The US- Saudi Military Deal And Global Military Expenditure

October 24th, 2010 by Chandra Muzaffar

The US plan to sell US 60 billion dollars worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia will not contribute to peace and security in the Middle East.

The biggest arms deal ever in history, it provides for the sale of jetfighters and helicopters to oil-rich Saudi Arabia over a period of 15 to 20 years. US officials have stated that it will enhance the security of its key allies in the region, especially in the context of the alleged threat from Iran. The Saudis, according to Pentagon sources, are worried about Iran’s missile arsenal.

Independent political analysts, however, do not regard Iran as a threat to its Arab neighbours. While the rhetoric of some of its leaders may be belligerent, Iran’s diplomatic moves since the late nineties have been aimed at strengthening its ties with states in the Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia.

There are perhaps other motives behind the US-Saudi deal which have not been highlighted in the mainstream media. The sale reinforces US military hegemony in a region that it perceives as vital for its triple interests—- Israel, oil and geopolitical control. Since the sale is huge, it will help to fill the coffers of corporate weapons manufacturers at a time when the US economy is in deep trouble

But the consequences for the Middle East could be dire. It could encourage both friends and foes of the US to increase their military expenditure. This could ignite an arms race in the region. An arms race in turn could intensify tensions in the Middle East which is already a cockpit of conflict. An arms race could also skew national priorities and lead to the subordination of other goals such as the eradication of poverty or the elimination of illiteracy, or the minimization of corruption.

This is why countries in Asia should be careful about expanding their military budget. They should not allow weapons manufacturers and arms merchants— supported by political leaders— to dupe them into making unnecessary military purchases. This danger is all the more real today than in the past since some of the countries in the region are rich and maybe the targets of those who are hell-bent on pursuing their business-cum-political agenda.

Indeed, escalating military expenditure is a global challenge. Global military expenditure in December 2009 stood at 1.5 trillion US dollars. This represents a six percent increase in real terms over 2008. Compared to 2000, it is a 49 percent increase!

Worse, the entire UN budget— the budget of the body charged with maintaining global peace— in 2009 was only 1.8 percent of global military expenditure in that year.

It is significant that the US alone accounted for 46.5% of global military expenditure in 2009. The respected Swedish peace institute, SIPRI, observes that massive US military expenditure is one of the contributory factors to the decline of the US economy since 2001.

There is no doubt at all that global military expenditure has to be curbed and controlled for the good of humankind. It will be no easy task. For the vested interests that sustain military budgets in most countries are powerful. Nonetheless, we have to persevere. Perhaps for a start, governments with low military budgets and anti-war, pro-peace civil society groups should come together to plan the mass mobilization of public opinion against mammoth military spending.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) and Professor of Global Studies at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Before Wikileaks, Iraq War Vets Revealed War Crimes

October 24th, 2010 by Laila Al-Arian

The massive leak of military documents from the Iraq war is making headlines around the world, even on a usually news-quiet Friday night – and for good reason. The reports reveal, among other things, that U.S. soldiers were given orders not to investigate Iraqi torture, as Al Jazeera is reporting, based on documents from Wikileaks. Another revelation: At least 680 Iraqi civilians were killed and 2,000 others were wounded at U.S. military checkpoints in the last six years.

The leaked reports back up what Iraq war veterans have been telling journalists for years, only to be ignored by the mainstream media.

In the summer of 2006, journalist Chris Hedges and I began interviewing combat veterans who served in Iraq about their experiences there, focusing on civilian deaths – and they recounted stories, many in graphic detail, that are now corroborated by the military documents. In our piece for the Nation magazine, which was later expanded and published into a book called “Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians,” Hedges and I interviewed 50 soldiers and marines: the largest number of named eyewitnesses from within the U.S. military to have testified on the record about war crimes and atrocities in Iraq.

And the scenes they described were terrifying: convoys of dozens of vehicles roaring down Iraqi roads, jumping medians, smashing into civilian cars and hitting Iraqi civilians without stopping to survey the damage. They described how the mechanics of war – home raids, convoys, patrols, detentions, and military checkpoints – led to the daily abuse and killing of innocents. How the killing of civilians became routine, how rules of engagement changed all the time, and how there was a culture of impunity in the military when it came to noncombatant deaths. “Better to be tried by 12 than carried by six,” many said. Better, in short, to kill than be killed.

One disturbing story recounted by a soldier happened in Mosul in January 2005. An elderly couple zipped past a checkpoint, according to Sgt. Dustin Flatt. “The car was approaching what was in my opinion a very poorly marked checkpoint, or not even a checkpoint at all, and probably didn’t even see the soldiers,” he said. “The guys got spooked and decided it was a possible threat, so they shot up the car. And they literally sat in the car for the next three days while we drove by them day after day.” The townspeople eventually buried them, he said. Many of the troops told us these kinds of incidents were so common that they had long ceased to arouse much interest or comment.

The press coverage of the war in Iraq rarely exposed incidents like this, and when these vets returned to tell the stories, they were rarely listened to, especially by the mainstream U.S. media. When our story was published in the Nation, no one from the MSM covered it, with the exception of a column by Bob Herbert in the New York Times. And when courageous soldiers and Marines testified about war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan at “Winter Soldier” in Silver Spring, Maryland in April 2008, they, too, were largely ignored. And it’s not just by the media. The politicians who cynically use “the troops” to garner support for their military expeditions no longer have use for them once they return.

But it’s difficult to ignore 400,000 leaked, classified military documents, which tell the same story these veterans tell, of a war in which the line between civilian and combatant is blurred, in which anyone and everyone is the enemy.

For too long the American people have been shielded from this narrative. The country has long lost interest in Iraq, which has now become “The Forgotten War.” But perhaps these leaked documents can spark a conversation that’s long overdue.

On October 22nd, the whistleblowing web site WikiLeaks released nearly 400,000 classified Iraq war documents, the largest leak of secret information in U.S. history.

Explosive revelations contained in the Iraq War Logs provided further evidence of the Pentagon’s role in the systematic torture of Iraqi citizens by the U.S.-installed post-Saddam regime.

Indeed, multiple files document how U.S. officials failed to investigate thousands of cases of abuse, torture, rape and murder. Even innocent victims who were targets of kidnapping gangs, tortured for ransom by Iraqi police and soldiers operating out of the Interior Ministry, were “investigated” in a perfunctory manner that was little more than a cover-up.

Never mind that the Pentagon was fully cognizant of the nightmare playing out in Iraqi jails and prisons. Never mind the beatings with rifle butts and steel cables, the electrocutions, the flesh sliced with razors, the limbs hacked-off with chainsaws, the acid and chemical burns on battered corpses found along the roads, the eyes gouged out or the bones lacerated by the killers’ tool of choice: the power drill.

Never mind that the death squads stood-up by American forces when the imperial adventure went wildly off the rails, were modeled on counterinsurgency methods pioneered in Vietnam (Operation Phoenix) and in South- and Central American during the 1970s and 1980s (Operation Condor) and that a “Salvador Option” was in play.

Never mind that the former commander of the U.S. Military Advisory Group in El Salvador, Col. James Steele, was the U.S. Embassy’s point-man for setting up the Wolf Brigade or the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s Special Police Commandos, notorious death squads that spread havoc and fear across Iraq’s cities, towns and villages.

The killings and atrocities carried out by American and British clients were not simply random acts of mayhem initiated by sectarian gangs. On the contrary, though sectarianism and inter-ethnic hatred played a role in the slaughter, from a strategic and tactical point of view these were carefully calibrated acts designed to instill terror in a population utterly devastated by the U.S. invasion. As researcher Max Fuller reported five years ago:

In Iraq the war comes in two phases. The first phase is complete: the destruction of the existing state, which did not comply with the interests of British and American capital. The second phase consists of building a new state tied to those interests and smashing every dissenting sector of society. Openly, this involves applying the same sort of economic shock therapy that has done so much damage in swathes of the Third World and Eastern Europe. Covertly, it means intimidating, kidnapping and murdering opposition voices. (“For Iraq, ‘The Salvador Option’ Becomes Reality,” Global Research, June 2, 2005)

Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell denounced the leaks Friday evening, claiming the document dump was a “gift to terrorist organizations” that “put at risk the lives of our troops.”

Playing down the significance the files lend to our understanding of the U.S. occupation, Morrell characterized them as “mundane.” To the degree that they chronicle the nonchalance, indeed casual indifference towards Iraqi life displayed by U.S. forces, Morrell is correct: they are numbingly mundane and therein lies their horror.

The logs paint a grim picture of life after the “liberation” of the oil-rich nation. As with the organization’s publication of some 75,000 files from their Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010, Friday’s release provides stark evidence of U.S. complicity–and worse–in the systematic abuse of prisoners.

According to the War Logs, in 2006 an unnamed U.S. Special Operations Task Force was accused of blinding a prisoner in their custody; we read the following:

ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE BY TF ___ IN ___ 2006-02-02 17:50:00

AT 2350C, IN ___, WHILE CONDUCTING OUT-PROCESSING, DETAINEE # ___ REPORTED THAT HE WAS ABUSED DURING HIS CAPTURE. DETAINEE IS MISSING HIS RIGHT EYE, AND HAS SCAR___ ON HIS RIGHT FOREARM. DETAINEE STATES THAT HIS INJURIES ARE A RESULT OF THE ABUSE THAT HE RECEIVED UPON CAPTURE. DIMS INDICATE THAT THE DETAINEE WAS CAPTURED ON ___ IN ___, AND THE CAPTURING UNIT WAS TASK FORCE ___. THE DETAINEES CAPTURE TAG NUMBER IS ___. IN PROCESSING PERSONNEL STATE THAT THE DETAINEE___ CAPTURE PHOTO DEPICTS A BANDAGE OVER HIS RIGHT EYE, AND INJURY TO HIS RIGHT FOREARM. THE DETAINEE HAS COMPLETED THE DETAINEE ABUSE COMPLAINT FORM, AND WE ARE SEEKING A SWORN STATEMENT FROM THE DETAINEE. PER ORDER OF Task force ___, THE DETAINEE ___ TRANSFERRED AS SCHEDULED, AND CONTINUE CID INVESTIGATION UPON ARRIVAL AT ___ GHRAIB.

File after gruesome file reveals that even when confronted by serious evidence of abuse, the outcome was as sickening as it was inevitable: “No further investigation.”

Called “Frago 242″ reports for “fragmentary orders,” the military files summarized thousands of events. When alleged abuse was committed by an Iraqi on another Iraqi, “only an initial report will be made … No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ.” Those directives never arrived.

In fact, in a hypermilitarized society such as ours’ where the “chain of command” is valued above basic human decency, never mind the rule of law, orders to be “discrete” always come from the top. Investigative journalist Robert Fisk recounted how during a November 2005 Pentagon press conference:

Peter Pace, the uninspiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is briefing journalists on how soldiers should react to the cruel treatment of prisoners, pointing out proudly that an American soldier’s duty is to intervene if he sees evidence of torture. Then the camera moves to the far more sinister figure of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who suddenly interrupts–almost in a mutter, and to Pace’s consternation–”I don’t think you mean they (American soldiers) have an obligation to physically stop it. It’s to report it.” (“The Shaming of America,” The Independent on Sunday, October 24, 2010)

In essence, Frago 242 were the political means used by the U.S. administration to absolve themselves of command responsibility for the slaughter they had initiated with the March 2003 invasion. “We reported these horrors. What more do you want?”

Eager to pass security management onto their Iraqi puppets and cut their losses, the Pentagon and their political masters in Washington bypassed their obligations as the occupying power to ensure that human rights and the rule of law were respected by the clients whom they had installed to rule over the oil-rich nation. One file from 2006 tells us:

ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE BY IA AT THE DIYALA JAIL IN BAQUBAH

2006-05-25 07:30:00

AT 1330D, ___ REPORTS ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE IN THE DIYALA PROVINCE, IN BA’___ AT THE DIYALA JAIL, vicinity. ___. 1X DETAINEE CLAIMS THAT HE WAS SEIZED FROM HIS HOUSE BY IA IN THE KHALIS AREA OF THE DIYALA PROVINCE. HE WAS THEN HELD UNDERGROUND IN BUNKERS FOR APPROXIMATELY ___ MONTHS AROUND ___ SUBJECTED TO TORTURE BY MEMBERS OF THE /___ IA. THIS ALLEGED TORTURE INCLUDED, AMONG OTHER THINGS, THE ___ STRESS POSITION, WHEREBY HIS HANDS WERE BOUND/___ AND HE WAS SUSPENDED FROM THE CEILING; THE USE OF BLUNT OBJECTS (.___. PIPES) TO BEAT HIM ON THE BACK AND LEGS; AND THE USE OF ELECTRIC DRILLS TO BORE HOLES IN HIS LEGS. FOLLOW UP CARE HAS BEEN GIVEN TO THE DETAINEE BY US ___. THE DETAINEE IS UNDER US CONTROL AT THIS TIME. ALL PAPERWORK HAS BEEN SENT UP THROUGH THE NECESSARY ___ AND PMO CHANNELS. CLOSED: 260341MAY2006. Significant activity MEETS MNC- ___

Two days later, additional torture victims were found in the Diyala Jail, and U.S. military personnel report:

ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE BY IP IVO BA’: ___ DETAINEES INJ, ___ CF INJ/DAMAGE

2006-05-27 11:00:00

AT 1700D, ___ REPORTS ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE IN THE DIYALA PROVINCE, IN BA’___ AT THE DIYALA JAIL, vicinity. ___. 7X DETAINEES CLAIMS THEY WERE SEIZED BY IA IN THE KHALIS AREA OF THE DIYALA PROVINCE. THEY WERE DETAINED AROUND – ___ AND SUBJECTED TO TORTURE BY MEMBERS OF THE IA AND IP. THIS ALLEGED TORTURE INCLUDED, AMONG OTHER THINGS, STRESS POSITIONS, BOUND/___ AND SUSPENDED FROM THE CEILING; THE USE OF VARIOUS BLUNT OBJECTS (.___. PIPES AND ANTENNAS) TO BEAT THEM, AND FORCED CONFESSIONS. ALL DETAINEES WERE DETAINED FOR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT IN AN ATTACK ON A IA Check Point IN KHALIS. FOLLOW UP CARE HAS BEEN GIVEN TO THE DETAINEES BY US ___. THE DETAINEES ARE UNDER US CONTROL AT THIS TIME. ALL PAPERWORK HAS BEEN SENT UP THROUGH THE NECESSARY ___ AND PMO CHANNELS. Serious Incident Report TO FOLLOW. CLOSED: 280442MAY2006. MEETS ___

Case closed.

WikiLeaks release prompted the UN’s chief investigator on torture, Manfred Nowak, to demand that the Obama administration “order a full investigation of US forces’ involvement in human rights abuses in Iraq,” The Guardian reported.

Nowak said that if the files demonstrate clear violations of the UN Convention Against Torture then “the Obama administration had an obligation to investigate them.”

A failure to investigate these serious charges “would be a failure of the Obama government to recognise its obligations under international law.” There’s little chance of that happening under our “forward looking” president.

On the contrary, as The Washington Post reported Sunday, that former CIA general counsel Jeffrey H. Smith, a current adviser to America’s top spook Leon Panetta, wants to hang the messenger.

Smith said, “‘without question’ he thought that [WikiLeaks founder Julian] Assange could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act for possessing and sharing without authorization classified military information.”

The Post informed us that Obama’s Justice Department “is assisting the Defense Department in its investigation into the leaks to WikiLeaks. Though Smith said he did not know whether efforts were underway to gain custody [of Assange], he said, ‘My supposition is that the Justice Department and Department of Defense are working very hard to see if they can get jurisdiction over him’.”

As I discussed in late 2009, perhaps the Pentagon is working feverishly to do just that, deploying a Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) “Manhunting team” to run Assange and his organization to ground.

In Manhunting: Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare, retired Lt. Col. George A. Crawford wrote in a 2009 monograph published by Joint Special Operations University, that “Manhunting–the deliberate concentration of national power to find, influence, capture, or when necessary kill an individual to disrupt a human network–has emerged as a key component of operations to counter irregular warfare adversaries in lieu of traditional state-on-state conflict measures.”

And with an administration that asserts the right to kill anyone on the planet, including American citizens deemed “terrorists,” it isn’t a stretch to imagine the Pentagon resorting to a little “wet work” to silence Assange, thereby disrupting “a human network” viewed as deleterious impediment to Washington’s imperial project.

After all, in Crawford’s view, “Why drop a bomb when effects operations or a knife might do?”

Be that as it may, there was already sufficient evidence before Friday’s release that American military personnel and outsourced “private security contractors” (armed mercenaries) had committed war crimes that warranted criminal investigations.

Even after 2004 revelations by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker sparked the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, the files show that the systematic abuse and execution of prisoners, along with other serious war crimes, were standard operating procedure by the United States and their Iraqi “coalition” partners.

When Hersh’s investigation first landed on the doorstep of the Bush White House, we were told that detainee abuse was the work of a “few bad apples” on the “night shift” at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

While enlisted personnel were charged, tried, convicted and imprisoned for their crimes, senior Pentagon officials including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and their top aides were exonerated by the White House and their accomplices in the corporate media.

“The truth is” Robert Fisk writes, “U.S. generals … are furious not because secrecy has been breached, or because blood may be spilt, but because they have been caught out telling the lies we always knew they told.”

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.

The Paradox of Capitalism: The Relevance of John Maynard Keynes

October 24th, 2010 by Prof Prabhat Patnaik

John Maynard Keynes, though bourgeois in his outlook, was a remarkably insightful economist, whose book Economic Consequences of the Peace was copiously quoted by Lenin at the Second Congress of the Communist International to argue that conditions had ripened for the world revolution.  But even Keynes’ insights could not fully comprehend the paradox that is capitalism.

In a famous essay “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren”, written in 1930, Keynes had argued: “Assuming no important wars and no important increase in population, the economic problem may be solved, or be at least within sight of solution, within a hundred years.  This means that the economic problem is not, if we look into the future, the permanent problem of the human race” (emphasis in the original).

He had gone on to ask: “Why, you may ask, is this so startling?  It is startling because, if instead of looking into the future, we look into the past, we find that the economic problem, the struggle for subsistence, always has been hitherto the most pressing problem of the human race. . . .  If the economic problem is solved, mankind will be deprived of its traditional purpose.”  He had then proceeded to examine how mankind could fruitfully use its time in such a world.

True, after Keynes had written there was the Second World War, but thereafter mankind has had six and a half decades without any “important war” of the sort that could interrupt what he had called the “era of progress and invention”.  And the rate of population growth has also not accelerated to a point that can be considered to have invalidated Keynes’ premise.  And yet if we take mankind as a whole, it is as far from solving the economic problem as it ever was.  True, there has been massive accumulation of capital, and with it an enormous increase in the mass of goods available to mankind; and yet, for the vast majority of mankind, the “struggle for subsistence” that Keynes had referred to has continued to remain as acute as ever, perhaps in some ways even more acute than ever before.

To say that this is only because not enough time has passed, that over a slightly longer time period Keynes’ vision will indeed turn out to be true, is facile.  The fact that the bulk of mankind continues to face an acute struggle for subsistence is not a matter of degree; it is not as if the acuteness of this struggle for this segment of mankind has been lessening over time, or that the relative size of this segment has been lessening over time.  We cannot therefore assert that the passage of more time will lift everybody above this struggle.

Dichotomy Structurally Inbuilt in Capitalism

Likewise, to say that, while enormous increases have taken place in the mass of goods and services available to mankind (the increase in this mass being more in the last hundred years than in the previous two thousand years, as Keynes had pointed out), its distribution has been extremely skewed and hence accounts for the persistence of the struggle for subsistence for the majority of the world’s population is to state a mere tautology.  The whole point is that there is something structural to the capitalist system itself, the same system that causes this enormous increase in mankind’s capacity to produce goods and services, which also ensures that, notwithstanding this enormous increase, the struggle for subsistence must continue to be as acute as before, or even more acute than before, for the bulk of mankind.

Keynes missed this structural aspect of capitalism.  His entire argument in fact was based on the mere logic of compound interest, i.e. on the sheer fact that “if capital increases, say, 2 percent per annum, the capital equipment of the world will have increased by a half in twenty years, and seven and a half times in a hundred years”.  From this sheer fact it follows that output too would have increased more or less by a similar order of magnitude, and mankind, with so much more of goods at its disposal, would have overcome the struggle for subsistence.  The reason Keynes assumed that an increase in the mass of goods would eventually benefit everyone lies not just in his inability to see the antagonistic nature of the capitalist mode of production (and its antagonistic relationship with the surrounding universe of petty producers), but also in his belief that capitalism is a malleable system which can be moulded, in accordance with the dictates of reason, by the interventions of the State as the representative of society.  He was a liberal and saw the state as standing above, and acting on behalf of, society as a whole, in accordance with the dictates of reason.  The world, he thought, was ruled by ideas; and correct, and benevolent, ideas would clearly translate themselves into reality, so that the increase in mankind’s productive capacity would get naturally transformed into an end of the economic problem.  If the antagonism of capitalism was pointed out to Keynes, he would have simply talked about state intervention restraining this antagonism to ensure that the benefit of the increase in productive capacity reached all.

