Iraq: Crimes against Humanity. The Babies Will Haunt Us

December 18th, 2012 by Kelley B. Vlahos

It was like walking through a nightmare: drifting in an out of hospital rooms, down the long hallways, her contact with shock-ravaged Iraqi parents interrupted only by glimpses of their physically deformed and terminally sick babies who in many cases, would never see the outside of Fallujah’s main hospital, ever.

Then, the more than vague sense that she must apologize. The words thick like molasses were hard to form. “I felt inadequate,” said Donna Mulhearn. “What was so hard was, what do you say to these people other than saying sorry, which I said over and over again. You just wanted to offer more.”

Iraqi baby in Fallujah. Credit: Donna Mulhearn.

Iraqi baby in Fallujah. Credit: Donna Mulhearn.

Donna Mulhearn is a name we need to remember, as she is one of a small but dedicated group of citizen activists who, after most of us have said the long goodbye to Iraq in the rear-view mirror, are taking on the environmental and humanitarian legacy of the Iraq War as a personal cause. Right now, she is doing what the western mainstream has so far failed to do, which is report on the horrifying number of miscarriages, deaths, birth defects and congenital illnesses among babies in urban Fallujah, the site of some of the most intense U.S bombing (2004) during the war.

A generation of women in this Sunni Iraqi city, which at one point was considered an insurgent “breeding ground” during the war, is now unable to have consistently healthy babies, according to anecdotal reports and scientific studies. It’s so bad that hospital officials are quietly telling women there to stop getting pregnant. Why? Many think it is because of the war pollution — due to everything from heavy metals from exploded ordnance to radiation left behind by depleted uranium used on U.S ammunition and tanks — inhaled by Fallujah’s residents, seeped into the ground water, flowing in the nearby Tigris River, choking the air they breathe.

“This is a toxic legacy, in which I would include, is the legacy of warfare,” Mulhearn told in a recent Skype interview from her home in Australia. “In the last 10 years we’ve had a good focus on remnants of war that are visible — like land mines and cluster munitions, things that go boom and explode. We need to now look at those toxic remnants of war that are not visible but are extremely harmful to communities.”

“Harmful” seems like such an understatement for the things the doctors in Fallujah have been seeing in recent years. Thanks to Google, you can see it too, but we warn you it is not for the squeamish. Some of the more common defects on the rise in Fallujah General Hospital: Gastroschisis (babies born with their intestine protruding outside their small bellies), Hydrocephalus (babies born with “water on the brain, abnormal brain swelling), Encephalocele ( neural tube defect in which babies are born with sac-like protrusions from their heads), Macrocephaly (babies with abnormally large heads), spina bifida (backbone and spinal canal are not closed before birth, creating gaping hole in the babies’ backs) and cleft lip and palate.

In front of the rubble<br />during one of her trips to Iraq during the war. Credit: Donna Mulhearn.

In front of the rubble during one of her trips to Iraq during the war. Credit: Donna Mulhearn.

There have also been numerous reports — and photos do not lie — of infants born without eyes, missing limbs, extra limbs, covered in tumors, missing genitalia, severe brain damage. Back in 2010, the BBC’s Mark Simpson reported seeing a baby with three heads as he toured a clinic in Fallujah. When I wrote “Children of War” for The American Conservative in March 2011, doctors were reporting two birth defects a day, compared to two every two weeks in 2008.

When Mulhearn made her trip in July, she was told that there are still two a day on average and the desperation all around her seemed to be getting worse. “It hit me pretty hard, I cried a lot. You met a baby who was about an hour old and she had a big fleshy hole in her back, and it was a common issue — spina bifida — her grandmother was there because the mother was still in shock.”

Because of the lack of interest and resources, few studies have been done to identify the scope and cause of what is being called a crisis by advocates like Mulhearn and health specialists familiar with what is going on in Fallujah, as well as the city of Basra, which has been dealing with both congenital defects and high rates of childhood cancer (Basra has been at the center of heavy artillery warfare dating back to the Iran-Iraq War in 1982).

Dr. Samira Alani, a pediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital who has been a stalwart voice on the issue for the last few years, told al Jazeera in early 2012 that she had recorded 699 birth defects since 2009. In December 2010, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health issued a study that said that since 2003, congenital malformations were found in 15 percent of all births in Fallujah (population 326,471). Track that with 3 percent of babies born in the United States with birth defects — 6 percent worldwide — and the problem appears even more stark and alarming.

The most recent study, conducted by a group of Iraqi researchers led by Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, found higher levels of mercury and lead in the hair and toenail samples of the mothers of babies born with birth defects in Fallujah. Out of the babies born since 2007 to the 56 families surveyed (these families were screened for history of birth defects; the mothers determined not to be drinkers nor smokers), 50 percent had birth defects and one in six pregnancies ended in a miscarriage. This is up from one in 10 infants born with birth defects and 10 percent miscarriages before 2004. The study also found similar rates of toxicity and birth defects in Basra, which was bombed and occupied by the British during the recent Iraq War.

Their conclusion: “Present knowledge on the effects of prenatal exposure to metals, combined with our results, suggests that the bombardment of Al Basrah and Fallujah may have exacerbated public exposure to metals, possibly culminating in the current epidemic of birth defects.”

After the report was released in October, Savabieasfahani told reporters that there is a “footprint of metal in the population” and “compelling evidence linking the staggering increases in Iraqi birth defects to neuro-toxic metal contamination following the repeated bombardments of Iraqi cities.”

Savabiesfahani, who was also involved in the aforementioned 2010 study, called it an “epidemic” and “public health crisis.”

“In utero exposure to pollutants can drastically change the outcome of an otherwise normal pregnancy,” she said. “The massive and repeated bombardment of these cities is clearly implicated here. I have no knowledge of any alternative source of metal contamination in these areas.”

This of course has been denied by American authorities who continue to insist that the war has nothing to do with the grim statistics coming out of the main hospitals in Fallujah and Basra. Then again, they also deny that their own soldiers are getting sick from all of the toxicity they were exposed to from the huge burn pits on American bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Department of Defense spokesperson told The Guardian (UK) in October that “we are not aware of any official reports indicating an increase in birth defects in Al Basrah or Fallujah that may be related to exposure to the metals contained in munitions used by the US or coalition partners. We always take very seriously public health concerns about any population now living in a combat theater. Unexploded ordnance, including improvised explosive devises, are a recognized hazard.”

A UK government spokesperson said there was no “reliable scientific or medical evidence to confirm a link between conventional ammunition and birth defects in Basra”, adding: “All ammunition used by UK armed forces falls within international humanitarian law and is consistent with the Geneva Convention.”

The thrust of Mulhearn’s work concentrates on depleted uranium (DU), its use in the war by coalition forces and its contamination of the people in hard hit cities like Fallujah. DU is a dense, highly toxic, radioactive heavy metal that is primarily used for its penetrative and shielding properties. It is widely found in American Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, many of which are rotting away in the desert from the first Gulf War. Tiny particles of the heavy metals from the rotting carcasses, plus unexploded or exploded munitions carrying DU, can travel long distances in the air and when inhaled it can be deadly, according to scientists.

“The invisible particles created when those bullets struck and burned are still ‘hot.’ They make Geiger counters sing, and they stick to the tanks, contaminating the soil and blowing in the desert wind, as they will for the 4.5 billion years it will take the DU to lose just half its radioactivity,” wrote the Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Peterson in 2002 when studying the battle ravaged landscape of Iraq before the 2003 invasion. He called the “radioactive battlefield” and the growing health problems ascribed to it then, a possible “omen of an unsettled future.”

Later in Baghdad after the invasion, Peterson used his Geiger counter to test for DU, which came with the 300,000 rounds the Air Force shot from its A-1 “Warthog” planes during the first phase of “shock and awe” (Warthog war porn here).

“The children haven’t been told not to play with the radioactive debris,” Peterson wrote in May 2003. He pointed to just one site where U.S. troops had put up handwritten warnings in Arabic for Iraqis to stay away. “There, a 3-foot-long DU dart from a 120 mm tank shell, was found producing radiation at more than 1,300 times background levels. It made the [Geiger counter] staccato bursts turn into a steady whine.”

The military has been quite mum on the use of DU throughout the war and there is no way to tell for sure how much was used during the two major bombardments of Fallujah, a densely inhabited city. We know that there were relentless air assaults from March to September 2004, and more in the second phase in November 2004, using a “steady pace” of attacks mostly from AC-130 gunships and fixed-wing aircraft. There was strafing of insurgents from F-15 jets and strikes from 500-lb GBU-38 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) bombs (get the full measure of what they call “The Fallujah Model” in this breathless report in Air Force Magazine in 2005).

Also during the November phase, in a little known admission, a Pentagon spokesperson said that white phosphorus — which sizzles the skin right off the bone — was used to as an incendiary weapon against “enemy combatants.”

The Pentagon likes to point to its own studies, like the one conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2010, which examined water, soil and vegetation in selected cities including Basra but not Fallujah, to deny culpability for the country’s apparent toxification. That study concluded “the radiation doses from DU do not pose a radiological hazard to the population at the four studied locations in southern Iraq.”

The challenge of parsing out all of this potential toxicity from the munitions, as well as contamination from past wars — including Saddam Hussein’s own use of chemical weapons — and little or no regulatory protections against industrial waste and hazards, looms large. We know it is bad: an Iraqi study in 2010 found 40 cites with high levels of heavy metals and radiation, with the worst in the cities, including Basra, Fallujah and Najaf.

The west, it seems, has washed its hands of the matter. “They don’t study effect of war on the countries that are invading or bombing or whatever — they just don’t do that,” said Adil Shamoo, an Iraqi-American who teaches at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Maryland. He believes the most recent study of hair and toenail samples has warranted enough evidence for a much larger examination of Fallujah in the aftermath. But he suggests that political pressure is standing in the way.

“There is a willful negligence — if you don’t study, you won’t find.”

Mulhearn says there is similar apathy in Australia, though there is more of a grassroots awareness of the problem and more open criticism of the Australian government (which also supported operations in Iraq) about it. She said a much anticipated report (expected soon) by the World Health Organization is supposed to shed light on the prevalence of congenital birth defects in nine major areas of Iraq, though it will not address the possible causes.

Donna Mulhearn is kissed by a Baghdad<br />schoolgirl a day before the 2003 invasion. Credit: Donna Mulhearn.

Donna Mulhearn is kissed by a Baghdad schoolgirl a day before the 2003 invasion. Credit: Donna Mulhearn.

“This community needs answers,” said Mulhearn, who has been back and forth from Iraq since 2003 when she went to Baghdad to serve as a “human shield” during the invasion. She was in Fallujah in 2004 during the fighting and served as a humanitarian aid worker there. She plans to go back to Fallujah in February, this time with a filmmaker. She will take him through the pediatric wards, and to the part of the dusty city graveyard (which used to be a football field) that now serves as a ramshackle baby burial ground.

“When I sat with the women —probably five or six families that had been affected — I asked, ‘what do you think caused this and why do you think this happened to your baby?’ All of them said, without blinking, without pause, that it’s from the weapons in the war, without question.”

Mulhearn then asked what they would have — compensation for medical bills, prosecution of possible war crimes? “They just said, ‘I want my baby better.’”

“That’s all they could see in front of them, their little baby.”

There are many layers to this story, Mulhearn pointed out, not the least of which is the care for these infants. If they do live, they will be brought up in a society that is completely bereft of public supports for children with such disabilities — no special schools or wealthy private charities. Family networks are critical, but not everyone has one. “So you have these children with disabilities sitting in an empty room all day, some (families) have three of them, not being able to go to school or have any stimulation.”

This is our legacy, she said, including the western powers that invaded and occupied Iraq for nearly a decade. “I really felt it was a story that must be told.”

More of Mulhearn’s Fallujah photographs and reporting can be found here.

Follow Vlahos on Twitter @KelleyBVlahos

I remember my history lessons in school. Among many things, I can recall Patton’s march through France and the Battle of the Bulge, and how we learned about the millions of deaths on, as well as off, the fields of battle throughout history.

All in all, it was a tale of battles won and lost, and as was rightly put by my junior high school teacher - a tale of caution for future generations. But as young students, we were never taught to idiosyncrasies of ‘war-gaming’ a conflict in the future.

Nor can I recall getting lessons in school about using various aspects of asymmetrical warfare to encircle an enemy, or how admirable and clever it is to deploy terrorist units to bomb a country in order to ‘soften it up’ from within.

Unbeknownst to many people, there are school teachers who are delivering pro-war propaganda, indoctrinating young children with violent globalist military stratagem selling the concept of an inevitable war on the people of Iran as well as anyone else deemed as ‘Axis’ powers in relation to western central planning.

Interestingly, and quite horrific in fact, when challenged by his young (and extremely bright) female student over the idea of western pre-emptive intervention against Iran, the teacher addressing these students laid down a nonnegotiable maxim stating:

“… one of the rules (in this discussion) – you can’t do nothing”.

The female student followed his NLP intellectual diversion by rightly pointing out to him:

“But we (the US) are the only country in the world that’s ever used nuclear weapons”.

To which the teacher replies sharply:

“That’s irrelevant.”

It appears also towards the end of the video, that the class was being monitored by the principal’s office, who then summoned the student in question to the office. Orwellian – in the extreme.

This is the generation of children who may be asked – or drafted in to fight a coming war with Iran and others – so is this part of the indoctrination of future soldiers? Maybe.

Certainly here, it’s safe to say that teachers are grooming the next generation of compliant consumer spectators.

Watch the classroom exchange recorded by the student:

Immediately, the first thing that’s come to mind here is remembering what Cosby Stills and Nash tried to tell us – all those decades ag…


Obama, Biden are war criminals under UN Charter

December 18th, 2012 by Dave Lindorff

Bush, Cheney, White House counsel (and later Attorney General) Alberto Gonzalez and others were found guilty earlier this month of war crimes… As it turns out, Bush and Gonzalez needn’t have worried. Though Obama, when initially campaigning in 2008 for the presidency, vowed that he wanted to restore the respect for the law and the Constitution, once elected President, he and his attorney general Eric Holder quickly made it clear that they were ‘looking forward, not backward.’”

Most Americans, their minds focused at the moment on the tragic slaughter of 20 young children aged 5 and 6, along with five teachers and a school principal in Connecticut by a heavily-armed psychotic 21-year-old, are blissfully unaware that their previous president, George W. Bush, along with five key members of his administration, were recently convicted in absentia of war crimes at a tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


US President Barack Obama (foreground) and Vice President Joe Biden

US President Barack Obama (foreground) and Vice President Joe Biden

They are unaware because the US corporate media have ignored the story, just as that same corporate media have failed to note that the crimes of which Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and five White House lawyers, were convicted all could apply equally well to current President Barack Obama and his administration.

Bush, Cheney, White House counsel (and later Attorney General) Alberto Gonzalez and others were found guilty earlier this month of war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to the executive orders that launched the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as of authorizing and failing to punish torture and other war crimes by US forces, including the military and the CIA.

But as international law expert Francis Boyle, a professor of law at the University of Illinois, notes, under the Geneva Convention, failing to take action to prosecute those guilty of war crimes such as the “Crime against Peace” (invading a country that does not pose an imminent threat to the attacker), and torture, are war crimes in and of themselves.

Speaking last week at a Summit Conference on Human Rights held at the University of the Sacred Heart in the US island colony of Puerto Rico, Boyle said US authorities, including President Obama, are engaged in an “ongoing criminal conspiracy under international law” both to cover up and protect criminals like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, and to continue the commission of war crimes by the US government.

Support for both the Malaysian Tribunal’s judgment against Bush, Cheney et al, and for Boyle’s charges against Obama and his administration, comes, interestingly, from President Bush’s own White House counsel Gonzalez. As I noted in my book The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), about Bush’s and Cheney’s war crimes and impeachable offenses, Gonzalez, writing in a Jan. 25, 2002 memo in support of the torture of captured terrorist suspects, warned President Bush that “it is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based upon” the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act.

He went on to caution that in the event that the president were some day so prosecuted and convicted of war crimes, the potential penalty could “include the death penalty.” In the same memo, sounding more like a mob lawyer than a judicious legal advisor, Gonzalez told the president that as the president’s legal counsel, he was making a determination that torture of suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban captives would be legal in order to provide the president and his staff with legal cover that “substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act.”

As it turns out, Bush and Gonzalez needn’t have worried. Though Obama, when initially campaigning in 2008 for the presidency, vowed that he wanted to restore the respect for the law and the Constitution, once elected President, he and his attorney general Eric Holder quickly made it clear that they were “looking forward, not backward,” and that there would be no prosecutions or indictments for war crimes of any Bush administration people.

The thing is, at that moment, both President Obama and AG Holder became war criminals themselves under the UN Charter and the Nuremberg Principles, which declare that covering up war crimes by prior government and military leaders, and failure to prosecute such war crimes, are in themselves war crimes.

But as Boyle noted in his address in San Juan, P.R., Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, and the various secretaries of defense and state, the head of the CIA and the Pentagon Chiefs of Staff, as well as other Obama administration personnel, are also guilty of perpetrating ongoing war crimes themselves.

Boyle accuses the Obama administration of continuing to conduct a “bogus” war on “international terrorism” including the ever escalating campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and other jurisdictions. He termed the president’s program of “targeted killings,” in which President Obama himself draws up the “kill list,” to be simply a case of “pure murder” under both traditional British common law and international law, and says these attacks constitute a “Crime against Humanity under Article 7(1)(a) of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court.”

It would seem that it is unlikely Nobel Peace Laureate Obama will be prosecuted by any country, at least while he remains president, but the recent Malaysian tribunal conviction of Bush, Cheney and several Bush administration legal advisors suggests there could be similar tribunals and convictions of current administration personnel in years to come.

While America’s outsized military and economic power for now make it unlikely any retired American leaders will find themselves in the dock at the Hague like war criminals from Serbia, Bosnia or Rwanda, it is possible that these kinds of charges and convictions could, at a minimum, make them, like former Nixon administration Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, reluctant to travel internationally in their dotage.


Dave Lindorff is an award-winning American investigative journalist. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1972 with a BA in Chinese language. He then received an MS in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1975. He has worked for a number of major US news organizations, including the Los Angeles Daily News, the Minneapolis Tribune and Business Week, where he served for five years as a correspondent for Hong Kong and China. He is author of a number of books, including Killing Time about the case of death-row prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, and The Case for Impeachment about the Bush/Cheney administration, and is founder of the online newspaper

Posted on December 17, 2012 by JimQ
*       *       *

Hey you, out there on the road
always doing what you’re told,
Can you help me?
Hey you, out there beyond the wall,
Breaking bottles in the hall,
Can you help me?
Hey you, don’t tell me there’s no hope at all
Together we stand, divided we fall.

Pink Floyd – Hey You

trust us  by ediskrad studios d30s160 HEY YOU The Wall Was Too High by TheCookiMonster HEY YOU

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.” Aldous Huxley – Brave New World

The world makes less sense every day. Little children are randomly slaughtered in their schoolrooms. Predator drones roam the skies over foreign countries exterminating bad guys, along with innocent women and children (collateral damage when it occurs in a foreign country). Drugged up mentally ill kids with no hope and no future live lives of secluded quiet desperation until they snap. Ignorant, government educated, welfare dependent drones with no self respect or respect for others, assault, kill and rob within their government created urban jungles.

Sociopathic criminals who committed the largest financial crime in world history walk free and continue to occupy executive suites in luxury office towers in downtown NYC, collecting millions in bonuses as compensation for crushing the American middle class. Academics, whose theories have been thoroughly disproven, continue to steer our economy into an iceberg while accelerating the money printing and debt issuance that will sink our ship of state. Corrupt, bought off politicians pander to the lowest common denominator as their votes are only dependent upon who contributed the most to their election campaigns, which never end. Delusional, materialistic, egocentric, math challenged consumers (formerly known as citizens) live for today, enslave themselves in debt, vote themselves more entitlements, and care not for future generations. The alienation and isolation created by our sprawling, automobile dependent, technology obsessed, government controlled, debt financed society has spread like a cancerous tumor, slowly killing our country.

5797973707 5f9ee1bcc1 o HEY YOU

Pink Floyd released The Wall 33 years ago. It was a concept rock opera album that explored the issues of ababdonment, isolation, alienation, authoritarianism, the brutality of war, a tyrannical conformist educational system, and the walls individuals and society build to protect themselves from having to confront reality and deal with the consequences of their actions. I attended the Roger Waters Wall Concert this past summer at Citizens Bank Park with my three sons. Three decades later, the message is more powerful than ever.

The government oppression and never ending wars waged by the American Empire around the world have created a society built upon fear and loathing. Roger Waters’ vision is colored by Orwell’s 1984 dystopian nightmare of lies, misinformation, propaganda and brutality. The missing piece, which Waters didn’t see coming in 1979, was the ability of the oligarchs to use their control of the credit system to entrap the masses by convincing them to love their servitude and become so consumed with material possessions and the love of money that they would become nothing more than passive egotistical consumers.

Since 1979, Total Credit Market Debt in the United States has risen from $4.3 trillion to $55.3 trillion, a 1,286% increase in 33 years. Over this same time frame total wages and salaries have risen from $1.3 trillion to $6.9 trillion, a 531% increase. GDP has grown from $2.6 trillion to $15.8 trillion, a 608% increase. Luckily for the oligarchs, the math challenged masses don’t understand that 375% of the increase in GDP is strictly due to Federal Reserve created inflation, as the U.S. dollar has lost 68% of its purchasing power since 1979. This GDP growth was driven by debt, with consumer expenditures rising from 61% of GDP in 1979 to 71% of GDP today. In the one hundred years since the creation of the Federal Reserve the country’s population has tripled, while our public debt and unfunded liabilites have risen from $2 billion to over $200 trillion, a ten million percent increase. The masses have been programmed and conditioned to love their debt servitude and yearn for more debt to fix an economic system that collapsed due to excessive debt. The cadre of ruling elite are obliging by creating debt at hyperspeed levels. The corporate media, Wall Street shysters and low-life captured politicians assure the sheep-like masses that this is normal and beneficial to their interests, as the sheep are sheared and led to slaughter.

total credit market debt owed HEY YOU

“There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them.”George Orwell

Pavlov’s Dogs

pavlov6 HEY YOU Black Friday missouri1 HEY YOU

“And always, everywhere, there would be the yelling or quietly authoritative hypnotists; and in the train of the ruling suggestion givers, always everywhere, the tribes of buffoons and hucksters, the professional liars, the purveyors of entertaining irrelevances. Conditioned from the cradle, unceasingly distracted, mesmerized systematically, their uniformed victims would go on obediently marching and countermarching, go on, always and everywhere, killing and dying with the perfect docility of trained poodles.” - Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley and Edward Bernays realized in the 1920s that the utilization of conditioning and propaganda techniques could be used to control and manipulate the masses. Ivan Pavlov, the famous Russian physiologist, conducted the ground breaking work on conditional reflexes. Pavlov discovered that when a bell was rung in subsequent time with food being presented to a dog in consecutive sequences, the dog will initially salivate when the food is presented. The dog will later come to associate the ringing of the bell with the presentation of the food and salivate upon the ringing of the bell. To a critical thinking human being who questions authority, resists being told what they should think, and values their humanity, over what is crammed down their throat by government run schools and the corporate controlled media, the thought of being treated like a dog is revolting. But to people like Edward Bernays, who believed manipulation of the masses by an invisible contingent of intellectually superior men, conditioning the minds of the masses through propaganda was a necessity in a democratic society to keep the herd under control.

Just a cursory examination of our society reveals a population of salivating consumers (dogs) who can be stimulated to buy the latest iPhone or techno-gadget with a simple Madison Avenue advertising campaign (bell). Everyone has seen the videos of the masses lining up like cattle on Black Friday, stampeding through aisles, and fighting each other like their the entertainment at Michael Vick’s house on a Saturday night. All the mega-corporate retailers and the corporate media have to do is ring a bell (SALE) and the dogs start salivating. Product placement, Hollywood star endorsements and influential people using a product immediately convince the easily manipulated dogs to salivate and purchase the products. The difference is that these dogs have credit cards issued by the Wall Street banks and funded by the Federal Reserve with dollars created out of thin air. We are inundated with millions of TV, newspaper, radio, billboard, and internet advertisements designed to make us salivate (spend). Huxley’s dystopian vision of a society whose economic values, in which individual happiness is defined as the ability to satisfy needs, and achievement as a society is equated with economic growth and prosperity, has come to full fruition. He never conceived of consumers having the ability to consume without even having the money to do so. The credit card became our form of Soma. The so called progressives point to our ever increasing “advancements” in technology as proof that our society is progressing. Huxley knew otherwise, decades before we reached this disgusting point in history:

“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.” - Aldous Huxley

In reality our “technological progress” has done nothing more than create a humorless, shallow, superficial world of alienation and egocentric desires. Just as in Huxley’s Brave New World, science and technology have not been used to seek truth and advance our culture. They have been used by the State to sensor, control, and monitor the citizens. They use technology as a means to create electronic entertainment machines that generate both harmless leisure and the high levels of consumption and production that are the basis of societal stability and state designed happiness. When those in control talk about progress, they mean greater control over our lives. When the consumption of material goods isn’t enough to fill the holes within our souls, our owners are quick to prescribe a pill to smooth over those feelings of unease and discontent. In Huxley’s novel the population voluntarily consumes Soma to dispel any anxieties or negative emotion. The saying was, “One cubic centimeter cures ten gloomy sentiments.” In America the government controlled drug industry has thousands of pills to treat every ailment or unhappy thought that might ail you. Just don’t try and treat yourself with an unapproved natural or banned substance. The threat of imprisonment always lurks in the shadows. They just want us to be interchangeable bricks in the wall.

And the Worms Ate Into His Brain

“The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.” - Aldous Huxley

CT school shooting Adam Lanza HEY YOU  HEY YOU

Hey you, out there in the cold
Getting lonely, getting old
Can you feel me?
Hey you, standing in the aisles
With itchy feet and fading smiles
Can you feel me?
Hey you, don’t help them to bury the light
Don’t give in without a fight.

Pink Floyd – Hey You

The tragic deaths of twenty children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut this past week and the similar tragedies in Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech and Tucson are a reflection of the twisted society we’ve created. The progressive control freak do-gooders that believe the government can solve all problems and improve our lives with another law or regulation, have as usual come to the wrong solution for the wrong problem. Stricter gun control laws would not have averted this this tragedy. Connecticut has the 5th toughest gun restrictions in the country according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The guns were purchased legally by the mother of the killer. Mentally deranged people should not have access to guns, knives, automobiles, gasoline, or baseball bats. The real issue is not what he used to kill these innocent people, it’s what caused him to snap. Those in power want to divert the attention from this crucial question. In Huxley’s novel the characters do everything they can to avoid confronting the truth about their own lives. They try to alter reality by ingesting Soma, encouraged by the state as the ultimate form of willful self-delusion. Soma clouds the realities of the present and replaces them with happy hallucinations, and is thus a tool for promoting social stability. America has taken Huxley’s dystopian vision to an extreme. There are millions of children in this country being drugged on a daily basis to keep them under control. A majority of the mass murderers were taking psychotropic drugs, including the mentally deranged killer this week. These killings are a result of the state sponsored drugging of children, a culture that promotes narcissism, broken families and our technologically enhanced suburban sprawl isolation from human relationships, love and compassion for others.

We glorify technology even though it encourages the building of brick walls, creating a self-imposed isolation from society. The traditional family unit has been discarded, with 50% of marriages ending in divorce and 43% of all children born out of wedlock. Millions of families are dysfunctional, with parents too busy with their careers and acquiring material possessions, to bother with raising their children in a loving nurturing way. One in ten American adults choose to escape their man made cells with prescription anti-depressants. Almost one in four women in their 40s and 50s are popping pills to escape their depressing lives. Huxley envisioned a Soma Nation. America is a Prozac Nation. The wealthy think medicating their kids, spoiling them with toys, gadgets and cars, and occupying their days with organized sports and activities passes for involved parenting. Poor urban children are lucky if they ever lay eyes on their father. Ignorance, violence, and dependency are a given for most of these kids. And all of these children are matriculated into the government run schools whose sole purpose is to teach kids what to think, rather than how to think. Our owners need to keep us “happy” and focused on feelings, material possessions, and an infinite number of distractions, so they can retain control and continue their pillaging of the national wealth.

Our leaders have attempted to design their own Brave New World, retaining control by making America’s citizens so contented and superficially fulfilled that they no longer care about their personal freedoms, liberties and civic responsibilities. The consequences of increasing state power are a loss of dignity, morals, values, and emotions. We are losing our humanity. The society created by Bernays and his minions who occupy the executive suites in NYC and slither through the halls of Congress has been built upon destroying all human truths, such as love, friendship, community, and personal connections. Decades of media propaganda, public education mind control, and peddling of debt convinced the majority that happiness meant immediate gratification of our desires for food, sex, drugs, clothes, iGadgets, and all the other consumer crap made in corporate sponsored slave labor factories across Asia. These delusional hallucinations of happiness are the prison walls we’ve built brick by brick.

“This concern with the basic condition of freedom — the absence of physical constraint — is unquestionably necessary, but is not all that is necessary. It is perfectly possible for a man to be out of prison and yet not free — to be under no physical constraint and yet to be a psychological captive, compelled to think, feel and act as the representatives of the national State, or of some private interest within the nation, want him to think, feel and act.” - Aldous Huxley

It took the intellectuals and progressives that wield power across the land only moments to hijack the feelings of sorrow and pain sweeping the nation, to misdirect attention from the mental illnesses caused by the society they’ve created, towards the false storyline that gun violence is sweeping the land. In reality, violent crime has been falling for over a decade as gun sales have soared. The homicide rate in this country is the lowest since 1964, with the vast majority of homicides occurring in the urban kill zones created by the five decade long progressive war on poverty. The truth is of no interest to those brandishing power. After decades of conditioning, the masses are psychologically captive to the messages designed to make them salivate. They will be compelled to think, feel and act as instructed by the Alphas. There will be calls for more police, despite the fact that police rarely stop a crime. With all of their armaments, technology, high powered weaponry, and political clout, they can be counted on to arrive five minutes after the tragedy is over. But they are brilliant in luring clueless Muslim teenagers into terrorist plots, picking the target, providing the fake bombs, and taking credit for foiling the plots they created. More union police officers will increase our safety as much as more union teachers have made our kids smarter. This tragedy will be used by the propagandists to impose further restrictions upon those who choose personal responsibility and self-reliance over dependency and trust in the efficiency and fairness of our benevolent government overlords.

518px Violent Crime Rates in the United States.svg HEY YOU

As the father of three sons I can’t imagine the pain, sorrow and emptiness the parents of these beautiful children must be experiencing. The grief is overwhelming. I mourn for the children and adults slaughtered by a mentally deranged young man created by our truly perverted culture of alienation. I mourn for the children being raised in a society run by evil psychopathic liars that use the power of propaganda and the tools of debt to control and manipulate its citizens. I mourn for unborn generations that will be forced to confront the dreadful depraved chaos created by our culture of egocentric greed and narcissism. The things we value in this culture – accumulating wealth, outward beauty, acquisition of material possessions, instant gratification, access to debt, government control, and curing our ills with drugs – are driving us insane. Who is really abnormal in a profoundly abnormal society? Believing that possessions, more laws or another medication will truly make us happy is insane. Popping a pill, buying a new iPhone, or passing another law will not cure the disease that permeates this nation. We need to recapture the humanity, civic pride and self-responsibility that built this country. Only an awakened populace can change our course.

Huxley feared that our desires would ruin us. Orwell was afraid that what we fear would ruin us. The oligarchs have pushed the Huxley vision to its sustainable limit. The avarice and greed of these invisible power brokers has devoured the vast resources of the nation. These psychopaths weren’t satisfied with siphoning off most of the wealth of the country. They wanted it all and wrecked the global economy in their odious pursuit of mammon. We are now in the death throes of the most decadent, delusional, debt engendered era in the long history of mankind. Those in power realize it is slipping away. Their “solutions” reflect an air of desperation. Their propaganda efforts have been redoubled. As more middle class workers lose their jobs, more young people graduate from college with tens of thousands in student loan debt and a future of dramatically reduced expectations, and more people are driven beyond their breaking point, this materialistic shroud of happiness will be torn asunder. Anger is building like a lava dome within a volcano. A critical thinking minority are questioning the motives of those in power. The unsustainability of our economic paradigm is certain. The seeds of revolution are being sown. Our society is only fantasy. The wall is too high. It will be up to an irate tireless minority of freedom minded citizens to tear down the wall. The alternative is to allow the worms to eat into our brains. Each of us must answer a simple question. Are you just another brick in the wall?

But it was only fantasy.
The wall was too high,
As you can see.
No matter how he tried,
He could not break free.
And the worms ate into his brain.

Pink Floyd – Hey You

Pink Floyd The Wall Scream HEY YOU

The oligarchs will not give up without a fight. Their realization that the Brave New World method of controlling the masses has run its course has convinced them to shift their methods towards Orwell’s 1984 tactics. In part two of this series – Mother Should I Trust the Government? - I’ll address how the use of fear, war, pain, and surveillance are becoming the new controlling method of the oligarchs.


What’s Behind America’s Gun Violence

December 18th, 2012 by Jack A. Smith

There is more than the act of one individual involved in the mass gun killings that take place in America— the most recent being the massacre of 20 young children and seven school workers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14.

The main culprit, of course, is the late killer, Adam Lanza, 20.

But such events occur within a context of shared responsibility for the unparalleled number of mass and individual shooting deaths that take place in the United States every year. This includes the political system and politicians, the National Rifle Association and other gun lobbies, and federal, state and local governments. Each has played an indirect role in the latest and earlier slaughters.

Of these other responsible parties, one is our political system that refuses to strengthen absurdly deficient federal and state restrictions on the possession of various types of arms. Another is the irresponsible politicians who make it relatively easy for criminals, people with mental problems, and those who are unfit to possess weapons for other reasons to accumulate a private arsenal. In recent decades— despite the fact that last year there were over 11,000 murders by firearms in the U.S. and another 20,000 gun deaths from accidents and suicide, not to mention many more injuries — the great majority of American politicians have been too gutless to fight for tougher laws.

President Obama was moved to tears in announcing the deaths of 6- and 7- year old children in Newtown, and said he might take “meaningful action” of an undefined nature. But Obama is risk averse and has shown a disinclination to tangle with the pro-gun lobbies throughout his first term — so there’s a chance all we’ll get is tears and rhetoric even though 80% of the American people want gun owners to secure police permits, and nearly 90% would require background checks on all gun sales.

On the other hand, the fact that 20 youngsters were massacred has shocked the nation to the extent that it may be politically advantageous for the White House and Congress to pass token legislation. Most conservative Republicans will do whatever is possible to block progress on gun control, but they may be less obstructive if a proposed law is weak and limited. No major changes are anticipated.

At one time, the Democratic Presidents were willing to support gun control measures, in contrast to the recalcitrant rightists, but that’s changed in recent years. President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s  was a strong advocate, seeking passage of national legislation demanding that firearms owners obtain licenses registering all guns and rifles. It failed. After a mass shooting in the early 1990s President Bill Clinton fought for and won two gun control laws. The Democrats were quiet during George W. Bush’s eight years and silent during the last four.

Next in responsibility for the murders is the National Rifle Association and other gun owner or industry lobbies such as the Gun Owners of America, which sports an executive director, Larry Pratt, who actually made this comment soon after the school killings: “Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones.”

The well-funded and fanatically supported gun lobbies greatly influence the politicians through payoffs and the threat of uncompromising  electoral opposition. In order to fulfill its function as the propaganda instrument of the firearms owners and industry, the NRA argues disingenuously that the slightest regulation will eventually lead to banning of all guns for civilians, including those for home defense, hunting and target shooting.

A large percentage of American’s appear to believe the lobby’s extremist propaganda and oppose efforts strengthen gun laws. They seem to think a Constitutional amendment provides them the right to convert society into a modern version of the Wild West, where we can “stand our ground” with bullets even against the innocent and unarmed if we claim to have been threatened.

In this regard, writes Zack Beauchamp Dec. 14 in AlterNet: “The Second Amendment prohibits strict gun control. While the Supreme Court ruled in D.C. v. Heller that bans on handgun ownership were unconstitutional, the ruling gives the state and federal governments a great deal of latitude to regulate that gun ownership as they choose. As the U.S. Second Court of Appeals put it in a recent ruling upholding a New York regulation, ‘The state’s ability to regulate firearms and, for that matter, conduct, is qualitatively different in public than in the home. Heller reinforces this view. In striking D.C.’s handgun ban, the Court stressed that banning usable handguns in the home is a ‘policy choice‘ that is ‘off the table,’ but that a variety of other regulatory options remain available, including categorical bans on firearm possession in certain public locations.”

The federal government, too, must assume responsibility for creating a national culture of guns and violence that leads to continuing mass murders and individual killings. They averaged 30 a month last year. For every 100,000 residents, the U.S. averages five murders. In England it’s 1.2 murders; in Japan it’s 0.5.

The U.S., working with the arms industry, is the biggest seller of weapons worldwide, mostly to foreign militaries. It also entertains the greatest military arms budget in global history. And by its glorification of the military and of war Washington has contributed mightily to the sense that we are a gun-slinging people, at home as well as abroad, on Main St. USA as well as al Rasheed St. Baghdad.

America is the most violent country of all the advanced industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. From slavery to the displacement and annihilation of the original peoples in order to seize the entire continent, to modern day wars, regime changes, and torture overseas, “violence is as American as cherry pie,” as H. Rap Brown once reminded us.

In the U.S. during the last 30 years, Mother Jones magazine informed its readers July 30, there “have been at least 62 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii.” This includes 2012’s “horrific mass murder at a movie theater in Colorado on July 20, another at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Aug. 5, another at a manufacturer in Minneapolis on Sept. 27—and now the unthinkable nightmare at a Connecticut elementary school.”

State and local governments must assume responsibility as well for contributing toward a violent and gun-loving society. Considerable moves toward militarizing the police have taken place in recent decades as a result of the exaggerated drug wars and hyped-up terrorism wars. In the 20 years leading up to 2007 (the latest figures), special weapons and tactics teams (SWAT)  have increased 1,500 percent.

Police brutality is a frequent reality — mostly  but not exclusively in urban areas and at political, worker or popular protests and  occupations. We’ve handed our police departments a huge array of violent instruments that are, to say the least, disproportionate to most situations. Here is some of their equipment:

For elite SWAT teams in their Darth Vader uniforms: submachine guns, automatic carbines or rifles, semiautomatic combat shotguns, sniper rifles, gas, smoke and flashbang grenades. For regular police: handguns, concealable off-duty handguns, shotguns and/or semiautomatic rifles, tactical batons, nightsticks, electroshock guns (Tasers), mace pepper spray, tear-gas. beanbag shotgun rounds, body armor, and loud noise devices. Beginning to arrive: aerial surveillance drones, soon to be widespread and weaponized.

In combination — weak gun laws and a compliant political system fearful of powerful lobbies; a national history of violence, militarism, and frequent aggressive wars against smaller nations; and the gradual militarization of police— these are factors that have significantly helped create the gun culture in the United States.

It’s time to change all of this, but it’s not on the immediate horizon. Enhanced gun control, however,  has a chance over the next several years. The great majority of Americans call for expanded gun control. Today, 40% of gun owners have not even been subjected to a background check. It should be everyone. Every gun owner should also have a license from whatever authority issues them. At present, trade shows and private sellers don’t need registration or license information. This must change. And it would be good if there was one overall national law instead of different state laws.

Obviously there should be a reduction in the number of guns in the U.S. The purchase of assault weapons, and  automatics with large magazines should be banned, as should large private arsenals. There used to be a law regulating assault rifles but it expired. It was very weak with many loopholes and a new one should be much tougher. A number of people think assault rifles should be completely banned. Some gun control advocates see no need for concealed handguns at all on the streets at all, much less efforts to allow them in schools, sporting events, bars and elsewhere.

The American people are not seeking to place impossible obstacles in the way of gun ownership. They want tighter regulation and licensing. Banning all guns except for those possessed by the military and the police will never pass, and shouldn’t for a number of reasons including the fact that political systems can and do go wrong. At times, an armed citizenry is most necessary.

There are a number of good gun control groups in the U.S., such as the well-known Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, but they are small with not much clout. It time for the American people, especially the liberals, progressives and the left, to unify in action on this issue and organize mass political and electoral activism for as long as it takes to vastly reduce gun violence in America.—

Postscript: I’m sure we all agree with these lines from an editorial in the New York Times the day after the shooting in Newtown: “There is no crime greater than violence against children, no sorrow greater than that of a parent who has lost a child, especially in this horrible way.”

It is good to remember this in terms of all children, not just our own. According to the UN, a half-million children, many even younger than those at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, died as a result of Washington’s 1990-2003 sanctions against Iraq.  We don’t have the child death figures from the wars in Afghanistan an Iraq but we do have some regarding Vietnam from various online sources:

1. Ten percent of the child population of North Vietnam was killed, mainly by U.S. bombers. Another 400,000 suffered birth defects because of the U.S. Agent Orange defoliation campaign. Untold thousands continue to die to this day from accidentally detonating unexploded American land mines.

2. According to American estimates (the Pepper Report) there have been 250,000 children killed, 750,000 wounded and invalided for life in a South Vietnam of 14,000,000 inhabitants. The great majority were killed by U.S. bombers, which decimated (allied) South Vietnam in efforts to destroy the liberation army and its many millions of southern supporters. More than 10,000 sorties by B-52s of the U.S. Strategic Air Command, have been carried out over South and North Vietnam, each plane capable of dropping over 30 tons of bombs; that the number of bombs dropped monthly by American planes exceeds that dropped by U.S. planes in the European and Mediterranean theatres in the Second World War.

3. On 27 September 1967 at 7:30 a.m., the day after classes reopened following the summer recess, while the children were happily bent over their first lessons, four U.S. jets, swooping in from the sea, fired rockets and dropped four CBUS (about 2,400 pellet bombs) on the first and second degree schools of Ha Fu (Ha Trung district of Thanh Hoa province) killing 33 pupils from eight to 12 years and wounding 30 more, including two teachers.

Remember the children — from Newtown to Vietnam!.


The “fiscal cliff” is another hoax designed to shift the attention of policymakers, the media, and the attentive public, if any, from huge problems to small ones.

The fiscal cliff is automatic spending cuts and tax increases in order to reduce the deficit by an insignificant amount over ten years if Congress takes no action itself to cut spending and to raise taxes.  In other words, the “fiscal cliff” is going to happen either way.

The problem from the standpoint of conventional economics with the fiscal cliff is that it amounts to a double-barrel dose of austerity delivered to a faltering and recessionary economy.  Ever since John Maynard Keynes, most economists have understood that austerity is not the answer to recession or depression.

Regardless, the fiscal cliff is about small numbers compared to the Derivatives Tsunami or to bond market and dollar market bubbles.

The fiscal cliff requires that the federal government cut spending by $1.3 trillion over ten years. The Guardian reports that means the federal deficit has to be reduced about $109 billion per year or 3 percent of the current budget.  More simply, just divide $1.3 trillion by ten and it comes to $130 billion per year. This can be done by simply taking a three month vacation each year from Washington’s wars.

The Derivatives Tsunami and the bond and dollar bubbles are of a different magnitude.

Last June 5 in “Collapse At Hand”   I pointed out that according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s fourth quarter report for 2011, about 95% of the $230 trillion in US derivative exposure was held by four US financial institutions: JP Morgan Chase Bank, Bank of America, Citibank, and Goldman Sachs.

Prior to financial deregulation, essentially the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and the non-regulation of derivatives–a joint achievement of the Clinton administration and the Republican Party–Chase, Bank of America, and Citibank were commercial banks that took depositors’ deposits and made loans to businesses and consumers and purchased Treasury bonds with any extra reserves.

With the repeal of Glass-Steagall these honest commercial banks became gambling casinos, like the investment bank, Goldman Sachs, betting not only their own money but also depositors money on uncovered bets on interest rates, currency exchange rates, mortgages, and prices of commodities and equities.

These bets soon exceeded many times not only US GDP but world GDP.  Indeed, the gambling bets of JP Morgan Chase Bank alone are equal to world Gross Domestic Product.

According to the first quarter 2012 report from the Comptroller of the Currency, total derivative exposure of US banks has fallen insignificantly from the previous quarter to $227 trillion. The exposure of the 4 US banks accounts for almost of all of the exposure and is many multiples of their assets or of their risk capital.

The Derivatives Tsunami is the result of the handful of fools and corrupt public officials who deregulated the US financial system. Today merely four US banks have derivative exposure equal to 3.3 times world Gross Domestic Product.  When I was a US Treasury official, such a possibility would have been considered beyond science fiction.

Hopefully, much of the derivative exposure somehow nets out so that the net exposure, while still larger than many countries’ GDPs, is not in the hundreds of trillions of dollars. Still, the situation is so worrying to the Federal Reserve that after announcing a third round of quantitative easing, that is, printing money to buy bonds–both US Treasuries and the banks’ bad assets–the Fed has just announced that it is doubling its QE 3 purchases.

In other words, the entire economic policy of the United States is dedicated to saving four banks that are too large to fail. The banks are too large to fail only because deregulation permitted financial concentration, as if the Anti-Trust Act did not exist.

The purpose of QE is to keep the prices of debt, which supports the banks’ bets, high. The Federal Reserve claims that the purpose of its massive monetization of debt is to help the economy with low interest rates and increased home sales.  But the Fed’s policy is hurting the economy by depriving savers, especially the retired, of interest income, forcing them to draw down their savings.  Real interest rates paid on CDs, money market funds, and bonds are lower than the rate of inflation.

Moreover, the money that the Fed is creating in order to bail out the four banks is making holders of dollars, both at home and abroad, nervous.  If investors desert the dollar and its exchange value falls, the price of the financial instruments that the Fed’s purchases are supporting will also fall, and interest rates will rise. The only way the Fed could support the dollar would be to raise interest rates. In that event, bond holders would be wiped out, and the interest charges on the government’s debt would explode.

With such a catastrophe following the previous stock and real estate collapses, the remains of people’s wealth would be wiped out. Investors have been deserting equities for “safe” US Treasuries.  This is why the Fed can keep bond prices so high that the real interest rate is negative.

The hyped threat of the fiscal cliff is immaterial compared to the threat of the derivatives overhang and the threat to the US dollar and bond market of the Federal Reserve’s commitment to save four US banks.

Once again, the media and its master, the US government, hide the real issues behind a fake one.  The fiscal cliff has become the way for the Republicans to save the country from bankruptcy by destroying the social safety net put in place during the 1930s, supplemented by Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” in the mid-1960s.

Now that there are no jobs, now that real family incomes have been stagnant or declining for decades, and now that wealth and income have been concentrated in few hands is the time, Republicans say, to destroy the social safety net so that we don’t fall over the fiscal cliff.

In human history, such a policy usually produces revolt and revolution, which is what the US so desperately needs.

Perhaps our stupid and corrupt policymakers are doing us a favor after all.

If There Was Ever a Time for Peace — It’s Now

December 17th, 2012 by Global Research

2012 is quickly drawing to a close, and while many celebrate the season with family and friends, the war machine maintains its imperial depravity with total disregard for humanity and an insatiable appetite for power and profit. And big media lends it credibility because morally bankrupt leaders and institutions of power keep them on their payroll. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves a gaping void where the truth should be.

Regardless of where we’re from and what we believe, many feel that this is a special time of year. Indeed, with rampant violence taking innocent lives — from the Middle East war theater, to the quiet neighborhoods of America — if there was ever a time for a miracle, it’s now.

While we must always hold on to hope, true peace can only be achieved through awareness and action:

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-Prof. Peter Dale Scott (See list of articles by Prof. Scott)

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Farmer to Farmer: The Truth About GM Crops

December 17th, 2012 by Michael Hart

Pyongyang’s recent rocket launch has placed North Korea in the cross-hairs of the international community. The current standoff with the “Hermit Kingdom” threatens to stifle very real reforms already underway, as well as peace in the region.

The world’s attention has once again focused on North Korea following its controversial missile launch on December 12th, 2012 that successfully put a satellite into orbit to study crops and weather patterns. While Pyongyang maintains its right to develop a peaceful civilian space program, the launch has wrought condemnation from the international community and its biggest ally, China, for defying UN resolutions that ban it from operating ballistic missile technology. While the launch coincides with upcoming elections in both Japan and South Korea, it is domestically perceived as the centerpiece of the North’s efforts to commemorate the year 2012 as the one-hundredth- anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth, the deceased nation’s founder who holds the title of “Eternal President.”

Over the past year, North Korea’s third generation of leadership under the 29-year-old Kim Jong-un has focused on building “a thriving socialist nation” to coincide with the anniversary of his grandfather’s birth by issuing a series of incremental agricultural and economic reforms. The skyline of Pyongyang is slowly changing as renovated apartment complexes rise and Chinese-financed building projects become more prominent. Perhaps the most commendable accomplishment of Kim Jong-un is the construction of a new wing in Pyongyang’s maternity hospital, outfitted with modern medical equipment likely supplied by China. Agricultural reforms have allowed farmers to keep up to half their yields for private sale, mirroring the climate of China prior to its industrial reforms in the 1980s.

For people living north of the Korean demilitarized zone, especially those in cooperative farms and rural areas, winter is an arduous time. Most apartment complexes do not have modern heating systems and electricity shortages are a normal occurrence. In Pyongyang, the purchasing power of individual citizens has increased, with many brandishing mobile phones, Chinese-made digital cameras, and automobiles. Although the lives of North Koreans have noticeably improved since the late 1990s under the late Kim Jong-il when the country experienced natural disasters and famine, it is clear that more can be done. North Koreans are generally not permitted to travel abroad and make international phone calls; they have no access to the Internet and the state maintains a total monopoly on information and news broadcasted into the country.

