support for and solidarity with the victims of Israel’s rampant expansionism and cruel disregard for international law, let alone minimum standards of human decency. Another group of world citizens showing their courage and doing the job their governments, their international bodies, their humanitarian relief agencies should be doing, but aren’t.

    The illegal blockade must be lifted immediately – or be defied by all, including the UN and other international organizations, such that essential assistance is delivered to Gaza, immediately.

    Israel must be held accountable for its war crimes. As Israeli tanks mobilize along the Gaza border and air-strikes and land incursions increase, suggesting another major offensive is imminent, we should remember what happened two years ago today – and do our best to make sure it does not happen again.  

    These stories from Gazan youth demand no less.

    Julie Webb-Pullman is a New Zealand based freelance writer who has reported for Scoop since 2003. She was selected to be part of the Kiwi contingent on the Viva Palestina Convoy – a.k.a. Kia Ora Gaza. Mohammed Rabah Suliman, Rawan Nasser Yaghi, and Sarah Ali are young Gazans who survived the Israeli offensive ‘Operation Cast Lead’, and have survived the blockade – so far.

    Moscow: Unilateral missile defence will wreck START

    December 25th, 2010 by Global Research

    A unilateral American missile defence system in Europe would prompt this country to invoke clauses in the latest START that allow it to opt out of this arms reduction agreement.

    Foreign Minister Lavrov re-iterated this warning in an appearance in the Lower House of Parliament Friday ahead of a vote to ratify START.

    2011: U.S. And NATO To Extend And Expand Afghan War

    December 25th, 2010 by Rick Rozoff

    The war being waged by the United States and the Western military alliance it controls, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is well into its tenth year and is already the longest war in the history of the U.S., Afghanistan and NATO alike. In fact it is NATO’s first ground war and its first armed conflict in Asia.

    It has now graduated into a broader war, having engulfed neighboring Pakistan with a population of 170 million and a nuclear arsenal.

    The U.S. has suffered reverses in the past week and half with the death of Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke on December 13 and the recall of the Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Pakistan, Jonathan Banks, on December 16, the day the White House issued its annual policy review on the protracted and increasingly deadly war in Afghanistan.

    As of December 23, American and NATO military fatalities for this year are at 705, almost a third of the total 2,275 killed since the war was launched on October 7, 2001.

    The Afghan National Army created from scratch by the Pentagon and NATO acknowledged this month that it has lost 806 soldiers so far this year, an increase of 25 percent over 2009.

    Earlier this month a report by the United Nations General Assembly documented that Afghan civilian casualties had risen by 20 percent in the first ten months of this year over all of last to a total of 5,480 killed and wounded.

    In the past few days Western military forces have intensified lethal air strikes against Afghan civilians and troops, killing four Afghan soldiers in the south of the country in an air attack in the middle of the month, killing a civilian and wounding two children in another air strike in Helmand province during the same time period, and most recently killing a policeman and the brother of a legislator in a helicopter attack in northern Afghanistan on December 23.

    The day before the last incident an Afghan provincial governor called on the North Atlantic military bloc “to pay attention to civilian casualities during operations and prevent civilian casualities. ” [1] The two deaths on the following day indicate that such appeals fall on deaf ears.

    On the other side of the Afghan-Pakistani border, on December 16 three U.S. missile attacks killed an estimated 54 people in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, all identified as “militants” in the Western press. The overwhelming majority of deadly CIA-directed drone attacks have occurred in North Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa signals the expansion of the war deeper into the country – “a possible expansion of the CIA-led covert campaign of drone strikes inside Pakistani territory” [2] – as does a recent NATO helicopter gunship raid into Balochistan province.

    Days later NATO oil tankers came under rocket attack in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and “The Pakistan-Afghanista n highway was temporarily blocked and NATO supplies suspended following the attack.” [3]

    As in Afghanistan, the killing has increased substantially this year.

    In the past year there have been at least 115 U.S. drone attacks in the tribal areas, more than double the amount in 2009, which itself represented a dramatic increase over previous years. In 2009 and 2010 there have been approximately 170 missile strikes in North and South Waziristan, a 300 percent increase over the last four years of the George W. Bush administration. The cumulative death toll is in the neighborhood of 2,000, with close to half of those deaths occurring this year.

    The CIA’s Jonathan Banks was whisked home from Pakistan after his identity was revealed in a legal action initiated by surviving victims of the drone attacks and their families. The suit also named CIA Director Leon Panetta and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

    Nothing daunted, the special assistant to the commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations stated that the current demand for more drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) is “insatiable. “

    “It’s like crack, and everyone wants more,” Brigadier General Kevin Mangum recently announced. [4]

    The U.S. is pressuring the Pakistani government to launch a military operation in North Waziristan in tandem with the marked escalation of drone attacks there, something paralleling the Pakistani army offensive in the Swat Valley in May of last year that led to the displacement of three million civilians.

    In addition, the Pentagon has recently announced that U.S. and NATO forces will be stationed at a military base in the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province. [5]

    Washington is now pushing to expand special forces operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas, supplementing CIA drone strikes and NATO helicopter attacks in the region.

    Until now, “The main role in a secret war on Pakistan territory has belonged to the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA has operated armed drones to hunt down insurgent leaders and also organized a number of secret missions carried out by Afghan operatives, known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams.”

    The introduction of American ground forces – in the words of an American official, “We’ve never been as close as we are now to getting the go-ahead to go across” – would “open a new front in the war that is becoming more and more unpopular in America.

    “It also could ruin relations with…Pakistan, especially considering the risk of civilian casualties.” [6]

    However, civilian deaths on both sides of the Khyber Pass and the destabilization of nuclear Pakistan are matters of small importance to American and NATO geostrategists, who nurture grand designs for Central and South Asia.

    A recent Chinese analysis put the matter this way:

    “Though it started long ago, the game is still on. There are only more players with more pieces moving and moved on a bigger board, all for a newer rendition of the Great Game.

    “Whichever way people prefer to describe the game – geostrategy or geopolitics – there has been a center-piece: interest in a geography that is important to world powers, past and present; that is, in whatever way these powers deem it as important.

    “Sitting at one end of the board is the same old player, known as the Russian Empire, while at the other end now is an alliance orchestrated not any more by the British Empire but rather by the Americans and the military coalition they dominate, known as NATO.” [7]

    Indian analyst and former diplomat M. K. Bhadrakumar stated in a recent article entitled “NATO weaves South Asian web” that after its summit in Lisbon, Portugal last month NATO “is well on the way to transforming into a global political-military role” and “is by far today the most powerful military and political alliance in the world.”

    Speaking about long-term U.S. and NATO strategy in Asia, he added:

    “It is within the realm of possibility that NATO would at a future date deploy components of the US missile defense system in Afghanistan. Ostensibly directed against nearby ‘rogue states’, the missile defense system will challenge the Chinese strategic capability.” [8]

    Regarding the long-planned agreement on constructing a Turkmenistan- Afghanistan- Pakistan- India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline concluded earlier this month [9], the author said:

    “TAPI is the finished product of the US invasion of Afghanistan. It consolidates NATO’s political and military presence in the strategic high plateau that overlooks Russia, Iran, India, Pakistan and China. TAPI provides a perfect setting for the alliance’s future projection of military power for ‘crisis management’ in Central Asia.

    “The pipeline signifies a breakthrough in the longstanding Western efforts to access the fabulous mineral wealth of the Caspian and Central Asian region. Washington has been the patron saint of the TAPI concept since the early 1990s when the Taliban was conceived as its Afghan charioteer. The concept became moribund when the Taliban regime was driven out of power from Kabul.

    “Now the wheel has come full circle with the project’s incremental resuscitation since 2005, running parallel with the Taliban’s fantastic return to the Afghan chessboard. TAPI’s proposed commissioning coincides with the 2014 timeline for ending the NATO ‘combat mission’ in Afghanistan. The US ‘surge’ is concentrating on Helmand and Kandahar provinces through which the TAPI pipeline will eventually run. What an amazing string of coincidences! ” [10]

    Last week NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen affirmed that “as the long-term partnership that President Karzai and I signed at Lisbon demonstrates, our commitment to Afghanistan will continue well beyond 2014.” [11]

    On December 22 U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry confirmed that the Pentagon “will retain a ‘sizable mission’ in Afghanistan beyond 2014″ and that a troop withdrawal, if it ever occurs, would be “conditions- based; not calendar-based. ” American troops “could also stay on to carry out counter-terrorism operations,” added the retired general and former deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee. [12]

    In a recent interview, American analyst Gareth Porter asserted that NATO troops are killing and dying in Afghanistan “because bureaucrats in Brussels, in the NATO headquarters, wanted more responsibility, [they] wanted a job for NATO to be able to take on in order to justify the continued existence of that organization. ” [13]

    The U.S. and NATO require and are exploiting the endless war in Afghanistan and Pakistan for more reasons than simply to justify the continued existence, even the global expansion, of the world’s only military bloc.

    As Bhadrakumar has pointed out, far more is at stake: The military encirclement of Russia, China and Iran and control of Eurasia’s strategic energy resources.

    1) Associated Press, December 22, 2010
    2) Associated Press, December 17, 2010
    3) Xinhua News Agency, December 20, 2010
    4) U.S. Army: ‘Insatiable Demand’ for UAVs in War Zone
    Defense News, December 16, 2010
    5) Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan
    November 2010
    http://www.defense. gov/pubs/ November_ 1230_Report_ FINAL.pdf
    6) US plans to expand raids in Pakistan
    Voice of Russia, December 21, 2010
    http://english. ruvr.ru/2010/ 12/21/37384229. html
    7) Gaochao Yi, More players and more pieces in the New Great Game
    Xinhua News Agency, December 19, 2010
    http://news. xinhuanet. com/english2010/ indepth/2010- 12/19/c_13655299 .htm
    8) Asia Times, December 23, 2010
    http://www.atimes. com/atimes/ South_Asia/ LL23Df05. html
    9) NATO Trains Afghan Army To Guard Asian Pipeline
    Stop NATO, December 19, 2010
    http://rickrozoff. wordpress. com/2010/ 12/19/nato- trains-afghan- army-to-guard- asian-pipeline
    10) Asia Times, December 23, 2010
    11) North Atlantic Treaty Organization, December 16, 2010
    12) Pajhwok Afghan News, December 23, 2010
    http://www.pajhwok. com/en/2010/ 12/23/eikenberry -sees-continued- role-us-beyond- 2014
    13) US-led Afghan war serves NATO’s existence
    Press TV, December 20, 2010
    http://www.presstv. ir/detail/ 156276.html

    The 2010 Mideast People of the Year:The Oppressed.

    December 24th, 2010 by Rannie Amiri

    The 2010 Middle East People of the Year are:

    The Palestinians in Gaza, desperate to let the world know that nearly two years after the end of the 2008-2009 war, the cruel embargo on the territory persists; the siege by air, land and sea continues; and the impoverished population is still held captive in their land.

    The Bahraini Shia, the island’s indigent and marginalized majority, ruled by the wealthy Sunni al-Khalifa royal family who routinely orders an imported security service to round up and torture democracy and human rights advocates. Excluded from government, the public sector and law enforcement by overt sectarian discrimination, they have risked life and limb to protest their disenfranchised state.

    The Egyptians, who have suffocated under a repressive U.S.-backed regime that has governed by Emergency Law for 30 years and stifled the freedom of expression, assembly and press. The inability to replace their parliamentary representatives by a fair ballot this year makes voting a cruel reminder that the “status quo” is the only candidate ever up for election.

    The Iraqis, who endured seven years of occupation and a few daily hours of electricity under a blistering summer sun as unrelenting as the explosions, bombings and suicide attacks that wracked cities and killed thousands. The simple will to stroll on neighborhood streets, take a trip to the market, drop the children off at school or attend Friday prayers are testaments to bravery that should put Iraqi politicians only interested in retaining power to shame.

    The Saudi Ismaili, Shia and Sufi Muslims, harassed, arrested and jailed for practicing their religion or demanding the right to do so. The doors of their mosques have been sealed shut by the Interior Ministry as has the potential for civic and socioeconomic advancement. They are the “apostates” denied basic dignities enjoyed by other citizens.

    The Yemenis of Saada governorate, who became the malnourished “internally displaced” refugees caught in the country’s long civil war. Pummeled by Saudi airstrikes to the north and shelled by Yemen ’s army from the south, they suffered famine and destruction in a humanitarian catastrophe ignored by the world.

    The 2010 Mideast People of the Year? The Oppressed.

    Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator.

     

    2011: Prospects for Humanity?

    December 24th, 2010 by Francis Boyle

    During the 1950s I grew up in a family who rooted for the success of African Americans in their just struggle for civil rights and full legal equality.  Then in 1962 it was the terror of my own personal imminent nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis that first sparked my interest in studying international relations and U.S. foreign policy as a young boy of 12:  “I can do a better job than this!”  

    With the escalation of the Vietnam War in 1964 and the military draft staring me right in the face, I undertook a detailed examination of it.  Eventually I concluded that unlike World War II when my Father had fought and defeated the Japanese Imperial Army as a young Marine in the Pacific, this new war was illegal, immoral, unethical, and the United States was bound to lose it.  America was just picking up where France had left off at Dien Bien Phu.  So I resolved to do what little I could to oppose the Vietnam War. 

    In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson gratuitously invaded the Dominican Republic, which prompted me to commence a detailed examination of U.S. military interventions into Latin America from the Spanish-American War of 1898 up to President Franklin Roosevelt’s so-called “good neighbor” policy.  At the end of this study, I concluded that the Vietnam War was not episodic, but rather systemic: Aggression, warfare, bloodshed, and violence were just the way the United States Power Elite had historically conducted their business around the world.  Hence, as I saw it as a young man of 17, there would be more Vietnams in the future and perhaps someday I could do something about it as well as about promoting civil rights for African Americans. These twins concerns of my youth would gradually ripen into a career devoted to international law and human rights.

    So I commenced my formal study of International Relations with the late, great Hans Morgenthau in the first week of January 1970 as a 19 year old college sophomore at the University of Chicago by taking his basic introductory course on that subject.  At the time, Morgenthau was leading the academic forces of opposition to the detested Vietnam War, which is precisely why I chose to study with him.  During ten years of higher education at the University of Chicago and Harvard, I refused to study with openly pro-Vietnam-War professors as a matter of principle and also on the quite pragmatic ground that they had nothing to teach me.   

    In the summer of 1975, it was Morgenthau who emphatically encouraged me to become a professor instead of doing some other promising things with my life:  “If Morgenthau thinks I should become a professor, then I will become a professor!”  After almost a decade of working personally with him, Morgenthau provided me with enough inspiration, guidance, and knowledge to last now almost half a lifetime.   

    Historically, this latest eruption of American militarism at the start of the 21st Century is akin to that of America opening the 20th Century by means of the U.S.-instigated Spanish-American War in 1898.  Then the Republican administration of President  William McKinley stole their colonial empire from Spain in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; inflicted a near genocidal war against the Filipino people; while at the same time illegally annexing the Kingdom of Hawaii and subjecting the Native Hawaiian people (who call themselves the Kanaka Maoli) to near genocidal conditions.  Additionally, McKinley’s military and colonial expansion into the Pacific was also designed to secure America’s economic exploitation of China pursuant to the euphemistic rubric of the “open door” policy.   But over the next four decades America’s aggressive presence, policies, and practices in the “Pacific” would ineluctably pave the way for Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 194l, and thus America’s precipitation into the ongoing Second World War.    Today a century later the serial imperial aggressions launched and menaced by the Republican Bush Jr. administration and now the Democratic Obama administration  are  threatening to set off World War III.   