The fact that this has not happened, the fact that the enormous increase in mankind’s capacity to produce has translated itself not into an end to the struggle for subsistence for the world’s population, but into a plethora of all kinds of goods and services of little benefit to it, from a stockpiling of armaments to an exploration of outer space, and even into a systematic promotion of waste, and lack of utilization, or even destruction, of productive equipment, only underscores the limitations of the liberal world outlook of which Keynes was a votary.  The state, instead of being an embodiment of reason, which intervenes in the interests of society as a whole, as liberalism believes, acts to defend the class interests of the hegemonic class, and hence to perpetuate the antagonisms of the capitalist system.

Antagonisms in Three Distinct Ways

These antagonisms perpetuate in three quite distinct ways the struggle for subsistence in which the bulk of mankind is caught.  The first centres around the fact that the level of wages in the capitalist system depends upon the relative size of the reserve army of labour.  And to the extent that the relative size of the reserve army of labour never shrinks below a certain threshold level, the wage rate remains tied to the subsistence level despite significant increases in labour productivity, as necessarily occur in the “era of progress and innovation”.  Work itself therefore becomes a struggle for subsistence and remains so.  Secondly, those who constitute the reserve army of labour are themselves destitute and hence condemned to an even more acute struggle for subsistence, to eke out for themselves an even more meager magnitude of goods and services.  And thirdly, the encroachment by the capitalist mode upon the surrounding universe of petty production, whereby it displaces petty producers, grabs land from the peasants, uses the tax machinery of the State to appropriate for itself, at the expense of the petty producers, an amount of surplus value over and above what is produced within the capitalist mode itself, in short, the entire mechanism of “primitive accumulation of capital”, ensures that the size of the reserve army always remains above this threshold level.  There is a stream of destitute petty producers forever flocking to work within the capitalist mode but unable to find work and hence joining the ranks of the reserve army.  The antagonism within the system, and vis-à-vis the surrounding universe of petty production, thus ensures that, notwithstanding the massive increases in mankind’s productive capacity, the struggle of subsistence for the bulk of mankind continues unabated.

The growth rates of world output have been even greater in the post-war period than in Keynes’ time.  The growth rates in particular capitalist countries like India have been of an order unimaginable in Keynes’ time, and yet there is no let-up in the struggle for subsistence on the part of the bulk of the population even within these countries.  In India, precisely during the period of neo-liberal reforms when output growth rates have been high, there has been an increase in the proportion of the rural population accessing less than 2400 calories per person per day (the figure for 2004 is 87 percent).  This is also the period when hundreds of thousands of peasants, unable to carry on even simple reproduction, have committed suicide.  The unemployment rate has increased, notwithstanding a massive jump in the rate of capital accumulation; and the real wage rate, even of the workers in the organized sector, has at best stagnated, notwithstanding massive increases in labour productivity.  In short our own experience belies the Keynesian optimism about the future of mankind under capitalism.

But Keynes wrote a long time ago.  He should have seen the inner working of the system better (after all Marx, who died the year Keynes was born, saw it), but perhaps his upper-class Edwardian upbringing came in the way.  But what does one say of people who, having seen the destitution-”high growth” dialectics in the contemporary world, still cling to the illusion that the logic of compound interest will overcome the “economic problem of mankind”?  Neo-liberal ideologues of course propound this illusion, either in its simple version, which is the “trickle down” theory, or in the slightly more complex version, where the State is supposed to ensure through its intervention that the benefits of the growing mass of goods and services are made available to all, thereby alleviating poverty and easing the struggle for subsistence.

But this illusion often appears in an altogether unrecognizable form.  Jeffrey Sachs, the economist who is well known for his administration of the so-called “shock therapy” in the former Soviet Union that led to a veritable retrogression of the economy and the unleashing of massive suffering on millions of people, has come out with a book where he argues that poverty in large parts of the world is associated with adverse geographical factors, such as drought-proneness, desertification, infertile soil, and such like.  He wants global efforts to help these economies which are the victims of such niggardliness on the part of nature.  The fact that enormous poverty exists in areas where nature is not niggardly, but on the contrary bounteous; the fact that the very bounteousness of nature has formed the basis of exploitation of the producers on a massive scale, so that they are engaged in an acute struggle for existence precisely in the midst of plenitude; and hence the fact that the bulk of the world’s population continues to struggle for subsistence not because of nature’s niggardliness but because of the incubus of an exploitative social order, are all obscured by such analysis.  Keynes’ faith in the miracle of compound interest would be justified in a socialist order, but not in a capitalist one.

Prabhat Patnaik is an Indian economist, who has achieved international acclaim with his incisive analyses of various aspects of economics and politics.  He is a professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning in the School of Social Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.  Patnaik is currently Vice-Chairman of the Planning Board of the Indian state of Kerala.  This article was first published in People’s Democracy (5 July 2009); it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes. 

Political Correctness About Terrorists Must End!

October 24th, 2010 by Michael Moore

Dear Juan,

Sorry to hear you got fired by National Public Radio for saying on Fox that you get nervous when you see Muslims on a plane with you. It was dumb to say such a thing, but I don’t think saying one dumb thing should be a firing offense. (I DO think an NPR journalist wanting to take money from Fox News to be a regular commentator should be a firing offense, but that’s another story).

But there’s more to this — and some important things that everyone is missing.

For instance, what you said about Faisal Shazad, the Pakistani immigrant who wanted to bomb Times Square. When he was being sentenced this month, he claimed, according to you, that his attempted attack was just “the first drop of blood.” We can’t let political correctness blind us to this, you explained.

I guess Shahzad made a big impression on you, because after being fired you went back on Fox and told them, “You can’t ignore the fact what has recently been said in court with regard to ‘this is the first drop of blood in a Muslim war against America.’”

Sadly for you (and this is also why you shouldn’t be working for a real news organization like NPR), Shahzad never said that. If you were a real journalist, you would have quoted him accurately. What he actually said was that he was the “first droplet of the flood,” not blood. But I know how easy it is to mishear things when scary Muslims are talking. And I guess it’s not a huge difference anyway.

What really matters is that you’re 100% right: We shouldn’t let political correctness stop us from paying close attention to what people like Shahzad say. The problem is you just haven’t taken it far enough.

So Juan, I’m asking you to join me on a crusade — whoops! scratch that, let’s call it a “mission” — to publicize these statements by Faisal Shahzad as widely as possible. Because most of the media have not spent much time on what he had to say.

Here’s what he said at his recent sentencing (after talking about being a droplet in a flood):

“[Saladin] liberated Muslim lands … And that’s what we Muslims are trying do, because you’re occupying Iraq and Afghanistan…So, the past nine years the war with Muslims has achieved nothing for the U.S., except for it has waken up the Muslims for Islam. We are only Muslims trying to defend our people, honor, and land. But if you call us terrorists for doing that, then we are proud terrorists, and we will keep on terrorizing until you leave our land and people at peace.”

And this is what Shahzad said when he pled guilty back in June:

“I want to plead guilty, and I’m going to plead guilty 100 times over, because until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims, and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking U.S., and I plead guilty to that.”

Then there’s email that Shahzad sent to a friend in 2006:

“Everyone knows the current situation of Muslim World… Friends with peaceful protest! Can you tell me a way to save the oppressed? And a way to fight back when rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows? In Palestine, Afghan, Iraq, Chechnya and else where.”

And then there’s what Shahzad was telling friends and relatives even before that:

Mr. Shahzad had long been critical of American foreign policy. “He was always very upset about the fabrication of the W.M.D. stunt to attack Iraq and killing non-combatants such as the sons and grandson of Saddam Hussein,” said a close relative. In 2003, Mr. Shahzad had been copied on a Google Groups e-mail message bearing photographs of Guantánamo Bay detainees, handcuffed and crouching, below the words “Shame on you, Bush. Shame on You.”

So what do you say, Juan? Now that you have a new $2 million contract with Fox, let me come on with you for some in-depth discussions about the terrorists’ real motivations. We can’t let another day go by letting the PC brigade stop us from telling the truth: Terrorists aren’t trying to kill us because they hate our freedom. They’re killing us because we’re in their countries killing them.

Yours,

Michael Moore

P.S. If you want to understand suicide bombings, be sure to read the new book that studied every instance of it for the past 30 years. It’s been used by many groups of many religions, not just Arabs and not just Muslims. And almost all such terrorism has one motivation in common: occupation by foreign militaries.

P.P.S. Here’s something else that I’d sincerely love to talk about with you: what do you think when you see rich middle-aged white men talking on TV about how they get nervous around African Americans on the street? And then they explain that we can’t let political correctness stop us from talking about black-on-white crime?

Does it drive you crazy that they say this without even being conscious of the history of far greater violence by white people toward blacks? And do you maybe understand now how those middle-aged white guys get it so wrong?

UPDATE: Juan, you probably remember in 1986 when the Washington Post Magazine ran a Richard Cohen column defending jewelry store owners who wouldn’t buzz in young black men. It caused such a big controversy that the New Republic ran a bunch of responses to it, including one by you. You might find it interesting to go back and read what you wrote then — for instance, “Racism is a lazy man’s substitute for using good judgment … Common sense becomes racism when skin color becomes a formula for figuring out who is a danger to me.”

Below is Part 2 of our comparative analysis in MRZine of the treatment of Iran and Honduras by the Western establishment, including the media and an important segment of the “left.” 

As we stated at the outset of Part 1,[1] there is no better test of the independence and integrity of the establishment U.S. media than in their comparative treatment of Iran and Honduras in 2009 and 2010. 

Iran held its most recent presidential election on June 12, 2009.  This followed a typically short three-week campaign period between the four candidates who had been vetted by Iran’s Guardian Council out of a list of some 475 hopefuls, but a campaign that nevertheless was open and adversarial, and energized Iran’s electorate unlike any other in the 30-year history of the Islamic Republic.  A record-high 85% turnout returned the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office with a reported 62.6% of the votes cast.[2] 

Sixteen days later, on June 28, a coup d’état was executed in Honduras that overthrew the country’s democratically-elected President José Manuel Zelaya.  Almost five-months-to-the-day after this, on November 29, the coup-regime carried out national elections long-scheduled for this date.  The constitutional government of Honduras never served another day in office.[3] 

The winner of Honduras’ presidential election with 56.6% of the votes was the National Party’s Porfirio Lobo Sosa.  Both Lobo and the second-place finisher with 38%, Elvin Santos Lozano of the Liberal Party, were supporters of the coup, and both opposed the restoration of the ousted Zelaya.  Opponents of the coup as well as Zelaya himself had called for Honduran voters to boycott the elections, and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal estimated turnout to be only 49% (some independent estimates ran lower[4]), after the Tribunal falsely reported turnout as high as 62% on election night.[5]  

For many years leading up to Iran’s June 2009 election, Iranians had suffered the consequences of U.S. and allied invasions of countries that border Iran to the east (Afghanistan) and to the west (Iraq), U.S. and Israeli threats and attacks by proxy forces, U.S.- and ultimately UN Security Council-imposed economic sanctions, and even an open U.S. destabilization campaign to foster regime-change inside Iran.[6]  It follows that any Iranian presidential election that did not serve regime-change ends would be judged seriously defective by U.S. and Western officials—that efforts would be taken to discredit Iran’s election results and to delegitimize any government formed on their basis. 

On the other hand, the coup in Honduras was engineered by a deeply entrenched oligarchy and involved the military, members of parliament, and the judiciary, and it removed a populist president from office.  It was also implemented with advance notice to U.S. officials, and received their ex post acceptance and approval as well;[7] after the coup, Washington even declined to withdraw its ambassador from Honduras.  It follows from this official acquiescence to the coup, and violent suppression of democracy, that the November elections would not be denounced as a fraud.  Instead, U.S. officials asserted that the mere holding of elections was an “important part of the solution to the political crisis in their country,”[8] and urged other states to accept this “solution” as well, to normalize relations with Honduras’ new government—and to “start from zero,” in the revealing words that U.S. President Barack Obama used in a letter to the president of Brazil.[9]

Legitimizing versus Delegitimizing Elections in the 1980s

In covering both the Iran and Honduran elections, the establishment media followed closely the lead of the U.S. government, furiously assailing Iran’s election as stolen and a sham, and quietly accepting Honduras’ elections as a meaningful step forward.  For the Newspaper of Record, Iran’s election was “Neither Real Nor Free” (June 15), but Honduras’ election was “clear and fair” (December 5).[10] 

 

This is in a long tradition of media propaganda service in dealing with foreign elections.  In fact, the media’s performance on Iran and Honduras in 2009 was a throwback to their performance on El Salvador and Nicaraguan during the elections held in these countries in the 1980s. The Salvadoran elections of 1982 and 1984 were held under a regime of extreme state terrorism, with thousands of civilians killed, obligatory voting, no freedom of assembly or press, and no peace or dissident candidates on the ballot. But as these elections were sponsored by the U.S. government, and were designed to show the U.S. population and the world that U.S. intervention was justified, and that the United States was supporting a “fledgling democracy,” the media swallowed them whole.  The media featured the high voter turnout, without noting that voting was required by law and was carried out under a system of ongoing state terrorism.[11]  The New York Times found that the “most remarkable” fact of El Salvador’s 1982 elections was the “determination of so many Salvadorans to participate….The Salvadoran turnout marks a significant achievement”—not for Salvadorans, however, but for the “Reagan Administration [which] may be learning how to use its enormous diplomatic influence in the Caribbean.”[12]  It was not until 1989 that the Times reported the existence of the military’s “1981 death list,” which in retrospect it called a “symbol of the army-linked repression that turned criticism of the right into a capital offense, the armed forces [having] put a bounty on the heads of 138 leftists by publishing a list of their names and describing them as wanted traitors.”[13]

On the other hand, the Nicaraguan election, held by the Sandinista government in November 1984, was opposed by the U.S. government, which did not want the Sandinistas legitimized and therefore sought to discredit it.  Although the Nicaraguan election was a model of democratic practice compared with that in El Salvador, here again the media followed the official party-line and suddenly became uninterested in voter turnout but attentive to basic electoral conditions that they ignored in El Salvador (where they were much worse than in Nicaragua).[14]  As early as July 1984, Ronald Reagan had likened the Sandinistas’ proposal to hold elections to a “Soviet-style sham.”  Sure enough, five months later, after the election was held, the New York Times found that “Only the naive believe that [the] election in Nicaragua was democratic or legitimizing proof of the Sandinistas’ popularity….The Sandinistas made it easy to dismiss their election as a sham.”[15]  In fact, by taking a strong, categorical position against anything related to the Sandinistas, it was the U.S. government that made it easy for the Times to dismiss the Nicaraguan election.

Media Coverage of the 2009 Iran and Honduran Elections

The 2009 coup in Honduras was a throwback to the 1954 U.S.-organized overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala and the 1964 military coup in Brazil, which removed an elected social democratic government and installed a military dictatorship, with the enthusiastic support of the liberal Democratic government of Lyndon Johnson.  The Obama government’s support for the coup and coup regime in Honduras is thus in a great Democratic tradition. We may recall that there has been a great deal of talk in recent years about the new era of  “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect” in this post-Soviet age, in which, according to Michael Ignatieff, the United States has once again “changed course” and abandoned its earlier tendency to align with cooperative dictators, and now favors “democracy promotion.”[16]  But the Honduras case shows that so-called democracy-promotion is an instrument of policy, not a generally-applicable principle, and will be used or set aside in accord with perceived real interests. 

The U.S. government and media response to the Honduras case also raises some questions about the meaning and integrity of their intense focus on, and harsh treatment of, the election in Iran.  There is no question that in 2009 – 2010, a sizable fraction of Iran’s domestic opposition to Ahmadinejad and critics of the clerical regime in general have been motivated by genuinely democratic and liberal aspirations.  But is it not revealing that so many of the foreign, Western-based campaigners in the name of Iran’s “pro-democracy” and “reform” movement paid so little attention, first to the coup in Honduras and to the military and security apparatus’ violent repression of opponents of the coup, and then to the “demonstration elections” that the coup regime carried out in November, the results of which were officially sanctioned by Washington?

It is also of interest that in Iran, the major government repression came after the June 12 election, and was directed against Iranians who rejected the official results.  But in Honduras, violent repression preceded the November 29 elections (and appears to have greatly escalated since[17]), and was and remains directed against opponents of the coup regime and its overthrow of the democratic order. Nevertheless, whereas Iran’s relatively open and hotly contested presidential election, with credible albeit disputed results, was rejected out-of-hand in the metropolitan centers of the West, and generated a huge bandwagon process of denigration, Honduras’ coup-consolidation elections were quietly accepted, subjected to little criticism, inspired no bandwagon effect against them, and few public displays of “solidarity” with the massive grassroots opposition to the coup—in particular, the more than 1.25 million Hondurans who have added their signatures to the Sovereign Declaration for the Popular and Participatory Constituent Assembly, a demand that the 1982 Constitution be rewritten, and over which Zelaya was deposed?[18] 

As we can see from Table 1, Western newspapers were very sensitive and alert to the topic of human rights in the immediate aftermath of Iran’s presidential election, and used phrases such as ‘human rights abuses’ and ‘human rights violations’ a total of 89 times during the first 30 day after the election.  But though the human rights of Hondurans were also under severe pressure and widespread abuse after the June 28 coup as well as before and after the demonstration elections staged by the coup regime on November 29, these same phrases were used by Western newspapers only once in the 30 days leading up to the Honduran elections,[19] once in the 30 days after the elections,[20] and zero times in the 30 days after the coup.

Table 1.  Differential media usage of the phrases ‘human rights abuses’ and ‘human rights violations’ in two countries where dissidents were repressed by their own governments [21]

      Newspaper coverage

Iran’s presidential election, June 13 – July 12, 2009 (first 30 days after)

                      89

The Honduras coup d’état, June 29 – July 28, 2009 (first 30 days after)

                        0 [22]

The Honduras elections, October 31 – November 29 (last 30 days through the date of the election)

                        1

The Honduras elections, November 30 – December 29, 2009 (first 30 days after)

                         1

Table 1 thus captures quite dramatically the different levels, not of human rights abuses in Iran as opposed to Honduras, but of U.S. and Western interest in and expressed solidarity towards the respective victims of human rights abuses in each country during four specific periods in 2009.  In these two cases, sensitivity and alertness towards the human rights of Iranian and Honduran citizens followed the guidance of establishment leaders and reveals a starkly dichotomous pattern: Iranian victims of human rights abuses received a great deal of attention, but Honduran victims did not.  This was also dramatically displayed in the intense and indignant treatment of the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan in Iran, and the lack of interest in the murder of Isis Obed Murillo in Honduras or the murder of at least 24 Honduran activists (see Table 1 and Table 2 in Part 1),  showing that Iranians were “worthy” victims in 2009 – 2010, whereas Honduran victims were “unworthy.”

Was the Iran Election Stolen?

In thinking about the treatment of the Iran election it is also important historical context that the last time the United States was really happy with Iran was when that country was ruled by a U.S.-sponsored dictator, the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.  The Shah was actually encouraged to develop a nuclear capability, apparently quite acceptable for a U.S.-client dictator, but not for a regime, dictatorial or not, that is not under proper control. The U.S. support of the Honduran coup and coup-organized election also strongly suggests that official U.S. concern over the fairness of the 2009 Iran election was larded with hypocrisy and covered over the real agenda—destabilization and regime-change.