A view of downtown Pyongyang in early December, centered on the 150m high Juche Tower, built to commemorate North Korea’s principle philosophy of humanism and self-sufficiency developed by the nation’s late founder, Kim Il-sung. (Photo by Nile Bowie)

A view of downtown Pyongyang in early December, centered on the 150m high Juche Tower, built to commemorate North Korea’s principle philosophy of humanism and self-sufficiency developed by the nation’s late founder, Kim Il-sung. (Photo by Nile Bowie)

While Western policy makers dismiss these minor reforms as insubstantial, there may still yet be hope that Kim Jong-un will indeed introduce more significant reforms down the line. Through his speeches and carefully constructed public image, the young Kim has won the hearts and minds of North Korea’s public by channeling the nostalgia surrounding his grandfather’s patriotism and grandeur. Needless to say, Kim Jong-un has a golden opportunity to deliver more substantial economic reforms by heeding the advice of Beijing and incrementally liberalizing North Korea’s economy while building up the nation’s weak industrial sector. The slow pace of reforms may likely be attributable to reactionary elements in the upper echelons of the Korean Workers Party and other conservative figures that surround the young leader.

The North Korean leadership maintains its total monopoly on information in fear of its citizens knowing too much about the wealthy South, and as unethical as this intelligence cordon seems, it may be temporarily necessary to preserve social stability if serious reforms are pursued in the future. If the Korean Workers Party is able to increase the nation’s standard of living and incrementally expand people’s civil liberties, propaganda would not be necessary for Kim Jong-un to be perceived as a revered figure. Economic reforms must be catered not only toward the citizens of Pyongyang, but the majority rural population. At present, Pyongyang acts in defiance of international law and UN resolutions in the hope that its behavior will trump policymakers in Washington, who appear to be incapable of securing any diplomatic accomplishments with North Korea. It is clear that a policy of economic engagement, not international pressure, is the only way to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

If North Korea’s recently launched satellite is truly for peaceful purposes, the regime must be more transparent about the exact nature of the device. As the international community demands that the North behave more responsibly, the same must be required of the South. During the five-year tenure of South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, the nation has repeatedly staged military drills and has provocatively fired live rounds into North Korean territorial waters, conduct that is also against international law. As South Koreans head to the polls, it is clear that the nation needs a leader who will abandon hardline policies and work to emulate the South’s Sunshine Policy spearheaded by the late Kim Dae Jung. Military conflict in prosperous North East Asia would hold unacceptable consequences for the global economy, and more importantly, the people of the region. All parties who have a stake in the Korean conflict must keep a level head and abandon the kind of policies that will only drive the North deeper into isolation and unpredictability.

Heavy snowfall blankets the Pyongyang Opera House prior to citizens communally taking to the streets with shovels. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Heavy snowfall blankets the Pyongyang Opera House prior to citizens communally taking to the streets with shovels. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Pyongyangers battle the harsh winter elements during their morning commute. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Pyongyangers battle the harsh winter elements during their morning commute. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Residents of North Korea’s capital descend into an underground walkway to avoid icy conditions on the surface. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Residents of North Korea’s capital descend into an underground walkway to avoid icy conditions on the surface. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
A traffic enforcement officer at work in treacherous conditions; automobile traffic has steadily increased in Pyongyang in recent months. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
A traffic enforcement officer at work in treacherous conditions; automobile traffic has steadily increased in Pyongyang in recent months. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Soldiers shovel the Mansudae Grand Monument before two 20m high statues of President Kim Il-sung who passed in 1994 and the late General Kim Jong-il who died on December 17th, 2011. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Soldiers shovel the Mansudae Grand Monument before two 20m high statues of President Kim Il-sung who passed in 1994 and the late General Kim Jong-il who died on December 17th, 2011. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
The monument to the founding of the Korean Workers Party, featuring the hammer, sickle and brush, symbolizing the worker, farmer and intellectual. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
The monument to the founding of the Korean Workers Party, featuring the hammer, sickle and brush, symbolizing the worker, farmer and intellectual. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
German-manufactured MRI equipment has recently been installed in a new wing of Pyongyang’s maternity hospital. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
German-manufactured MRI equipment has recently been installed in a new wing of Pyongyang’s maternity hospital. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
New medical technology to conduct CAT scans has been installed, in addition to equipment designated for research into cardiology and mammography (not pictured). (Photo by Nile Bowie)
New medical technology to conduct CAT scans has been installed, in addition to equipment designated for research into cardiology and mammography (not pictured). (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Nurses look after newborn babies in a Pyongyang’s maternity hospital. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Nurses look after newborn babies in a Pyongyang’s maternity hospital. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
A moment of rare and haunting intimacy as a child opens its eyes for the first time. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
A moment of rare and haunting intimacy as a child opens its eyes for the first time. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
A North Korean solider at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) explains how the two Korean states were separated along the 38th parallel. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
A North Korean solider at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) explains how the two Korean states were separated along the 38th parallel. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
A solider stands just inches from the demarcation line separating North and South Korea. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
A solider stands just inches from the demarcation line separating North and South Korea. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
An ominous street sign pointing toward the South Korean capital, Seoul, just before the last military checkpoint in North Korea. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
An ominous street sign pointing toward the South Korean capital, Seoul, just before the last military checkpoint in North Korea. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Commuters return home from their daily activities in Kaesong, once a major flashpoint during the Korean War, one of North Korea’s largest cities located just minutes from the DMZ. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Commuters return home from their daily activities in Kaesong, once a major flashpoint during the Korean War, one of North Korea’s largest cities located just minutes from the DMZ. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Party propaganda praising Kim Jong-un in the stairwell of an elementary school in Pyongyang. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Party propaganda praising Kim Jong-un in the stairwell of an elementary school in Pyongyang. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Shivering elementary school students perform revolutionary songs as a blizzard rages outdoors. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Shivering elementary school students perform revolutionary songs as a blizzard rages outdoors. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Men relax in a Korean-style sauna at a newly constructed health complex. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Men relax in a Korean-style sauna at a newly constructed health complex. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Pyongyang residents pass the time at the Golden Lanes bowling alley. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Pyongyang residents pass the time at the Golden Lanes bowling alley. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Residents read books at the Grand People’s Study House, a free public University building which boasts over 30 million titles, making it one of the largest libraries in the world. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Residents read books at the Grand People’s Study House, a free public University building which boasts over 30 million titles, making it one of the largest libraries in the world. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
An artist at the Mansudae Art Studio paints the Monument to the Party Foundation; the center cultivates local artistic talent by providing free studio space and a free day care center for the artists’ children. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
An artist at the Mansudae Art Studio paints the Monument to the Party Foundation; the center cultivates local artistic talent by providing free studio space and a free day care center for the artists’ children. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Commuters return from work in the evening on the Pyongyang Metro, the deepest subway train system in the world. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Commuters return from work in the evening on the Pyongyang Metro, the deepest subway train system in the world. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
North Korea’s Arch of Triumph stands 60m high, 11m higher than the Arch in Paris, and was erected in 1982 to commemorate the 70th birthday of late President Kim Il-sung. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
North Korea’s Arch of Triumph stands 60m high, 11m higher than the Arch in Paris, and was erected in 1982 to commemorate the 70th birthday of late President Kim Il-sung. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Pyongyangers fill the auditorium at the local circus, where acrobats perform impressive stunts. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Pyongyangers fill the auditorium at the local circus, where acrobats perform impressive stunts. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Farmers lay plastic sheets over spinach crops for insulation at one of several thousand cooperative farms located throughout North Korea. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Farmers lay plastic sheets over spinach crops for insulation at one of several thousand cooperative farms located throughout North Korea. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Renovated flats in Pyongyang built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of President Kim Il-sung’s birth; designated for doctors, teachers, and individuals proficient in revolutionary studies. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
Renovated flats in Pyongyang built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of President Kim Il-sung’s birth; designated for doctors, teachers, and individuals proficient in revolutionary studies. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
The sun sets over Kaesong’s Schoolchildren’s Palace, where the talents of the brightest students are cultivated for performance and other activities. (Photo by Nile Bowie)
The sun sets over Kaesong’s Schoolchildren’s Palace, where the talents of the brightest students are cultivated for performance and other activities. (Photo by Nile Bowie)

Gather Little Children

December 17th, 2012 by B. Nimri Aziz

There is surely nowhere in the world, from the open Mongolian steppe to a cramped lane in Gaza City, where people do not know the sound of children in school. It’s a dear sound– half finished sentences and jostling little bodies, high pitched singing and new friendships, uninhibited yelps and cries and teachers’ gentle proddings, a row of chatting parents waiting outside at the end of the learning day.

However undeveloped a place, universal education exists across our globe. So, while we may not be familiar with a college campus or a multiplex cinema we know the place where our children begin to learn. In this tender setting, little ones make their first venture into the world.

Whether our own children have long ago moved on, if we live in a bustling city or on a quiet country lane, our days are somehow marked by children setting out for school. The primary school I know best and whose girls and boys I recall so vividly today happen to live in Nepal.

The school sits on the edge of Kathmandu city near Balaju bridge, off noisy Nayaa Bazaar. A poor neighborhood by some standards perhaps, but it’s the most important place to the 400 children who have begun their learning here.

These Nepali 2nd graders are surely the same height, with the same bright eyes, the same pitched squeals exchanged with playmates, the same shyness, the same small fingers gripping a bright crayon as those little boys and girls at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut.

All across the globe the events in USA last week make those sounds more precious today. As we connect them, maybe grieving Americans can better understand the silence of little Palestinian and Pakistani and Iraqi corpses.

This blog is also posted on

Replies,comments and questions to: [email protected]

Dec 18, 9-10pm broadcast: Tahrir reviews Algeria’s erstwhile Rai music tradition in an archival segment produced by Anissa Bouziane, with an update from music aficionado Dawn Elder from Los Angeles. BN Aziz reviews award-winning Arab filmmakers, Ruba Nadda and Yasmina Adi.

En un voto histórico, los parlamentarios de la Asamblea Nacional de Quebec, Canadá, tomaron posición sobre el estatus de Palestina y reconocieron el derecho de los palestinos a la creación de un Estado.

Nuestro corresponsal en Montreal, Jorge Zegarra, nos da más detalles.


Rash of gun violence, arrests follows Connecticut massacre

December 17th, 2012 by Patrick Martin

A series of bloody incidents and preemptive arrests took place across the United States in the three days following the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, demonstrating that the conditions that produced the horrible tragedy are by no means unique.

At least two of the incidents involved actual or planned mass shootings.

On Saturday, a 42-year-old man was arrested in the parking lot of a Southern California shopping mall after he began firing from an automatic weapon. Marcos Gurrola, of Garden Grove, allegedly fired at least 50 shots outside the Fashion Island mall in Newport Beach, in the affluent Orange County suburbs of Los Angeles.

A police spokeswoman said no one was injured because the gunman fired into the ground and into the air, rather than aiming at shoppers, but the gunfire caused understandable panic. The mall was crowded with Christmas shoppers, and the parking lot was full. Many stores locked their doors when the sounds of the shooting were heard.

The incident took place only 24 hours after the Newtown massacre, and five days after a gunman killed two people and wounded a third at a shopping mall in Oregon.

A man was arrested in northern Indiana Saturday after threatening to “kill as many people as he could” at a local school. The threats followed a heated argument with his wife, who works at the cafeteria of a local elementary school in Cedar Lake, about 45 miles southeast of Chicago.

Von I. Meyer, 60, also reportedly threatened to set his wife on fire while she was sleeping. He was arrested and charged with seven felony counts, after threatening his wife that he would kill her “at the school” and “would kill as many people as he could before police could stop him.”

Meyer’s wife did not go to work Friday, and police increased security at her school and several others in the neighborhood. Both the threats and the stepped-up security took place before the events in Connecticut.

There is at least circumstantial evidence that Meyer’s threats were not empty. Police found 47 guns and $200,000 worth of ammunition in his home. Meyer was being held at Lake County jail without bond, pending an initial hearing.

In Birmingham, Alabama, two violent incidents left five people dead. A man suspected of killing three other men in a domestic dispute was shot to death by police Saturday after a car chase and shootout. Romero Roberto Moya, 33, was shot multiple times after he opened fire with an assault weapon on police, leaving one policeman critically wounded.

Moyas was being sought for the killing of three men, believed to be his brothers, at a trailer home in Cleburne County, Alabama, a rural area near the Georgia state line. A two-year-old child was injured in the incident and hospitalized.

The same day, 38-year-old Jason Lett, reportedly upset over his wife’s treatment at St. Vincent’s Birmingham hospital, attacked the medical facility at about 4 a.m., wounding a policeman and two hospital workers before he was shot to death by another policeman.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, there was a murder-suicide Friday night inside the Excalibur hotel-casino, when a man walked up to the concierge desk inside the main lobby, opened fire and killed a woman working there, and then turned the gun on himself. The incident caused a panic in the casino after the gunfire erupted.

Also on Friday, police arrested a teenager in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, north of Tulsa, for allegedly plotting to shoot and bomb students at a high school auditorium. The 18-year-old student had been researching pipe bombs and the Columbine massacre on the Internet. The arrest was made before the events in Connecticut.

On Sunday morning, in Sumner, Washington, one man was killed and three were wounded when they were shot from a passing car as they stood outside smoking in the parking lot of a local motel. The three wounded men were treated for gunshot wounds at Tacoma General Hospital. The victims, all construction workers from California, said they did not know their attackers.

How the GOP Promoted Gun Madness

December 17th, 2012 by Robert Parry

When looking at the faces of the six-year-olds butchered in their Connecticut classroom, you should also see the faces of the politicians who pandered to the NRA and its obsessive opposition to commonsense gun control, the likes of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof offers a typical column reacting to the massacre of 20 school children in Newtown, Connecticut. He calls on politicians to show courage in standing up to the National Rifle Association, but he doesn’t seem to have the courage himself to identify the key political culprits in a three-decade-long pandering to the NRA’s clout.

There’s a reason for that. The vast majority of the politicians who have served as handmaidens to the NRA’s war on commonsense gun control are Republicans, including such icons as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. And it is routine for mainstream pundits, like Kristof, to avoid “sounding partisan.”

Emilie Parker, one of the victims of Friday’s murder rampage in Newtown, Connecticut. (right)

So, it makes lots of career sense to wring one’s hands over the horrifying image of a deranged gunman slaughtering first-graders in their classroom and then spread the blame across the political spectrum – while not pointing fingers at the politicians who have most enabled this sickening madness to continue.

After all, Reagan and Bush-41 are held in high esteem across Official Washington. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews has hailed Reagan as “one of the all-time greats,” and Bush-41 supposedly represents the good old days of Republican moderation.

But the reality is that the United States had begun grappling with its epidemic of gun violence in the 1970s by passing commonsense gun laws, and it was Reagan and Bush-41 who saw the political advantage in playing the tough-guy role and treating gun-control advocates as sissies.

Both Reagan and Bush-41 pandered to the NRA, recognizing and honoring its political muscle. Reagan, for instance, fawned over the NRA in a speech to a 1983 luncheon in Phoenix, Arizona. In doing so, Reagan displayed his patented technique of making crazy policies seem normal.

For instance, in the 1983 speech, Reagan praised the NRA’s defeat of California’s Proposition 15, which would have required the registration of handguns, limited the number of guns registered by each individual, and restricted mail-order and out-of-state purchases.

“You shocked California last November when you mobilized to send help and to down Proposition 15 and defeat it,” Reagan said. “You pointed out that police would be so busy arresting handgun owners that they would be unable to protect the people against criminals. It’s a nasty truth, but those who seek to inflict harm are not fazed by gun-control laws.”

Reagan also compared the NRA’s rejection of gun laws to the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, telling the NRA audience: “You live by Lincoln’s words, ‘Important principles may and must be inflexible.’ … The NRA believes that America’s laws were made to be obeyed and that our constitutional liberties are just as important today as 200 years ago.

“And by the way, the Constitution does not say that government shall decree the right to keep and bear arms. The Constitution says ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’” [For a critique of that misguided history, see’s “The 2nd Amendment and Killing Kids.”]

Reagan continued: “But I believe we share the same goal, a strong America, carrying the banner of freedom and secure from threats to our domestic tranquility, economic well-being, and national security. No group does more to promote gun safety and respect for the laws of this land than the NRA, and I thank you.”

Reagan then mocked those who warned about the dangers of uncontrolled gun possession, saying: “We’ve both heard the charge that supporting gun-owners rights encourages a violent, shoot-em-up society. But just a minute. Don’t they understand that most violent crimes are not committed by decent, law-abiding citizens? They’re committed by career criminals.

“Guns don’t make criminals. Hard-core criminals use guns. And locking them up, the hard-core criminals up, and throwing away the key is the best gun-control law we could ever have.”

Looking back on the past three decades, it should be obvious that Reagan was profoundly and tragically wrong. Many of the most notorious mass slaughters of recent years were inflicted by “law-abiding citizens,” that is people with little or no criminal records but with unchecked mental disorders.

Their easy access to high-powered and semi-automatic weapons allowed them to murder large numbers of people before they could be stopped. To suggest that the NRA has somehow helped “secure … our domestic tranquility” is a sick joke.

But Reagan surely benefited from the staunch support of the NRA and gun owners when he swept to a landslide reelection in 1984. Those results were duly noted by Reagan’s Vice President George H.W. Bush who made opposition to gun control an important part of his 1988 campaign.

Bush’s opponent, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, was a strong supporter of gun-control laws and Bush saw that as an opening. Bush accused Dukakis of wanting to disarm all private citizens. “That is not the American way,” declared Bush at one campaign rally. “I feel just the opposite.”

With Bush’s landslide victory in 1988 – and with the well-meaning Dukakis dismissed as a hopeless “loser” – the path was cleared for the NRA to rollback even modest gun-control laws, such as restrictions on assault rifles.

In 2010 on a 5-4 vote, right-wing justices on the U.S. Supreme Court – placed there by Reagan, Bush-41 and George W. Bush – overturned longstanding legal precedents that deemed “the right to bear arms” a collective right and transformed it instead into an individual right. That meant even local gun-control ordinances could be struck down.

In other words, Republicans – and particularly Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush – hold primary responsibility for the kinds of horrors that have claimed innocent lives in places like Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, Columbine, Virginia Tech and so many other locations whose names will long be associated with butchery.

While Kristof and fellow mainstream pundits may be right in noting that it’s time for all politicians to stand up to the NRA, they are wrong in spreading the blame equally. They should have the courage to tell the truth, that Reagan, Bush-41 and other Republicans have led the way into this national madness.


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

How to Criticize the Israeli Government

December 17th, 2012 by David Swanson

The other day I tweeted an article that reported on a rather horrible story.  It seems that the Israeli government gives African women drugs that keep them from reproducing.

I think if this story had been about Canada, Korea, France, or Brazil people would have read it.  The conversation would not have immediately shifted to my alleged hatred of all Canadians.

Since it was about Israel, some people chose to announce that I hated Jews.  Such a response is not only baseless and nonsensical, but it shifts attention to me and away from the story, which in the end isn’t seen.

Now, I don’t know any more about that story than what I’ve read at that website (the website of a Jewish organization, as it happens).  The report may be accurate or not.  Israeli newspapers seem to report it as fully established, neither doubted nor challenged.  The story at least seems to merit investigation.  The point is that nobody told me it was inaccurate (news that would have delighted me).  Instead, they told me that I was anti-Semitic.

This happens with the United States too, of course.  If I criticize the U.S. government a few thousand times, and if the president is a Republican, I’ll hear from some disturbed individual who wants to recommend that I leave the country since I hate it so much.  Why one would try so hard to reform the government of a country he hated is never really explained.

With Israel, such nonsense is triggered much more swiftly.  I haven’t made a career of trying to reform Israel’s government.  All I had to do was tweet a link to an article.  Those who have gone to greater lengths to criticize the crimes of the government of Israel have, in some cases, seen themselves censored, vilified, and their careers derailed.  Many persevere despite this climate.

There is, however, a way to speak openly and honestly about Israel.  Not everyone can do it.  The trick is to be a veteran of the Israeli military.  This approach helps people whose “service” was years ago.  And it helps those whose memories of what they did “for their country” are very fresh.  Not only does such status shield one from a great deal of criticism, but it provides a substantive advantage in being able to report first-hand on what the Israeli military has been doing.  Just as Veterans For Peace are able to speak with some legitimate authority in the United States against the use of war (see Winter Soldier now if you haven’t), members of the Israeli military, and those who recently were Israeli soldiers, command attention.

A new book called “Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies from the Occupied Territories 2000-2010,” collects the accounts of numerous Israeli soldiers, although withholding their names.  Videos of some of the soldiers telling their stories can be seen online.  The online database sorts the stories into categories: › Abuse› AssassinationsBribery› Checkpoints› Confirmation of killing› Curfews/closures› Deaths› Destruction of property› Human shieldsHumiliation› Looting› Loss of livelihood› Routine› Rules of engagement› Settlements› Settler violence.

“Supporting the troops” is usually understood to exclude listening to the troops.  But these troops should be listened to.  Their experiences are very similar to those of the U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq.  But their war has lasted much, much longer, and with no end in sight.  Their testimonies make clear that their tactics do not serve the supposed purpose of reducing violence, and are in fact not intended to do any such thing.  The bizarre ordeals imposed on the soldiers outdo Kafka and pale in comparison to the nightmares imposed on Palestinians.  The driving forces are quite clearly racism, sadism, imperialism, and excessive obedience.

A very few of the many samples I was tempted to provide:

“They  called us to some location, they found [rockets] in the minaret of a mosque.  What do you do?  You look for someone to go up to the mosque and take down the [rockets] because it’s dangerous for us.  So they knocked on doors in the area.  There’s always someone with us who speaks Arabic. . . .  So they knocked on the doors and found someone.  He was retarded.  They said, ‘Go up to the mosque.  There are pipes in the minaret.  Bring them down.’  They didn’t even tell him it was explosives.”

“There was an operation in the company next to mine where they told me that a woman was blown up by [an explosive used to break through doors], her limbs were smeared on the wall, but it wasn’t on purpose.  They knocked and knocked on the door and there was no answer, so they decided to open it [with live ammunition] . . . .  and just at that moment the woman decided to open the door.  And then her kids came over and saw her. . . . someone said it was funny, and everyone cracked up, that the kids saw their mother smeared on the wall.”

“[T]he brigade commander . . . briefs us, ‘Any kid you see with a stone, you can shoot at him.’ Like, shoot to kill. A stone!”

“[I]t’s unbelievable how in the end the report on the radio was, ‘In an operation in Tul Karem the IDF captured,’ like, you know, ‘twenty suspects, ten weapons, and fertilizer suspected for use in manufacturing [explosives], a ton and a half of fertilizer.’  So it’s a success, because you hear it on the radio, and you say, ‘Hey, look, like we went there, this is what we got, we did what we were supposed to do.’  And what we did was just the opposite.  Because what did we do?  We committed crimes.  We destroyed homes.  No house that we went into was the same when we left.”

“There was this house we captured in Hebron . . . we took this house.  You know the procedure: the family moves down a floor.  Now, what did we do?  We were . . . on the third floor, the guys set up a pipe, a pipe to pee, so they could pee outside.  They put the pipe, we put the pipe exactly so that all the piss would flow into the courtyard of the house below us.  There were a few chicken coops just there, it all poured out there.  That was the joke every day, waiting for the father or one of the kids to go to the coop, and then everyone stands and pisses.”

“Apparently, that captain had gone to Takua, which is a pretty hostile village — they were throwing stones at the jeep.  So, he just stopped a Palestinian guy who was passing, forty-something years old, and tied him to the hood of the jeep, a guy just lying on the hood, and they drove into the village.”

“The Palestinians didn’t know there were soldiers behind them, and the soldiers would just spray their legs. . . . His one goal was to lure Palestinian children, just to cut off their legs.”

“We had a commander in the unit who would just say in these words, . . . ‘I want bodies.  That’s what I want.’”

“You’re not ranked by arrests — you’re ranked by the number of people you kill.”

“[The company commander] taught us about rubber bullets, and they showed us how it comes in what’s called a ‘tampon,’ which is a kind of plastic bag that contains the bullets.  So they said, ‘You need to separate them, meaning you tear open the package and put them in one by one so you cause damage.’  And they actually explained it to us, in this really pornographic way, ‘Aim for the eyes so you take out an eye, or at the stomach so it goes into the stomach.’”

“Try to imagine it: I see my officers with their backs to me, laughing, falling about, and below I see the Border Police beating people up, guys being choked, one guy bleeding.  And I think, ‘This is just like the books I read.’ . . . Whenever people get shot, I have this image in my head, I must’ve seen it in a movie, of Nazis shooting Jews in pits, and officers standing at the side, laughing.”

Author’s Note: Please note that this is only an examination of the origins and difficulties between second wave and lesbian feminism. I understand as a male that I will never fully grasp what it means to live as an American woman, particularly a lesbian, in a society plagued with homophobia and misogyny. Any critiques that are made in the following article is purely from an intellectual standpoint and not a criticism of women, the women’s movement, or the lesbian feminist movement.

Feminism is a word that conjures up images of pro-choice marches, bra-burnings, and angry women. Often being misunderstood, feminism has been distorted by the mainstream society to mean that such women have a hatred of men, often being called “feminazis.” While such a view only contributes to the oppression of women in American society and socializes the young to think that it is alright to treat women in a disrespectful manner, there were and are also problems within the feminist movement itself, with feminists oppressing others whom, one would think that logically, they should embrace.

Historically speaking one learns very little about feminism and only then within the context of the first wave of the feminist movement, women’s suffrage. This ignores what is arguably the most influential and important feminist movement that is the reason for so much of the strides women have made- the second feminist movement, more commonly known as the Women’s Liberation Movement. However, even here there is still much unacknowledged history that hasn’t much gotten into the mainstream, specifically that of lesbian feminism and the up and downs that that movement had with the liberal feminists. Lesbian feminism forced the liberal feminist movement to confront its own homophobia and changed the face of feminism itself.

The Origins of Second Wave Feminism

In order to understand the foundations of lesbian feminism and its effects, there must first be an understanding of the origins of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Ironically enough, the feminist movement found its true start not with a woman, but with both a man and a woman.

Originally there was no care of the plight of women in society as America more or less revolved around the patriarchal race and class-based system that favored straight white middle and upper-class males. However, this began to change with the election of John F. Kennedy in 1961. Originally, he “brought to his cabinet and to his inner advisory circles other young and (he thought) brilliant men”[1] calling them the “New Frontiersmen.” Incensed at this, Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly challenged Kennedy by posing the question “Where are the women on your New Frontier?” In order to amend the situation and seeing as how Eleanor had been such an influence in getting him elected, Kennedy agreed to establish a commission to inquire as to the situation of women in the US, with Roosevelt as chair.

The women on the commission were those in their forties and fifties who were professionals in fields such as economics and law and as such, highly educated and well off. Overall, they were unconcerned with giving women equal rights and more concerned with “combating the disabilities women suffered as a corollary of their sex, disabilities such as abandonment and poverty.”[2] The very nature of the commission was not to be revolutionary, as the people that staffed it were not revolutionaries but rather those who wanted so slightly reform the status quo and thus the cards in the deck would be reshuffled, but no radical changes would be made to give women full equality.

The commission’s first task was to become fully informed about the situation of women in the country which was quite difficult seeing as how only the Department of Labor had any information concerning women and even then women’s employment and pay records were compared only to other women and “the cost of sex discrimination in employment, as in professional entry quotas, [had] never [been] calculated.”[3] Thus, there was much ground work to cover.

By 1963, the commission presented their findings to the President. The commission recommended that “the president appoint a permanent citizens’ advisory council on the status of women and that states create comparable commissions to continue the work.”[4] Thus, rather than disbanding, the commission was created on the state level and the findings of each state complied and finally bought back to Washington in 1966. This resulted in Title 7 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which states that discrimination based on one’s sex was illegal. Yet, interestingly enough, Title 7 only came about due to what one might call an accident.

There was a large amount of disagreement over the creation of the equal opportunity employment based on race. One Congressional Representative, Howard W. Smith, introduced sex as a protected category as a way to “demonstrate the ‘ludicrousness’ of the whole idea of applying equal rights to jobs.”[5] This would on him as the thirteen women in the House of Representatives and one Senator, Margaret Chase Smith, saw Smith’s joke as “an opportunity to write a prohibition of gender discrimination in employment into the act.”[6]

But even with some senators supporting the amendment, others were against it as in their minds the Civil Rights Act was specifically for African-Americans, thus women should not be included in the bill. Yet the case was made that employers would possibly hire black women over white women in order to avoid charges of racial discrimination, thus the amendment should be passed. It is important to note the use of race in this argument, with the amendment being viewed as a way to ensure that black women didn’t get economically ahead of their white counterparts and that employment would be secured for white women.

To enforce Title 7, Congress established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to hold public hearings on what regulations should be made, conduct investigations, and then to enforce the new law. One issue of the EEOC that was important to women was sex-differentiated want ads. From the point of view of women, such ads not only reinforced existing discrimination, but also “lowered [the] expectations [of women] and contributed to female socialization.”[7] However, the head of the EEOC, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. was not interested in such issues nor was a resolution that demanded across the board enforcement of Title 7 allowed to be introduced to Congress thus allowing sex-differentiated ads to continue.

It was at this moment, this mixture of success, anger, and hope that allowed for second wave feminism to be born. During the national conference on Title 7, Betty Friedan and 15 other women met and decided to push state representatives to enforce Title 7 and reappoint Richard Graham as head of the EEOC, the only male commissioner that could actually be called a feminist. When the resolution was refused to even be introduced, women who had met with Friedan began to discuss taking action outside of the legislative system. “Days later, thirty woman and men gathered to officially found the National Organization for Women” in order to “press government from the outside to better enforce the regulations that were on the books.”[8] Yet, this united group of feminists would not stand together long as there were those feminists who would see NOW as not going far enough and break off to form new strands of feminism.

Second Wave Feminist Theory

Second Wave Feminist Theory finds its roots, for the most part in Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique in which she analyzes the oppression of women, specifically that of housewives in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Friedan initially states that the problem women have is that of the feminine mystique which came about due, in part, to people such as Marynia F. Farnham and Ferdinand Lundberg. In their book Modern Woman: The Lost Sex, they argue for what is effectively the suppression of women and that they would be much better off in the home. Farnham and Lundberg stated in the book that it was more and more common for women to attempt to combine work with childrearing and “When these two spheres are combined it is inevitable that one or the other will become of secondary concern and, this being the case, it is certain that the home will take that position.”[9]

In doing this, the authors are stating that the woman’s natural place is the home and reduces women to the stereotypical position of nurturer and caretaker that has been placed upon them. The views of Farnham and Lundberg are extremely conservative. When discussing women having to balance their careers and home lives, they express misgivings about such an occurrence, professing that such circumstances create “a situation that is by no means as smoothly functioning nor so satisfying either to the child or the woman.

She must of necessity be deeply in conflict and only partially satisfied in either direction. Her work develops aggressiveness, which is essentially a denial of her femininity, an enhancement of her girlhood-induced masculine tendencies.”[10] (emphasis added) Stating that a woman’s aggressiveness was a denial of a woman’s femininity is not only a definition of femininity from a male perspective, but it also restricts women to the role of domesticity and in doing so puts them at the mercy of men.

They blatantly put themselves against women gaining independence stating that “it is imperative that these strivings be at a minimum and that her femininity be available both for her own satisfaction and for the satisfaction of her children and husband”[11] and that

As the rivals of men, women must, and insensibly do, develop the characteristics of aggression, dominance, independence and power. These are qualities which insure success as coequals in the world of business, industry and the professions. The distortion of character under pressure of modern attitudes and upbringing is driving women steadily deeper into personal conflict soluble only by psychotherapy. For their need to achieve and accomplish doesn’t lessen in anyway their deeper need to find satisfactions profoundly feminine. Much as they consciously seek those gratifications of love, sensual release and even motherhood, they are becoming progressively less able unconsciously to accept or achieve them. [12]

This is an open argument that women should dedicate themselves to the home and the family, damning them to a life of morbidity.

Finally, the two later affirm that a woman with a career is dangerous as it is contrary to them “supporting and encouraging [their husband’s] manliness and wishes for domination and power.”[13] Within all of this was a manner of thinking that espouses that women only exist to be used by men and for men and argues for the complete and total control of women within a totalitarian subculture that is the household.

The true ideology that Farnham and Lundberg advocate is one that effectively dehumanizes woman. By stating arguments that women must keep their own desires for independence “to a minimum” and that their “femininity be available both for [their] own satisfaction and for the satisfaction of her children and husband,” both are showing not only what they personally think of women, but are showing that they think women are naturally lesser than men and nothing but a tool to be used for and by men.

It was among this atmosphere of objectifying and oppressing women that permeated every facet of American culture and created a misogyny that a new wave of feminism was needed to express that women were in fact human beings rather than just robots that existed solely for to pleasure and care for men and have children.

To fill in this void and combat the patriarchal structure that oppressed women, Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique that sparked off the entire second wave of feminism. In the book, Friedan advocates for the economic independence of women, stating that “for women to have full identity and freedom, they must have economic independence” and “Only economic independence can free a woman to marry for love, not for status or financial support, or to leave a loveless, intolerable, humiliating marriage, or to eat, dress, rest, and move if she plans not to marry.”[14]

In advocating for the economic independence of women, Friedan is advocating a situation in which women will be able to take the first step to becoming fully independent of the patriarchal system. However, this is made all the more revolutionary when one realizes the fact that economics and politics go hand-in-hand. By arguing for economic independence, Freidan is setting the stage for eventual political independence and self-determination that can be asserted by women in America.

Friedan takes on this view of femininity which only encourages the subjugation of women. She writes that according to the feminine mystique the problem is in the past women “envied men, women tried to be like men, instead of accepting their own nature, which can find fulfillment only in sexual passivity, male domination, and nurturing maternal love.”[15] Yet, she realizes the horror of such an existence and expounds upon it.

In the twelfth chapter, Progressive Dehumanization: The Comfortable Concentration Camp, Friedan compares the situation that women found themselves into being in a concentration camp. She wrote “In fact, there is an uncanny, uncomfortable insight into why a woman can so easily lose her sense of self as a housewife in certain psychological observations made of the behavior of prisoners in Nazi concentration camps.”[16] After going into the effects that concentration camps had on prisoners such as the adoption of childlike behavior, being cut off from pasts interests, and “the world of the camp [being] the only reality,”[17] Friedan then argues that the 1950s American woman finds herself in a very similar situation.

All this seems terribly remote from the easy life of the American suburban housewife. But is her house in reality a comfortable concentration camp? Have not women who live in the image of the feminine mystique trapped themselves within the narrow walls of their homes? They have learned to ‘adjust’ to their biological role. They have become dependent, passive, childlike; they have given up their adult frame of reference to live at the lower human level of food and things. The work they do does not require adult capabilities; it is endless, monotonous, unrewarding. American women are not, of course, being readied for mass extermination, but they are suffering a slow death of mind and spirit.[18] (emphasis added)

Her comparison is, without a doubt, quite extreme. The situation of the suburban housewife, while lamentable and in extreme need of improvement is not in any way near that of the suffering of a Holocaust victim. Yet, she was using this extreme hyperbole to make the point that women are slowly suffering in their home lives.

While Friedan is much regarded as a major figure in the feminist movement, she does have her detractors that make legitimate critiques of her analysis. Most notedly, Friedan was critiquted for the mass amount of exclusivity in her analysis. The sole focus of her book was white middle-class suburban housewives and because of such a biased analysis, “the problems facing, for example, millions of poor, working women or non- white women — oppressive working conditions and low pay, racism, and the burdens of a double day — barely register on the radar screen of The Feminine Mystique.”[19] By focusing on a specific group of women, Friedan somewhat lowers the value of her analysis.

Friedan’s class bias affects her analysis of the situation that women, no matter what socioeconomic class they were in, generally found themselves in at the time of her writing. Such a view reveals a problem with liberal feminism as it centers “on its seemingly bland acceptance of American capitalism as a system structured on economic freedom which merely needs some tinkering (such as the elimination of ‘unfair practices’ such as racism and sexism) to make it entirely workable and just.”[20] In doing this, liberal feminism loses its potential for true revolutionary change as it advocates what simply adds up to reforms to the system which allows the overall oppression of groups, including women, and the patriarchy to continue rather than creating a new system that sought the equality of all people.

Yet, many women on the Left would find that the feminism that Friedan and NOW espoused was not for them and could not work for their given situation. On the Left the marginalizations of women wasn’t concerned with the getting equal access to jobs, but were much more concerned with getting respect and addressing women’s oppression that existed from the so-called inclusive Left.


[1] Sheila Tobias, Faces of Feminism: An Activist’s Reflections On The Women’s Movement (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1997), pg 73
[2] Tobias, pg 74
[3] Tobias, pg 74
[4] Tobias, pg 75
[5] Tobias, pg 81
[6] Tobias, pg 81
[7] Tobias, pg 83
[8] Tobias, pg 85
[9] Marynia F. Farnham, Ferdinand Lundberg, Modern Woman: The Lost Sex,
[14] Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (New York: Dell Book, 1963), pgs 370-71
[15] Friedan, pg 43
[16] Friedan, pg 305
[17] Friedan, pg 306
[18] Friedan, pgs 307-308
[19] Joanne Boucher, Betty Friedan and the Radical Past of Liberal Feminism, New Politics 9:3 (Summer 2003),

Gaza City-Yesterday in al-Faraheen, Gaza, Israeli Occupation Forces shot and wounded an unarmed 22 year old farmer, Mohammed Qdeih, from behind. Mohamed and nine others went out to their fields in the early afternoon, walking approximately 250 meters from the Israeli border. 

Within minutes, two heavily armed Israeli military jeeps rushed to the security fence.  They issued a warning for the farmers and residents to leave the area and shortly thereafter the Palestinians, intimidated by the heavy military presence, began to head back to the village of Abasan.  The soldiers were not satisfied and opened fire, piercing Mohamed’s right arm from the backside. Israeli forces continued to shoot rounds of live ammunition while Mohamed and the others frantically evacuated and waited for an ambulance. Another young Palestinian, 19, was shot yesterday near the border in Jabaliya.

Under the siege, Israeli “closed military zones” have confiscated up to 35 per cent of Gaza’s arable land, which was previously used for fruit and olive orchards, wheat and various vegetables.  With nearly half of Gaza’s population designated as “food insecure” by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the farming industry having been crippled from the inability to export products under the Israeli blockade, this land is essential for the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and residents of Gaza.  Even so and given that four Palestinians have been killed and over 50 injured since the November 21st, 2012 ceasefire agreement, one might ask why anyone would risk their life and venture near the border at all.

Palestinians have had varying experiences near the fence. There have been some successes with farming and some incidents resulting in death and serious injuries. The agreement between Israel and Hamas clearly stated that Israeli forces would “refrain from targeting residents in the border areas” and to “stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.” Hamas and other factions have held up their end of the bargain with not a single rocket being fired from Gaza.

As a participant in an international solidarity team, I sat down this with Mohammed Qdeih and family members this afternoon to get their perspective on the breach of the ceasefire and why they would risk their lives in pursuit of reclaiming their land. “The ceasefire is without any sense,” said Mohammed. “They attempted to kill me.”  Mohammed is single but works the land to help provide for his 15 extended family members who reside together in Abasan al-Kabir. The family has approximately ten dunams of land which fall in the vaguely defined “buffer zone.” He is one of only five who are able to work in the fields and now the family will be without his help for a month at best.

After waiting patiently for Mohammed to tell his story, attention shifted to the eldest member of the family, Ahmed Hassan Jabbar Qdeih.  Around ninety five years old, Ahmed became infuriated and began to speak up passionately. “What I have seen in my lifetime is too much to bear!” Though they are originally from Abasan, the Qdeih family used to have 500 dunams of land which spread far beyond Gaza’s borders, most of which fell in what is now considered Israel.  In 1948 when Ahmed was in his thirties, he was working near the local water well when Zionist militias terrorized his farm. Ahmed was detained, along with his family, and taken to their house where they were forced to watch as his father was murdered in front on them. The militias destroyed their home, bombed the well and set ablaze 60 dunams of land. Additionally, they stole 60 sheep and two cows to take with them.

Mr. Qdeih also spoke of February 7th, 1957. Just before Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in March of that year (under very strong pressure from the United States), Ahmed again barely escaped with his life.  Presumably during one of Israel’s last “screening operations” to eliminate members of the Palestine Brigades in which over 500 Palestinians were killed, Israeli forces lined up Ahmed and ten other men who were then mowed down with gunfire and executed.  The rifle which targeted Ahmed malfunctioned. When he was later discovered to still be alive, he was arrested and imprisoned in Israel for eight years. While in jail, the prison guards stomped on his hands and beat him mercilessly, leaving him permanently disabled and unable to walk properly. In the process of explaining this, Ahmed almost removed his shirt successfully in front of all present before being discouraged by a relative standing nearby.  “Look, look! You can still see the scars on my back,” he nearly screamed in a fashion as if he was still reliving those torturous years.

Having a proud persistence in farming and a history of tragedy dating back to the Nakba, the connection to the land runs deep for the Qdeihs and obviously so do the scars. As many Palestinians feel that they have taken the victory from the recent conflict, the present situation holds many possibilities farmers like the Qdeih family. Though recent events have been no less distressing.  Two days after the Israeli Pillar of Cloud offensive, Anwar Qdeih, the twenty year old cousin of Mohamed Qdeih, was shot and killed while participating in an impromptu demonstration near the border.

In a celebratory mood due to the gains supposedly guaranteed by the ceasefire and in defiance of the brutality of the recent Israeli assault, a small group consisting primarily of young men headed to the “buffer zone.”  When approached by heavily-armed Israeli soldiers, some threw stones and managed to cross the first security fence, which does not constitute the official border.  Upon confrontation with the soldiers, the group turned back and the Israeli forces opened fire striking Anwar in the head and killing him instantly. Eighteen others were wounded, including three children. (There is also a second fence the protesters did not reach which is electrically charged, more heavily guarded and virtually impenetrable to such a group. There are no Israeli houses or civilians in the vicinity. It is also essential to remember that Palestinians have a legal right to resist the occupation through such demonstrations and even armed resistance.)

The Israeli military establishment seems to be confounded that, for all its advanced weaponry and fire power, hundreds of young men like Anwar and Mohammed and elders like Ahmed continue to come out daily to their fields. The right-wing, ruling elite and even many self-proclaimed “liberals” in Israel appear to be in denial that the Palestinians’ claim to their land and will for self-determination is unquenchable. While they talk of more deadly operations like Cast Lead and Pillar of Cloud, they continue with the harassment of farmers and fishermen. While they provide for and forcefully protect more illegal settlements and carry out the demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, they justify the killing of a young man at a check point in Hebron and the following vicious assaults on the media. While strengthening apartheid policies against Arab and non-Jewish Israelis and fortifying new stretches of the separation wall, they feel the need to collectively punish the civilian population of Gaza with siege. While they aggressively stomp any remnants of a two-state solution under their feet and isolate themselves with mantras of victimhood, the United Nations has affirmed the right to Palestinian statehood.

What are the goals and likely consequences of these violent and obstructionist policies? How could they possibly make Israel more secure or lead to a just solution?  All the while, resistance is again becoming more and more popularized among Palestinian civilians and the factions are moving towards uniting. Regardless of the new shapes the resistance takes or any path the Israelis choose, as evidenced clearly since 1948 until this very day, the Palestinians’ deep connection to and affection for their homeland cannot be broken.

Joshua Brollier is a co-coordinator with Voices for Creative Nonviolence. He can be reached at [email protected].










The horrific massacre at a school in the small town of Newtown, Connecticut has sickened the entire country. Twenty-eight people lie dead, including twenty children between the ages of six and seven, who were shot multiple times. Six adults were also killed in Friday’s shooting spree before the gunman, Adam Lanza, took his own life. Earlier that morning, he shot and killed his mother.

The inhumanity of the crime is deeply unsettling. Beyond the individual motivations of the killer, the shooting at Newtown lays bare a brutality that pervades American society.

Friday’s mass killing is the latest in a long series of such incidents. The United States has historically seen repeated outbursts of violence. Yet the past two decades have been unusual, even by American standards. The frequency and scale of mass killings point to an underlying cause.

Among the most significant events have been the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 (168 killed, including 19 children); the Columbine, Colorado massacre in 1999 (14 dead); and the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 (34 dead). This year alone has seen massacres at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado (12 dead and 58 injured); a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin (6 dead); a sign business in Minneapolis, Minnesota (6 dead); a spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin (3 dead); and a mall six days ago in Portland, Oregon (3 dead).

The response of the American media and the political establishment to the latest shooting traces a well-worn path. There are the banal declarations of the incomprehensibility and senselessness of “evil.” To the extent any broader response is offered, it is focused on the need for a “national conversation” on gun control and empty promises to do more to address mental health (made by politicians doing their best to slash health care programs to the bone).

The American ruling class has lost the capacity for self-examination. It knows that any serious analysis of the roots of this and other tragedies points back to itself and the society it dominates.

The speech by President Obama at a memorial service in Newtown Sunday night was typical—a combination of stock phrases, play acting and invocations of religion. It would have been better if he said nothing, as he had nothing intelligent to say.

The ceremony was an exercise in religious obscurantism, in which the parents of the murdered children were told not to grieve or lose heart, for their sons and daughters were in heaven.

“God has called them all home,” Obama declared in concluding his speech. Such statements are not only insensitive to the families of those killed, they are insulting to the intelligence of the American people. One can understand a turn to religion as a source of solace by those who experience such unspeakable tragedy. In the hands of the state, however, it is a means of obfuscation to cover up the social and political roots of such events.

If the politicians insist on invoking religion, they would do better to ask themselves how Lincoln might have responded. In describing the carnage of the revolutionary war he led, the sixteenth president said that if God willed that “every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword,” then “the judgments of the Lord are righteous altogether.”

The tragedies of this world (the Civil War), Lincoln insisted, are products of worldly crimes (slavery).

For what deeds are tragedies such as Newtown the reckoning? Far from being incomprehensible, the crime is all too comprehensible. The roots are not hard to trace: a society of unprecedented inequality, a thoroughly backward official political ideology without an ounce of progressive content, and, above all, an incredible level of violence perpetrated by the state, accompanied by the brutalization of society as a whole.

The character of the mass killings bears witness to this connection. Certain features appear with regularity: the use of military-style weapons, assailants (such as Lanza) dressed in combat fatigues, the frequent involvement of former soldiers.

The past two decades have been years of unending war. Born in 1992, the 20-year old Lanza spent most of his life during the “war on terror”—one neocolonial occupation after another, drone attacks, torture, rendition, a relentless assault on democratic rights. He could not have been unaffected by the constant efforts to promote fear and paranoia—the sense that the “enemy” is just around the corner.

Obama himself is the first US president to openly assert the right to assassinate anyone, anywhere, including US citizens. He devotes a significant portion of his time to selecting the targets of drone killings, with the full knowledge that civilians—including women and children—will be killed as a result. By conservative estimates, 3,365 people have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan alone, including 176 children.

The government and the media praise the killings perpetrated by the US military, and soldiers sent to invade and occupy nations are venerated as “heroes.” The Navy Seals and Special Ops forces who do the murderous dirty work of the US military are glorified.

Can one seriously believe this country can inflict violence all over the world and not suffer deadly consequences at home?

In the coming days, more information will emerge shedding light on the specific motives behind this latest mass killing. By all accounts, Lanza was a deeply troubled young man. It would be impossible to commit such a crime otherwise. Yet the individual psychosis and its particular expression is, ultimately, the product of a profound social disease.

The U.S. Government on Friday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit over the killing of three American citizens in drone strikes in Yemen earlier this year: alleged Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar Al-Awlaki, his son Abdulrahman, and alleged AQAP magazine editor Samir Khan.

The administration also threatened to invoke the State Secrets Privilege if the suit is not dismissed on other grounds. The privilege, which 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama regularly blasted the Bush administration for invoking, allows the government to seek dismissal of a suit if it could expose national security secrets.

In the motion to dismiss, Justice Department lawyers argue that the necessity for the strikes and the viability of any alternatives is a question beyond the proper purview of the courts.

“Plaintiffs thus invite this Court to determine whether an individual in Yemen whom the Executive Branch had already declared a leader of an organized armed enemy group, and a foreign operative of that group, posed a sufficient threat to the United States and its citizens to warrant the alleged use of missile strikes abroad within the context of an armed conflict and the Executive’s national self-defense mission,” the motion says. “Moreover, they ask this Court to pass judgment on the Executive’s purported battlefield and operational decisions in that conflict—namely, to determine whether lethal force was the most appropriate option available; if so, what sort of lethal force to employ; and whether appropriate measures were taken to minimize collateral damage. Each of these issues is a ‘quintessential source’ of political questions.”

News reports and the lawsuit filed in July by the family members indicate that Khan was a collateral casualty of the September strike that killed the elder Al-Awlaki, and the junior Al-Awlaki was a collateral casualty of an October strike aimed at an Egyptian named Ibraham Al-Banna.

However, the Justice Department said the legal legitimacy of the alleged collateral casualties was inextricably intertwined with the justification for the use of deadly force against the intended targets.

“In assessing the claims of Samir Khan and Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, the complaint also implicitly asks this Court to determine the magnitude of the threats posed by the alleged targets, Anwar Al-Aulaqi and Al-Banna—a necessary predicate to evaluating which protective ‘measures’ were ‘feasible’ or ‘proportionat[e]‘ in any action against them,” the motion says.

The U.S. Government motion insists that the Executive Branch’s power to use deadly force against citizens is governed by legal principles and guarantees “due process,” but that the courts have no role to play in ensuring the enforcement of those limits.