    By shamelessly exploiting the terrible tragedy of 11 September 2001, the Bush Jr. administration set forth to steal a hydrocarbon empire from the Muslim states and peoples living in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf under the bogus pretexts of (1) fighting a war against international terrorism; and/or (2) eliminating weapons of mass destruction; and/or (3) the promotion of democracy; and/or (4) self-styled “humanitarian intervention.”  Only this time the geopolitical stakes are infinitely greater than they were a century ago:  control and domination of two-thirds of the world’s hydrocarbon resources and thus the very fundament and energizer of the global economic system – oil and gas.  The Bush Jr./ Obama  administrations  have  already targeted the remaining hydrocarbon reserves of Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia for further conquest or domination, together with the strategic choke-points at sea and on land required for their transportation.  In this regard, the Bush Jr. administration  announced the establishment of the U.S. Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) in order to better control, dominate, and exploit both the natural resources and the variegated peoples of the continent of Africa, the very cradle of our human species.           

    This current bout of U.S. imperialism is what Hans Morgenthau denominated “unlimited imperialism” in his seminal work Politics Among Nations (4th ed. 1968, at 52-53) 

    The outstanding historic examples of unlimited imperialism are the expansionist policies of Alexander the Great, Rome, the Arabs in the seventh and eighth centuries, Napoleon I, and Hitler. They all have in common an urge toward expansion which knows no rational limits, feeds on its own successes and, if not stopped by a superior force, will go on to the confines of the political world. This urge will not be satisfied so long as there remains anywhere a possible object of domination–a politically organized group of men which by its very independence challenges the conqueror’s lust for power. It is, as we shall see, exactly the lack of moderation, the aspiration to conquer all that lends itself to conquest, characteristic of unlimited imperialism, which in the past has been the undoing of the imperialistic policies of this kind….  

    On 10 November 1979 I visited with Hans Morgenthau at his home in Manhattan. It proved to be our last conversation before he died on 19 July 1980.  Given his weakened physical but not mental condition and his serious heart problem, at the end of our necessarily abbreviated one-hour meeting I purposefully asked him what he thought about the future of international relations. This revered scholar, whom international relations experts generally consider to be the founder of modern international political science in the post World War II era, responded:

     Future, what future? I am extremely pessimistic. In my opinion the world is moving ineluctably towards a third world war—a strategic nuclear war. I do not believe that anything can be done to prevent it. The international system is simply too unstable to survive for long. The SALT II Treaty is important for the present, but over the long haul it cannot stop the momentum. Fortunately, I do not believe that I will live to see that day. But I am afraid you might.

     The factual circumstances surrounding the outbreaks of both the First World War and the Second World War currently hover like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of all humanity.  It is imperative that we undertake a committed and concerted effort to head-off Hans Morgenthau’s final prediction on the cataclysmic demise of the human race. 

    On the 19th of December Alexander Lukashenko secured a fourth term as president of Belarus with an overwhelming majority of the votes. Decried as ‘Europe’s last dictator’ by the international corporate media, the last 16 years of Lukashenko’s presidency have seen rising salaries, full employment and rising living standards. Lukashenko’s popularity in Belarus is beyond question.

    After the Belarus election, TNS Global Market Research, the world’s second largest research company, whose headquarters are in London, published its statistics on the Belarusian exit polls.

    Dr.Nicolai Churilov, a social scientist from TNS told the ONT TV channel in Belarus:

    “We have interviewed more than 11 thousand people, and now we are ready to provide the final data. At first, Alexander Lukashenko – 74,2%, the second – and Nyaklyaeu Sannikov (5,8%), the third – Romanchuk (3, 1%). More significantly behind are Tereshchenko, Rymashevsky, Statkevich, Kostusev and Mikhalevich  and Uss “-  according to Dr. Churilov 5.6% of the population  voted against all candidates.” [1]

    TNS Global Research has clients all over the world including the United States and Europe and it is highly unlikely that they would risk their reputation by publishing inaccurate information in order to prop up the democratic image of a country shunned by the ‘international community’.

    The Belarusian elections were observed by representatives from the Commonwealth of Independent States( CIS )as well as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The CIS delegates gave the election a clean bill of health stating that there was no evidence of rigging or fraudulent vote-counting.

    This positive assessment of the elections was also echoed by some OSCE observers as well as many independent observers from around the world.
    The chief adviser of the Association of Turkish businessmen and manufacturers, former vice-president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and former Minister of Trade and Industry in Turkey Tahir Kessy told Belarusian reporters :”I hope that the OSCE recognizes (as well as I do now) that these elections fully comply with its standards…what I saw on the sites – a free vote and a fair election. Elections in Belarus are just fine.” [2]

    This view was shared by an independent German observer Frank Musser who said:

    “early voting in Belarus was held at a high level  in an open and friendly atmosphere. I visited 22 polling stations, as a former police chief I can say that they were all thoroughly checked”[3]

    Other observers who approved of the electoral conduct were Italian member of parliament Andrea Rigoni and OSCE/ODIHR  (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human rights)observer  David Byrne Heysel   who said “Among those polling stations we visited, many are in rural areas. We liked the fact that no matter where the voting booths were, and despite the snowfall, there was free access with cleared motorways, including in the villages. There was a very friendly atmosphere at the sites themselves with many welcoming and smiling people” [4]

    Former Lithuanian Prime minister Casimir Prunskiene told Belarusian reporters :

    “It’s important for people that the economy of Belarus is stable right now, despite the economic crisis. Now they have not only preserved the achievements of Belarus, but also magnified them. This encourages people to make the appropriate choice for the preservation of stability” [5]

    Indeed, by Sunday evening everything seemed to be going in Lukashenko’s favour. He had won another landslide victory. For once, the CIS and the OSCE seemed to agree that the elections were fair by international standards.

    The head of the OSCE mission in Belarus, German ambassador Geert Ahrens told Belarusian media that significant progress had been made but that a positive assessment of the elections would depend on the OSCE judgement of vote counting procedure. [6]

    Ahrens’s statements were rather ambiguous. On the one hand, progress had been made while on the other, the OSCE was not yet prepared to approve the result.

    However, some irregularities were registered by the Electoral Commission during the voting. One of the presidential candidates tried to bribe the chairman of the electoral commission with 50,000 US dollars. Intimidation and harassment of women by opposition voters was also noted. [7]

    Matters came to a head, however, when minibuses of rioters arrived on the streets of Minsk to contest the election results.                           

    Riots by ‘human rights’ protesters and ‘civil society’ activists

    Immediately after the elections on Sunday evening December 19th around three thousand protestors stormed the October Square in the Belarusian capital, waving the flags of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

    These flags are particularly offensive to most people in Belarus as they were the flags used by the Nazi collaborators during the Second World War. Belarus suffered more atrocities committed by the Nazis than any other country during World War II.

    When law enforcement officers stopped a minibus of protesters, thugs attacked the police leaving one officer with serious head injuries. At least three police officers were hospitalised. Police found gas cylinders, metal fittings and stun grenades. [8]

    Led by some of the defeated opposition candidates, hooligans attacked government buildings, breaking windows and doors. What the Western press would present as a ‘heavy-handed crackdown’ by the Belarusian police on ‘peaceful’ protestors, was in fact an attack on Belarusian democracy by a gang of violent putschists, mobilised by opposition candidates.

    Dr.Edmund Lengfelder is a German specialist in radiation medicine from the Otto Hug Strahleninstitut in Munich, who has been working in Belarus since the Chernobyl disaster in 1985. Lengfelder was among the OSCE delegation observing the elections. This is what he had to say about the ‘peaceful’ protestors lauded by the international media.

    “Young people armed with rods and shovels were trying to break into an administrative building. Any reasonable person would understand that it was just an attempt to start a row and challenge the election results.”

    Lengfelder strongly defended the conduct of the elections stating that he had visited 25 polling stations and had not noticed any violations. “I noticed nothing that runs counter to the law. And I am guided only by criteria and recommendations from the ODIHR/OSCE mission while monitoring the election process,” he said .Print version[9]

    Instead of showing the video footage of the opposition thugs attacking the police and the parliament buildings, the international press focused on the attempts by the police to restrain them.  But proof of the protesters violent behaviour was shown on the Russian television station Russia Today.

    Many journalists were injured in the riots, including Victor Tolochko, a photojournalist for the Belarusian First National Channel.

    The rioting on Sunday evening [ December 19th 2010], led to the arrest of over 600 people, who were detained according to article 293 of the Belarusian Criminal Code. Vladimir Nyaklyaeu, one of the defeated presidential candidates suffered severe head injuries after leading the rioters to the parliamentary buildings.

    Article 35 of the Belarusian constitution states:

    ‘The freedom to hold assemblies, rallies, street marches, demonstrations and pickets that do not disturb law and order or violate the rights of other citizens of the Republic of Belarus, shall be guaranteed by the State. The procedure for conducting the above events shall be determined by the law.’  [10]

    The rules and regulations surrounding demonstrations and rallies are no different in Belarus to other European countries. Demonstrations and rallies must be sanctioned by the authorities according to standard legal procedures. The OSCE, in backing unsanctioned rallies are effectively supporting criminal activities.  Such behaviour makes a mockery of their pretentions to being the paragons of ‘international standards’ of civil society and democracy.  

    The OSCE press release and ‘international standards’

    Shortly after the riots, the office of the OSCE published a press release in which they claimed that the election results were flawed and failed to live up to ‘international standards’.  Paragraph two refers to the arrest of hundreds of ‘civil society’ and ‘human rights’ activists as well as the detention of opposition presidential candidates.  There is no condemnation in the press release of the violence against the police and parliament buildings. [11]

    The OSCE press release mentions voting ‘irregularities’ but does not specify what exactly those irregularities were. In a private telephone conversation with this author, OSCE spokesman Hans Eschenbaecher,  was asked if he was aware of the allegations of bribing made by the electoral commission against one of the presidential candidates.  He replied “ we are not prepared to comment on allegations made by the Belarusian government.”

    Mr Eschenbaecher was also asked  if he was aware of the statements made on the riots by OSCE observer Dr. Edmund Lengfelder.   “ I was not aware of these statements but I will check with my colleagues” he said.  [12]

    According to CIS Executive Sectretary Sergei Lebedev, the majority of OSCE observers present during the Belarusian election said they were free and democratic.[13]

    After the 2001 election the head of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Gerard Stoudmann told reporters that the elections had been ‘free and open in compliance with universal democratic institutions’. [14]

    Mr Stoudmann’s comments were ignored in the official OSCE denunciation of the 2001 Belarusian election results, just as Dr. Lengfelder’s comments were ignored on the 20th of December 2010.

    In 2006, the OSCE once again condemned the election of Lukashenko as unfair and unfree, yet they could not possibly have known whether or not it was fair or free as they had refused to observe it! The violence that ensued after the 2006 elections bears an uncanny resemblance to the riotous behaviour seen on the 19th December 2010.

    After the 2006 election, the defeated opposition took to the streets in an effort to storm the parliament. One opposition candidates even called for the violent overthrow of the government and the death of President Lukashenko. The OSCE blamed the police for arresting these hooligans and the mainstream media did their utmost to blame the Belarusian authorities for their ‘crackdown’ of the ‘democratic’ opposition. [15]

    For the international corporate press agencies, unpopular opposition movements funded by the National Endowment for Democracy in the United States and the European Union are perfectly entitled to throw bottles and stones while calling for the death of a democratically elected leader.  This is the European Union’s interpretation of ‘human rights’ in countries that refuse to obey economic directives from Brussels and Washington.

    The riots that followed President Lukashenko’s landslide victory on Sunday 19th December followed a similar pattern. Ten candidates ran for the election. The campaigns of each candidate were financed by the state according to the Belarusian constitution, each candidate receiving equal funds from the state to  fincance his  electoral campaign.

    One of the opposition websites European Radio for Belarus laments the fact Belarusian candidates cannot be bought by rich businessmen as in Poland, Lithuania and Russia. The article says much about the opposition’s interpretation of ‘democracy’[16]                                                             

    Notwithstanding the equal funding of all the presidential candidates and the generous air time they received throughout the Belarusian media they all lost miserably. This is because none of the presidential candidates had anything substantial to offer. Instead of debating concrete policies, the opposition candidates spent most of their time insulting the president. None of them were able to convince the Belarusian people that free market capitalism is the greatest of all possible worlds.

    The OSCE press release also deplores the absence of ‘independent’ media in Belarus. Yet of all the CIS countries Belarus has the highest access to the internet. The government only blocks sex trafficking and extreme pornography sites as well as racist websites such as Stormfront. There is nothing unusual about such controls.

    Access to international media is free and open to all citizens.

    In 2005, there were 776 newspapers in Belarus. 555 of them were independent. Independent media outweighs state broadcasting in all media domains including TV and radio.

    Millions of US tax-payer dollars go to funding anti-Lukashenko propaganda in Belarus, through the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA front organisation that funds pro-American fifth columns all around the world.

     Many of the anti-Lukashenko publications have moved outside Belarus so as to avoid paying libel fees. Most opposition media papers have to resort to personal insults and defamation in order to demonise Lukashenko.

    Reporters Without Borders, a US backed media watchdog who are routinely hostile to governments Washington dislikes, have listed some of the opposition newspapers available in Belarus: Narodnaya Volya, Delovaya Gazeta, Zhoda, Regionalnaya Gazeta, Nasha Niva, Vetbskiy Kurier, Brestskiy Kruier, Inter-Press, Gazeta Slonimskaya, Borisovski Novosti, Dlya Vas, Volnay Hlybokaye et Myastsoviy Chas and Solidarnost.  [17]

    When one adds to these the countless anti-Lukashenko websites and radio stations and their US and EU financed journalists, it is simply absurd to claim that the Belarusian people are not capable of making an informed choice due to the hegemony of state propaganda. There is more independent media in Belarus than any other country in Europe. If dissident media in the European Union or the United States received similar amounts of funding, there would be a veritable revolution in the West!

    The problem with the ‘independent’ media in Belarus is that it is not ‘independent’.  The Belasrusian people know who’s paying the piper. The problem for the West, therefore, is the intellectual superiority of the Belarusian people. The Belarusians are simply not taking the Western  bait!

    The violent riots on Sunday 19th provided the perfect pretext for the OSCE to condemn the election results.  With a little help from the international media, they were able to manipulate world public opinion by implying that the actions of the Belarusian government after the elections somehow infringed on the oppositionists ‘human rights’. It was a brilliantly co-ordinated intelligence operation.  It was, in fact, a repeat of the attempted coup of 2006, the so-called ‘denim revolution’,one is a grand  series of colour revolutions that swept through Eastern Europe and Central Asia, planned and paid for by the Central Intelligence Agency and its Western partners.

               ‘Human rights’ in Belarus and the OSCE

    Mandated with observing elections, human rights issues, arms control and collective security, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe was set up during the Cold War to co-ordinate policies among the countries of the Northern Hemisphere. Since the election of Lukashenko in Belarus in 1994, the OSCE has taken a key interest in human rights and democracy in ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’.

    After the landslide victory of Alexander Lukashenko in 2001, the OSCE denounced the election as ‘neither free nor fair’ in spite of the fact that they had  refused to observe it! In a speech to the European parliament one month after the disputed elections French politician Paul-Marie Coûteaux said:

    “At the legislative elections which took place in Belarus on October 15, a delegation of seven MEPs visited Minsk from 13 to 17 to observe “the correct conduct of the poll”. The observation  noted the progress of democracy in this country because in all polling stations visited, the ballot appeared regular (voting booths, the presence of an opposition member in each office, election posters in entrances, etc …). Alas! The United States, who dream of overthrowing the regime of Lukashenko, deemed favourable to Russian interests, had announced 15 days ago that these elections were not democratic, in order to devise a plan that would authorize the installation of NATO bases to a few hundred kilometres from Moscow.

    That which MEPs had seen was of no importance, their delegation being incorporated into an OSCE mission headed by German Ambassador, Mr. Wieck, a former intelligence chief of the Federal Republic between 1985 and 1989, who had decided  to follow in the footsteps of  the virtuous  American denunciations … In a press conference, Mr. Wieck had a difficult time containing the anger of various international observers who had all noted the progress of democracy in Belarus, which received the backing of the author of these lines, showing that The OSCE report had been prepared in advance.  Nevertheless, the Western press only retained the condemnation of the OSCE. Note that this is the same organization that once ruled as ‘regular’ elections in Georgia where the vast majority of opposition leaders were jailed PRIOR to those elections! But this time the OSCE had decided to support Mr. Chevarnadtze ‘...”[18]                                                                              

    The OSCE officials sent to observe the elections in Belarus are nominated by Western governments. The president of the Parliament of the OSCE is currently US Congressman Alcee Hastings.  In 1989 Mr. Hastings, a US federal court judge, was convicted of corruption and perjury in the United States.  In the House of Representatives’ Hastings was accused of acts of corruption that ‘strike at the heart of our democracy’[19]

    Mr Hastings was one of congressmen who voted against the re-count of the 2000  US presidential elections. He did not have any concern about the obvious irregularities and voting fraud of the Republican campaign.