 

For many foreign critics of Iran’s election, it is believed that the massive street protests beginning June 13 showed that Iranians themselves preferred the main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi over the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and that the mechanics of the election, character of the vote returns, and speed with which the final results were announced all showed that the election was stolen.  But these criticisms do not withstand close examination.  As we have pointed out in detail elsewhere,[23] a series of independent public opinion polls taken both before and after the election asked Iranians either who they were going to vote for, or who they in fact had voted for.  Almost invariably, these reports show Ahmadinejad receiving some 2 votes for every one vote given to Mousavi.  These results range from a low-end of 1.75-to-1 in a poll carried out between June 19 and 24, 2009, to a high-end 3.93-to-1 in a poll carried out from August 27 to September 10, 2009; the actual ratio of Ahmadinejad’s official victory over the challenger Mousavi’s was 1.85-to-1.  Thus numerous polls carried out by respectable organizations using familiar and widely accepted polling techniques show Ahmadinejad winning a popular vote with numbers not far off from those of the official results.  None of these polls even remotely suggest a Mousavi victory, or even a race too close to call.  The results also parallel those of the second-round runoff election of June 2005, in which Ahmadinejad defeated Ali Akbar Rafsanjani by 62% to 32% (or 1.94-to-1).[24] 

Of course, the establishment media and Western-based Iran campaigners have preferred citing the  U.K.-based Chatham House allegations of “irregularities” in Iran’s official results, and its claim that the Interior Ministry’s allocation of 1.85 votes to Ahmadinejad for every one vote given to Mousavi was “problematic” and “highly implausible.”[25]  We believe that Western media and intellectuals gravitated to Chatham House’s analysis while ignoring independent polling data for the simple reason that Chatham House served up the requisite negative view of the official result—and these other sources, such as the joint effort by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and WorldPublicOpinion.org,[26] did not.  Hence, whereas Chatham House’s “preliminary” analysis was cited frequently in the Western media, the PIPA – WPO analysis based on no fewer than 12 different opinion surveys, released on February 3, 2010, was ignored.[27]    

But Chatham House’s Preliminary Analysis of the Voting Figures in Iran’s 2009 Presidential Election, released to considerable fanfare just nine days after Iran’s election, did not engage in any direct independent polling or provide any answer to the conflicting results of the actual polls—and perhaps most revealing of all, has never been followed-up by a non-”preliminary” analysis. 

Even more important, however, is the fact that the allegations advanced as evidence of fraud in Iran’s official results, and therefore of a stolen election, wither under close scrutiny.  In a self-published analysis, Eric A. Brill[28] assessed each of the major complaints made against Iran’s 2009 election results, whether by Mousavi and his supporters or by Western analysts, including Chatham House.  As regards the Chatham House assertion that Iran’s Interior Ministry reported higher vote totals in several provinces than there were citizens eligible to vote (“excess voting”), Brill countered that Iran’s so-called “vote anywhere” rule meant that local turnout could legitimately exceed 100% of the eligible voters in a given area, and though the “2009 turnout was the highest ever for an election (85%), it was well under 100%—and far short of the 98% turnout for the 1979 referendum held to ratify the creation of the Islamic Republic.”  As an earlier critique of the Chatham House allegations pointed out, the same “excess voting” phenomenon “also happened in previous elections where there too was a very high turnout, such as in [the] 1997 presidential election….”   That year, one of the West’s favorite Iranian political figures, Mohammad Khatami, was elected to his first term, “which none would dispute as being fraudulent.”[29]

Brill also showed that out of Iran’s approximately 45,000 polling stations (including some 14,000 mobile stations that traveled to voters whose remote locations would have discouraged their participation), the Mousavi campaign placed observers at more than 40,000 of them (7,500 more than observed the election for Ahmadinejad), and not only did these Mousavi observers sign off on the official results at each polling station where they were present, none of them has ever retracted their assent, despite the Mousavi campaign’s highly publicized allegations of vote fraud. Among Brill’s other crucial points, he reminds us that in 2009, Iran started reporting separate vote counts for each of the 45,000 polling stations, and that any disputed totals reported by the Interior Ministry need only be compared to each of these polling stations’ totals.  If they had real reasons to allege massive fraud, Mousavi’s observers could have checked the official counts in this manner and publicized the difference—but they did not. 

“The Guardian Council,” Brill writes, “claims that it asked Mousavi ‘time and time again to provide the council with any evidence of examples about the discrepancy’ in ballot-box counts, but that ‘no documents or evidence were received’,”—and “Mousavi has not disputed this, nor has he ever cited a discrepancy for any of the…ballot boxes in the 2009 election.”  “Since the necessary data have long been available to compare ballot-box counts,” Brill concludes, “only two explanations for Mousavi’s silence come to mind: either no such discrepancy exists, or no one has bothered to check.”  Either way, it is the allegations of fraud that fare badly.[30]

Chatham House did not publish a report on the quality of the November 29, 2009 elections in Honduras, and in line with the official U.S.-U.K. agenda as well as establishment media interests, Chatham House took no interest in Honduras.  Table 2 shows that whereas the staged election in Honduras, carried out under a state of siege and with no alternative candidates comparable to Mir Hossein Mousavi available to Honduran voters, came and went with virtually no media assertions of fraud or indignation over a stolen election, allegations of fraud and of a stolen election in Iran were frequent.  Thus in a large sample of newspaper coverage, use of various negative words that suggest fraud (e.g., rigged, stolen, sham, and the like) for each election shows that the ratio of such word usage to describe the 2009 elections in Iran and Honduras ran 76-to-1.  Institutionalized bias could not be more blatant.

Table 2.  Differential attributions of “fraud” (etc.) to two presidential elections in 2009: Iran and Honduras [31]

‘phony’

‘rigged’

‘stolen’

‘fake’

‘farce’

‘sham’

‘fraud’

TOTALS

Iran presi-dential election, June 12, 2009

       0

    1,005

      182

       19

      9

     40

      875

     2,130

Honduras presidential election,

Nov. 28, 2009

        0

          1

          0

         0

     10

      1

        16

          28

Foreign Involvement in the Iran and Honduras Elections

It is important to Western ideologues to downplay any foreign involvement in the rise of Iran’s oppositional and protest movement, and any U.S. involvement in the Honduran coup, repression and demonstration election.  If that involvement was large, it would make the Iranian opposition appear a bit compromised, serving to a greater or lesser degree as agents of  the Western regime-change program rather than a strictly indigenous democratic movement.  As the U.S.-based International Center on Nonviolent Conflict’s Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall cynically cautioned in 2003, for a destabilization campaign to be maximally effective in Iran, it “should not come from the CIA or Defense Department, but rather from pro-democracy programs throughout the West.”[32]  In Honduras’ case, on the other hand, evidence of a U.S. role in the coup and U.S. support for the coup regime’s November 2009 election would be recognized as a throwback to traditional U.S. gunboat diplomacy and support of military-oligarchic dictatorships throughout the hemisphere. 

There is no doubt that Iranian opposition to the clerical regime and to Ahmadinejad was based on serious internal dissatisfaction and required no outside support to make a strong electoral showing for the main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi.  But external influence was far from negligible, and played a significant role in how events inside Iran were represented to the world and then back again into Iran via major foreign media such as BBC Persian and Voice of America Persian. 

Some of it was also indirect and easy to underestimate. Thus one frequently prescribed tool in the regime-change playbook is to “tighten sanctions on the Iranian economy and publicize the connection between regime belligerence [against the United States] and economic malaise,”[33] and Iran has suffered income losses from externally imposed sanctions and the diversion of resources based on open U.S. and Israeli threats of attack and active support of  terrorist groups and actions.  Indeed, three decades earlier, U.S. sanctions and U.S.-sponsored contra terrorism in Nicaragua prior to the 1990 election helped cut per capita income by one-half, and though the New York Times found the Sandinista election loss in 1990 a “devastating rebuke” and a testimony to U.S. patience and fair play,[34] there can be little doubt many voters chose Violeta Barrios de Chamorro in the belief that her victory would end the patient U.S. assault.

But the direct interventionism in Iran was also conspicuous.  Beginning in 2006, large sums of money were openly voted by Congress for interfering in Iran,[35] and numerous National Endowment for Democracy, Agency for International Development, and other sources funded “democracy promotion” programs that supplied telecommunication tools and propaganda to help anti-government groups and parties. Many NGOs, partly funded by Western governments, played the same role. Ackerman’s ICNC participated in training sessions held in Dubai in 2005 that instructed Iranian dissidents on the techniques used in “successful popular revolts in places like Serbia,” the New York Times reported.  “This was like a James Bond camp for revolutionaries,” one participant said.[36]  As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted in a major policy address at Georgetown University in December 2009, “We can help change-agents gain access to and share information through the internet and mobile phones so that they can communicate and organize. With camera phones and Facebook pages, thousands of protestors in Iran have broadcast their demands for rights denied, creating a record for all the world, including Iran’s leaders, to see. I’ve established a special unit inside the State Department to use technology for 21st century statecraft.”[37]  In March 2010, the Treasury Department lifted export restrictions on various mass-market software to Iran, Cuba, and the Sudan that will increase the power of Internet and cellphone users to circumvent government control in these countries.[38]  Across the board, the publicly-expressed rationale repeats a single message: “viral videos and blog posts are becoming the samizdat of our day.”[39] 

So the U.S. government’s role as a “change-agent” in Iran included many forms of intervention in the 2009 election and protest process.  To cite one further example of how the U.S. government aided the opposition there, a State Department official famously emailed Twitter impresario Jack Dorsey on the third day after Iran’s election to urge Dorsey to keep Twitter from undergoing a scheduled maintenance shutdown; Dorsey and Twitter complied.[40]  Such interventions, direct and indirect, educational, “democracy promotion,” other informational and propaganda efforts, and the provision of cellphones and other technical equipment to Iranians, all helped make the protest less-than-perfectly indigenous, as the protesters cooperated and interacted with foreign agents pursuing an explicit and long-standing post-Shah agenda of destabilization and regime-change.

It is interesting to see how outwardly oriented was the protest movement in Iran. A large fraction of the tweeting and standard text-messaging was carried out in English, not in the indigenous languages of Iran.[41] The same was true of many of the signs on display in the protest photos shown in the West.  This appeal to foreigners was undoubtedly intended to bring foreign pressure to bear on the Iranian government and to discredit it for a variety of possible ends.  The discrediting and delegitimizing parts of this campaign were accomplished with a great deal of success, in large part because of the receptivity of both Western establishment as well as the left to anything that denigrates the Islamic Republic of Iran.[42]

Nothing like this was to be found in official, NGO, and media treatment of Honduras. Hillary Clinton barely touched on Honduras in her Georgetown University lecture in December 2009: She boasted of “publicly denouncing” the coup in Honduras—highly misleading, as it took the Obama administration 67 days (through September 3) before someone within its ranks actually referred to Zelaya’s ouster as a “coup,”[43]  and by its actions from the June 28 date of the coup onwards, there was never any doubt that the real change-agents in Honduras supported by the Obama administration were the oligarchy and military-security apparatus.  Nor is there any reason to suppose that the Obama administration supplied a single cell phone to the true democratic opposition in Honduras.  And there were no tweets and other information and protest flows from the “citizen journalists” and samizdat-protesters in Honduras into the waiting arms of the Western media.  As Table 3 shows, a large sample of newspapers produced an enormous (approximate) 2,000-to-11 disparity in items that mentioned the public protests in Iran or Honduras in connection with one of more of the newer telecommunication tools such as the Internet, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like. 

Table 3.  Differential media interest in the role of some newer electronic communications technologies in two countries where political unrest was met by government repression: Iran and Honduras [44]

Newspaper coverage

Iran: The first 30 days of protests following the June 12, 2009 presidential election (June 13 – July 12)

    Approx. 2,000

Honduras: The first 30 days of protests following the June 28, 2009 coup d’état (June 29 – July 28)

                       11

Even more striking, however, whereas a large fraction of the items in the first row that dealt with Iran’s protests featured quite prominently the role played by these tools in organizing protests and in resisting and circumventing Iranian government efforts to quell the protests and to silence dissent, in the 11 items on Honduras reported in row 2, these same tools were treated in passing—not as samizdats in the hands of Honduras’ democratic opposition to the coup.  Instead, the exact same technologies that Western policymakers and reporters and commentators lauded for helping to pry open greater democratic spaces inside Iran were virtually ignored when the focus turned away from a regime opposed by the United States and its allies and towards a coup regime supported by the United States.  And this pattern was true even during the overlapping period between the protests in Iran and the protests in Honduras.  “The government television station and a television station that supports the [ousted] president were taken off the air,” the New York Times reported from Honduras on the morning after the coup. “Television and radio stations broadcast no news. Only wealthy Hondurans with access to the Internet and cable television were able to follow the day’s events.”[45]  But, typical of Western media coverage of Iran’s protests, the Times quoted James K. Glassman, an under secretary of state for public diplomacy in the Bush administration, and now the executive director of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.  “What we saw in Iran is that the private sector played a very important role in disseminating information there,” Glassman told the Times.  “Companies like Twitter and Facebook facilitated a lot of the activity in Iran.”[46]   

There was clearly a class element involved in the protests in Iran and Honduras. The protesters in Iran were heavily middle and upper class, people who could afford and would have cell phones and could speak English. The situation was reversed in Honduras, where the coup and demonstration- election candidates were oligarchy-based, with the poorer masses protesting—but not supplied with or able to use cellphones to their pro-democracy messages out, and with Western elites, governments, media, NGOs, and even liberals and the left overwhelmingly preoccupied with Iran.  So the alignment is a familiar one to students of U.S. history: On the one hand, the United States sided with an oligarchy in Latin America to carry out an anti-democratic coup, and the establishment U.S. media accommodated this policy with their apologetics on behalf of the coup regime and their suppression of the voices of Honduras’ real democrats.  On the other hand, the United States pursued a regime-change agenda in Iran against its clerical regime, exploiting a highly Westernized, rebellious middle and upper class minority to help destabilize its target, again with sure establishment media support and worldwide amplification of protest voices, but this time even the support of a new kind of Western political configuration—call it the democracy- promotion left

Concluding Note

During the peak of Iran’s street demonstrations in June 2009, Ethan Zuckerman of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society summed up the role played by the newer telecommunication technologies and software applications there: “[S]ocial media at this point is most useful at making that what is a local struggle become a global struggle. I think that is what is happening here.  It is helping people globally feel solidarity and it’s keeping international attention on what’s happening.  It’s giving people a sense of involvement that they otherwise wouldn’t have….”[47]  An accompanying photograph (see here) depicted several Iranian woman with their backs turned towards the camera, and another Iranian woman sitting to their rear, facing the camera and holding a mobile phone; apparently, she was text-messaging. 

But Zuckerman’s explanation misses the crucial selectivity of this global role now played by the new “social media.”  As we have observed throughout Part 1 and now Part 2 of this analysis, the moment the accusation of vote fraud in Iran (however unsubstantiated) triggered massive street demonstrations in protest of a “stolen” election, foreign news media were riveted to these events, and featured the stolen-election line as well as reports about Iran’s pro-democracy, reformist movement for several weeks.  So, yes, in this case, people around the world (but especially in the metropolitan centers of the West) expressed solidarity towards Iran’s protestors, as the Western media kept people’s attention focused on struggles inside Iran, and propagated questions globally about the legitimacy of the regime.  

When we turn to Honduras, however, this pattern breaks-off, and the existence of so-called social media contributed nothing.  For as we just saw, during the first 30 days after the coup, the signature “social media” were barely mentioned in reports about Honduras.  But this was not because the Internet and blogs, mobile phones, text-messaging, Facebook and Twitter, and digital videographic capabilities were inaccessible to Hondurans who opposed the coup and who demanded the restoration of their democratic rights.  Rather, this was because the same Westerners who featured these capabilities when discussing Iran shut-down mentally and morally when Honduras was concerned, and ignored its democratic movement.  In dramatic contrast to those who struggle for democracy and social justice inside Iran, the local struggles of Hondurans were prevented from becoming a “global struggle,” far fewer people outside of Latin America expressed solidarity with Hondurans, and international attention (but especially in the metropolitan centers of the West) faded almost immediately.

At a conference called “Cyber Dissidents: Global Successes and Challenges” in April 2010,[48] presenters attended from a number of countries where telecom + apps have been used to circumvent government censorship and repression.  Non-U.S. speakers were featured from opposition movements in Iran, Syria, China, Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela.[49]  Evidently, whereas regimes that the United States targets for destabilization produce “cyber dissidents” of interest to U.S. conference organizers,[50] the conference managed to miss voices of opposition from any country where repressive regimes are supported by the United States (Honduras included). 

Just as there are “worthy” victims, there are also “cyber dissidents” who become of great interest to the enlightened West, as in Iran.  Early this year, a George Polk Award (for journalism) was given in the new category of videography to the “anonymous individuals” who digitally recorded the shooting death of Neda Agha-Soltan on a street in Tehran in June 2009, and then uploaded the video to the Internet, YouTube, and beyond, along with the message “Please let the world know.”  “The video became a rallying point for the reformist opposition in Iran,” the Polk Award’s panel of advisers explained in giving the award to otherwise anonymous recipients.[51]

But there are also “unworthy” victims, who find it difficult, if not impossible, to establish any kind of recognition of their “dissident”-status in the West, and who receive little, if any, help in publicizing their struggles against repressive status quos, as in Honduras.  Thus, as we showed in Part 1, the individuals who recorded and then uploaded to the Internet and YouTube the video images of the July 2009 shooting death of the Honduran protester, Isis Obed Murillo, not only received no Polk or any other award, but these images failed to become a rallying cry within the Western media and among human rights campaigners—even the same campaigners for whom the images of Neda’s death were recognized as the “most significant viral video of our lifetimes.”[52]

The world never heard.

Indeed, this dichotomous pattern is long-standing, and reflects the structure of power in the global system.  It shows not the slightest sign of being overcome—or even significantly reduced—by the spread of “social media” and the refurbished, empire-friendly ideology of “democracy-promotion.”

Edward S. Herman is professor emeritus of finance at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and has written extensively on economics, political economy, and the media. Among his books are Corporate Control, Corporate Power (Cambridge University Press, 1981), The Real Terror Network (South End Press, 1982), and, with Noam Chomsky, The Political Economy of Human Rights (South End Press, 1979), and Manufacturing Consent (Pantheon, 2002).  David Peterson is an independent journalist and researcher based in Chicago.  Together they are the co-authors of The Politics of Genocide, recently published by Monthly Review Press. ] 
 

Notes

 [1] See Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Iran and Honduras in the Propaganda System—Part 1.  Neda Agha-Soltan Versus Isis Obed Murillo,” MRZine, October 5, 2010.

 [2] Following the elimination of invalid votes, the handling of complaints, and a 10% vote recount by Iran’s Guardian Council in the second-half of June 2009, the final results as reported by Iran’s Interior Ministry on June 29, 2009 were as follows: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 24,525,491 (62.6%); Mir Hossein Mousavi, 13,258,464 (33.8%); Mohsen Rezai, 656,150 (1.7%); and Mehdi Karroubi, 330,183 (0.8%). 

 [3] See Honduras: Human Rights and the Coup d’État, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, December 30, 2009, especially “The ‘fourth ballot box’,” para. 82-87. 

 [4] See “Honduran Election Results Still Need to be Scrutinized,” Council on Hemispheric Affairs, December 15, 2009.  This article reported that on the night of the election, the “U.S.-backed Honduran civil society coalition, Hagamos Democracia (Making Democracy, HD)” estimated the voter turnout rate to be 48.7% and “claiming 99% accuracy.”  Also, the “pro-Zelaya National Front of Resistance against the Coup calculated a 65-70% rate of abstention by counting the number of voters entering polling stations and comparing that figure to the number of individuals who were registered to vote,” which is to say, a voter turnout rate of 30-35%. 

 [5] See Jesse Freeston, “Honduran elections exposed,” The Real News Network, December 8, 2009.  “The coup government, not officially recognized by any country in the world, was hoping to gain international legitimacy by demonstrating a large turnout at the polls,” Freeston explains.  “That 62% figure appeared at 10 p.m. on election night, after the Electoral Tribunal’s computer system broke down for three hours….So where did the 62% number come from?   A high-ranking official at the Electoral Tribunal told me off-camera that the president of the tribunal, Saul Escobar, on the night of the election announced the number out of nowhere. When I asked the official to say that on camera, they responded: do you really want me to get shot? The coup regime’s announcement that more than 60 percent of Hondurans voted on election day has been enough to drastically change the dynamics of the situation. Governments that previously stated the elections were illegitimate now consider them a triumph.” 

 [6] See, e.g., Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “The U.S. Aggression Process and Its Collaborators: From Guatemala (1950-1954) to Iran (2002-),” Electric Politics, November 26, 2007; and Seymour M. Hersh, “The Bush administration steps up its secret moves against Iran,” New Yorker, July 7, 2008.

 [7] See, e.g., Eva Golinger, “Washington and the Coup in Honduras: Here Is the Evidence,” Postcards from the Revolution, July 15, 2009; and Michaela D’Ambrosio, “The Honduran Coup: Was It A Matter of Behind-the-Scenes Finagling by State Department Stonewallers?” Council on Hemispheric Affairs, September 16, 2009.  In a letter signed and circulated by the deposed President José Manuel Zelaya on the one-year anniversary of the coup, Zelaya himself stated: “The United States was behind the coup d’état.  The intellectual authors of this crime were an illicit association of old Washington hawks and Honduran capitalists with their partners, American affiliates and financial agencies.”  (“Zelaya: Coup was planned by U.S. Southern Command,” Agence France Presse, June 28, 2010.)

 [8] See Ian Kelly, “Honduran Elections,” U.S. Department of State, November 29, 2009.