“The Attorney General has laid out some of the principles underlying the Executive Branch’s exercise of its national self-defense prerogative against a leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force. It is the notion of judicially crafted and managed standards in the context of the issues raised by Plaintiffs’ complaint that collides with the separation of powers delineated in our Constitution,” the motion says.

The motion describes notifications to Congress as a check on the president’s power to order drone strikes, but the motion appears to concede that Congress is not informed about specific strikes until after they take place. “The Legislative Branch…has not acted to preclude them,” the Justice Department filing says.

The groups backing the lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, issued a statement Friday deploring the Obama administration’s position.

“The essence of the government’s argument is that it has the authority to kill Americans not only in secret, but also without ever having to justify its actions under the Constitution in any courtroom. To claim, as the administration has today, that the courts have no role at all to play in assessing whether the government’s targeted killings of Americans are lawful—even after the fact—simply cannot be squared with the Due Process Clause,” the groups said.

“The president himself has acknowledged that the targeted killing program must be subject to more meaningful checks, but there is little evidence of that recognition in the brief filed by the government today,” the statement added.

The government also made a technical argument against the lawsuit, asserting that the family members have no authority to proceed since they’ve not been officially designated as executors of the deceased individuals estates.

In 2010, a federal judge in Washington dismissed a similar suit seeking to strike the elder Al-Awlaki from a purported “kill list” maintained by the U.S. Government. U.S. District Court Judge John Bates agreed that the dispute was not one well-suited to the courts, but he acknowledged that the suit raised serious questions. He pointed out the odd fact that the government would need judicial approval to wiretap Al-Awlaki but appeared to need no such approval to kill him.

The Justice Department has declined to confirm that Anwar Al-Awlaki was wanted on criminal charges at the time of his death. However, it has claimed he was a key player in the Christmas Day 2009 attempt to bring down a Delta Airliner arriving in Detroit from Amsterdam. He was also formally designated as a terrorist by the State Department.

The Justice Department’s motion to dismiss in the new suit is posted here. The notice regarding possible invocation of the State Secrets Privilege is here.

The Obama administration has already declared war on Syria, even if it isn’t “official” yet. Consider the facts, all of them acts of war: The U.S. now recognizes a group of Syrian exiles to be the official government of Syria; the U.S. is providing direct support for rebels attacking the government; the U.S. has coordinated with NATO to place advanced missile systems — and 400 U.S. troops — on Syria’s border with Turkey; Obama has drawn a “red line” that, if Syria crosses, would result in U.S. direct military intervention. If any other country made similar moves toward the U.S., there would be no question that war had been declared.
All the strategic steps that led to the Iraq war are being repeated. Obama has assembled a Bush-style international “coalition of the willing” of nations to topple the Syrian government; 130 countries have put their names on paper in support of toppling the Assad government.In reality, however, the core of the group is the U.S./Europe NATO alliance and the Gulf monarchies. The rest of the “coalition” are economic and political satellites of these main groups, who would sign onto to any military adventure that the rich nations demanded of them, since otherwise the poorer nations would have their military, financial, or political aid frozen.

Europe’s increased lust for blood is a relatively new phenomenon; the European divisions that erupted during the Iraq war and then the Libyan invasion seem to have been smoothed over. Now even Germany aims to directly join the war efforts, intending to send missiles and troops to the Turkish border as well.

But NATO is still a U.S.-dominated military alliance. Any NATO military action is in reality a U.S. led effort, since the European armies are miniscule in comparison, and lack much of the technological sophistication of U.S. weaponry. The advanced Russian missile systems that Syria is equipped with demand a direct U.S. military role to neutralize.

Like Bush, Obama is using his coalition of the willing to distract from the fact that he is circumventing the UN, and thus bringing the post WWII system of international conflict resolution — already on life support — closer to death.

Also like Bush, Obama strategically exploited the UN to weaken Syria with sanctions, and when further UN action was not possible — because of the objections of China and Russia —Obama threw aside the UN and opted for NATO, a U.S./European military alliance built specifically as a deterrent to the now-defunct Soviet Union.

Again like Bush, Obama has crafted a false motive for war. Obama has stolen Bush’s “weapons of mass destruction” but substituted “the use of chemical weapons” as a bogeyman worthy of military intervention. Obama’s bogeyman is as false as Bush’s was. The New York Times reports:  

“…the effect of that statement [that Syria was planning to use chemical weapons] was somewhat undercut when France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, asserted during a news conference that such reports were unconfirmed.”

This lack of confirmation hasn’t bothered the U.S. media, who remain content repeating as truth any report issued by U.S. intelligence, no matter the past lies that have cost countless deaths in Iraq and elsewhere.

Of course the U.S. government has zero legitimacy to hand pick a “replacement” government for Syria, since the U.S. is universally hated in the region after the destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and the ongoing drone wars against Pakistan and Yemen. No sane Syrian would invite the U.S. government to “liberate” their country.In fact, a coalition of Syrian opposition groups inside of Syria, the National Coordination Committee (NCC) — virtually ignored by the U.S. media — opposes military intervention, demanding the conflict be addressed through political means.

A leader of the NCC is Hassan Abdul Azim, who correctly states: 

“We refuse on principle any type of military foreign intervention because it threatens the freedom of our country.”Another prominent ongoing lie repeated by U.S. politicians and media is that the Syrian government is on the verge of collapse. This lie is effective in that it creates an urgency to “take action.” It also paints a picture of the conflict coming to an end that resonates well with Americans.

The reality is that the Syrian western-backed rebels have staged daring high-profile attacks that have been largely repulsed by government counter-attacks. But in each instance the U.S. government has used these attacks as an excuse to ratchet up their support to the rebels and now to place U.S. missiles and troops on Syria’s border. Of course if the Syrian government does fall, Obama has absolutely no plan on how to “stabilize” the country, since the most effective rebel fighting force — the Al-Nusra Front — has been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

Obama and his NATO and Gulf monarchy allies have created an extremely unstable situation in Syria. They have already torn the Syrian social fabric to shreds with their support of the rebels, but in so doing they’ve pushed many Syrians closer to supporting their government, who they see as a protector against the rebels that have used large scale ethnic-religious cleansing and other war crimes to subdue the population.

Thus, the Syrian government still retains a popular base, ensuring that the already bloody catastrophe will continue with no end in sight, especially since Obama has “regime change” as his goal and is encircling the country with missiles and U.S. and European troops. Iran and Russia will continue to bolster the Syrian government.

Under these tense conditions a broader war can break out any moment. The U.S. can claim that the Syrian government is about to employ chemical weapons as an excuse to directly intervene. Or perhaps Turkey — a NATO member — will claim that Syria fired missiles into its territory, and thus Obama will act to “defend” its ally.

When war “officially” breaks out, Iran might then increase its direct support for the Syrian government with troops —funneled through Iraq — giving the U.S. another excuse to “defend” itself, and pushing the conflict into Iran. Hezbollah in Lebanon or Israel may intervene too, since both have a direct interest in the outcome of the Syrian conflict. Any number of scenarios could play out that drag other nations into the war, including Russia, who is already supporting the Syrian government. Many of these scenarios have already begun on the proxy level and need only a shove to ensure they explode into a full-scale regional war.

A nation under attack creates a feeding frenzy logic from those countries looking to opportunistically exploit the situation.  This proxy war in Syria is on the brink of a much larger disaster, with the potential to annihilate the Middle East through a new round of war and barbarism.

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


Islamofascist Killers Threaten Syria

December 17th, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

They’re merciless cutthroat murderers. They commit grotesque atrocities. Torture, beheadings, and other monstrous savagery are all in a day’s work.

They’re Washington favorites. They’re recruited, heavily armed, trained, funded and directed in all US regional wars. Ronald Reagan called earlier equivalents “freedom fighters.” Some got White House visits.

A March 1983 photo showed Afghan Mujahideen fighters there. Reagan called them “an inspiration to those who love freedom.”

He called Nicaraguan Contra killers “our brothers, these freedom fighters and we owe them our help. They are the moral equal of our founding fathers.”

History doesn’t just rhyme. It repeats in horrifyingly disturbing ways.

Wherever America shows up, deaths, mass destruction, and brutal atrocities follow. Countries are ravaged one at a time or in multiples. Millions die. Appalling crimes are committed.

Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya tasted US-style liberation. Since winter 2011, Syria’s been systematically ravaged. No end of conflict appears near. Many dozens or hundreds die daily. The worst is yet to come.

On December 15, China’s Xinhau headlined “Growing Presence of Extremists Sends Chills Down Syrians’ Spines,” saying:

Syrians now experience what’s happened regionally for years. Media scoundrels suppress it. They call mass slaughter and destruction liberation. They give short shrift to cutthroat mercenaries.

Syrians fear for their lives and country. They ask how things got this far. Many understand Washington’s responsibility. Complicit with key NATO partners, regional allies, and Israel, they’re systematically destroying Syria.

Many Syrians able to leave do so. Most end up in wretched refugee camps. More affluent ones find favorable safe havens. They’d rather be home. They leave to stay alive.

Forty-six year old engineer Maher perhaps spoke for others.

“Why would I stay here now that I can afford living in a neighboring country,” he said. “I could save my family some avoidable consequences.”

He hopes Syria won’t be another Afghanistan or Iraq. He prays for a miracle to save his country.

If Assad is ousted, many Syrians worry what’s next. Potential Islamofascist governance assures continuation of what’s now ongoing.

Raging Libyan violence reflects it. Syria’s turn perhaps is next. Washington bears full responsibility. It planned violent regime change years ago.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad’s recent comment offered hope, saying:

“The government is strong. The Syrian army is strong, and the Syrian people are still rallying behind President Assad. That’s why President Assad and the political system are still surviving and they will still survive.”

Hopefully the fullness of time will prove him right. Daily violence casts a pall over Syria’s future.

Iran and others warn that offensive Patriot missiles in Turkey on Syria’s border threaten possible global war. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cancelled a planned Ankara visit. He condemned a dangerous provocation.

Tehran’s armed forces chief of staff, General Hassan Firouzabadi, called each missile “a black dot on the map.” They head events toward global conflict.

“This is very dangerous for everyone,” he stressed, “and even for the future of Europe.” They’ll be installed in January. Offensive provocations may follow.

On December 14, NATO commander Admiral James Stavridis accused Assad of firing scud missiles inside Syria. Several landed close to Turkey’s border, he claimed.

Damascus denounced alleged attacks as false. Syrian authorities called reports provocative and untrue.

On Friday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited US forces at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base. Washington shares it. He said Patriot batteries can shoot down aircraft and short-range missiles.

Deploying them, he claimed, will “help Turkey have the kind of missile defense it may very well need to deal with the threats coming out of Syria.”

None exist. He knows it. He’s fooling no one. Patriot batteries are provocative. Installing them is for offense, not defense. Doing so heightens risks. In place, they’ll likely be used. Full-scale intervention may follow.

Deputy NATO Secretary-General Jesper Vahr warned Syria that “messing with Turkey means messing with NATO.” He barely stopped short of declaring war. Doing it perhaps is imminent. Events bear close watching. Post-holiday season may prove most threatening.

Michel Chossudovsky suggests possible “military escalation” and “Russia-US confrontation.”

What’s now ongoing is long-planned “US-NATO-Israeli led insurgency against Syria.”

French, British, Turkish, Qatari, and very likely US Special Forces are involved. US and UK intelligence operatives have been all along. Perhaps French, Mossad, and other regional elements with them.

Washington plays hard ball for keeps. Ravaging Syria won’t stop until the entire country is destroyed or enough of it to matter.

Western and regional Special Forces “are ‘embedded’ within rebel ranks.” They’re training and directing them. They choose targets and coordinate what happens.

They operate “in liaison with NATO.” The North Atlantic Alliance is a longstanding imperial killing machine. Its mission is slaughter, mass destruction, and regime change.

Led by Washington, it’s systematically dismantling and ravaging Syria. It has other targets in mind. NATO killers never rest.

Ambitious goals drive them. Unchallenged global dominance is planned. Aims to achieve it perhaps involve laying waste to planet earth.

Proxy cutthroat killers commit daily terrorism. Patriot missiles plan their own version.

Preparing for what’s coming, Chossudovsky said “Russia delivered advanced Iskander missiles to Syria (and) Russian defense system Pechora 2M.”

They’re fully operational. What’s next bears watching. January events may signal what follows.

Russian/US relations are at a “dangerous crossroads.” Russian citizens in Syria are targeted. So are foreign journalists.

In September, Press TV’s Maya Naser was murdered in cold blood. At the same time, its Damascus bureau chief Hosein Mortada was shot in the back and wounded. Both reporters were covering Damascus bomb blasts when targeted.

They and other independent journalists receive frequent death threats. They courageously stay and do their job. Some like Maya pay with their lives. Hosein was flown to Tehran for surgery.

Syria is one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists. Those doing their job responsibly are most vulnerable. Cutthroat killers target them.

Washington decides which ones. NATO partners and Israel choose their favorites. Truth-tellers beware.

Since conflict erupted last year, around six dozen journalists died. Many independent ones succumbed. Major media ones included London Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin and New York Times columnist Anthony Shadid. Officially an asthma attack took him. Death by drowning is more likely.

Alawites and others considered Assad loyalists are imperiled. Many bravely hold firm. The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said residents of Aleppo’s al-Sabil neighborhood turned out in force.

A massive pro-Assad rally was held. Support was expressed for Syria’s army. Expelling foreign terrorists was urged. Syrians know who’s friend and foe. They stuck their necks out saying so.

Syria’s conflict indeed may be at a dangerous crossroads. What affects Assad’s government imperils the region. It can’t avoid what Washington plans. Nor can other nations if conditions escalate out of control. The possibility is real and ominous.

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

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

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

Geopolitical Dislocation and Worldwide Economic Chaos: Profiling Euroland “After the Crisis”

December 17th, 2012 by Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin (GEAB)

The current geopolitical dislocation, largely anticipated by LEAP/E2020 since February of 2009 (GEAB No. 32), has resulted in a global fragmentation than will accelerate over the course of next year, amidst global recession. The end of the leadership of traditional powers will bring about global chaos in 2013, with the “world after” beginning to emerge.

It will be a somber year for the United States, as it loses its status as the sole superpower and finds itself unable to influence the construction of a new global governance. For if all players are desperately seeking a way to gain the upper hand in the game, only those countries and regions prepared for the shockwaves can even hope to influence the emergence of the “world after.”

Alliances of any kind (CELAC, UNASUR, MERCOSUR, ALBA, CAN, ALADI, NAFTA, OAS, AU, NEPAD, SADC, COMESA, ECOWAS, UEMOA, CEMAC, the Arab League, EU, EFTA, ASEAN, APT, EAC, BRICS, CASSH, Eurasian Union, etc.) all reflect such attempts, but they are all more or less advanced, more or less homogenous, and more or less resistant to the coming storm.

Euroland, born in the crisis and strengthening with each wave like a tidal power plant, Asia, and South America are better equipped to become the big winners in the “reshuffled” world, while the old powers, like the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan, etc., are failing to adapt to the multi-polar, post-crisis world and find themselves utterly destitute. There is an extraordinary open world game afoot, one providing numerous opportunities to those willing to seize them. This is evident in the Middle East, where populations are taking the opportunity to change the region in accordance with their aspirations; in the BRICS, where their advancing pawns approach declining powers; and in Europe, where each attack by the crisis creates the energy to adapt to the challenges of tomorrow.

The economic situation (recession) and geopolitics (major tensions in the Middle East, but also in Asia (1), etc.) make 2013 a difficult and dangerous period, with mishaps likely, making stable regions that benefit from this state of affairs more attractive by comparison. Everything is relative, of course, but global violence in 2013 figures to make Euroland one of the few havens of peace, stability, and comfort… and for investors it will be one of the few regions offering some visibility for the future (2). This will create a powerful engine for exiting the European crisis in 2013.

A rapprochement of Euroland with BRICS, another future-bearer group of countries, would weigh in favor of the necessary (3) reforms in global governance. The next G20 summit in September in St. Petersburg, outside of Western influence for the first time, is the last opportunity to address issues paramount to global governance, including the international monetary system’s reform. For in 2014, the best-adapted regions are already making their way in the “world after”.


Shares of global middle-class consumption, 2000-2050 - Source: Business Insider/OCDE

Shares of global middle-class consumption, 2000-2050 – Source: Business Insider/OCDE
In this GEAB issue No. 70, our team will analyze this fragmentation and restructuring, starting with the catalyst of these current tensions: the Middle East. A large part is devoted to Europe, via Euroland, pursuing its entry into the “world after.” To understand these Euroland developments, one must understand those in one of its key players, Germany, and we therefore conduct a comprehensive study of the German political landscape and the upcoming 2013 elections. We also present our assessments of country risks and the yearly evaluation of our 2012 anticipations, before giving our recommendations and GlobalEuromètre results.In this GEAB public communiqué No. 65, or team has chosen to present its analysis of the Euroland.

Profiling Euroland in the world after the crisis

The media war against the Euro was useful inasmuch as it forced the Eurozone to implement the reforms necessary to overcome the crisis. There was, of course, no revolution here, playing as we are by the “rules of the game” (4), that is to say without scaring the markets. No thundering statements, but compromises (5) and solid actions made after lengthy discussions. And gradually the structures have come into place that strengthen the Eurozone. The contrast with US inaction is striking.

This should not obscure the many problems in Greece and Spain, for example; no one said it would be painless to recover from the bursting of the housing bubble and a historic global systemic crisis; as a matter of fact these countries could benefit more from technical assistance and expertise from other European countries. But overall, the situation is improving, the new Greek debt restructuring has been successful (6), deficits are reduced in Greece and Spain (7), Italy was put back on track by Monti (8), the Anglo-Saxon media themselves no longer speak of an eventual Greek exit from the Eurozone, and more recently the US media has even began praising European progress… (9)

Let there be no mistake: 2013 will be difficult for a Europe in recession. But whether it is through the banking union which will begin functioning in early 2014, through increased political integration or through the European Stability Mechanism, the independence of Euroland states is affirmed (10). One sees it in disagreements with the IMF on Greece (11): by 2015, the European Stability Mechanism will have sufficient credibility and skills to let the IMF deal with developing countries (or save the US or UK) and concentrate only on European problems.

This decoupling from the institutions of the “world before” and from the United States allows Euroland to engage in the constructive dynamic of adaptation to the “world after”, through custom-made tools.Visible signs of the decoupling and independence of Euroland, despite criticism, are the solutions to the crisis, ones at odds with those practiced in the US. It is indeed “austerity” (12) that prevails in Europe, and avoids the faltering evident in the US budget.Euroland’s resistance also involves the pooling of public debt. With the launch of “project bonds” (13) to finance EU infrastructure projects, increased pooling is underway, and the way is open for Eurobonds.

A weakened German Chancellor, after the 2013 elections (as we shall see), has little discretion to refuse the Eurobonds requested by the SPD, which will be in the coalition government. Since only the voice of the Germans was lacking on the subject, aside from the banking union, 2014 will be the year of Eurobonds.

Despite the approach of the elections, Angela Merkel has already yielded on the subject of Greek debt (14), a sensitive issue for Germans; but it is of course in her interest to ensure the proper functioning of the Eurozone, a large outlet for the country’s exports.Finally, far from being the foil that the Anglo-Saxon media would make it out to be, the Eurozone is attractive despite the crisis: Poland wants to become a member (15), regional separatists do not envisage an exit from the Euro (16)… Another sign of the fact that it belongs to the “world after” landscape and that it is a zone with visibility within the crisis: it provides shelter to members states from geopolitical tensions.

Euroland : en route towards political union

Thus, with the progress that has been accomplished, and despite a slight recession in 2013, in the view of LEAP/E2020, the end of next year will mark the end of Euroland’s crisis. The worldwide tempest of 2013 will cause disruptions but will not destabilize Euroland, which will find itself well anchored and increasingly sturdy. Though they may not yet be entirely visible, the mechanisms allowing an exit from the current crisis will be set in place starting in 2013, and will gain strength throughout the year, allowing for a clear recovery in 2014.However, for the relief from crisis to last, necessary democratization must be undertaken. This is, furthermore, what the European Parliament (17) is requesting. Paradoxically, the latter is aided by the marginalization of the traditional national parties: in France, the UMP has exploded (18), as predicted in GEAB n°64; in the United Kingdom, Ukip is casting a shadow on the Tories (19); in Germany, the CSU and the CDU are also bogged down in ‘‘their’’ scandals (20)…

This marginalization can be explained by the increasing integration in Euroland: it has become evident to everyone that henceforth the real power is situated at the European, rather than national, level. Therefore it is only natural that the parties are Europeanizing, and Barroso has asked political parties to put forward in the European elections a “principal candidate” for all countries (21), which is a real revolution after 30 years of total deafness to the issue of democratization (22) on the part of European institutions! These 2014 elections, therefore, will consequently be the catalyst for the emergence of Euroland.One word on the Erasmus program, which is now threatened by budgetary shortfalls as a result of austerity measures.

Some politicians no longer have much political sense!! In a full-on crisis of the Euro, which has no doubt been managed efficiently, but contrary to any democratic principle, and by means of rigorous policies that are at times quite painful for the population, and within a context of endemic unemployment, particularly high among the young, the one and only positive European reference, i.e. the Erasmus program, is going to lose not only its financial means (23) but also its name (24)… If a considerable reform of this 20 year-old student mobility program is necessary in order for it to adapt to the immense European stakes of the 21st (25) century, its name must quite obviously be preserved (why drop off the winning team) and its budget must be sufficiently augmented to guarantee its longevity through the new budgetary period that will run from 2014 to 2020, therefore long past the end of the crisis. Show some vision, for goodness sake!


Number of students participating in Erasmus each year; the ambition of 3 million students over the years - Source:

Number of students participating in Erasmus each year; the ambition of 3 million students over the years – Source:


However, national political ambitions are of course always in play, and European advances are evaluated in light of the balance of power between nations. In giving back to France the voice that Nicolas Sarkozy, totally in step with Merkel, caused it to lose, the arrival of François Hollande, has allowed other voices to be heard, has broken the polarization of the Franco-German block against the rest of Europe, and has in brief reopened European debate, and it was certainly time. But the economic powerhouse that is Germany, in comparison notably with the current dreariness of the French economy, confers upon Angela Merkel considerable influence.In the next section we will analyze the future of German politics, and namely the federal elections that will be held in Autumn 2013.

From here on, the Chancellor will be campaigning and will avoid any unnecessary risks and any proposition that could displease the electorate. In this difficult year, the other heads of state will have to succeed in convincing a hesitant Chancellor. To a lesser extent, the situation will continue afterwards as well, for Angela Merkel will be on even more fragile ground after the elections. In this regard, the unblocking of multilateral discussions in Europe is a positive sign.


(1)For example, the launch of the North Korean missile (source: The Guardian, 13/12/2012), or the Sino-Japanese disputes over contested islands (see for example Le Monde, 13/12/2012).

(2) In this present world chaos, Euroland presents many similarities with Switzerland during the European wars of the last century.

(3) “Necessary”, since, as determined by the Euro-BRICS seminar held on September 27-28 in Cannes, by LEAP and MGIMO, without renovated global governance that harmoniously integrates the diverse new global powers, the chaos of 2013 will lead to a multipolar world consisting of opposed blocs, an immense geopolitical danger.

(4) While slowly changing those rules, so that they are no longer just those of the markets: the banking regulations, supervision of credit rating agencies, etc.

(5) As anticipated by LEAP/E2020, the election of François Hollande in France has renewed debates and discussions in Europe. This contrasts with Sarkozy, who blindly followed Merkel, and frustrated those other countries not part of the Franco-German “engine”. The arrival of a new government was experienced by all other Europeans as a relief and a breath of fresh air.

(6) Source: Le Monde, 13/12/2012

(7) Sources : Greek Reporter (11/12/2012) et Business Standard (05/12/2012)

(8) Monti figures to remain influential despite the theatrics of Berlusconi, who has little chance of being elected. Source: Le Nouvel Observateur, 11/12/2012.

(9) See for example Bloomberg (11/12/2012), CNBC (23/11/2012), FoxBusiness (28/11/2012), etc.

(10) The US media has spoken of it themselves: CNBC (26/11/2012) titled The Euro Zone Is ‘Shaping Up Quite Well’ recounts a story of progress in Euroland.

(11) Source: Der Spiegel, 21/11/2012

(12) Austerity remains measured in many countries; in others, it is to get the same effect as monetary devaluation, which the rules of the Eurozone cannot allow.

(13) Source: European Parliament, 05/07/2012

(14) Source: Le Monde, 03/12/2012

(15) Source: Le Monde, 30/11/2012

(16) This is also part of what may explain the difference between polls and the last minute results in Catalonia: just before the election the debate focused on the potential exiting from Europe of the new sovereign region (source elPeriodico, 22/11/2012); together, the CiU and ERC separatist parties then lost a seat in contrast to the stated fears of a tidal wave of separatism.

(17) Source: RTBF, 20/11/2012.

(18) Source: Le Figaro, 26/11/2012.

(19) Source: The Guardian, 26/11/2012.

(20) See infra.

(21) Source: Euractiv, 17/09/2012.

(22) We know of what we speak: for almost the past 30 years, the democratization of the European Union was the warhorse of our Director of Studies and of Strategy, Franck Biancheri, who passed away this past October 30, and who led a very uneven battle against the European and national political and institutional systems that were completely reluctant towards any change in this area. Six years ago, seeing the clouds building on the horizon for the oncoming global crisis, Franck Biancheri knew that at last he held the tool for this democratization: the crisis itself would allow the project of political integration to move forward, by creating a new engine for European construction, lightened from the United Kingdown and therefore adapted to advance a new political union: Euroland.

(23) Source: Le Monde, 05/10/2012

(24) The grouping together of different European educational programs (Comenius, Leonardo, Erasmus, etc.) at first led to the name of “Erasmus for all” then to “Yes for Europe”. Apparently there are Europeans in Brussels who find that for a European educational program, the name of the great Dutch humanist of the 15th century isn’t good enough… They wanted at least a “Yes for Europe” and perhaps even a “Yeah-rope”!! It is essential that such saboteurs of Europe be swiftly brought to reason…

(25) In 2003, Franck Biancheri, who was also one the fathers of Erasmus, wrote, for example, this article entitled : « Erasmus… et après ? » (Erasmus. . . and then what ?), Europe 2020.

[T]his could set off a chain of events that may pull the Russian Federation directly into the conflict. If the lives of Russians are at risk Russia has the right to protect its citizens and to assist unaligned Ukraine if there is such a request.

[I]f the Syrian Government hypothetically requests Russian assistance, how will this affect the position of the US and the West who have battle groups poised to invade the country at a moment’s notice?

[T]he Free Syrian Army has effectively declared war on Russia, Ukraine and Iran, and since they are backed by the West this might appear to be a proxy declaration. The US of course would not declare war on Russia or Iran. Formal declarations of war are not something the US does, just like they did not declare war on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia, Syria and Iran.

The Free Syrian Army has committed an affront to all humanity by kidnapping and threatening to execute a female Ukrainian journalist and announcing that they will kill all Russians and Ukrainians they find in Syria. This could be taken to be akin to a declaration of war; obviously the armed insurgents in Syria have been emboldened to a point that they have stepped into an area where they are beyond the law.

With the terrorists also threatening Russian and Ukrainian diplomatic missions, this could set off a chain of events that may pull the Russian Federation directly into the conflict. If the lives of Russians are at risk Russia has the right to protect its citizens and to assist unaligned Ukraine if there is such a request.

The world knows the Free Syrian Army is supported by the US and the West and if the Russian Federation was forced to consider entering Syria militarily this would make such a decision extremely dangerous. The security, in this case for diplomatic missions, lies with Syria as does the freeing of the hostage, but if the Syrian Government hypothetically requests Russian assistance, how will this affect the position of the US and the West who have battle groups poised to invade the country at a moment’s notice?

If you are pretending to be my friend but paying and supporting criminals who have threatened to kill my family and loved ones then wouldn’t it be logical to say that you are my enemy and that if I want to save my loved ones then I should neutralize the threat, including you?

Take this to a higher level and consider that Russia has dealt in a civilized manner with the backers of the so-called Free Syrian Army: terrorists, killers and mercenaries operating in Syria who openly threaten to kill Russians, Ukrainians and Iranians, attack and kill civilians and execute unarmed civilians. In reality, what would the reaction be? If the Free Syrian Army had kidnapped an American and threatened to destroy the US and UK Missions, what would the reaction be?

One might argue that the Free Syrian Army has effectively declared war on Russia, Ukraine and Iran, and since they are backed by the West this might appear to be a proxy declaration. The US of course would not declare war on Russia or Iran. Formal declarations of war are not something the US does, just like they did not declare war on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia, Syria and Iran.

For all of the cowboy diplomacy of the West and their macho bravado and military might the men hiding in their comfortable bunkers and command rooms and expensive suburban homes are slippery creatures who fight their battles by proxy and use pretexts designed and carried out in secret. They will therefore provide material and financial support to terrorist organizations such as the Free Syrian Army when it is expedient, but will they back away from their proxies now that they have stated “Let not a single Russian, Ukrainian or Iranian come out of Syria alive”?

The US government has officially recognized an umbrella group of mainly foreign terrorist organizations as the official representative of the Syrian people, and almost immediately the main US surrogate threatens to execute a Ukrainian woman journalist. If you had doubts before, have no doubt now, these are not “freedom fighters” they are cowardly criminals. Who would execute a woman? Not even any self-respecting Muslim terrorist extremist would stoop so low.

The journalist who was kidnapped, Anhar Kochneva, has been stationed in Syria for years and has been instrumental in getting the true picture out of Syria on many occasions, one reason why she is obviously a target for the West and its surrogates as they continue their information war to justify an invasion. She has done work for several Russian media outlets, including the NTV, RenTV and RT television channels and the Utro.Ru news portal and according to RIA Novosti has been a vocal supporter of President Bashar Al Assad.

According to the online site Syria News, “That the joint statement of the Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), ARTICLE 19, the International Press Institute also calls on the British, French and US governments as well as on the European Union (UN) to work with ‘their’ externally staged Syrian opposition in order to facilitate the release of the journalist Anhar Kochneva is also not surprising. It either shows who are the masterminds and supporters behind the ‘Free Syrian Army’ (FSA) or who is really responsible for this (expletive) situation in Syria.”

In a normal world we might see Russian and Ukrainian special forces alongside Syrian special services launching a rescue operation and wiping out the Free Syrian Army for making the declarations they have made. Surely if the same thing happened to America that would be the case, but as we all know who is behind all of this we know that this would kick off what might well be Word War III, something no one wants.
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The Big Banks Are Criminal Enterprises

December 17th, 2012 by Washington's Blog

“The Government Has Bought Into the Notion that Too Big to Fail Is Too Big to Jail”

Alternative financial media have noted for years that:

  • As Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz noted years ago:

“The system is set so that even if you’re caught, the penalty is just a small number relative to what you walk home with.

The fine is just a cost of doing business. It’s like a parking fine. Sometimes you make a decision to park knowing that you might get a fine because going around the corner to the parking lot takes you too much time.”

7534252614 dc24534f4a b Even the Mainstream Media Finally Awakens to the Fact that Big Banks Are Criminal Enterprises

Image by William Banzai

Now – with the slap on the wrist of giant HSBC for laundering huge sums of drug money – even the mainstream press is starting to catch on.

The New York Times notes:

Congressional hearings exposed weaknesses at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the national bank regulator. In 2010, the regulator found that HSBC had severe deficiencies in its anti-money laundering controls, including $60 trillion in transactions and 17,000 accounts flagged as potentially suspicious, activities that were not reviewed. Despite the findings, the regulator did not fine the bank.

During the hearings this summer, lawmakers assailed the regulator. At one point, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, called the comptroller “a lap dog, not a watchdog.”

A New York Times editorial argues:

It is a dark day for the rule of law. Federal and state authorities have chosen not to indict HSBC, the London-based bank, on charges of vast and prolonged money laundering, for fear that criminal prosecution would topple the bank and, in the process, endanger the financial system. They also have not charged any top HSBC banker in the case, though it boggles the mind that a bank could launder money as HSBC did without anyone in a position of authority making culpable decisions.

Clearly, the government has bought into the notion that too big to fail is too big to jail. When prosecutors choose not to prosecute to the full extent of the law in a case as egregious as this, the law itself is diminished. The deterrence that comes from the threat of criminal prosecution is weakened, if not lost.


Even large financial settlements are small compared with the size of international major banks. More important, once criminal sanctions are considered off limits, penalties and forfeitures become just another cost of doing business, a risk factor to consider on the road to profits.


According to several law enforcement officials with knowledge of the inquiry, prosecutors found that, for years, HSBC had also moved tainted money from Mexican drug cartels and Saudi banks with ties to terrorist groups. Those findings echo those of a Congressional report, issued in July, which said that between 2001 and 2010, HSBC exposed the American “financial system to money laundering and terrorist financing risks.”

As the New York Times correctly points out:

If banks operating at the center of the global economy cannot be held fully accountable, the solution is to reduce their size by breaking them up and restricting their activities — not shield them and their leaders from prosecution for illegal activities.

The Washington Post writes that its not just HSBC:

A string of august names in global banking — Credit Suisse, Lloyds Bank, ABN Amro, ING Bank and now HSBC — have reached settlements in the past couple of years with the U.S. government for billions of dollars in tainted transactions. These investigations have revealed that weaknesses in the financial system lay not with the so-called hawala brokers of Karachi, Pakistan, but the bespoke bankers of London, Amsterdam and Geneva, and their American affiliates.


The settlement drew criticism that HSBC had escaped lightly, given the gravity and scale of the crimes.

If these people aren’t prosecuted, who will be?” asked Jack Blum, a Washington attorney and a former special counsel for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who specializes in money laundering and financial crimes. “What do you have to do to be prosecuted? They have crossed every bright line in bank compliance. When is there an offense that’s bad enough for a big bank to be prosecuted?”

The Guardian notes:

“Steal a little,” wrote Bob Dylan, “they throw you in jail; steal a lot and they make you a king.” These days, he might recraft the line to read: deal a little dope, they throw you in jail; launder the narco billions, they’ll make you apologise ….


The dealings had been flagged up to HSBC bosses by an anti-money laundering officer, but to no avail – the dirty business continued.


[A couple of years ago, when Wachovia was busted for laundering drug money,] no one from Wachovia went to jail – and, said Woods at the time of the settlement: “These are the proceeds of murder and misery in Mexico, and of drugs sold around the world. But no one goes to jail. What does the settlement do to fight the cartels? Nothing. It encourages the cartels and anyone who wants to make money by laundering their blood dollars.”


Wachovia was not the first, neither will HSBC be the last. Six years ago, a subsidiary of Barclays – Barclays Private Bank – was exposed as having been used to launder drug money from Colombia through five accounts linked to the infamous Medellín cartel.


And the issue is wider than drug-money. It is about where banks, law enforcement officers and the regulators – and politics and society generally – want to draw the line between the criminal and supposed “legal” economies, if there is one.


No one was sanctioned under criminal law last month when the ING bank was fined $619m for illegally moving billions of dollars into the US banking system….


A foremost trainer of anti-money laundering officers in the US is Robert Mazur, who infiltrated the Medellín cartel during the prosecution and collapse of the BCCI bank in 1991, and who tells the Observer that “the only thing that will make the banks properly vigilant to what is happening is when they hear the rattle of handcuffs in the boardroom“.


People don’t like to ask how close the banker’s finger is to the trigger of the killer’s gun,” says Woods.

But in this newspaper – when we revealed the original “cease and desist” order against HSBCthe former head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, posited that four pillars of the international banking system are: drug-money laundering, sanctions busting, tax evasion and arms trafficking. [indeed, drug dealers kept the banking system afloat during the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.]

The response of politicians is to cower from any serious legal assault on this reality, for the simple reasons that the money is too big (plus consultancies to be had after leaving office). The British government recruits a former chairman of HSBC as trade secretary just as the drug-laundering scandal breaks.


The notion of any dichotomy between the global criminal economy and the “legal” one is fantasy. Worse, it is a lie. They are seamless, mutually interdependent – one and the same.

The Guardian reported last year:

“Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations,” said Jeffrey Sloman, the federal prosecutor. Yet the total fine was less than 2% of the bank’s $12.3bn profit for 2009. On 24 March 2010, Wells Fargo stock traded at $30.86 – up 1% on the week of the court settlement.

The conclusion to the case was only the tip of an iceberg, demonstrating the role of the “legal” banking sector in swilling hundreds of billions of dollars – the blood money from the murderous drug trade in Mexico and other places in the world – around their global operations, now bailed out by the taxpayer.

Huffington Post writes:

The message this is sending is if you want to engage in money laundering, make sure you’re doing it within the context of your employment at a bank,” [University of Notre Dame law professor Jimmy Gurulé, a former assistant U.S. Attorney General and former Undersecretary for Enforcement for the U.S. Treasury Department] said in a phone interview. “And don’t go small. Do it on a very large scale, and you won’t get prosecuted.”

It’s essentially telling the executives in these institutions crime pays,” Neil Barofsky, former Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the government’s bailout program, told CNN. “Go ahead, do whatever you want to do, enjoy your profits, and the worst thing that happens, well, you have some fines that really make up a couple of weeks of profits that you lose.”

Barofsky explains:

DOJ’s actions with regards to HSBC are … downright terrifying for weakening the general deterrence for megabanks, both foreign and domestic, which could rationally interpret yesterday’s actions as a license to steal.


Yesterday’s action now spikes the punch with a new toxin, confirmation that criminal penalties are off the table, leaving a worst-case scenario of a fine totaling far less than even a single quarter’s earnings. Given the potential profits of criminal behavior and the unlikelihood of personal consequences for the executives directing it, the message is clear: Crime pays. This will inevitably lead to more reckless risk-taking that will further undermine systemic stability and lead to an even greater financial meltdown down the road.

Matt Taibbi notes:

When you decide not to prosecute bankers for billion-dollar crimes connected to drug-dealing and terrorism (some of HSBC’s Saudi and Bangladeshi clients had terrorist ties, according to a Senate investigation), it doesn’t protect the banking system, it does exactly the opposite. It terrifies investors and depositors everywhere, leaving them with the clear impression that even the most “reputable” banks may in fact be captured institutions whose senior executives are in the employ of (this can’t be repeated often enough) murderers and terrorists. Even more shocking, the Justice Department’s response to learning about all of this was to do exactly the same thing that the HSBC executives did in the first place to get themselves in trouble – they took money to look the other way.

The top Wall Street fraud expert – William Black – confirms:

Public reports of the results of the government investigations of HSBC describe a bank that has been a criminal enterprise for at least 15 years. The current settlement addresses only three of the many scandals HSBC has committed over that time period. HSBC is a recidivist of epic proportions, but the Obama and Cameron governments have failed to prosecute HSBC or any of its officers. When powerful corporations and their controlling officers grow wealthy through massive frauds and do so with impunity from criminal sanction integrity and justice are eaten away. Effective financial regulation, supervision, and prosecutions are essential to “free” financial markets. When cheaters prosper honest firms are driven from the markets, a point that the Nobel Laureate George Akerlof explained in his famous 1970 article on markets for “lemons.” He described a “Gresham’s” dynamic in which bad ethics drove good ethics from the marketplace.

BBC points out that we will end up paying for the banks’ sins:

The point, as the Governor of the Bank of England said recently, is that banks may not have adequate capital to absorb the full financial cost of all the punishment being meted out for banks’ past sins.

And as you will be tired of hearing, capital is expensive. And when banks are obliged to raise more of it, the burden falls initially on investors and subsequently on customers – who are forced to pay more for banking services to reward the providers of the capital.

Or to put it another way, we are all punished when banks are found guilty.

Senators Slam Department of Justice

Congress is almost entirely bought and paid for.

But even so, Democratic Senator Merkley just wrote a letter slamming the Department of Justice:

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer highlighted just how brazen the violations were, with traffickers depositing “hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, in a single day, into a single account, using boxes designed to fit the precise dimensions of the teller window.” Sanctions violations were equally deliberate, with the bank intentionally stripping information from transactions to avoid detection. Yet despite these clear and blatant violations, the Department of Justice refused to bring criminal charges against the bank, relevant employees, or senior management.

Indeed, Mr. Breuer stated yesterday that in deciding not to prosecute, the Department considered the “collateral consequences” of its decision on the financial system. Mr. Breuer stated “If you prosecute one of the largest banks in the world, do you risk that people will lose jobs, other financial institutions and other parties will leave the bank, and there will be some kind of event in the world economy?” The HSBC decision comes on the back of deferred prosecution agreements with Standard Charter Bank and ING Group related to similar charges.


I am deeply concerned that four years after the financial crisis, the Department appears to have firmly set the precedent that no bank, bank employee, or bank executive can be prosecuted even for serious criminal actions if that bank is a large, systemically important financial institution. This “too big to jail” approach to law enforcement, which deeply offends the public’s sense of justice, effectively vitiates the law as written by Congress. Had Congress wished to declare that violations of money laundering, terrorist financing, fraud, and a number of other illicit financial actions would only constitute civil violations, it could have done so. It did not.


Drug cartels are also increasingly connected to terrorism. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 39 percent of State Department-designated foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) have “confirmed links” to the drug trade, as of November 2011.  The consequences to U.S. national security for violations involving terrorism financing … are obvious and severe. Congress deemed criminal law the appropriate tool for punishing and deterring actions that have such serious and damaging public consequences.


According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, jail time is served by over 96 percent of persons that plead or are found guilty of drug trafficking, 80 percent of those that plead or are found guilty of money laundering, and 63 percent of those caught in possession of drugs. As the deferred prosecution agreement appears now to be the corporate equivalent of acknowledging guilt, the best way for a guilty party to avoid jail time may be to ensure that the party is or is employed by a globally significant bank. The Department’s deferred prosecution agreements may offer something in the way of promises of future compliance, but they look sorely lacking in justice and accountability.

Merkley also notes that failing to criminally prosecute bank crimes makes the “too big to fail” problem even worse:

Refusing to prosecute on the grounds of financial stability is also troubling from the perspective of ending “too big to fail.” The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which declared some institutions to be systemically important financial institutions subject to tougher regulation, did not declare that those institutions would be exempt from criminal prosecution. Indeed, the Dodd-Frank Act explicitly created new authority to permit a failed institution to be wound down safely, without impacting financial stability. If a financial institution, because of its criminal actions, ultimately fails, that may indeed be precisely the consequence that justice and accountability demand, and which is so necessary to deterring future illegal behavior. I am deeply concerned that the Department’s continuing application of deferred prosecution agreements on the grounds of financial stability runs contrary to the intent of Congress and undermines the accountability to the rule of law that is so fundamental to a healthy, functioning free market economy.

In a separate letter, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley also slammed the justice department:

The Department has refused to prosecute any individual employees or the bank responsible for these crimes. This troubling lack of real enforcement will have consequences for the health of our economy and the safety and prosperity of the American people.


Despite the fact that this is a “record” settlement, for a bank as gigantic as HSBC this is hardly even a slap on the wrist. It only amounts to between 9 and 11% of HBSC’s profits last year alone, and is a bare fraction of the sums left unmonitored. Additionally, the DPA states that “at least $881 million in drug proceeds” entered the U.S. financial system, but how much more remains undiscovered? Did HSBC profit from the DPA because it actually made more than $1.92 billion by providing services to drug kingpins and terrorists? The American people may never know, because you have declined to prosecute.

Even more concerning is the fact that the individuals responsible for these failures are not being held accountable. The Department has not prosecuted a single employee of HSBC—no executives, no directors, no AML compliance staff members, no one. By allowing these individuals to walk away without any real punishment, the Department is declaring that crime actually does pay. Functionally, HSBC has quite literally purchased a get-out-of-jail-free card for its employees for the price of $1.92 billion dollars.

There is no doubt that the Department has “missed a rare chance to send an unmistakable signal about the threat posed by financial institutions willing to assist drug lords and terror groups in moving their money.” One international banking expert went as far as to argue that, despite the “astonishing amount of criminal behavior” from HSBC employees, the DPA is no more than a “parking ticket.” A former banking regulator added that it is “mind-boggling” how the Department believes that “you can have a financial system and allow this kind of impunity.” Future bank employees with a choice between following the law or profiting from illegal activities will have been taught the lesson that they will never face prison time for their actions. Consequently, this DPA does little to discourage future lawbreakers, and leaves the U.S. financial system highly vulnerable to exploitation by drug cartels and terrorists.

The Department’s inexcusable reluctance to prosecute is the continuation of a failed policy allowing lawbreakers to escape justice. In a letter to the Department on March 9, 2012, I noted that the Department had “brought no criminal cases against any of the major Wall Street banks or executives who are responsible for the financial crisis” …. As others have repeatedly warned, failing to prosecute individuals or banks when they have committed crimes will result in perverse incentives and ultimately undermine the integrity of the U.S. financial system and economy.

The United States is already seeing the results of these failed policies. Past settlements with large banks prove that they do nothing to change what appears to be a culture of noncompliance for some businesses. In March 2010, the Department arranged a then-record $160 million deferred prosecution agreement with Wachovia based on its laundering of more than $110 million from Colombian and Mexican drug cartels. Officials at the time stated that “blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations.” In this case, a bank escaped with a record monetary settlement and a conspicuous absence of individuals behind bars. If the story sounds eerily similar, that’s because it is. It happened again with HSBC.

Make no mistake, the Department’s refusal to prosecute individuals or the bank directly threatens the safety of Americans. After evidence revealed Wachovia’s involvement with money-laundering, one whistleblower stated, “[i]t’s simple: if you don’t see the correlation between the money laundering by banks and the 30,000 people killed in Mexico, you’re missing the point.” HSBC’s criminal actions have no doubt enabled similar violence in Mexico by supporting the very cartels now terrorizing Mexican civilians. This violence often spills over the border into American cities ….

As the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have an obligation to ensure that the executive branch is fully, fairly, and effectively enforcing the law. But what I have seen from the Department is an inexplicable unwillingness to prosecute and convict those responsible for aiding and abetting drug lords and terrorists. I cannot help but agree with an editorial in the New York Times that “the government has bought into the notion that too big to fail is too big to jail.”

Growing Social and Wealth Inequality in America

December 16th, 2012 by Prof Rodrigue Tremblay

  “These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power…that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.” Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd American president (1933-1945), 1932

 “Money becomes evil not when it is used to buy goods but when it is used to buy power… economic inequalities become evil when they are translated into political inequalities.” Samuel Huntington (1927-2008), American political scientist

 “Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that ‘they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society’ (the difference principle); offices and positions must be open to everyone under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.” John Rawls (1921-2002), American philosopher and moralist, (A Theory of Justice, 1971, p. 303)

On November 6, 2012, American voters chose not to entrust their central government to ultra-conservative billionaires and their candidates and they rejected their anti-government, low taxation and no regulation ideology.

One reason may be that there is a perfect storm brewing in the United States in the direction of an ever greater income and wealth inequality. However, a majority of Americans are beginning to understand that the ultra-conservative ideology and the government policies it generates play a large role in the fact that a minority of very rich people are getting richer while a majority of poor and middle income people are getting poorer.

Recent studies indicate that over the last thirty years, in the United States, the rich have been getting richer at the same time that the poor and the middle class have become poorer.

Indeed, from 1983 to 2010, the share of total wealth in the U.S. held by the richest 10 percent of American households increased from 68.2 percent to 76.7 percent, while the other 90 percent of the population got poorer. Other measurements show the same results regarding a move toward greater income and wealth inequalities. For example, in 2010, the top 20 percent of the U. S. population owned 95 percent of financial wealth, while the other 80 percent of the population owned only 5 percent of financial wealth, and some were deeply in debt. In 1983, the comparable figures were 91 percent vs 9 percent.

Consider a few other indicators of income inequality:

-In 2012, the average CEO of the Standard & Poor’s 500 companies earned in compensation 380 times more than the average American worker. To keep things in perspective, consider that in 1965, ( N.B.: a time when an executive used to be viewed as a worker and not as an aristocrat or a god), the average CEO earned in pay 20 times more than the average American worker. You thus have an idea of how absurd the differential has become and how rigged the market for CEOs has become.

- Similarly, the share of total U.S. income earned by the top 1 percent of Americans was around 8 percent from 1963 to 1983. Since 2000, however, this ratio has hovered around 20 percent. —Some people’s greed has no limit. When they have millions $, they want billions $; when they have billions $, they yearn for trillions $.

The inevitable conclusion is that, over the last three or four decades, economic policies have favored the richest citizens while they have worked against the economic interests of the majority. This is bound to become an increasingly important issue in the coming years, economically, socially and politically.

What are the causes behind such a shift toward growing inequalities?

This is a complex question. In any given year, many factors influence an economy. Some economic policies, however, have a long-lasting effect.

Therefore, to answer such a fundamental question, we may begin by considering the implications of a recent fact finding by the central bank of Canada. Indeed, the Bank of Canada attempted to explain why American economic output is still about 6 per cent lower than its potential and why unemployment is nearly double of what it should be. It found the answer in the fact that one trillion dollars is missing from the U.S. economy.

This is money that is missing from the income stream; money that has been taken out of the income stream and not re-injected into the economy. In a word, because of government subsides to recapitalize the banks, one trillion dollars has been taken from some Americans and put into the pockets of some other Americans who have not spent it. Thus the double wammy of having very rich Americans getting richer while the majority of Americans are getting poorer. In other words, the same causes that are behind the slowdown in the U.S. economy are also the same factors that explain why the very rich are getting richer and the poor and the middle class are getting worse off.

There are five main causes that go a long way towards explaining both the relative stagnation of the U.S. economy and the widening of the gap between the very rich and the rest of the population.

1- First. The ideology of an open world market and the free movement of capital and companies

Once the principal comparative advantage that the United States used to have over other national economies was its large domestic market. An economic principle states that “economic specialization is a function of the size of the market”. Indeed, when producers can mass produce, this results in economies of scale, with unit costs going down and productivity going up.