    When the Obama administration was attempting to garner support for the health reform bill earlier in 2010 Mr. Hastings made the following comment  “ When the deal goes down, all this talk about rules, we make them up as we go along.”  So, this is the man who is overseeing democratic standards, rules and regulations in Belarus! From this man’s record, we can learn all we need to know about the OSCE’s ‘international democratic standards’, they simply  make them up as they go along!

    On the possibility that the OSCE might be allowed to monitor the US elections the American neo-consevative writer Daniel Pipes comments:

    “This is a significant step toward the erosion of American sovereignty, not so much operationally (what harm can some election monitors do?) but conceptually (placing the OSCE and perhaps later other institutions over domestic safeguards). That a Republican administration is acquiescing to such a step makes it doubly worrisome.”

    Pipes goes on to point out that it is simply absurd that a convicted criminal like Alcee Hastings should be Co-Chairman of the OSCE. Pipes is outraged by the prospect of such corrupt officials monitoring American elections. He quotes the president of the American Policy Centre Tom De Weese, who writes:

    “The outrage just got more outrageous. Not only has the State Department invited a team of unaccountable, foreign bureaucrats to meddle in our free elections, but these meddlers are headed by one of the most corrupt individuals in the U.S. Congress. While they’re at it, why doesn’t the State Department invite O.J. Simpson to head up the FBI crime lab?” [20]

    The problem for Pipes is that such people could become observers of elections in America. But, of course, it is perfectly acceptable for convicted criminals to be put in charge of observing ‘democracy’ in Belarus. It is difficult to imagine the pent-up frustration of Belarusian officials who are forced to listen to lectures by criminals on ‘international standards’ of democracy.

    As mentioned above,the current head of the human rights section of the OSCE, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OIDHR) is the distinguished German diplomat Geert Ahrens.

    Ahrens previously served as German ambassador in Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

    His mission there was to head a working group on the problem of minorities and ethnic conflict. Whether he knew it or not , his own Government was one of the chief agitators of ethnic conflict in the country when the Bundesnachtrichtensdienst (German Federal Intelligence agency)  joined forces with the CIA to arm, train and finance Islamic narco-terrorists with links to Osama Bin Laden in the form of the Kosovo Liberation Army. [21]

    The purpose of the covert German backing of narco- terrorists was to finish the job Hitler had begun in 1941, namely the formation of a client-regimes in Croatia, Greater Albania and Bosnia. During the Second World War, the Nazis armed and trained the SS Skanderbeg divisions in Kosovo and Albania and the SS Handschar divisions in Bosnia and Croatia. These  Islamo-fascists were used by the Third Reich as proxy forces to fight the communists and Yugoslavian partisans. Similar methods were used during the NATO destruction of Yugoslavia. Islamic terrorists were useful to the Nazis then and are useful to NATO now.Clichés about history are painfully true. 

                     German Nazis, Belarusian fascists and the CIA

    The connections between German intelligence and the CIA go back a long time. Reinhold Gehlen, one of Hitler’s top intelligence officers, was selected by the CIA to head the post war German intelligence apparatus where he served until 1968. There are many examples of Nazis who served in the post-war  West German state and intelligence apparatus agitating for ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ and ‘human rights’ in countries where they had committed unspeakable crimes against humanity.

    The ‘human rights’  and ‘civil society’ activists are mainly composed of right-wing Russian- hating nationalists who intimidate the Belarusian people with the odious flag of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the banner used by Belarusian Nazi collaborators during World War II.

    The United States, through its CIA front organisation, the National Endowment for Democracy, allocates million of dollars every year to fund capitalist propaganda in Belarus. There are countless US funded websites in Belarus such as the anti-Lukashenko website Chapter 97, a ‘human rights’ website which supports the war in Iraq, while Radio Liberty beams pro-US propaganda into the country every day. [22] 

    Many people in Belarus recall the pro-nationalist broadcasts of Radio Liberty during the Cold War. Many of Radio Liberty’s broadcasts extolled Ukrainian and Belarussian war criminals who had collaborated with the Nazi occupation of Belarus; such as Dmitri Kasmovic, leader of the Belorusian Liberation Movement, who was responsible for the murder of thousands of communists and Jews during Operation Barbarossa. Kasmovic worked  for US intelligence  during the Cold War and had close links to Republican party circles in the United States.

    It is a great credit to President Lukashenko and the Belarusian authorities that they have treated these people with such tolerance and respect. Were these ‘civic activists’ to find themselves on the wrong side of governments the EU and the USA support such as Colombia, Rwanda,  or Kosovo,  they would face death squads.

    The CIA’s  nefarious methodologies have not changed and most people in Belarus detest their anti-human ideology of greed and war. The Belarusian people fought heroically against the fascist onslaught financed by those same international financial institutions who now pretend to speak for ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’. [23]

    Belarus has been an independent democratic state for over 16 years. What the Western intelligence agencies do not understand is that this is a country which lost millions of lives due to the savage rapacity of international capitalism in the form of the Third Reich.

    The Belarusian working class and the veterans of the Great Patriotic War vote for Lukashenko because he has refused to succumb to the hegemony of financial capitalism under the authority of the European Union. They vote for Lukashenko because salaries are rising every year, pensions are secure, there is free universal healthcare, full employment and free education. These are the concrete freedoms millions of Soviet citizens died for.  They did not give in to the fascists in the past and they will not give in now.

    Notes

    [1]http://www.bpc.by/Search/NewsDoc.asp

    [2]  http://www.bpc.by/Search/NewsDoc.asp

    [3] http://www.bpc.by/Search/NewsDoc.asp

    [4] http://www.bpc.by/Search/NewsDoc.asp

    [5] http://news.belta.by/en/news/politics?id=602192

    [6] http://www.bpc.by/Search/NewsDoc.asp

     [7] http://news.belta.by/en/news/politics?id=602192

    [8 ] http://www.bpc.by/Search/NewsDoc.asp

    [9] http://news.belta.by/en/news/politics?id=602192

     [10]http://www.law.by/work/EnglPortal.nsf/6e1a652fbefce34ac2256d910056d559/d93bc51590cf7f49c2256dc0004601db?OpenDocument

    [11] http://www.osce.org/item/48242.html

    [12]private telephone conversation with the author Monday 20th December 2010.

    [13] http://en.rian.ru/world/20101220/161854376.html

    [14] http://spiked-online.com/Articles/00000002D26F.htm

    [15] http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,189104,00.html

    [16] http://vibary.euroradio.fm/en/how/1352

    [17] http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=15187

    [18] http://www.pmcouteaux.org/cabris/cabris9.html

    [19] http://freedommag.org/english/vol2716/page28a.htm

    [20] http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2004/08/foreigners-monitor-us-elections

    [21] http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/BEH502A.html

    [22] http://www.ned.org/where-we-work/eurasia/belarus

     [23]Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler by Anthony Sutton.  Available online at http://www.reformed-theology.org/html/books/wall_street/

    Gearóid Ó Colmáin is a columnist in English and Gaelic with Metro Éireann, Ireland’s multicultural newspaper. His blog is at www.metrogael.blogspot.com . He can be contacted at [email protected].

    Economics and finance seem like complicated topics, and so many people “leave it to the experts”.

    However, these topics are actually simple, and if people hear a clear explanation, they will be able to form an opinion about our current economy and the government’s response to economic challenges.

    It will be easy to understand the economy if we think of money as water. Links showing that the analogy holds true with the economy are provided for convenience.

    Let’s imagine that there is only a limited amount of fresh, drinkable water in the U.S. (which is true), and that a handful of say 5 big water companies control the rights to 90% of the water in the country.

    Let’s further imagine that the water companies – wishing to make more money – expand beyond their traditional water business, into mining for oil and gas. Indeed, the oil and gas mining business becomes so lucrative that it soon dwarfs the size of their actual water business. They keep their traditional water business, but soon also become the largest polluters in the country.

    They dig for oil and gas right around where the aquifiers are where they pump water. Unfortunately, they are greedy and cut corners, and end up polluting all of the aquifiers with toxic crude petroleum compounds.

    The water companies loudly tell the government that this pollution was “unexpected” and simply a temporary “water-flow” problem. They jump up and down and yell that – unless the government “bails them out” by giving them more water – the entire water distribution system in the U.S. will fail, and Americans will suffer a water shortage and severe thirst.

    Advocates for the American people argue that the big water companies should be forced to clean up the aquifiers. They point out that we will have a drastic water shortage unless these water supplies – which constitute the lion’s share of fresh water in the U.S. – are cleaned, and that the water companies must be forced to stop mining for oil and gas right next to the water supplies so that it won’t happen again. They also demand that the government distribute the water in its emergency strategic water supply directly to the people, as that will directly address the problem of thirst and water scarcity.

    They point out that drilling for oil is a wholly-separate business from pumping and selling drinking water, and demand that the water companies sell their petrol business.

    They point out that if the costs of cleaning up the aquifier are honestly tallied, the water companies are bankrupt. They say this the problem is not a “temporary” water shortage, but that the big water companies are actually insolvent, and that their entire business model is flawed.

    And they note that the big water companies are not as efficient at extracting water from aquifiers as smaller water companies, but that the big companies are getting so big that they re driving the smaller companies out of business.

    The big water companies respond that they’re “too big to fail”, that they’re doing fine and only experiencing a very temporary “liquidity crisis” shortage of water, that they just need a little temporary help to get the water flowing to America again, and that they’ll drill safely for oil and gas and that so new rules are needed.

    The White House and Congress (having received a lot of contributions from the big water companies), and the Federal Water Reserve – a quasi-governmental agency owned entirely by the big 5 water companies – decide not to crack down on the big 5 water companies. Instead, they exempt them from pollution laws by relaxing reporting requirements so that the companies don’t have to report how much oil and gas pollution has really gotten into the aquifiers. Indeed, the government let’s the big companies write the rules for a series of highly-publicized “stress tests” which are simply a P.R. ploy to reassure the public that the water is safe and the companies sound, even though neither is true.

    The government and Federal Water Reserve also buy all of the polluted water in the aquifiers at 100% of the normal price for clean water (and used it for security for cheap loans to the big water companies), and that water is stockpiled in the bowels of the Federal Water Reserve building (even though the high petrol content makes the water highly flammable, and thus a fire hazard). So instead of the water companies having to pay for their toxic pollution problems themselves, the government takes care of it … at the taxpayers’ expense.

    The government also taps into it’s emergency water supply, and gives all of the water to the big 5 companies to help them through their “temporary” water shortage. Americans are starting to get thirsty, but the big 5 don’t sell to average Americans. Instead, they use most of the water in their oil and gas mining operations (it takes a lot of water sprayed on the rocks being drilled to keep the dust down). The big 5 sell some of the water to fat cats who already have lots of fresh water in private ponds and storage tanks, and stockpile some of it. The average American on “Main Street” gets thirstier and thirstier.

    The government also props up the big water companies by giving them all sorts of subsidies, incentives and business opportunities which guarantee that they’ll make money. The government offers none of these to smaller water companies, and actually penalizes smaller water companies by charging them extra fees to pay for the misbehavior of the big companies.

    The American people become thirstier and thirstier, and without water to grow crops, put in their cars’ radiators, or even wash their hands, America becomes poorer and living standards decline.

    The big water companies try to make the situation seem extremely complicated, so that only the “experts” can understand it. By making things seem complex, the American people won’t feel competent to demand changes. Indeed, they even promote academics who are trained to ignore the real world and instead focus on highly complex – and unrealistic – models.

    But the situation is actually simple. Things haven’t improved, and won’t improve until:

    • The big water companies are broken up, so that smaller water companies focusing just on H20 can step up to find clean water and sell it to normal Americans
    • The big companies are forced to clean up the polluted water, and the illegal mining operations of the big companies are prosecuted

    Simple, isn’t it?

    He may still possess the poise of a confident leader and an eloquent intellectual, but the presidency of Barack Obama is now suffering its most difficult phase to date.

    Certainly, Obama cannot solely be blamed for all the factors that have stifled his country’s chances of recovery from the failures of the Bush era. But the man who promised the moon has now extended the abhorrent and morally unjustifiable tax cuts for America’s wealthiest class. The “sweeping” $858 billion tax bill was signed into law on December 17. It includes an $801 billion package of tax cuts, extending Bush’s tax break for the rich for two more years – at a time when the majority of Americans are reeling under the weight of a failing economy and persistently high unemployment.

    Still, the tax bill was presented by the self-assured president as “real money that’s going to make a real difference in people’s lives.” The cuts will help stimulate an ailing economy, he claims, despite it being the rich who gambled with American wealth to increase their own, stimulating a market crash that led to millions losing their small investments and savings. All we know for sure is that the cuts will add a gigantic chunk to an already impossible deficit of $1.3 trillion, another Obama battle that is likely to be lost to the Republicans early next year.

    But this concession, and its presentation as a victory for America’s middle classes says more about Obama’s style than the weakening of the Democrats since the midterm elections. Even in his foreign policy management, Obama’s approach seems to teeter between giving face-lifts to ugly realities and postponing urgently needed action. The agent of change has become the quintessential American politician, who is more consumed with his chances of reelection than with bringing about the kind of long-term change that can really benefit his country, and the world at large.

    Obama’s handling of the shortly-lived peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s rightwing government is another example of a striking failure followed by whitewash. Although he adamantly demanded a halt to Israel’s construction of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Obama soon began capitulating before an obstinate Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli leader, supported by much of the US Congress and backed by a strong Israel lobby in Washington, finally forced Obama into a humiliating retreat. Even a generous bribe to win a limited Israeli moratorium on settlement construction failed. Obama administration officials finally declared that the US would abandon its efforts to halt Israeli settlement expansion, effectively signaling an American exit from the ‘peace process.’

    Instead of laying the blame squarely on Israel, the Obama administration delved into the same long-discredited rhetoric that only Palestinians and Israelis are capable of accomplishing peace without any outside intervention. That was the core message of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who argued that it was up to Israel and the Palestinian leadership to “settle their conflict”. It signaled a complete shift in US foreign policy, which Israel has naturally welcomed, for the US-financed military occupier prefers to be left to its own devices in this very unbalanced conflict.

    Afghanistan is another example. The eagerly anticipated strategy assessment of the war in Afghanistan was released on December 16, with illusory talk of “gains” and warnings of al-Qaeda threats. It suggests that the US will continue to fight a pointless war for years to come, with no clear goals or end in sight.

    “The unclassified version of the secret review said U.S. military operations have disrupted the Pakistan-based al-Qaida terrorist network over the last year and halted the momentum of the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan,” reported the Kansas City Star.

    What the review and much of the media fail to report is that the war on Afghanistan hardly concerns al-Qaeda, which is more widespread and mobile than ever. Its future operation does not hinge on the ongoing battles in Afghanistan either. One must also remain skeptical of the “gains” reportedly made in the south. Taliban is known for avoiding open warfare, a style they have mastered after nine years of practice. The recoil – if that is even the case – of the Taliban is probably temporary, and a spring resurgence is assured by past experiences. But what is most important to note is that the action of NATO and US soldiers, government corruption and the brutality of local militias have allowed the Taliban to extend its presence to northern provinces, including Kunduz and Takhar, which were, until recently, uncharted territories for the strong and resourceful Pashtun fighters.