 [9] See Alexei Barrionuevo, “Obama Writes to Brazil‘s Leader About Iran,” New York Times, November 25, 2009.  “President Obama sent a letter on Sunday [Nov. 22] to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil reiterating the American position on Iran’s nuclear program, a day before Iran’s president made his first state visit to Brazil….On Honduras, Mr. Obama justified American support for a presidential election there after the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya in June.  Mr. Obama said in his letter that the situation would ‘start from zero’ after the [Nov. 29] election, the Brazilian official said.”

 [10] “Neither Real Nor Free,” Editorial, New York Times, June 15, 2009; “The Honduras Conundrum,”  Editorial, New York Times, December 5, 2009.

 [11] See Edward S. Herman and Frank Brodhead, Demonstration Elections: U.S.-Staged Elections in the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and El Salvador (Boston: South End Press, 1984), Ch. 4, “El Salvador,” pp. 93-152. 

 [12] “Democracy’s Hope in Central America,” Editorial, New York Times, March 30, 1982.

 [13] Lindsey Gruson, “A fingerhold for dissent in Salvador,” New York Times, March 17, 1989.

Also see Herman and Brodhead, Demonstration Elections.  As these authors noted, in March 1981, the military of El Salvador “published a list of [some 138] ‘traitors’ responsible for the country’s woes—essentially a death list….There ensued an increase in violence under a state of siege, with many thousands of civilian murders and the emergence of a society whose most revealing feature was the daily search for and removal of mutilated bodies” (pp. 117-118).  Under conditions such as these, El Salvador held both its March 1982 and March 1984 elections.     

 [14] See Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, 2nd Ed. (New York: Pantheon Books, 2002), Ch. 3, “Legitimizing versus Meaningless Third World Elections: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua,” pp. 87-142.

 [15] Steven R. Weisman, “Reagan Predicts Nicaraguan Vote Will be ‘Sham’,” New York Times, July 20, 1984; “Nobody Won in Nicaragua,” Editorial, New York Times, November 7, 1984.

 [16] Michael Ignatieff, “Who Are Americans To Think That Freedom Is Theirs To Spread?New York Times Magazine, June 26, 2005.  For bland lies told in the service of American Power, it would be hard to surpass Ignatieff’s work overall and this essay in particular.

 [17] See, e.g., Kari Lydersen, “Welcome to the new Honduras, Where right-wing death squads proliferate,” AlterNet, April 27, 2010; and Kari Lydersen, “Violence Against Honduran Resistance Movement, Unionists Continues,” In These Times Blog, October 11, 2010.

 [18] See “Frente Nacional de Resistencia supera la meta de un millón 250 mil firmas,” Resistencia, September 13, 2010.  (For an English translation, see “1,250,000 signatures for the refounding of Honduras,” Quotha, the personal website of the U.S. academic Adrienne Pine.  Pine translates the opening two paragraphs of the article from the website of the National Front of Popular Resistance in Honduras as follows: “The National People’s Resistance Front FNRP today exceeded its goal of one million 250 thousand signatures on the Sovereign Declaration for the Popular and Participatory Constituent Assembly, and for the return of Presidente Manuel Zelaya Rosales, Father Andrés Tamayo and the rest of those Hondurans who have been expatriated and are in political exile. The Front today, Sunday, reached one million 269 thousand 142 signatures, earlier than the deadline for their collection, this September 15th, the day on which the 189th anniversary of Honduran independence from the kingdom of Spain will be celebrated.”)

 [19] Namely, in Ginger Thompson, “Region Finds U.S. Lacking on Honduras,” New York Times, November 28, 2009.

 [20] Namely, in Elizabeth Malkin, “Fate of Ousted leader Clouds Election Result in Honduras,” New York Times, December 1, 2009.  

 [21] Factiva database searches carried out under the “Newspapers: All” category on October 7, 2010.  The exact search parameters were as follows: For Iran: rst=tnwp and atleast2 Iran* and (human rights abuse* or human rights violation*) for the two time periods specified; and for Honduras: rst=tnwp and atleast2 Hondur* and (human rights abuse* or human rights violation*) for the three time periods specified.

 [22] About the zero in the third row for the first 30 days after coup d’état in Honduras (June 29 – July 28, 2009): In fact, Factiva produced 8 matches.  But upon checking each of them, we determined that all mentions of human rights abuses in articles also mentioning Honduras referred to human rights abuses that either had occurred in the past in Honduras or that had occurred elsewhere in Latin America.  For this reason, we’ve excluded these from our total, leaving us with zero.  Thus, for example, Simon Romero wrote in the New York Times about “countries like Chile, Argentina and Brazil, where bitter memories linger over human rights abuses by military officials that toppled civilian rulers in the 1960s and 1970s” (“Rare Hemisphere Unity In Assailing Honduran Coup,” June 29, 2009).  Similarly, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported that “The coup in Honduras brings back bitter memories in Latin America, where for years military officials toppled civilian rulers at will, unleashing horrific human-rights abuses” (Marina Jimenez, “Honduras coup at odds with new politics in Americas,” July 1, 2009).  In London’s Independent, Hugh O’Shaughnessy reported that in 2001, “Democratic Senator Chris Dodd attacked Mr. [John] Negroponte…for drawing a veil over atrocities committed in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, by military forces trained by the US. Mr. Dodd claimed that the forces had been ‘linked to death squad activities such as killings, disappearances and other human rights abuses’” (“Democracy hangs by a thread in Honduras,” July 19, 2009).  Richard Collie wrote in the Korean Times that “since World War II, the School of the Americas (SOA), founded in Panama but now based in Fort Benning, Ga., under the new guise of ‘Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation’…has its grubby finger prints all over a long list of political assassinations, coups and human rights abuses in the region” (“Iron Fist, Velvet Glove: Obama and Honduras,” July 20, 2009).

 [23] See Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Chutzpah, Inc.: ‘The Brave People of Iran’ (versus the Disappeared People of Palestine, Honduras, Afghanistan, Etc.),” MRZine, February 20, 2010.

 [24] For the results of Iran’s June 24, 2005 presidential runoff, see Ali Akbar Dareni, “Iran Council OKs Presidential Vote Results,” Associated Press, June 29, 2005. 

 [25] See Ali Ansari et al., Preliminary Analysis of the Voting Figures in Iran’s 2009 Presidential Election, Chatham House (U.K.), June 21, 2009, p. 3, p. 10.

 [26] See Steven Kull et al., An Analysis of Multiple Polls of the Iranian Public, PIPA – WPO.org, February 3, 2010; Steven Kull et al., Iranian Public on Current Issues: Questionnaires, PIPA – WPO.org, February 3, 2010; and the accompanying Press Release

 [27] Factiva database searches carried out under the “Newspapers: All” category on August 25, 2010.  The exact search parameters were as follows: For the Chatham House analysis: rst=tnwp and Iran and (Chatham House or Ali w/2 Ansari) for the period June 21, 2009 – December 21, 2009; and for the second PIPA-WPO analysis: rst= tnwp and Iran and (Program on International Policy Attitudes or worldpublicopinion) for the period February 3, 2010 – August 3, 2010.  We found zero reports on the PIPA-WPO survey released on February 3, and 150 reports either on the Chatham House study that criticized Iran’s election results or that invited Ali Ansari to comment on Iranian affairs.

 [28] Eric A. Brill, Did Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Steal the 2009 Iran Election?, Self-Published Manuscript, last updated  August 29, 2010.  Also see Alvin Richman, “Post-Election Crackdown In Iran Has Had Limited Impact on the Minority Expressing Strong Opposition to the Regime,” PIPA – WPO.org, February 18, 2010.

 [29] See Reza Esfandiari and Yousef Bozorgmehr, A Rejoinder to the Chatham House report on Iran’s 2009 presidential election offering a new analysis on the results, Self-Published Manuscript, August, 2009, p. 2

 [30] Brill, Did Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Steal the 2009 Iran Election?.

 [31] Factiva database searches carried out under the “Newspapers: All” category on August 25, 2010.  The time-periods searched began four-weeks-to-the-day (or 28 days) prior to each election, and continued through four weeks (or 28 days) after the election, for a combined search period of 57 days each.  The exact search parameters were as follows: For Iran: rst=tnwp and Iran and (election* or vote*) w/10 ((phony or phony) or (rig or rigg*) or stole* or fake* or farc* or sham or fraud*) not (Afghanistan or Honduras)) for the period May 15-July 10, 2009; and for Honduras: rst=tnwp and Honduras and (election* or vote*) w/10 ((phony or phoney) or (rig or rigg*) or stole* or fake* or farc* or sham or fraud*) not (Afghanistan or Iran)) for the period November 2-December 28, 2009.

 [32] Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall, “The nonviolent script for Iran,” Christian Science Monitor, July 22, 2003. 

 [33] James K. Glassman and Michael Doran, “The Soft Power Solution in Iran,” Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2010.  As Glassman and Doran continue: “Despite Iran’s oil wealth, the economy has for years been in miserable shape thanks to bad management, corruption and the squandering of funds on Arab terrorist groups and the nuclear program.  The slogans of the [Green Wave] protestors demonstrate that they are connecting the dots between the regime’s foreign policy and economic privation.”  

 [34] See “The Morning After in Nicaragua,” Editorial, New York Times, February 27, 1990; and “Nicaragua’s Second Revolution,” Editorial, New York Times, April 25, 1990.

 [35] The September 30, 2006 Iran Freedom Support Act directed the executive branch to destabilize Iran (which it had been doing anyway), but the Act left the actual sums of money to be used for this purpose to its discretion.  Quoting the Act: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the President is authorized to provide financial and political assistance (including the award of grants) to foreign and domestic individuals, organizations, and entities working for the purpose of supporting and promoting democracy for Iran. Such assistance may include the award of grants to eligible independent pro-democracy radio and television broadcasting organizations that broadcast into Iran.” (Sec. 302(a)(1), “Assistance to Support Democracy for Iran.”)  For contemporaneous reporting on the actual dollar-sums involved, see Robin Wright, “Iran on Guard Over U.S. Funds,”Washington Post, April 28, 2007.

 [36] Negar Azimi, “Hard Realities of Soft Power,” New York Times Magazine, June 14, 2007.

 [37] Hillary Rodham Clinton,  “Remarks on the Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century“ (Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.), U.S. Department of State, December 14, 2009.

 [38] See Mark Landler, “U.S. Hopes Export of Internet Services Will Help Open Closed Societies,”  New York Times, March 8, 2010.  

 [39] Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Remarks on Internet Freedom“ (at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.), January 21, 2010. 

 [40] See Brad Stone and Noam Cohen,  ”Social Networks Spread Iranian Defiance Online,” New York Times, June 16, 2009; Mark Landler and Brian Selter, “Washington Taps Into a Potent New Force in Diplomacy,” New York Times, June 17, 2009; and Mike Musgrove, “Twitter Is a Player in Iran‘s Drama,”  Washington Post, June 17, 2009.

 [41] See Golnaz Esfandiari, “The Twitter Devolution,” Foreign Policy Blog, June 7, 2010.  Also see the analysis by Malcolm Gladwell, “Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted,” New Yorker, October 4, 2010.  Esfandiari summed up the real contribution of the newer telecommunication technologies and software applications less in terms of their impact on Iranian life, than in terms of their impact on the Western consumers of non-Iranian media: “Twitter played an important role in getting word about events in Iran out to the wider world. Together with YouTube it helped focus the world’s attention on the Iranian people’s fight for democracy and human rights.  New media over the last year created and sustained unprecedented international moral solidarity with the Iranian struggle.” 

 [42] In the past, we’ve analyzed at great length both Western-establishment as well as left-denigration of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  For one example of the former, see Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “The Iran Versus U.A.-NATO-Israeli Threats,” MRZine, October 20, 2009; and for one of the latter, see Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Riding the ‘Green Wave’ at the Campaign for Peace and Democracy and Beyond,” MRZine, July 24, 2009.  In the case of Iran in particular, the alignment between the Western establishment and the Western left (or faux left) is striking.

 [43] See Ian Kelly, “Termination of Assistance and Other Measures Affecting the De Facto Regime in Honduras,” U.S. Department of State, September 3, 2009.  On this day, this State Department spokesman’s exact words were: “The Department of State announces the termination of a broad range of assistance to the government of Honduras as a result of the coup d’etat that took place on June 28.”  

 [44] Factiva database searches carried out under the “Newspapers: All” category on October 7, 2010.  The exact search parameters were as follows: For Iran: rst=tnwp and atleast2 Iran* and (internet or facebook or youtube or twitter or sms or text-messaging or mobile communication*) not Hondur* for the 30-day period specified; and for Honduras: rst=tnwp and atleast2 Hondur* and (internet or facebook or youtube or twitter or sms or text-messaging or mobile communication*) not Iran* for the 30-day period specified.  Note that in row 1, column 2, we report the total as “approximately 2,000.”

 [45] Elizabeth Malkin et al., “Honduran President Is Ousted in Coup,” New York Times, June 29, 2009.

 [46] Julie Creswell, “How to Start a Company (And Kiss Like Angelina),” New York Times, July 12, 2009.

 [47] Yigal Schleifer, “Why Iran’s Twitter revolution is unique,”  Christian Science Monitor, June 19, 2009.

 [48] See the website for the Conference on Cyber Dissidents: Global Successes and Challenges, George W. Bush Presidential Center, April 19, 2010.

 [49] See “Speaker Biographies,” George W. Bush Presidential Center, April 19, 2010.

 [50] In keeping with this pattern, the “Cyber Dissidents” conference also invited Oscar Morales Guevara, the founder of One Million Voices Against FARC—a Facebook group that, like official U.S. policy, supports the regime in Colombia, while propagating worldwide opposition to the main rebel force that opposes it.

 [51] See the George Polk Award for Videography, “2009 Award Winners,” Long Island University.  Also see Brian Selter, “Honoring Citizen Journalists,” New York Times, February 22, 2010.   

 [52] Here quoting the State Department’s Jared Cohen, in Jesse Lichtenstein, “Digital Diplomacy,” New York Times Magazine, July 18, 2010.

Small Banks in the US are Collapsing

October 24th, 2010 by Global Research

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp said on Friday that U.S. regulators closed seven more banks, bringing the total so far this year to 139.

The biggest was Hillcrest Bank of Overland Park, Kansas, which had approximately $1.65 billion in total assets and $1.54 billion in total deposits.

Regulators also closed First Arizona Savings, Scottsdale, Arizona; First Suburban National Bank, Maywood, Illinois; First National Bank of Barnesville, Barnesville, Georgia; Gordon Bank, Gordon, Georgia; Progress Bank of Florida, Tampa, Florida; and First Bank of Jacksonville, Jacksonville, Florida.

A newly chartered bank subsidiary of NBH Holdings Corp, Boston, Massachusetts, will assume all of the deposits of Hillcrest Bank.

The new NBH subsidiary, also called Hillcrest Bank, also agreed to purchase essentially all of the failed bank’s assets, the FDIC said.

First Arizona Savings had approximately $272.2 million in total assets and $198.8 million in total deposits.

At the time of closing, the bank had an estimated $1.8 million in uninsured funds.

The FDIC said it was unable to find another financial institution to take over the banking operations of First Arizona Savings. As a result, checks to depositors for their insured funds will be mailed on Monday.

First Suburban National Bank had about $148.7 million in total assets and $140.0 million in total deposits.

Seaway Bank and Trust Company, Chicago, Illinois, assumed all of First Suburban’s deposits and agreed to purchase essentially all of the failed bank’s assets.

First National Bank of Barnesville had approximately $131.4 million in total assets and $127.1 million in total deposits.

United Bank of Zebulon, Georgia, assumed all of the Barnesville bank’s deposits and agreed to purchase essentially all of the assets.

Gordon Bank had approximately $29.4 million in total assets and $26.7 million in total deposits.

Morris Bank of Dublin, Georgia, paid a premium of 0.5 percent for the deposits of Gordon Bank and agreed to purchase about $11.5 million of the failed bank’s assets. The FDIC will keep the remaining assets for later disposition.

Progress Bank of Florida had approximately $110.7 million in total assets and $101.3 million in total deposits.

Bay Cities Bank of Tampa, Florida, assumed all of Progress Bank’s deposits and agreed to purchase essentially all of the failed bank’s assets.

First Bank of Jacksonville had approximately $81.0 million in total assets and $77.3 million in total deposits.

Ameris Bank of Moultrie, Georgia, assumed all of the Jacksonville bank’s deposits and agreed to purchase essentially all of the failed bank’s assets.

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair has said she expects the number of bank failures this year to exceed the 2009 total of 140, but that total assets of the failures will probably be lower.

This week, the FDIC said estimated bank failures will cost the Deposit Insurance Fund $52 billion from 2010 through 2014, down from an earlier estimate of $60 billion.

The Deposit Insurance Fund, financed by banks that pay into the fund, guarantees individual accounts up to $250,000.

While failures are still occurring at a fairly brisk pace, it is now mostly smaller institutions, community banks, that have been collapsing.

Washington Mutual, which had $307 billion in assets when it was seized in September 2008, remains the largest bank to fail during the financial crisis.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Carol Bishopric, Gary Hill)

SI – Solidarity with Iran! Appeal

October 24th, 2010 by International Action Center

SIGN ON!
SI – Solidarity with Iran! Appeal
A project of House of Latin America – Iran

Please Circulate Widely

On the invitation of an Iranian non-governmental organization dedicated to the building of solidarity with the people of Latin America and in response to increasing threats and continuing sanctions on Iran by the United States, delegates from international solidarity, anti-war and women’s organizations, including the International Action Center, met in Iran to coordinate efforts to defend the people of Iran in this urgent hour.

As a result of that meeting, House of Latin America (HOLA), an Iranian NGO, has initiated the following Appeal.

Please SIGN ON to the SI – Solidarity with Iran Appeal now at iacenter.org/iran/SISolidaridadIran
Send emails to President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban, Congressional leaders and the media with your signed “SI – Solidarity with Iran” Appeal demanding

* Lift the Sanctions!
* Recognize Iran’s Right to Peaceful Nuclear Power!
* Stop the Military Threats!

Text of the appeal:

To: President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton
cc: U.N. Secretary-General Ban, Congressional leaders and members of the media

I hereby add my voice and sign on to the following international appeal:

Whereas, the escalating sanctions and threats of military intervention against Iran are intended to deprive the Iranian people of their internationally recognized right to live as an independent and free nation;

Whereas, the sanctions and threats are clear violations of Article 2 of the UN Charter, according to which member states must “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”;

Whereas, the United States is unequivocally obligated under the bilateral 1981 Algiers Treaty to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Iran;

Whereas. sanctions often pave the way to war;

Whereas, Iran, as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has an “inalienable right” to develop and use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes;

Whereas, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, there is no evidence to back up the charge that Iran is “planning to produce nuclear weapons”;

Whereas, the hegemonic lobbies that portray Iran as a threat to peace today also lied about imaginary weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to convince the public that war was necessary;

The people of the world cannot allow such a crime against humanity.

Therefore, I join with all who stand for justice, peace, sovereignty and self determination in raising my voice to demand:

- Lift economic sanctions against Iran.

- Recognize the right of Iran to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

- Stop military threats against Iran.

SI – Solidarity with Iran!

Sincerely,
(your signature here)

Please SIGN ON to the SI – Solidarity with Iran Appeal now at iacenter.org/iran/SISolidaridadIran

International Action Center
c/o Solidarity Center
55 W 17th St Suite 5C
New York, NY 10011
212-633-6646
[email protected]
www.iacenter.org

The corporate media has almost entirely stopped covering the Gulf oil spill.

Many have tried to say that the effects of the spill are not nearly as bad as feared, and that everything is pretty much cleaned up and back to normal.

But today, it is widely being reported that there are currently massive stretches of weathered oil spotted in the Gulf of Mexico.

And websites like Florida Oil Spill Law (FOSL) have tirelessly been reporting on the Gulf oil spill this whole time.

To give an example of the ongoing crisis in the Gulf, here’s a roundup of some of the top stories from FOSL from the past 3 days:

In related news, the government – always eager to immediately get to the bottom of what is really going on and then to fully publicize the results – has sent crucial Gulf samples to be analyzed in a lab . . . in Poland (all of the American labs are apparently busy testing the toxicity of hinky mortgages, mortgage backed securities, CDOs and naked CDSs). And the result will be shipped back by slow boat: NOAA isn’t expecting results back until the end of the year.

“Child cancer skyrocketing in Iraqi city”

October 24th, 2010 by Global Research

Baku: The rapidly soaring child cancer rate in the southern Iraqi province of Basra has prompted the officials in the country to open the country’s first specialist cancer hospital for children in the province’s capital, APA reports quoting Press TV.

Since 1993, Basra province has witnessed a sharp rise in the incidence of childhood cancer.