However, the U.S. government gave up a large chunk of this comparative advantage when, pressured by large banks and large corporations, it accepted free trade and free capital movements with some developing countries, including communist China.

This policy has allowed U.S. firms to out-invest and and to out-source their production to low-wage countries under the cover of the ideology of world free movement for capital. This was advantageous to the CEOs of these banks and companies, but it severely disadvantaged the American working class. What’s more, out-sourcing campanies could take advantage of the U.S. tax code and not pay any tax on their foreign earnings. The U.S. central government and U.S. state governments have suffered as a consequence.

2- Second. A broken immigration policy

Not only did the U.S. government allow American companies to export their capital and technology abroad, but its immigration policy of letting in poorly trained and/or low wage foreign immigrants also has had the effect of keeping down the wages of low-skilled American workers in many industries.

3- Third. A tax code skewed in favor of the very rich

The overall fiscal crisis in the United States is the result of low economic growth, of a declining share of corporate tax revenues and of huge tax cuts for the very wealthy. Lower effective taxation for large corporations and for the very wealthy individuals who can park part or all of their financial wealth abroad, has allowed them to avoid domestic taxation. These taxation loopholes combined with huge public deficits are at the very root of the U.S. fiscal crisis.

Indeed, corporate tax revenues in the U.S. are at a 40-year low as a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Presently, this ratio is close to 1 percent. In the 1950s, it was around 6 percent of GDP. This is because large American corporations have become “expert at avoiding taxes”, by shifting production to low-wage countries and by shifting profits to low-tax countries.

Sycophant media sometimes point out that the U.S.’s top corporate tax rate is 35 percent. However, they fail to report that the real amount American corporations actually end up paying to the government is much lower, sometimes as low as 4 percent or less. This is the result of various deductions, write-offs, and other accounting tricks that allow corporations to legally reduce their tax burden.

As for the taxation of very high incomes, legislators should at the very least consider adopting Warren Buffett’s rule for tax fairness. Indeed, according to the Buffett Rule for tax fairness, no household making over $1 million annually should pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families pay.

4- Fourth. The Housing crisis, the Financial crisis and the Fed’s policies to shore up large banks

The 2005 housing crisis and the subsequent financial crisis that unfolded after 2007 has hurt the American middle class badly. Not only millions of Americans lost their homes through bank foreclosures, but most everyone else suffered huge losses in their home equity and saw their net worth severely reduced.

Add to that the fact that savers and retirees have been crushed by a Fed policy of negative real short- and medium-term interest rates that have reduce interest income, a policy designed primarily to shore up large nearly insolvent, and close to bankruptcy, American banks.

5- Fifth. The waging of foreign wars financed with debt

The very rich in the United States are inevitably at the forefront when it comes to supporting U.S. foreign wars of aggression abroad, but they are usually most reluctant to pay for such wars with the required tax revenues. Moreover, not only do such foreign wars increase the federal fiscal deficit, they also increase the U.S. trade balance deficit and they put pressure on the U.S. dollar.

All these factors have contributed in lowering job creating investments in the United States, in squeezing the incomes of the American middle class, in reducing its wealth and in slowing down consumption spending and economic growth.

Indeed, even though the U.S. government runs huge fiscal deficits, this is not enough to compensate for the money draining out of the United States, thus leaving the U.S. economy in a state of permanent economic stagnation.

Faced with such protracted problems, what would be the best way to tackle them?

The logical approach would seem to be to simply stop and reverse the public policies that have resulted in creating the five causes behind the growing income and wealth inequalities in the United States. Saying that is also saying that the principal cause of economic stagnation in the U.S. is political. Indeed, on a practical level, only the U.S. government and its agencies can correct the bad economic and social policies of the past.

However, there is a conundrum: There is a vicious circle at play when income and wealth inequalities are growing. This comes from the fact that when wealth has become concentrated in a limited number of hands, the principle of compound interest tends naturally to make matters worse. Large fortunes tend to grow in a compound way, especially if taxes are avoided.

A second factor normally enters the picture: The more money the super rich have, the easier it becomes for them to corrupt the political process and to steer legislation and regulation in their favor. The problem may thus become intractable, and no reform may take place through normal legislation. Indeed, a government may be deadlocked for years by special interests. This is the murky world of  “winners-take-all politics”. As President Thomas Jefferson once observed, such political problems are very difficult to correct, short of a revolution.

Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay, an economist, is the author of the book “The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”,

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Disclaimer: All quotes mentioned above are believed in good faith to be accurately attributed, but no guarantees are made that some may not be correctly attributed.

Cuando se acercan las elecciones regionales en la República Bolivariana y después del importante discurso nacional y el reciente anuncio del presidente Chávez de cara a su nueva operación por cáncer (, publicamos este análisis -crítico y fraternal- del proceso de cambio en Venezuela. Este texto, escrito a finales de noviembre (después de una estadía en Venezuela para las elecciones presidenciales), intenta subrayar algunos puntos para el debate, desde la izquierda, temas tal vez más aún vigentes frente a la nueva y difícil coyuntura que se avizora para el pueblo bolivariano.

El domingo 7 de octubre Hugo Chávez festejaba su tercera victoria en las elecciones presidenciales, con el 55,1% de los sufragios, frente al 44,3% a favor de su principal adversario, el candidato neoliberal Henrique Capriles Radonski. La polarización política fue tal que los otros cuatro candidatos en liza quedaron literalmente barridos 1 . La popularidad, la capacidad de movilización y el liderazgo carismático de Chávez permanecen sólidamente demostrados, anclados y mayoritarios entre las y los “de abajo”; con una participación electoral que ha alcanzado niveles superiores al 80% del censo electoral. La manifestación de centenares de miles de personas (tal vez más de un millón) ocupando las calles de Caracas el jueves 4 de octubre, constituyó una incontestable demostración de vitalidad de la “revolución bolivariana” y también la omnipresencia del presidente a la hora de levantar el entusiasmo de la muchedumbre. Todo ello bajo los auspicios de un slogan de campaña pasablemente alejado del socialismo: “¡Chávez, corazón de la patria!”. Encontramos aquí sin duda la fuerza del nacionalismo popular tal como se ha encarnado en Venezuela: un “cesarismo” progresista y antiimperialista (en el sentido de Gramsci) o incluso esa “razón populista” post-neoliberal, descrita por Ernesto Laclau 2 , que ha conseguido crear, reconstruyéndola por arriba y por abajo, una nueva comunidad política popular en Venezuela, a lo largo de esta última década. Pero si hay fervor, no es solo el fruto de una “irracionalidad” política, como se puede leer continuamente en la prensa dominante, o de la simple emergencia plebeya discursiva.

Esta mística popular existe también gracias al balance social, muy real y bien comprendido, del proceso bolivariano: “A diferencia de lo que pasaba bajo los anteriores gobiernos, una gran parte de la renta petrolera ha sido utilizada para financiar la política social. Los (muchisimos) humildes que gritan ‘viva Chávez’ son la expresión, sin duda, de los millones de personas que acuden cada día a los distintos programas –Mercal, Pdval, Bicentenario, Farmapatria– donde pueden comprar productos de primera necesidad a precios subvencionados. Los jóvenes que se entusiasman –‘Chávez va a ganar’– piensan indudablemente en la política de inclusión y de educación llevada a cabo en todos los niveles, en los libros y ordenadores (los canaimitas) gratuitos que se les han distribuido. Los viejos que visten sus camisetas rojas lo hacen probablemente porque los 200.000 jubilados que tenían una pensión al final de la IV República se han convertido hoy día en 2.300.000. Cuando las madres de familia hablan con emoción del ‘comandante’ es porque las distintas ‘misiones’ puestas en marcha les han dado acceso a la salud, porque dos millones de ellas y sus familiares gozan del régimen de seguridad social. Que las familias que vivían en alojamientos precarios tomen partido, tampoco tiene nada de sorprendente: la Gran Misión Vivienda Venezuela, aunque creada demasiado tarde, ha construido decenas de miles de viviendas desde su inicio hace dieciocho meses 3 .

Según la Comisión Económica para América Latina de la ONU (CEPAL), Venezuela es el país con el descenso más espectacular de la pobreza en América Latina: entre 2002 y 2010, ésta ha pasado del 48,6% al 27,8%, y del 22,2% al 10,7% en lo que se refiere a la extrema pobreza. Además, el país posee actualmente uno de los más reducidos niveles de desigualdad de la región, lo que no es poco en el continente menos igualitario del planeta. Los cambios son por tanto muy palpables, muy lejos de los años neoliberales de la IV República (1958-1998). Habría que añadir a todo ello la creación de espacios de participación popular, sobre todo a través de los miles de Consejos comunales o de cooperativas campesinas surgidas de la reforma agraria; la reciente reforma del Código del Trabajo, el más progresista del continente 4 ; la implantación de uno de los salarios mínimos más elevados de la región o incluso el regreso de la discusión sobre la soberanía del pueblo, el socialismo y el anti-capitalismo, mucho más allá de las simples esferas militantes. El programa de campaña de Chávez se orientaba claramente en torno a estas cuestiones estratégicas. Las elecciones del domingo tenían también un evidente carácter geopolítico. Una derrota del candidato del Partido Socialista Unificado de Venezuela (PSUV) y de sus aliados del Gran Polo patriótico (incluyendo al Partido Comunista Venezolano) habría deteriorado en gran medida las relaciones de clases continentales, amenazando no sólo las conquistas sociales y democráticas de la última década, sino también la nueva autonomía relativa del Sur frente al imperialismo, la jovencísima Unión de Naciones Sudamericanas (UNASUR), y acabando sobre todo con proyectos novedosos, aunque todavía balbuceantes o limitados, como el ALBA 5 o la Banca del Sur.

Sin embargo, esta nueva victoria electoral –muy clara e indiscutible- no puede esconder los múltiples problemas no resueltos después de 13 años de poder, los “dilemas” y las intensas contradicciones del proceso bolivariano, más allá de los discursos sobre “el socialismo del siglo XXI” (del que apenas se perciben unos contornos borrosos) 6 . Citemos algunos de los más flagrantes:

- La corrupción sigue siendo endémica, a todos los niveles institucionales (en particular al nivel de los gobernadores de los Estados federados), hasta el punto de que se puede hablar de un fenómeno estructural y enquistado, herencia de un Estado rentista y petro-depediente que no ha sido transformado.

- La burocracia, la ineficacia y la débil institucionalización de las políticas públicas, la falta de productividad de las empresas estatales, la rotación permanente de responsables en los ministerios y, como fue reconocido y repetido por el propio presidente durante la campaña, “la falta de seguimiento de los proyectos”, sobre todo de aquellos destinados a mejorar el acceso a la electricidad, a diversificar el modelo productivo o incluso a asegurar la soberanía alimentaria de un país que debe importar más del 75% de su alimentación.

- La inseguridad (sobre todo en las ciudades) y la amplitud de la criminalidad, que hace de Venezuela uno de los países con la mayor tasa de homicidios por arma de fuego ligera de todo el continente (excluyendo conflicto armado): una preocupación y un calvario cotidiano para los sectores populares, lo cual ha sido muy bien instrumentalizado por la derecha y la oligarquía, a pesar de algunos avances reales con la reciente reforma de la policía y el inicio de una toma en consideración del fenómeno.

- La debilidad de la estructuración del movimiento sindical, el fracaso –incluyendo la represión– de experiencias de control obrero y de cogestión (como en SIDOR o Sanitarios Maracay) 7 , el cuestionamiento de la independencia de la clase obrera, alimentada por la tentación permanente de un control por arriba del sindicalismo por parte del ejecutivo, verticalismo reforzado últimamente por las divisiones internas y la crisis de la UNETE (Unión Nacional de Trabajadores de Venezuela) y la creación (en 2011) de la CSBT (Central Socialista Bolivariana de los Trabajadores), infeudada en el Ministerio de Trabajo.

- La cuestión de la omnipresencia de Hugo Chávez, calificada a veces como “hiperpresidencialismo”, y por tanto el nivel de personalización del poder, en un contexto –además– en que el presidente está gravemente enfermo de cáncer y considerablemente debilitado.

- El mantenimiento de un modelo de desarrollo (y de un Estado) rentista surgido de la paradójica “maldición” de la abundancia petrolera 8 : un modelo no duradero, basado esencialmente en la explotación de este recurso, y una economía capitalista mixta en la que más del 70% del PIB sigue en manos del sector privado 9 , mientras una casta –denominada “boli-burguesía”– se enriquece a la sombra de este maná y de una “derecha endógena” al gobierno, encarnada en algunos hombres fuertes (y riquísimos) como Diosdado Cabello (hoy día presidente de la Asamblea Nacional).

- La política exterior, particularmente hacia Oriente Medio, donde en nombre de una estrategia antiimperialista “campista”, Hugo Chávez ha decidido apoyar, contra viento y marea, a diversos gobiernos autócratas, cuando no sanguinarios, de la región; una estrategia renovada después de las elecciones, cuando el presidente en una conferencia de prensa renovó su amistad con Bachard El Assad frente a los “terroristas” y la OTAN.

Sin embargo, y así lo hemos podido constar en nuestra estancia en Caracas durante las últimas elecciones, cada vez hay más voces y colectivos provenientes del “chavismo crítico” que se hacen oír para renovar su apoyo consciente al proceso (y a sus conquistas) 10 , al mismo tiempo que denuncian su estancamiento y la falta de avances en muchos terrenos, explican también que si una parte del electorado popular ha decidido votar por Capriles lo ha hecho para expresar su descontento o su desconcierto. Como señala Patrick Guillaudat: “Observando de cerca los resultados, la victoria es frágil, a pesar del hecho de que Chávez haya ganado a Capriles en 22 de los 24 Estados del país. Entre las últimas elecciones presidenciales de 2006 y las de 2012, Chávez ha ganado 752.976 votos, mientras la oposición ganaba 2.175.984, o sea tres veces más. En los barrios populares de Caracas (Petare, 23 de Enero, La Vega…) el voto chavista ha bajado entre un 6% y un 9%. El mismo movimiento se da en las otras ciudades del país. Por otra parte, el recuento preciso de los votos de cada candidato, distribuidos partido a partido, muestra que más de una quinta parte de los votos obtenidos por Chávez se dirigen a partidos distintos al PSUV [...] El descontento o las críticas se han expresado también en un voto dirigido a organizaciones distintas del PSUV, sobre todo el PCV. En los días siguientes a las elecciones se lanzaron señales contradictorias. Por un lado, Chávez predica el diálogo y la apertura hacia la oposición. Por otro, militantes del PSUV piden una “rectificación” en el sentido de una profundización del proceso11 .

Es importante también señalar que el panorama de la oposición ha evolucionado mucho: se puede afirmar incluso, como hace el marxista Manuel Sutherland, que Capriles Radonski, candidato de la oligarquía y del imperialismo, es en cierta manera un “perdedor vencedor12 . El candidato de la MUD (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática), amplia coalición de una treintena de organizaciones (desde grupúsculos ex–maoístas a la extrema derecha), consiguió imponerse en las primarias frente a los grandes partidos históricos del “antiguo régimen”: COPEI (demócrata-cristiano) y Acción Democrática (socialdemócrata). Treintañero, procedente de la gran burguesía, dirigente de Primero Justicia (nuevo partido creado en 2000 con el apoyo de ultraconservadores estadounidenses) y muy activo durante el golpe de Estado de 2002, Capriles ganó en buena medida su desafío: imponiendo su estrategia, ha conseguido también rejuvenecer y dinamizar la imagen de la oposición, ha triunfado con brío en muchos mítines en todo el país. Todo esto lejos de la histeria semi-fascista de los años anteriores, llegando a hacer una campaña de propaganda con tonalidades de centro-izquierda, “humanista”, proclamándose cercano a Lula y vinculado al progreso social… al mismo tiempo que proponía un programa violentamente neoliberal 13 . Conclusión de Sutherland: “Capriles Radonski ha dado claramente la impresión de ser un rival que se prepara para tomar el poder a mediano plazo (2018), en un contexto electoral más favorable, esto es, en el momento en que el deterioro de la popularidad del chavismo como consecuencia del aumento de los problemas de la sociedad venezolana (inseguridad, elevado coste de la vida, paro, etc.) será determinante. Si las actuales tendencias electorales continúan evolucionando en estas direcciones por los dos campos, Capriles bien podría ser el próximo y más neoliberal presidente de Venezuela”.

Las elecciones regionales (elección de gobernadores y de parlamentos federados) de mediados de diciembre serán sin duda una nueva prueba para el campo bolivariano. Ya se siente cierto malestar en el seno del chavismo militante, frente a los candidatos escogidos, todos nombrados “por arriba”, y frente a los representantes de la dirección burocrática de un PSUV cada vez más alejado de su base, que proceden directamente del poder militar que rodea al presidente. Por ejemplo, en el Estado de Bolívar se encuentra Francisco Rangel Gómez, que aspira a una segunda reelección, a pesar de ser conocido por su feroz oposición feroz contra los obreros de SIDOR en el 2008; y en el Estado de Lara, el ex–gobernador y militar Luís Reyes Reyes sigue llevando los colores bolivarianos, aunque ha sido acusado por muchos movimientos sociales de ser responsable, en el pasado de violaciones a los derechos humanos.

A pesar de todo, y a pesar de este panorama abiertamente crítico (que nos parece indispensable a la hora de expresar nuestro internacionalismo tanto frente a la intensa campaña mediática antichavista 14 como frente a las oligarquías del sur y del norte), el pueblo bolivariano (y sus luchas) sigue vivo, dinámico, rebelde, dispuesto a sublevarse. El proceso no está muerto, ni mucho menos. Basta con recorrer los “ranchos” de las grandes ciudades, las calles de Caracas, las fábricas de Ciudad Guyana o el interior del país para darse cuenta. El “proyecto alternativo en tensión”, según denominación del politólogo y altermundista Edgardo Lander, sigue siendo un dato central de las coordenadas políticas de la actual Venezuela. Este proyecto, atravesado por una “tensión entre el control desde arriba y la autonomía por la base”, ha cristalizado en torno a la noción medular del conjunto del discurso político bolivariano: el “pueblo soberano15 . De éste dependerán precisamente los próximos meses. Según el editorialista de La Jornada, Guillermo Almeyra: “Quienes votan por Chávez no están ciegos frente a los problemas de la corrupción, del verticalismo, del burocratismo, de la dirección militar de un proceso que exige, por el contrario, la más amplia participación decisiva de la población, la discusión abierta de las distintas opciones posibles para resolver los grandes problemas, el control popular de las realizaciones y de las instituciones gubernamentales”. Y añade: “En lugar de presentar una candidatura independiente y antichavista, como la del combativo sindicalista Orlando Chirino, separando a los socialistas de los chavistas, la izquierda revolucionaria habría debido trabajar junto a los chavistas partidarios del socialismo para reforzar la autoorganización de los trabajadores y, tras la derrota de la derecha, librar batalla en mejores condiciones contra el verticalismo y los burócratas-tecnócratas que esperan la desaparición de Hugo Chávez para controlar el aparato de Estado. Porque las grandes batallas se librarán después del mes de octubre”.

Esta opción es compartida, en particular, por Marea Socialista, corriente anticapitalista del PSUV, de quien presentamos una entrevista aquí debajo. Durante las elecciones presidenciales, sus militantes –muy implicados en el movimiento sindical y en una parte del movimiento de jóvenes- lanzaron una campaña en base a las consignas “7 octubre: Chávez presidente; 8 octubre: liberar a la revolución de sus burócratas” y “¡Por un gobierno del pueblo trabajador sin capitalistas!”. Se habían reagrupado, en mayo de 2012, en el seno de la APR (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria) intentando construir una movilización bolivariana autónoma, no infeudada en las estructuras del Estado o del PSUV, junto a la organización campesina “Corriente Revolucionaria Bolivar y Zamora”, el Movimiento de Pobladores, la Asociación Nacional de Medios de Comunicación Comunitarios Libres y Alternativos (ANMCLA), Surco (colectivo de educación universitaria), organizaciones feministas, etc. Frente a las veleidades, de una parte del gobierno, de conciliación con la oposición o la oligarquía, que parece despuntar en las últimas semanas, estos sectores críticos subrayan que sólo las luchas sociales y la profundización de las conquistas democráticas, de las formas de participación autónoma y un control sobre la economía y sobre el funcionamiento del Estado, la creación de formas de poder popular real, podrán dar un contenido concreto a los llamamientos al “socialismo del siglo XXI”. Y comenzar a superar así los obstáculos y contradicciones del proceso bolivariano, sin permitir el retorno de los neoliberales y de los agentes de Washington al país. Se trata de la última oportunidad dentro de esta nueva secuencia política abierta, luego de 13 años en el poder. Y nada indica por ahora que sea la más probable, aunque sea la más deseable desde el punto de vista de los anti–neoliberales consecuentes y de los anticapitalistas.


” El rumbo debe ser realmente anticapitalista y socialista”

Entrevista con miembros de la Coordinación Nacional de Marea Socialista (corriente de militantes del PSUV y de la revolución bolivariana), Gonzalo Gómez, fundador de ( ), Stalin Pérez, Juan García y Zuleika Matamoros.

Franck Gaudichaud: Según su punto de vista, ¿cuáles son los puntos esenciales de esta victoria electoral de Hugo Chávez, por qué destacar la importancia de este resultado y cuales serán su impacto regional en América Latina?

Gonzalo Gómez: Con estos resultados electorales, en primer lugar, hay que decir que ganó Chávez y con él ganó el pueblo. Con la reelección de Chávez sigue abierto el proceso revolucionario en Venezuela y se mantiene la oportunidad de seguir avanzando en las transformaciones sociales y políticas que han distinguido a la revolución bolivariana.

Juan García: Sí, efectivamente, hay que decir que en estas elecciones del 7 de octubre en Venezuela, la burguesía y imperialismo no lograron truncar la revolución bolivariana. El país continúa en una línea de relativa independencia respecto a la dominación imperialista. La burguesía no consigue aún el espacio para reimplantar sus políticas neoliberales y su control directo del Estado, que le fue arrebatado por el proceso revolucionario.

Gonzalo Gómez: Respecto a tu pregunta sobre el impacto regional… La correlación de fuerzas en América Latina sigue siendo favorable a la revolución y a la llamada “integración” regional, con el triunfo de Chávez. La opción intervencionista del imperialismo queda debilitada y postergada, lo cual da preferencia a otras estrategias que están tratando de utilizar para neutralizar a la revolución bolivariana en el escenario geopolítico latinoamericano.

Zuleika Méndez: Pero, aunque empezamos el análisis por reconocer la significación del triunfo de Chávez, también hay que reconocer la amenaza creciente de la derecha. En estas elecciones hubo una diferencia a favor de Chávez de más de un 11 %, lo que es muy importante, pero no podemos pasar por alto la observación de que, en comparación con elecciones anteriores, como la del 2006, el chavismo retrocede en el porcentaje de votantes y en la distancia respecto a la derecha.

Juan García: Claro, Zuleika tiene razón y sobre esto estamos queriendo llamar la atención en el debate que viene a partir de los resultados electorales. En 2006 Chávez obtuvo casi el 63 % de los votos y el candidato de la derecha casi el 37 %. La brecha a favor de Chávez fue del 26 %. En estas elecciones del 7 de octubre de 2012, Chávez obtuvo algo menos del 56 % y Capriles un poco más del 44 %; por consiguiente, la brecha se acortó, por debajo del 12 %.

En términos absolutos, de número de votos, Chávez consiguió unos 800 mil votos más que en las elecciones de 2006 y la derecha conquistó 2 millones 200 mil votos más que en la última elección presidencial, con un padrón electoral de más de 3 millones de electores nuevos (son cifras aproximadas que tenemos a partir de los boletines que han sido emitidos hasta el momento).

El chavismo ganó en 22 de los 24 estados y la derecha perdió la mayoría en varios de los estados en los que detenta el poder regional, pero a la vez se fortaleció en muchas de las grandes ciudades y creció mucho en porcentaje y número global de votos.

Stalin Pérez Borges: Por eso el llamado de atención sobre el peligro que marca esta tendencia. Si el comportamiento electoral siguiese la misma tendencia que se observó el 7 de octubre, habría un riesgo muy serio de que el próximo candidato presidencial bolivariano (Chávez o cualquiera que lo relevase) pudiera perder la presidencia; la derecha tendría gran posibilidad de ganar.

Incluso, esta posibilidad podría plantearse con riesgo similar, a mitad del período si la oposición burguesa activase un referendo revocatorio, como lo hizo en el año 2004.

Por eso es que, aunque celebramos la victoria, decimos que hay un problema, porque Chávez ganó retrocediendo y la derecha perdió avanzando. Y esto ocurrió con la más baja abstención que se haya producido en todas las elecciones nacionales. Se aprecia, por consiguiente, un desgaste electoral de Chávez.

FG: Pero antes de ir a las causas, a las posibles razones que puedan explicar el resultado, me gustaría que hablásemos un poco sobre cuáles eran las grandes líneas del programa del candidato del PSUV para esta campaña.

Gonzalo Gómez: Chávez presentó un programa con cinco objetivos históricos. Por una parte hubo un mensaje de campaña que buscó el empalme emocional, la vinculación afectiva de Chávez con el pueblo. Para ello utilizó la consigna: “Chávez corazón de la patria”. Pero esa consigna, más allá del impacto psicológico que se le pudiese atribuir, no tenía en sí una definición ideológica de izquierda y hasta hubiese podido ser tomada por el contrincante de la derecha, Capriles Radonski; que por supuesto no representaba eso, porque carece de la resonancia afectiva que tiene Chávez en la población y su imagen no está asociada al sentido de patria, soberanía e independencia, que es lo que Chávez quiso expresar. Los objetivos esbozados en la propuesta programática en realidad se discutieron muy poco y la campaña se centró más, sobre todo en las últimas semanas, en denunciar la amenaza que suponía el programa-paquetazo neoliberal de Capriles y su coalición de derecha (MUD) para las conquistas sociales, económicas, políticas, democráticas y de independencia nacional obtenidas en 14 años de la revolución bolivariana.

Juan García: Tú sabes que este pueblo, quedó marcado, históricamente, por la reacción que tuvo en el año 1989 contra el intento de imponerle un paquete neoliberal de medidas fondomonetaristas; la revuelta del 27 de febrero, que dio inicio a este período revolucionario que aún estamos viviendo, en el que emergió la figura de Chávez y el proceso constituyente que se dio tras su llegada al poder en el año 1998. Por eso, la denuncia de las intenciones de Capriles de volver con esas políticas es de un efecto muy importante. Ahí, el “fantasma del comunismo” que la derecha siempre usó para atemorizar a los pueblos con el arrebato de las propiedades personales, se volvió en su contra, porque esta vez Capriles encarnaba la amenaza de que al pueblo venezolano le fueran quitadas las conquistas acumuladas con el mandato de Chávez, en materia de salud, educación, dotación de vivienda, pensiones, reducción de la pobreza, etc.

FG: ¿Cuál es el balance (critico) de los últimos meses de campana electoral en cuanto a la acción de tres actores esenciales: el gobierno; el PSUV; el movimiento popular?

Zuleika Matamoros: Si empezamos por el movimiento popular, éste fue desplazado por el PSUV y por el aparato gubernamental. El Gran Polo Patriótico, que generó gran expectativa y fue visto como una oportunidad de insuflarle gran entusiasmo a la campaña, como espacio de participación de las bases y de los sujetos sociales del proceso, se desinfló por el secuestro de sus iniciativas políticas bajo la imposición de líneas del PSUV y la maquinaria electoral. Es lamentable, porque en las elecciones del 2006 la participación de base fue mucho más vigorosa y rindió mejores resultados. La campaña electoral se condujo de manera bastante burocrática y esa es una fuente de daño político. Pero el PSUV no estuvo a la altura, no fue el verdadero motor de la campaña, debido al empeño de la burocracia en matar las iniciativas de base y la autonomía de los movimientos. Los factores más importantes fueron el propio Chávez que se echó la campaña sobre los hombros en las semanas finales, y la participación espontánea del pueblo consciente de la amenaza de la derecha, a pesar del entusiasmo restado por malestares y malas experiencias generadas por la burocratización del proceso.

FG: ¿Cómo analizar la campaña de H. Capriles, sus logros en términos de construcción de una oposición unificada para la presidencial, su capacidad real de movilización masiva mas allá del espacio « duro » de la derecha (y de la oligarquía) y su resultado electoral en Caracas y en el interior?

Stalin Pérez Borges: Con el auspicio del imperialismo, por supuesto, la derecha tuvo éxito, desde que realizó las primarias, en su unificación, independientemente de roces y fracturas de menor importancia que se produjeron. Desde sus propios objetivos tuvo una campaña bastante exitosa y supo golpear en el ánimo de sectores descontentos del pueblo, que a pesar de beneficios que puedan haber obtenido, resienten el maltrato de la burocracia gubernamental en instituciones y empresas del Estado, así como la falta de consecuencia y la ineficiencia en el abordaje de problemas sustanciales que no se resuelven en el capitalismo. Por primera vez en muchos años (en realidad desde el golpe de Estado de 2002), la derecha logró volver a movilizarse en el centro y oeste de Caracas (las zonas Chavistas y populares) y tuvo una muy concurrida concentración de unas ciento cincuenta mil personas en la Av. Bolívar de la capital. Sólo que la reacción popular chavista el 4 de octubre multiplicó por cinco o por seis la concentración llamada por la derecha y colmó varias avenidas al mismo tiempo. Pero es indudable que la derecha ha venido permeando poco a poco en los sectores populares y sobre todo en la llamada clase media, entre aquellos que no están satisfechos y le atribuyen a Chávez la falta de éxito en el manejo de problemas agobiantes como el de la seguridad frente a la delincuencia.

FG: Después de esta victoria electoral, se abre un nuevo periodo de 6 años de gobierno: ¿cuáles serán las características de este gobierno?, ¿y cómo enfrentará grandes problemas como la burocracia, el clientelismo, la ineficacia estatal, la inseguridad, los cuales han sido reconocidos públicamente por el presidente?

Gonzalo Gómez: De seguir la tendencia que se observó, de crecimiento electoral de la derecha, y ante la incertidumbre que genera la posibilidad de que la derecha ya no se enfrente a Chávez en las próximas elecciones, no está de más advertir la posibilidad de que pudiese ocurrir lo sucedido a los sandinistas en los años 80, cuando retornó la burguesía al poder. Si no se avanza en las medidas anticapitalistas y sigue la burocratización; si no se genera una dirección colectiva, obrera y popular del proceso revolucionario; si continúa la extrema dependencia del liderazgo de Chávez… el desgaste podría ser irreversible. Por eso Marea está planteando que hay que impulsar a fondo el ejercicio de la contraloría social y la genuina participación democrática para enfrentar al burocratismo; decimos que es necesario que Chávez abra un espacio de consulta permanente a las organizaciones de la clase trabajadora, el campesinado, los organismos del poder popular y los movimientos sociales del proceso, para compartir el diseño y aprobación de las políticas. Necesitamos como un relanzamiento de la experiencia constituyente, en torno al nuevo programa planteado por Chávez en estas elecciones y el concurso de los sujetos sociales del proceso en el ejercicio de la gobernabilidad revolucionaria. Es con los movimientos que hay que identificar las prioridades y las medidas a aplicar.

FG: El presidente se ha visto fragilizado por su enfermedad y, al mismo tiempo, estuvo muy presente en las últimas semanas de campaña. Igualmente, no cabe duda que su liderazgo carismático y popular ha sido fundamental para esta victoria: ¿podrá existir un “chavismo sin Chávez”?

Juan García: Sin Chávez como factor aglutinante y sin la construcción de una dirección colectiva surgida del seno del pueblo organizado, creemos que el “chavismo” caería en la dispersión y la confusión. Por eso estamos planteando que hay que darle forma a un nuevo gobierno con real participación de las expresiones del movimiento popular y las organizaciones de la clase trabajadora.

FG: ¿Cómo se avizoran ahora las elecciones locales y regionales de diciembre?

Zuleika Matamoros: Hay quienes hablan de un efecto de “arrastre” del triunfo de Chávez el 7 de octubre. Pero creemos que la designación a dedo de los candidatos a las gobernaciones, en contra del sentir e incluso ignorando el rechazo popular expreso de algunos nombres, no va a contribuir a revertir la tendencia que se viene expresando con el crecimiento de la derecha. Hay el riesgo real de perder gobiernos regionales y que la derecha obtenga una correlación de fuerzas todavía más favorable.

FG: A mediano y largo plazo, ¿cuáles son las perspectivas para el proceso bolivariano y las posiciones que se enfrentan en el espacio político del bolivarismo en cuanto a profundizar -o no- las conquistas del proceso y superar sus tensiones y contradicciones? ¿Cuáles son las posiciones defendidas por su corriente, Marea Socialista?

Gonzalo Gómez: Cada vez se habla más de la necesidad de una corriente de izquierda radical en el proceso revolucionario venezolano. Mientras que el gobierno últimamente viene hablando de que se necesita una “derecha responsable” con la cual dialogar y ponerse de acuerdo, nosotros y buena parte de la vanguardia, opinamos que lo que hace falta es una izquierda revolucionaria consecuente, para orientar y hacer presión para un cambio de rumbo y para la adopción de políticas que nos conduzcan a completar la ruptura con el capitalismo, que nos lleven a superar el esquema de “economía mixta” y nos permita el tránsito hacia el socialismo, que ha desacelerado su construcción, al tiempo que la burocracia traba la solución de los más importantes problemas, tanto urgente como estructurales.

FG: Y para terminar: ¿en qué están las experiencias de participación popular como la experiencia de control obrero (en Sidor) y de poder popular en barrios (como los consejos comunales) y comunas? Se habla mucho de socialismo de siglo XXI pero la campaña se centró en eslóganes muchos « emocionales » o generales como « Chávez, corazón de la patria »: en qué esta el llamado a construir el “socialismo del siglo XXI”, mas allá de la retórica?

Stalin Pérez: Como tú mismo te has percatado, prima la retórica sobre la consecuencia política. En el caso del control obrero, reconocemos que Chávez abrió una oportunidad de hacer el ensayo, a partir de una lucha previa que dieron los trabajadores; pero la conducta de la burocracia estatal sofoca y pervierte las experiencias. Por supuesto que el reto es nuestro en cuanto a superar eso escollos con capacidad de lucha y consciencia revolucionaria. En el caso del poder popular, con los consejos comunales y comunas, aunque esto es muy progresivo, se mantiene limitado a la escala local y los nacientes organismos también deben sortear la burocratización, la cooptación por el Estado y las relaciones clientelares, mientras que no hay una decidida política que les permita pasar de los asuntos barriales a un verdadero involucramiento en el ejercicio del gobierno dentro de su alcance territorial y en los asuntos nacionales. Por eso hablamos de que Chávez debe llamar, y nosotros debemos exigirlo, a que lo que se ha construido como poder popular y los movimientos sociales tengan expresión en la configuración del gobierno de Chávez y en las políticas que se vayan a dictar, en estrecha consulta con el pueblo. El rumbo debe ser realmente anticapitalista y socialista y la vía debe ser la real instrumentación del poder de los trabajadores y el pueblo.


(1) Orlando Chirino, sindicalista revolucionario, militante trotskysta y candidato del PSL (Partido Socialismo y Libertad), obtuvo solo 4140 votos (o sea 0,02% de los electores), sin lograr tener influencia alguna sobre el electorado popular. Ver los resultados: .

(2) E. Laclau, La razón populista, FCE, Buenos Aires, 2005.

(3) M. Lemoine, « Venezuela : les électeurs ont « confisqué » la démocratie », , octubre 2012.

(4) Esta ley reconoce entre otras cosas amplios derechos para las mujeres trabajadoras; permite una importante reducción del tiempo legal de trabajo de 44 horas a 40 horas semanales (y 35 horas para el trabajo nocturno); el combate a la tercerización o el reforzamiento de la protección social y de los derechos laborales o a la huelga.

(5) Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América – Tratado de Comercio de los Pueblos o ALBA-TCP: .

(6) Leer: F. Esteban, S. Brulez, « Le laboratoire du socialisme du XXIe siècle cherche toujours la formule qui marche », Inprecor, n° 564-565, agosto 2010 y P. Stefanoni, « El triunfo de Chávez y el socialismo petrolero », Viento Sur, octubre 2012, .

(7) A. Acosta, La maldición de la abundancia, Quito, Abya Yala, 2010.

(8) Ver los escritos de Víctor Álvarez, economista y exministro de las industrias de base y de las minas: Venezuela: ¿Hacia dónde va el modelo productivo?, Caracas, Centro Internacional Miranda, 2009.

(9) Incluso colectivos y militantes libertarios, como el intelectual crítico Roland Denis, llamaron a votar para Hugo Ch á vez, concientes del peligro que representaban Capriles y la MUD.

(10) Tout est à nous ! La Revue, diciembre 2012. Ver también: P. Guillaudat et P. Mouterde, Hugo Chávez et la révolution bolivarienne, M Editeur, Québec, 2012.

(11) M. Sutherland, « Retour sur la victoire de Chavez : radicalité vs. conciliation droitière »,, octubre 2012 (consultado en francés en: ).

(12) Ver el análisis, muy difundido durante la campaña por el PSUV, del sociólogo Romain Mingus: El Nuevo Paquetazo, .

(13) Leer el informe « Venezuela » del colectivo ACRIMED (Acción Crítica Medios) – Paris: .


Fuente: Revista Inprecor – – noviembre de 2012 – Traducción de Viento Sur (

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Gun Violence in AmericaStephen Lendman, December 16, 2012

Hear the Mayan Prophecy for Yourself

The Mayan 2012 end of the world “prophecy” is scaring the pants off numerous children and suicidal teeangers. 1-in-10 people believe that the Mayans have prophesied the end of the world (and see this). A Google search for “Maya 2012″ currently brings up 700 million hits, almost as popular as the world’s most popular searches.

In China, some people are buying Noah’s Ark type survival pods to weather the 2012 “apocalypse”:

gal land Qiyuan4 600x400 People Freak Out and Buy Noahs Ark Survival Pods ... But the Mayans Say 2012 Isnt the End of the World

gal land Qiyuan11 600x400 People Freak Out and Buy Noahs Ark Survival Pods ... But the Mayans Say 2012 Isnt the End of the World

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We’ve extensively documented that the Mayans never said the world will end in 2012.  See End of the World: Hear the 2012 Prophecy … Direct from the Mouths of the Mayan Priests

For a few days only, you can watch online – for free – the brand new video “Shift of the Ages”, in which the head Mayan elder directly explains the Mayan prophecy.

Gun Violence in America

December 16th, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

US civilian gun ownership is the highest worldwide. Yemen ranks second. America doubles the Yemeni level.

Gun related violence follows. In America it’s endemic. In Chicago alone, gun-related deaths exceed one a day. More Chicagoans are shot and killed than US forces in Afghanistan by any means.

Gun ownership makes it simple as ready, aim, fire. It lowers the threshold between anger and homicide. Proliferation in society leaves everyone vulnerable.

On Friday, 28 Sandy Hook Elementary School Newtown, CT children and teachers were murdered. A heavily armed 20-year old man used semiautomatic pistols and a semiautomatic rifle.

It was the third deadliest gun-related massacre in US history.

The second worst occurred on Blacksburg, VA Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s campus. On April 16, 2007, 33 students and teachers were shot and killed. Others were wounded.

In January 1923, shootings and other violence killed 150 Rosewood, FL Blacks. No convictions followed.

Governor lawton Chiles (1991 – 1998) later called what happened a “blind act of bigotry.” In 2004, Florida declared Rosewood a state Heritage Landmark. Survivors of dead victims are unforgiving.

Numerous other gun-related lesser scale massacres pockmark US history. The right to own, conceal, and use assault and other deadly weapons is an ugly America tradition. It’s long past time it ended.

On November 18, 2012, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence said “epidemic levels of gun violence (claim) over 30,000 lives annually.” US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data document it.

Every gun-related death leaves two others wounded. Every year, about 100,000 Americans are gun violence victims. Countless others are irreparably harmed. Nothing whatever is done to curb or prevent what’s shocking and intolerable.

The 1968 Gun Control Act fell woefully short. Federal regulation enacted was weak and ineffective. Gun manufacturers supported the measure.

It prohibits interstate firearms transfers except among licensed manufacturers, dealers and importers. It did nothing to curb gun proliferation across America.

In 1982, a Senate Judiciary Committee report claimed “the second amendment to our Constitution was intended as an individual right of the American citizen to keep and carry arms in a peaceful manner, for the protection of himself, his family, and his freedoms.”

Ignored was that so called individual rights violate those of most others. Death or injury by gun violence in American exceeds vulnerability anywhere else and then some.

US communities are unsafe. Police on routine street or traffic patrol wear bulletproof vests for protection. At one time, it was unheard of. Today it’s standard practice.

Gun violence touches every segment of society. It happens on streets, in homes, at work, in schools, numerous other places, and by self-inflicted shootings.

Major incidents like Virginia Tech and Norwalk, CT make headlines. Thousands of other shootings go unnoticed.

CDC calls firearm deaths “an important public health concern.” Congress dismisses it. Vulnerability to domestic gun-related death or injury exceeds some US war theaters.

Instead of shocking politicians to act, they support the virtual unrestricted right to bear arms. Automatic ones are prohibited. They’re easily obtained, nonetheless. Powerful semi-automatic assault ones are freely bought and sold. lists numerous ones for sale. They include AK-47 (Kalashnikov) assault rifles, AR-15/M16 type rifles, Uzi assault weapons, LWRC M6A2s (called the most modern carbine rifle in the world), and various others with considerable firepower.

Progressive jurists and others take issue with modern-day Second Amendment interpretation. It states:

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Journalist/historian Garry Wills calls supportive Second Amendment  views muddled and tendentious. Their arguments replicate insurrectionist ones.

“Only madmen, one would think, can suppose that militias have a constitutional right to levy war against the United States, which is treason by constitutional definition.”

“Yet the body of writers who proclaim themselves at the scholarly center of the Second Amendment’s interpretation say that a well-regulated body authorized by the government is intended to train itself for action against the government.”

He added that “Perhaps it is the quality of their arguments that makes them hard to take seriously.”

In 2008, a District of Columbia v. Heller Supreme Court amicus curiae submitted by 15 prominent academics and writers concluded as follows:

“Historians are often asked what the Founders would think about various aspects of contemporary life. Such questions can be tricky to answer.”

“But as historians of the Revolutionary era we are confident at least of this: that the authors of the Second Amendment would be flabbergasted to learn that in endorsing the republican principle of a well-regulated militia, they were also precluding restrictions on such potentially dangerous property as firearms, which governments had always regulated when there was ‘real danger of public injury from individuals.’ “

Law Professor David C. Williams says Second Amendment interpretation reflects myths about America. The framers believed in unity, he said.

Modern interpreters endorse distrust and disunity, he believes. The Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to bear arms only as part of a united and consensual people, he stresses.

Obtaining guns today is almost as easy as buying toothpaste. America’s framers had no such intention in mind. Constitutional reinventionists decided they knew best.

Modern US culture is violent. Gun ownership bears much responsibility. Violent films are some of the most popular. So are similar video games and music. Lyrics glorify guns, rape and murder.

US society is called a “rape culture” for good reason. Sometime during their lives, one-fourth of adult women are victimized by forcible rape. Often it’s by someone they know. Family members share guilt.

One in four women report being sexually molested in childhood. Repeat violations over extended periods are commonplace. Three-fourth of US women experience some form of extreme violence in their lifetimes.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury. It’s the second leading cause of death. Guns play a leading role. Children, like adults, are harmed.

What kind of country facilitates endemic violence instead of acting responsibly to curb it? What kind of government endorses easy access to dangerous assault and other deadly weapons instead of prohibiting it?

Against this backdrop, no wonder massacres like Norwalk, CT, Virginia Tech, Columbine High School, Atlanta, GA stock trader killings, six by a lone Fort Worth gunman, 10 Washington, DC sniper shootings, a Carnation, WA Christmas eve massacre, Northern IL University killings, 13 more at Ft. Hood, the Tuscon, AR incident killing six and leaving Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords seriously wounded, as well as dozens more incidents too numerous to mention.

No wonder domestic violence is out-of-control. Lone gunmen incidents reflect ingrained values. So does America’s history. It’s notably harsh against dissidents, labor, minorities, street protesters, ethnic and religious groups, as well as others targeted.

Most one-on-one incidents pass without notice. US history is sanitized to forget what’s too monstrous to remember. Native Americans were nearly slaughtered to extinction.

Black slaves endured whippings, other beatings, rapes, mutilations, forced family separations, and even amputations as punishment for runaways.

Jim Crow America endorsed white supremacy. Forced segregation still exists. Latinos, Muslims, and other disadvantaged people face state-sponsored repression.

America is the only industrialized country negligent for having failed to address gun violence responsibly.

On average, eight times more fatalities result than in other developed countries. For children under 15, it’s 12 times higher.

Few federal gun laws exist. Ones enacted are pockmarked with loopholes. Some states make guns as simple to buy as blueberry pie. Many others aren’t far behind.

Anyone get obtain dangerous semi-automatic weapons able to claim multiple victims in seconds. Some US communities are near-war zones.

Economic duress makes violent crime more likely. Many people fear going out at night. Some do in daylight.

In the 1990s, murders happened every 22 minutes, rapes every five minutes, robberies every 49 seconds, and burglaries every 10 seconds. Given today’s hard times, it’s likely these numbers are much higher.

In 2010, the FBI reported 1,246,248 violent crimes and another 9,082,887 nonviolent ones. In 2011, violent crime jumped 18%.

Numbers vary year by year, but grand totals compared to other industrialized nations explain best. Violence in America is endemic.

Death or injury from guns is out-of-control. Government officials able to act responsibly abstain. In September 2008, Obama said “I’m not going to take away your guns.”

Last July, White House spokesman Jay Carney said:

“The president believes we need to take common sense measures that protect the Second Amendment rights of Americans while ensuring that those who should not have guns under existing laws do not get them.”

He kept his promise on ownership. He spurned gun control advocates. He signed measures permitting guns in national parks and on Amtrak.

He did nothing to ban assault weapons. He allows gun show loopholes. Convicted violent felons can easily buy weapons there with no ID. So can anyone able to afford them.

Political Washington facilitates gun ownership. Neither party supports curbing gun-related homicides and injuries. They prefer gun lobby cash to safe streets and communities.

Don’t expect either party to change gun policy. They support wrong over right across the board. They do it with impunity. No wonder America threatens humanity at home and abroad. Rogue leaders made planet earth unsafe to live on.

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

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

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


Glenn Greenwald is a prominent American journalist, author, lawyer and blogger. His writings and articles have appeared on several newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The American Conservative, The National Interest and In These Times. Greenwald has received different awards including the first Izzy Award for independent journalism in 2009, and the 2010 Online Journalism Award for Best Commentary.

Until a few months ago, he was a columnist and blogger for, but he left his job there and continued cooperating with The Guardian newspaper which he has been contributing to since June 2011.

Greenwald has published four books which include “How Would a Patriot Act?” and “A Tragic Legacy.” A progressive journalist, Glenn Greenwald is an outspoken critic of the U.S. military expeditions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and its war threats against Iran.

He has written extensively on the underground operations taken by Israel and the United States to empower and finance the exiled Iranian terrorist group MKO which has declared as one of its key objectives the overthrowing of Iranian government. With regards to the U.S. Department of State’s decision in taking the name of MKO off the list of foreign terrorist organizations, he says: “[t]his shows that anything the United States government says about terrorism and really the whole concept of terrorism itself should be viewed as nothing more than a ridiculous joke. MKO is a classic group that is a terrorist organization. They have engaged in violence against innocent civilians, they have devoted themselves to overthrow a government using violence and there are credible reports that they are the ones who are working with Israelis and are behind the assassination of civilian scientists in Iran that included the shooting of not only the scientists, but also in two cases their wives.”

I had the opportunity to talk to Glenn Greenwald for an exclusive interview which was originally appeared in Persian on Tasnim News Agency. What follows is the full text of my interview with Glenn Greenwald in which we discussed a variety of topics pertaining to the international political and military developments.

Q: What do you think about President Obama administration’s plans for shaping a new Middle East based on the national interests of the United States and dominating the vast oil reserves of these countries?

 A: A crucial part of the Obama administration’s strategy and the strategies of all the prior administrations in the United States was to basically put into place dictatorships in the Muslim world that would keep the population suppressed and serve the interests of the U.S. government, particularly in the countries with remarkable oil and energy resources. So you see the relationships the United States has with the [Persian] Gulf states such as Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. These are the governments which suppress their population, but serve as loyal allies of the United States and make oil available to the U.S. and the Obama administration continues supporting them.

Q: In the recent months, we have been witness to the continued killing of the pro-democracy protesters and imprisonment of political activists in Bahrain. However, the U.S. government hasn’t taken any practical steps to stop bloodshed and persuade the Al Khalifa regime to stop using force and violence. What’s your idea in this regard?

A: Well, this is a perfect example of what I was describing. The governments which I named and the Bahraini government are unbelievably oppressive. They murder protesters who are demonstrating peacefully, put people in prison and torture them and the Obama administration does nothing about that and continues to strengthen that regime through financing it and even sending it a lot of arms, while the regime is cracking down on the citizens in such a brutal way. The reason the U.S. government supports Bahrain is that the regime allows the U.S. to maintain a very large fleet of naval resources off the coast of Bahrain that can be used to threaten Iran and that generally allows the U.S. government to dominate the [Persian] Gulf region, and so in extreme for the regime in Bahrain, that is basically the puppet and client government of the United States, the U.S. government supports the regime as it murders its own citizens and suppresses of all forms of freedoms. And Bahrain is a perfect example of the strategy the Obama administration has adopted to just dominate the region militarily and help the dictators of the region suppress their populations.