    According to an editorial in the Lebanese Daily Star, “Obama’s long-awaited Afghanistan strategy review amounts to little more than a whitewash of the seemingly intractable problems that have trapped the mighty American military in a quagmire.” Worse, this crisis is likely to be compounded. “The failures of General Stanley McChrystal, who resigned in June, and Richard Holbrooke, who died suddenly this week, are symbolic of the crumbling of the twin pillars, both military and civilian, of Barack Obama’s counterinsurgency strategy. The US has now…entered a violent stalemate,” wrote James Denselow in the British Guardian.

    Obama’s response was yet another attempt to distance himself from the looming, if not ongoing failure. US priority, he said, is “not to defeat every last threat to the security of Afghanistan, because, ultimately, it is Afghans who must secure their country. And it’s not nation-building, because it is Afghans who must build their nation.”

    One would agree with the president were it not for the fact that the US invasion was what has impeded the security of Afghanistan, destroyed any chance of nation-building and installed a corrupt government. But Obama will not accept responsibility. His cautious assessments are emblematic of his overall political style: avoiding or perpetuating the problem, and distancing himself from it once failure is assured. This is as true of his domestic policy as of his foreign policy.

    It is easy to see why Obama’s popularity has plummeted among those who once believed in his ability to bring change to a scarred and traumatized country. And his irresolute leadership has also empowered his political opponents, who will not cease to demand more from a feeble and ever-willing president.

    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.

    The recent suicides by over 60 poor borrowers in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh have brought the operations of microfinance institutions (MFIs) under public scrutiny. It is well documented by both print and electronic media that these debt-driven suicides were due to coercive methods of loan recovery used by commercial MFIs. The commercial MFIs operate as profit-making non-banking financial corporations (NBFCs) in India. 

    The majority of suicides took place in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh and as many as 17 borrowers of SKS Microfinance were among those who reportedly committed suicide. For the past few months, the SKS Microfinance (the largest commercial MFI in India) has been in the news. In August 2010, it raised nearly $380 million in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) – the first from an Indian MFI. Thanks to the IPO, promoters and private equity investors of SKS Microfinance became instant millionaires while their borrowers remain desperately poor. In October, the sudden sacking of SKS’s CEO, Suresh Gurumani, raised concern about the bigger problems at the company.

    The Ordinance

    In response to debt-driven suicides, the Andhra Pradesh government issued an ordinance [Andhra Pradesh Micro Finance Institutions (Regulation of Money Lending) Ordinance, 2010] on October 15th purportedly to rein in the “Wild West” of microfinance.

    The issuance of Ordinance (imposing interim regulations) shocked the commercial microfinance industry because for almost two decades, the Andhra government has been actively engaged in the promotion of both commercial and non-profit MFIs in the state. The Ordinance aims to discipline commercial segments of MFIs which were indulging in reckless profiteering in the garb of promoting financial inclusion. It is intended to curb coercive practices of loan recovery besides bringing transparency in interest rates. The Ordinance makes it mandatory for MFIs to register with local authorities. However, it does not seek to cap interest rates charged by MFIs. 

    Andhra Pradesh has the highest penetration of MFIs in India. The state accounts for nearly 30 per cent of Rs. 300,000 million portfolio managed by MFIs in the country. Some of the biggest MFIs such as SKS Microfinance, Basix and Spandana and Basix are also based in the state.

    Exorbitant Interest Rates

    Contrary to public posturing that MFIs are saviors of the poor and charge reasonable interest rates, several big MFIs in Andhra Pradesh have been charging very high interest rates, closer to the ones charged by traditional moneylenders.

    Under the new regulations, several commercial MFIs have disclosed to the authorities that their effective rate of annualized interest goes up to 60.5 per cent. The Bhartiya Samruddhi Finance Ltd., an arm of Basix, charges interest rates up to 60.5 per cent. In the case of SKS Microfinance, Trident, Share and other MFIs, the effective maximum interest rates are upward of 30 per cent. This is despite the fact these MFIs borrow money from state-owned and private banks at concessional rates (usually in the range of 11 to 13 per cent) under the priority sector lending and other facilities.

    For years, several commercial MFIs have been charging exorbitant interest rates despite achieving economies of scale. However, when the threat of regulation became imminent, SKS and others voluntarily decided to reduce the interest rates by over 600 basis points. This episode revealed the magnitude of profit margins enjoyed by commercial players.

    The Rapid Growth and Emergence of Institutional Moneylenders

    Several leading commercial MFIs have return on assets (RoA) in the range of 5 to 8 per cent, far above the banking system anywhere in the world. In contrast, State Bank of India, country’s largest bank, had a RoA of 1.04 per cent in 2008-09 while ICICI Bank had a RoA of 1.13 per cent in 2009-10.

    Since 2005, the credit growth of MFI industry has been much higher than the commercial banking system in India. Although bank loans remain the largest funding source for commercial MFIs, several players have been able to raise funds from other sources including private equity funds, hedge funds and angel investors. Since 2007, private equity funds alone have invested close to Rs. 20000 million in MFIs. In 2009, there were 11 PE deals worth $178 million involving commercial MFIs. Some MFIs have also raised money through non-convertible debentures and securitization. Of late, commercial MFIs have also emerged as an asset class for institutional investors.

    In their quest to grow fast and to serve the insatiable appetite of private equity investors, MFIs pushed inappropriate loans to poor borrowers without looking at the repayment ability of borrowers. The practice of multiple lending, ever-greening of loans and loan recycling (which ultimately increases the debt liability of poor borrower) became widespread. In some ways, lending practices by such commercial MFIs were akin to sub-prime lending in the US. As the defaults became imminent due to high interest rates, MFIs resorted to strong-arm tactics that have led rural poor to commit suicides.

    It is a sad state of affairs that instead of giving a strong competition to usurious traditional moneylenders, commercial MFIs have become institutional moneylenders with no public accountability and responsibility. In fact, given the scale of business malpractices and reckless profiteering by greedy promoters of MFIs, they appear no better than traditional moneylenders. Not long ago, some promoters of commercial MFIs were conferred awards including the “Young Global Leaders” and “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” by World Economic Forum and others.

    The Regulatory Issues

    Without doubt, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has failed to regulate and supervise the activities of commercial MFIs which operate as NBFCs. The RBI should have conducted on-site inspections of large MFIs to assess their business model and actual practices.

     Post-suicides, the RBI has formed a high-level committee to look into the functioning of commercial MFIs. The report of the committee is expected by early 2011. In an era of deregulated interest rates, it is unlikely that the RBI will put a cap on interest rates charged by the MFIs. Although Bangladesh, the home of microfinance, decided to cap microfinance interest rates in November 2010.

    Alternatively, the RBI should impose a cap (in the range of 6 to 8 per cent) on net interest spread on loans provided by MFIs. Also the Finance Ministry could issue a directive to state-owned banks that they should stop lending to rogue MFIs which follow predatory lending and coercive means of loan recovery. Banks should also develop strict screening and performance criteria to lend money to MFIs. The priority sector lending norms should be tweaked by RBI to check loopholes which have been successfully exploited by commercial players.

    The big MFIs and their lobby groups have challenged the Ordinance in the Andhra Pradesh High Court. Their main argument is that the Ordinance would lead to over-regulation and would stifle the microfinance industry. But the real issue is not over-regulation of MFIs but bringing them under some degree of social control and to ensure that they follow minimum norms and standards like any other commercial entity involved in money lending business. The new regulatory measures are supposed to usher transparency, accountability and stability in the operations of commercial MFIs which is good for their poor clients. After all, the raison d’etre of MFIs is to serve poor people and broaden their access to financial services. What is needed is a dual approach consisting of a regulatory framework and empowerment of borrowers.

    Of late, over 30 MFIs have launched a self-regulatory organization and a code of conduct to weed out bad practices. This is a positive move towards internal clean up but the fact remains that self-regulation code is voluntary and non-binding and therefore cannot stop greedy promoters from reckless profiteering. At best, self-regulation code can complement (not substitute) the regulatory and supervisory measures.

    Rethinking the Business Model

    Until and unless commercial MFIs revisit their pure market-driven business model aimed at generating super profits for their investors, their operations will remain questionable and unjustifiable in India where 77 percent of population survives on less than Rs.20 per day.

    In contrast, there are plenty of self-help groups (SHGs) and microlenders in India who follow a balanced approach between financial sustainability and social objectives. The SHG model serves many more poor households in India than the MFI model. The microfinance interventions by SHGs and similar groups have produced better results than MFIs because of their integrated approach towards building sustainable livelihoods.

    As rightly pointed out by Dr. Y.V. Reddy (former Governor of RBI), commercial MFIs are leveraged moneylenders and borrow huge amount of money from banks and other financial institutions for on-lending. Besides, commercial MFIs operate on a mass scale serving millions of customers in the country. Therefore, it is high time that big commercial players realize that the “Wild West” period of microfinance is over.

    Kavaljit Singh works with Madhyam (New Delhi). This article first appeared at Madhyam’s website (www.madhyam.org.in) on December 23, 2010.

    Sexual abuse happens in the US military at rates twice the national average, according to reports [GALLO/GETTY]

    Every year, rape increases at an alarming rate within American military institutions – and even males are victims of the cycle.

    In fact, due to raw demographics, one can roughly surmise that most victims of sexual abuse in the military are male.

    Regardless of gender, reports of victims of military sexual assault have been increasing. In 2007, there were 2,200 reports of rape in the military, whilst in 2009 saw an increase up to 3,230 reports of sexual assault.

    Many of the victims suffer from Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and are shamed into silence, with numerous cases not even reported.

    A disturbing trend, however, is how military officials seem to be sweeping this damaging issue under the rug and deflecting blame.

    Blaming the Victim

    Kira Mountjoy-Pepka of Pack Parachute, a non-profit organisation which assists sexually abused veterans, explains that the military system favours the perpetrator. “What we’re seeing now, and what we’ve seen for decades, is when someone is assaulted, the military investigators create false or misleading crime reports. Then the case is dismissed, and the command persecutes the victim for false reporting.”

    She cites the Feres Doctrine (Feres v. United States, 340 US 135 [1950]) that made it impossible for the survivor to sue the investigators since it, “essentially prohibits people from suing the military and/or petitioning any non-military legal authority for interdiction without the military’s prior and explicit agreement and consent.”

    “If you’re a victim and you report this crime and the military mishandles the investigation, you can’t sue them,” she explains, “I feel if this were taken up by Congress as an issue it would be exposed that the military is operating against the Constitution by denying victims their first amendment rights. The military always has their own investigators investigate [these cases], and that doesn’t seem like justice to me.”

    The military goes to great lengths to protect the perpetrators, and that deters survivors from reporting. The incidences of sexual trauma in the military are staggering.

    The Department of Defence claims to have a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual assault in the ranks, but figures indicate otherwise.

    According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the rate of sexual assault on women in the military is twice that in the civilian population. A Government Accountability Office report concluded that most victims stay silent because of “the belief that nothing would be done; fear of ostracism, harassment, or ridicule and concern that peers would gossip.”

    While a civilian rape victim is ensured confidential advice from his or her doctors, lawyers and advocates, the only access a military rape survivor has is to a chaplain.

    Compared with a 40 per cent arrest rate for sex crimes among civilians, only eight per cent of investigated cases in the military lead to prosecution.

    After Congress mandated it do so in 2006, the Pentagon started a comprehensive programme to track incidents. That year, there were 2,974 reported cases of rape and sexual assault in the military. Of these, only 292 cases resulted in trials, and those netted only 181 prosecutions of perpetrators.

    Nearly half the cases are dismissed for lack of adequate proof or due to the death of the victim. Less than 11 per cent of the cases result in a court martial. Often, those prosecuted merely suffer a reduction in rank or pay, and 80 per cent receive an honourable discharge nonetheless.

    The victim, on the other hand, risks ending his or her career when they file charges.

    Signed, the commander

    Faced with the threat of possible persecution and losing their jobs and professional credibility, most soldiers prefer to remain silent about their traumas. Not that silence helps, because records reveal that less than one-third of the women have been able to maintain their careers in the military after having been assaulted.

    When presented with these dismal statistics in an interview with ABC News last year, former Principal Undersecretary of Defence for Personnel and Readiness, Michael Dominguez said, “Yes, we absolutely have to get better. Secretary [Robert] Gates himself is driving this initiative this year to improve our ability to investigate, to prosecute and convict. This is not where we want to be.”

    Dominguez’s replacement, Clifford Stanley, issued a Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2010-12 on December 30, 2009. It addresses the need to “Establish a culture free of sexual assault”, and puts forth goals of 90 per cent “awareness” and 80 per cent “confidence” in the sexual assault prevention and response program by the end of 2015, with no specific mention of the means to accomplish these goals.

    Those plans do not fill Susan Avila Smith with confidence. She is director of the advocacy group Women Organising for Women and she projects a dismal picture.

    “The people I work with go all the way back to WWII. The stories are almost exactly the same. It has always been covered up. Still the drill sergeants, chaplains, and doctors appear to be the worst perpetrators. So when these guys are convicted, rather than punishing to the fullest extent, they can give them a letter of reprimand which means Tommy was bad, signed The Commander. That letter comes out of his personnel file before he moves on to the next unit, so it’s like nothing happened.”

    Military ‘aware’ of the crisis

    Pentagon spokesperson Cynthia Smith assured Al Jazeera, “We understand this is very important for everyone to get involved in preventing sexual assault, and are calling on everyone to get involved, step in, and watch each others’ backs. We understand that one sexual assault is too many in the Department of Defence (DOD). We have an office working on prevention and response”

    The office she alludes to is the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), which is responsible for the oversight of the DOD’s sexual assault policy.

    In 2008 Kaye Whitley, Director of SAPRO, was subpoenaed to testify at a hearing of the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs but was ordered by the military not to do so.

    At a second oversight hearing she did appear and confessed to the members of Congress, “I was given a direct order by my supervisor to get back in the van and go back,” she said.

    At an MST Congressional hearing on February 3, 2010, highlighted was what many see as the problem – the military investigating itself for criminal acts of sexual assault and rape committed by its personnel, as well as the naming of Task Force members and the work of the Task Force being delayed for three years.

    Due largely to Mountjoy-Pepka’s work in the wake of her experiencing MST and taking action, in October 2005 then-Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld authorised the DOD Task Force on Sexual Assault in the military.

    However, the DOD took three years to name the Task Force, and the group’s initial meeting did not occur until August 2008. During that period, 6,000 service women and men were sexually assaulted or raped.

    This same Task Force told Congress’s Military Personnel Subcommittee that, “DOD’s procedures for collecting and documenting data about military sexual assault incidents are lacking in accuracy, reliability, and validity.”

    Task Force leaders also told Congress that “neither victims nor other military personnel were routinely informed of the results of disciplinary actions relating to sexual assault”, and “Commanders generally did not communicate case results to members of their command, and that this lack of information often led to misperceptions, rumours, and assumptions that allegations were unfounded.”

    Fighting back 

    Anuradha Bhagwati, the executive director of Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), a group that helps military women who have been victims of sexual violence, contradicts claims by the DOD that their new programs will slow the number of MST victims. “We are seeing a disturbingly steady flow,” Bhagwati said .

    In addition, she told Al Jazeera, “Contrary to DOD claims that they are making it easier for MST survivors to get help, MST survivors have a much more difficult time than other vets because of the burden of proof being on them. There are concrete legal barriers in place that prevent MST survivors from getting help.”

    The DOD defends the policy, saying it ensures that soldiers get retained, promoted and their careers aren’t destroyed.

    SWAN has draft legislation in place to get rid of this policy.

    Bhagwati concludes that nothing short of “radical systemic change” will solve the MST crisis in the military today.

    Susan Burke is an experienced litigator in Washington, DC who served as lead counsel in five actions brought on behalf of the torture victims at Abu Ghraib prison, as well as a suit against Blackwater for killing 17 Iraqis in Baghdad.

    She urges us to think of MST this way: “Think of the victims – it is a double blow – first they’re physically assaulted, then the institution that is supposed to care for them does not care for them.”

    She claims that the DOD has done little more than give lip-service to tackle the problem. “They created different positions, SARC, SAPRO, but the problem is that there is no genuine political will to change things. It’s a paper tiger…the will doesn’t exist. When you look at the career paths of perpetrators compared to the victims, the former are rising up the ranks, and the victims are leaving the military.”