“Leukemia (a type of blood cancer) among children under 15 has increased by about four times,” said Dr. Janan Hasan of the hospital inaugurated on Thursday in the southern port city of Basra.

Hasan went on to say that “Most [of the affected children] are high-risk cases, which means that they do not have a high survival rate.”

“Basra’s childhood leukemia rates compare unfavorably to those of neighboring Kuwait and nearby Oman, as well as the US and the European Union and other countries,” said a study conducted by the University of Washington in Seattle, which documented the increase in the cancer rate in Basra.

A suspected source of the afflictions is the depleted uranium (DU) used by the invading forces.

It is reported that the United States and Britain used up to 2,000 tons of DU during the Iraq war.

“We observed 698 cases of childhood leukemia between 1993 and 2007, ranging between 15 cases in the first year and 56 cases in the final year, reaching a peak of 97 cases in 2006,” the study added.

Amid the need for drastic action for handling the crisis, the medics “still do not have advanced equipment, labs and many medicines. We hope to acquire them over time,” Hasan said.

Is Europe’s adventure in international living about to end? At Potsdam, Germany, this weekend, Chancellor Angela Merkel told the young conservatives of her Christian Democratic Union that Germany’s attempt to create a multicultural society where people “live side by side and enjoy each other” has “failed, utterly failed.”

Backing up her rueful admission are surveys showing 30 percent of Germans believe the country is overrun by foreigners. An equal number believe the foreigners come to feed off German welfare.

Merkel had in mind the Turks who came as gastarbeiters, guest workers, in the 1960s. Some 2.5 million now live in Germany. Arabs and East Europeans have come more recently. One survey puts the Muslim population at 5 million.

“Multikulti is dead,” says Horst Seehofer of Merkel’s sister party, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria. He wants no more immigration from “alien cultures”. Turks and other Muslims are not learning the language, he contends, not assimilating, not becoming Germans.

Awareness of deep differences with Turkish neighbors became acute for Germans when, grieving in solidarity with America after 9/11, they learned that Turkish sectors of Berlin were celebrating Islam’s victory with barrages of bottle rockets.

Like all of Europe, Germany grows nervous.

This summer, Thilo Sarrazin, who sat on the Bundesbank board, published “Germany Abolishes Itself”, which sold 300,000 copies in seven weeks. Sarrazin argued that Germany’s Muslim population is unable or unwilling to learn the language or culture, and that mass immigration is destroying the nation.

Across Europe, there is a resurgence of ethnonationalism that is feeding the ranks of populist and anti-immigrant parties that are gaining respectability and reaching for power.

Austrian nationalists triumphed in 2008 when the Freedom Party of Joerg Haider and the Alliance for the Future of Austria together took 29 percent of the vote. The Swiss People’s Party of Christoph Blocher, largest in Bern, was behind the successful referendum to change the constitution to outlaw minarets and prohibit the wearing of burqas. Hungary’s Jobbik Party, which to the Financial Times “sits squarely in Europe’s most repulsive arch-nationalist tradition and which blames Jews and Roma for the hardships of other Hungarians,” pulled 17 percent of the vote this year and entered parliament with 47 seats, up from zero seats in 2006.

The Sweden Democrats just captured 6 percent of the vote and entered parliament for the first time with 20 seats, joining right-wing folk parties in Norway and Denmark.

Geert Wilders, a rising figure in Dutch politics, was charged with hate speech for equating Islam and Nazism. In June, his Freedom Party swept past the ruling Christian Democrats, who lost half of their strength in parliament. “More security, less crime, less immigration, less Islam — that is what the Netherlands has chosen,” said Wilders. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy — one eye on Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front, the other on the 2012 elections — rejecting cries of “Nazism” and “Vichyism”, is dismantling Gypsy camps and deporting Gypsies to Romania. Milan is now following the French lead. What is happening in Europe partakes of a global trend. Multiracial, multi-ethnic, multicultural nations are disintegrating.

Russians battle ethnic Muslim separatists in the North Caucasus. Seventy percent of Americans support an Arizona law to identify and expel illegal aliens. Beijing swamps the homelands of Tibetans and Uighurs with Han Chinese. India fights secession in Kashmir, Nagaland and the Naxalite provinces.

“Wars between nations have given way to wars within nations, ” said Barack Obama in his Nobel Prize address.

Ethnonationalism tore Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union and Josip Tito’s Yugoslavia into 22 separate nations and is now tugging at the seams of all multi-ethnic states. Globalism is in retreat before tribalism.

But the awakening of Europe’s establishment to the shallow roots of multiculturalism will likely prove frustrating and futile. With her fertility rate below replacement levels for 40 years, projected to remain so for the next 40 years, Germany will lose 12 million of her 82 million people by 2050. Her median age will rise eight years to 53, and 40 percent of all Germans will be over 60. Germany’s problem is insoluble. She is running out of Germans. Baby boomer Europe decided in the 1960s and 1970s it wanted La Dolce Vita, not the hassle of children. It had that sweet life. Now the bill comes due. And the bill is the end of their tribes and countries as we have known them.

Old Europe is dying, and the populist and nationalist parties, in the poet’s phrase, are simply raging “against the dying of the light.”

Twelve weeks ago the Bureau of Investigative Journalism was given access to the biggest leak of military documents in history.

These documents formed a database of nearly 400,000 military logs recorded over six years of the Iraq war and covering the years 2004 to 2009.

There are over 37 million words used to recount military significant actions that took place across the entire country. This material provides an unrivalled portrait of one of the most controversial wars of the modern age.

For the first time the files reveal just how much the American military detailed the escalating violence in Iraq, and how this contrasts markedly to what the politicians said in public. This is the story behind the pronouncements – the uncensored detail Washington did not want us to know.

Key findings

The data reveals how hundreds of civilians were killed by coalition forces in unreported events.

There are numerous claims of prison abuse by coalition forces even after the Abu Ghraib scandal. The files also paint a disturbing portrait of widespread torture in Iraqi detention facilities.

As the war progresses the documents record a descent into chaos and horror as the occupation sparked civil war. In case after case, the logs record thousands of bodies, many brutally tortured, dumped on the streets of Iraq.

Through these reports we see, in military snapshots, the full impact the war had on Iraqis – men, women and children. The sheer scale of the deaths, detentions and violence is laid bare for the first time.

About the logs

The files were each recorded by soldiers operating on the ground and detail significant events. They are known as “SIGACTS”.

At the time each report was classified as “Secret” but the information contained is no longer militarily sensitive. In order to protect people mentioned in the reports the Bureau has removed all names and detailed grid references from the documents published on this site.

The files, leaked to the whistleblowers’ website Wikileaks, were made available to a select group of media outlets, including the Bureau, the Guardian, the New York Times, the German weekly Der Spiegel and French newspaper Le Monde.

Iraq Body Count, the agency that has been collating evidence of Iraq’s casualty numbers for many years, was also given access to the data.

Others involved include Sweden’s SVT and public interest lawyers.

The Bureau has made documentaries based on our findings for Dispatches and Al Jazeera English and Arabic.

Official response

We offered the United States Department of Defense the right to reply to our findings. They issued a statement which can be read here.

President Barack Obama’s government handed over thousands of detainees to the Iraqi authorities, despite knowing there were hundreds of reports of alleged torture in Iraqi government facilities.

Washington was warned by the United Nations and many human rights organisations that torture was widespread in Iraqi detention centres. But the Bureau of Investigative Journalism can reveal the US’s own troops informed their commanders of more than 1,300 claims of torture by Iraqi Security forces between 2005 and 2009.

Prisoner handover In July 2010, the US completed the handover of 9,250 detainees to the Iraqi authorities.

“US authorities committed a serious breach of international law when they handed over thousands of detainees to Iraqi security forces.” Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International Related article: War logs challenge US prison inspection all-clear

It would be a clear violation of international law, drawn up by the United Nations Convention Against Torture, ratified by the US in 1994, for any government to transfer detainees to a regime at whose hands they face torture or other serious human rights violations.

However, the 1,365 cases of alleged torture by the Iraqi authorities found by the Bureau, raise questions as to why the US government handed over detainees to these authorities.

Human rights organisations have expressed outrage at the revelations. Professor Novak, the UN Rapporteur on Torture told the Bureau: “If the United States forces handed over detainees to Iraqi jurisdiction, despite the fact that they were at serious risk of being subjected to torture, that is a violation of Article 3C of the Convention Against Torture of which the US is a signatory.”

He said there should be a full and thorough investigation to ascertain whether any of the detainees handed over to the Iraqi authorities by the US have been abused.

“The burden of proof is on the US to prove that they can categorically state that the detainees they are handing over are not at risk of torture.There should be an investigation to look into the fate of those individuals to see whether they have been abused.”

It is likely that the detainees handed over could face torture. Many of the reports in the logs detail complaints of brutality reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s regime. They include accounts of detainees being whipped with cables, chains, wire and pistols and being burnt with acid and cigarettes. Some accounts describe people having electric shocks to their genitals, fingernails ripped out and fingers cut off. In other cases, the documents report men being sodomised with bottles, hoses and raped.

One of the worst cases relates to a man held in an underground bunker and tortured for two months in Diyala Prison, run by the Iraqi Ministry of Justice.

March 25 2006 His hands were bound/shackled and he was suspended from the ceiling; the use of blunt objects (pipes) to beat him on the back and legs; and the use of electric drills to bore holes in his legs.

Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Porgramme said: “This adds further weight, if it were needed, that US authorities committed a serious breach of international law when they handed over thousands of detainees to Iraqi security forces who, they clearly knew, were responsible for widespread and systematic torture. It is our view that the current US administration is complicit in torture.

“There should be an investigation to look into the fate of those individuals to see whether they have been abused.” Professor Novwak, UN Rapporteur on Torture “The US authorities, like all other governments, have an obligation not only to ensure that their own forces do not use torture, but also that people who were detained ans are bieng held by US forces are not handed over to other authorities who are likely to torture them.”

He continued: “The US failed to respect this obligation in Iraq, despite the great volume of evidence available from many different quarters showing that the Iraqi security forces use torture widely and are allowed to do so with impunity.

The US military records add to a body of evidence gathered by the international community concerning allegations of torture within Iraqi state facilities.

Evidence of abuse In 2008 the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) warned, “Ongoing widespread ill-treatment and torture of detainees by Iraqi law enforcement authorities, amidst pervasive impunity of current and past human rights abuses, constitute severe breaches of international human rights obligations.”

Related article: Allegations of prisoner abuse by US troops after Abu Ghraib

Despite this, on January 1 2009, the Iraq-United States Bilateral Security Agreement came into force. This provided for the release and transfer from US jurisdiction of detainees to Iraqi custody. At the time, the UNAMI called on both parties “to implement the agreement in strict compliance with human rights norms and standards”.

US forces continued to gather evidence of alleged detainee abuse throughout this period, logging 112 cases in 2009. The last detainee case reported in the military files is dated December 23. It describes an incident in a video recording that showed 12 Iraqi Army officers executing a detainee. This, even when the handover was occurring.

The bulk of the torture allegations are against facilities run by either the Iraqi Ministry of Interior or the Ministry of Defence – establishments such as police stations and army buildings. But there are allegations also against the MOJ recorded in the SIGACTS.

Queridos mineros chilenos, por favor no acepten la invitación de Israel!

Queridos sobrevivientes de la mina chilena:

Ustedes no saben de mí. Yo sólo soy un bloggero/actvista por la paz estadounidense que ha seguido sus esfuerzos heroicos por sobrevivir a los 69 días de prueba y los esfuerzos heroicos por salvarlos. Con asombro he visto cómo los subían uno a uno hacia la libertad desde ese infierno bajo tierra, donde por tanto tiempo no se sabía si iban a vivir o morir. De hecho, el mundo entero vio cuando fueron rescatados entre la alegría estruendosa de sus seres queridos reunidos y sentados en vigilia por ustedes durante tanto tiempo, insistiendo en que estaban vivos, insistiendo en que siguienran los esfuerzos de rescate, orando juntos por su seguridad. El mundo entero se regocija por su retorno a salvo hacia la superficie junto a sus seres queridos.

Ahora es vuestro tiempo para que se recuperen de su terrible experiencia, para el reajuste en la superficie viviendo con todos los aspectos físicos que esto implica, así como también con los emocionales. Sin embargo, hay personas que desean adherirse de alguna manera a su rescate y lo que ellos ven es un estatus de celebridad para realizando invitaciones públicas para ir a visitarlos.

Cuidado con los regalos de caballo de Troya. Las invitaciones de viajes con todos los gastos pagados se emiten con su propia imagen e intereses en el corazón.

Hoy he leído que han recibido una invitación del Ministerio de Turismo israelí para visitar la Tierra Santa, donde empezó el cristianismo, donde está ubicado el más sagrado de los sitios cristianos. Ellos les han ofrecido pagar por la totalidad de su viaje allí, para que ustedes puedan visitar “Israel”. Le están ofreciendo este viaje en Navidad como un “regalo para ti”

Les pido que por favor no acepten esta invitación. Ustedes no están siendo solo invitados a visitar “Israel,” se le está pidiendo ir a visitar los lugares santos que han estado bajo la ocupación israelí de Palestina durante 42 años, sitios a los que habitualmente se les niega el acceso a los palestinos cristianos por parte de su ocupante.

En junio, el Vaticano ha emitido un documento que deplora la negación del acceso a los cristianos a los lugares sagrados bajo la ocupación, deniminando como “injusta” la ocupación.

Ustedes serán llevados a la Iglesia del Santo Sepulcro en Jerusalén oriental ocupada que diariamente le niega el acceso a los palestinos cristianos. Ustedes también visitarán Belén, el lugar donde nació Cristo, que ha estado bajo la ocupación israelí durante 42 años. Muy cerca se encuentra la casa de la tienda Daoud Nassar de las Naciones Unidas que está continuamente bajo la amenaza de demolición por parte de Israel.

Los palestinos cristianos sufren las mismas desgracias que sus compatriotas musulmanes bajo la ocupación israelí.

Por esta razón la Declaración de el Cairo pide el fin a la ocupación de Palestina tras 42 largos años de violación directa al derecho internacional.

Introducción

Nosotros, un grupo de palestinos cristianos, después de la oración, la reflexión y el intercambio de opiniones, clamamos desde el sufrimiento en nuestro país, bajo la ocupación israelí, con un grito de esperanza en la ausencia de toda esperanza, un grito lleno de oración la fe en Dios y el siempre vigilante, en la providencia divina de Dios para todos los habitantes de esta tierra. Inspirado por el misterioso amor de Dios hacia todos, el misterio de la presencia divina de Dios en la historia de todos los pueblos y, de una manera particular, en la historia de nuestro país, proclamamos nuestra palabra sobre la base de nuestra fe cristiana y nuestro sentido de Palestina Perteneciente – la palabra de fe, esperanza y amor.

¿Por qué ahora? Porque hemos llegado hoy a un punto muerto en la tragedia del pueblo palestino. Los responsables en la toma de decisiones en las gestiones de la crisis se contentan en lugar de comprometerse en la tarea de encontrar una manera de resolverlo. Los corazones de los fieles están llenos de dolor y preguntándose: ¿Qué está haciendo la comunidad internacional? ¿Que están haciendo los líderes políticos en Palestina, en Israel y en el mundo árabe? ¿Qué hace la Iglesia? El problema no es sólo de carácter político. Es la política en que los seres humanos son destruidos, y esto debe ser motivo de preocupación para la Iglesia.

Nos dirigimos a nuestros hermanos y hermanas, miembros de nuestras iglesias en esta tierra. Hacemos un llamado a los cristianos y a los palestinos, a los líderes religiosos y políticos, a nuestra sociedad palestina y a la sociedad israelí, a la comunidad internacional, y a nuestros hermanos y hermanas de las Iglesias de todo el mundo.

Todos los días equipos cristianos por la paz trabajan en los Territorios Ocupados para proteger a los palestinos de la ocupación militar y de los ataques rutinarios de los colonos.

La Teología de la Liberación en América Latina ha desempeñado un papel importante en la provisión de apoyo y consuelo a los oprimidos. Palestina también tiene una organización, Teología de la Liberación de Palestina (Saabel), que aboga por la libertad de los oprimidos bajo la ocupación israelí y la política del gobierno. Estos son tus hermanos y hermanas en Cristo, en la humanidad.

Las conversaciones de paz en el levantamiento de la ocupación de Palestina no han llegado a ninguna parte en 42 años, Israel ha continuado violando el derecho internacional al continuar construyendo asentamientos en los territorios ocupados. Israel se ha negado a extender la congelación de diez meses en la construcción, siendo una violación directa al dereho internacional.

Ahora el Ministerio de Turismo de Israel le ha cursado una invitación con todos los gastos pagados para visitar los “lugares sagrados” en “Israel”. La Iglesia del Santo Sepulcro, el más sagrado de los santuarios cristianos, se encuentra en la Jerusalén oriental ocupada. Belén, el lugar de nacimiento de Cristo, se encuentra en la Cisjordania ocupada. Estos son sólo dos lugares santos cristianos que Israel desea tomar y sacar provecho de su celebridad para su propio beneficio.

Yo mismo como cristiano, le ruego no aceptar esta invitación, no hasta que Israel se retire luego de 42 largos años de ocupación ilegal de Palestina. La Navidad es nuestro tiempo para celebrar el nacimiento de Cristo, no sólo en desmedro de los que viven bajo ocupación en su ciudad natal, al aceptar un regalo de su ocupante.

Queridos mineros, quizás ustedes nunca puedan llegar a leer esta carta, pero de alguna manera debe llegar, porque fue escrita desde mi corazón, al corazón de ustedes, los hombres valientes que sobrevivieron, por la gracia de Dios, que todavía están con nosotros.

Bendiciones a ustedes en paz,

Robin

Traduzido por OICP

It is widely believed that the massive $60 billion U.S. arms deal with Saudi Arabia is directed against Iran. After all, Israel did not object to the deal. As one analyst told China’s Xinhua News Agency, Jerusalem, of all places, was simply adhering to the ancient principle of: “My enemy’s enemy is my friend.”

It is indeed possible that the deal — which includes up to 84 new F-15s, upgrading of Riyadh’s current force of 70 F-15s, and up to 1,000 so-called “bunker buster” bombs — is meant to enhance the Saudi deterrent against Iran. But that presupposes that Iran will still be moving ahead with its nuclear weapons program in 2015, when the first new F-15s will be delivered to the desert kingdom, but will not yet have actually fielded the bomb. Should Iran already have acquired nuclear weapons together with viable systems for delivering them prior to that date, it is difficult to see how the Saudi purchases would effectively deter Tehran from anything other than a conventional attack on the Saudi Kingdom. On the other hand, should Iran have dropped its nuclear program — whether as a result of either international pressure or an internal upheaval — the Saudi purchase would appear to be somewhat beside the point.

A look at the remainder of the Saudi deal indicates that Riyadh has other concerns in mind. The Saudis are also acquiring 190 helicopters. These include 70 Apache Longbows, an upgraded version of the U.S. Army’s highly successful attack helicopter which carries, among other weapons, a powerful 30 MM gun and anti-tank missiles. Riyadh is also purchasing 36 AH-6i “Little Bird” light helicopters, which are often used by Special Forces. Finally, the Saudis are buying 72 UH-60 Blackhawks, which are ideal for moving troops into and around combat zones.

Acquisition of these helicopters makes the most sense in the context of a need to prevent incursions from Yemen or to support the Sana’a government’s operations against rebellious tribes, such as those that have been directed against the Houthis (who are Zaidis, a branch of Shiite Islam) since 2004. Indeed, so do the F-15s, and were the Houthis or other rebels to operate from underground shelters, so would the bunker busters as well. Finally the Saudi naval modernization program is as much geared to preventing piracy in the Red Sea and seaborne attacks on oil facilities in the Eastern Province as on deterring the Iranian Navy or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s naval forces.

Why would Israel not object to the Saudi purchase of attack systems that could in theory be deployed from Tabuk against the Jewish state? In part because the Israelis do not expect such an attack; in part because they will be receiving the more advanced F-35 the same year that the Saudis begin to take ownership of the F-15s; in part because the Israelis own, and are therefore familiar with, not only F-15s, but most of the systems the Saudis are purchasing. Presumably, the Israel Defense Forces have devised defenses against them, whether through electronic warfare or kinetic means. In addition, however, it is in Israel’s interest that the conservative Saudi regime prevent radicals such as the Houthis — who among their other acts have terrorized Yemen’s ancient Jewish community to the point that most of it has now emigrated — from ever gaining power on the Arabian Peninsula.