Q: One of the electoral promises of President Obama was to close the Guantanamo bay detention facility within one year after being elected. However, on January 7, 2011, he signed the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill which placed restrictions on the transferring of detainees to the U.S. or other countries, thus impeding the closure of the underground detention camp. What’s your take on that?

 A: The excuse the Obama administration gave was that the people in the Congress refused to allow Obama to close down Guantanamo. But the truth is that from the beginning, Obama’s plan was to keep the system of Guantanamo in place and transfer the detainees to the U.S. while people from all around the Muslim world still are allowed to remain in prison without charges of any kind and without due processes at any time. But to remove them from Guantanamo and placing them in a new prison inside the United States would only add some sort of a symbolic aspect to it. So it was always the Obama administration’s plan to keep the Guantanamo open. They simply wanted to move it, not to close it. And this Defense Authorization Bill which you ask about was passed in December 2010 and January 2011 is a sort of legislation that empowers the president whoever he wants on accusations of terrorism, without having to charge that person with any crime, without having to in any way offer the person the opportunity to contest the allegations or present compelling evidence, and President Obama has signed a law that actually strengthened this system of indefinite lawless detention.

Q: What’s your perspective on the U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia and its violation of Iran’s airspace last year in December 2011 and in the last week?

 A: The drone attacks on Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia have repeatedly killed all sorts of innocent civilians; women, children and innocent men, and the Obama administration simply believes that it has the right to kill anyone it wants anywhere in the world regardless of who dies, and this is the policy that the Obama administration has actually pursued even more aggressively than the Bush administration and the drone attacks have increased significantly under President Obama. He has used drones on six different Muslim countries; Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. I should point out that President Obama has extremely aggressive beliefs that in the name of combating terrorism, he can kill whoever he wants or attack anyone he wants without regard to any nation’s sovereignty. The ironic part about that is that it’s precisely the drone attacks which cause terrorism in the first place.

The reason why there are so many people in the world, especially in the Muslim world want to attack the United States is precisely because they watch on a regular basis the United States attacking their countries, killing their children, innocent men and women and they come to the conclusion that the only way to stop this is by having the violence go both ways. The drone attacks not only kill innocent people, but they make the problem of terrorism far worse. As far as the drones in Iran are concerned, Iran has the absolute right, like any other country does, to take down surveillance instruments that fly over their land without permission. What strikes me is the way this is reported and discussed here in the United States, and that is when Iran successfully shoots down or disables a U.S. drone that has entered its airspace, it’s talked of as if it’s some sort of aggressive action on the side of the Iranian government.

But of course if Iran ever sent a drone anywhere near the airspace of the United States, let alone into the United States, not only that drone would be immediately shot down, but everyone in the United States would talk of it as if it was a horrible act of war and would probably result in bombs being dropped on Iran in retaliation. So you see here this extreme double standard that the United States thinks that it has the right to send drones on Iran’s airspace, but nobody in the United States and almost nobody would think that Iran would have the right to do the same to the United States.

Q: The United States has always called itself a champion of combating terrorism and frequently criticizes other countries for their alleged sponsorship of terrorist groups. But in a controversial decision, they took the name of Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization off the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, and there’s credible evidence showing that Washington has been supporting MKO in its terrorist operations, both militarily and financially. Isn’t this a hypocritical approach in dealing with the issue of terrorism?

 A: This shows that anything the United States government says about terrorism and really the whole concept of terrorism itself should be viewed as nothing more than a ridiculous joke. MKO is a classic group that is a terrorist organization. They have engaged in violence against innocent civilians, they have devoted themselves to overthrow a government using violence and there are credible reports that they are the ones who are working with Israelis and are behind the assassination of civilian scientists in Iran that included the shooting of not only the scientists, but also in two cases their wives. And because this group has paid so many influential politicians in the United States and also because this group now carries out terrorist operations on behalf of Israel and the United States in promotion of the interests of Israel and the United States, they have been removed from the list of terrorist organizations by the Obama administration and this really shows that the United States is not against terrorism.

The U.S. government uses terrorism continuously to serve its interests. The United States government says that it is against terrorism only because terrorism is the word that applies to anybody who opposes or impedes the agenda of the United States, and the willingness to remove the name of MKO from the list of terrorist organizations even though they are committed to the use of violence and killing of Iranian officials proves how worthless the United States’ claims about terrorism are.

Q: What do you think about the humanitarian impacts of the anti-Iranian sanctions? In one of your articles, you alluded to some facts regarding the scarcity of foodstuff and other goods in Iran as a result of the sanctions. I’ll add the medicine, travel restrictions and unsafe aviation fleet to your list. Isn’t it some sort of violation of human rights by the United States?

A: Of course. One of the worst crimes that the United States has committed over the last several decades was the sanctions regime that it imposed on Iraq which killed several hundred thousands of children, deprived people of basic food and medicine and strengthened Saddam Hussein by making everybody in the country poor and dependent on him. This is now repeating itself in Iran, not to the same extent yet but it has its own effects where there are poor Iranian children who are sick and unable to get medicine and are dying as a result. Obviously the American officials openly brag about the destruction of Iranian economy and the collapse of Iranian currency which they are causing with their sanctions regime, and you see it’s a kind of collective punishment to terrorize the Iranian people for the alleged crimes of their government; the kinds of crimes that the United States has condemned the other countries for committing for many decades. So absolutely the sanctions regime which the United States is leading is really an act of war and a way of making Iranians and innocent civilians suffer greatly, and absolutely a kind of collective punishment that should be judged by the decent people.

Q: What’s your idea about the U.S. mainstream media’s portrayal of the developments in the Middle East and especially Iran? They don’t allow the citizens to be aware of the fact that, for example, the economic sanctions are paralyzing the daily life of ordinary Iranian citizens, as they did with regards to the Iraqi people. Why do the American media want to leave their people in ignorance and unawareness?

 A: The role of the U.S. media in general is to serve the interests of the U.S. government. They claim that we have a free media, but for a lot of different reasons, these media are owned by the corporations and these corporations are very well to the U.S. government. And so part of what any government wants to do when it wants to be aggressive on other countries is to dehumanize their population; to depict them in very simplistic ways. What the U.S. media generally show of Iran is nothing more than the claims that they have evil, extremist leaders and almost never talk of the complexities of Iran and tens of millions of Iranian citizens who produce a complicated and difficult to caricature society.

Q: How do you perceive the relationship between Obama and the Israeli lobby? How much influence has the Israeli lobby had on Obama and what role has it played in the reelection of Obama? Do you think that Obama was at odds with Netanyahu on such cases as settlement constructions, or they were simply superficial conflicts and they were practically close allies?

 A: Any differences between Obama and Netanyahu are, as you said, superficial and symbolic and never resulted in meaningful action. If you turn to Israelis, they will tell you that the relationship between the United States and Israel under Obama is closer than it has ever been under any prior U.S. President. We saw that with the Israeli attack on Gaza, the Obama administration 100 percent justified and stood behind Israel, and just in the two recent votes in the United Nations, one on Palestinian statehood and the other that demanded Israel to open its nuclear stockpile to inspection, the United States sided with Israel and isolated itself in almost the entire world.

So you have this extremely loyal relationship between Obama and Israelis including Netanyahu, and it’s in large part because as many prominent American columnists including Jewish and pro-Israel commentators have observed there’s a very strong pro-Israeli lobby in the United States which is very well-funded and very powerful and that basically keeps both the political parties completely on the side of Israel in every single controversy or dispute, even when doing so harms the United States, they force both political parties to choose loyalty to Israel over the interests of the United States and as a result, neither political party is able, even if they want to, to in any meaningful way pressure the Israelis or challenge them.

And despite all the loyalty that the United States has to Israel, Israelis continue to pursue policies that the United States doesn’t want them to do, like the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and yet the United States in unwilling to punish them or sanction them because of the domestic political pressures.

Q: Iran has assumed the three-year presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement in the 16th summit of the organization which was held in Tehran in August 2012. What’s your viewpoint regarding the importance of this summit for Iran which the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi along with several leaders from across the world attended?

 A: I think it’s significant because one of the main objectives of Israel and the United States was to depict Iran as isolated from the rest of the world. But what we are seeing is that to some extent, they are Israel and the United States that are increasingly being isolated from the rest of the world. And the refusal of so many countries in denouncing Israel and the United States’ calls for not attending the summit and otherwise isolating the Iranian government is very significant in that regard as are the two votes that just took place in the UN that overwhelmingly sided against Israel. So I think the Israelis have become their own worst enemies through their extreme pursuance of the ideological vision, their refusal to compromise, their expansion of settlements that are illegal and their use of violence and aggression have alienated a huge part of the world, much more than Iran has, and if there’s anyone in the danger of isolation, I think it’s Israel.

Q: And finally, what’s your viewpoint regarding Israel’s aggressive war rhetoric against Iran and its continued threats of using force against Iran? These war threats clearly violate the UN Charter, but the Security Council hasn’t taken any practical steps to criticize and punish Israel for its illegal behavior. What’s your take on that?

 A: Well, I think that UN Security Council’s enforcement of those roles is practically impossible because almost everybody knows that the United States will veto any resolution to condemn Israel for its use of those threats. It’s also the case that many countries that are in the Security Council, mostly the United States, but also Russia and China also use threats against other countries in violation of the UN Charter, so everyone is a little bit afraid of punishing Israel for violating rules that those countries themselves like to violate, but it’s really the case that the United States and Israel have made a joke of the UN Charter and continuously threaten Iran to use military force against Iran, to bomb Iran, to keep all options on the table including a military strike, and this is a clear violation of the UN Charter and everything that it was intended to stand for. As long as the U.S. has the veto power, the Security Council will be completely unable to act against Israel’s violation of the UN Charter.

000379 titleimage Are the New Generation of Anti Depressant Medications Contributing to School Shootings?

SSRI’s May Be Exacerbating Violent Tendencies

Before you make up your mind, watch these 3 videos:

A two-day summit of European heads of state and finance ministers ended on Friday with general agreement to extend and deepen the austerity measures which have already plunged millions of Europeans into unemployment and poverty while reaping huge returns for the banks.

The original mandate of the December summit was to flesh out proposals originally presented by the European Commission in June this year for moves towards the fiscal and political union of Europe.

During the last six months of fierce haggling between nation states, however, all that really remains of the original “European roadmap” is a firm commitment by all parties to press ahead with their plans for a social counterrevolution across the continent. This was underlined by an opinion piece published in the Financial Times by the vice president of the European Commission, Olli Rehn, three days before the summit. The comment was titled: “Europe must stay the austerity course.”

In the run-up to this week’s summit, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy put forward a series of proposals, including euro zone bonds and some very limited funding for industrial projects, aimed at encouraging bigger European nations to play a greater role in the financial bailout of ailing economies.

In fact, the eurobonds proposal was struck from the agenda even before talks began, and plans by Barroso and Van Rompuy for a European “solidarity mechanism” to encourage growth were whittled down to a pittance by the end of the summit.

At a news conference after day one of the summit, Van Rompuy told reporters he would only present proposals for an embryonic form of “solidarity mechanism” for the summer of next year. In the same breath he made clear that any transfer of funds from the “mechanism” would be dependent on applicant states carrying out cuts and structural reforms.

In her own comments to the press, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that any common euro zone funding for such “solidarity” measures would be minimal. “It’s a question of a very limited budget”, Merkel said. “… maybe €10bn or €15bn.”

The only substantive measure agreed by the summit were moves towards the banking supervision of European banks. Once again on this issue Germany was largely allowed to dictate the agenda.

A week earlier, European finance ministers had been unable to come to a final agreement on moves towards a banking union. The main opposition came from Germany, which is resisting proposals that the European Central Bank be given powers to directly fund bankrupt banks. Germany also opposes European supervision of its dozens of local savings banks which play an important role in funding German industry at a state level.

For its part, France, with the support of a number of smaller European countries, has called for extended powers for the ECB and its ability to supervise all of the continent’s 6,000 banks.

On both issues Germany was able to make an accommodation with France and get its way at this week’s summit. The agreement struck by European leaders on Thursday was that supervisory powers be extended only to around 200 of the continent’s biggest banks and that supervisory operations only commence in March 2014 at the earliest. In comments to the press, the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, stressed that even at this later date the direct funding of European banks by the ECB was “a relatively unlikely scenario.”

The postponement of supervision of European banks until 2014 means that the policy which permits the European Commission and ECB to dictate harsh austerity terms and exercise control over the economies of countries applying for loans will continue unhindered for the next 18 months.

This is the single most significant decision to emerge from the agreement by a majority of EU members on a European banking union. At the same time, Germany and France plan to tighten the austerity screws by supporting a proposal from the European Commission for establishing “bilateral contracts” with each member of the euro zone. The aim of such contracts is to stipulate labour market and tax reforms aimed at boosting competitiveness.

In an article dealing with the German insistence on such structural reforms the Financial Times noted: “Ms Merkel wants agreement on the parameters to be used to design such contracts, using countries such as China, India and Brazil as benchmarks for global competitiveness.”

While huge new financial injections are being prepared for the banks, the wages and working conditions for the population of Europe are to be reduced to the level of those prevailing in the sweatshops of Asia.

As has been the case for the past five years, Greece is the test laboratory for the social reaction to be introduced all over Europe. On Thursday, euro zone finance ministers finally agreed to pay a loan to Greece which was originally scheduled for June of this year. Payment of the loan was made conditional on the government in Athens introducing yet another round of vicious austerity measures.

Not a cent of the €34 billion loan will end up in the hands of working people and their families struggling to survive after five years of recession. €16 billion are earmarked for re-capitalising Greek banks, €7 billion for the financing of state-owned enterprise and the remaining €11 billion for buying back government debt.

Years more of austerity, misery and crisis for all of Europe. This was the message from the latest European summit. Four years after the outbreak of the finance crisis in 2008, Europe is officially in a double dip recession. Britain is in the throes of a triple dip recession.

Unemployment has soared across the continent and the indebtedness of many leading European nations has doubled or even trebled as the banks rake in billions. And the worst is yet to come.

In her remarks to the press Merkel pointedly praised the austerity measures of Italian prime minister Mario Monti for boosting “trust in Italy in the international markets” and warned at the same time that Europe faced years of pain ahead.

A gunman walked into an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday morning and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 young children. The shooter was also found dead inside the school of a self-inflicted gunshot.

The horrific event took place at Sandy Hook Elementary, a K-4 school for five- to ten-year-old students. The massacre was the worst in the US since the 2007 rampage at Virginia Tech University, which left 33 dead. The killings follow by less than five months the shooting rampage at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, where 12 were killed and 58 injured.

Newtown, a small, affluent New England town about 80 miles northeast of New York City, has been ranked as one of the safest places to live in America. The community attracts families who want to send their children to the town’s well-regarded public schools. Residents, shocked and in mourning, expressed disbelief that this type of tragedy could take place in their town.

The shooter has been tentatively identified by law enforcement officials as 20-year-old Adam Lanza. There was initially some confusion about his identity, as he was carrying the identification of his brother, Ryan Lanza, 24, of Hoboken, New Jersey. Ryan Lanza reportedly told authorities that his brother had a history of mental health issues. The elder brother is not a suspect.

Shortly after 9:30 a.m. Friday morning, local police received a call from Sandy Hook Elementary where the rampage was under way. According to a Connecticut State Police news briefing, the shootings took place in two rooms in a single section of the school.

The Hartford Courant reported that one entire classroom of children was unaccounted for. Eighteen children were pronounced dead at the scene and two died after being transported to the hospital. One wounded victim remained hospitalized as of Friday evening.

Children, who huddled in the corners of classrooms, reported hearing loud booms. Survivors escaped the carnage in groups—holding hands, many crying—escorted from the school by teachers. Students reported that they were told to cover their eyes and not look around, apparently in an effort to prevent them from seeing the dead and wounded.

Six adults were killed, although not necessarily all at Sandy Hook. The school principal, Dawn Hochsprung, was shot and killed at the school. According to a law enforcement official not authorized to speak publicly, kindergarten teacher Nancy Lanza, 52, the shooter’s mother, was among the victims. The body of an as yet unnamed adult male was found at the Newtown home owned by Nancy and Peter Lanza, Adam and Ryan Lanza’s father.

At least three weapons were recovered at the school shooting scene, including a .223-caliber assault rifle from the back of a car and two semiautomatic handguns found near Lanza’s body. Witnesses reported that some 100 shots or so were fired.

“It’s not a simplistic scene,” police spokesman Vance commented. “We will be here through the night, through the weekend. There is a great deal of work that has to be done.” He reported that the murder scene was so gruesome that first responders were provided counseling. “This was a tragic, horrific scene they encountered,” he said.

However, virtually nothing in the way of explanation has been offered in the nonstop media coverage of the shootings, or in the various comments of police and government officials, who uniformly term the deadly chain of events as “inexplicable” and “senseless”.

President Barack Obama made a brief statement from the White House Friday afternoon. “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,” he said. “And each time I learn the news I react not as a president, but as anybody else would—as a parent.” He made no effort to account for the events, which his own comment acknowledged were a persistent feature of American life.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s comments proceeded along similar lines: “School shootings are always incomprehensible and horrific tragedies,” he said. “But words fail to describe today’s heartbreaking and savage attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School.”

What intellectual bankruptcy! No US government official or media personality has the mental capacity or courage to ask why these horrible tragedies occur in America with such heartbreaking predictability. The public has barely adjusted itself to one horror when the next one takes place. Even as the media reports Friday’s incident, everyone knows that it is only a matter of time before the next atrocity.

Details of the tragic events in Connecticut are still emerging. In particular, little is known about what could have driven the shooter to plan and carry out such an atrocity. But statements to the effect that such tragedies are always incomprehensible block any examination of the processes that make possible such an antisocial explosion.

Whatever the immediate personal circumstances of each perpetrator, and such circumstances—psychological alienation, mental illness—of course play a role, the regularity of these mass killings expresses the profound sickness of American society, afflicted by social tensions that can find no progressive outlet.

The same figures that speak of “inexplicable tragedies” preside over extreme levels of violence both at home and abroad. Obama is the first US president to openly claim the right to select and order assassinations, including of US citizens. The ruling elite prosecutes an unending series of wars and military invasions, with hundreds of billions of dollars going to the giant killing machine. How could any expression of violence in America today be entirely “incomprehensible”?

At home, the American population is subjected to a culture of violence, not only in the form of police shootings and brutality, but an assault on democratic rights. While the financial elite continues to amass record profits, growing numbers of working families are plunged into poverty.

On the surface, such social tensions do not seem to be part of the reality of a town like Newtown, Connecticut, but they found terrible expression there Friday.

James Dietter, 26, lives in the neighborhood where one of the victims was found. His mother works in the school system. Dietter told the Hartford Courant. “This is the idyllic New England hamlet… there was a bit of a magical insulation or feeling that tragedy won’t happen here. Now it has, and, unfortunately, I think it is going to define this town.”

The Woes of an American Drone Operator

December 16th, 2012 by Der Spiegel

By Nicola Abé

A soldier sets out to graduate at the top of his class. He succeeds, and he becomes a drone pilot working with a special unit of the United States Air Force in New Mexico. He kills dozens of people. But then, one day, he realizes that he can’t do it anymore.

For more than five years, Brandon Bryant worked in an oblong, windowless container about the size of a trailer, where the air-conditioning was kept at 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit) and, for security reasons, the door couldn’t be opened. Bryant and his coworkers sat in front of 14 computer monitors and four keyboards. When Bryant pressed a button in New Mexico, someone died on the other side of the world.

Drone operators at Holloman Air Force Base in the southwestern state of New...

The container is filled with the humming of computers. It’s the brain of a drone, known as a cockpit in Air Force parlance. But the pilots in the container aren’t flying through the air. They’re just sitting at the controls.

Bryant was one of them, and he remembers one incident very clearly when a Predator drone was circling in a figure-eight pattern in the sky above Afghanistan, more than 10,000 kilometers (6,250 miles) away. There was a flat-roofed house made of mud, with a shed used to hold goats in the crosshairs, as Bryant recalls. When he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact.

“These moments are like in slow motion,” he says today. Images taken with an infrared camera attached to the drone appeared on his monitor, transmitted by satellite, with a two-to-five-second time delay.

With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds. Bryant felt as if he had to count each individual pixel on the monitor. Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says.

Second zero was the moment in which Bryant’s digital world collided with the real one in a village between Baghlan and Mazar-e-Sharif.

Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach.

“Did we just kill a kid?” he asked the man sitting next to him.

“Yeah, I guess that was a kid,” the pilot replied.

“Was that a kid?” they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.

Then, someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed theirattack. “No. That was a dog,” the person wrote.

They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?

Invisible Warfare

When Bryant left the container that day, he stepped directly into America: dry grasslands stretching to the horizon, fields and the smell of liquid manure. Every few seconds, a light on the radar tower at the Cannon Air Force Base flashed in the twilight. There was no war going on there.

Modern warfare is as invisible as a thought, deprived of its meaning by distance. It is no unfettered war, but one that is controlled from small high-tech centers in various places in the world. The new (way of conducting) war is supposed to be more precise than the old one, which is why some call it “more humane.” It’s the war of an intellectual, a war United States President Barack Obama has promoted more than any of his predecessors.

In a corridor at the Pentagon where the planning for this war takes place, the walls are covered with dark wood paneling. The men from the Air Force have their offices here. A painting of a Predator, a drone on canvas, hangs next to portraits of military leaders. From the military’s perspective, no other invention has been as successful in the “war on terror” in recent years as the Predator.

The US military guides its drones from seven air bases in the United States, as well as locations abroad, including one in the East African nation of Djibouti. From its headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the CIA controls operations in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

‘We Save Lives’

Colonel William Tart, a man with pale eyes and a clear image of the enemy, calls the drone a “natural extension of the distance.”

Until a few months ago, when he was promoted to head the US Air Force’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Task Force in Langley, Tart was a commander at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, near Las Vegas, where he headed drone operations. Whenever he flew drones himself, he kept a photo of his wife and three daughters pasted into the checklist next to the monitors.

He doesn’t like the word drone, because he says it implies that the vehicle has its own will or ego. He prefers to call them “remotely piloted aircraft,” and he points out that most flights are for gathering information. He talks about the use of drones on humanitarian missions after the earthquake in Haiti, and about the military successes in the war in Libya: how his team fired on a truck that was pointing rockets at Misrata, and how it chased the convoy in which former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and his entourage were fleeing. He describes how the soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan are constantly expressing their gratitude for the assistance from the air. “We save lives,” he says.

He doesn’t say as much about the targeted killing. He claims that during his two years as operations commander at Creech, he never saw any noncombatants die, and that the drones only fire at buildings when women and children are not in them. When asked about the chain of command, Tart mentions a 275-page document called 3-09.3. Essentially, it states that drone attacks must be approved, like any other attacks by the Air Force. An officer in the country where the operations take place has to approve them.

The use of the term “clinical war” makes him angry. It reminds him of the Vietnam veterans who accuse him of never having waded through the mud or smelled blood, and who say that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

That isn’t true, says Tart, noting that he often used the one-hour drive from work back to Las Vegas to distance himself from his job. “We watch people for months. We see them playing with their dogs or doing their laundry. We know their patterns like we know our neighbors’ patterns. We even go to their funerals.” It wasn’t always easy, he says.

One of the paradoxes of drones is that, even as they increase the distance to the target, they also create proximity. “War somehow becomes personal,” says Tart.

‘I Saw Men, Women and Children Die’

A yellow house stands on the outskirts of the small city of Missoula, Montana, against a background of mountains, forests and patches of fog. The ground is coated with the first snow of the season. Bryant, now 27, is sitting on the couch in his mother’s living room. He has since left the military and is now living back at home. He keeps his head shaved and has a three-day beard. “I haven’t been dreaming in infrared for four months,” he says with a smile, as if this were a minor victory for him.

Bryant completed 6,000 flight hours during his six years in the Air Force. “I saw men, women and children die during that time,” says Bryant. “I never thought I would kill that many people. In fact, I thought I couldn’t kill anyone at all.”

An Unpopular Job

After graduating from high school, Bryant wanted to become an investigative journalist. He used to go to church on Sundays, and he had a thing for redheaded cheerleaders. By the end of his first semester at college, he had already racked up thousands of dollars in debt.

He came to the military by accident. One day, while accompanying a friend who was enlisting in the army, he heard that the Air Force had its own university, and that he could get a college education for free. Bryant did so well in tests that he was assigned to an intelligence collection unit. He learned how to control the cameras and lasers on a drone, as well as to analyze ground images, maps and weather data. He became a sensor operator, more or less the equivalent to a co-pilot.

He was 20 when he flew his first mission over Iraq. It was a hot, sunny day in Nevada, but it was dark inside the container and just before daybreak in Iraq. A group of American soldiers were on their way back to their base camp. Bryant’s job was to monitor the road, to be their “guardian angel” in the sky.

He saw an eye, a shape in the asphalt. “I knew the eye from the training,” he says. To bury an improvised explosive device in the road, the enemy combatants place a tire on the road and burn it to soften the asphalt. Afterwards it looks like an eye from above.

The soldiers’ convoy was still miles away from the eye. Bryant told his supervisor, who notified the command center. He was forced to look on for several minutes, Bryant says today, as the vehicles approached the site.

“What should we do?” he asked his coworker.

But the pilot was also new on the job.

The soldiers on the ground couldn’t be reached by radio, because they were using a jamming transmitter. Bryant saw the first vehicle drive over the eye. Nothing happened.

Then the second vehicle drove over it. Bryant saw a flash beneath, followed by an explosion inside the vehicle.

Five American soldiers were killed.

From then on, Bryant couldn’t keep the five fellow Americans out of his thoughts. He began learning everything by heart, including the manuals for the Predator and the missiles, and he familiarized himself with every possible scenario. He was determined to be the best, so that this kind of thing would never happen again.

‘I Felt Disconnected from Humanity’

His shifts lasted up to 12 hours. The Air Force still had a shortage of personnel for its remote-controlled war over Iraq and Afghanistan. Drone pilots were seen as cowardly button-pushers. It was such an unpopular job that the military had to bring in retired personnel.

Bryant remembers the first time he fired a missile, killing two men instantly. As Bryant looked on, he could see a third man in mortal agony. The man’s leg was missing and he was holding his hands over the stump as his warm blood flowed onto the ground — for two long minutes. He cried on his way home, says Bryant, and he called his mother.

“I felt disconnected from humanity for almost a week,” he says, sitting in his favorite coffee shop in Missoula, where the smell of cinnamon and butter wafts in the air. He spends a lot of time there, watching people and reading books by Nietzsche and Mark Twain, sometimes getting up to change seats. He can’t sit in one place for very long anymore, he says. It makes him nervous.

His girlfriend broke up with him recently. She had asked him about the burden he carries, so he told her about it. But it proved to be a hardship she could neither cope with nor share.

When Bryant drives through his hometown, he wears aviator sunglasses and a Palestinian scarf. The inside of his Chrysler is covered with patches from his squadrons. On his Facebook page, he’s created a photo album of his coins, unofficial medals he was awarded. All he has is this one past. He wrestles with it, but it is also a source of pride.

When he was sent to Iraq in 2007, he posted the words “ready for action” on his profile. He was assigned to an American military base about 100 kilometers (63 miles) from Baghdad, where his job was to take off and land drones.

As soon as the drones reached flying altitude, pilots in the United States took over. The Predator can remain airborne for an entire day, but it is also slow, which is why it is stationed near the area of operation. Bryant posed for photos wearing sand-colored overalls and a bulletproof vest, leaning against a drone.

Two years later, the Air Force accepted him into a special unit, and he was transferred to the Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico. He and a fellow soldier shared a bungalow in a dusty town called Clovis, which consists mainly of trailers, gas stations and evangelical churches. Clovis is located hours away from the nearest city.

Bryant preferred night shifts, because that meant it was daytime in Afghanistan. In the spring, the landscape, with its snow-covered peaks and green valleys, reminded him of his native Montana. He saw people cultivating their fields, boys playing soccer and men hugging their wives and children.

When it got dark, Bryant switched to the infrared camera. Many Afghans sleep on the roof in the summer, because of the heat. “I saw them having sex with their wives. It’s two infrared spots becoming one,” he recalls.

He observed people for weeks, including Taliban fighters hiding weapons, and people who were on lists because the military, the intelligence agencies or local informants knew something about them.

“I got to know them. Until someone higher up in the chain of command gave me the order to shoot.” He felt remorse because of the children, whose fathers he was taking away. “They were good daddies,” he says.

In his free time, Bryant played video games or “World of Warcraft” on the Internet, or he went out drinking with the others. He can’t watch TV anymore because it is neither challenging or stimulating enough for him. He’s also having trouble sleeping these days.

‘There Was No Time for Feelings’

Major Vanessa Meyer, whose real name is covered with black tape, is giving a presentation at the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico on the training of drone pilots. The Air Force plans to have enough personnel to cover its needs by 2013.

Meyer, 34, who is wearing lip gloss and a diamond on her finger, used to fly cargo planes before she became a drone pilot. Dressed in green Air Force overalls, she is standing in a training cockpit and, using a simulator to demonstrate how a drone is guided over Afghanistan. The crosshair on the monitor follows a white car until it reaches a group of mud huts. One uses the joystick to determine the drone’s direction, and the left hand is used to operate the lever that slows down or accelerates the unmanned aircraft. On an airfield behind the container, Meyer shows us the Predator, slim and shiny, and its big brother, the Reaper, which carries four missiles and a bomb. “Great planes,” she says. “They just don’t work in bad weather.”

Meyer flew drones at Creech, the air base near Las Vegas, where young men drive in and out in sports cars and mountain chains stretch across the desert like giant reptiles. Describing his time as a drone pilot in Nevada, Colonel Matt Martin wrote in his book “Predator” that, “Sometimes I felt like God hurling thunderbolts from afar.” Meyer had her first child when she was working there. She was still sitting in the cockpit, her stomach pressing up against the keyboard, in her ninth month of pregnancy.

“There was no time for feelings” when she was preparing for an attack, she says today. Of course, she says, she felt her heart beating faster and the adrenaline rushing through her body. But then she adhered strictly to the rules and focused on positioning the aircraft. “When the decision had been made, and they saw that this was an enemy, a hostile person, a legal target that was worthy of being destroyed, I had no problem with taking the shot.”

No Room for the Evils of the World

After work, she would drive home along US Highway 85 into Las Vegas, listening to country music and passing peace activists without looking at them. She rarely thought about what happened in the cockpit. But sometimes she would review the individual steps in her head, hoping to improve her performance.

Or she would go shopping. It felt strange to her, sometimes, when the woman at the register would ask: “How’s it going?” She would answer: “I’m good. How are you? Have a nice day.” When she felt restless she would go for a run. She says that being able to help the boys on the ground motivated her to get up every morning.

There was no room for the evils of the world in Meyer’s home. She and her husband, a drone pilot, didn’t talk about work. She would put on her pajamas and watch cartoons on TV or play with the baby.

Today Meyer has two small children. She wants to show them “that mommy can get to work and do a good job.” She doesn’t want to be like the women in Afghanistan she watched — submissive and covered from head to toe. “The women there are no warriors,” she says. Meyer says that he current job as a trainer is very satisfying but that, one day, she would like to return to combat duty.

‘I Can’t Just Switch Back and Go Back to Normal Life’

At some point, Brandon Bryant just wanted to get out and do something else. He spent a few more months overseas, this time in Afghanistan. But then, when he returned to New Mexico, he found that he suddenly hated the cockpit, which smelled of sweat. He began spraying air freshener to get rid of the stench. He also found he wanted to do something that saved lives rather than took them away. He thought working as a survival trainer might fit the bill, although his friends tried to dissuade him.

The program that he then began working on in his bungalow in Clovis every day was called Power 90 Extreme, a boot camp-style fitness regimen. It included dumbbell training, push-ups, chin-ups and sit-ups. He also lifted weights almost every day.

On uneventful days in the cockpit, he would write in his diary, jotting down lines like: “On the battlefield there are no sides, just bloodshed. Total war. Every horror witnessed. I wish my eyes would rot.”

If he could just get into good enough shape, he thought to himself, they would let him do something different. The problem was that he was pretty good at his job.

At some point he no longer enjoyed seeing his friends. He met a girl, but she complained about his bad moods. “I can’t just switch and go back to normal life,” he told her. When he came home and couldn’t sleep, he would exercise instead. He began talking back to his superior officers.

One day he collapsed at work, doubling over and spitting blood. The doctor told him to stay home, and ordered him not to return to work until he could sleep more than four hours a night for two weeks in a row.

“Half a year later, I was back in the cockpit, flying drones,” says Bryant, sitting in his mother’s living room in Missoula. His dog whimpers and lays its head on his cheek. He can’t get to his own furniture at the moment. It’s in storage, and he doesn’t have the money to pay the bill. All he has left is his computer.

Bryant posted a drawing on Facebook the night before our interview. It depicts a couple standing, hand-in-hand, in a green meadow, looking up at the sky. A child and a dog are sitting on the ground next to them. But the meadow is just a part of the world. Beneath it is a sea of dying soldiers, propping themselves up with their last bit of strength, a sea of bodies, blood and limbs.

Doctors at the Veterans’ Administration diagnosed Bryant with post-traumatic stress disorder. General hopes for a comfortable war — one that could be completed without emotional wounds — haven’t been fulfilled. Indeed, Bryan’s world has melded with that of the child in Afghanistan. It’s like a short circuit in the brain of the drones.

Why isn’t he with the Air Force anymore? There was one day, he says, when he knew that he wouldn’t sign the next contract. It was the day Bryant walked into the cockpit and heard himself saying to his coworkers: “Hey, what motherfucker is going to die today?”

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

On 10 December, International Human Rights day, the representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Martin Kobler, said in a speech during a ceremony hosted by the Ministry of Human Rights in Baghdad, that the word of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on human rights fully reflects the agenda of the United Nations.

This opinion however is not shared by the majority of Iraqis and neither by the minorities in Iraq.

The national Chaldean movement issued a statement on 14 December asking the United Nations to change Martin Kobler, accusing him of condoning human rights abuses and diminishing the rights of religious minorities, and described him as the “Minister” of the United Nations in the Iraqi government.

On the same day that Martin Kobler praised Nouri Al-Maliki for his human rights record, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) endured another heavy blow to its already shattered security situation. The BRussells Tribunal received the following communication from a well-informed Iraqi source:

 The above link shows the body of Mohammad Al Qaysee, a member of the Iraqi Red Crescent Organisation. The criminals in the prison’s administration finally released his body. He died under torture 45 days ago but Maliki’s secret prisons staff wouldn’t let his family collect the body because they are expecting a decision from the Iraqi Parliament tot allows them to dump the bodies of such cases because of the financial burden. The deceased has a two-year old daughter, and his mother was threatened to be killed if she released information about his death. While the criminals of the Green Zone Government and Mr Martin Kobler are running a circus show about the Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Prisons and brag about the so-called “human rights” in Iraq, thousands of Iraqi innocent prisoners are getting tortured and killed because some kind of a sick sectarian Informer accused them of not being as the occupation government would like them to be.

 It’s not the first time the IRCS is under fire. Here is a 2004 sample of Iraqi IRCS security events in 2004 that are far from the majority of events the organisation has sustained. However, they give an indication of the frequency and the types of security incidents concerning IRCS.

- 27 January 2004. IRCS office in Baghdad raided by a gang.

- 18 March 2004. IED explodes in front of IRCS Baghdad Office.

- April 2004. Shooting of IRCS ambulances in Fallujah by the Multi National Forces (MNF)

- 04 April 2004. 2 bodies found dead in the street. They worked together for IRCS. The man was IRCS director in Erbil.

- 10 April 2004. Assassination of IRCS director and his wife in Mosul.

- 30 August 2004. IRCS convoy was targeted by unknown gunmen in Mahmoudiya, 40 km south of Baghdad, with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. The truck and the ambulance were burned out.

 In December 2006 the IRCS, which works alongside its sister organisation the Red Cross (ICRC), was forced to suspend operations in Baghdad after a number of kidnappings

when gunmen in police uniforms kidnapped about 30 people from one of its offices in the central Karrada district in the capital.

“We have suspended our operations in Baghdad until all the hostages are released,” Maazen Abdullah, secretary-general of the Iraqi Red Crescent, told Reuters. Gunmen have released 17 hostages, most of them employees, Abdullah said.

The ICRC had already pulled its own international staff out of Iraq in 2003, when its offices there were bombed.

Officials described how a large convoy of new vehicles similar to those used by the Iraqi police drew up at the Red Crescent office in Baghdad.

Men in uniforms similar to those of the Interior Ministry’s special commando forces got out and entered the building, saying they had been sent to check the premises.

Once inside, they rounded up all the men at gunpoint, including employees and visitors.

Three Iraqi guards from the nearby Netherlands embassy were also seized.

The interior ministry was quick to declare that none of its units had been on duty in the area at the time.

Strangely enough the kidnapping took place 2 days after Dr. Jamal Al-Karbouli, the vice president of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society had told a gathering of reporters, during a United Nations meeting in Geneva, that “the main problem we are facing is the American forces more than the other forces. We are spending a lot of time to explain about the Red Crescent,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

The American military, he said, had been consistently using overly aggressive tactics — what he even referred to as “attacks” — in searching the agency’s headquarters for insurgents. But the insurgents themselves had never given the Red Crescent any trouble.

“The insurgents, they are Iraqis, a lot of them are Iraqis, and they respect the Iraqis,” he told reporters. “And they respect our (the Red Crescent’s) identity, which is neutrality.”

The kidnapping was the latest in a long series of similar operations and the second in less than a week.

A few days earlier, gunmen in military uniforms kidnapped up to 70 people from a commercial area in the Sanak area of the capital.

Many of the kidnappings have been blamed on Shia militias masquerading as police commando units.

But there is also a suspicion that the police are so infiltrated by the militias that they are indistinguishable from each other, says the BBC’s Jim Muir in Baghdad.

Both of these assumptions are higly unlikely. It is nearly impossible that so many mass kidnappings could have been carried out without the knowledge of the American occupation authorities (read also the BRussells Tribunal article about the kidnapping of 150 employees of the Ministry of Higher Education in November 2006: )

To prove that the US occupation forces were involved, it suffices to consult the DoD website. I will copy in full a very revealing article to prove the involvement of the Occupation Authorities.

Iraqi Police Commandos Get Connected

The operation center will allow police commandos to provide immediate updates to their deployed brigade and battalion headquarters.

By U.S. Army Sgt. Matt Murphy

Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq

UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, Iraq, Feb. 11, 2005 — The Iraqi Police Commando Headquarters is now home to a nationwide command, control, communications, computer and intelligence operations center. Satellite phones, communications and Internet satellites, Internet connectivity, and new computers are at the heart of the new center.

“The operations center will allow the commandos to obtain instantaneous reports throughout the country and provide a direct link to the Ministry of Interior,” said the commander of operations for the Commandos.

The operation center will allow the police commandos to provide immediate updates to their deployed brigade and battalion headquarters, call in immediate support, deliver timely reports, assess supplies and soldier conditions, and deliver limited intelligence.

“In Iraq we have a saying – one hand cannot clap. The American and multinational troops give great support to the commandos,” the Iraqi Police Commando liaison officer to the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq said.

“This is the first Iraqi force created in the organization of the Ministry of Interior to fight the insurgency. The Americans have provided the equipment, supplies, munitions, phones, and training,” he added.

In addition to the direct link at the Ministry of Interior National Command Center, the commando operations center will also have direct contact with Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq forward operating bases to coordinate with multinational troops for future missions.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeants Rickey Anderson and K. Kapono Bangay worked with local Iraqi contractors to install the satellites, computers and Internet connectivity.

“We’re here to assist the Iraqi contractors with the satellite installations and make sure the computers are installed and fully functional for the operations center,” said Sgt. Anderson.

U.S. military officials overseeing the project said the cost for this operations center was approximately $50,000 dollar in equipment and connectivity.

And here is an excerpt of a Department of Defense Briefing that clearly proves that the US forces were fully in control of the Special Police Commandos, the deadly force that they created, armed, trained and deployed against the whole Iraqi population in resistance.

DoD News Briefing with Col. Davis 17 Feb 2006

 “In terms of your latter question and vigilante action, we feel very secure within the Public Order Division, and I’m — certainly my partner, Jeff Buchanan, and the special police commandos would say the same thing about the fact that we don’t have vigilantes running about without our supervision or without our knowing it.  As I said, we’ve got a team with every single battalion.  There are no separate company bases that would be perhaps underneath the or outside of our oversight or supervision.  We do — we accompany them on all their missions.  We also see where those detainees go because we help in the processing and medical screening of every detainee that comes in.

 So it’d be extremely difficult if — I can’t rule out the possible.  It’s nearly impossible to hide that from the Special Police Transition Teams, so I don’t think that that exists within the national police we work with, and we certainly haven’t seen any of it in SPTT.

 Q      Can I follow up?  If that’s true, then that would suggest that it’s not going on at all, and in fact bodies are turning up.  Are people thinking that the perpetrators of this are posing as special police, that they’ve gotten the uniforms and that are going that way?

 COL. DAVIS:  I’m not sure, Pam, if I can really answer that question because my total focus in life is supporting these — the special police, the national police, so I don’t have — I haven’t run into experience with death squads or vigilante teams.  We do know that there are uniforms available from the old regime as well as those purchased by local contractors.  So if — that’s a possibility, certainly, but not something that we’ve experienced.

 Going back to the question of problems, one of the problems we’ve seen in other police units and training units is the infiltration of insurgents within.  Have you had any of those kind of problems, and how are you preventing that from occurring in your group, if you have managed to prevent it?

 COL. DAVIS:  Sure.  Well, first off, we haven’t found anyone within the public order police who is a — who we considered an enemy or an infiltrated insurgent or terrorist.  We have in fact picked out a cadet while he was still down at the training course — because all the names we get for the recruits are vetted through MOI, and so they check their databases, and one was taken out at graduation simply because they identified and cross-checked that name.

In terms of other potential insurgents or terrorists within the group, they have very tight operational security measures that they employ which prevents, I would say, the loss of operational security or information getting out.

But more importantly, there are a heck of a lot of strongly willed patriots amongst that group, and if they believed one of their own may be an insurgent or terrorist, then they would pick them out right away because that puts their own lives on the line, as well as those of their families.  So in some ways they’re policing themselves. And we have had a number that have gone absent, small numbers, and we don’t know if the work was too tough or if they were pressured out. US Defense Department

The only conclusion must be that the kidnappers were not “men in uniforms similar to those of the Interior Ministry’s special commando”. The kidnappers actually were Special Police Commando Forces.

And Maliki has continued the counterinsurgency policy he inherited from his American masters. The assassination is not the only “incident” where the Prime Minister is involved in.

On 18 February 2012 the Common Ills wrote on his weblog:

“Nouri’s a thug. If you ever doubted that, check out the latest actions of Nouri (and his ‘independent’ Supreme Court). Kitabat reports that Iraqi Red Crescent workers are seeing their children arrested. The Red Crescent. (Part of the International Red Cross.) Who will Nouri target next and how long will his sycophantic followers in the media continue to look the other way?”

Despite overwhelming evidence of US involvement in the death squad activities, the mainstream media has indeed misled the people since 2003 into believing that the Iraqis themselves were responsible for the hundreds of thousands senseless killings of fellow countrymen.

It’s time for the truth. It’s our duty to expose ALL the war crimes committed during this illegal imperial war. Our countries were involved. Its our responsibility to demand accountability and justice for Iraq.

Let me conclude with the words David Edwards wrote on 12 December on the Medialens website.

“Reading about crimes of state over many years, it is tempting to try to fathom the mind-set of political leaders. What actually is going on in their heads when they order sanctions that kill hundreds of thousands of children? What is in their hearts when they wage needless wars that shatter literally millions of lives? Are they desperately cruel, mindlessly stupid? Do they imagine they are living in a kind of hell where monstrous acts have to be committed to avoid even worse outcomes? Are they indifferent, focused on what will bring them short-term political and economic gain? Are they morally resigned, perceiving themselves as essentially powerless in the face of invincible political and economic forces (‘If I didn’t do it, someone else would.’)?”

 Dirk Adriaensens is coordinator of SOS Iraq and member of the executive committee of the BRussells Tribunal. Between 1992 and 2003 he led several delegations to Iraq to observe the devastating effects of UN imposed sanctions. He was a member of the International Organizing Committee of the World Tribunal on Iraq (2003-2005). He is also co-coordinator of the Global Campaign Against the Assassination of Iraqi Academics. He is co-author of Rendez-Vous in Baghdad, EPO (1994), Cultural Cleansing in Iraq, Pluto Press, London (2010), Beyond Educide, Academia Press, Ghent (2012), and is a frequent contributor to GlobalResearch, Truthout, The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies and other media.

Watching what happened in Iraq over the past 10 years, what is going on in Yemen now and on top of that the footage that emerges on a daily basis from places in Syria that witness a thick presence of al-Qaida fighters, Syrians started to mutter about what indeed happened and how did they get this far?DAMASCUS: With the growing presence of radical Islamists affiliated with al-Qaida in Syria, fear and apprehension have crept up among moderate Syrians, sending chills down their spines about the vague and uncertain future of their country.

As the crisis in the country is nearing entering its third [calendar] year, its complications and repercussions are also growing larger; especially now that the armed rebels’ ranks are overwhelmed with radicals from the al-Nusra Front, an offshoot of al-Qaida terror network in Iraq.

Even the international community, which has for a long time blamed the Syrian administration for the bulk of the violence in Syria, has now admitted the threats from al-Qaida-linked groups in Syria. The U. S. branded the al-Nusra Front last week as a terror network, after the group has claimed responsibility for almost all explosions that rocked the government and army forces’ installations over the past year.

Watching what happened in Iraq over the past 10 years, what is going on in Yemen now and on top of that the footage that emerges on a daily basis from places in Syria that witness a thick presence of al-Qaida fighters, Syrians started to mutter about what indeed happened and how did they get this far?

Some people repeat the government’s line that a big foreign-backed conspiracy has been plotted against Syria since a long time ago, with the aim to destroy Syria as a country in favor of the Zionist entity next door; while others who oppose the administration say that the government’s harsh crackdown on opposition activists and freedom advocates has plunged the country into this swamp and drawn in radical fighters who claim that they have come to Syria to wage jihad against the “infidel” administration of President Bashar al-Assad and to protect their fellow Sunni people.

Furthermore, some rebel battalions, especially in the northern province of Aleppo, said they want neither freedom nor democracy; they want to establish an Islamic emirate on the wreckage of the current government whose high ranks are dominated by members of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. But the government has pushed for a secular identity for Syria over the past 40-year-rule of the Assad family.

With all of this going on, the Damascenes, at least, have started to feel the heat and their discomfort grows higher amid reports of raging battles on the outskirts of the capital between the rebels and government forces.

Some rumors that make the rounds recently said that most of the wealthy people and those who do not want to think of the further suffering of what may come have already left the country to neighboring ones.

“Why would I stay here now that I can afford living in a neighboring country? I could save my family some avoidable consequences, ” Maher, a 46-year-old engineer, said.

“I don’t want to see another Iraq or Afghanistan here,” he said, wishing for a miracle to save Syria.

Some other Syrians firmly believe that more serious chaos would be the fate of a post-Assad era in case he decided to go.

Resentment among Damascenes has also come on the upswing with daily reports about robbery and kidnapping.

Some believe that the armed militias are prowling for wealthy Syrians for ransoms, as they are running short of funds to buy weapons and ammunition. Others suggest that gangs and thieves are capitalizing on the current chaos to make money by kidnapping rich Damascenes to demand ransom…

“Some people have become traumatized by the losses of loved ones,” Asma said, trying to gather her composure and wipe away tears.

She said a relative of hers had been kidnapped and the captors called his family two days after his disappearance for ransom. “We paid one million Syrian pounds and he didn’t show up,” she said while choking back tears.

“Two years ago,” she said, “we didn’t even think or imagine that something like this would ever happen in Syria…we are in a real nightmare.”

With the growing complicity of the crisis, Syrian officials still confirm that Assad still keeps a tight rein on the country and downplay rebels’ accounts of achieving gains on ground.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad told the BBC recently: “The government is strong. The Syrian army is strong, and the Syrian people are still rallying behind President Assad. That’s why President Assad and the political system are still surviving and they will still survive.”

Iran’s armed forces chief of staff on Saturday warned Turkey over its plans to deploy US-made Patriot missiles, saying the move was part of a Western plot to “create a world war.”

“This is very dangerous for everyone, and even for the future of Europe,” General Hassan Firouzabadi told the top brass at a military college, saying each missile was “a black dot on the map, (setting the stage) to create a world war.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had earlier said the patriot missiles would remain deployed in Turkey longer than planned.

In November Ankara asked NATO to deploy the missiles to protect the country’s territory against possible aerial attack from Syria.

According to Turkish media reports, the missiles are slated to be deployed in the country’s southeast in January, some 100 kilometers from the Syrian border.

Voice of Russia, AFP

NATO Turns Up Heat in Syria Psy Op War

December 16th, 2012 by Tony Cartalucci

NATO tells tales of recently launched “Scud missiles” to retroactively justify Patriot missile deployment months in the making.

In a recent bid to psychologically break Syria’s government and military leadership, producing long sought-after defections, US-led NATO has decided to place Patriot missile systems along the Turkish-Syrian border. The announcement was made as far back as November with  NATO Source Alliance News Blog reporting:

“Turkey plans to officially request NATO deploy a Patriot missile defense system in its territories as a security precaution against a potential large-scale military offensive from Syria as Syrian shelling on the border raises tensions.”

As this threat’s credibility diminishes, NATO has retroactively justified their November decision with a new tale of “Scud missiles” landing “fairly close” to the Turkish border, according to Reuters. Within the same report, “Scud missiles” would be downgraded to “Scud-style ballistic missiles,” in what appears to be immediate backpedaling that casts doubt on the entire narrative.