    She is putting together a class action suit against the DOD for failure to protect service-members from MST, aims to file it in February, and hopes the case will bring significant and lasting reform in the DOD’s stance on MST.

    They’ve been saying for years that they just need more time, that they’re getting their act together,” Burke adds, “You can’t expect to have a properly functioning military without discipline problems being addressed, and if you can’t address rape, you have a real problem.”

    This is the second part of an Al Jazeera investigation into sexual abuse in the US military

    There is a growing chorus of voices in the media and the academy singling out the actions of the Chinese state as central to the dilemmas of the world economy. This focus finds its most articulate presentations, not in the xenophobia of the right, but in the polite analysis of many left-liberals.

    Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman, for instance, writing in the run-up to November’s G20 summit in South Korea, praised the United States’ approach of creating money out of nothing (“quantitative easing”) as being helpful to the world economy, and criticized the Chinese state’s attempts to keep its currency weak as being harmful. “The policies of these two nations are not at all equivalent,” he argues, adding his influential voice to the chorus which is increasingly targeting China for the world’s woes.[1] Krugman’s, however, is a simplistic analysis which overlooks the role of the U.S. over decades in creating huge imbalances in the world economy, and has the dangerous effect of scapegoating one of the poorest nations of the world (China) for the problems created by the world’s richest.

    Krugman’s argument proceeds through a sleight of hand. He objects to the attempts by the Chinese state to keep down the value of its currency – the yuan – as a series of policies whose “overall effect…on foreign economies is clearly negative.” This is a common theme – China’s “weak-yuan” currency being good for China (making its exports cheaper in world markets) and bad for the rest of the world.

    Intents and Effects

    But there is a problem. By Krugman’s own admission, the U.S. policy of creating money out of nothing will result in a “weaker American dollar.” What he doesn’t say, but what is implicit in his analysis, is that this U.S. policy is identical to China’s – a “weak-yuan” policy in the latter, matched by a weak-dollar policy in the former. Krugman nonetheless lets the U.S. off the hook because, he argues, even though the U.S. dollar is certain to fall in value as a result of the new trillions being created, “that is not the ultimate goal.”

    Judging a policy on its intent rather than its effect is disingenuous. Brian Burke’s intent as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs has been to deliver a Stanley Cup to Toronto. Hockey fans are unlikely to forgive him, though, for the fact that his policies see the Leafs sitting, again, near the basement of their conference.

    However, let’s take Krugman at face value. Why does he see the U.S. policy as good for the world? Because, he argues, “basically, the United States is pursuing a policy that increases overall world demand” and China “is pursuing a contractionary domestic monetary policy, reducing overall world demand.”

    Let’s begin with some of the key facts. At the peak of the economic crisis, the United States, Canada and the European Union had to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars from the rest of the world to finance stimulus programs to stabilize their economies. China also engaged in serious fiscal stimulus (relative to GDP, virtually on the same scale as the United States)[2], but unlike the North American and European powers, it was able to do so without borrowing a penny from the rest of the world.[3]

    Chart 1: Deficit/surplus, U.S. Central government (billions).

    One of the reasons the U.S. had to resort to large-scale foreign borrowing, was because of years of high levels of central government deficit spending. The first chart here shows the last twenty years of central government spending, a story of only momentary surpluses and a “norm” of deficits in the hundreds of billions of dollars – in 2009 and 2010 in the wake of the financial crisis, passing the one trillion dollar mark.[4]

    Because the United States central government had been running very large deficits for years, borrowing on a large scale was inevitable to do the very necessary work of trying to “stimulate” the economy at the peak of the crisis in 2009. But with these deficits pushing debt levels very high very quickly, there has been increasing nervousness about both deficits and debts getting out of hand. Enter “quantitative easing.” As an alternative to creating more government debt, the world’s most powerful economy can, for the moment, simply “create more money,” push it into the economy and hope that this has the desired stimulus effect.

    Krugman assesses the merits of these actions solely on their effect on world demand. But is this a sufficient criteria? There are all sorts of policies pursued by the U.S. over generations which have increased overall world demand. One in particular comes to mind. The U.S. central government has for a long time been the center of military expenditure in the world, and its role as such is accelerating. In 1990, its military expenditures represented 36.19 per cent of the military expenditures in the entire world. By 2009, its military expenditures had grown to fully 44.13 per cent of world military expenditures. In other words, almost half of the money spent on war in the world is spent by the U.S. state.

    This huge infrastructure of planes, missiles, bases, tanks, guns, ammunition and personnel has a powerful effect on demand in the world economy. For instance, “the U.S. military is the single largest consumer of energy in the world.”[5] This might be bad in terms of global warming. Nonetheless, gobbling up millions of barrels of oil certainly helps stimulate world demand for petroleum. The trillions spent on war and militarism do meet Krugman’s criterion in that they “stimulate world demand.” But they do so in perverse ways. In particular, they are the principal reason for the desperate fiscal weakness of the U.S. central government, documented above, fiscal weakness which is driving the move to quantitative easing.

    Three Deficit Scenarios

    Let’s try on three different scenarios to examine the relationship between military expenditures and U.S. deficits. Begin with one aspect of arms spending: the “war on terror.” Launched in 2001, it has had three components – Operation Enduring Freedom (the war in Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom (the war in Iraq) and Operation Noble Eagle (beefing up U.S. military bases and homeland security). The official bill to-date for this “war on terror” is almost identical to the amount of money created in the first round of quantitative easing – $1.1-trillion.[6]

    Scenario 1

    Scenario 1: Deficit/surplus, U.S. Central government (billions), less cost of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    This is probably an understatement, perhaps a gross understatement. Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes estimate that the true cost of the war in Iraq alone will be in excess of $3-trillion.[7] However, for argument’s sake, we will take the official figures. If those official figures are removed from the books (Scenario 1) – that is, if we see what the picture would be like had the “war on terror” not been launched – then a change begins to take place in the picture of U.S. deficit spending. It doesn’t eliminate the deficit problem. But it does lessen it, to the extent that as late as 2007 – the year the financial crisis first revealed itself – the U.S. central government would have actually run a modest surplus.

    But the “war on terror” is just the tip of the iceberg. The United States, as documented above, spends money on the military at a rate far greater than any country in the world. In 2010, for instance, the War on Terror costs of $130-billion were dwarfed by the $534-billion spent on other aspects of the military. Since 2006, the total “defense” budget of the U.S. has been over half a trillion dollars. By 2011, it is projected to be closing in on three quarters of a trillion dollars.

    Now imagine a pacifistic instead of a militaristic United States. In other words, see what the picture would be like without sustaining this massive war machine. When this military spending is removed (Scenario 2), the picture of the U.S. central government budget is completely different.

    Scenario 2

    Scenario 2: Deficit/surplus, U.S. Central government (billions), less defence spending.

    In 2009 and 2010, there are, of course, quite large deficits. This is the normal “Keynesian” turn to deficit spending that occurs in any economic downturn. What is remarkable however, is the fact that in terms of non-military spending, before 2009 and 2010, there would have been no deficit whatsoever. In fact, in many years, there would have been surpluses, twice (in 2000 and 2007) touching half a trillion dollars.

    With a budget history for the last 20 years resembling this graph, a pacifistic U.S. government could have spent billions on its stimulus package, without borrowing a dime. Stimulus could have been completely financed out of accumulated surpluses from the last 20 years.

    And in fact, this understates the situation. Many of the costs of the U.S. bloated war budget are hidden. It would take a team of forensic accountants with unlimited time and unlimited funds to sort through government finances and corporate balance sheets to tease out the actual costs of sustaining the world’s biggest military, and the world’s only truly global empire.

    But there are two “non-defense” line items that we can say with certainty are directly related to the U.S. military. Veterans Affairs spending is extremely high in the U.S. precisely because so many young people have come back maimed and broken through U.S. military adventures abroad. And the space program is a barely disguised excuse to develop and test the rocket technology that is the backbone of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. When these two are factored in (Scenario 3), the picture is breathtakingly clear.

    Scenario 3

    Scenario 3: Deficit/surplus, U.S. Central government (billions), less total costs of war and militarism.

    The U.S. central government deficit problem has one source – addiction to war and empire. That addiction has led to borrowing on an unprecedented scale, making it impossible for the U.S. to stimulate its economy through accumulated savings and making it increasingly nervous about the accelerating practice of borrowing on a mass scale. The quantitative easing approach – creating money out of nothing – has been made inevitable by the massive deficits used to sustain empire abroad.

    What Kind of Stimulus?

    Return, then, to Krugman’s argument. If we only have one criterion by which to assess this – the creation of demand in the world economy – then there is no problem here. Massive levels of arms spending create demand. Years and years of arms-related U.S. budget deficits do “stimulate” the world economy. But downing two or three pots of coffee in one setting will similarly “stimulate” a person’s metabolism. That doesn’t mean it is a recommended method by which to obtain our nutrition.

    Obviously “the creation of demand” is not the only criteria we should use. When trillions are spent, it is useful to us ordinary folk when these trillions are spent in productive ways – on homes for the homeless, on child care, on health care, on education, on infrastructure, on subways, on clean energy, on water purification in the Global South – the list is endless.

    But when the trillions are wasted on grenades, nuclear weapons, M-16 rifles, nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers and all the other paraphernalia of the U.S. killing machine – this is ultimately the equivalent of taking those trillions and flushing them down the toilet. It is “investment” which leaves nothing behind – except nuclear waste that future generations will have to dispose of, deadly munitions that will exist for generations to maim and kill peasants in the field, and broken bodies and minds chewed up in endless wars. The creation of “demand” is not the only criteria. It matters – and it matters desperately – exactly what kind of “demand” we are feeding.

    And think this through. This creation of money from nothing will systematically drive the U.S. dollar lower relative to other currencies. For those holding billions (and in some cases trillions) of U.S. dollar-denominated debt, the devaluation of the U.S. dollar means a devaluation of the worth of their holdings. In effect, the United States through quantitative easing is forcing the rest of the world to pay for its empire – to pay for the costs it has incurred through sustaining a bloated permanent arms economy.

    It is irresponsible to assess the value of the policies of the U.S. and Chinese governments by narrowly focusing in on momentary decisions related to their currencies, and by pretending that these policies happen in a vacuum. There is a history to the current predicament of the United States, a predicament of its own making. When put in this bigger context, the message that must be sent to Krugman and others making similar arguments is quite clear: blame the wars, not China. •

    Paul Kellogg maintains a blog at PolEconAnalys.org where this article was originally published.

    Endnotes

    1. Paul Krugman, “When China Exports, Everyone Pays,” Truthout, November 4, 2010.

    2. Eswar Prasad, “Assessing the G-20 Stimulus Plans: A Deeper Look,” Brookings, December 2, 2010.

    3. Joseph Trevisani, “While Many Countries Must Borrow, China and Japan Can Fund Their Own Stimulus,” Seeking Alpha, January 28, 2009.

    4. Figures for this and the next three charts (Scenarios 1-3) are primarily derived from “Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2011: Table 4.1 – Outlays by Agency, 1962-2015.” For the years 2001 to 2010, the charts are based on figures in Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) / CFO, United States Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Request: Overview, February 2010: 1-1. The latter differ slightly from the former, but have the advantage of explicitly incorporating the military portion of the “war on terror,” euphemistically referred to as “Overseas Contingency Operations.”

    5. Sohbet Karbuz, “U.S. Military Energy Consumption – Facts and Figures,” Sohbet Karbuz, May 20, 2007.

    6. Amy Belasco, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” Congressional Research Service, September 2, 2010: 1 and 3.

    7. Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes, “The true cost of the Iraq war: $3-trillion and beyond,” Washington Post, September 5, 2010.

    The power of concentrated corporate capital was on display in Washington last week, as it has been all year.  The incoming Chair of the Congressional committee responsible for banking regulation, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) says “my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”  And, President Obama sat down with the CEOs of 20 large corporations to talk about how he could help Big Business increase their already record profits. And, in the Supreme Court, 13 of 16 business cases were ruled in favor of business interests.  

    These actions echo a year where Sen. Durbin complained the banks “own” the Congress and where President Obama worked with the health insurance industry to keep them in control of health care while claiming it was “reform,” and where the Supreme Court in Citizens United vastly increased corporate power in elections by allowing unlimited spending.

    Corporate capital dominates the government and prevents the changes urgently needed in so many crisis issues for the nation and the world.

    In the last year, through Prosperity Agenda I worked on many of these critical issues including the impact of corporate power on elections, providing health care to all Americans, restructuring finance regulation to prevent another economic collapse and reigning in spending on weapons and war.  In all of these areas we had some impact, but in 2011 and beyond, much more will be needed.

    Shifting power from concentrated corporate interests to the people is no easy task.  It has taken years of work by those interests to gain the power that they have. It will take years of work to weaken the corporate stranglehold. The growing crises remind us of the urgency of our work and the need for a commitment to sustain and increase our efforts.

    In preparing this article I looked back at a memo written by Lewis Powell two months before he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Nixon.  The memo was written in 1971 at a time when the business community felt it was rapidly losing power and that the capitalist system was under severe attack.  Powell, a lawyer for the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, described as “the fundamental premise” of his paper that “business and the enterprise system are in deep trouble, and the hour is late.”  They saw attacks coming in the colleges, in the media, on the streets, in bookstores and from politicians.  Everywhere they looked they were under attack and on the verge of total defeat – the end of free markets and crony capitalism.

    The purpose of the Powell memo, written to the head of the Chamber of Commerce, was to lay out a plan to restore and build corporate power.  Powell laid out a plan that is instructive for those of us who want to shift power from concentrated capital to the people, who want to see a democratized economy in which people have greater control of their economic lives and are more represented in both the economy and government.  

    Powell’s plan was a long-term one built primarily on education and organization. In response to a “broadly based and consistently pursued” attack on corporate power, Powell wrote “independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.”  He urged action in universities, with speaker’s bureaus, in publishing, influencing the media and working in the courts, as well as in electoral politics. 

    We also have a long term plan to educate, organize and unite our efforts: 

    ·       We’ve used education in writing, media and video.   We strive for but do not rely on the corporate media, which is also part of the problem, to cover our work. We also recognize that too often they are part of the problem. We make our own media and work with the independent media.

    ·       We’ve reached out to allied organizations and allied movements in order to help develop consistent and coordinated actions.  And we’ve asked our thousands of members to take actions in unison so our voices are multiplied. 

    ·       We’ve used the courts and instruments of government to challenge the illegal actions of the Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads seeking investigation and prosecution of their abuses in the 2010 elections. See more here, and here. We’ve done the same when we seek corporate responsibility for companies like Massey Energy and their CEO Don Blankenship when 29 miners were killed in West Virginia. More here and were pleased when he resigned

    While education and organization are critical ingredients to bringing change, this is a slow process and many of the issues the nation faces are urgent. This is why we also pursue acts of protest and resistance.  We did this in the health care debate and most recently in the anti-war movement.  Resistance has always been an ingredient for bringing change whether it was people sitting in at segregated lunch counters, or blacks sitting in the white section of the bus, or Cindy Sheehan camping outside of George Bush’s ranch.  In the next year we will see a growing culture of resistance in the United States. 

    Other acts of resistance are seen around the release of documents by WikiLeaks.  The reaction demonstrated corporations and the government working together to block the American people from knowing what is being done in our name. VISA, Mastercard, Bank of America, PayPal, Amazon and various financial institutions stopped processing funds for WikiLeaks at the request of the government. But the truth is getting out and we now know what the government is doing in our name and must take action to stop it. Knowing the truth and not acting is complicity. More and more Americans are acting. We see resistance in the more than 1,000 mirror sites of WikiLeaks, in the more than 100,000 people who downloaded the WikiLeaks “insurance policy” and were prepared to release documents if Julian Assange were harmed. It is seen in Americans organizing for their right to know, and to reaffirm Freedom of the Press. We are organizing under the banner WikiLeaksIsDemocracy.org, with a petition signed by notables and now by thousands.  Join us and urge others to as well.