Moreover, even if the Israelis do not expect the F-15s to be relevant in terms of stopping the Iranian nuclear program, Israel believes that Tehran does not need five years to build the bomb — they recognize the psychological impact on the Ayatollahs of their tacit support of the Saudi purchase. The Israelis would be delighted if Tehran’s paranoid leaders were to conclude from Jerusalem’s passivity in the face of the Saudi deal that Israel and Riyadh are in cahoots against them and that Israel has made a secret arrangement to overfly Saudi airspace in an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

There is yet one more reason for Israeli acquiescence to the sale. For more than twenty years — since Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir quashed American Jewish opposition to the 1988 sale of F-18s to Kuwait — Israel has been relatively silent in the face of arms sales to the Gulf Arabs. At the time, Shamir concluded that the sale posed no threat to Israel, and his attaché in Washington informed a number of vocal Congressional opponents of the deal that they should reserve their vitriol for other issues. Since then, the Israeli assessment of the impact of such sales on its security has not changed, while its desire to win over the Gulf States has increased over time. Israel wants to establish decent, if not official, relations with the southern Gulf regimes not only to forge a united front against Iran, but also to encourage those states to play a more positive role in the peace process and to increase their financial support of the Palestinian Authority. While Israel has had on-and-off economic relations with several of the Gulf Cooperation Council states, Saudi Arabia has not been one of them. Riyadh is the biggest prize and the Israelis are ready to go to great lengths to win it over — and if that means silence in the face of a massive purchase of American arms, so be it.

The growing struggles of the working class in Europe and internationally against mass unemployment and government austerity policies are exposing the reality behind the façade of bourgeois democracy. In every country, the government, whether conservative or nominally “left,” is cutting jobs and wages and slashing social programs in complete disregard for the overwhelming opposition of the population.

Elections, parliamentary debates have no effect on policy. The state does the bidding of the financial aristocracy, tearing up the living standards of the masses in the interests of the bankers who are responsible for the economic crisis. The financiers and corporate executives are making more money than ever by exploiting mass unemployment and growing social distress to slash wages and increase the exploitation of the working class.

Where the best efforts of the trade unions do not suffice to hold the workers in check and struggles break out that challenge the plans of the capitalists, most prominently in France and Greece, the state uses its powers of repression to smash strikes and protests. In France, the Sarkozy government has deployed riot police to break up workers’ blockades of oil depots and attack protesting students with tear gas and rubber bullets, arresting hundreds across the country.

In Greece, the social democratic PASOK government, elected with the support of the unions, deployed the military to break a strike by truckers in August. Last week, the same government used riot police and tear gas against culture ministry employees occupying the Acropolis to protest mass layoffs.

Despite these attacks, the resistance of the working class is growing. The current wave of strikes and protests in France is the most developed expression of a new stage in the international class struggle. It marks a shift in the world political situation of historic proportions. The working class is once again entering into battle against the capitalists.

Recent days have seen the spread of the strike movement in France, the outbreak of a strike in Greece that has paralyzed the country’s rail system, and a demonstration of hundreds of thousands in Rome protesting the policies of the Berlusconi government.

There have been one-day general strikes and mass protests in Spain, Portugal and Ireland, strikes by workers in Romania, and powerful strikes by auto workers in China and by workers in India, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

In Britain, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is imposing historically unprecedented cuts totaling 83 billion pounds, which will mean the loss of at least 500,000 jobs in the public sector and another 500,000 in the private sector.

British workers have repeatedly sought to resist the government-corporate onslaught, but have to this point been stymied by the treachery of the trade unions, which oppose any serious strike action or social mobilization. London tube workers have struck against privatization and mass layoffs, prompting the government to draw up anti-strike legislation. BBC and British Airways workers have voted for strike action, but the union leaders have refused to call them out.

In the US, Obama, who came to power by appealing to the intense hatred among working people and youth for the pro-corporate, militarist policies of Bush and the Republicans, is carrying out uniformly right-wing, anti-working class policies, shattering the illusions of millions who voted for him. The inability of the White House and the Democratic Party to in any way distance themselves from the corporate-financial elite has been underscored by the administration’s actions over the past week, just two weeks before the congressional elections.

The administration has lifted the moratorium on Gulf oil drilling, announced that Social Security recipients will receive no cost-of-living increase, and rejected calls for a moratorium on home foreclosures.

The growing opposition of the American working class is finding expression in an incipient rebellion by workers against the United Auto Workers union, which is seeking to make the 50 percent wage cut for newly hired workers worked out last year between itself, the auto bosses and the Obama administration the new baseline for the industry.

The contempt of the American ruling class for the democratic will of the people was summed up in an editorial on the events in France published Tuesday by the New York Times. The major organ of the “liberal” Democratic Party establishment acknowledged that there is broad support in the French population for the strikes and protests against Sarkozy’s plans to raise the retirement age. “Despite the widespread inconvenience and economic losses,” it wrote, “public opinion has remained sympathetic to the unions.” (French polls show upwards of 70 percent supporting the strikers).

This did not prevent the Times from insisting, “France’s Parliament should give final approval to the retirement age reform bill this week,” and adding, “Even with the age raised to 62, further painful adjustments would be needed before the end of this decade.”

What is emerging in the experience of hundreds of millions of people around the world is the incompatibility of the capitalist system with their most basic needs. The growth of the class struggle is exposing bourgeois democracy as little more than a fig leaf for the dictatorship of the banks and corporations over economic and political life.

The political conclusions must be drawn. The fight for jobs, decent living standards, housing, education, health care and all other social rights is a political fight against the capitalist state. It is not a matter of pushing the state to the left, reforming it, or replacing one bourgeois government with another, but rather of replacing it, through the revolutionary mobilization of the working masses, with a workers’ state, based on social ownership of the means of production and workers’ democracy.

The fight for workers’ power emerges organically and inevitably out of the struggles of the working class against the attacks by the bourgeoisie. It must be conducted consciously, in opposition to the trade unions, the official “left” parties and the various middle-class pseudo-left organizations, such as the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France, that seek to keep the working class tied to the existing political setup and prevent it from mounting an independent struggle for power.

This fight is, moreover, an international struggle. Workers throughout Europe and around the world are facing the same attacks and fighting the same enemy. No matter how bitter the conflicts between the ruling elites of the various nations, they are united in seeking to impose the full cost of the crisis on the backs of the working class. International finance capital is carrying out a coordinated offensive against the workers. They must fight back by uniting their struggles across national borders and fighting for the program of world socialist revolution.

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Proposal for the European Union to Join NATO

October 23rd, 2010 by Global Research

Barroso’s adviser proposes EU entering NATO 

LISBON: Joao Marques de Almeida, adviser to President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, said Friday that the best solution for the enhancement of EU-U.S. relations would be that the European Union (EU) joins NATO.

Marques de Almeida was one of the speakers in a seminar organized by the National Defence Institute of Portugal in Lisbon. Before being adviser to the EU commission president, he was president of the Portuguese Institution, a government think tank to elaborate on defence and strategic policies.

According to Marques de Almeida, the main difficulty in the NATO-EU relation is the issue on the Cyprus unification. Turkey has the second largest army in the alliance, but the division of the island of Cyprus blocks a better relation with the EU. Cyprus is a member of the EU.

During the upcoming NATO summit Lisbon on Nov. 19-20, chief of the organization Anders Rasmussen will propose the enhancement of the relationship with Turkey, a move that could include the Turkish presence in the European Defence Agency with a full membership.

[NH, Oct 23, 8.06am]

New data released this week shows that the nation’s largest banks are holding monstrous volumes of soured home loans. Not only has the housing crisis left major lenders knee-deep in an ocean of non-performers, but added exposure to early delinquencies means they could sink even deeper.

According to an analysis by Weiss Ratings, an independent ratings agency covering the financial sector, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo each reported more than $20 billion in single-family mortgages currently foreclosed or in the process of foreclosure as of midyear.

In addition, Weiss found that for each dollar these banks held of mortgages in foreclosure, there were an additional $2 in loans in the pipeline that were 30 days or more past due.

Among all U.S. banks, JPMorgan Chase has the largest volume of mortgages in foreclosure or foreclosed with $21.7 billion. On top of that, the company has $43.4 billion more in mortgages past due.

Compared to JPMorgan, Bank of America has a somewhat smaller volume of foreclosures — $20.3 billion — but it has a larger pipeline of past-due mortgages at $54.6 billion.

Wells Fargo’s foreclosures come to $20.5 billion, with $48 billion in overdue home loans. According to Weiss, including all foreclosed and delinquent categories, Bank of America has the largest volume of bad mortgages among U.S. banks, with $74.9 billion, while Wells Fargo has the second largest with $68.6 billion.

Other banks, despite their large size, are less heavily exposed to mortgage difficulties. Citibank has $6.3 billion in foreclosures and $19.2 billion in past-due mortgages, or a total of $25.6 billion.

The volume of foreclosures and delinquencies held by other large banks, such as U.S. Bank ($9.5 billion), PNC Bank ($8.9 billion), and SunTrust ($7.3 billion) is even smaller.

Martin D. Weiss, chairman of Weiss Ratings, said, “In addition to the volume of bad mortgages, the vulnerability of each bank to the foreclosure crisis depends on the capital and loan loss reserves it has set aside to cover losses and other factors such as its earnings, liquidity, reliance on less-stable deposits, and the quality of its overall loan portfolio.”

Among banks with $1 billion or more of mortgages already foreclosed or in process of foreclosure, Weiss found that Wells Fargo has the greatest exposure to bad mortgages in proportion to its capital. For each dollar of Tier 1 Capital, the bank has 75.4 cents in bad mortgages, or a ratio of 75.4 percent.

The equivalent ratios for JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and SunTrust are 66.8 percent, 66 percent, and 57.6 percent, respectively.

Weiss explained that losses on foreclosures and past-due loans will first be absorbed by the banks’ loan loss reserves, but then they may have to dip into capital.

“Considering that many large banks also take other kinds of risks beyond strictly home mortgages,” Weiss said, “these are very large exposures that could directly impact shareholders and even the safety of depositors.”

Reflecting both their exposure to foreclosures and the other economic factors, the JPMorgan, BofA, and Wells all merit a rating of D (“weak”) or lower from Weiss Ratings, indicating vulnerability to financial difficulties and instability if conditions continue to deteriorate.

[new HS article, 23 oct, 8.01am]

The foreclosure crisis has set its sights on MERS, the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, which files almost all of the foreclosure actions in behalf of lenders. The problem never anticipated by lenders is that the company has no legal standing to do such things. In addition they broke the law by not requiring a notarized document of transfer of title signed by the seller and buyer. That is because they did not own the loans. Only the owner of the loan can file. Thus, many of the titles are now subject to fraudulent conveyance. This means that foreclosure proceedings could be subject to legal challenge. Another question is could the foreclosures done since 2007 be nullified? How could a settlement be arrived at in a few months when there are millions of homeowners involved. The banks, which obviously deliberately broke the laws, will be responsible for fines and settlement with injured parties could cost them more than $10 billion. While this scenario moves forward the banks still are acting like goons and violating laws, to get people out of homes.

The question is who has the loan paper and that is the note-holder. He or they are the only ones with legal standing to request a court to foreclose and evict. That all changed with the coming of MBS, mortgage backed securities. Loans were bundled into tranches or REMIC’s, a vehicle designed to hold the loans for tax purposes. These mortgages were cut into bits and pieces to satisfy the different tastes and needs of investors. During this process the note was not signed over to the bondholders, because the mortgage may have been split into pieces and no one could know which part would default first. Therefore the MBS held the note.

The MERS system was a bridge and repository for these mortgages, a shadow holder owned by lenders and Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. The system located mortgages and was involved in the altering of mortgages. The upshot was a broken chain of title. When that happens the mortgage note is no longer valid. The borrower does not know who to pay and so pays no one. Then come the foreclosure mills and that led to falsification of documents to assist the lender, which is fraud. These actions expedited foreclosures and evictions and that was all the lenders were interested in.

There is no question a massive fraud took place. It was identified by the title insurance companies who the lenders are trying to blame this criminality on. The result was the banks went around the title insurance companies and used foreclosure mills, when the title companies wouldn’t play ball.

The banks terrified that they had gotten caught tried to ram through Congress the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act to protect themselves and their criminal acts. The scum in the Senate and House used voice votes to pass the bill and because of the massive complaints the President pocket vetoed the measure. He also knew the bill would have been identified as unconstitutional.

The bottom line is the banks had no legal right to foreclose and evict. That means the evicted can get their homes back. The new buyers are screwed because they have no legal standing because the banks sold them a house they did not own. The fraud committed by the foreclosure mills, at the behest of the banks, puts all foreclosures into question and even the status of those homeowners who are currently paying mortgages. That means if homeowners all stop paying their mortgages, they could end up owning their homes.

This is a mega crisis far bigger than Bear Stearns and Lehman, but not as big as what we will see in the future when the CFTC, LBMA, Comex, GLD and SLV are taken down in their gold and silver scam.

The heart of these criminal acts is anchored in securitization and the scam that it was. We have been demanding criminal action for three years and no one will listen. It was only recently that civil suits have been entered into. We don’t get it. Do we still have a legal system?

This problem can only worsen the problems in the housing sector. About half of homebuyers really qualify to own homes. False appraisals on about 50% of homes littered the landscape just two years ago. Half of the first-time homebuyers didn’t even buy homes, which cost the taxpayers about $15 billion. Inventory over hang is now in the realm of years not months, as homebuilders continue to increase new homes at the rate of 600,000 a year. What can they be thinking of with a further 20% correction ahead? Foreclosures are now 1 in 12 of all mortgages. Four years ago it was 1 in 100. For sure home prices have not bottomed.

It could be the mortgage market is dead and all the bondholders are sunk. If that is the case the financial structure is close to collapse.

We were in the brokerage industry for years and we never saw such criminality. The banks that pulled this off are virtually unregulated.

Some writers believe there will be hundreds of billions in losses and they are correct, unless the government and the Fed bail them out.

Then there are the subprime and ALT-A loans issued over the past two years that are beginning to be reset. Half will go under and Fannie and Freddie guaranteed those loans. This will put further downward pressure on housing prices.

All in all it looks terrible and we see no easy way out. Is it any wonder investors are buying gold and silver bullion, coins and shares.

You cannot tell the players without a program. That fits perfectly in all endeavors, particularly journalism. Last week in the FT Martin Wolf wrote apiece titled “why America is going to win the global currency battle.” What he forgot to tell you is that he is a member of the Bilderberg Group, whose mission is a One-World bank and government.

The plan according to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is for the Fed to continue purchases of Treasury debt and to allow further monetization, which means higher inflation. He tells us inflation officially is too low and unemployment is too high. He doesn’t see either changing much. We believe both are headed higher.

The global currency battle has been going on for years – it’s just it was almost never discussed. The US was happy to tolerate deliberately misaligned, depreciated currencies because it kept US inflation down and foreigners continued to buy US debt, no questions asked. Obviously things have changed.

The monetization is supposed to promote stability, job growth and to conquer deflation. Mr. Wolf says, “To put it crudely, the US wants to inflate the rest of the world, while the latter is trying to deflate the US.” Mr. Wolf believes the US must win, since it has infinite ammunition in a machine that can create money and credit endlessly. Just a minute, if the IF does that, it most certainly will lead to hyperinflation, where no one would want the US dollar. Europe and China want deflation. The problem is if that happens the entire system will collapse. They obviously want to get the problem over with and have a depression. The US obviously is not ready for that, because it would dethrone the dollar as the world reserve currency, a condition that would cost America its imperial status. We find it of interest as well that the US is encouraging further debt among US and foreign consumers to offset trade imbalances, when they know the results in Japan over the last 18 years following such a policy was unsuccessful if not disastrous. Presently, they are again trying to push that upon Japan and China as well – the same old unsuccessful Keynesianism.

China already has its own credit bubble, distortions, imbalances and inflation having mimicked the US model. In spite of higher interest rates, speculation and inflation are at high levels.

In the US QE1 did not work and create recovery on a permanent basis and it impaired the economy. All the money and credit created by the Fed ended up in the financial world with little ending up in the real economy. That is why unemployment has again risen to 22-3/4%. Again, policies since August 15, 1971 have created continual inflation and distorted patterns throughout society. It was good while it lasted, but the game is in the process of coming to a close. Other nations realize the US is trying to export inflation and are in the process of erecting barriers to keep large amounts of dollars out of their economies. This in part has put downward pressure on the dollar recently and it will continue to do so. The US has become like a pressure cooker spewing dollars all over the world with inflation in its wake. As a result over the last year foreign central banks, with large dollar balances, accumulated larger balances trying to keep the value of the dollar steady, as others were sellers. They must feel like the Dutch Boy with his finger in the dyke. That, of course, is not the answer.

You cannot indefinitely aid and abet a flawed policy, even though that policy allowed you to live far beyond your means. These inflationary pressures emanating from the US cannot be managed and other nations have realized this and that is why this weekend the G-20 is meeting in S. Korea to try to bring an end to currency warfare. We believe the meeting will be another non-event.

Not only are these US policies creating inflation worldwide, but also they are in part responsible for the increases in gold, silver and commodity prices. A battle has been in progress for the past 18 months – the dollar verses gold. In spite of a dollar rally gold has won hands down and the world doesn’t realize it yet and probably won’t for some time to come. There is much less confidence in the US dollar and as long as we have quantitative easing and inflationary expansion, the confidence will deteriorate. The dollar is no longer king. Gold has assumed its position. That is why currency without gold backing is doomed to failure. It is not only privately owned central banks, but government owned ones as well. The temptation to create money and credit is too great. That is why gold backing has always been necessary. If we didn’t have fiat currencies we wouldn’t have an over-liquefied, speculative financial world. Nor would we have booms and busts to enrich the rich on Wall Street. The ability to recycle our excesses through global currency markets and back into our markets is coming to an end. Foreigners want an edge. They are deliberately reducing the value of their currencies, which is an exercise in futility at this point in the cycle. All that will do is add to the dollar inflation already having descended on these economies. All they are doing is trying to successfully function within a dying system.

The US economy cannot live without stimulus. The inflation created by this policy is not going to be allowed to be dumped into other countries, and as a result will manifest itself in the American economy. The risk of holding dollars increases with each passing day. Dollar weakness will cause foreigners to dump dollars back into the US economy, keep its own currency low and push these nations to accumulate gold as they are currently in the process of doing. The day of reckoning for the dollar is in process and it is going to be very unpleasant for dollar holders.

As that transpires labor supply rose 137,000 and jobs only rose by 64,000. The workweek was unchanged at 34.1 hours, as were wages, as inflation continued to rise. Job openings were up but hiring was down. Full-time jobs fell 106,000 and were off 4 months in a row. Part-time workers rose 353,000, the largest increase in 8 months. Discouraged workers leaving the economy rose 9% to a record high of 1.2 million. All of this culminated in a U6 figure of 17.1% unemployment. If the birth/death ratio is removed real unemployment is 22-3/4%. All in all there is no good news on the employment front. It is difficult to improve conditions when businesses are trying to make 25% of their jobs part-time of contract labor, to escape paying benefits.

Late comment on Foreclosuregate is that, the longer this lasts, the worst it will be for the banks, title insurers and mortgage insurers. The 30% of sales activity in foreclosures over the past three months will end and real estate prices will continue to fall. As an addendum we find 32% of the household sector have a sub-620 FICO score, which to an extent limits the number of buyers.

The purchase index was not encouraging being off 50% annualized with purchases off 37%. Of total loans 82.4% came from refis – close to two-year highs.

Since August 19th, the Fed has purchased $40 billion in government bonds, as foreigners bought $117 billion.

The following text was first presented to the International Physicians for prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) Conference, Delhi, March 10, 2008

“There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lives ; there will be multiple conflicts in mutating forms around the globe…violent conflicts will dominate the headlines……” A ‘perpetual war for perpetual peace’ …’ Wolfowitz and Perle in the preamble of the draft of the ‘Project for the New American Century’ in the heady days in 1992,when the Soviet Union had been subverted at its very top. The ‘ New World Order’ demands the control and seizure of oil and mineral resources and markets of every country by military force or through proxy governments and comprador elites, camouflaged as ‘ Globalisation’; preceded by subversion of targeted countries. Hence the new colonial project is unprecedented on a historical scale within countries and societies,and overseas.

The leader of one of the earliest movements to understand this militarized ‘New World Order’, Subcomandante Marcos the leader of the Zaptista movement in Mexico, declared in relation to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement that neoliberal globalisation was a “ world war waged by financial power (oligarchies) against humanity” and the expression of the worldwide crisis of capitalism and not its success.

On 19 October 2001, US Vice President Cheney, stated that the “New war may never end. At least not in our life time. The way I think of it, it’s a new normalcy”.