Syria has denied the accusations, and in response, no evidence has been provided by NATO, with the claims emanating apparently from unnamed “US officials” claiming to cite undisclosed “intelligence information.” It is very likely that more fabricated incidents will be announced as the missiles are put into position.

Within the pages of the March 2012 Brookings Institution Middle East Memo #21 “Assessing Options for Regime Change (.pdf),” it was stated explicitly that Turkey and Israel would coordinate with one another to apply pressure along Syria’s borders, in turn putting pressure on Syria’s leadership, forcing panic and defections while reducing pressure on NATO-armed militants operating inside the country. The report states on page 6:

In addition, Israel’s intelligence services have a strong knowledge of Syria, as well as assets within the Syrian regime that could be used to subvert the regime’s power base and press for Asad’s removal. Israel could posture forces on or near the Golan Heights and, in so doing, might divert regime forces from suppressing the opposition. This posture may conjure fears in the Asad regime of a multi-front war, particularly if Turkey is willing to do the same on its border and if the Syrian opposition is being fed a steady diet of arms and training. Such a mobilization could perhaps persuade Syria’s military leadership to oust Asad in order to preserve itself. Advocates argue this additional pressure could tip the balance against Asad inside Syria, if other forces were aligned properly. -(page 6), Assessing Options for Regime Change, Brookings Institution.

Apparently Turkey has not produced a sufficiently credible threat, and the deployment of 400 US troops manning Patriot missile systems under the NATO flag is meant to give “teeth” to this strategy.

It may also be a means to ensure that if an incident is staged, as US Senator John McCain advocates, where in if the Patriots are used to engage Syrian aircraft operating within Syrian borders to create a defacto “no-fly zone,” the presence of US troops will deter a Syrian counter attack and allow the no-fly zone to remain in effect – providing cover for terrorists operating in northern Syria, including the now admitted Al Qaeda faction, Jabhat Al-Nusra.

NATO Wages a Psychological War

The actual threat Syria poses to Turkish territory is non-existent. Syria gains nothing strategically by attacking Turkey despite numerous intentional provocations. And despite Turkey’s support for intentional terrorists seeking safe haven within its territory, receiving arms, equipment, and cash from NATO, and more specifically the United States CIA, Syria has still successfully ground down these terrorists as they enter and attempt to establish footholds across the country.

The placement of Patriot missiles is a necessary escalation for NATO, who is otherwise losing both time and credibility daily. The clock is also ticking for the inevitable collapse of its newly created opposition “coalition,” which is filling the already collapsed footprint of the recently abandoned “Syrian National Council” (SNC).

Despite a concerted effort by the Western media to portray the Syrian government as on the perpetual verge of collapse, no precise details have been given of actual terrorist gains. The psychological campaign was heightened when the Western media attempted for several news cycles to claim Russia was abandoning Damascus, another unsubstantiated claim Russia itself has since denied.

A force on the verge of real victory does not need to fabricate gains to psychologically diminish the strength of its opponent – real gains, even if embellished, have significantly greater impact. Despite claims made by the Western media – much of what is said by analysts are best guesses.

The actual tactical and strategic lay of the battlefield is privy to a select few within Syria, and amongst its adversaries and allies. To make any meaningful impact on the Syrian government’s leadership and supporting factions, real gains will need to be made – gains that have thus far failed to materialize after 2 years of NATO aggression against the nation.

Much can be garnered however, by the measures taken by those who do understand the actual strategic and tactical factors at play. The Western media’s repeated attempts to portray the Syrian government as taking increasingly desperate “defensive” measures have turned out to be false, betraying not only the image of weakness the West attempts to project upon Damascus, but betraying the image of strength the West attempts to project upon itself and its proxy forces.

Unity is Still Syria’s Best Option 

As stated many times before, the West has extended itself too far, its credibility and operational capacity is waning by the day. It has no choice but to continue pushing forward in hopes that all before it lacks the fortitude to stand up and fight. An essential component of its strategy is creating division and defections amongst its targeted adversaries while fallaciously multiplying its own forces to expedite an otherwise untenable and unsustainable military campaign.

In nations like Vietnam or Afghanistan, where the population absolutely refused to submit to foreign occupation and internal subversion, the West has been repeatedly defeated. The West will not stop until either Syria is divided and destroyed or the West itself crumbles in the midst of its untenable foreign conquest.

Image: General Abdul Fattah Younis‘ reward for accepting offers to “power share” with the Libyan rebels was his assassination. Capitulation, division, and defecting are not real options.

Furthermore, defection, capitulation, and failure are not options. In Libya, a campaign NATO is attempting to scale up and repeat in Syria, otherwise superior forces folded in the face of psychological operations. A failure to adapt to NATO’s military tactics and a lack of leadership or understanding as to the consequences of losing the country to bands of genocidal terrorists has cost Libya the ultimate price.

Syria has shown remarkable resilience in contrast. It must continue to do so. Syria’s fate will be that of Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, or worse if it falls. Unity is Syria’s only option.

Corporate Tax Breaks and Job Creation in the U.S.

December 15th, 2012 by Ann Robertson

It has become an entrenched trend: corporations approach government officials and demand tax breaks, threatening to abandon the city, state or country if the politicians are not forthcoming.

In 2011, for example, in San Francisco, Twitter demanded a tax break as a condition for locating in the city and won a $22 million break over a 6-year period. Not long afterwards, Zynga far excelled Twitter by winning a staggering $30 to $50 million-tax break in the first year alone by using the same argument.

One can hardly be surprised that corporations are prepared to pursue their narrow self-interests at the expense of the public good. But what is more disturbing is they are getting support in these endeavors from some labor unions on the grounds that these tax breaks will induce the corporations to remain in the location of the union or move to it, thereby saving or creating jobs.

Unfortunately, this logic — rather than strengthening the union movement — cripples it and is one reason why the unions are in a death-gripping decline.

A recent case in point is unfolding in the state of Oregon where Nike is demanding a tax break and will refuse to expand its operations there unless it is granted. A grassroots movement has already emerged in Portland to fight this endless largess bestowed on corporations by politicians who routinely get campaign contributions from them. But one group of the state’s labor unions has attacked this opposition movement by accusing them of “trying to kill thousands of jobs for our members,” who are suffering a high rate of unemployment.

Basically, the union official who represents this group of unions is mimicking the same narrow self-interested approach that is exhibited by the corporations.

First, he fails to take into consideration that if Nike leaves Oregon, it will take up residence in another location and create jobs for people there. But this official seems to have no concern about workers who are not members of his own union.

Secondly, when one corporation wins a tax break, other corporations typically demand similar tax breaks. And this trend has resulted in underfunded state and local governments across the country, which in turn has led to massive layoffs of public workers. This also seems to be of little concern to this union official. He is prepared to pursue jobs for his membership, even though it means sacrificing the jobs of other workers in other unions.

This is precisely why wages for working people have been declining across the country, why the “middle class” is being decimated, why state and local governments do not have sufficient revenue to provide for public education and vital social services, and why corporations are now sitting on record profits.

When workers compete against one another for corporate jobs by accepting lower wages or supporting tax breaks for corporations, it triggers a race to the bottom. The only way workers will succeed in defending jobs with decent pay lies in workers standing together and embracing the principle that the labor movement was built on — solidarity. The unions in Oregon should reach out to unions across the country and urge them to oppose tax breaks for Nike and demand that Nike pay its fair share. But more than that, the unions should create a massive movement of working people and their community allies that would include organizing huge demonstrations across the country to publicize the demand that taxes on corporations and the rich not be lowered but raised, and that the government bail out working people (just as it did the banks) and create millions of jobs, which the government did in the 1930s.

Such a massive movement — which would embrace the most pressing needs of all working people — would have the potential to galvanize public opinion, which is already overwhelmingly supportive of increased taxes on the rich and a massive jobs program, give people hope, and by mobilizing public opinion into a movement, create a power base that could change public policy. Such movements were responsible for the historic gains of working people in the 1930s when we won Social Security, unemployment insurance, the right to unionize, and more. We could make comparable and historic gains today if the unions would unite and fight for the interests of all working people.

Ann Robertson is a Lecturer at San Francisco State University and a member of the California Faculty Association. Bill Leumer is a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 853 (ret.). Both are writers for Workers Action and may be reached at[email protected].




On December 14, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed a Pentagon order to deploy 400 US missile troops to Turkey.  According to Washington, the security of Turkey, NATO’s heavyweight, is threatened.  US military personnel will to be deployed to Turkey in the coming weeks to operate two US Patriot missile batteries.

According to the Pentagon’s spokesman, George Little:

“The United States has been supporting Turkey in its efforts to defend itself,… [against Syria]

“I’m not going to go into precise locations at this time, he added, “but I wanted to let you…know that we signed that order and that we are prepared in the context of NATO to support the defense of Turkey for an unspecified period of time.”

“The purpose of this deployment is to signal very strongly that the United States, working closely with our NATO allies, is going to support the defense of Turkey, especially with potential threats emanating from Syria,”  US Air Force News, December 14, 2012)

The Patriot surface-to-air interceptors are deployed to deal  “with threats that come out of Syria” According to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. these threats “include Syrian strikes inside Turkey and fighting between the government and rebels that extends into Turkey”  (CNN, December 14, 2012):

“We can’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether that pisses off Syria,” said Panetta [sic] after signing the order Friday. (Ibid, emphasis added)

In addition to the US missile deployment, Germany and the Netherlands have confirmed that they will also deploy Patriot missiles in Turkey directed against Syria.

Not mentioned in the official Pentagon statement, this buildup of patriot missile batteries is not only directed against Syria, it is intended to confront Russia’s military presence  in Syria as well  as its support to the development of Syria’s air defense system.

The US-NATO Led Insurgency

The Pentagon’s initiative in Turkey is part of the US-NATO-Israeli led insurgency against Syria. In recent months, this insurgency has evolved towards an unofficial (yet de facto) allied invasion characterized by the presence inside Syria of French, British, Turkish and Qatari Special Forces.

These Special Forces are “embedded” within rebel ranks. They are not only participating in the training of rebel forces, they are also involved in de facto paramilitary command and coordination, in liaison with NATO.

In other words, member states of the Atlantic Alliance through their Special Forces and intelligence operatives on the ground  largely determines the nature and thrust of rebel activities. Of significance, the main fighting force directly recruited and trained by US-NATO, Saudi Arabia and Qatar is the Al Nusra Front, (see image right) an Al Qaeda affiliated militia involved in countless terrorist acts against civilians.

The Broader Middle East War

The US Patriot missile deployment in Turkey is part of a regional process of  militarization which includes the establishment of US command posts and the stationing of American troops in Jordan and Israel.  This  regional military deployment also threatens Iran.

Moreover, US-NATO-Israeli war preparations with regard to Syria are coordinated with those pertaining to Iran. The command posts in Israel, which oversee some 1000 US troops, in coordination with Israel’s IDF, are under the jurisdiction of  US European Command (EUCOM).

In a recent statement Iran’s chief of staff warned that the stationing of Patriot anti-missile batteries on Turkey’s border with Syria “was setting the stage for world war”

It is worth noting that in addition to the Patriot missiles in Turkey, Patriot batteries targeted at Iran have also been deployed to Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE and Bahrain (2010).

US Patriot Missile

Russia’s Air Defense Systems in Syria

In response to the US-allied missile deployment, Russia delivered advanced Iskander missiles to Syria, which are now fully operational, not to mention the ground to air Russian defense system Pechora 2M.

The Iskander is described as a surface-to-surface missile system “that no missile defense system can trace or destroy”:

The superior Iskander can travel at hypersonic speed of over 1.3 miles per second (Mach 6-7) and has a range of over 280 miles with pinpoint accuracy of destroying targets with its 1,500-pound warhead, a nightmare for any missile defense system.

Iskander Mach 6-7

Moreover, Syria is equipped with the modern Pechora-2M air defense system, which US military sources admit would constitute “a threat”, namely an obstacle, in the case “a no fly zone” were implemented in relation  to Syria.

The Pechora-2M is a sophisticated multiple target system which can also be used against cruise missiles.


Pechora-2M S-125 SA-3 surface-to-air defense missile system technical data sheet specifications information description pictures photos images video intelligence identification intelligence Russia Russian army defence industry military technology

The Pechora-2M is a surface-to-air anti-aircraft short-range missile system designed for destruction of aircraft, cruise missiles, assault helicopters and other air targets at ground, low and medium altitudes.

Ground to air defense Russian Pechora 2M deployed to Syria (above)

Russia Stands Firmly in Support of Syria

Contrary to recent reports, Russia is supporting the government of Bashar al Assad.

On December 14, the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed rumors, largely instrumented by Western press agencies and the New York Times, that Moscow had changed its position with regard to Syria. The media hype plastered on news headlines was based on an unofficial off-the-cuff statement by Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Mikhail Bodganov;

“We must face the facts: the current tendency shows that the government is progressively losing control over an increasing part of the territory,” Bogdanov told the Public Chamber. “An opposition victory can’t be ruled out.”

The statement had nothing to do with Russia’s stance with regard to Syria. In fact quite the opposite, Moscow has increased its military cooperation with Damascus in response to Western threats.

“…We never changed our position, and will not do so in the future,” said Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lukashevich at a press briefing in Moscow.

It is worth noting that on December 5,  Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov accused Western countries of violating the arms embargo by transferring “extensive supplies of  weapons to the Syrian “opposition” which is in large part composed of Al Qaeda affilated militia,

Dangerous Crossroads in Russia-US Relations

Washington and its allies have consistently supported the various terrorist entities which are part of the “opposition” rebel forces.

In recent developments, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is threatening to execute a Ukrainian journalist (see photo Below) and has also announced that they will “kill Russians and Ukrainians nationals” in Syria.

Анхар Кочнева сирия хомс 2012 октябрь коллаж

The Free Syria Army (FSA) are the foot-soldiers of the Western military alliance. Without Western support they would not be able to confront Syrian government forces.

The decision to threaten and target Russian nationals did not emanate from the “opposition” rebel forces, but directly from Washington.

These threats constitute a deliberate act of provocation against the Russian government which is providing military support to Syria. “Opposition” forces in consultation with US-NATO are now threatening Russia, which is an ally of Syria.

We are at a dangerous crossroads: while Patriot missiles are installed in Turkey, Russian Iskander missiles are deployed in Syria.

French, British, Turkish and Qatari special forces are involved in the recruitment and training of FSA rebels, which are in large part mercenaries. The FSA is now targeting Russian citizens in Syria on the orders of Washington, leading to a potential breakdown in international diplomacy.

Moscow considers these threats as “akin to a declaration of war” stating that “the armed insurgents in Syria [supported by the West] have been emboldened to a point that they have stepped into an area where they are beyond the law.”

Is the threat directed against Russian nationals in Syria the prelude towards a broader process of confrontation between US-NATO and Russia?

Global Research Editor’s Note

This report confirms that the US and its allies have given the “green light” to their proxy Free Syria Army  (FSA) foot-soldiers to threaten and target Russian and Ukrainian nationals.

The decision did not emanate from the “opposition” rebel forces,  but directly from Washington. 

It is a deliberate act of provocation directed against the Russian government which is providing military support to Syria, in relation to its air defense system. 

Washington and its allies directly support  the various terrorist entities which compose rebel forces.  French, British, Turkish and Qatari special forces are involved in the recruitment and training of FSA rebels, which are in large part mercenaries. The latter are now targeting Russian citizens in Syria on the orders of Washington, leading to a potential breakdown in international diplomacy. 

Michel Chossudovsky, December 15, 2012


The Free Syrian Army has committed an affront to all humanity by kidnapping and threatening to execute a female Ukrainian journalist and announcing that they will kill all Russians and Ukrainians they find in Syria. This could be taken to be akin to a declaration of war, obviously the armed insurgents in Syria have been emboldened to a point that they have stepped into an area where they are beyond the law.

With the terrorists also threatening Russian and Ukrainian Diplomatic Missions this could set off a chain of events that may pull the Russian Federation directly into the conflict. If the lives of Russians are at risk Russia has the right to protect its citizens and to assist unaligned Ukraine if there is such a request.

Анхар Кочнева сирия хомс 2012 октябрь коллаж

The world knows the Free Syrian Army is supported by the US and the West and if the Russian Federation was forced to consider entering Syria militarily this would make such a decision extremely dangerous. The security, in this case for the diplomatic missions, lies with Syria as does the freeing of the hostage, but if the Syrian Government hypothetically requests Russian assistance, how will this affect the position of the US and the West who have battle groups poised to invade the country at a moment’s notice?

If you are pretending to be my friend but paying and supporting criminals who have threatened to kill my family and loved ones then wouldn’t it be logical to say that you are my enemy and that if I want to save my loved ones then I should neutralize the threat, including you?

Take this to a larger level and consider that Russia has dealt in a civilized manner with the backers of the so called Free Syrian Army, terrorists, killers and mercenaries operating in Syria and who openly threaten to kill Russians, Ukrainians and Iranians, attack and kill civilians and execute unarmed civilians, in reality what would the reaction be? If the Free Syrian Army had kidnapped an American and threatened to destroy the US and UK Missions, what would the reaction be?

One might argue that the Free Syrian Army which has effectively declared war on Russia, Ukraine and Iran, and since they are backed by the West this might appear to be a proxy declaration. The US of course would not declare war on Russia or Iran. Formal Declarations of War are not something the US does, just like they did not declare war on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia, Syria and Iran.

For all of the cowboy diplomacy of the West and their macho bravado and military might the men hiding in their comfortable bunkers and command rooms and expensive suburban homes are slippery creatures who fight their battles by proxy and use pretexts designed and carried out in secret. They will therefore provide material and financial support to terrorist organizations such as the Free Syrian Army when it is expedient, but will they back away from their proxies now that they have stated “Let not a single Russian, Ukrainian or Iranian come out of Syria alive”?

The US Government has officially recognized an umbrella group of mainly foreign terrorist organizations, as the official representative of the Syrian people, and almost immediately the main US surrogate threatens to execute a Ukrainian woman journalist. IF you had doubts before, have no doubt now, these are not “freedom fighters” they are coward criminals. Who would execute a woman? Not even any self-respecting Muslim terrorist extremist would stoop so low.

The journalist who was kidnapped, Anhar Kochneva has been stationed in Syria for years and has been instrumental in getting the true picture out of Syria on many occasions, one reason why she is obviously a target for the West and its surrogates as they continue their information war to justify an invasion. She has done work for several Russian media outlets, including the NTV, RenTV and RT television channels and the Utro.Ru news portal and according to RIA Novosti has been a vocal supporter of President Bashar Al Assad.

According to the site Syria News online “That the joint statement of the Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), ARTICLE 19, the International Press Institute also calls on the British, French and US governments as well as on the European Union (UN) to work with “their” external staged Syrian opposition in order to facilitate the release of the journalist Anhar Kochneva is also not surprising. It either shows who are the masterminds and supporters behind the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) or who is really responsible for this (expletive) situation in Syria.”

In normal world we might see Russian and Ukrainian Special Forces alongside Syrian Special Services launching a rescue operation and wiping out the Free Syrian Army for making the declarations they have made, surely if the same thing happened to America, that would be the case, but as we all know who is behind all of this we know that this would kick off what might well be Word War III, something no one wants.

Kiev demands freedom for kidnapped journalist

Ukraine has called on the Syrian authorities to take decisive steps to free Ankhar Kochneva, a Ukrainian journalist kidnapped in Syria on October 10.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Dikusarov said Kiev expected more tangible results from regime’s action to secure a safe release of the Ukrainian.

“Ukraine demands an immediate release of Ankhar Kochneva and will take action to get the issue of violence against a civilian into international discussion,” Mr. Dikusarov said.

Ukraine hopes this act of rebel violence will be harshly condemned and punished by the international community, he added.

Ankhar Kochneva worked as an interpreter for a Russian TV crew when she was kidnapped by Syrian militants. The same day, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich gave instructions to the country’s foreign office to do everything possible to free the journalist.

Ukrainian journalist life threatened in Syria

Syrian militants are threatening to execute journalist Ankhar Kochneva. They are demanding 50 million U.S. dollars for her life. The ultimatum that was signed by the field commanders of the paramilitary wing of the opposition Free Syrian Army expires on December 13th.

Militants say that Ankhar Kochneva is a “Ukrainian spy”. Kochneva, a Ukrainian citizen, lived in Russia for the past 10 years. In January this year she went to Syria to work there as a journalist and translator. Ankhar Kochneva is the author of many interesting and exciting reports for Russian media outlets.

The Voice of Russia “contacted” her when it was necessary to comment on the situation in the hot spots in Syria, including Homs. Whenever a call from Moscow came, Ankhar Kochneva was always at a combat post.

Her reports were always different from the picture presented by the Al Jazeera TV Channel and other media that supported the fight of the irreconcilable opposition against the Syrian authorities. Most likely, it was exactly her objective opinion about the developments in Syria that pushed all those who are standing up for militants to kidnap Ankhar which occurred on October 7th .

In a November 28th video address she asked Russia’s and Ukraine’s governments to fulfill the kidnappers’ demands. For their part, a number of Russian media outlets urged Syrian ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad to do all in his power so that Ankhar Kochneva could be freed as soon as possible. The Russian Committee of Solidarity with the Peoples of Libya and Syria is making efforts in this direction, one of the heads of the non-governmental organization Darya Mitina says.

“The ultimatum, delivered by the militants, is urging the parties concerned to start searching for non-trivial solutions as well as for an advancement in the talks. Regrettably, for the time being, the means to influence the militants are limited. We have applied to international human rights and journalist agencies with a request to pay continued attention to this topic on both radio and television. There is little information about the kidnapping attack now, taking into account the role Kochneva played in the public information space.”

As a rule, no details are given about talks with kidnappers or about the ransom terms. Judging by the facts, the talks are currently under way. An expert with the Institute of Oriental Studies, Vladimir Isayev, says:

“Russia has established contacts with the Syrian opposition. Some time ago talks with opposition representatives were held in Moscow. However, I don’t think that they are involved in the kidnapping. Therefore, I don’t know whether Russia has any possibility or any contacts to influence the opposition and thus, to ensure the release of Ankhar Cochneva. And quite another matter is the fact that Russia can appeal to all those who support the Syrian opposition – for example, to Turkey with which top-level talks were recently held.”

A week after Ankhar Kochneva was kidnapped, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych gave instructions to his aides to do everything possible for secure her release. This occurred on October 15th . No other reports about Kiev’s stand have come since then.

Syrian rebels threaten Ukrainian journalist with death

A group of Syrian rebels have threatened to kill the Ukrainian journalist captured on October 9 if they are not paid a ransom.

The deadline for the ransom payment is set for December 13, 2012, the journalist’s friend and Russian ex-MP Darya Mitina has told reporters. “If the money isn’t paid by that time, she will be killed as a ‘Ukrainian spy’,” she added.

Ankhar Kochneva’s relatives have confirmed that the kidnappers contacted them and demanded a ransom but said they didn’t believe December 13 was the deadline.

Kochneva’s nephew Dmitry was cited as saying he had no detail of negotiations to free his aunt. “The foreign office is saying they are working on it. But we don’t know what exactly is being done,” he said.

Journalist kidnapped in Syria messages her husband

Ankhar Kochneva, a Ukrainian journalist who went missing in Syria on October 10, contacted her relatives for the first time on Sunday, saying she hoped everything would be fine and asking not to call her.

Kochneva’s ex-husband Dmitry Petrov told Russia’s Izvestia newspaper he had received an SMS from the journalist’s phone number reading: “I hope for the best. Don’t message me.”

A similar text was reportedly sent to one of her friends. In it Koncheva also mentioned that she had been kidnapped.

The Russian embassy in Damascus has shown active support of Ukrainian authorities in their search for the 40-year-old, who was believed to be an active advocate of the Assad regime.

She was allegedly abducted by Syrian rebels in the outskirts of Homs. Russian journalist Yelena Gromova confessed she and her close friend Ankhar Koncheva often received threatening messages from the Moscow-based Syrian opposition on social networking sites.

Ukrainian journalist kidnapped in Syria

Ankhar Kochneva, a journalist kidnapped in Syria, was a Ukrainian national, said Sergei Marov, spokesman of the Russian embassy in Damascus.

“It’s become known to the Russian embassy that she was a citizen of Ukraine. She wasn’t accredited to work here [in Syria],” he reported.

Mr. Markov said the Russian diplomatic mission was closely cooperating with Ukrainian officials looking for the journalist.

Ankhar Kochneva went missing Friday. Her friend Darya Mitina said she was last seen 20 kilometers from the city of Homs.

Voice of Russia, RIA, Rosbalt, Interfax

Iranian Bomb Graph Appears Adapted from One on Internet

December 15th, 2012 by Gareth Porter

The suspect graph of a nuclear explosion reportedly provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as evidence of Iranian computer modeling of nuclear weapons yields appears to have been adapted from a very similar graph in a scholarly journal article published in January 2009 and available on the internet.

The graph, published in a Nov. 27 Associated Press story but immediately found to have a mathematical error of four orders of magnitude, closely resembles a graph accompanying a scholarly article modeling a nuclear explosion. It provides a plausible explanation for the origins of the graph leaked to AP, according to two nuclear physicists following the issue closely.

The graph in the scholarly journal article was well known to the IAEA at the time of its publication, according to a knowledgeable source.

That means that the IAEA should have been able to make the connection between the set of graphs alleged to have been used by Iran to calculate yields from nuclear explosions that the agency obtained in 2011 and the very similar graph available on the internet.

The IAEA did not identify the member countries that provided the intelligence about the alleged Iran studies. However, Israel provided most of the intelligence cited by the IAEA in its 2011 report, and Israeli intelligence has been the source of a number of leaks to the AP reporter in Vienna, George Jahn.

The graph accompanying an article in the January 2009 issue of the journal Nuclear Engineering and Design by retired Swiss nuclear engineer Walter Seifritz displayed a curve representing power in a nuclear explosion over fractions of a second that is very close to the one shown in the graph published by AP and attributed by the officials leaking it to an Iranian scientist.

Both graphs depict a nuclear explosion as an asymmetrical bell curve in which the right side of the curve is more elongated than the left side. Although both graphs are too crudely drawn to allow precise measurement, it appears that the difference between the two sides of the curve on the two graphs is very close to the same in both graphs.

The AP graph appears to show a total energy production of 50 kilotonnes taking place over about 0.3 microseconds, whereas the Seifritz graph shows a total of roughly 18 kilotonnes produced over about 0.1 microseconds.

The resemblance is so dramatic that two nuclear specialists who compared the graphs at the request of IPS consider it very plausible that the graph leaked to AP as part of an Iranian secret nuclear weapons research programme may well have been derived from the one in the journal article.

Scott Kemp, an assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), told IPS he suspects the graph leaked to AP was “adapted from the open literature”. He said he believes the authors of that graph “were told they ought to look into the literature and found that paper, copied (the graph) and made their own plot from it.”

Yousaf Butt, a nuclear scientist at the Monterey Institute, who had spotted the enormous error in the graph published by AP, along with his colleague Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, said in an interview with IPS that a relationship between the two graphs is quite plausible, particularly given the fact they both have similar asymmetries in the power curve.

“Someone may just have taken the Seifritz graph and crudely adapted it to a 50-kilotonne yield instead of the 18 kilotonnes in the paper,” Butt said.

He added that “it’s not even necessary that an actual computer model was even run in the production of the AP graph.”

Apparently anticipating that the Seifriz graph would soon be discovered, the source of the graph given to AP is quoted in a Dec. 1 story as acknowledging that “similar graphs can be found in textbooks, the internet and other public sources.”

Butt said that he doesn’t know whether the AP graph is genuine or not, but that it could well be a forgery.

“If one wanted to plant a forgery,” he wrote, “it would make sense to manufacture something that looked like the output from the many unclassified ‘toy-models’ available on-line or in academic journals, rather than leak something from an actual high-fidelity classified study.”

The Seifritz graph came to the attention of the IAEA secretariat soon after it was published and was referred to the staff specialist on nuclear weapons research, according to a source familiar with the IAEA’s handling of such issues.

The source, who refused to be identified, told IPS the reaction of the official was that the graph represented fairly crude work on basic theory and was therefore not of concern to the agency.

The agency was given the alleged Iranian graph in 2011, and a “senior diplomat” from a different country from the source of the graph said IAEA investigators realised the diagramme was flawed shortly after they received it, according to the Dec. 1 AP story.

The IAEA’s familiarity with the Seifritz graph, two years before it was given graphs that bore a close resemblance to it and which the agency knew contained a huge mathematical error, raise new questions about how the IAEA could have regarded the Israeli intelligence as credible evidence of Iranian work on nuclear weapons.

Yukiya Amano, the director-general of the IAEA, refused to confirm or deny in an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington Dec. 6 that the graph published by AP was part of the evidence of Iranian “activities” related to nuclear weapons cited by the agency in its November 2011 report. .

Amano responded to a question on the graph, “I can’t discuss this specific information.”

In its November 2011 report, the IAEA said it had “information” from two member states that Iran had conducted “modeling studies” aimed at determining the “nuclear explosive yield” associated with components of nuclear weapon. It said the “information” had identified “models said to have been used in those studies and the results of these calculations, which the Agency has seen”.

The “senior diplomat” quoted by AP said the IAEA also had a spreadsheet containing the data needed to produce the same yield as shown on the graph – 50 kilotonnes – suggesting that the spreadsheet is closely related to the graph.

Butt observed, however, that the existence of the spreadsheet with data showing the yield related to a 50 kilotonne explosion does not make the graph any more credible, because the spreadsheet could have been created by simply plugging the data used to produce the graph.

Kemp of MIT agreed with Butt’s assessment. “If it’s simply data points plotted in the graph, it means nothing,” he told IPS.

After Butt and Dalnoki-Veress identified the fundamental error in the graph AP had published as evidence of Iranian work on a 50-kilotonne bomb, the Israeli source of the graph and an unidentified “senior diplomat” argued that the error must have been intentionally made by the Iranian scientist who they alleged had produced the graph.

A “senior diplomat” told AP the IAEA believed the scientist had changed the units of energy used by orders of magnitude, because “Nobody would have understood the original….”

That explanation was embraced by David Albright, who has served as unofficial IAEA spokesman in Washington on several occasions. But neither Albright nor the unidentified officials quoted by Jahn offered any explanation as to why an accurate graph would have been more difficult for Iranian officials to understand than one with such a huge mathematical error.

Further undermining the credibility of the explanation, Jahn’s sources suggested that the Iranian scientist whom they suspected of having devised the graph was Dr. Majid Shahriari, the nuclear scientist assassinated by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad in 2010.

No evidence has been produced to indicate that Shahriari, who had a long record of publications relating to nuclear power plants and basic nuclear physics, had anything to do with nuclear weapons research.

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Global Research News Hour Episode 8

“One of the reasons that academics fail to examine a big issue such as false flag operations is because academia is so specialized. The topic is really too big for them…

You said that Pearl Harbor was really a psychological operation. And I wouldn’t agree in this sense.

It was also a military operation. It was also an intelligence operation. It was also a governance operation… Which discipline would tackle Pearl Harbor? Would it be the historians? The anthropologists?” -Barrie Zwicker

 Pearl Harbor

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident.

The Sinking of the Lusitania.


There is widespread belief that in all cases these incidents were made or at least allowed to happen on purpose in order to foster support for war. With the recent anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks having come and gone, and with a possible conflict with Syria on the horizon, we’ll talk with retired journalist and media critic Barrie Zwicker about the history and sophistication behind fabricated disasters known as false flags.

Then we’ll talk to an Ottawa-based activist and 9/11 eyewitness David Long about current day efforts to address what he and fellow activists see as problems with the official explanation of the September 11 attacks.



Length (59:13)

Click to download the audio (MP3 format)

The Global Research News Hour hosted by Michael Welch airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Thursdays at 10am CDT. The programme is broadcast weekly by CKUW News, 95.9 FM out of Winnipeg, MB, and on Canadian community radio networks. The weekly programme is available for download on the Global Research website.

2012 has been the l00th anniversary of the famous Titanic disaster. The Captain of that “unsinkable” ship was warned that there were icebergs ahead but he was too busy, out to set a speed record on the way to New York.

The warnings were ignored and we know what happened. What we don’t know is why other urgent warnings go unheeded.

Take the repeated warnings that the easy availability of hand guns and assault rifles would lead to more massacres of innocents. The National Rifle Association operates with impunity (even as it bans weapons in its offices.)

When action is not taken, you increase the likelihood of more deadly incidents like the ones in malls and even elementary schools.

Take the predictions of a storm surge tied to climate change threatening the New York/New Jersey coastline. They were acknowledged but downplayed because right-wingers and their think tanks spent a decade in bogus quibbling about “junk” science.

Now New York City is facing a billion dollar plus clean up bill, and even the small army of the biggest names in rock and roll who did an inspiring benefit for storm victims did not question the denial factor in government and the media.

And now, as the fourth quarter of economic activity tapers down for the holidays, and companies close for the New Year, forecasters avoid making dire predictions for fear of being seen as alarmists or “doom and gloomers.”

Many seem to fear that if they say things will get worse, the very act of saying it may make it happen. Talk about the arrogance of power!

But that hasn’t stopped Paul Craig Roberts an Assistant Treasury Secretary in the Reagan Administration from warning on USA

  “America is going to crash big time… The real problem is not the fiscal cliff. The dollar is on very thin ice. “

Dr. Roberts says, “They can’t stop hemorrhaging the debt, and the way they cover that is to hemorrhage the dollar.”  In this real time scenario, Dr. Roberts goes on to say, “When you have debt pouring out and dollars pouring out, the dollar can’t keep its value forever.  At some point, people will run away from it, and it will start abroad.”

Dr. Roberts thinks there is “an impending collapse of the exchange value,” and the U.S. dollar could unexpectedly plunge in buying power.  Dr. Roberts contends, “All of a sudden, people walk into Walmart, as usual, and they think they’ve walked into Neiman Marcus.”  Dr. Roberts says there are no quick fixes to the bulging debt because “there’s no way to close this deficit when corporations are moving the tax base off-shore.”

Note his allusion to shopping reflects the fact that 70% of the economy is based on consumerism. A bullish Christmas Shopping season is supposed to make up for a whole year of dramatic ups and downs

It starts on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday with heavy sales and deep discounts called “Black Friday.”

And this year shopping marathon seemed off to a good start. The crowds grew and initial reports said that sales were up. But, as the press reported. that the big day was driven by aggressive discounts and earlier than ever shopping hours.

The Washington Post later reported that  “Black Friday is a bunch of meaningless hype because strong sales results around Black Friday actually predict slightly weaker holiday sales overall.”

The National Research Federation’s estimates for Black Friday spending are widely disseminated but not believable either because they are based on a consumer survey, not real data, with their accuracy open to question.

“Even a legitimate boost in sales can indicate variously that consumers are feeling flush, or that they’re desperately chasing door busters because money is tight. While the U.S. Commerce Department doesn’t break out Black Friday sales, its figures suggest that the final tally for holiday spending isn’t likely to be as stratospheric as the trade group’s weekend numbers suggest.”

The Wall Street Journal now admits consumer spending is “wobbly.”

In fact, every year, the initial reports show a shopping boom, but later filings by credit card companies reveal a fall-off. In January next year, stores are likely to be flooded with returns by shoppers who realize they can’t afford all their goodies. This proves Christmas shopping it is not the economic miracle it is always cracked up to be.

Meanwhile there are other economic indicators that show there may be more pain than gain, as these headlines attest:

• Home Seizures are way up as the flow of foreclosures pick up

• A delay of Bank of America’a return to selling mortgage securities shows the bust is limiting the housing market’s revival.

• More and more bank scandals offer evidence of massive fraud and manipulation. Cash fines substitute for prosecutions assuring the frauds will continue. A new report by the center for Responsible Lending confirms that predatory lending has not been checked.

•The Federal Reserve Bank is twisting up its “Operation Twist” and pumping more money—money they print—into, reports, “buying $45 billion of longer-term Treasury bonds per month in addition to the $40 billion per month of agency mortgage backed securities announced in September. By dropping the sales component of operation twist, it means that the entire $85 billion of asset purchases will add to the Fed’s balance sheet as none of it will be sterilized.”

None of these issues are discussed in any comprehensible detail in our media. The focus since the election has been on a contrived distortion—the so-called “Fiscal cliff.”

Writes Paul Street,  “The fiscal fixation is childish and irresponsible in a country plagued by mass unemployment, endemic job insecurity, and related widespread poverty

But that’s not all that gets lost in the current mass-mediated deficit mania. Let’s assume that “the deficit” is a genuine problem with grave long-term implications for the U.S. economy (i.e., crippling interest payments, loss of national sovereignty, and more). Two obvious solutions are to (1) cut U.S. “defense” …expenditures and (2) initiate serious health care reforms on the model of the health insurance systems that prevail in other industrial powers.”

None of that is likely to happen as tax policy gets all the attention, It looks like Republicans now will compromise on their opposition to increasing taxes on the ultra rich in exchange for more cuts in social programs—the so-called “entitlements.”

The rich can afford to pay a bit more although they will probably find more loopholes to keep actual payments down, but people dependent on federal assistance will be hit hard.

The net result of all of this will decidedly not be more economic fairness. A deal between the White House and the Republican dominated Congress will be reached, but its not one that will please progressives.

The “Fiscal Cliff” may then disappear as an issue but icebergs of economic volatility are still rushing our way. Mayday, Mayday!

News Dissector Danny Schechter directed Plunder, a film on the financial collapse and wrote a companion book, the Crime Of Our Time. He blog at He hosts a radio show at Comments to [email protected]

France and Britain have begun to circle Syria like vultures (my apologies to vultures, who politely wait for their prey to die). They plan to save Syria from chemical bombs – a surreal replay of Suez 1956, where France and Britain cooked up a pretext to invade Egypt with the US posing as the more restrained gang member, not to mention Iraq 2003, when they reversed their roles.

Meanwhile, Canada sings on demand for its US-Israeli sponsors. The Canadian government solemnly announced this week it is ready — if asked by NATO — to deploy the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit, which handles chemical, biological and radioactive attacks. Canada will also send a Disaster Assistance Response Team to provide clean water to Syrians, as well as engineers and staff who can help set up a field hospital. A friendly navy frigate is already offshore.

Once again Prime Minister Stephen Harper plays his supporting role in the NATO-scripted drama unfolding in the Middle East. He takes “the threat of chemical weapons in Syria very seriously”, but demurs on whether Canada will send CF-18 fighter jets over Syria, as it did in Libya to enforce a no-fly zone, or put combat troops on the ground. He has not yet given the current opposition coalition, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), his blessing, although US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formally recognized the opposition at a Friends of Syria summit in Morocco on Wednesday, joining the Euro crowd.

The Canadian government has no foreign policy anymore, doing exactly as it is told by its Israeli advisers, so the reason for Harper’s coyness must be found there. Israel itself is in a quandary about Syria.

Israeli policy during the past three decades has following the divide-and-conquer Yinon Doctrine, playing various forces among its Arab neighbors against each other — Maronite and Orthodox Christian, Sunni and Shia Muslim, Druze, etc — in order to keep the Middle East weak and unstable.

In Syria, that even meant quietly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood during its ill-fated uprising in 1981, not because Israel wanted an Islamist Syria, but to keep the Syrian government off-balance. The secular and nationalist Baathist regime, together with Egypt, fought a war with Israel in 1967. These secular governments were the big threat, and it was only natural to try and cripple the regimes of Egypt and Syria, even if that meant working with Islamists.

Today, the West is eagerly arming the SNC, where Islamists predominate, even as Israel and Canada dawdle. How can this be?

The explanation is simple. As Kissinger said of Iraq and Iran during their war in the 1980s, “A pity they both can’t lose.” Or Truman when the Germans invaded Russia 22 June 1941: “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible.” Not only is Egypt now rediscovering its Islamic, very anti-Zionist roots, making Egyptian Islamists the main enemy, but there is no guarantee the SNC will defeat the Syrian army, and unlike far away France, Britain and the US, Israel must live chock-a-block with whoever is in Damascus — and Cairo — when the mustard gas clears.

Ha, ha. Only joking. What about the chemical weapons threat? Syria is one of the few countries that has not signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). (Israel has signed but not ratified it.) But Assad has made it clear he will not approve their use on civilians. Saddam Hussein’s example is proof enough of the madness of that. The real worry over WMDs is that whatever supplies the Syrian government has could soon fall into the hands of the western-backed rebels, in particular, al-Nusrah Front (aka, al-Qaeda in Iraq).

However, who can blame Assad if he drops a few on invading Brits, French, and yes Americans? It would be a perfect way to ‘celebrate’ the centenary of WWI, where holier-than-thou Germany, Britain and France pioneered their use, despite having signed the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 banning them. Britain used chlorine against the Germans in 1915 but the wind blew back on the British trenches — a case of ‘friendly gas’. The US took their use to new heights in Vietnam with Agent Orange. Only the one-time US ally Saddam Hussein was ever brought to justice for using them. The US and Russia still have stockpiles (not to mention nuclear and biological weapons), despite their obligation under the CWC to destroy them all.

The Syrians would get special satisfaction from gassing the French, who carved up and invaded Syria in 1920. Syria was promised France by Britain as its reward for the 1.7 million French who died in the WWI bloodbath that killed 16 million (Britain lost ‘less than’ a million). The only ‘positive’ outcome for the Allies was the destruction and occupation of the Ottoman Caliphate and the creation of a Jewish state there.

This was an outrageous betrayal of the Arabs, who had arguably tipped the balance in WWI — at great loss — in Britain’s favor, on the promise of post-war independence. But, as the Spanish say, ‘You don’t dance with the devil; he dances with you.” Britain wanted Iraq for its oil and Palestine for a Jewish state, “the hill citadel of Jerusalem” according to geopolitical theorist Halford Mackinder — the last link in the British empire. With a wink and a nod from Britain, France invaded Syria in 1920 and crushed a heroic uprising in 1925–1927, killing thousands. Greater Syria was divided into southern Turkey, French-occupied Lebanon/ Syria, and British-occupied Jordan/ Palestine.

It was not till 1946 that the French were finally booted out — kicking and screaming. Post-WWII Syrian politics is a litany of coups, egged on by the US, until the army and socialist Baathists finally settled on Hafiz al-Assad in 1971. Trying to pick up the pieces after the brutal French occupation and living next door to permanent nightmare Israel are not conducive to the charade of western-style pluralism, so the subsequent harsh dictatorship of Assad I and the new-improved Assad II are not surprising. The SNC alternative has no prospects for ruling a united Syria. Syria’s future under the SNC is already being played out in Iraq, though Assad is far more popular and sensible than Saddam Hussein, and his demise will take down much of the Syria social order with him.

This is fine from an Israeli point of view as long as the Islamists are kept busy fighting their coalition ‘allies’ within the SNC. But if the Islamists dominate in the SNC, and if the power vacuum allows al-Qaeda to take root (it already has), this could be a problem for Israel. Look what happened to the Islamists in Gaza, where they surged and triumphed in elections in 2006 and remain strong. Israel has only to look south to Egypt to see how a revolutionary coalition can turn into an Islamic government which is not nearly as pliable as the secular dictatorship it replaced. This is what keeps many Israelis rooting for Assad.

When France was colonizing Syria a century ago, Canada was already the great colonial success story as a ‘white dominion’, and was allowed to join the ranks of the imperial rich, unlike Syria et al. (Lawrence ‘of Arabia’ lobbied Churchill to create a united Arab British mandate as the first ‘brown dominion’, with no success.)

As a former colony of both France and Britain, the loyal ‘white dominion’ of yesteryear, Canada may look like the perfect intermediary today: ‘Be nice and you too can graduate from colony to dominion.’ However, the flip side of white dominion status is that, like Israel or South Africa, you have built your society on the bones of the ‘brown’ natives. So it is not surprising that this week, even as Harper was toying with recognizing the SNC (who cares?), he faces ongoing protests over government neglect of Canada’s First Nations.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence began a hunger strike in Ottawa charging the government with “marginalizing our political leadership, along with the enforced segregation of our people so that our rich heritage can be wiped out and the great bounty contained in our traditional lands be made available for exploitation by large multi-national companies.” But Canada’s First Nations — what’s left of them — can thank their lucky stars they weren’t born in the ‘brown colonies’ of the Middle East.

Eric Walberg is author of Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games You can reach him at 
A version of this appeared at


Part 1 of this series Russian History: From the Early East Slavs to the Grand Duchy of Moscow was aimed at explaining the foundation of the Russian state, by discussing its early influences in the cultural and political fields. As the subject of the present part is to provide insight on how Russia reached the status of superpower, it is necessary to briefly get back to the reign of Ivan III.

Although the reign of the tsars started officially with Ivan IV, Ivan III (“Ivan the Great”) played a critical role in the centralization of the Russian state, after having defeated the Mongol army in 1480.

Meanwhile, the extension of the Russian land was eased by the death of Casimir IV, the king of Poland, in 1492 and the fact that Casimir’s son, Alexander, was willing to cooperate with the Russians, so he wedded Ivan’s daughter Helena soon after accessing the throne of Lithuania, as an attempt to avoid open conflict with his powerful neighbor. Unfortunately for him, Ivan III’s clear determination to appropriate as much of Lithuania as possible, finally obliged Alexander to wage war against his father-in-law in 1499. It was a complete disaster for Lithuania and in 1503 Alexander eventually purchased peace by ceding to Ivan III Novgorod-Seversky, Chernigov and seventeen other cities.

With the unification of the state’s heartland almost complete, the country was ready to assert itself on the international stage. One figure sums up Russia’s fast expansion: from 1550 to 1700, Russia’s territory grew by 35000 km2 a year (which is approximately the size of Netherlands today). [1]

Therefore, Russia became a superpower way before the early 19th century, more precisely before the Concert of Europe set up by the Congress of Vienna (1815) …

The Reinforcement of Tsardom

Conventionally, the Tsardom of Russia is considered by historians as the period running from Ivan IV’s claim to be the “ Ruler of all Rus’ ” in 1547 to the foundation of the Russian Empire by Peter the Great in 1721.

Ivan IV’s coronation ceremony was modeled after those of the Byzantine emperors, and six years later Moscow became known as the Third Rome due to the takeover of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire, leaving Moscow as the only legitimate center of the Orthodox Church. Autocratism reached a peak in Russia during his reign (1547-1584), and was nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible”. During the late 1550’s, he subordinated the Russian nobility to an unprecedented degree (a simple provocation was generally enough to get forced into exil or even executed). [2]

Nevertheless, Ivan IV is regarded as a key Russian statesman because in 1550 he promulgated a new code of laws (the Sudebnik), introduced the self-management of rural regions, established the Zemsky Sobor, which was the first representative body on a large scale in Russian history (it happened on a local scale in Novgorod though, as mentioned in the first part of this series) and was also able to decrease the influence of the clergy on politics. [3] Ivan IV managed to annex the Khanates of Kazan in 1552, and those of Siberia and Astrakhan later but his long Livonian War for the control of the Baltic coast and access to sea trade turned out to be a costly failure. [4] Indeed, in 1558 he engaged his country in a twenty-five year war against Sweden, Denmark and the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, which resulted in the failure to secure a critical position in the Baltic Sea. In the meantime, Devlet I of Crimea hoped to take advantage of the difficulties of the Russian army on the Baltic front to repeatedly sack the Moscow area. This northern threat was combined with insecurity on the southern border, where the Nogai Horde pillaged the land and enslaved local inhabitants. [5] Nevertheless, these conquests enabled Ivan IV to gain access to Central Asia and to control the entire Volga River. It also brought a significant Muslim Tatar population into Russia, which officially emerged as a multiethnic and multiconfessional state, even if Russia has ever been a cosmopolite country since its foundation. [6].

However, Ivan IV’s hostility toward the nobility weakened his country in the short term. In 1565, the Tsar divided Russia into two parts: the oprichnina (his private realm) made up of some of the largest and richest districts and the zemshchina (the public domain). By doing so, Ivan IV got rid of a large number of people who helped in the expansion of Russia. This process reached its climax during the “Massacre of Novgorod”, in 1570, while trade significantly decreased. The weakening of the aristocracy combined with low harvests (a lot of peasants left Russia to escape from excessively high taxes, others were killed as part of the repression), military losses and epidemics enabled the Crimean Tatars to burn down Moscow and raid central Russia in 1571. [7] Besides, the joint coalition made up of Sweden, Denmark and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was successful in halting Russia’s expansion for the first time of its history.

Ivan IV’s domestic policy and foreign policy ultimately led Russia to one of the darkest ages of its history, a time of civil war and social struggle known under the name of the “Time of Troubles”.[8]

Time of Troubles, 1598 – 1613

This unstable period runs from the death of Feodor Ivanovich, the last tsar of the Rurik Dynasty to the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty, which would lead the country until the Revolution of 1917. [9]

Between 1601 and 1601, extremely cold summers destroyed crop fields which led to famine and social unrest. They were allegedly caused by the eruption of a volcano in Peru in 1600, massively pouring out sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, which is supposed to have resulted in the formation of sulfur acid preventing the sunlight to reach properly the Earth’s surface. [10]

The Polish-Lithuanian army added further turmoil in the country by carrying out several invasions during the Polish-Muscovite war (1605-1618). In 1605, they also installed an impostor on the throne of Russia: False Dmitry I, who claimed to be the legitimate son of Ivan IV. The turning point occurred at the Battle of Klushino in 1610, when the Russian-Swedish army was defeated, which enabled a group of Russian aristocrats, the Seven Boyars, to depose the tsar Vasily Shuysky, who gained power by killing False Dmitry I. The Polish prince Władysław IV Vasa became tsar and violently repressed the opposing Muscovite crowd, while another impostor, False Dmitry II, also claimed to be the rightful heir of Ivan IV but failed in his attempt to seize power. An important fact is that all the fake tsars were supported by the Catholic Church, because the Polish-Lithuanian leaders wanted to convert the Russian people. Here is certainly the origin of the anti-catholic (and sometimes anti-Polish) feeling in Russia. [11]

Finally, an army led by Kuzma Minin (a merchant) and Dmitry Pozharsky (a prince from the Suzdal area) managed to crush the foreign forces and to expel them from Moscow on the 4th of November, 1612. Pozharsky ran the provisional government of Moscow with the help of his assistant, Dmitry Trubetskoy, until a new tsar was elected by the Zemsky Sobor. [12]

The death toll during the Time of Troubles was heavy: according to Sergey Solovyov, tens of thousands died in riots and battles. [13] This dark period was influential in the emergence of Russian nationalism, and the 4th of November is now celebrated every year as a Unity Day (the tradition was established in 1612 by the new elected tsar, Mikhail Romanov and brought back by Vladimir Putin in 2005, because the bolshevik revolutionaries had replaced it by a day celebrating the revolution of 1917). [14]

The unification of the Russian society around the Romanov dynasty set the framework for the powerful Russian Empire to come.