    It is going to take education, organization and resistance as part of a persistent independent movement for political change.  Those who want real change achieve it by voting for parties dominated by the donations of corporate executives.  Voting for corporate parties re-enforces corporate power.  We need independent electoral activity along with an independent movement and independent media to shift the power to the people.

    There is a growing movement for real paradigm shifting change.  It is a slow process than is accelerating and 2011 promises to be a milestone year.  Please join us in our efforts at www.ProsperityAgenda.US.  We need all Americans who want a democratized economy where power is shifted to the people joining us. 

    Kevin Zeese is executive director of ProsperityAgenda.US.

    “Doubtful it stood, as two spent swimmers that do cling together, and choke their art.”

                                                    –Shakespeare, “Macbeth”

    The Greek bailout was supposed to be an isolated case, a test of the EU’s ability to quarantine an infected member, preventing it from spreading “debt contagion.” 

    But that was before Ireland failed.  Ireland was the poster child for how to conduct a successful austerity program.  Unlike the Greeks, who were considered profligate spendthrifts, the Irish did everything their creditors asked.  The people sacrificed to pay for the excesses of their banks, but still the effort failed.  Ireland was the second domino to fall to an IMF/EU bailout.  On December 17, Moody’s Investors Service rewarded it for voting to accept the “rescue” package with a five-notch credit downgrade, from AA2 to BAA1, with warnings that further downgrades could follow. 

    Spain is rumored to be the next domino poised to fall.  If it falls, it could bring down the EU.    

    A Design Flaw in the Euro Scheme?

    Richard Douthwaite is co-founder of an Irish-based economic think tank called FEASTA (the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability).  He reports that the collective deficit of eurozone countries was a very acceptable 1.9% in 2008.  It shot up to 6.3%, exceeding the cap imposed on EU members (3% of GDP), only in 2009.  This spike was not due to a sudden surge in government spending.  It was due to the global financial crisis, which shrank the money supply globally.  Douthwaite writes:

    [A] shrinking money supply means shrinking business profits simply because there is less money available to appear in corporate accounts at the end of the year. This means less tax is paid.

    When taxes go down, revenues go down; but budgets don’t. 

    In an article called “Understanding Modern Monetary Systems,” Cullen Roche explains that the Euro system is the modern equivalent of the gold standard.  Both are “revenue constrained.”  Countries on these restrictive systems cannot expand their revenues because there is nowhere to get the money.  They cannot get more Euros except by borrowing from each other, and all the member countries are in debt.  In June 2010, 26 of 27 EU countries – all but Luxembourg — were on the “debt watch list” for exceeding the 3% cap.  Euros can get shuffled around to keep the game going; but in the end, as Shakespeare said, the eurozone countries are “as two spent swimmers that do cling together,” pulling each other down. 

    Douthwaite writes:

    [I]ndividual eurozone countries [cannot] create money out of nothing by quantitative

    easing. Only the European Central Bank has that power but it has not yet used it to inject money into the system without withdrawing an equal amount. Consequently, every cent in use in eurozone economies has to have been borrowed by someone somewhere, at home or overseas. As a result, while countries with their own currencies can handle a debt-to-GDP ratio of over 100% because they have the tools to do so (Japan’s is approaching 200%), countries using a shared currency must keep well below that figure unless they can agree that their shared central bank should use its interest rate, exchange rate and money creation tools in the way that a single country would.

    Roche comments:

    The Euro system, which is also a single currency system (like the gold standard) adds significant confusion to the current environment and is often confused as a flaw in fiat money.  In reality, the Euro proves why single currency systems are inherently flawed.  

    By a “single currency system,” Roche means multiple nations sharing a single currency (whether Euros or gold).  Governments need the ability to expand their own money supplies as required to meet the needs of their own economies.  Without that flexibility, they are reduced to trying to balance their budgets through brutal austerity measures.  In a November 19th article in the UK Guardian called “There Is Another Way for Bullied Ireland,” Mark Weisbrot observed:

    The European authorities could . . . allow for Ireland to undertake a temporary fiscal stimulus to get their economy growing again. That is the most feasible, practical alternative to continued recession.

    Instead, the European authorities are trying what the IMF . . . calls an “internal devaluation”. This is a process of shrinking the economy and creating so much unemployment that wages fall dramatically, and the Irish economy becomes more competitive internationally on the basis of lower unit labour costs. . . .

    Aside from huge social costs and economic waste involved in such a strategy, it’s tough to think of examples where it has actually worked. . . .

    If you want to see how rightwing and 19th-century-brutal the European authorities are being, just compare them to Ben Bernanke, the Republican chair of the US Federal Reserve. He recently initiated a second round of “quantitative easing”, or creating money – another $600bn dollars over the next six months. And . . . he made it clear that the purpose of such money creation was so that the federal government could use it for another round of fiscal stimulus. The ECB could do something similar — if not for its rightist ideology and politics.

    Deficit Easing

    For Ireland, Douthwaite recommends a modified form of quantitative easing he calls “deficit easing.”  He explains:

    Both approaches involve central banks creating money. With quantitative easing, the new money is generally used to buy securities from the banking system, thus providing the banks with more money to lend. Unfortunately that is where problems have been arising in the US and the UK. Because the public has been unwilling to borrow, or the banks have been unwilling to lend, quantitative easing has not increased the supply of money in circulation in the US, where M3 began to decline in the second half of 2009 and was still falling a year later. . . .

    Deficit-easing avoids this ‘won’t-borrow-won’t-lend’ bottleneck by giving the new

    money to governments to spend into use, or to pass on to their citizens to reduce their

    own debts or to invest in approved ways.

    The U.S. Federal Reserve may be considering a similar approach.  So says Professor David Blanchflower, a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, who stated on October 18 that he had been at the Fed in Washington for one of its occasional meetings with academics. 

    “Quantitative easing remains the only economic show in town,” he said, “given that Congress and President Barack Obama have been cowed into inaction.”    

     

    What will the Fed buy with its quantitative easing tool? 

     

    They are limited to only federally insured paper,” said Blanchflower, “which includes Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities insured by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But they are also allowed to buy short-term municipal bonds, and given the difficulties faced by state and local governments, this may well be the route they choose, at least for some of the quantitative easing.

     

    The Fed could buy short-term municipal bonds from the states, easing the states’ budget crises.  It could set up a facility for bailing out the states at very low interest rates, along the lines of those facilities set up to bail out the Wall Street banks.

    A similar plan might be pursued in the eurozone.  The European Central Bank (ECB) has already engaged in something equivalent to “quantitative easing.”  In a post titled “ECB credit easing by buying debt from Greece and Spain analogous to Fed buying California and Illinois munis,” Ed Harrison remarks:

    When the European experiment threatened to unravel, the ECB chose the nuclear option and stepped into the breach to start buying up the debt of its weakest debtor states. Now, the ECB claims these actions are unsterilized i.e. it is not just printing money. But I have my doubts.  In any event, the ECB is the New “United States of Europe” as Marshall Auerback puts it.

    Douthwaite adds:

    The neatest solution would be for the European Central Bank to create money and to give it (rather than lend it) to governments in proportion to their populations. This would allow further public spending cuts to be avoided and, in countries with relatively small budget deficits, national debts to be reduced.

    Printing Euros and giving them rather than lending them to the member countries would be akin to the “Greenback solution” – simply allowing governments to issue the money they needed directly, interest-free and debt-free.  As Thomas Edison observed:

    If the Nation can issue a dollar bond it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good makes the bill good also. The difference between the bond and the bill is that the bond lets the money broker collect twice the amount of the bond and an additional 20%. Whereas the currency, the honest sort provided by the Constitution pays nobody but those who contribute in some useful way.

    To avoid inflating prices when the economy reaches full employment, the money could be taxed back to the government or returned as user fees for public services.

    Restoring Credit with a Publicly-owned Bank:

    The Model of the Bank of North Dakota

     

    There is another possible solution to this dilemma.  Neither states in the U.S. nor those in the eurozone can print their own money, but they CAN own banks, which can create bank credit on their books just as all banks do.  Most of our money is now created by banks in the form of bank credit, lent at interest.  Governments could advance their own credit and keep the interest.  This would represent a huge savings to the people.  Interest has been shown to make up about half the cost of everything we buy.     

    Only one U.S. state actually owns its own bank – North Dakota.  As of last spring, North Dakota was also the only U.S. state sporting a budget surplus.  It has the lowest unemployment rate in the country and the lowest default rate on loans.  North Dakota has effectively escaped the credit crisis. 

    The Bank of North Dakota (BND) is a major profit generator for the state, returning a 26% dividend in 2008.  The BND was set up as “North Dakota doing business as the Bank of North Dakota,” making the assets of the state the assets of the bank.  The BND also has a captive deposit base.  By law, all of North Dakota’s revenues are deposited in the BND.  Municipal government and private deposits are also taken.  Today, the BND has $4,000 in deposits per capita, and outstanding loans of roughly the same amount. 

    Extrapolating those figures to Ireland’s population of 4.2 million, a publicly-owned Irish banking system might generate credit of $16.8 billion.  That would be enough to fund most of Ireland’s deficit of 14.4 billion Euros (19.6 billion USD), and this money would effectively be interest-free, since the government-owned bank would return its profits to the state.  Funding through its own bank would remove most of Ireland’s deficit from the private bond market, which is highly vulnerable to manipulation, speculation and crippling downgrades.    

    Alternatively, this bank credit for building sustainable infrastructure and putting people back to work.    

    Governments everywhere are artificially constrained by having to borrow at market interest rates, which means whatever interest banks can extract.  Governments can throw off the shackles of this scheme, in which private banks create the national money supply and lend it at interest, by forming publicly-owned banks.  These banks can then advance the credit of the nation to the nation, interest-free.  And if this credit is advanced against future productivity, prices will not inflate.  Supply (goods and services) will rise along with demand (money), keeping prices stable.

    Ellen Brown is an attorney and the author of eleven books. In Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free, she shows how the Federal Reserve and “the money trust” have usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. Her websites are webofdebt.com, ellenbrown.com, and public-banking.com.

    The Oil Slick BP Tried To Hide Has Been Discovered

    December 22nd, 2010 by Washington's Blog

    BP and the government famously declared that most of the oil had disappeared.

    But as I’ve noted, as much as 98% of the oil is still in the ocean.

    I have repeatedly pointed out that BP and the government applied massive amounts of dispersant to the Gulf Oil Spill in an effort to sink and hide the oil. Many others said the same thing.

    BP and the government denied this, of course.

    But the oil is not remaining hidden.

    Indeed, as the Wall Street Journal noted on December 9th:

    A university scientist and the federal government say they have found persuasive evidence that oil from the massive Gulf of Mexico spill is settling on the ocean floor.

    The new findings, from scientists at the University of South Florida and from a broad government effort, mark the latest indication that environmental damage from the blowout of a BP PLC well could be significant where it’s hardest to find: deep under the Gulf’s surface.

    ***

    Scientists who have been on research cruises in the Gulf in recent days report finding layers of residue up to several centimeters thick from what they suspect is BP oil.

    The material appears in spots across several thousand square miles of seafloor, they said. In many of those spots, they said, worms and other marine life that crawl along the sediment appear dead, though many organisms that can swim appear healthy.

    ***

    Tests now have started to link some oil in the sediment to the BP well could add to the amount of money BP ends up paying to compensate for the spill’s damage.

    ***

    The test results also raise questions about the possible downsides of the government’s use of chemical dispersants to fight the spill.

    ***

    Under federal direction, about 1.8 million gallons of dispersants were sprayed on the spilled oil in an effort to break it up into tiny droplets that natural ocean microbes could eat up. At the time, officials said the dispersants shouldn’t cause oil from the spill to sink to the seafloor. However, more recently, a federal report said dispersants may have helped some spilled oil sink to the sediment.

    Scientific teams have reported in recent months finding a strange substance on the Gulf floor, in some cases as far as about 80 miles from BP’s ill-fated Macondo well, which blew out in April and spilled an estimated 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf before it was capped.

    ***

    “The chemical signatures are identical,” said Mr. Hollander, who found the contaminated samples in an area of the Gulf floor off the Florida Panhandle. Although it’s conceivable the tests could show a false match with the BP oil, “the statistical probability of something like that is unimaginable,” Mr. Hollander said.

    The federal government also has found oil matching Macondo oil in Gulf sediment, Steve Murawski, a top National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist, said in an interview. He declined to disclose how much sediment contamination the government found, or exactly where in the Gulf it was, saying experts still are analyzing the test results.

    ***

    Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia oceanographer, also has found what she believes to be evidence of BP oil in Gulf sediment. She is awaiting lab results tracing the chemical fingerprints of sediment samples she took.

    On a research cruise in the Gulf that ended Friday, she saw worms that crawl along the Gulf floor “just decimated,” she said. But eels and fish, which can swim away, often appeared fine, she said.

    The Journal noted on December 18th:

    Oil from BP PLC’s blown-out well has lodged in the sediment of the Gulf of Mexico at levels that may threaten marine life, according to a federal report released Friday.

    ***

    There is no practical way to clean up the spilled oil that has settled deep in the Gulf, officials said, adding that microbes in the water could eventually eat it up.

    The massive application of dispersants to hide the amount of oil spilled has caused major problems to the Gulf:

    • The use of dispersants prevented clean up of the oil by skimming, by far the easiest method of removing oil from the water
    • Dispersants make the toxins in crude oil more bioavailable to sealife, and scientists have found that applying Corexit to Gulf crude oil releases many times more toxic chemicals into the water column than would be released with crude alone (and see this)
    • Dispersant might have caused some of the chemicals in oil to become airborne (and see this and this)
    • The crude oil which does not become aerosolized sinks under the surface of the ocean, and can delay the recovery of the ecosystem by years or even decades (see the Wall Street Journal article quoted above)

    Extend-And-Pretend Will Fail

    As I noted in May – shortly after the spill started – the responses of the government to the Gulf Oil spill and to the financial crisis are remarkably similar, as both have focused on covering up the problems, instead of actually fixing them. Because the financial system was never really reformed, the next financial shock will send the economy reeling. Because the oil was never properly cleaned up, the next hurricane will stir up immense quantities of oil now lying on the sea floor.

    Extend-and-pretend is being attempted in both cases, and – in both cases – it will fail, because nothing has been fixed, and the fundamentals can only remain hidden for so long.

    Moreover, in both cases, the government used “highly toxic” measures to try to hide the real problems. The government has used “emergency measures” and virtually all of its resources to prop up the giant banks instead of using the proven methods of restructuring insolvent banks and prosecuting the criminals who caused the crisis, which has caused major problems for the real economy.

    Similarly, the government applied close to 2 million gallons of highly toxic dispersant to hide the amount of oil instead of using it’s resources to deploy tried-and-true clean up methods, which has caused significant problems for the Gulf.

    Finally, new and potentially bigger crises will take place, because regulation hasn’t been put in place to prevent them. Regulation of the financial system – including international agreements like Basil III – have been gutted (and see this). And as Time magazine notes:

    Congress never managed to pass legislation that would have overhauled drilling safety.

    In another grim milestone for the United States and NATO, the Council of Europe (COE) released an explosive report last week, “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo.”

    The report charged that former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) boss and current Prime Minister, Hashim Thaçi, “is the head of a ‘mafia-like’ Albanian group responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs through eastern Europe,” The Guardian disclosed.

    According to a draft resolution unanimously approved December 16 in Paris, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights found compelling evidence of forced disappearances, organ trafficking, corruption and collusion between criminal gangs and “political circles” in Kosovo who just happen to be close regional allies of the United States.

    The investigation was launched by Dick Marty, the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE) special rapporteur for human rights who had conducted an exhaustive 2007 probe into CIA “black fights” in Europe.

    The PACE investigation gathered steam after allegations were published by former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Carla Del Ponte in her 2008 memoir.

    After it’s publication, Ms. Del Ponte was bundled off to Argentina by the Swiss government as her nation’s ambassador. Once there, the former darling of the United States who specialized in doling out victor’s “justice” to the losers of the Balkan wars, was conveniently silenced.