The NSSD of 1 March 2005 says “America is a Nation at war’. In September 2005 Cheney again asserted that the War (on terror) could go on for several decades, just as periodical assertions come regarding the war and occupation for decades in Iraq and Afghanistan, the planning for the ‘long war’, the new Middle-East to be balkanized into state-lets, just as the USSR was, South Asia to fall in line or be divided into financial principalities to serve the ‘metropolitan core or center’ and so on for Globalisation or global finance capital, to integrate all markets (nation states may continue to exist as enfeebled entities to preserve local law and order of their populace and to transfer their budgetary surpluses to the ‘core’. The Washington Consensus is about this. It had claimed to lead global freedom, prosperity and economic growth through ‘deregulation, liberalization and privatization’). “ Is there an alternative to plundering the earth ? Is there an alternative to making war ? Is there an alternative to destroying the planet ?’ (Wehrlof)

In the meanwhile, militarisation of Space, weaponisation of the sea-bed, unfettered use of low radiation nuclear warfare with Depleted Uranium, not just killing and infecting with cancer and leukaemia but poisoning the air, water, flora, fauna and every speck of dust for ever, readiness to use chemical, germ and gene warfare agents, destruction of water and sanitary systems, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Gaza are being demonstrated before our eyes. The soldier in uniform now constitutes only a very small proportion of the casualties which are overwhelmingly civilian— women, children, men– schools, hospitals, homes and work places. In percentage terms collateral damage, as people are termed, is ninety percent of the casualties.

Statistics do not always convey the sufferings of humanity. However, if the first world war caused about 17 million maimed and dead, the second great war around 50 million dead, followed by millions murdered in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Congo, Angola, Rwanda, and now in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon, the continuing civil war raging in Congo (5 million), the mass murders in Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and the myriad civil wars ignited by the corporations in different corners of the world, are still taking their toll.

Incidentally, when Madeline Albright then US Secretary of State was asked her response to the sanctions on Iraq, in the wake of the 1991 Gulf war, which had caused the loss of half a million children’s lives and “was it worth it”, she blandly replied “I think so”. This sums up the ruthless psychology and policy dictating this period of contemporary history, its economic policy with militarization as its adjunct.

Briefly, Globalisation is a multi-pronged drive for capture and control of resources, by finance capital and the dominant Transnational Corporations leading to wars for resources, not of territory which is incidental, to the extent that control of territory is necessary to enslave a society for its resources. How does it proceed apace ? What are the driving forces ? How is it organized ? Who are the key players ? Why has it taken such an all pervasive, brutal form ?

How has it evoled historically? Why is it unending? What political and economic ideologies dominate it? Where is it leading humanity and the world to?

Neoliberal globalisation is a type of totalitarian neo-mercantilism in which all resources, markets, all money and financial institutions, all profits, all means of production, all investment opportunities and all power belongs to the corporations. In the new world order, democracy appears outdated for it hinders business (Hardt /Negri / Chomsky and Werlhof). The notion of people as a sovereign body has practically been abolished and real democracy is largely non-existent, except the manipulated form, suitably greased by corporate funding without the substance of democratic policy making, with people at its core.

This system is supported by the corporate media, its monopoly ownership and alliance with what has been aptly described as the ‘War Corporations’ and the latter’s incestuous relationships with the power elites and the ruling establishments to permit them unbridled profiteering and predatory operations. International law, the UN Charter, the Geneva and Hague conventions, the rule of law have all been cast aside. In addition the military is virtually placed at the disposal of the financial elites’ corporate boardrooms to maximize destruction in the quickest time period with no thought of the loss of civilian life, property and infrastructure, camouflaged in certain cases by so called ‘ humanitarian intervention’ under the auspices of the United Nations .

To give only one example, NBC, America’s network TV, is an arm of General Electric, the manufacturer of F-16, B-2, Apache, Abrams tank, A-10 aircraft engines and so on. Murdoch, the media baron’s empire is always in the forefront to beat the war drums through the Corporate media an adjunct of war and the inciting of sectarian strife.

The age of colonization is replete with the horrors of loot, genocide, man made famines, plunder, pillage, deceit, fraud and the intimate partnership between the trading companies and the colonial armies. In more recent times in the last century, oil became the reason for the great colonial enterprises of the European, Anglo-US, German and Japanese wars of aggression and the precursor of Oil politics in the New World Order (with the smoke screen to make the world safe for freedom and democracy).

Contemporary wars have devastated whole societies where one sees not democracies but corpses of the victims of some of the most technologically advanced weapons known to mankind. These weapons increase the scale and magnitude of this process of “collective killing”.

As recently as the second World War, while soldiers were the cannon fodder for the Allies and the Axis powers, their big banks, corporations were in covert partnerships. In Germany, Italy and Spain, Ford, GM. Standard Oil, Dupont, Union Carbide, Dow Chemicals, Westinghouse, GE, IBM, the Bank of New York and the famous Bank of International Settlements had close financial and business dealings with Germany’s Thyssen, Krupps, IG Farben conglomerates along with German banks who in fact bank-rolled the Nazi Party. That is why as the allied forces marched into Germany in 1945 they were told to bypass several industries and businesses which had links to Anglo-US interests.

German Fortune 500 companies, Krupps and IG Farben amongst others were charged in 1948 following the main Nuremburg Trials with “ the preparation, initiation and waging wars of aggression and invasions of other countries “ and “the plunder of public and private property …conspiracies to commit crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the use of slave labour”. Due to the influence of powerful political interests, as US interest in Europe became one of countering Soviet influence and protecting the common political and economic systems of the allies and the Axis, (except the USSR), the Directors and executives were given minor sentences for the lesser charges of pillage and use of slave labour, rendering incomplete the task of the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials. (see Niloufer Bhagwat, Privatizing War)

In Africa, Angola and Congo in the 1960s and 70s are prime examples of “civil wars” and genocide fostered by the oil and mining MNCs. Hungry, unclothed men, women and children have been living and sleeping in the wet and cold, atop mounds and jungles below which lie diamonds, precious stones and strategic raw materials which make for the arsenals that kill mankind across the globe.

Can there be co-existence between humanity and this culture of military seizure?

Neo-liberal globalisation is tantamount to subordination of policy and decision making to corporate rule. “Freedom of the economy means the freedom of the corporations”.

There is the underlying insistence that all nations must abide by the diktats of the world “free markets” which means the diktat of the major financial, oil, weapons corporations, and there is the threat of military action should any country be judged to have deviated from the path.

It is the corporations –not the ‘market’, that determines today’s rules of trade, prices and legal regulations.

The recent shift from consumer goods to armaments is a particularly troubling development (Chossudovsky 2003) with new forms of “enclosures” emerging with privatization of public industries and “commons” what was free and accessible to mankind as a whole, like water, rain forests, regions of bio-diversity or geographical interest like pipeline routes, oceans etc. are now a part of the new enclosures of privatization with the threat of military control of the heritage of mankind as a whole.

It is the corporations that dictate policy and as far as they are concerned there is no place for democratic convention: ’res public turns into a res privata.’ The ones who get in their way or challenge their “rights” are vilified and to an increasing degree defined as ‘terrorists’.

The US President has declared the possibility of “pre-emptive nuclear strikes” should the US so decide. Current US Doctrine for nuclear weapons 2007, authorizes Theatre Commanders their use on “targets that can withstand non –nuclear attacks (tunnels, underground strikes etc). Also in retaliation for military, biological, chemical weapons …or IN THE EVENT OF SURPRISING MILITARY DEVELOPMENTS (against US forces) of an unspecified nature. Mini-nukes (up to six times the size of the Hiroshima atom bomb) are described as conventional ordnance.

Neoliberalism and war are two sides of the same coin. War is not only good for the economy but is indeed its driving force: ” Continuation of the economy by other means. “War and economy have become almost indistinguishable (Werlhof 2005)”…The Gulf wars and the conflicts in Africa starting with Congo, Angola, Chad, Rwanda and the threats to Sudan, Somalia and Iran are obvious examples. Militarism once again appears as the “executor of capital accumulation.”(Luxemburg 1970)— potentially everywhere and enduringly.

A few examples of what globalisation in its different manifestations has led to in the erstwhile USSR, Yugoslavia and now Iraq.

In the Soviet Union, the General Secretary of the CPSU sold out, despite an overwhelming Referendum vote in favour of the Union, a letter signed by Marshal SF Akhromeyev, Chief of the General Staff and 200 Generals and Admirals, all deputies of the Duma, the Soviet Parliament, opposing the move by Gorbachev and comparing his act to worse than the Nazi invasion which failed to annihilate the Soviet Union. In a putsch backed by the West and its propaganda machine, unprecedented in history, the USSR politically capitulated and Yeltsin began to dismantle institutions, plants, factories to the oligarchs who simply usurped state property, sold it for a song and laundered a trillion dollars to US Banks, advised by the likes of Jeffrey Sachs, Strobe Talbot ; and the rest is history. A people and a nation brought to their knees by their own sold out leadership.

Yugoslavia was balkanized thereafter by several well planned, neo-liberal devices and measures. Alienation of the federal constituents by stopping federal grants, recognition of Croatia by Germany, privatisation of industry leading to 50 % unemployment, privatization of the Central Bank and the nomination of a non-citizen as its Governor, insistence of first charge on revenues to the World Bank –IMF, lifting of controls of food prices and other essentials causing raging profiteering and inflation ….breaking up the once happy, peaceful and generally prosperous Yugoslavia that fascist forces could not overcome in the Great War. The story for the rest of Eastern Europe and the Balkans is similar. Their reconstruction is now solely in the hands of Western corporations.

By now, despite the best attempts by the corporate media, the lies used as pretexts for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, are common knowledge. The propaganda to demonise Iran lies in shambles after the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate was made public by the Intelligence community, even though analysts still insist that Iran has a nuclear weapons program which could serve as a pretext for military intervention, should the financial meltdown of certain power centers require the take over of another country’s resources and national budget as happened in Iraq.

All reasons advanced in the UNSC and in the International community by the US at every level have been demonstrated to be manufactured, as confirmed by the leaked Downing Street Memorandum, the Niger Uranium hoax, the aluminium tubes, the non-existence of WMD mobile storages and so on.

The oil majors through their representatives in the highest levels of Government in Washington DC desire to control the oil spigots, in order not only to control and dominate the major oil consumers –Japan, China, India, Europe, a very sensitive geo-political region, but also to usurp petro-dollars (Iraq had switched to euros in October 2002), of the OPEC countries in return for useless arms imports and security protection for the rather unpopular regimes.

Zionist influence on US foreign policy through Big Business, Banks, Investment firms, financial oligarchies and the media, in Wall street and in the City –London, is documented in detail. The reality is that the practice of the ‘Revolving Door’ between the executives in the corporations and banks on the Wall Street, the White House, the Pentagon, Treasury, FED, the State department make it so much easier to ensure planning, coordination and continuity of policies as deliberated upon by the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, the CFR, the conglomerates and generally endorsed at Davos in the WEF, by definition an alliance of Big Business and political establishments.

It is not the Pentagon but the Wall Street boardrooms which select targeted entities. President Eisenhower called it the Military-Industrial Complex. One can add the energy-oil majors to this.

It is on record that the nuclear weapons targeting plan was jointly prepared by the business executives and the military at the Offut air base in Nebraska in 2002. Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR has won hundreds of billions of single vendor contracts in Iraq and siphoned off non-metered Iraqi oil. Some little noises may be made by the GAO, that’s all ! The “reconstruction” plan for targeted countries is usually made prior to the ‘destruction’ plan in the Board Rooms ! The Central Bank of Baghdad (Iraq) is run by Morgan Stanley as a natural sequence to the great usurpation of Iraqi assets in totality, starting with the Oil Ministry and oil reserves and fields, by Bremmer’s 100 orders unprecedented in history, in open defiance of the Hague conventions, all for ‘globalisation’, the code word for the 21st century colonial project.

Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, Bechtel, Aegis, BKSH associates, Bearing Pony, Custer Battles, Loral satellite, Qualcom, CACI and Titan and others are the beneficiaries in the Iraq war and occupation just as they have been its orchestrators with CNN, Fox, NBC (GE), Murdoch, BBC in the first place. Their stock prices have tripled, in every phase of the war. Even the Iraqi Media network is run by a former Director of the Voice of America.

Architecture & Characteristics of Globalisation

1. Implementation of the Neo-liberal Agenda is through shock therapy, structural adjustment programs, Washington Consensus. Speculative finance capital which lies at the heart of the current phase of ‘Financialisation’ of capitalism requires seemingly endless infusion of cash which necessitates more exploitation and thus more inequality. Violence is often considered a solution to all problems to control society even as economic policies impact a wider groups of citizens.

2. Subversion of key personnel in the institutions of the state.

3. Sanctions or threat of sanctions where necessary, to weaken the country targeted when a military attack is intended some months or years hence.

4. Deregulating the economy and dismantling the public sector as part of the Reforms or ‘Deform’ package.

5. Influence, control and takeover of financial institutions and later Banks, Insurance and Real estate (FIRE).

6. Takeover of the Media via the FDI route.

7. The Myth of Free Trade.

8. Control of food, seeds, land, contract farming, Futures Exchanges, pharmaceuticals via new Patents Act, IPR, robbery of genetic and bio-diversity assets.

9. Extension of pro-corporate and commercial contract laws under the pretext of modernising laws and the legal framework.

10. Steady destruction of the Environment and ecology.

11. Unsustainable consumption, provoking internal conflict and external competition or leading to wars.

12. Resort to state terrorism while crying wolf by contrived individual acts of terrorism, using a spectrum of instruments, from special forces to bombardment of civilian habitats, torture, rendition, using the ‘war on terror’ propaganda as a cover for military intervention to invade, occupy and foreign control of national resources. Corporate commitment to weapons in a war economy is total where 85% of the production is funded by the military as JK Galbraith says in his book ‘The Economy of Innocent Fraud: Truth of our Times’.

13. Enforcing WTO rules, also referred to as the ‘Economic Constitution’ of the world, whose objective is to gradually annihilate the legitimate and democratically endorsed State’s and people’s rights and prerogatives. Davos Project 2020 shapes the road map for the ‘global future’ staffed as it is by executives nominated by the proliferating Transnationals whose ideology is influenced by the ‘end of history’ credo. IMF, WB and WTO constitute a “separate supranational state”. The rules of these institutions are applied asymmetrically—least of all where such rules interfere with global finance capital and most of all where they further the exploitation of the already impoverished. Aimed at military control of the planet, through a multi-dimensional and permanent war of the North against the South.

14. Contemporary ethos of establishing hegemony is characterized by Military Keynesianism –ie the “long war” and occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq and the looming wars in the Middle–East to boost annual aggregate military expenditure to over $ 1 trillion in the US, expansion of global military bases to over 700 and increase in production of hugely expensive armaments and munitions, their relentless exports while paying ‘lip service ‘ to developmental aid at G-8 and other UN convened conferences, and in practice disregarding ‘peace and security’ the founding purpose of the UN Charter.

15. “The more fundamental concern is the need to protect the West’s pre-emptive claim to the financial surpluses of the Arab and oil world. This is essential for underwriting their political stability which today is irretrievable and in distinct decline.” (Sukumar Muralidharan in EPW, March 1991).

16. “Globalisation is privatization of the world” as William Blum writes The Pre-emptive ‘First strike option’ is complementary to the idea and is being discussed at the NATO* summit in Bucharest in April (2008).

The Commander of the space shuttle that circled the earth in 2005, called and said ‘the centre of Africa was burning “. She meant the Congo, in which the great rain forest of the continent was located. It needed to disappear for corporations to gain free access to the Congo’s natural resources that are the reason for the wars that plague the region today. After all one needs diamonds, precious and strategic raw materials for the exotic weapons of today and tomorrow. Brazil has followed the same policy with respect to the great Amazon river basin.

Henry CK Liu, a New York based Investment banker who writes prolifically for the Asia Times notes “ For the trade deficit developing economies, neo-liberal global trade makes old fashion 19th Century Imperialism look benign …”(and its predatory wars, fraud and loot look like a teddy bear’s picnic) Economic power when sufficiently vast, as in the contemporary globalised system generating unprecedented and accelerating inequalities, becomes by its very nature political power. The political power of Big Business has diminished democracy and led to the establishment of rule by an oligarchy.

Militarisation of the State and society is a natural consequence of rule by an oligarchy, focused on ‘market fundamentalism’ whose affects are all too visible across the globe and even within the ‘core’ or the metropolitan center.

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times one of the propagandists of this anti-humanity policies has summed it up graphically with nothing left to the imagination , “ The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist …. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas (Manufacturers of F-15s).

Globalisation Politics in Action

The nihilism of neoliberal globalisation is evident. The whole ‘ Real’ world is sought to be transformed into money and speculative transactions with mounds of paper money created,destructive to human welfare and development (Werlhof). The material limits of such politics becomes clearer by the day: global, ecological, economic, monetary, social and political collapse (Diamond 2005). How else can we understand the fact that in times when civilization has reached its alleged zenith, a human being starves (to death) every second (Ziegler) ? The original riches of ‘mother earth’ is now giving way to a barren wasteland.

Since the 1980s, it is mainly the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) of the World Bank, the IMF that act as the enforcers of neoliberalism. When the WTO was founded in 1995 in place of GATT, several agreements which operationalise it followed :The Multilateral Agreement on Investments, the General Agreement on Trade in Services(GATS), the agreement on Trade-Related aspects on Intellectual Property Rights (leading to India giving up on its Patent Rights Act), and the Agreement on Agriculture, which has now been supplemented by the Agreement on Non-Agricultural Market Access(NAMA). All these agreements facilitate corporate rule, and total liberation of all corporate activities. Never before, not even in colonial times, have those in power been so completely been “freed” from all responsibility for their actions (no wonder that the MAI negotiations were kept secret for years, though the EU Trade Unions knew since they were part of the TUAC and took part in the OECD conferences in Paris). Negotiations of the GATS have also been kept secret since the late 1990s. That sensitive areas like education, health or water services are excluded is a lie. Even the elements –air, water, earth, fire(energy) are increasingly turned into commodities. Financial Services, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) are the tools for opening up the womb. The genes of plants, animals, even human-beings are sometimes pirated and made one’s own legal “property”(Thaler 2004). Vandana Shiva calls this process “trading in our lives” and in Korea “WTO kills farmers” is a popular slogan.

The transnational agribusiness corporations now even discuss a general prohibition of “traditional” farming methods. Iraqi farmers have been forced to burn their seeds and use “terminator seeds “ instead –this in Mesopotamia, the “cradle of agriculture”….or “Wheat becomes a Weapon”(Krieg1980). In India too the Iraq model is being repeated, only with a slower rate of strangulation to death of our farmers. A new infertility enters the world instead of a new creation ….consequence is an artificially created death –a death with no life to follow. No one seems to know how to prevent this (Werlhof 2006)….Amongst the most ludicrous examples is the idea to distribute contraceptive GM corn developed by the Swiss company Syngenta, in regions that suffer from so called overpopulation”(Reiter 2005). Fed on it German cows died of different forms of circulatory collapse. The AoA in dumping subsidized GM food into markets of the South is threatening the survival of three billion small farmers, half the world’s population !

Today the rights of corporations are better protected by the court systems in all countries …we may even say that “human rights ‘ only apply to corporations. Neoliberal globalisation is a conscious betrayal of the interests of 99% of the people on this planet. In both its intention and effect, a true “weapon of mass destruction”—even when no immediate wars are fought (Werlhof 2006). How many lives are sacrificed to this globalisation ? Some estimate that the numbers already go into hundreds of millions (Widerspruch 2004).

In the EU’s first draft Constitution Treaty, rejected by the referendum, there was the engagement in armament and military operations (Oberansmayer 2004).The draft of the EU constitution promised to be part of an effort to secure peace and refers to acts of war as –“humanitarian intervention”, alternatively as “acts of defense”, like the NATO* war against Yugoslavia and Afghanistan and now in Africa (wherever there is oil or strategic raw materials), alongside the US Africa Military command.. Once again neoliberal globalisation and militarism appear as Siamese twins ….All this against the backdrop of deployable nuclear weapons in Europe (Galtung 1993, Oberansmayer 2004). The EU is aware of the impending problems of shortage of water and energy in Southern Europe. At the European Security conference (Munich) 2005 it already discussed scenarios of poor people’s revolts.

Harold Pinter, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech vividly articulated as only a writer can – “ It means you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene blow….When the populace has been subdued or beaten to death …the Military and the great Corporations sit comfortably in power –you go before the cameras and say Democracy has prevailed.”

Will the Tide Turn?

The series of people’s movements, whether against the WTO trade talks at Seattle, Cancun, Hong Kong, GM foods, privatization of public sector enterprises, SEZs, Water privatization (Vandana Shiva says “ Denying people their human right to water is not development.It is genocide”), unemployment, forest rights and displacement from mineral rich regions, against the War in Iraq and the indigenous people — largely spontaneous, has been termed as the emergence of the ‘second super power’.