The Establishment of the Romanov Dynasty

The first task of Mikhail Romanov was to restore peace. It was eased by the weakening of his two main enemies, Sweden and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth due to a conflict between the two entities, which provided Russia with the opportunity to make peace with the former in 1617 and with the latter in 1619, at the price of limited territory losses. Those territories were recovered by the Treaty of Pereyaslav, signed with the Ukrainian Cossacks in 1654, which basically entailed the russification of Ukraine, as a reward for the military support offered by the tsar Alexey I during the Khmelnytsky rebellion against the Cossacks, in an area formerly under Polish control. [15]

This treaty immediately sparked the Russo-Polish War, which had far reaching consequences. Indeed, it ended with the Treaty of Andrusovo (1667), whose major feature is the losses of Kiev and Smolensk, which fell under Russian control. [16] An alliance between the political elite and the nobility then resulted in a dramatic deterioration of peasants’ conditions in all of Russian-controlled territories, as they were charged taxes 100 times higher than a century ago. [17] Obviously, popular rebellions frequently took place, such as the Salt Riot (1648), the Copper Riot (1662) and the Moscow Uprising (1682). [18]

In 1672, Peter I, who would become known as Peter the Great, founder of the Russian Empire was born in this unstable period. In 1682, Feodor III and Peter became tsar with his mother as regent, because he was only 10-year old. He had to wait until the death of his mother in 1694 to actually exercise power (his half-sister, Sophia, managed to seize power in 1682 and ruled the nation until Peter’s mother deposed her seven years later). At this time, Russia was already the largest state in the world (three times the size of continental Europe), which would imply several challenges for the latter statesman. [19]

Foundation of the Russian Empire

Peter I initiated the tradition of the “reforming tsar”. From his reign on, all tsars were judged on their ability to modernize the economy and Russian society as a whole, and also on their ability to gain influence abroad. The protection of the homeland was not ambitious enough anymore. [20] Following this new doctrine, Peter I’s initial military campaigns were directed against the Ottoman Empire, because he wanted to gain a foothold on the Black Sea, by taking the town of Azov. [21]

But his attention quickly turned to the north, as Russia was denied access to the Baltic Sea by Sweden. In 1699, it led Peter I to sign a secret alliance with Russia’s main foe during the 16th and 17th centuries, that is to say the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, to wage war against Sweden, also with the help of Denmark. The Great Northern War ended in 1721, when Sweden had to cede provinces situated east and south of the Gulf of Finland, thereby securing Peter I’s coveted access to the sea. In 1703, it was in this area that he founded St Petersburg, designed as a “window opened upon Europe” which was to replace Moscow as the nation’s capital from until 1918 (the Soviets didn’t move the government as soon as the Revolution was over, in October 1917). Therefore, the conquest of the northern front was a well-prepared plan and Peter decided to assume the title of emperor as a celebration of these conquests, thus replacing the Tsardom with the Russian Empire in 1721. [22]

Under his reign, Russia became an absolutist state molded on the European standards of that time. Indeed, Peter the Great replaced the Boyar Duma (which was a council of nobles, not to be confused with the modern State Duma, which is the lower house of the Russian parliament; the upper house being the Federal Council of Russia) with a nine-member supreme council of state, called the Governing Senate. Its mandate was to oversee administrative, judicial and financial affairs, and its main achievement has been to collect taxes more effectively: tax revenues tripled over the course of Peter the Great’s reign. [23]

Then, in 1722 he displayed his Table of Ranks, whose aim was to determine position and status of everybody in the tree branches of the administration (the military, civil and court services) according to skills rather than according to birth or seniority. He also required state service from all the nobles. Thus, it created an educated class of noble bureaucrats who had to demonstrate their ability to carry out administrative tasks. In this regard, Russia was more developed than other absolute European monarchies, such as France. [24] Peter the Great also undertook a government reform, which officially incorporated the Orthodox Church into the administrative structure but in fact it became a tool of the emperor, as he replaced the patriarchate with the Holy Sinod (a collective entity)  led by a government official. [25]

In 1725, Peter the Great died, leaving an unsettled succession as he failed to choose the next tsar before dying (he passed a law which abrogated traditional rules of succession, based on the law of primogeniture). Obviously, the following decade was marked by various plots and coups. As a result, the critical factor to take the throne over became the support of the palace guards. [26]

The Era of Russian Palace Revolutions

Peter the Great’s wife, Catherine I, was the first woman to ascend the throne of Russia, paving the way for a century almost completely dominated by women, including her daughter Elizabeth and Catherine the Great. Both continued Peter the Great’s policies in modernizing Russia, but Catherine I’s humble origins was considered as a state secret by later generations of tsars. [27]

At the time of Peter’s death, the Russian army was without contest the largest in Europe. The military budget amounted to 65 % of the government yearly income but Catherine I decided to slash military expenditures because the nation was at peace. She was assisted by a Supreme Privy Council, led by Alexander Menshikov, a close friend of Peter the Great who took an active part in the Azov campaign against the Ottoman empire (1695 – 1696) but was accused of corruption (he looted Poland and defrauded the Russian government of around 100 000 rubles, a significant amount of money at that time). Another prominent member of the Council was Peter Tolstoy, an ancestor of the famous novelist, who helped Menshikov in his attempt to raise Catherine I to the throne. Andrei Osterman, was in charge of foreign affairs and was also minister of commerce, while another member of the Council, Dmitry Galitzine advocated for a constitutional monarchy and would become much more influential later, under the reign of Peter II. Then, Catherine I’s son-in-law, Karl Friedrich, was allowed to enter the Council. [28]

Catherine I ordered the construction of the first bridges of St Petersburg, but because of her poor health Menshikov was the real leader of the country and he ultimately took over most of the functions of the Governing Senate. [29]

When she died in 1727, Peter the Great’s grandson, Peter II, was crowned tsar. But he was only 11 year old at that time so he was manipulated by Menshikov until he became severely ill and replaced as Peter II’s senior advisor by Andrei Osterman and Vasily Dolgorukov (the latter joined the Council under the reign of Peter II). Peter II died before he could marry Dolgorukov’s daughter Catherine and he didn’t name a legitimate successor, thereby throwing Russia into another succession struggle. [30]

In 1730, Dmitry Galitzine came up with the idea of turning Russia into a constitutional monarchy, in which the tsar’s executive power would be limited by the Council, and his constitutional project was known as “The Conditions” was signed by the new elected tsar, Anna Ivanovna. In fact, it was called “The Conditions” because she had to accept them prior to ascend the throne. The new dispositions provided that declaration of wars, international treaties, new taxes and using of public revenues were to be approved by the Council. However, Anna Ivanovna revoked her approval of the Conditions only two days after having signed them, and dismantled the Council in the meantime, with significant support from the nobles who were not close enough to a member of the Council to defend their interests. [31]

To strengthen her power, she restored the security police and was assisted by Ernst Johann von Biron, who forced around 30 000 people into exile in Siberia, mainly Old Believers (traditional orthodox believers who didn’t approve the reform of the Orthodox Church). They also repealed Peter I’s legislation about the nobility’s state service requirements and the primogeniture law. Therefore, estates could be subdivided again and nobles were not compelled to complete the state service anymore. Besides, they further deteriorated the conditions of the serfs, who now the landlords’ permission before moving to find work elsewhere. [32]

From 1733 to 1736, Russia allied with Austria and took part in the War of Polish Succession against France and Spain, to prevent the election of a French candidate to the polish throne. Later, Russia and Austria waged war against the Ottoman Empire in order to gain territory in the Azov area, but the death toll was high, mainly due to diseases. This was a major war regarding Russian history because it marked the beginning of the state’s military effort to expand southward, an enterprise that would reveal successful under the reign of Catherine II. [33] Anna Ivanonva named Ivan VI, son of Anna Leopoldovna and the Duke of Brunswick, as her successor and Biron as his regent. [34]

However, Peter the Great’s daughter Elizabeth seized the throne in 1741, assisted by the Preobrazhensky Regiment, an elite regiment of the Russian army formed by her father in the late 17th century, which distinguished itself during the Great Northern War. [35]

She reigned for twenty years and was much more effective than her immediate predecessors (the regency of Biron was marked by high taxes and other economic issues, not to mention the fact that his German origins gave Russians the feeling of losing their independence). Her reign was marked by major cultural and scientific events, such as the foundation of Moscow University (1755) and the Imperial Academy of Arts (1757), along with the emergence of Russia’s first leading scholar, Mikhail Lomonosov. She also ordered the construction of the Smolny Cathedral and the modernization of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg (at a cost of 2,500,000 rubles just for the Winter Palace) [36]

Her administration partly followed Peter I’s legacy, as they restored the Governing Senate’s powers and abolished capital punishment but also followed Elizabeth predecessors’ efforts to increase the nobility’s control over the serfs, who now needed their landlord’s approval to marry. Under a new law, nobles were also allowed to exile their serfs to Siberia. [37]

Regarding foreign policy, Sweden ceded the southern part of Finland located east of the river Kymmene, which became the boundary between the two states Russia (Treaty of Abo, 1743). This success has been credited to the diplomatic skills of Alexey Bestuzhev-Ryumin, the new vice chancellor, who represented the anti-Franco-Prussian wing of her council. His aim was to bring about an alliance with England and Austria. That’s certainly why Louis XV and Frederick II of Prussia made several attempts to get rid of him, without success. Then, Russia took part in the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the Seven Years’ War from 1755 to 1762, the first one under an alliance with Austria and Great Britain against Prussia and France and the second one under an alliance with Austria and France against Prussia and Great Britain. Bestuzhev was the main Russian diplomat at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) which put an end to the War of Austrian Succession. He managed to take Russia out of the Swedish imbroglio, enabled Russia to assert herself in Sweden, Turkey and Poland while isolating Frederick II and improving diplomatic relations between Elizabeth and the courts of London and Vienna. [38]

In 1758, he got fired, without reason according to the future Catherine II: “He was relieved of all his decorations and rank, without a soul being able to reveal for what crimes or transgressions the first gentleman of the Empire was so despoiled, and sent back to his house as a prisoner.” [39] Nevertheless, the identity of his foes was well known: the French and Austrian ambassadors, but also Vice-Chancellor Mikhail Vorontsov (who also took part in the previous plot against Bestuzhev, known as the Lopukhina Conspiracy, which was designed by Jean de Lestocq, who was earlier part of the coup d’état which brought Elizabeth to the throne). [40]

The Seven Year’s War was rather successful for Russia but ended suddenly as a result of mounting financial difficulties and the empress’ death in 1762. Her successor, Peter III, grandson of Peter the Great, took Russia out of the war. [41]

Still, his reign was short and unpopular, especially within the clergy which was expropriated, while the serfs working on its lands were freed. Peter III also proclaimed religious freedom, which has been seen as a challenge to the authority of the Orthodox Church. Besides, he made huge territorial concessions to Prussia and even signed an alliance with Frederick II. Russian troops were soon deployed against Austria. This dramatic diplomatic shift led to a new balance of powers in Europe. [42]

Furthermore, Peter III’s national policy didn’t match at all the interests of the elite: he abolished the secret police set up by his grandfather, fought corruption within the administration and introduced public interest litigation (i.e. the possibility of conducting a lawsuit to defend the public interest). He also established the first state bank in Russia, thus rejecting the nobility’s monopoly on money creation and trade.  Regarding economic policy, he supported mercantilism by forbidding the import of sugar and other products that could be found in Russia. Thereby, he carried out to some extent a westernization of Russian society. But Peter III’s wife, Catherine, took advantage of his unpopularity to set up a coup d’état against him with the help of her lover’s brother, Alexey Orlov, who murdered him in 1762. [43]

The new empress took the name of Catherine II and Peter’s assassination marked the end of the era of palace revolutions [44]

 The Reign of Catherine II

The Russian Enlightenment began under the reign of Elizabeth, who ordered the establishment of the Moscow University and the Imperial Academy of Arts. However, the movement received a significant boost under the reign of Catherine the Great. She considered herself as an enlightened despot, claiming to be especially influenced by the ideas of Montesquieu and Voltaire. She even had an extended correspondence with the latter. In this perspective, she continued the westernization of Russian society undertook by Peter III, and supported burgeoning manufactures. [45]

Catherine II’s political reforms went beyond improving Russia’s bureaucracy developed under Peter the Great, contrary to what has been said by her opponents, who claimed that her adherence to the Enlightenment was just a pretext to expand her power. [46]

Indeed, she established state-run primary schools, which provided basic education, exalted patriotism and innovation but most importantly, in 1767 she wrote a statement of legal principles called Nakaz (which means Instruction), clearly influenced by the ideas of the French Enlightenment, in order to replace the Sobornoye Ulozheniye, which was the legal code established in 1649 by the Zemsky Sobor under the reign of Alexey I. It proclaimed the equality of all men before the law, disapproved torture and death penalty, thus anticipating some of the issues raised by the later United States Constitution. [47] By the way, a less known predecessor of the American Constitution has been the Corsican Constitution drafted by Pasquale Paoli in 1755, mainly inspired by the ideas of Rousseau. [48]

Some of Catherine II’s advisors suggested creating a council to regulate legislation but this proposal was firmly rejected, and when she feared that she was beginning to lose some authority she reverted to the ways of the past: autocratic rule. Officially, she ruled with the Senate but it possessed no legislative powers. She also bolstered the grip of the nobility over the nation’s affairs. Indeed, nobles no longer had to serve the central government, as the law had required since Peter the Great’s time, and many of them received major roles in provincial governments. [49]

Catherine had a paradoxical thought: on the one hand she proved to have been deeply inspired by contemporary French philosophers but on the other hand she consolidated autocratism. A famous illustration of this is the treatment received by Alexander Radishchev, a social critic who was exiled to Siberia due to his pamphlet against the regime, entitled Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow (1790). [50]. In 1773, she also crushed a major peasant uprising led by a Cossack named Pugachev, who managed to take the city of Kazan before being defeated. [51]

Regarding foreign policy, Catherine II successfully waged war against a weaker Ottoman Empire and advanced Russia’s southern boundary to the Black Sea. In 1774, the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji gave the regions of Yinsdale, Kerch and parts of the Yesidan region to Russia, which also assumed military control of the Crimean Khanate and became the formal protector of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire. In 1783, Catherine took control of the Crimea, helping to spark another War with the Ottoman Empire four years later. In 1792, Russia expanded southward to the Dniestr river through the Treaty of Jassy, thereby annexing most of the Yesidan region. This treaty almost achieved the empress’ “Greek Project” which consisted in renewing a Byzantine Empire under Russian control, after having thrown the Ottomans out of south-eastern Europe. [52]

Russia also expanded westward thanks to the increasing weakness of Poland. Indeed, Catherine signed an alliance with Prussia and Austria to share the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Although the partitioning of Poland greatly added to Russia’s territory and prestige, it also meant a common border with both Austria and Prussia, which were two potential competitors for hegemony over Eastern and Central Europe. Moreover, the empire became more difficult to control because of a more ethnically heterogeneous population. For instance, Catholic Poles staged several uprisings against the Russian occupation, while Jews were deported to the western part of the empire, thus paving the way for anti-Jewish policies later. In 1791, the same three powers abrogated the Polish Constitution of 1791 under the pretext of fearing the emergence of radicalism, an excuse also used to acquire further territories from Poland (Russia was also in control of most of Ukraine and Belarus). This new partition led to the Kościuszko Uprising in Poland, which ended with the third partition of the country in 1795. [53]

By the time of her death in 1796, Catherine’s expansionist policy had definitely turned Russia into a major European power. This new role drove the Russian empire into a series of wars against the other major European force, the Napoleonic empire, which also claimed hegemony over Europe, and this had far-reaching consequences for Russia and the rest of Europe.

Russia under Alexander I

In 1812, Napoleon made a huge mistake when he declared war on Russia after an argument with the new emperor, Alexander I, who ascended the throne after the murder of his father in 1801. Unprepared for winter warfare, thousands of French troops were killed by the Russian regular army, which also received  significant help from peasants, despite all the pro-nobility policies implemented ever since the reign of Anna Ivanovna. [54]

After having defeated Napoleon on the eastern front, Alexander became known as the “savior of Europe” and this status enabled him to join the Congress of Vienna (1815), which was to redraw the map of Europe, on a comfortable diplomatic position. Russia was given most of the Duchy of Warsaw, called “Congress Poland”, and was also allowed to keep Finland, which it had annexed from Sweden six years ago. France and Great Britain refused the original plan advocated by Alexander I and approved by von Hardenberg, who represented Prussia, under which Prussia would trade her polish territories for Saxony. The French and British diplomats refused the deal because Poland would not serve as a buffer state between the two East-European powers anymore. [55]

But the most important consequence of the Congress of Vienna was not even the reshaping of Europe: it opened the tradition of oligarchic diplomacy, as only five powers (Austria, Russia, Prussia, Great-Britain and France) met to discuss the future of world relations. In an important essay, Bertrand Badie showed that the international system didn’t evolve so much since 1815, the G8 and NATO having replaced the Concert in his role of Directory of the World. [56]

Regarding domestic policy, Alexander I’s main achievement has been to bring Russia close to a constitutional monarchy, with the help of his main advisor, Mikhail Speransky. Indeed, the State Council was created in order to improve technique of legislation with the intention of making it the Second Chamber of representative legislature and the Governing Senate was reorganized as the Supreme Court of the Empire. He also introduced political responsibility to the crown for his ministers. A constitution project was stopped in 1810, due to growing resistance from the conservative nobility, especially from Nikolai Karamzin (a famous historian) and also because the Napoleonic wars became the major issue facing the Empire. [57]


Part 2 of this series detailed how Russia progressively asserted herself on the international stage. Hopefully, it would have pointed out the complexity of Russian politics during the period studied.

The country expanded dramatically, saw the implementation of various law codes quite advanced regarding the standards of the time, consolidated his nature of multicultural nation but also roughly repressed opponents to the imperial regime, and the condition of the serfs was terrible. The long hesitation between autocratism and constitutional monarchy, as well as the continuous decrease of the influence of the clergy on politics in favor of the nobility are also good illustrations of the complexity, of the paradoxical situation of Russian society at that time.

In a nutshell, Imperial Russia relied on a combination of principles of the Enlightenment and conservative ideas, expressed by the charismatic statesmen of the Romanov Dynasty, who established the Russian identity on the global stage.

Part 3 will be dedicated to the progressive downfall of the dynasty, until its abdication in 1917, opening a new era, the one of Soviet Russia.

 Julien Paolantoni earned a BSc of Economics & Management from the University of Bordeaux, France, and enrolled in the MSc of Public Law & Political Science still at the same university. He can be reached at:  [email protected]


[1] Richard Pipes, Russia under the Old Regime, Penguin Books, revised edition, 1997

[2] Glenn E. Curtis (ed.), “Muscovy” in Russia: A Country Study, Library of Congress, 1996

[3] Paul Bushkovitch, Religion and Society in Russia: The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Oxford University Press, 1992

[4] Janet Martin, Medieval Russia: 980-1584, Cambridge University Press, 2008

[5] William Urban, “The Origin of the Livonian War”, Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences, vol. 29, 1983


[7] R. G. Skrynnikov, Ivan the Terrible, Academic International Press, 1981

[8] Ibid.

[9] Glenn E. Curtis, op. cit.


[11] George Vernadsky, A History of Russia, Yale University Press, 1961

[12] Chester S. L. Dunning, Russia’s first civil war: The Time of Troubles and the founding of the Romanov dynasty, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001

[13] Sergey Solovyov, History of Russia from the Earliest Times, Academic International Press, 1997


[15] Chester S. L. Dunning, op. cit.

[16] Glenn E. Curtis (ed.), op. cit.

[17] Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China, Cambridge University Press, 1979

[18] Jarmo Kotilaine and Marshall Poe, Modernizing Muscovy: Reform and Social Change in Seventeenth-Century Russia, Routledge, 2004

[19] Richard Pipes, op. cit.

[20] Cynthia H. Whittaker, “The Reforming Tsar: The Redefinition of Autocratic Duty in Eighteenth Century Russia”, Slavic Review, vol. 51, 1992

[21] Lord Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire, Harper Perennial, 1979

[22] Richard Pipes, op. cit.

[23] Paul Dukes, A History of Russia: Medieval, Modern, Contemporary, Duke University Press, 3rd edition, 1997

[24] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, Oxford University Press, 8th edition, 2010

[25] Walter G. Moss, A History of Russia, Vol. 1: To 1917, Anthem Press, 2003

[26] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[27] Catherine Evtuhov, David Goldfrank, Lindsey Hughes and Richard Stites, A History of Russia: Peoples, Legends, Events, Forces, Wadsworth Publishing, 2003

[28] Alan Wood, The Romanov Empire: 1613-1917, Bloomsbury USA, 2007

[29] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky  and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[30] Gregory L. Freeze, Russia: A History, Oxford University Press, 3rd edition, 2009

[31] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky  and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Catherine Evtuhov, David Goldfrank, Lindsey Hughes and Richard Stites, op. cit.

[34] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky  and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Catherine Evtuhov, David Goldfrank, Lindsey Hughes and Richard Stites, op. cit.

[37] Alan Wood, op. cit.

[38] Catherine Evtuhov, David Goldfrank, Lindsey Hughes and Richard Stites, op. cit.

[39] Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, Random House, 2011

[40] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Catherine Evtuhov, David Goldfrank, Lindsey Hughes and Richard Stites, op. cit.

[44] Alan Wood, op. cit.

[45] James H. Billington, The Icon and the Axe : An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, Vintage, 1970

[46] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky  and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[47] Walter G. Moss, op. cit.

[48] Dorothy Carrington, “The Corsican Constitution of Pasquale Paoli (1755–1769)”, The English Historical Review, 1973

[49] Walter G. Moss, op. cit.

[50] David M. Lang, The First Russian Radical: Alexander Radischev, 1749-1802, Greenwood-Heinemann Publishing, 1977

[51] Alexander S. Pushkin, The History of Pugachev, Phoenix Press, 2001

[52] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky  and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Adam Zamoyski, Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna, Harper Perennial, 2008

[56] Bertrand Badie, La diplomatie de connivence: les derives oligarchiques du système international, La découverte, 2011

[57] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky  and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.






US admits Al Qaeda “amongst” Syrian rebels, recognizes them as the “legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”

As expected, after a long pause of feigned “consideration,” the US has recognized the militants it has been arming, funding, aiding logistically and supporting diplomatically since as early as 2007, as the “legitimate representatives of the Syrian people,” with the added caveat, “in opposition to the Assad regime.” The Wall Street Journal would report that US President Barack Obama’s announcement actually read:

“The Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime.”

The bizarre, uncertain wording sends a message of both  uncertainty and resounding illegitimacy, indicating that the US itself recognizes the true nature of the so-called “Syrian” opposition is apparent to an increasing number of people both in public office and across the public, and that a certain degree of rhetorical distance must be kept.

The overt, extremist nature of the militants operating in Syria has become increasingly difficult for the West to paper over. Torrents of videos and confirmed reports documenting militant atrocities, including several involving the machine gunning of bound prisoners, and a particularly gruesome video of a child handed a sword by militants to hack off the heads of bound men wearing civilian clothing, has confirmed the worst fears expressed by geopolitical analysts and foreign governments around the world – that the Syrian opposition is in fact Al Qaeda.

So damning is the evidence, that President Obama was forced to finally acknowledge this, stating:

There is a small element of those who oppose the Assad regime that are affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq…and we are going to make clear to distinguish between those elements of the opposition.

The Wall Street Journal, in their article, “U.S. Recognizes Syria’s Main Rebel Group,” would also report:

The Obama administration on Tuesday for the first time released intelligence directly tying a powerful Syrian rebel group to commanders of al Qaeda in Iraq. U.S. officials formally sanctioned the Syrian militia, called Jabhat al-Nusra—freezing any assets it may have in the U.S. and barring Americans from doing business with it—because of fears it is gaining disproportionate power among the rebel groups seeking to overthrow Mr. Assad.

Despite this announcement, such sanctions are symbolic and selectively enforced. Also on such lists was the Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK), and currently the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which officially merged with Al Qaeda in 2007, according to the US Army’s West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) report, “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq.” Yet in 2011, NATO had armed, funded, and provided air support for LIFG during the premeditated overthrow of the Libyan government.

US Has Knowingly Supported Al Qaeda for Years

Based in Benghazi, elements of LIFG were behind the attack on a US consulate and the death of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. They are also confirmed to be sending fighters and weapons through NATO-member Turkey where they stage before engaging in combat operations inside Syria.

In November 2011, the Telegraph in their article, “Leading Libyan Islamist met Free Syrian Army opposition group,” would mention LIFG by name when they reported:

Abdulhakim Belhadj, head of the Tripoli Military Council and the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, “met with Free Syrian Army leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey,” said a military official working with Mr Belhadj. “Mustafa Abdul Jalil (the interim Libyan president) sent him there.”

Another Telegraph article, “Libya’s new rulers offer weapons to Syrian rebels,” would admit:

Syrian rebels held secret talks with Libya’s new authorities on Friday, aiming to secure weapons and money for their insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

At the meeting, which was held in Istanbul and included Turkish officials, the Syrians requested “assistance” from the Libyan representatives and were offered arms, and potentially volunteers.
“There is something being planned to send weapons and even Libyan fighters to Syria,” said a Libyan source, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There is a military intervention on the way. Within a few weeks you will see.”

Later that month, some 600 Libyan terrorists would be reported to have entered Syria to begin combat operations and have been flooding into the country ever since.

Clearly they are not “secretly” organizing hundreds of fighters under the nose of the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and “sneaking” through NATO member states into Syria. They are doing with NATO-backing, with NATO admittedly providing support for militants along Turkey’s border with Syria, utilizing the very same regional Al Qaeda networks identified by the US military during the US occupation of Iraq – which also explains where Jabhat al-Nusra is coming from.

Further undermining US claims that they have identified and are attempting to separate from the “opposition,” sectarian extremists, are admissions made as early as 2007 that US foreign policy explicitly sought to utilize these very sectarian extremists to violently overthrow the Syrian government. Indeed, in 2007, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh published an article titled, “The Redirection” for the New Yorker, within which US, Saudi, and Lebanese officials described their conspiracy.

In the report it specifically stated:

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.” -The Redirection, Seymour Hersh (2007)

Hersh’s report would continue by stating:

“the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The Israelis believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations.” -The Redirection, Seymour Hersh (2007)

The link between extremist groups and Saudi funding was also mentioned in the report, and reflects evidence presented by the West Point CTC indicating that the majority of fighters and funding behind the sectarian violence in Iraq, came from Saudi Arabia. Hersh’s report specifically states:

“…[Saudi Arabia's] Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.” -The Redirection, Seymour Hersh (2007)

The report reads like a prophecy, fulfilled verbatim during the events of the last 2 years. The Wall Street Journal report openly states that the Syrian conflict is turning into a proxy war with Iran, just as was planned in 2007. The feigned ignorance, surprise and attempts to mitigate terror groups the US purposefully created in the first place, is merely for public consumption. Bands of sectarian extremists destroying Syria was the stated plan for years, a plan now coming into fruition.

Wall Street Journal Admits Syria’s Minorities are Fighting for Lives – SNC Leader Admits He Seeks an “Islamic State” 

And even as US President Obama attempts to assure the public and the international community that the West is sorting out the extremists, the Wall Street Journal admits that militias are forming across Syria – assembled by Syria’s large minorities to protect themselves from what is clearly a sectarian assault – not a pro-democracy movement. In describing the militias, the Wall Street Journal reports:

Many come from Syria’s religious minorities, mostly the Shiite offshoot Alawite sect to which the president’s family belongs, as well Christians and Druze, who increasingly see themselves in a battle against a mainly Sunni rebel insurgency.

Of course, the Wall Street Journal attempts to portray the militias as mercenaries in the service of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, despite admitting the sectarian nature of the opposition and admitting that Al Qaeda is confirmed to be operating inside of Syria.

The sectarian nature of the bloodbath the US was engineering in 2007 was also mentioned in Seymour Hersh’s “The Redirection.” Foreshadowing was given by a former CIA officer based in Lebanon who stated:

“Robert Baer, a former longtime C.I.A. agent in Lebanon, has been a severe critic of Hezbollah and has warned of its links to Iranian-sponsored terrorism. But now, he told me, “we’ve got Sunni Arabs preparing for cataclysmic conflict, and we will need somebody to protect the Christians in Lebanon. It used to be the French and the United States who would do it, and now it’s going to be Nasrallah and the Shiites” -The Redirection, Seymour Hersh (2007)

Clearly, the Christians in Syria would also need protection.

And while the US attempts to reassure the world that the brood of terrorists it is cultivating and has now officially recognized as the “representatives of the Syrian people” is “pro-democratic” in nature, the very leader the US recently handpicked in Doha, Qatar to lead the new opposition coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, has admitted in an Al Jazeera interview that he seeks to establish an “Islamic state” across currently secular Syria.

Modeled after the increasingly despotic Muslim Brotherhood regime led by Mohammed Morsi, who is currently hiring rape gangs to help disperse protesters opposed to his expanding dictatorship, al-Khatib’s vision of Syria’s future is one even many Syrian Sunnis reject.

To declare this violent minority, augmented by foreign terrorists couching the establishment of a brutal faux-theocracy behind the paper-thin veneer of “democracy,” as the “representatives of the Syrian people” is not a “a big step” as President Obama declared. Instead, it is a step as illegitimate and morally bankrupt as it is desperate. It is a stumble forward – and one that threatens to trip up anyone within arms reach of America as it takes it.

Biggest Social Media Sites Censor Alternative News

December 15th, 2012 by Washington's Blog

“Unreliable News Sources”

The mainstream media skews the news to defend the status quo, and serves the interests of the rich and powerful.

But at least web news sources are free of censorship … one would hope.

Unfortunately, that’s not true.

Facebook pays low-wage foreign workers to delete certain content based upon a censorship list. For example, Facebook deletes accounts created by any Palestinian resistance groups.

censorship on Social Networking Biggest Social Media Sites Censor Alternative News


Digg was caught censoring stories which were controversial or too critical of the government. See this and this.

Many accuse Youtube of blatant censorship.

Reddit – the 133rd most popular website worldwide on the Internet – is also censoring.

I’m not talking about censoring specific websites (For example, I was informed today that Reddit’s News category censors all stories from this website.  But that’s just an example).  I’m talking about censoring entire categories of news media.

Specifically, Reddit’s WorldNews category has 2.5 million subscribers.  Most tv news shows have less than 2.5 million daily viewers. So that means that Reddit’s WorldNews is itself a mainstream media source in terms of numbers.  And many more people see WorldNews stories on the front page of Reddit, even if they are not subscribers to the WorldNews subreddit.

(Reddit is owned by the 46th largest company in the United States – Advance Publications – which owns a number of mainstream newspapers and magazines.)

Yet WorldNews censors blogs, and doesn’t consider them real news sources.  Here’s a discussion I had recently with WorldNews moderators:

Clipboard02 Biggest Social Media Sites Censor Alternative News

In fact, the top independent experts in every field – economics, business, foreign affairs, military, science, energy, etc. – have their own blogs, making blogs one of the best sources of information, a good way to fact-check the mainstream news, and the best way to read the experts’ insights direct and unfiltered.  See this, this and this.

Indeed, the whole reason that news blogs have become popular is that they get around the censorship which is ubiquitous in the mainstream television news. And social media is popular as a news source – especially among youth – because it pretends that it provides uncensored news, where a free market of popularity governs.

That’s obviously not the case, where specific websites – and entire classes of media, such as blogs – are barred.

Reddit holds itself out as a young, hip, progressive news source.  But if it is censoring blogs, it fails to live up to any of these claims.

The government already censors and manipulates social media. More proof here and here.

It is sad that the moderators of the social media sites themselves are doing the same thing.

As 2012 draws to a close, what should we make of it? Given the amount of events that took place, any look-back can only be highly selective. With that being the case, the following piece focuses on just some of the issues from the year just gone.

Setting the scene

The year saw global capitalism continuing the struggle to manage its strains and crises. Ideologically, politicians and the mainstream media attempted to legitimize the ongoing stripping away of welfare, hard-won democratic freedoms and workers’ rights as being part and parcel of the ‘austerity’ measures required for putting economies back on track. Integral to the propaganda was that ‘we are all in it together’ and ‘there is no alternative’.

All well and good if you need to con, control and subdue a population that has experienced falling wages and has seen increasing levels of profit going to capital for decades; all well and good, if putting economies ‘back on track’ means attempting to give credibility to what is an increasingly and openly divisive economic system. But, what happens when the propaganda fails?

There is always a fall back as we saw in Europe, where tear gas and rubber bullets were used on ordinary people who took to the streets in an attempt to protect jobs and living standards. It was on the streets of Spain and Greece where the strain between democracy and corporate capitalism was laid bare more than anywhere else in Europe. It was in those countries that the contradiction between working people and an increasingly monopolistic and powerful ownership class was exposed more clearly than anywhere else.

As in recent years, in 2012 the implications of the ongoing crisis continued to be global. With home economies resembling dried-up prunes, eyes continued to be cast on potentially ripe-pickings further afield

In the face of demand depression at home due to jobs having been outsourced to cheap labour economies, consequent unsustainable high levels of personal debt encouraged to try to boost demand and rising unemployment as a result of the  ‘austerity’ measures being implemented in order to maintain profits for finance capital, the West’s state-corporate interests continued to push into markets such as India.

From Africa to Asia, they promoted perpetual conflicts to seek out cheap resources for fueling the prevailing economic paradigm of endless growth (and consequent environmental degradation). Of course, this also served to prop up the (potentially worthless) dollar and thus the US economy. By securing foreign markets and the control of oil, the US and its client states seek to maintain global allegiance to the (oil-backed) dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

And as part of this, under the lies of ‘nationalism’, ‘national interest’ or ‘humanitarianism’, young working class men, often ‘economic conscripts’ in this time of downturn, continued to die for the likes of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Coca Cola, Shell, Chevron and General Electric on the battlefields of Asia. Mere ‘collateral damage’ in the name of the ‘greater good’, with the ‘greater good’ being profit and power. Elsewhere, whether in Syria or Pakistan, proxy forces were manipulated to do the killing.

With such a backdrop, it might be easy to conclude that 2012 was all about bad news. But there were some glimmers of hope. In concluding, it will be shown that certain actions demonstrated that conviction and ideals still count for something.

India not shining

In 2012, a new study of more than 100,000 children across six states found that as many as 42 per cent of under-fives were severely or moderately underweight and that 59 per cent of them suffered from moderate to severe stunting. The findings in the Hunger and Malnutrition (HUNGaMA) report by the Naandi Foundation were described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a “national shame.” If that news wasn’t bad enough for the PM, Time magazine put him on its cover with the headline word ‘underachiever’.

After years of high economic growth, it can only be concluded that the euphoria over the (now rapidly slowing) GDP figures had been glossing over underachievement on many levels, not just child poverty and nutrition. For a period in July, some 700 million people were left without power. Twenty out of 28 states were hit by power cuts, along with the capital. Three of the country’s five electricity grids failed. Hundreds of trains stalled, leaving passengers stranded along thousands of miles of track. Traffic lights went out, causing jams and surgical operations were cancelled across the country.

It all raised serious concerns about India’s infrastructure. But the debacle also drew attention to the fact that, despite media fascination with the number of dollar millionaires in India, one-third of India’s households do not even have electricity to power a light bulb (according to the 2011 census). A large minority of those in the blackout zone have never been connected to any grid. For instance, just 16.4% of the 100 million people who live in Bihar have access to electricity.

And while all of this was happening, the Indian state continued to wage its war against some of the country’s poorest people in the resource-rich ‘tribal belt’. In June, 17 people were killed by paramilitary police in Chhattisgarh. Despite official sources claiming the dead were Maoist insurgents, among those killed were a 12-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy and two 16-year-old school students.

And not unrelated to this attempt to grab land and resources for rich corporate concerns was the continued push by the government to secure 51 per cent foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and to open up the finance, agriculture, nuclear and pharmaceutical sectors to foreign interests. The West smells profit and is kicking down the door. There is a price to be paid by the Indian people for the US allowing the Indian government to develop its nuclear infrastructure – and this is it.

Bankers’ banquet

Meanwhile, the crisis in the Eurozone rumbled on. With mass unemployment in Greece and Spain, people took to the streets to protest against cutbacks to jobs and services. Out came the rubber bullets and tear-gas and on went the blame game. Across Europe, fingers were pointed at other countries, immigrants, the public sector and elsewhere in a search for those who had wrecked economies.

In the meantime, the real culprits – the bankers and financiers – continued to reap the benefits by buying up various countries’ public assets on the cheap. So that’s where the bail out money went!

As the economic crisis continued to bite and politicians were keen on telling the public that we were all shouldering the burden and were all in it together, it seemed some were much less ‘in it’ than others, Research released by Tax Justice Network (TJN) indicated that globally the super rich hold up to between $21 and $32 trillion in offshore accounts, which amounts to roughly the US and Japanese GDP combined. The TJN said that some of the world’s biggest banks are helping their clients evade taxes and shift their wealth offshore and they do it knowing fully well that their clients, more often than not, are evading and avoiding taxes.

In Greece, the country most affected by bailouts, austerity and consequent poverty, Hot Doc magazine published a list of 2,059 wealthy Greeks with secret HSBC Swiss accounts worth in total about $2 billion dollars. It could a lot more now because that figure was from 2007, prior to the economic crisis. The magazine’s editor, Vaxevanis, believed many on the list may be tax cheats. The benefit of getting rich is being able to break societal rules to get richer. And what happened to Vaxevanus for exposing this? He was arrested!

While the authorities continued to turn a blind eye to all of this, or more correctly were complicit in it, the solution for the ‘little people’ has been more austerity, the continued stripping away of workers’ rights and welfare provision and even greater political control for the bankers. Looking at Europe in 2012, it was hard not to think of the Eurozone circling the drain. The less water in the sink, the faster it swirls towards the drain in ever diminishing circles.

Love America!

Two big stories concerning South America during the year were Ecuador’s decision to grant Julian Assange asylum and the reelection of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Chavez won the election with 55 per cent of the vote, which was consistent with the embracing of leftist leaders and policies throughout much of South America in recent years. Although Chavez is set to continue to lead his country, it will depend on how his health stands up after having been diagnosed with cancer because his personal leadership is regarded by many as being central to the socialist cause.

Midway through 2012, WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange walked into the Ecuadorian Embassy in London seeking political asylum. He feared that attending court in Sweden to face charges of sexual assault was merely part of a ploy to extradite him to the US.

The Ecuadorian government subsequently granted Assange political asylum, citing concerns that Assange might be extradited to the US, which could conceivably lead to his execution or indefinite incarceration as a result of WikiLeaks having released information deemed sensitive by the US into the public realm. Predictably, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the UK would not allow Assange safe passage out of the country.

The result is that Assange currently remains in limbo inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Despite immense pressure, Ecuador based its decision on strong principles and a genuine commitment to human rights. It was a case of a small nation standing up to much more powerful ones and in the face of reported threats by Britain to storm its embassy in London. The Ecuadorian government has incurred the wrath of the US and thus may yet ultimately pay a heavy price.

Imperialist intents

Africa remained a troubled continent in 2012. The aftermath of the 2011 NATO-led conflict in Libya resulted in the killing of the US ambassador in Benghazi and a bloody military onslaught on the town of Bani Walid, a stronghold of the former Gadhafi regime. Libya remained in turmoil and no one knew where $150 billion of Libyan assets that were frozen by the West during the conflict had ‘disappeared’ to. Possibly partly gone to US corporate vultures to finance the rebuilding of the country that Uncle Sam helped destroy?

From Somalia to Congo, much of Africa remained mired in conflict. With Gadhafi gone, the US solidified the position of its African military command structure (AFRICOM). A scramble for mineral resources gained momentum, with the US seeking to weaken Chinese influence on the continent by, among other things, planning to send 3,000 troops to various African countries in 2013.

Moving towards the Middle East and Central Asia, both China and Russia continued to resist Western pressure for direct NATO military involvement in Syria, which nevertheless continues to build. Iran remained firmly in US sights during 2012, again with China and Russia attempting to block US-Israeli attempts to topple the Iranian regime.

The losers were the ordinary people in the region who live in fear of drone attacks, instability and war or the blighting effects of economic sanctions in Iran, which only serves to highlight the sheer hypocrisy of proclamations about ‘humanitarianism’ from the West.

In November,Israel first assassinated the military leader of Hamas and then proceeded to use its full military might to attack and kill civilians living in Gaza. No mention of ‘humanitarian intervention’ here from the US or Britain.

2012 was a year when much of the Arab world landed with a thud. New regimes were installed that were no better or much worse than the previous ones. In Egypt and beyond, there was the sober realisation (by those who were naïve enough not to realise it in the first place!) that outside manipulation meant the ‘Arab Spring’ had little to do with democracy, which the mainstream media was keen to tell everyone at the time.

Saving the best news till last

There were definitely many good things that happened during the year, and two especially come to mind. The first, as already mentioned, was the courageous country of Ecuador standing up to intimidation and pressure, not least from Britain, and opting to do the right thing where Julian Assange was concerned by upholding the principle of human rights, something which most (Western) governments blatantly disregard when it suits or cynically use for political and military gain.

The second was the dramatic images of thousands of ordinary men and women on the beach near the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in India’s Tamil Nadu state armed only with conviction, but standing up to the stick wielding forces of what is an increasingly undemocratic Indian state and a nuclear energy industry driven by corporate profit (substitute ‘nuclear energy’ for ‘agricultural’, ‘resource extraction’ ‘retail’ or any number of other sectors and you will appreciate the current nature of Indian ‘democracy’.)

What the eventual outcome will be in India is anyone’s guess. But let’s finish by at least dwelling on the positive. If there is something we can take from the actions of the Ecuadorian government and the good people of Koodankulam, places on opposite sides of the globe, it is that conviction and courage still count for something.

Thankfully, in an age when sneering cynicism towards alternatives is actively forwarded as part of the mainstream propaganda for encouraging mass apathy, ideals count for something too.

US-handpicked opposition leader, Moaz al-Khatib wants US to reconsider terror listing for Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra front, [which is covertly supported by Western intelligence].

As part of the US’ charade in declaring support and recognition of the so-called “Syrian” opposition, it added one of the more extreme groups that make up the militant front operating inside Syria to a list of sanctioned terrorist organizations. The idea was to have a scapegoat to pin atrocities on while the West armed, funded, and provided military support for the rest of the extremist groups ravaging Syria.

The ploy quickly fell apart however, when the US’ own handpicked opposition leader, Moaz al-Khatib spoke out in protest. Reuters quoted al-Khatib as saying:

“The decision to consider a party that is fighting the regime as a terrorist party needs to be reviewed. We might disagree with some parties and their ideas and their political and ideological vision. But we affirm that all the guns of the rebels are aimed at overthrowing the tyrannical criminal regime.”

Al-Khatib himself openly declares his intentions of establishing an “Islamic state” upon the ashes of the currently secular Syria, and has ties with the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. He was also a representative of Western big oil interests, in particular Royal Dutch Shell. Al-Khatib had worked at the al-Furat Petroleum Company for six years, according to the BBC, which is partnered with Shell Oil. Al-Khatib is also said to have lobbied for Shell in Syria between 2003-2004, and has likewise taught classes in both Europe and the United States, this according to his biography featured on his own website.

The implications of the US-backed “opposition coalition” in Syria clearly collaborating with and acting in support of the terrorist Jabhat al-Nusra front, identifies it as providing material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, as per USC § 2339B which reads:

“Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life. To violate this paragraph, a person must have knowledge that the organization is a designated terrorist organization (as defined in subsection (g)(6)), that the organization has engaged or engages in terrorist activity (as defined in section 212(a)(3)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act), or that the organization has engaged or engages in terrorism (as defined in section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989).”

Clearly, at the very least, the US cannot “recognize” such a group as the “representatives” of the Syrian people, nor can it support them in any manner, financial, militarily, or politically. To do so would implicate the US government itself as in violation of its own anti-terror laws.

The so-called “Syrian” opposition has been an increasing embarrassment to the Western interests that have maliciously arrayed them against the Syrian people, as far back as 2007. And while NATO is willfully utilizing Al Qaeda’s own regional networks to flood terrorists into Syria, to have the leaders of their own contrived opposition front openly demand that Al Qaeda be given support and recognition gives the world’s public insight into the depths of illegitimacy from which the West is operating in pursuit of regime change in Syria.

This year (2012) is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s seminal work ‘Silent Spring’, published first in the USA in 1962. This was the first book of its kind – an outspoken, powerfully argued and well researched condemnation of the reckless use of pesticides in modern agriculture, in urban and rural pest control and in and around the home.

At the time of its publication there was virtually no environmental movement. Conservation, its precursor was a minority interest and not taken seriously by governments or the public. However, the publication of ‘Silent Spring’ changed both public and government awareness of one of the most serious threats to both man and the environment that we rely on.

Initially, the book and its author were ridiculed by the press at the behest of the chemical manufacturers and the book’s findings were largely ignored or derided by government and major institutions such as the American Medical Association. Despite initial setbacks, the book sold incredibly well all over the world, so much so that it eventually gained huge media attention. By the time Carson died from breast cancer, in 1964, the book had created a legacy that would endure long after her death.

Former American Vice-President described ‘Silent Spring’ as ‘the beginning of the modern environmental movement’ and no-doubt she would have been delighted to see the impact of her work leading to the banning in USA and Europe of well known carcinogenic pesticides such as DDT. However, one must wonder if she would be so pleased by the progress that has been made in the decades following the publication of what might be regarded as the most powerful indictment of misuse and negligence in the use and regulation of modern technology.

The orthodoxy of the time was based on adoption of ‘chemical control’ as a means of controlling the natural world and solving any perceived problems arising from its failure to behave in the desired way. Since the 1940’s when chemical controls derived from the military became fashionable, alternatives such as ‘biological control’ were largely abandoned, at least until the effect of ‘Silent Spring’ began to be felt.

Thanks to Carson’s work and subsequent research and regulation chemical manufacturers have been forced to remove highly toxic pesticides from sale and replace them with safer broad-spectrum chemicals and selective chemicals. Although progress has been made it appears, from even a cursory investigation, that the world is still beset with a dangerous and worldwide problem relating to the use of pesticides. It would be nice to believe that her job was done, mission complete, and that there is no longer cause for concern or outrage. The sad truth could not be more different.

It is true that in Europe and North America standards for pollution of the environment from insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides and other sources have been greatly improved in the last fifty years, however  according to official figures (such as given by the EPA in America) billions of pounds of such products are used each year.  Individually these may not be specified as particularly dangerous, however evidence shows that when multiple products are applied or products combine in the soil, water-table or water courses the toxicity can be increased by many multiples. One such example is the organo phosphate Malathion, which has been used for decades and alone can be dealt with by the human liver. Unfortunately when combined with other chemicals, either deliberately or by chance it can become extremely dangerous, it is also potentially dangerous if ingested by those with an impaired liver. Despite these proven problems, in excess of 20 million pounds has been used in the USA annually over the last decade.

The combined effect of multiple products on insects, mammals, fish and indeed humans can be catastrophic – potentially causing cancer, nerve damage and even death. This in itself is rather worrying given that large quantities of pesticides enter the ‘food chain’ every year, ultimately ending up on our dinner plates or in drinling water.

What is more worrying still is the situation in the so called ‘developing world’. In Africa there is a chronic problem of poorly stored or poorly disposed of chemicals that are obsolete. Chemicals such as DDT, banned in Europe and America since the 60s were sold in Africa (and other places) for a much longer period of time but after they were banned they continued to be used, were stored in unsuitable conditions that allowed seepage or were disposed of in ways that allowed soil and water to be contaminated.

Belatedly, in 2005 a programme was begun to clan up these obsolete pesticides from Africa, which is expected to take 15 years and cost about 250 million US dollars. Meanwhile this dangerous stockpile continues to poison land and water, having a hidden but terrible effect on both wildlife and humans alike.

Even where more modern chemicals are used, there is an appalling lack of understanding of safety procedures with workers using incorrect dosages, handling undiluted products, failing to use personal protection equipment (PPE) when applying products due to either ignorance or lack of money. The consequence of the stockpile of old products and the reckless use of current products is an enormous cost to the African continent in both financial and health terms, which has been highlighted by the Pesticide Action Network.

Moving on to India, the situation there in the last decade has been equally dire – researchers at the Centre for Science and Environment have found huge levels of dangerous pesticides present in the blood samples of not just agricultural workers but the general rural population in areas where pesticides are heavily used. For example, in Punjab state, which is famous for its agriculture, massive levels of organochlorine pesticides in humans is accompanied by worryingly high cancer rates among those exposed. Not only is this taking its toll on the human population, other organisms (fish and mammals especially) are vulnerable to damage or death at the hands of pesticides, which is devastating for the environment and local economies.