    A series of damning reports by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIR), the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the BBC, confirmed Del Ponte’s allegations and spurred the Council to act.

    Reporting for the BBC, investigative journalist Michael Montgomery learned that political opponents of the KLA and Serb prisoners of war “simply vanished without a trace” into a secret prison “in the Albanian border town of Kukes.”

    According to sources who feared for their lives, including former KLA guerrillas, the BBC revealed that disappeared civilians “were Serbs and Roma seized by KLA soldiers and were being hidden away from Nato troops. The source believes the captives were sent across the border to Albania and killed.”

    In an uncanny echo of Nazi practices during the period of the Third Reich, The New York Times reported that “captives” were “‘filtered’ for their suitability as donors, based on sex, age, health conditions and ethnic origin. “We heard numerous references to captives’ not merely having been handed over, but also having been ‘bought’ and ‘sold,’” the special rapporteur told the Times.

    “Some of the guards told investigators,” the Times reports, “that a few captives understood what was about to happen and ‘pleaded with their captors to be spared the fate of being chopped into pieces’.”

    Mercy was in short supply however, behind KLA lines.

    The report states: “As and when the transplant surgeons were confirmed to be in position and ready to operate, the captives were brought out of the ‘safe house’ individually, summarily executed by a KLA gunman, and their corpses transported swiftly to the operating clinic.”

    Once organs were removed from the victims they were auctioned off to the highest bidder and sold by a global trafficking ring still operating today.

    The former prosecutor further alleged, The Guardian reported, that “she had been prevented from investigating senior KLA officials” who she claimed had “smuggled captive Serbs across the border into Albania, where their organs were harvested.”

    In a classic case of covering-up the crimes of low-level thugs to protect more powerful criminals, Del Ponte has charged that forensic evidence gathered by ICTY investigators at one of the northern Albania death houses was destroyed at The Hague.

    International Network

    This brisk underground trade didn’t end in 1999 however, when the break-away Serb province was occupied by NATO troops; on the contrary, operations expanded and grew even more profitable as Kosovo devolved into a protectorate of the United States.

    In fact, a trial underway in Pristina has revealed that “desperate Russians, Moldovans, Kazakhs and Turks were lured into the capital ‘with the false promise of payments’ for their kidneys,” The Guardian reported.

    It was a “growth industry” that fed on human misery. According to The Guardian, recipients “paid up to €90,000 (£76,400) for the black-market kidneys [and] included patients from Canada, Germany, Poland and Israel,” EU prosecutor Jonathan Ratel told the British paper.

    “Donors” however, were left holding the bag, lucky to escape with their lives.

    At the center of the scandal is the Medicus clinic. Located some six miles from downtown Pristina, Medicus was allegedly founded by university hospital urologist Dr Lutfi Dervishi, and a former permanent secretary of health, prosecutors claim, provided the clinic with a false license to operate.

    Two of the accused, The Guardian revealed, “are fugitives wanted by Interpol: Moshe Harel, an Israeli said to have matched donors with recipients, and Yusuf Sonmez, perhaps the world’s most renowned organ trafficker.”

    Prosecutors believe that Harel and Sonmez are the brains behind Medicus and that Shaip Muja, a former KLA “medical commander” who was based in Albania, may have overseen operations at the “clinic.”

    Muja remains a close confidante of Thaçi’s and, in an macabre twist, he is currently “a political adviser in the office of the prime minister, with responsibility for health,” The Guardian reports.

    Investigators averred they had “uncovered numerous convergent indications of Muja’s central role [in] international networks, comprising human traffickers, brokers of illicit surgical procedures, and other perpetrators of organised crime.”

    Besides lining the pockets of Albanian, Israeli and Turkish criminals who ran the grisly trafficking ring, whose interests might also be served in covering-up these horrific crimes?

    A Gangster State, but which One?

    The veil of secrecy surrounding KLA atrocities could not have been as complete as it was without the intervention of powerful actors, particularly amongst political and military elites in Germany and the United States who had conspired with local gangsters, rebranded as “freedom fighters,” during the break-up of Yugoslavia.

    As in Albania years before NATO’s Kosovo adventure, organized criminal activities and “the trade in narcotics and weapons [were] allowed to prosper,” Michel Chossudovsky wrote, because “the West had turned a blind eye.”

    These extensive deliveries of weapons were tacitly permitted by the Western powers on geopolitical grounds: both Washington and Bonn had favoured (although not officially) the idea of a ‘Greater Albania’ encompassing Albania, Kosovo and parts of Macedonia. Not surprisingly, there was a ‘deafening silence’ on the part of the international media regarding the Kosovo arms-drugs trade. (“The Criminalization of Albania,” in Masters of the Universe? NATO’s Balkan Crusade, ed. Tariq Ali, London: Verso, 2000, pp. 299-300)

    The consequences of this “deafening silence” remain today. Both in terms of the misery and impoverishment imposed on Kosovo’s citizens by the looting of their social property, particularly the wholesale privatization of its mineral wealth which IMF economic “reforms” had spawned, and in the political cover bestowed upon Pristina’s gangster regime by the United States.

    In the intervening years NATO’s “blind eye” has morphed into something more sinister: outright complicity with their Balkan protégés.

    Virtually charging the ICTY with knuckling under to political pressure from the Americans, the PACE report states that “the ICTY, which had started to conduct an initial examination on the spot to establish the existence of traces of possible organ trafficking, dropped the investigation.”

    “The elements of proof taken in Rripe, in Albania” during that initial inquiry investigators wrote, “have been destroyed and cannot therefore be used for more detailed analyses. No subsequent investigation has been carried out into a case nevertheless considered sufficiently serious by the former ICTY Prosecutor for her to see the need to bring it to public attention through her book.”

    This is hardly surprising, considering that the ICTY was created at the insistence of the Clinton administration precisely as a retributive hammer to punish official enemies of the U.S.

    Hailed as an objective body by media enablers of America’s imperial project, with few exceptions, while it relentlessly hunted down alleged Serbian war criminals–the losers in the decade-long conflagration–it studiously ignored proxy forces, including the KLA, under the operational control of German and American intelligence agencies.

    The report averred that human organ trafficking was only a part of a larger web of crime and corruption, and that murder, trafficking in women, control over global narcotics distribution and money laundering networks were standard operating procedure for Thaçi and other members of the “Drenica group,” the black widows at the center of the KLA spiders’ web.

    For his part, Thaçi has called the PACE report “libelous” and the Kosovo government has repudiated the Council’s findings claiming that the charges “were not based on facts and were construed to damage the image of Kosovo and the war of the Kosovo Liberation Army.”

    While one can easily dismiss prevarications from Kosovo’s government, the White House role in covering-up the crimes of their client regime should have provoked a major scandal. That it didn’t only reveals the depths of Washington’s own venal self-interest in preventing this sordid affair from gaining traction.

    In  all likelihood fully-apprised of the Council of Europe’s investigation through any number of American-friendly moles implanted in European institutions as WikiLeaks Cablegate files have revealed, last summer Thaçi met with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden at the White House.

    Shamelessly, Biden “reaffirmed the United States’ full support for an independent, democratic, whole, and multi-ethnic Kosovo,” and “reiterated the United States’ firm support for Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to a White House press release.

    Indeed, the vice president “welcomed the progress that Kosovo’s government has made in carrying out essential reforms, including steps to strengthen the rule of law.”

    An all too predictable pattern when one considers the lawless nature of the regime in Washington.

    The Heroin Trail

    As I reported more than two years ago in “Welcome to Kosovo! The World’s Newest Narco State,” the KLA served as the militarized vanguard for the Albanian mafia whose “15 Families” control virtually every facet of the Balkan heroin trade.

    Albanian traffickers ship heroin originating exclusively from Central Asia’s Golden Crescent. At one end lies America’s drug outpost in Afghanistan where poppy is harvested for processing and transshipment through Iran and Turkey; as morphine base it is then refined into “product” for worldwide consumption. From there it passes into the hands of the Albanian syndicates who control the Balkan Route.

    As the San Francisco Chronicle reported back in 1999, “Kosovars were the acknowledged masters of the trade, credited with shoving aside the Turkish gangs that had long dominated narcotics trafficking along the Balkan Route, and effectively directing the ethnic Albanian network.”

    As the murdered investigative journalist Peter Klebnikov reported in 2000 for Mother Jones, as the U.S.-sponsored war in Kosovo heated up, “the drug traffickers began supplying the KLA with weapons procured from Eastern European and Italian crime groups in exchange for heroin. The 15 Families also lent their private armies to fight alongside the KLA. Clad in new Swiss uniforms and equipped with modern weaponry, these troops stood out among the ragtag irregulars of the KLA. In all, this was a formidable aid package.”

    Despite billions of dollars spent on failed interdiction efforts, these patterns persist today as more than 106 metric tons of heroin flow into Europe. So alarmed has the Russian government become over the flood of heroin penetrating their borders from Central Asian and the Balkan outposts that some officials have likened it to American “narco-aggression” and a new “opium war, researcher Peter Dale Scott reported.

    Scott avers: “These provinces” in Afghanistan, “support the past and present CIA assets in the Karzai regime (headed by Hamid Karzai, a former CIA asset), including the president’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, an active CIA asset, and Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former CIA asset. In effect America has allied itself with one drug faction in Afghanistan against another.” Much the same can be said for CIA assets in Pristina.

    As the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published in their 2010 World Drug Report:

    Once heroin leaves Turkish territory, interception efficiency drops significantly. In the Balkans, relatively little heroin is seized, suggesting that the route is exceedingly well organized and lubricated with corruption. … Another notable feature of the Balkan route is that some important networks have clan-based and hierarchically organized structures. Albanian groups in particular have such structures, making them particularly hard to infiltrate. This partially explains their continued involvement in several European heroin markets. Albanian networks continue to be particularly visible in Greece, Italy and Switzerland. Italy is one of the most important heroin markets in Europe, and frequently identified as a base of operation for Balkan groups who exploit the local diaspora. According to WCO seizure statistics, Albanians made up the single largest group (32%) of all arrestees for heroin trafficking in Italy between 2000 and 2008. The next identified group was Turks followed by Italians and citizens of Balkan countries (Bulgaria, Kosovo/Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and to some extent Greece). A number of Pakistani and Nigerian traffickers were arrested in Italy as well.

    As has been documented for decades, U.S. destabilization programs and covert operations rely on far-right provocateurs and drug lords (often interchangeable players) to facilitate the dirty work. Throughout its Balkan campaign the CIA made liberal use of these preexisting narcotics networks to arm the KLA and then provide them with targets.

    When NATO partners Germany and the U.S. decided to drive a stake through Yugoslavia’s heart during the heady days of post-Cold War triumphalism, their geopolitical strategy could not have achieved “success” without the connivance, indeed active partnership forged amongst Yugoslavia’s nationalist rivals. As investigative journalist Misha Glenny has shown,

    Most shocking of all, however, is how the gangsters and politicians fueling war between their peoples were in private cooperating as friends and close business partners. The Croat, Bosnian, Albanian, Macedonian, and Serb moneymen and mobsters were truly thick as thieves. They bought, sold, and exchanged all manner of commodities, knowing that the high levels of personal trust between them were much stronger than the transitory bonds of hysterical nationalism. They fomented this ideology among ordinary folk in essence to mask their own venality. As one commentator described it, the new republics were ruled by “a parastate Cartel which had emerged from political institutions, the ruling Communist Party and its satellites, the military, a variety of police forces, the Mafia, court intellectuals and with the president of the Republic at the center of the spider web…Tribal nationalism was indispensable for the cartel as a means to pacify its subordinates and as a cover for the uninterrupted privatization of the state apparatus. (McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008, p. 27)

    Thaçi and other members of his inner circle, Marty avers, were “commonly identified, and cited in secret intelligence reports,” published by the German secret state agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND “as the most dangerous of the KLA’s ‘criminal bosses’.”

    Trading on American protection to consolidate political power, thus maintaining control over key narcotics smuggling corridors, the special rapporteur writes that “having succeeded in eliminating, or intimidating into silence, the majority of the potential and actual witnesses against them (both enemies and erstwhile allies), using violence, threats, blackmail, and protection rackets,” Thaçi’s Drenica Group have “exploit[ed] their position in order to accrue personal wealth totally out of proportion with their declared activities.”

    Indeed, multiple reports prepared by the U.S. DEA, FBI, the BND, Italy’s SISMI, Britain’s MI6 and the Greek EYP intelligence service have stated that Drenica Group members “are consistently named as ‘key players’ in intelligence reports on Kosovo’s mafia-like structures of organised crime.”

    As the Council of Europe and investigative journalists have documented, northern Albania was the site not only of KLA training camps but of secret detention centers where prisoners of war and civilian KLA opponents were executed and their organs surgically removed and sold on the international black market.

    “The reality is that the most significant operational activities undertaken by members of the KLA–prior to, during, and in the immediate aftermath of the conflict–took place on the territory of Albania, where the Serb security forces were never deployed.”

    The report avers, “It is well established that weapons and ammunition were smuggled into parts of Kosovo, often on horseback, through clandestine, mountainous routes from northern Albania,” the site of secret NATO bases, “yet only in the second half of 1998,” Marty writes, “through explicit endorsements from Western powers, founded on strong lobbying from the United States, did the KLA secure its pre-eminence in international perception as the vanguard of the Kosovar Albanian liberation struggle.”

    “What is particularly confounding” Marty writes, “is that all of the international community in Kosovo–from the Governments of the United States and other allied Western powers, to the EU-backed justice authorities–undoubtedly possess the same, overwhelming documentation of the full extent of the Drenica Group’s crimes, but none seems prepared to react in the face of such a situation and to hold the perpetrators to account.”

    While the special rapporteur’s outrage is palpable, the ascension of a political crime family with deep roots in the international drugs trade and other rackets, including the grisly traffic in human organs, far from being an anomalous event conforms precisely to the structural pattern of capitalist rule in the contemporary period.

    “What we have uncovered” Marty informs us, “is of course not completely unheard-of. The same or similar findings have long been detailed and condemned in reports by key intelligence and police agencies, albeit without having been followed up properly, because the authors’ respective political masters have preferred to keep a low profile and say nothing, purportedly for reasons of ‘political expediency’. But we must ask what interests could possibly justify such an attitude of disdain for all the values that are invariably invoked in public?”

    Marty need look no further for an answer to his question than to the “political masters” in Washington, who continue to cover-up not only their own crimes but those of the global mafias who do their bidding.

    As we have seen throughout the latter half of the 20th century down to the present moment, powerful corporate and financial elites, the military and intelligence agencies and, for lack of a better term, “normal” governmental institutions are suborned by the same crooked players who profit from war and the ensuing chaos it spawns to organize crime, thereby “rationalizing” criminal structures on more favorable terms for those “in the loop.”

    In this regard, the impunity enjoyed up till now by Thaçi and his minions merely reflect the far-greater impunity enjoyed by the American secret state and the powerful actors amongst U.S. elites who have profited from the dirty work allegedly performed by Kosovo’s Prime Minister, and others like him, who are counted amongst the most loyal servants of imperial power.

    Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.

             
    The ‘fluidity’ of US power relations with Latin America is a product of the continuities and changes in Latin America.  Past hegemony continues to weigh heavy, but the future augurs a continued decline.  The current balance of power will however be determined by shifts in world markets, in which the US is destined to play a lesser role.  Hence the greater probability of more divergences in policy, barring major breakdowns within Latin America.           

    Almost all theories of contemporary imperialism lack any but the crudest sociological analyses of the classes and political character of the governing groups which direct the imperial state and its polices.  The same is true about the theorizing of the imperial state which is largely devoid of  institutional analyses.

               
    Most theorists resort to a form of economic reductionism in which ‘investments’, ‘trade’, ‘markets’ are presented as  ahistorical disembodied entities comparable across space and time.  The changing nature of the leading classes are accounted for by general categories such as “finance”, “manufacturing”, “banking”, “service” without any specific analysis of the variable nature and sources of financial wealth (illegal drug trade, money laundering, real estate speculation, etc.).