In China there have been ongoing problems with safety in agricultural products, leading to new regulations being drafted in 2011 to deal with the effects of chemical misuse. Previous regulations, issued in 1997, have proven to be insufficient to prevent to prevent public safety scandals due to dangerous levels of pesticides in food. This problem has a direct effect on the Chinese environment, its animal and human population with serious poisoning or even deaths.

In 2011 approximately 1.3 million tons of pesticides were used annually, many of which are proven highly toxic throughout the food chain, however ten of the most dangerous have now been banned. In 2009 Greenpeace tested 50 fruit and vegetable samples in an independent laboratory and found that only 5 samples did not contain pesticides, multiple types were found in the rest.

As with both India and Africa, China has a catastrophic problem brought about by poor regulation, misuse and general ignorance. This problem, in developing countries all over the world, is exacerbated by the global economy – a blind eye often being turned while cheap, but sub-standard, food products are sold all over the world.

It would be understandable for a European or American to say that pollution in Africa, South America, Asia etc is not our problem. However, when some or much of most countries’ food arriving from abroad is laced with a hidden cocktail of poisons this becomes everyone’s problem.

What is more frightening still is the tendency of chlorinated hydrocarbons to accumulate over time in the fatty tissues of animals, humans included. This means that over a long period of time dangerous levels of pesticides and other related chemicals can build up in the body, possibly eventually leading to infertility, poisoning or cancer. Often illness will not manifest itself for years, but once a critical level has built up in the body of a human (or animal) it can lead to a total collapse of the immune system, nervous system or raging cancer that kills with great speed.

It is well known that levels of cancer, nervous disease and infertility have increased dramatically over the last century, in the latter half especially. Is this just co-incidence or is there a correlation between poor health and the prevalence of chemical controls in modern agriculture?

Far from disappearing. the use of pesticides and the appearance of their side-effects has now become a world-wide problem. Rachel Carson’s dire warning fifty years ago set alarm bells ringing in the ‘western’ economies but profiteering and negligence has enabled these problems to be transferred to the rest of the world to such an extent that the entire planet is now becoming poisoned by our stupidity and greed.

Furthermore, chemical control has proven to be only effective in the short term, requiring greater quantities over time or new variants in order to overcome the development of genetic resistance, particularly in insects. Biological controls, apart from being much safer, have been proven to be effective in pest control both in the short and long term. Given this indisputable fact, it makes no sense to allow widespread and careless use of chemical controls when the cost to humanity and all life far outweighs the benefits, especially when viable alternatives are available.

A marine biologist and painstaking researcher, Carson provided a stark warning of where we are headed – she believed that the road we are on is the deceptively easy road to destruction and that our only chance for the preservation of our planet is to take the road “less traveled by” which although harder, is the right and only sensible path to take.

Her impassioned plea was not rooted in hysteria or emotion but arose from her understanding of biological science and the fragile relationship of the ecosystem that we and all other living things rely on. Despite well over fifty years of evidence regarding the catastrophic effect of polluting the natural world that feeds and sustains us; for political, economic and social reasons humanity continues to poison the world and itself at an alarming rate.

Surely, if it was not already time to end this madness fifty years ago, it is now a seriously pressing matter if we are to avoid poisoning ourselves and many of the earth’s organisms into extinction

Luke Eastwood is a horticulturist and writer in Co. Wexford, Ireland. You can view more of his work at Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ is available in various editions, published by Houghton Mifflin.

Siria: il retroscena parigino del conclave di Doha!

December 14th, 2012 by Nasser Charara

La Conferenza di Doha sulla Siria, nel novembre 2012, includeva un aspetto oscuro che consisteva nel tracciare un piano per cambiare la realtà politica e militare sul terreno, spingendo Parigi ad accelerare e istigare a “bruciare le tappe.” Ne è venuto fuori un “memorandum confidenziale” che definisce la funzione operativa della nuova “coalizione dell’opposizione siriana”, una volta che i ribelli riorganizzati e concentrati su cinque fronti assalteranno le principali città siriane.
Secondo una fonte molto in alto nelle gerarchie delle autorità siriane, molti dettagli dei piani segreti architettati al margine di Doha, avrebbero preso la via di Damasco, rivelando che l’obiettivo del congresso non era soltanto trovare una soluzione alla crisi manifesta della frammentata opposizione fondamentalista islamica, ma anche e soprattutto sviluppare un piano che potrebbe cambiare la realtà politica e militare siriana; la recente “Battaglia di Damasco” rientra nelle decisioni segrete prese nella stessa conferenza. In particolare, la Francia ha cercato di manovrare dietro le quinte per diversi motivi. Tra questi, i massimo dei suoi sforzi per convincere l’UE a revocare il divieto di fornire armi all’opposizione siriana che, secondo Parigi, è pronta a ottenere una vittoria decisiva. Pertanto, la comunità internazionale avrebbe dovuto seguire il suo esempio attraverso il riconoscimento della coalizione [1] come unico rappresentante del popolo siriano e come unico punto di contatto di tutte le opposizioni. Così, i dibattiti riportati da alcuni partecipanti a questa famosa conferenza, dimostrerebbero l’insistenza della Francia nel rovesciare il governo siriano al più presto possibile, incoraggiando “a bruciare le tappe” nel promuovere l’escalation politico-militare e risolvere il problema della paura generata, in occidente, dall’opposizione armata, chiaramente dominata dalle cellule di al-Qaida e dagli elementi soggetti ai programmi degli estremisti salafiti.
Il piano dei cinque fronti  Sulla base di quanto filtrato dalla conferenza di Doha, del suo rapporto con la situazione generale militare in Siria, delle organizzazioni della cosiddetta opposizione siriana infine fusesi, della battaglia di Damasco che ne è seguita, secondo le fonti informate che hanno parlato con al-Akhbar, le posizioni dei cosiddetti “amici del popolo siriano” non sono immerse nell’armonia totale. Mentre Parigi si distingue per il suo desiderio di aggredire e la sua insistenza a bruciare le fasi del confronto con le autorità siriane, Washington e in misura minore Londra, ritengono che in questa fase sarebbe meglio applicare semplicemente sanzioni economiche più severe e spingere l’opposizione a riorganizzarsi sotto l’egida della nuova coalizione, per liberarsi “parzialmente” dei propri estremisti; solo in parte perché potrebbero “ancora essere utili” per indebolire lo stato siriano! Di conseguenza, un documento con il timbro del segreto, sarebbe circolato dietro le quinte, per preparare le discussioni sulla necessità della cautela nell’armamento dell’opposizione. I punti chiave di questo documento riservato si concentrano su due assi principali, l’operatività e i doveri della Coalizione Nazionale che “dovrebbe dimostrarsi capace di superare diverse sfide”, tra cui: 1. Unificare l’assistenza umanitaria agli sfollati dentro e fuori i confini siriani, in modo che possa raggiungere tutti i siriani attraverso “il canale esclusivo dei Fratelli musulmani.” 2. Rivedere l’organizzazione dei ribelli armati asserviti alla coalizione degli oppositori, di cui ne costituiscono i due terzi secondo i dati dei servizi segreti stranieri, secondo un piano che unirebbe cinque fronti preparati contro le principali città siriane. Questo, al fine di eliminare l’ultimo terzo costituito dai salafiti, che sarebbero fedeli solo a se stessi. Una terza area di discussione sarebbe focalizzata sull’armamento della coalizione dell’opposizione siriana. I membri di spicco della coalizione hanno presentato la brillante idea di abolire il divieto e la codificazione delle armi destinate ai cosiddetti ribelli, mentre i funzionari governativi francesi hanno indicato che, nel caso in questione, qualsiasi coinvolgimento in questa direzione dovrebbe passare attraverso una decisione dell’Unione europea, richiedendo il consenso dei 27 paesi partner con i quali si è in corso di negoziazione. Hanno detto che il problema per il governo francese è inestricabilmente legato a “scongiurare il pericolo degli infiltrati jihadisti nell’opposizione siriana”, l’occidente è anche, e per la maggior parte, disposto ad armare l’opposizione così riorganizzata. Ciò che questi eminenti oppositori hanno replicato è che proprio questa astensione occidentale ha portato le forze salafite ad essere più pesantemente armate, avendo la possibilità di dipendere solo dalle reti del finanziamento privato, anche se sponsorizzate dai paesi del Golfo. Parigi avrebbe promesso di discuterne durante le deliberazioni del Consiglio europeo per gli affari esteri, che ha avuto luogo nella seconda metà del mese scorso. Ma le risposte all’ultima domanda sono rimaste segrete! In ogni caso, gli osservatori della conferenza di Doha hanno visto che Parigi, superando la cautela dagli Stati Uniti, sembrava molto ansiosa di mobilitarsi a favore della decisione di armare coloro che essa chiama “opposizione democratica siriana”, se non altro per il suo impegno nel cercare l’approvazione dei suoi partner dell’Unione europea. Tuttavia, come il corso degli eventi ha dimostrato, Parigi ha fallito nel suo tentativo di porsi a leader della “comunità internazionale” nella crisi siriana, e dovrà porsi nel campo guidato da Washington. Ma nel frattempo, gli eventi di Gaza hanno monopolizzato gli sforzi diplomatici internazionali dedicati alla situazione siriana…
Fallimento dell’opzione francese  Dopo la conferenza di Doha, vi sono state aspre critiche, anche all’Eliseo, sull’opportunità dell’iniziativa prematura del presidente francese François Hollande, che ha dichiarato di riconoscere la coalizione “come l’unico rappresentante del popolo siriano, e quindi come governo provvisorio della futura Siria democratica, permettendo di farla finita col regime di Bashar al-Assad!” [2]. Secondo fonti diplomatiche, Hollande avrebbe indicato i tre motivi che l’hanno portato a distinguersi, mentre Londra e Washington si erano astenute dal riconoscere la coalizione in questi termini. Il primo motivo è dovuto al suo impegno personale, che si era ripromesso di rispettare, facendo al più presto l’annuncio. Il secondo era la sua convinzione personale della necessità di accelerare le mosse militari e diplomatiche per non smorzare la spinta dell’accordo di unificazione, ottenuto a Doha a prezzo di molte difficoltà. Il terzo era relativo al suo desiderio di vedere Parigi in prima linea, sulla scena internazionale, ripetendo in Siria il proprio ruolo in Libia. Come Sarkozy aveva ufficialmente ricevuto l’illustre Consiglio nazionale di transizione [NTC] accelerando l’intervento occidentale in Libia, facendo pendere la bilancia a favore dei ribelli, Hollande ha pensato bene di correre a nominare l’ambasciatore a Parigi della Coalizione nella persona del dissidente siriano, in esilio da anni, Makhous Mounzer, poco dopo aver ricevuto Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, nominato presidente della coalizione da poco unificata. Ma Parigi non è stata molto contenta di vedere che il suo approccio non ha alterato le riserve di Londra e Washington, che praticamente non hanno cambiato la loro posizione internazionale sulla questione siriana, come era avvenuto in Libia. Anche la Lega araba, su cui Parigi puntava molto facendo leva sull’opposizione siriana, non si è espressa così chiaramente come previsto, in quanto ha riconosciuto la coalizione come osservatore e non come unico rappresentante del popolo siriano. Parigi non si è resa conto che la sua fretta di rovesciare il governo siriano, imitando il caso libico, era problematica, soprattutto quando ha autorizzato a nominare un ambasciatore della coalizione degli oppositori, sollevando questioni giuridiche, dato che alcun governo di opposizione è stato fondato in Siria o all’estero! Parigi, infatti, è andata avanti mentre la Gran Bretagna e gli Stati Uniti dichiaravano di avere ancora da discutere sui termini di questo riconoscimento… [3]. Così, Parigi ha cercato di diffondere i suoi argomenti per convincere i suoi partner, in particolare Washington, sui meriti della sua politica. Sempre da fonti diplomatiche, l’argomento forte in questo caso si riduceva nel dire che Parigi avrebbe riconosciuto la coalizione “perché avrebbe cercato di far pendere la bilancia a favore dei musulmani moderati, a scapito degli infiltrati salafiti tra i combattenti armati e i diversi gruppi politici!”. Ma sembra che Londra e Washington siano rimaste sulle loro posizioni: aiuti umanitari e unificazione nei cinque fronti dei combattenti, che verrebbero staccati e non asserviti ai gruppi estremisti [4]. Coloro che hanno seguito queste discussioni a Doha, prevedono che s’innescherà una guerra tra salafiti e cosiddetti musulmani moderati. In altre parole, si aspettano una seconda guerra civile dentro quella attuale, che avrebbe luogo sempre sul suolo siriano!
Fallimento dello scenario adottato per assassinare al-Assad Sempre sull’obiettivo di “bruciare le tappe” perseguito da Parigi, con la simpatia “condizionata” della Gran Bretagna, sono emersi informazioni che rimangono da dimostrare. Si concentrano sul fatto che la “battaglia di Damasco” avrebbe coperto un fallito tentativo di assassinare il Presidente della Siria ad opera di un presunto squadrone giordano, incaricato di penetrare nell’aeroporto internazionale di Damasco, prima di continuare il suo raid contro una località ritenuta essere luogo di residenza del Presidente. Tutto questo per far credere che l’attentato sarebbe stato commesso dagli avversari interni ed evitare il coinvolgimento degli Stati Uniti verso la Russia. A questo proposito, vale la pena ricordare l’apertura di un ufficio dei servizi segreti britannici nella capitale giordana, incaricato dell’esecuzione della logistica diretta al territorio siriano.
Nasser Sharara 07/12/2012 Al-Akhbar [Libano]
Articolo tradotto dall’arabo da Mouna Alno-Nakhal per
[1] “Protocollo di Doha” dell’opposizione siriana ( Una “opposizione” eterogenea, divisa, senza programma e senza prospettiva creata dal Qatar e doppiata da François Hollande!
[3] Il diritto internazionale permette di sostenere apertamente l’opposizione armata in Siria?
[4] Gli Stati Uniti finalmente ammettono l’invio di armi pesanti dalla Libia ai ribelli siriani “Entrambe queste disposizioni, il riconoscimento dell’opposizione unificata e l’istituzione a distanza di gruppi estremisti, sono necessari per l’amministrazione Obama per riconoscere apertamente di sostenere i ribelli siriani con armi e rifornimenti.”
Nasser Sharara è un giornalista libanese

The Insufferable Human Drama of Evictions in Spain

December 14th, 2012 by Jérôme Roos

With 500 families being evicted in Spain every day, foreclosures have become a source of great suffering. But luckily, there are still those who resist.

Throughout this crisis, there has always been a certain alienating quality to the pronouncements of European leaders and technocrats. Sometimes one is led to wonder if these people are actually talking about the same continent — or the same universe, for that matter. Just today, for instance, the European Central Bank announced that “the eurozone is starting to heal.” Indeed, the major weakness the central bankers could detect from the commanding heights of their glass-and-steel tower in downtown Frankfurt was “falling bank profits.”

But this morning, huddled together with activists and independent journalists in a small apartment in Madrid, the eurozone seemed to be far from healing. Together with Santiago Carrión from the Associated Whistleblowing Press, we were there because the Platform for those Affected by their Mortgage (PAH), which runs the Stop Desahucios (Stop Evictions) campaign, had called on the city’s indignados to protect Juana Madrid and her two daughters of 21 and 17, who were about to be evicted from their humble home in the poor neighborhood of Orcasur. The atmosphere, of course, was tense.

The living room was full of people, most of them photographers, while outside the first chants of activists could be heard as people prepared to physically block the entrance to the apartment. Nervously dragging on her cigarette, Juana’s baggy and dark-ringed eyes said it all: this was a woman on the verge of a breakdown. Her voice was calm and subdued, but her facial expression exuded despair. “We have nowhere to go,” Juana’s 21-year-old daughter Isa told us in the kitchen. “If they evict us today we will end up on the street tonight.”

Sadly, the story of Juana and her daughters is by no means an exception. Ever since the start of the crisis in late 2008, over 350.000 families have been evicted from their homes. According to government figures, Spain currently faces a staggering wave of 500 evictions per day — 150 of them in Madrid alone. The vast majority of these involve families whose main breadwinner lost his or her job in the recession and who have inadvertently fallen behind on their mortgage payments to the bank. At 25.02%, Spain’s unemployment rate is the highest in the developed world, higher even than in the U.S. at the peak of the Great Depression.

Recent months have seen a wave of high-profile suicides by people who were about to be evicted from their homes. The most paradigmatic case was that of a 53-year-old woman in the Basque Country, who jumped from her balcony and plunged to death as foreclosure agents made their way up the stairs of her apartment. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, tells the harrowing story of a Spanish locksmith who was taken aback when he pried open the door of a foreclosed apartment for police, and encountered a woman giving birth inside. According to the locksmith, it was “evident that the stress of the foreclosure had induced premature birth.”

Since then, a number of high judges have spoken out against the “inhumane” foreclosure laws in Spain, which they consider to be “overly protective of the politically influential banks”. Under immense media pressure, the conservative government finally passed an emergency law allowing the most vulnerable families to be spared from eviction. Still, the new law will only cover some 120.000 people and does not tackle the root of the problem, which is the fact that the government keeps squeezing workers, students, homeowners, pensioners and the sick and disabled in order to pay for the folly of a tiny elite of gambling bankers.

The human tragedy, after all, is only part of the story. The other part, as the Spanish indignados rightly point out, is the estafa: the fraud. Many of the mortgages that now shackle millions of families to unpayable debt loads, came about under highly dubious circumstances to begin with. The banks never cared if people would be able to repay their debts: as long as house prices kept rising, a defaulting family could still be evicted and replaced by another. After the bank reclaimed the property, it could just re-sell it at a profit. The fact that lives are being destroyed and families shattered in the process is wholly irrelevant for the financial imperatives of the bank.

And thus, the people end up paying the banks triple: first through the usurious interest rates they pay on their mortgage loans (which are essentially conjured up out of thin air by the banks); second through the tax-payer-funded bailouts of the same banks, after many of these mortgages started going bad; and third through the homes they are losing and which subsequently fall back into the property of the bank, which can — a few years down the line, when real estate prices will have recovered somewhat — sell on the property to a third party.

Juana’s situation was a bit different, however. Unlike millions of others, who are being threatened by the bank because they are struggling to pay their mortgage, Juana did not even own a house: she lived in social housing. What’s more, she wasn’t even provided with a real reason for her eviction. Initially, on April 12 this year, she received a notice from the social housing office (IVIMA) that, because she had fallen into unemployment and was unable to pay her rent, she would be evicted — unless she immediately paid 1,250 euros in cash.

Within a matter of days, soliciting friends, neighbors and activists, Juana managed to secure the funds. But the people at IVIMA refused to accept it. In a second notice, they told her the real reason for her eviction was that they had received complaints from neighbors that she was a rowdy nuisance. Again, within a matter of days, Juana produced a document with signatures from virtually every person in her street attesting that she was a good neighbor and no one ever had any problems with her. And so again, the reason for her eviction shifted.

This time, the official reason Juana and her daughters were being evicted from their home was because Juana’s bike “scratched the walls of the staircase” when she carried it up into her apartment. According to Juana, this is blatantly untrue, but the broader point here is obviously the sheer absurdity of the official logic. As both Juana and PAH activists told us later, the real reason for the eviction is actually much more sinister. In fact, Juana’s eviction appears to be part of a massive privatization drive pushed through by the Rajoy government in order to pay for its 40 billion euro EU bank bailout. Apparently, even social housing is not immune to this drive.

Juana, assisted by a lawyer from the PAH, tried in vain to contact the social housing office, which simply refused to speak to her. Now the reasons are clear. By forcing out families on the quasi-legal basis of nonsensical excuses, the city council can sell the houses on to third parties and make some much-needed money so Rajoy can continue to bail out the banks. In protest against this bizarre logic, Juana, in a state of total desperation, decided to stage a sit-in protest in front of the social housing office. But after sympathizers began to join her in front of the IVIMA office, police ordered the camp to be disbanded.

All of this underscores the fact that the European debt crisis, far from being resolved, is actually being used as an excuse to expropriate the homes of law-abiding families and engage in a massive redistribution of wealth towards a tiny elite of powerful bankers and privileged politicians. David Harvey, the famous geographer, coined a term for this: it’s called “accumulation by dispossession“. Another way of putting it is to say that bankers and politicians are engaging in institutionalized theft. The capitalist class — obsessed as it is with the notion of private property — actually seems to care very little for personal belongings when that property is not its own.

The idiocy of Juana’s situation is clearly beyond words, and the sheer injustice of the evictions is so blatant as to render the story utterly incredulous. Yet it’s true. And it’s happening on a truly massive scale. Luckily, however, there are those who resist. Today, as the technocrats at the European Central Bank pretended once again that everything is under control, a few dozen indignant Spaniards came together and decided to take matters into their own hands. They occupied the doorstep of Juana’s home and refused to let police enter. And they won. Juana can keep her home. For now.

“Popular pressure has successfully paralyzed this eviction,” one lady of the PAHtold the assembled press afterwards. “It’s a great victory, and we will keep on struggling. Unfortunately, however, it all comes too late for the lady who committed suicide this morning.” With a heartfelt sadness in her voice, she dedicated today’s success to Victoria Mesa, the 52-year-old who jumped from her balcony today after receiving a foreclosure notice in the mail. Swallowing back the tears, she lifted her hands towards the heavens. “I just hope she sees what we are doing here.”

Killing Civilians: Obama’s Drone War in Pakistan

December 14th, 2012 by Sajjad Shaukat

In his second term, it was expected that the U.S. President Barack Obama would reassess America’s controversial foreign policy, especially by ceasing CIA-operated drone attacks on Pakistan. But these aerial strikes continue on Pak tribal areas.

It is worth mentioning that Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam, who visited America in August, 2012, emphatically told the then-CIA Director David Petraeus that predator strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty that must be stopped. He pointed out that these strikes are proving counterproductive, giving a greater incentive to fundamentalist and extremist elements in Pakistan and are increasing anti-U.S. sentiments among the people.

While addressing the UN General Assembly on September 25, President Asif Ali Zardari said, “Drone strikes and civilian casualties on our territory add to the complexity of our battle for hearts and minds through this epic struggle” against terrorism.

Besides, after her meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on September 21 in Washington, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar stated that they had discussions on drones, saying, “These are illegal and counterproductive.” She explained that when “a U.S. drone carries out a strike, Pakistani officials have to hear remarks that this is a U.S. war.” Khar elaborated that in 352 terrorist attacks in Pakistan, many of those killed were Pakistanis as opposed to foreigners.

While justifying these air strikes by spy planes, the counterterrorism advisor to Obama, John Brennan, and Defense Minister Leon Panetta have defended these attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas under the pretext of North Waziristan-based Haqqani militants whom they have blamed for several assaults on American and NATO bases in Afghanistan. On the other hand, U.S.-led coalition forces have failed in stopping incursions of heavily-armed insurgents in Pakistan from thye Afghan side who have killed more than 100 personnel of Pakistan’s security forces in the last two years while targeting the infrastructure of the area. In fact, the U.S. seeks to make North Waziristan a scapegoat for NATO’s defeat in Afghanistan by continuing the illegal mass murder of innocent people through Predator strikes.

However, setting aside parliamentary resolutions, rallies and processions of Pakistan’s political and religious parties against drone attacks, and ignoring the new rapprochement between Islamabad and Washington, without bothering about any internal backlash, these strikes keep on going on in the FATA.

In fact, such American duplicity contains a number of covert designs. The fresh wave of strikes by pilotless aircraft has thwarted the offer of militants and the Pakistani government for peace talks. And the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has as a result accelerated subversive activities in the country. Now, the U.S. seeks to incite the Haqqani network as over the past 14 months, as most of these strikes have targeted North Waziristan. So, these aerial attacks are provoking the tribal people against Pakistan’s security forces and increasing the recruitment of insurgents. Another aim of these strikes is to create a rift between Pakistan’s armed forces on one side and the political and religious parties including the general masses on the other. Besides, Pakistan is the only nuclear country in the Islamic world. Hence, the U.S., India and Israel are determined to weaken it. The drone campaign is also part of this game.

The strikes by the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which have continued in Pakistan’s tribal areas since 2004 have intensified during the Obama era. In one of the major drone attacks more than 40 civilians and policemen were killed on March 18, 2011 in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. In the past few months, these unmanned aircraft killed more than 100 people in North Waziristan.

As regards civilian casualties, on August 11, 2011 a report of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism said, “The Guardian published some of the pictures, we have obtained…as many as 168 children have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan during the past seven years.” While rejecting the CIA’s false claim, the report disclosed, “It is a bleak view: more people killed than previously thought.”

Besides, a report of the New America Foundation revealed that President Obama has “authorised 193 drone strikes in Pakistan, more than four times the number of attacks that President Bush authorised during his two terms.” The report explained, “When the U.S. drones attack Pakistan’s tribal areas, it is not just the 10, or 50, innocent civilians they kill, these killings provide reason to youth for joining terrorist groups waging war against the U.S. and of course Pakistan…while killing 10 militants, the U.S. has murdered more than 1,400 Pakistanis not involved in any terrorist activities. Could it not be inferred that it gave birth to another 1,400 militants?”

The latest report, “Living Under Drones,” prepared by experts from the Stanford Law School and the New York University School of Law, disclosed that the U.S. campaign of drone “strikes in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt is terrorising civilians 24 hours a day and breeding bitter anti-American sentiment. [They] have killed thousands of people…even stopping their children going to school for fear of being targeted.” Based on research, the report urged Washington to rethink its drone strategy, arguing it was counterproductive and undermined international law.

Nevertheless, details collected by Pakistani journalists show that civilian casualties through drone strikes are higher as indicated [even] by U.S. officials. In the last four years, more than 800 innocent civilians and only 22 Al-Qaeda commanders have been killed by these aerial attacks.

Particularly during his first presidential campaign, Barack Obama pledged to reverse the excesses of the Bush era in relation to terrorism. He also promised to reformulate a counterterrorism policy in accordance with the legal and moral values of the U.S. Contrary to his assertions, Obama followed Bush’s approach to counterterrorism in its worst form by expanding and accelerating the Predator strikes.

In this respect, The New York Time on May 26, 2011, in an article which was written with the assistance of several counterterrorism advisers of the administration, revealed, “President Obama has become personally involved in the process” and “has normalised extrajudicial killings from the Oval Office, taking advantage of America’s temporary advantage in drone technology. Without the scrutiny of the legislature and the courts, and outside the public eye, Obama is authorising murder on a weekly basis.”

Notably, the American constitution explicitly grants the right to declare war to the Congress so as to restrain the president from chasing enemies around the world, based solely on his authority as commander-in-chief, by waging a secret war.

Instead of capturing militants alive and to avoid giving the right of due process of law to them in a court, President Obama has openly been acting upon a ruthless policy of targeted killings by supervising the CIA-controlled drone warfare.

Notably, President Obama has broken all the records for human rights violations by extrajudicial killings of innocent people through CIA-operated unmanned aircraft, which are part of his so-called counterterrorism operations in Somalia, Yemen, etc. in general and Pakistan in particular, while the U.S. claims to be the protector of human rights not only inside the country but all over the world.

On the one hand, top U.S. officials, particularly Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have repeatedly said that America needs Pakistan’s help not only for the peace process with the militants, but also for stability in Afghanistan in the post-2014 scenario; but on the other, U.S. spy planes in Pakistan’s tribal regions are undermining international efforts for stability both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including a peace dialogue with the Afghan militants.

Meanwhile, Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, said on August 16 of this year that it was time for “the U.S. to open itself up to scrutiny as to the legality of such attacks…each strike is visually recorded and videos could be passed to independent assessors.” Recently, former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have also opposed Obama’s faulty strategy of drone strikes.

Nonetheless, these strikes are illegal, unethical and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty as well as the UN Charter. But U.S. warrior President Obama remains intransigent in continuing his secret war through drone attacks.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Email: [email protected]

The Future of Food and Seed

December 14th, 2012 by Dr. Vandana Shiva

It’s the time when journalists review the past 12 months to tally blunders, setbacks and successes. It’s a time too, to reflect on leaders—media leaders, financial leaders, political leaders. What they do not look at is the moral standard by which men— leadership is still about the actions and qualities of men—are judged.

Earlier this week, a fleeting news item revealed that the former head of the International Monetary Fund and possible French presidential aspirant had reached a settlement with the NY hotel maid whom he’d assaulted. At the time of the incident, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was portrayed in very bad light; the US media had a field day with his appearance in court. A year later the once powerful international figure maintains a quiet life and, we assume, the future holds no political prospects for him.

The case of Strauss-Kahn will remind us what happened to the celebrated American military leader, ex-CIA chief David Petraeus. (According to some, Petraeus too was possible presidential material.) The US media was easier on Petraeus than the IMF chief. Still, he too has slipped from the stage… for the present. Given the capriciousness of the press and its capacity to forgive the wayward ways of ambitious men, one or both of these naughty boys may one day return to public life. We have sufficient historical precedents for that.

None of that interests me. Because something more basic is being missed in both these judgments, namely the business of war that generals and their civilian commanders work in. How is it that today, sexual morality trumps the evils of war? Take recent American wars—the wars Petraeus himself (in a long line of military heroes) executed, under a series of US presidents.

Why is sexual philandering judged more harshly than our treacherous, bloody and failed war-making? By failed wars I do not simply refer to failure to achieve military goals. I mean wars conducted with a failed morality, wars justified by lies. No one is held responsible for hundreds of thousands of lives and many more wounded, civilian and military, for billions of misspent funds and widespread poverty. Today few will argue that these wars were worthwhile. Who dares to claim that the US sanctions-war and subsequent invasion and occupation of Iraq were morally justifiable or strategically sound? Surely the war against Afghanistan is equally ignoble and wasted? All that American leaders seek now is a successful ‘exit strategy’ from Afghanistan, one they can sell to US citizens and lawmakers as equal to the military departure from Iraq.

In acknowledging strategic failures, tallying of trillions of wasted defense dollars, witnessing the utter destruction of nations, admitting that counties America claimed to liberate may actually be in far worse condition now than before, who is held responsible?

With US torture practices revealed, shameful behavior of soldiers exposed, the rage and antagonism US wars engendered, although a handful of journalists reveal US war crimes, in fact, no US leader has been fired, removed in disgrace, or charged with war crimes or incompetence. Simon Jenkins makes this point in his review of the David Petraeus scandal “Fire leaders for failure, not for cheating”(The Guardian Weekly, Nov. 23, 2012). In modern times US military leaders are remembered as valiant heroes; they lecture to university audiences and write popular books about their exploits. Why do we buy them?

Also posted on blog. In a few days look for my happy year-end blog. I can still enjoy the world around me.

Car Bombs Kill 24 Civilians on Outskirts of Damascus

December 14th, 2012 by Jason Ditz

Car bombings remain the order of the day in the area around the Syrian capital city of Damascus today, with another round of bombings killing at least 24 civilians, including a large number of children.

The deadliest of today’s bombings was near an Army housing complex according to rebels, but the car was parking closer to a nearby elementary school, which bore the brunt of the blast.

So far no group has claimed credit for today’s bombings, but we can take a pretty good guess. Yesterday’s largest bombings, three blasts including car and suicide bombings near the Interior Ministry, has been claimed by the al-Nusra Front.

Al-Nusra, which the US says is simply another name for al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), has regularly launched suicide and car bombing attacks in recent months, causing major civilian casualties. The group has continued to grow in influence and is now seen as a “vital” part of the Syrian rebellion forces.

The Military Industrial Complex: A Capitalist System Running Amok

December 14th, 2012 by Rev. Richard Skaff

The Military Industrial Complex has solidified its ties and deeply inserted his long horns into the arteries of the American taxpayers.

Creating wars to feed the blood-thirsty and greedy beast of the military industry complex has been a common practice in an allegedly democratic nation. Taxpayers’ have flipped this bill for decades under the guise of self-preservation and protection. As always government has used fear to fashion people’s consent and obedience. Meanwhile, corruption is prevalent, our national debt is skyrocketing, and our parasitic superpower is broke. Parasitic it is, because you can’t become super-rich or super-powerful unless you suck the blood and the life out of someone else. In this case, it is the taxpayers (the proles).

Under the guise of the Private-Public Partnership (PPP) phenomenon, the Military Industrial Complex has solidified its ties and deeply inserted his long horns into the arteries of the American taxpayers. Citizens for responsibility and ethics in Washington (CREW) has recently issued a scathing and disturbing report exposing this unethical and frightening phenomenon where high-ranking generals and admirals earn their stars, their stripes, and then, they earn their the big cash.

The CREW report found that 70 percent (or 76) of the 108 three-and-four star generals and Admirals who retired between 2009 and 2011 took jobs with defense contractors or consultants. In at least a few cases, the retirees have continued to advise the Department of Defense while on the payroll of defense contractors, suggesting the Pentagon may not always be receiving unbiased counsel.

The retired generals and admirals moving into the private sector in general do not appear to be breaking any rules. Nonetheless, their heavily traveled path through the military-industrial complex continues to raise important questions about the intersection of national security and the interests of private companies that stand to make billions of dollars. [1].

A 2010 Boston Globe investigation revealed that the number of retired three-and-four star Generals and admirals moving into lucrative defense industry jobs rose from less than 50 percent between 1994 and 1998 to a stratospheric 80 percent between 2004 and 2008, findings that brought new scrutiny to this unethical revolving door. [2], [1]

CREW’s research shows the number of high-level retirees taking those jobs has since ticked down, though the vast majority of retiring generals and admirals continue to sign on with defense contractors vying for their services.

Every year, the Pentagon awards hundreds of billions of dollars in contracts to the defense industry. [3], [1] Retired generals, with their strong relationships, robust contact lists, and insider knowledge, are valuable assets in the competition for contracts and can easily make more than their base pay – currently $164,221 per year for a three-star general and $179,700 for a four-star general – by serving on a single corporate board. [4], [1]

A recent study found that when a defense company announced the hiring of a former defense department political appointee, on average, the company’s stock price increased. [5], [1] The relationship was statistically weak but positive, suggesting investors believe such hires bring benefits. [5], [1]

In 2011 alone, the Department of Defense committed to spending nearly $100 billion with the five largest defense contractors – Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman. [3], [1] At least nine of the top-level generals and admirals who retired between 2009 and 2011 took positions with those five companies. In addition, 12 generals who retired during that period have gone on to work for Burdeshaw Associates, a “renta-general” consulting firm specializing in helping companies obtain defense contracts. [2], [1]. Burdeshaw’s clients have included Northrop Grumman. [2], [1]

Further, CREW found some retired generals and admirals work for defense contractors while they continue to advise the Pentagon. Per example, both Gen. James Cartwright, who retired from the U. S. Marine Corps on September 1, 2011 after serving as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Adm. Gary Roughead, who retired from the Navy in 20119 after serving as the chief of naval operations, were appointed to the Defense Policy Board on October 4, 2011. [6]. [1] The board’s charter mandates that it provide the secretary of defense “with independent, informed advice and opinion concerning major matters of defense policy.” [7], [1]

Gen. Cartwright, shortly after his retirement, was elected to the Raytheon Co. board of directors. [8], [1]

Raytheon, a public company that reports director compensation, disclosed paying each of its non-employee directors an $85,000 annual cash retainer in 2011, as well as a $1,500 meeting fee for each board or committee meeting attended in person or by teleconference.[9], [1]

In addition, directors received $120,000 worth of restricted stock grants in 2011. [9], [1] Gen. Cartwright is also on the board of advisors of TASC, Inc., [10], [1] a former subsidiary of Northrop Grumman that advises military agencies, [11], [1] and a member of the U.S. federal advisory board of Accenture Federal Services.[12], [1].

Less than four months after his retirement, Adm. Roughead joined Northrop Grumman’s board, for which he is paid $115,000 per year. [13], [1] Northrop Grumman, a public company that reports director compensation, will also pay him an additional $10,000 per year for serving on the board’s audit committee, and he receives an annual grant of $130,000 in deferred stock.[13], [1] Adm. Roughead also sits on the strategic advisory council of The SI Organization, [14], [1] a systems engineering and integration company previously owned by Lockheed Martin. [15], [1].

In some cases the revolving door spun quickly, with senior military officers retiring and almost immediately taking industry jobs related to their military work. The examples are numerous (see CREW report for more details about our generals). In addition, the revolving door doesn’t stop at the generals’ doors but expands its horns to the lobbyists.

CREW’s research shows defense companies also covet lobbyists with backgrounds in appropriations and strong connections on the Hill. CREW analyzed the employment history of in-house lobbyists registered on behalf of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics as of the first quarter of 2012 and found at least 68 percent had prior public sector experience. Nearly half of the 84 lobbyists had worked for Congress. In addition, 21 percent, or 18 lobbyists had worked for a federal agency. Of those lobbyists with experience on the Hill, roughly a third – 14 lobbyists – had worked for either the House or Senate Appropriations Committees, the powerful panels responsible for directing billions of dollars in government spending. There were also other connections to the appropriations committees: of the 16 lobbyists who worked directly for members of Congress, seven had worked for members of the appropriations committees. [1]

The five companies spend millions of dollars on federal lobbying every year, and receive billions of dollars in federal contracts. Lobbying records show their collective spending on lobbying increased by nearly 40 percent between 2007 and 2011, skyrocketing from $44.6 million to $62.3 million. Over the same period, the total amount of dollars committed to them in federal contracts increased by roughly 13 percent, growing from $100.61 billion in fiscal year 2007 to $113.28 billion in fiscal year 2011.[48]

The five companies spent roughly $33 million lobbying during the first half of this year, indicating a likely overall increase for 2012 as well. As defense contractors step up the fight against planned budget cuts, well-connected lobbyists and senior military personnel are likely to become even more valuable. [1]


  • Registered lobbyists as of first quarter 2012: 25

  • Revolving door lobbyists: 21

  • Amount spent on lobbying since 2007: $86.93 million

  • Campaign contributions since 2008 cycle: $7.58 million [2]

  • Top congressional recipients of campaign contributions during the 2012 election cycle:

  • Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

  • Total dollars obligated to Boeing for Defense Department contracts in 2011: $20.49 billion. [1]

General Dynamics

  • Registered lobbyists as of first quarter of 2012: 10

  • Revolving door lobbyists: 2

  • Amount spent on lobbying since 2007: $53.08 million

  • Campaign contributions since 2008 cycle: $4.79 million [2]

  • Top congressional recipients of campaign contributions during the 2012 election cycle: Rep.

  • Buck McKeon (R-CA), Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI)

  • Total dollars obligated to General Dynamics for Defense Department contracts in 2011:

  • $17.98 billion. [1]

Lockheed Martin

  • Registered lobbyists as of first quarter 2012: 26

  • Revolving door lobbyists: 18

  • Amount spent on lobbying since 2007: $74.23 million

  • Campaign contributions since 2008 cycle: $ 8.03 million [2]

  • Top congressional recipients of campaign contributions during the 2012 election cycle: Rep.

  • Buck McKeon (R-CA), Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)

  • Total dollars obligated to Lockheed Martin for Defense Department contracts in 2011:

  • $35.76 billion. [1]

Northrop Grumman

  • Registered lobbyists as of first quarter 2012: 10

  • Revolving door lobbyists: 7

  • Amount spent on lobbying since 2007: $83.85 million

  • Campaign contributions since 2008 cycle: $6.19 million [2]

  • Top congressional recipients of campaign contributions during the 2012 election cycle: Rep.

  • Buck McKeon (R-CA), Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD)

  • Total dollars obligated to Northrop Grumman for Defense Department contracts in 2011:

  • $11.88 billion. [1]


  • Registered lobbyists as of first quarter 2012: 13

  • Revolving door lobbyists: 9

  • Amount spent on lobbying since 2007: $36.84 million

  • Campaign contributions since 2008 cycle: $5.85 million [2]

  • Top congressional recipients of campaign contributions during the 2012 election cycle: Sen.

  • Scott Brown (R-MA), Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI)

  • Total dollars obligated to Raytheon for Defense Department contracts in 2011: $13.57

  • Billion. [1]


Finally, The CREW report titled “Strategic maneuvers, the Revolving Door from the Pentagon to the Private Sector” is a stunning report of immense importance because it clearly exposes a capitalist system that has gone awry. The Defense Industry as well as other global corporations have co-opted and owned everyone in the Federal government under the guise of Public-Private Partnership. All of the watchdogs have been transformed into lap-dogs and sacrificed their integrity and country for few dollars and for ephemeral power. Meanwhile, the public continues its unconscious path by empowering the ten horned beast that has devoured everyone in its path.

The final solution would be to kill this beast by ceasing the cash nexus that perpetuates its strength, and to dethrone the harlot (our public leaders and elected officials) who is riding him and driving the American people and the nation into the abyss.


2. Bryan bender, From the pentagon to the private sector, Boston Globe, December 26, 2010
3. Center for Strategic and International studies, U.S. Department of Defense Contract Spending and the Supporting Industrial Base, September 2012.
5. Simon Luechinger and Christopher Moser, The value of the revolving Door: Political Appointees and the Stock market, KOF Working papers No. 310, August 2012, available at Abstract id=2147674
6. Press Release, department of defense, DoD Announces New Defense PolicyBoard Members, October 4, 2011.
7. André Velroy and Daniel Politi, Advisors of Influence: Nine Members Of The Defense Policy Board Have Ties to Defense Contractors, Center for Public Integrity, March 28, 2003.
8. Press Release, Raytheon Co., James E. Cartwright Elected to Raytheon Board of Directors, January 27, 2012.
9. Raytheon Co., Proxy Statement for 2012 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, April 27, 2012, p. 16.
10. Press Release, TASC, Inc., TASC, Inc. Names Gen. James Cartwright to Board of Advisors, November 29, 2011.
11. Peter Lattman and Jeffrey McCracken, Northrop to Sell TASC Unit for $1.65 Billion, Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2009.
12. Press Release, Accenture Federal Services, Accenture Announces Advisory Board for U.S. Federal Business, February 7, 2012.
13. Press Release, Northrop Grumman, Former U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations Gary Roughead Joins Northrop Grumman Board of Directors, February 16, 2012; Northrop Grumman Corp., 8-K Report, February 17, 2012.
14. Press Release, The SI Organization, Inc., The SI Names Admiral Gary Roughead To Strategic Advisory Council, January 4, 2012.

Rev. Richard Skaff is author of the Terrorism Industrial Complex

MOSCOW, December 13 (RIA Novosti) – Russia is concerned by the prospect of Syrian chemical weapons falling into terrorist hands, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Thursday.

“The greatest danger is that parts of Syria continue to fall under the control of the opposition where extremists, terrorists, and al-Qaeda have strong positions,” he said. “That could have very serious consequences.”

“Everyone is afraid of that, including our American partners,” he said, adding that militants are already gaining control of military arsenals on the ground, including antiaircraft missiles.

That could also happen to chemical weapon stockpiles, Bogdanov said.

“This has already happened in Aleppo with the seizure of a plant manufacturing chemical components that can be used for terrorist purposes,” he said.

Situation in SyriaThe Syrian authorities have assured Moscow that they will not use chemical weapons against rebel forces.

Syria has not signed the international Chemical Weapons Convention and is believed to possess mustard gas and sarin, an extremely toxic nerve agent. The CIA says Syria has had a chemical weapons program “for years” and that the weapons can be “delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile, and artillery rockets.” But Syria has never deployed the weapons, although it warned this summer that they could be used against “foreign invaders.”

Western powers have warned Assad that any use of chemical weapons would be unacceptable. US President Barack Obama has told Syria that the movement or use of chemical weapons would have “enormous consequences.”

The Syrian conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives since the uprising against Assad started in March 2011, according to UN reports.

Russia, along with China, has drawn heavy Western criticism for its refusal to support UN sanctions against Assad’s regime. Moscow said the proposed UN resolutions in fact betrayed a pro-rebel bias and would do nothing to bring peace.

The Obama administration overruled recommendations from within the US Department of Homeland Security and implemented new guidelines earlier this year that allow the government to gather and analyze intelligence on every single US citizen.

Since the spring, a little-know intelligence agency outside of Washington, DC has been able to circumvent the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution and conduct dragnet surveillance of the entire country, combing massive datasets using advanced algorithms to search and seize personal info on anyone this wish, reports the Wall Street Journal this week.

There’s no safeguard that says only Americans with criminal records are the ones included, and it’s not just suspected terrorists that are considered in the searches either. The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) has been provided with entire government databases and given nearly endless access to intelligence on everyone in the country, regardless of whether or not they’ve done anything that would have made them a person of interest. As long as data is “reasonably believed” to contain “terrorism information,” the agency can do as they wish.

What’s more is the NCTC can retain that information for years, reviewing it whenever they’d like to take a look.

The update to the agency’s policies, reported by RT at the time and reexamined this week in the Journal, expose any person in the country to invasive and nearly endless government surveillance.

“This is a sea change in the way that the government interacts with the general public,” Mary Ellen Callahan is reported by the Journal to have said during a Situation Room meeting earlier this year within the walls of the White House. At the time, Callahan was chief privacy officer at DHS as well as one of the only staffers inside the Obama administration concerned with what was about to happen.

According to documents obtained by the Journal through Freedom of Information Act requests and conversations between the paper and persons familiar with that Situation Room sound-off, Ms. Callahan unsuccessfully argued against updating a 2008 Justice Department memo about what intel the NCTC can have and how they use it. Just weeks after that meeting, new guidelines were authorized and, within months, Ms. Callahan was working elsewhere.

Despite her efforts, a 32-page document, “Guidelines for Access, Retention, Use and Dissemination by the National Counterterrorism Center and other Agencies of Information in Datasets Containing Non-Terrorism Information,” went into effect, and with that the NCTC was no longer restricted to only terrorism-related intelligence and instead

“The 2008 memo’s title referred to NCTC’s access to ‘terrorism information’ contained in non-terrorism datasets. The 2012 title simply refers to ‘information’ in those datasets,” reports the Journal. “The removal of the world ‘terrorism’ is an indication of how this memo expands NCTC’s mandate to allow surveillance of US citizens based on more than just the terrorism information.’”

Indeed, the changes aren’t just within the name of the document. The 2012 update to the NCTC’s data-mining policies expand the intelligence the agency can comb while at the same time removing safeguards that were in place for privacy’s sake. Under the new rules, data on innocent Americans can be retained for five years, and intel on anyone “reasonably believed to constitute terrorism information” can be kept until the end of time.

“It’s breathtaking” in its scope, one former senior administration official tells the Journal.

According to the paper, “flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others” can be collected indefinitely and searched at will within the NCTC, an agency only nine years old and not nearly as well-known as her sister spy groups: the CIA and FBI.

Once the NCTC has the info, though, they can decide who else can be made privy to it. If the US government is so inclined, intelligence on specific citizens can be sent to any foreign nation in the world.

“Literally anything the government collects would be fair game, and the original agency in charge of protecting the privacy of those records would have little say over whether this happened, or what the spy agency did with the information afterward,” writes Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union’s DC branch. Calabrese testified before Congress earlier this year, and in a blog post authored by him in July, he describes just how detrimental the new policies are to personal privacy.

“That sharing can happen in relation to national security and safety, drug investigations [or] if it’s evidence of a crime or to evaluate sources or contacts. This boundless sharing is broad enough to encompass disclosures to an employer or landlord about someone who NCTC may think is potentially a criminal, or at the request of local law enforcement for vetting an informant,” he writes.

On the blog PrivacySOS, civil liberties advocate Kade Crockford condemns the spy program by saying any safeguard that could be implemented wouldn’t end what appears to be a serious constitutional violation.

“And even if it was an effective anti-terrorism technique, widespread, warrantless surveillance of every single living human being – suspicious or not – damn sure isn’t democratic practice. We are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty in this country, not the other way around,” Crockford writes.

In his post from earlier this year, the ACLU’s Calabrese says the real dangers could come if the government decides to supplement their statistics with other private information purchased from third-parties.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees (Reuters/Chris Morgan/Idaho National Laboratory)“What if that spy agency could add commercial information, anything it – or any other federal agency – could buy from the huge data aggregators that are monitoring our every move?” he asks.

Meanwhile, in-between Calabrese’s original post and the Journal’s article from this week, search giant Google confirmed that the federal government has sent more requests for personal user data in 2012 than ever before.

“This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise,” Google explained last month.

The latest revelation from the Journal of course is but the most recent installation in what has become a remarkable year in terms of finding out the truth about Uncle Sam’s shocking full-fledged surveillance. Throughout 2012, several former employees of the National Security Agency (NSA) have stepped up and given interviews about the grievances with the office, particularly their disregard for the privacy of Americans.

“When you open up the Pandora’s Box of just getting access to incredible amounts of data, for people that have no reason to be put under suspicion, no reason to have done anything wrong, and just collect all that for potential future use or even current use, it opens up a real danger — and to what else what they could use that data for, particularly when it’s all being hidden behind the mantle of national security,” NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake told Current TV host Eliot Spitzer earlier this year.

Journalist Julia Angwin writes for the Journal that the DHS is currently working out the details on how to provide the NCTC with new lists of data, but acknowledges that every federal agency can come up with their own rules regarding what they want handed over.

Earlier this month, former NSA analyst William Binney spoke with RT and said that the FBI — who maintains databases that can be requested by the NCTC under their latest policies — has been storing the emails of every person in America for at least a decade.

“So, yes, this can happen to anyone. If they become a target for whatever reason – they are targeted by the government, the government can go in, or the FBI, or other agencies of the government, they can go into their database, pull all that data collected on them over the years, and we analyze it all. So, we have to actively analyze everything they’ve done for the last 10 years at least,” he said.

Upon winning a Callaway award for civic courage in DC last month, Mr. Binney explained that he and other former NSA agents “could not be accessories to violations of the US Constitution.” Ms. Callahan has since left her post within the NCTC and is now practicing law in the nation’s capital focusing specifically on privacy.