               
    The shifts in the political and economic orientation of governing capitalist politicians, resulting in linkages with different capitalist/imperialist centers, which have major consequences in the configuration of world power, are glossed over in favor of abstract accounts of statistical shifts of economic indicators measuring capital flows.

               
    Imperial theorizing totally ignores the role of non-economic socio-political power configurations in shaping imperial policy, over and against major economic institutions like MNC, up to and including major military commitments.  The role of zionist power configurations and militarist ideologues in shaping US Middle East policy (2000-2010) is a crucial consideration in discussing contemporary imperialism in theory and practice.

               
    Imperial impacts are largely determined by the kinds of imperial states (predominantly economic or military and the sub categories of each), the kind of “targeted” or “host” state (neo-liberal run by collaborators, bourgeois nationalist “partners”, nationalist-statist adversaries) the kinds of policies on foreign capital inflows (sectors open, content and joint-venture rules, technology transfers, financial controls) as well as on capital and profit outflows (tax on profits, time constraints on buy and sell of stocks/bonds).

               
    The issue of imperial domination is not based so much on how much capital flows from imperial countries.  Rather it is based on class relation:  between imperial and domestic classes.  Different imperial classes (bankers, manufacturers etc) must compete with other imperial classes as well as domestic state and private capitalist classes. These multiple class relations are changing over time to the degree that the host state insists on transfers of technological, management and marketing know how. “Domination” or “dependence” is not a structural feature embedded over time.  Insofar as learning by the “host” country leads to upgrading of productivity, access to world markets and increased competitiveness based on technological innovations.  This results in qualitative changes in the relations between established imperial and emerging capitalist states.

               
    Hence imperial theorizing which focuses only on imperial outflows and inflows of capital – as if the “host” country was a ‘blank factor’ – cannot account for the dynamic growth (or stagnation) of host countries with large scale, long term relations with imperial economies.

    Emerging and World Powers
               
    Can “emerging countries” whose dynamic growth is based primarily on the export of agro-mineral products sustain their expansion over time and avoid the volatility associated with past cyclical patterns?  Can high demand and prices for commodity exports be sustained by ever growing Asian (Chinese) demands?  Are the earnings and revenues accruing to agro-mineral export states having “spread effects” beyond the “enclaves” directly engaged in producing transporting and exporting commodities?  Are the emerging states adding value to raw material exports, processing agricultural commodities, industrializing minerals, developing technology and upgrading skills?  Are they developing marketing know-how, professional managers who retain and invest revenues productively?  Are they diversifying their economies, markets and exports? Are their exports financing the development of the home market, lessening vulnerability to external market fluctuations?  Is growth overly dependent on investments and exports at the expense of social consumption and the domestic market?  Are state revenues from commodity exports secured at the expense of local industry?  Is a local comprador class of importers and retailers, financiers and creditors of local consumers, creating a “power complex” which erodes the influence of local large, medium and small scale producers?  Is access to overseas markets for commodities, secured at the expense of local manufacturers? Do agro-exporters undermine local food production, increase the need for food imports, augmenting food insecurity?

               
    The dynamic growth of the emerging agro-mineral export countries has been combined with relatively high interest rates. In the context of economic crises, low interest rates in the imperial countries has led to the large scale influx of speculative funds into the local bond market of emerging economies.  This has fueled a speculative bubble and overvaluation of the local currency, undermining the export competitiveness of local industrialists.

    Imperial Power in Latin America

               
    Most discussions of US imperial power in Latin America are impressionistic, superficial and anecdotal, relying on particular events, devoid of any  comparative historical perspective.  The general tendency in recent years has been to emphasize the ‘downside’ or decline of US power, without reference to specific political time frames or issue areas.

               
    In this section we will raise a number of methodological and measurement problems that point to the complexity accompanying any estimate of the power of the US empire in Latin America.  We will then identify the principle tendencies with regard to the direction of imperial power and conclude by providing an interpretation of the complex shifts over time and location.

               
    Determining the direction of imperial power – rising or declining – depends on the comparative historical time frame as well as the type of indicators.

               
    If for example, one compares US imperial power in Latin America between 1990-99 to 2000-2010 on a broad range of issues, including ideology, client regimes, market shares, economic policies, foreign policy alignments, there is no doubt that a sharp decline of US hegemony has taken place.  However, if one examines a shorter time frame, comparing 2000-2005 to 2006-2010, an argument can be made that by certain measures, the US has stopped its decline and may have recovered relative influence.

               
    For example, between 2000-2005 major popular upheavals and mass mobilizations took place, overthrowing incumbent neo-liberal client regimes, calling for the renationalization of privatized firms, the renunciation of the foreign debt, radical agrarian reforms and income redistribution. Neo-liberal ideology was totally discredited and US foreign policy was subject to a thorough discredit.  Anti-imperialist, if not anti-capitalist ideology held sway among broad sectors of the working, middle and even elements of the political class.

               
    This radical moment however, did not lead to a break with the capitalist system.  Instead a series of ‘center-left’ regimes took power and, favored by extraordinarily high commodity prices, proceeded to stimulate an economic recovery, and a marked improvement in social conditions.  These policies led to the de-radicalization of the social movements and a modicum of normalization of relations with Washington, albeit with greater autonomy.

               
    If between 2000–2005 Washington ‘lost’ collaborator clients in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and faced strong opposition throughout the region, between 2006-2010, Washington retained or regained clients in Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Colombia, Peru and Chile.  Equally important the center-left regimes stabilized capitalism and blocked any move to reverse privatized firms.  They weakened independent class based movements which threatened radical changes.  They moved the political-economic spectrum to the ‘center’.  Furthermore, the disarray and retreat of pro-US rightwing parties of the 2000-2005 period was replaced by a recovery and regroupment in Bolivia, Venezuela and elsewhere.

               
    Using regime composition and alignment as a measure, Washington’s decline of 2000-2005 was contained and even to a degree reversed by the end of the decade.

               
    However, when we turn to economic indicators, such as free trade agreements, market shares, trading and investment partnerships, the decline of US accelerated throughout the decade.  By 2010 Asia, especially China, replaced the US as the major market for Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile as well as encroaching on US primacy throughout Latin America.  If we examine patterns of regional integration a similar decline in US hegemony is apparent in the growth of inter-regional trade and political associations: UNASUR an association of Latin American countries eclipses the US dominated OAS. MERCOSUR, ALBA and other intra-Latin American free trade organizations expand at the expense of US centered ‘free trade’ projects.

               
    In the area of military influence and political intervention, the US collaborators suffered major setbacks in coup efforts in Venezuela (2002, 2003), Bolivia 2008, but were successful in Honduras 2009.  The US secured a base agreement with Colombia a major potential military ally against Venezuela in 2009.  However, with a change in President in 2010, Washington suffered a partial setback with the reconciliation between President Chavez and Santos.  Lucrative $8 billion dollar trade agreements with Venezuela trumped Colombia’s military base agreements with Washington.

               
    Several propositions about US imperial power in Latin America can be outlined.

    US decline in economic power is structural and irreversible, at least given the state of the world economy and the dynamic growth of Asia.

    US political influence exhibits a great deal of fluidity, depending on the levels and intensity of the class struggle and most important the success or failures of the incumbent regimes in combining growth and increased living standards.

    US military power does not translate into political influence and increased market shares, especially where the guiding ideology (“neo-liberalism” or “US-centered economic strategies”) and its local advocates have been discredited because of severe economic crises.

    The decline of US imperial power has not led to an increase in the influence of the working class or other exploited classes:  a dynamic “national” capitalist class is the prime mover and beneficiary of the loss of US influence.

    The rise of a dynamic relatively independent capitalist class has not broken with the colonial international division of labor; rather the dynamism of this class is a product of the intensification and extension of primary product exploitation and exports.  The new dynamism is derived from the revenues from high prices and expanding export markets and here lies future vulnerability if prices decline.

    “Structural” analysis which underlies most theorizing about imperialism overlooks the important contingencies and class agencies which put into motion the organizational and institutional forms of capital accumulation.

    An Interpretation of the Problematical Status of Imperial Power In Latin America

               
    The poverty of class analysis of imperial power among the leading and best known theorists, underlies their superficial understanding of complex changes and continuities in US-Latin American relations.

               
    The ‘fluidity’ found in the countervailing tendencies in imperial power is illustrated by the relative economic decline in the present decade and continued military hegemony in the same period.  This can be best understood by the fact that there have been no changes in the mode of production in the hemisphere, no reversals in the wholesale privatizations of the 1990’s and the continuation of free trade practices.  Given these continuities, US imperial policymakers retain a presence, albeit reduced, close collaborators in important economic sectors and are potentially in a position to reverse the current decline.  Equally important the US is still the principle economic power in the hemisphere even as its ability to exercise ‘dollar diplomacy’ has diminished.

                Secondly, while politically Washington can no longer dictate policy or easily pursue military intervention, the basic military linkages remain intact, including joint military exercises, sales and training programs, thus providing important points of leverage in limiting radical (but not reformist) changes.

               
    Thirdly, the growth of autonomous political action and an independent foreign policy in Latin America, is to an uncertain degree, dependent on personalities in power.  It is not clear to what degree the institutional bases to sustain the current course of action is firmly entrenched or based on merely ‘conjunctural’ circumstances.

               
    Fourthly, Latin America’s current growing affluence, high growth rates and relative independence is to a large extent based on a ‘colonial division of labor’, mainly trade and investments in agro-mineral products and the importation of finished, intermediate and capital goods.  Historically, this has been subject to great volatility in demand and prices.

               
    Taken together these historical continuities argue for greater caution in assuming a permanent shift in imperial power relations with Latin America.

               
    Nevertheless, there are powerful reasons to consider the decline in US power as a long term and irreversible trend.  Among the most important structural considerations is the embedded military-zionist power configuration which dictates continuing wars which bankrupt the treasury, devalue the currency and undermine any effort to project economic power and new initiatives to recover market shares in Latin America.

               
    Secondly, the new dynamic capitalist centers in Asia are firmly established, growing and defining a multi-polar economic world.  They have established in the minds of Latin American policymakers and ruling classes a new ‘world view’:  Their future interests lie in Asia.  As a consequence of this fact Latin America’s rulers have reoriented the direction of trade and investment, away from the US.

               
    Thirdly, there are no signs of any reversal of the decline of US manufacturing; nor has Washington demonstrated any capacity to curtail the trade and budget deficits.  Washington lacks the capacity to challenge, subvert or co-opt the emerging capitalist power configuration which underpins Latin America’s independent politics.

      

    US plans to expand raids in Pakistan

    December 22nd, 2010 by Vladimir Gladkov

    US military officials have made a proposal for expanding Special Operations ground raids into the tribal areas of Pakistan. The decision was made in the light of a recent intelligence report describing the insurgent camps in the Pakistan as one of the main threats to the success of US operations in Afghanistan. While the plan has not yet been approved, both military and political leaders admit the necessity of serious measures as the deadline for withdrawing forces from Afghanistan approaches.

    Since Barack Obama declared the solution of Afghanistan problem one of the main directions of his foreign policy, the failure to meet the deadline could become critical for his political reputation. The report recently provided by American intelligence agencies states that despite the fact of some progress made by US forces during the last year, the military operation is still far from being a success….

    Up till now, the movement of US forces inside Pakistani territory has been prohibited to prevent a negative reaction from the Pakistani authorities.
    Several infiltrations made by the US forces are known to have infuriated Pakistani officials.

    The main role in a secret war on Pakistan territory has belonged to the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA has operated the armed drones to hunt down insurgent leaders and also organized a number of secret missions carried out by Afghan operatives, known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams. While their missions have been reported as intelligence- gathering only operations, recent interviews have demonstrated that at least in one case the Afghan militia destroyed a militant weapons depot.

    [T]his decision would open a new front in the war that is becoming more and more unpopular in America. It also could ruin relations with such an unreliable ally as Pakistan, especially considering the risk of civilian casualties.. .. US military leaders aim to receive approval for their plan to send American
    special forces across the Pakistani border. An anonymous senior American officer stated, “We’ve never been as close as we are now to getting the go-ahead to go across.”
    ….
    Meanwhile, even the supporters of Obama are starting to lose patience with the war. Adam Smith – a Washington Democrat who serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, stated that the political left plans to increase pressure on the President to end the war and that the Democrats in Congress are likely to oppose continuing to spend $100 billion annually on Afghanistan.

    “We’re not going to be hanging out over there fighting these guys like we’re fighting them now for 20 years,” said Adam Smith.

    The Chief Designer of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, Yury Solomonov has accused America of violating the 1987 agreement with Russia, on the destruction of medium and short range missiles, by its development of the Gera dummy rocket as part of the construction of the American anti-missile defense system

    The 1987 agreement was signed by the former head of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev and former and late U.S President, Ronald Reagan, and it paved the way for the destruction of an entire class of rockets. Now America has that rocket, although it cannot be charged with a direct violation of the agreement since, theoretically, the rocket relates to the earth-air class. Under extreme circumstances, Russia can opt out of the agreement by resorting to a similar type of maneuvering, Solomonov said.

    “If there is a will by the government, a strategic rocket can be transformed into a medium range one,” Solomonov says.

    But Russia should not allow itself to be dragged into a new round of an arms race, but at the same time, it should not relinquish its role of a strategic deterrent force, said Solomonov.

    Russia should have such a nuclear potential that will erase any doubt in the mind of an adversary about the country’s ability and capability to respond adequately to the action of an aggressor, he says.

    According to Solomonov, the Russian army will be fully equipped with the “Topol-M” rocket by 2012, after which the country’s strategic force will be receiving only the new PC-24 Yars with separating warheads-which has no equal in the world. In the near future, the Russian navy will get the “Bulava” intercontinental ballistic missile, together with strategic submarine to carry it.

    Rockets hit two NATO tankers in Pakistan

    December 22nd, 2010 by Global Research

    ISLAMABAD: Suspected militants in a Pakistani tribal region Monday fired rockets at tankers carrying oil for NATO troops in the neighboring Afghanistan, witnesses and official sources said.

    Two tankers were destroyed in the attack in Jamrud area of Khyber tribal region in northwest Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan.

    Residents said that the security forces fired at the suspected position of the attackers but there was no report of any casualty.

    The Pakistan-Afghanista n highway was temporarily blocked and NATO supplies suspended following the attack.

    The attack was launched three days after a series of strikes by the U.S. drones in Khyber agency, which targeted centers of the militant groups and killed over 30 people.
    ….
    It is the second attack on NATO trucks in Pakistan in three days.

    On Saturday, unidentified armed men in southwestern Balochistan province fired at a container carrying supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan and injured its driver and another person.

    The armed men, riding a motorcycle, fled after the attack near the town of Mach in Balochistan.

    Officials say that some 70 percent supplies are transported for the NATO forces in Afghanistan through Pakistan.

    The Threat Of NATO Expansion

    December 22nd, 2010 by Global Research

    CSTO concerned about threats of NATO expansion

    -Western countries and international organizations combined their efforts to seek “global and regional political, military and ideological superiority. “

    The growth of NATO’s military infrastructure and its information campaign are the main concerns for the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), said the bloc’s Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha on Tuesday.

    “On the Western European direction, against the existing power balance, NATO’s military structures keep approaching the CSTO’s zone of responsibility. This disrupts the current balance of forces and cannot help but concern us,” Interfax news agency quoted Bordyuzha as saying.

    “The real threat of an arms race has existed as well as a rising level of tension and distrust,” Bordyuzha said during the eighth CSTO Information Conference here on Tuesday.

    Bordyuzha added that the CSTO needs a joint tool to counter the “joint information superiority” of the Western countries. He said Western countries and international organizations combined their efforts to seek “global and regional political, military and ideological superiority. “

    Bordyuzha said that to alleviate tension and to provide predictability and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region, “real establishment and sustaining of interactions between Russia and NATO are needed.”

    Russia and NATO must jointly react on common threats, he added.

    Such threats are terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking, natural and human-caused disasters, the CSTO chief elaborated.