The current revolt emerging against neo-liberalism throughout the periphery, led by the Iraqi, Palestinian, Afghan and Lebanese national resistance will be met by increased interventions from the imperial center of the System – an evil and destructive system which maims, oppresses and dishonors those who live under it and which threatens and executes devastation and death to millions around the globe, shaming the age of enlightenment, in the name of freedom and democracy. However the choice, not to resist is no choice and peoples resistance have won throughout history.

“What is really needed of course is nothing less than a different civilization. A different economy alone, or a different society or culture will not suffice…We need a civilization that is the exact opposite … We would still be left with the damage that the earth has suffered ….and all this happened within what comes to a nanosecond of the earth’s history” (Werlhof).

To conclude military power no matter how strong, can never conquer the people’s desire to be free and their love of peace, as post world war II history has shown in our times, though it has imposed so much suffering and will continue to do for some more time.

When neoliberal Globalisation is on a self destruct mode and its financial system heading for an abyss what holds back its demise ? The answer is the ‘Ruling’ elites of many nations, amongst them the petro-dollar oligarchies in collusion with military alliances, who have and continue to betray their people’s interests. Since it is arraigned against entire humanity it has to be defeated by a united humanity with diverse strategies.

It is necessary to remember in times such as these, when the words “freedom and democracy” are voiced by those who have enslaved even their own societies, the wise words of Mahatma Gandhi – “Liberty and democracy become unholy when their hands are dyed Red with innocent blood.”

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat is former Chief of the Naval Staff, India. He can be reached [email protected]

Note

* NATO—Started with a membership of 15, now has an additional 26 members and also 23 “partnership countries” — ‘Partnership for Peace.’ It has affiliates like the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, the Mediterranean Dialogue and the GCC, all facilitating intervention, outside the UNSC, to protect human lives.

With acknowledgements to Prof Claudia von Werlhof ‘s paper on ‘The Consequences of Globalization and Neoliberal Policies. What are the Alternatives ?’ November 21, 2005, Prof Michel Chossudovsky’s books –Globalization of Poverty & America’s War of Terror, published by Global Research.

The French are at it again – out on strike, blocking transport, raising hell in the streets, and all that merely because the government wants to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.  They must be crazy.

That, I suppose, is the way the current mass movement in France is seen – or at least shown – in much of the world, and above all in the Anglo-Saxon world.

Perhaps the first thing that needs to be said about the current mass strikes in France is that they are not really about “raising the retirement age from 60 to 62”. This is rather like describing the capitalist free market as a sort of lemonade stand. A propaganda simplification of very complex issues.

It allows the commentators to go crashing through open doors.  After all, they observe sagely, people in other countries work until 65 or beyond, so why should the French balk at 62? The population is aging, and if the retirement age isn’t raised, the pension system will go broke paying out pensions to so many ancients.

However, the current protest movement is not about “raising the retirement age from 60 to 62”. It is about much more.

For one thing, this movement is an expression of exasperation with the government of Nicolas Sarkozy, which blatantly favors the super-rich over the majority of working people in this country.  He was elected on the slogan, “Work more to earn more”, and the reality turns out to be work harder to earn less.  The Labor Minister who introduced the reform, Eric Woerth, got a job for his wife on the office staff of the richest woman in France, Liliane Bettencourt, heir to the Oreal cosmetics giant, at the same time that, as budget minister, he was overlooking her massive tax evasions. While tax benefits for the rich help empty the public coffers, this government is doing what it can to tear down the whole social security system that emerged after World War II on the pretext that “we can’t afford it”. 

The retirement issue is far more complex than “the age of retirement”.  The legal age of retirement means the age at which one may retire.  But the pension depends on the number of years worked, or to be more precise, on the number of cotisations (payments) into the joint pension scheme. On the grounds of “saving the system from bankruptcy”, the government is gradually raising the number of years of cotisations from 40 to 43 years, with indications that this will be stretched out further in the future.

As educationis prolonged, and employment begins later, to get a full pension most people will have to work until 65 or 67.  A “full pension” comes to about 40 per cent of wages at the time of retirement.

But even so, that may not be possible.  Full time jobs are harder and harder to get, and employers do not necessarily want to retain older employees.  Or the enterprise goes out of business and the 58-year old employee finds himself permanently out of work.  It is becoming harder and harder to work full-time in a salaried job for over 40 years, however much one may want to.  Thus in practice, the Sarkozy-Woerth reform simply means reducing pensions. 

That, in fact, is what the European Union has recommended to all member states as an economy measure, intended, as with most current reforms, to reduce social costs in the name of “competitivity” – meaning competition to attract investment capital.

Less qualified workers, who instead of pursuing studies may have entered the work force young, say at age eighteen, will have subscribed to the scheme for forty-two years at age 60 if indeed they manage to be employed all that time. Statistics show that their life expectancy is relatively short, so they need to leave early in order to enjoy any retirement at all.

The French system is based on solidarity between generations, in that the cotisations of  today’s workers go to pay today’s retired people’s pensions.  The government has subtly tried to pit one generation against another, by claiming that it is necessary to protect the future of today’s youth, who are paying for the “baby boom” pensioners. It is therefore extremely significant that this week, high school and university students massively began to enter the protest strike movement.  This solidarity between generations is a major blow to the government.

The youth are even much more radical than the older trade unionists.  They are very aware of the increasing difficulty of building a career.  The trend is for qualified personnel to enter the work force later and later, having spent years getting an education.   With the difficulty of finding a stable, full-time job, many depend on their parents until age 30.  It is simple arithmetic to see that in this case, there will be no full retirement until after age 70.

Productivity and Deindustrialization

As has become standard practice, the authors of the neo-liberal reforms present them not as a choice but as a necessity.  There is no alternative.  We must compete on the global market.  Do it our way or we go broke.  And this reform was essentially dictated by the European Union, in a 2003 report, concluding that making people work longer was necessary to cut pension costs.

These dictates prevent any discussion of the two basic factors underlying the pension problem: productivity and deindustrialization.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the former Socialist Party man who heads the relatively new Left Party, is about the only political leader to point out that even if there are fewer workers to contribute to pension schemes, the difference can be made up by the rise in productivity.  Indeed, French worker productivity is among the very highest in the world (higher than Germany, for example).  Moreover, although France has the second longest life expectancy in Europe, it also has the highest birth rate.  And even if jobholders are fewer, because of unemployment, the wealth they produce should be adequate to maintain pension levels.

Aha, but here’s the catch:  for decades, as productivity goes up, wages stagnate.  The profits from increased productivity are siphoned off into the financial sector.  The bloating of the financial sector and the stagnation of purchasing power has led to the financial crisis – and the government has preserved the imbalance by bailing out the profligate financiers.

So logically, preserving the pension system basically calls for raising wages to account for higher productivity – a very major policy change.

But there is another critical problem linked to the pension issue: deindustrialization.  In order to maintain the high profits drained by the financial sector, and avoid paying higher wages, one industry after another has moved its production to cheap labor countries.  Profitable enterprises shut down as capital goes looking for even higher profit.

Is this merely the inevitable result of the rise of new industrial powers in Asia?  Is a lowering of living standards in the West inevitable due to their rise in the East? 

Perhaps.  However, if shifting industrial production to China ends up lowering purchasing power in the West, then Chinese exports will suffer. China itself is taking the first steps toward strengthening its own domestic market.  “Export-led growth” cannot be a strategy for everyone.  World prosperity actually depends on strengthening both domestic production and domestic markets.  But this requires the sort of deliberate industrial policy which is banned by the bureaucracies of globalization: the World Trade Organization and the European Union.  They operate on the dogmas of “comparative advantage” and “free competition”.  On grounds of free trade, China is actually facing sanctions for promoting its own solar energy industry, vitally necessary to end the deadly air pollution that plagues that country.  The world economy is being treated as a big game, where following the “rules of the free market” is more important than the environment or the basic vital necessities of human beings.

Only the financiers can win this game.  And if they lose, well, they just get more chips for another game from servile governments.

Impasse?

Where will it all end? 

It should end in something like a democratic revolution: a complete overhaul of economic policy.  But there are very strong reasons why this will not happen.

For one thing, there is no political leadership in France ready and able to lead a truly radical movement.  Mélenchon comes the closest, but his party is new and its base is still narrow.  The radical left is hamstrung by its chronic sectarianism.  And there is great confusion among people revolting without clear programs and leaders.

Labor leaders are well aware that employees lose a day’s pay for every day they go on strike, and they are in fact always anxious to find ways to end a strike.  Only the students do not suffer from that restraint. The trade unionists and Socialist Party leaders are demanding nothing more drastic than that the government open negotiations about details of the reform.  If Sarkozy weren’t so stubborn, this is a concession the government could make which might restore calm without changing very much.

It would take the miraculous emergence of new leaders to carry the movement forward.

But even if this should happen, there is a more formidable obstacle to basic change: the European Union.  The EU, built on popular dreams of peaceful and prosperous united Europe, has turned into a mechanism of economic and social control on behalf of capital, and especially of financial capital.  Moreover, it is linked to a powerful military alliance, NATO.  

If left to its own devices, France might experiment in a more socially just economic system.  But the EU is there precisely to prevent such experiments.

Anglo-Saxon Attitudes

On October 19, the French international TV channel France 24 ran a discussion of the strikes between four non-French observers.  The Portuguese woman and the Indian man seemed to be trying, with moderate success, to understand what was going on.  In contrast, the two Anglo-Americans (the Paris correspondent of Time magazine and Stephen Clarke, author of 1000 Years of Annoying the French) amused themselves demonstrating self-satisfied inability to understand the country they write about for a living.

Their quick and easy explanation: “The French are always going on strike for fun because they enjoy it.” 

A little later in the program the moderator showed a brief interview with a lycée student who offered serious comments on pensions issue.  Did that give pause to the Anglo-Saxons?

The response was instantaneous.  How sad to see an 18-year-old thinking about pensions when he should be thinking about girls!

So whether they do it for fun, or whether they do it instead of having fun, the French are absurd to Anglo-Americans accustomed to telling the whole world what it should do.

Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions.Write her for the French version of this article, or to comment, at [email protected]

The world has reached a new stage. If governments don’t get together and face down the bankers who operate the global casino, the dominoes will start falling, one by one.

Sovereign governments must heed the lessons of past financial crises described by Liaquat Ahamed in Lords of Finance (2009); Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan (2008); Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff in This Time Is Different (2009); Ellen Brown in Web of Debt (2008); Nomi Prins in It Takes a Pillage (2009); Gillian Tett in Fool’s Gold (2009); and Yves Smith in ECONNED (2010).

Brooksley Born, who headed the US Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), warned the US Congress in 1998 that derivatives would blow up the financial system. She was attacked by Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin (then Treasury Secretary), his assistant Larry Summers (now Obama’s chief economic advisor), and Senator Phil Gramm (who pushed through the Enron loophole for their ill-fated energy derivatives). Brooksley Born resigned and now serves on the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, set to report its findings by December 2010.

The fate of Greece is caught between the excesses of its previous government and its past Wall Street-friendly policies; the still dominant ideology of market fundamentalism; their bond-holders and market makers; Goldman Sachs and the still-obscure $600 trillion derivatives market – betting on Greece’s eventual default. We have reached the inflection point in the globalized financial casino and its mountains of odious, unrepayable debt. Religious, ethical and humanitarian views will soon be calling for another JUBILEE after the debt cancellations of HIPIC countries in 2000.

How will the new JUBILEE 2010 play out? Clearly, outstanding derivative positions at some $600 trillion while global GDP is only $63 trillion makes today’s global debt levels unrepayable. Central bankers running their money printing presses cannot fill this gigantic hole. So who will lose, beyond taxpayers, so far stuck with the bills ($23 trillion in the USA’s bailouts alone)?

The world’s citizens now see why governments have allowed themselves and their taxpayers to be trapped by the lords of finance. The bankers were their paymasters and funded their elections to office, bribed their officials, manipulated their regulators and public opinion. Through advertising and financing of mass-media, financial moguls and media moguls converged with political moguls worldwide into concentrated conglomerates (matching those in finance and industry): News Corp., Disney, NBC (owned by GE), Viacom, Clear Channel, as well as Comcast, Verizon and ATT now seeking to dominate the internet. All this is textbook fascism.

To save sovereign governments from further co-option and corruption, these government “leaders” and their economic “wise men” must now rise to the occasion. Together, they must act to downsize and curb the rogue global casino. The G-20 Summit in Toronto, June 26-27, is their next opportunity to re-assert control on behalf of their citizens and the global public interest. Will leadership come from Europe, China, India, the USA or Brazil?

Firstly, the derivatives betting on defaults of countries and companies must be shut down, before the players push down Greece to win their bets. This will help curb the “bear raiders” waiting to collect their bets against the other EU countries – Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Spain and others. As George Soros says, such “bear raids” and bets are already in place and these credit-default swaps are “a license to kill.”

The USA, often still seen as a “safe haven,” is on equally rocky ground with its huge trade deficits and external debts to China, Japan and OPEC countries. Most states in the US are running unsustainable deficits, have huge backlogs of now risky bond debts, together with falling tax revenues due to high unemployment levels (nationally at 10% or 17% if all are counted), as well as crumbling bridges, levees and other obsolete infrastructure, needing over $1 trillion to repair.

Only concerted action by the G-20 can arrest the takeover by the lords of finance. This will require a paradigm shift beyond economics and all its theories from left to right – toward a reintegration of knowledge and systems approaches that “connect all the dots.” We are now in a global, system-wide transition from the early, fossil-fueled Industrial Era to the emerging, green, information-rich economies I described in The Politics of the Solar Age (1981, 1988). Old industries in the fossilized sectors are still fighting rearguard actions along with their financiers – trying to preserve their over-valued stock prices and sunk costs.

The great transition is occurring worldwide as covered by the Green Transition Scoreboard™ compiled by Ethical Markets Media (US A, www.ethicalmarkets.com, and Brazil, www.mercadoetico.com.br). The world is quietly shifting away from Wall Street’s corrupted and debt-choked money circuits to new electronic trading platforms that use free exchange and new currencies. As I wrote in 1993, “Information: The World’s New Currency, Isn’t Scarce!” (www.hazelhenderson.com). The next info-currencies will be based on real assets and wealth such as KWH (kilowatt hours) as in the Planck Foundation’s Energy for Debt Plan for Iceland I described (IPS) and their Energy Transition Plan with Ethical Markets.

Estimated world trade conducted in barter remains at approximately 25% – but ignored in GDP-based only on money coefficients. Electronic trading is a new multi-trillion valued market opportunity for IT companies, following the paths of eBay, Craigslist, Freecycle, Global Giving, Greengrants, Microplace, Kiva, Zopa, Prosper and other micro-finance and philanthropy sites. Others bypassing Wall Street and the old “financial centers” include local, regional and private company trading platforms like Chicago-based ENTREX, and local currencies like the Schumacher Society’s “berkshares,” Time Banking, and mutual credit groups (see www.ethicalmarkets.tv Money Innovation).

To foster the transition from the monopoly of fiat money circuits (now just as bad as gold-based money) to 21st century electronic and local currencies, the G-20 needs to downsize financial sectors. Wall Street and London’s bloated financial sectors have little social purpose and produce nothing. High-frequency trading by computer programs now account for about 70% of Wall Street’s daily trading. Proprietary trading and risk-taking must be separated from government-subsidized deposit-taking banks. The best way to accomplish this is for the G-20 to agree on a less than 1% financial transactions tax (FTT) across the board. There are no good arguments against the FTT (debated since its introduction by economist James Tobin in the 1970s and recommended by Larry Summers in his 1989 paper. FTT is easily collectible, using the computer program on all trading screens (Henderson and Kay, “A foreign exchange transaction reporting system (FXTRS) for Central Banks,” Futures 1999). Money-laundering and tax haven operations in, for example, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Caymen, the Bahamas, the US states of Delaware and Nevada, Guernsey, Jersey and London can continue to be “shamed” by black-listing in the Financial Authorities Task Force publications.

These initial actions: banning naked derivatives (where bettors don’t own the bonds) and bringing those needed for actual users of oil, commodities, etc., onto transparent exchanges; enacting the FTT; and banning ratings agencies from selling ratings to issuers, will begin the transition process toward the new currencies and transparent electronic trading platforms. Also essential is to break up all too-big-to-fail banks, e.g., the six largest ones in the USA: Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo now control 63%of US GDP.

Only if G-20 leaders come together in Toronto and agree on these first steps, can they avoid the next financial crisis already looming. If they cannot summon the courage to shake off the grip of the lords of finance, they will have forfeited what public trust still remains.

Hazel Henderson is president of Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil) and its Green Transition Scoreboard™. The company is a signatory of the UN Principles of Responsible Investing. Henderson is founder and co-chair of the World Business Academy’s EthicMark® for ethical advertising, author of many books, including the award winning Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy (2006) and co-creator of the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators. www.ethicalmarkets.com and www.calvert-henderson.com

The Chances of a War with China are Rising

October 22nd, 2010 by Mike Whitney

The United States conducts monetary policy the same way it conducts foreign policy; unilaterally. When Fed chairman Ben Bernanke signaled last week that he was planning to restart his bond purchasing program (Quantitative Easing) he didn’t consult with allies at the IMF, the G-20 or the WTO. He simply issued his edict, and that was that. The fact that the Fed’s policy will flood emerging markets with cheap capital, pushing up the value of their currencies and igniting inflation, is of no concern to Bernanke. He operates on the same theory as former Treasury Secretary John Connally who breezily quipped to a group of euro finance ministers, “The dollar is our currency, but your problem.”

Bernanke’s 15 report could have been reduced to nine words: Inflation is too low and unemployment is too high. That said, Bernanke is not going to sit back hemming and hawing until congress figures out that the economy needs more support. He’s going to put downward pressure on the dollar until inflation rises to the target 2%, increasing the prospects for lower unemployment, a narrowing of the current account deficit, and a faster rebound. Economist Edward Hugh sums it up like this:

“Unemployment in the United States (which is currently at 9.6%, and may reach 10% by the end of the year) is causing enormous problems for the Obama administration. The US labor market and welfare system are simply not designed to run with these levels of unemployment for any length of time. In Japan the unemployment rate is 5.1%, and in Germany it is under 8%. So people in Washington, not unreasonably ask themselves why the US should shoulder so much extra unemployment and run a current account deficit just to maintain the Bretton Woods system and the reserve currency status of the US Dollar.

My feeling is that the US administration has decided to reduce the unemployment rate, and close the current account deficit, and that the only way to achieve this is to force the value of the dollar down. That way it will be US factories rather than German or Japanese ones that are humming to the sound of the new orders which come in from all that flourishing emerging market demand.”

Bernanke has drawn the same conclusions as Hugh, but that doesn’t mean his strategy won’t inflict considerable damage on US allies. It will. His beggar-thy-neighbor QE program will force trading partners to implement capital controls and other protectionist measures to maintain price stability. QE will also lead to more competitive devaluation as the world’s largest economies fight for a bigger share of the export market. The impending clash could bring about the dissolution of the present trade regime and a sharp reversal of 30-years of globalization.

Bernanke’s biggest problem is China. China was America’s darling when it was loading up on Treasuries and fueling a historic consumption binge that filled Wall Street’s coffers. But now that the purchase of US debt is preventing the Fed from implementing its monetary policy, Bernanke wants a change. Unfortunately, China is not cooperating. It’s piling up foreign exchange reserves at record pace to maintain the dollar peg which is widening the current account deficit to precrisis levels. The yawning trade imbalance is pushing the world towards another crisis, which is why Bernanke and Co. are determined to persuade China to let its currency to appreciate to narrow the gap. (China’s foreign exchange reserves surged to $2.65tr in the 3rd quarter)

Bottom line: The Fed cannot jump-start the domestic economy if the trade deficit continues to grow. It’s impossible. The stimulus just gets flushed down the plughole. China is soaking up the lion’s share of global demand by underbidding the US on everything under the sun. That’s the real effect of the dollar peg, it gives China an unfair advantage over its competitors. A free-floating currency helps to level the playing field (even if US labor is competing with some of the world’s worst paid workers) Bernanke’s announcement last Friday, is just the first shot fired over Beijing’s bow. There will be more to come. This weekend’s meeting of the G-20 provides Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner with the perfect opportunity to put the spotlight on China and to rail against currency manipulation. Many expect him to make a strong statement demanding changes to the policy.

An update by Reuters on Wednesday confirms the US position. Here’s a blurp:

“The United States wants Group of 20 finance chiefs to commit to allowing market forces to set currency values and will discuss using targets for trade to measure progress, a senior U.S. Treasury Department official said on Wednesday.

Ahead of weekend G20 meetings in Gyeongju, South Korea, the U.S. official made clear Washington wants currency levels to be a focal point of the meetings and sees current account surpluses and deficits a vital part of the discussion….

From our perspective we believe these issues are fundamentally, inherently linked and that it is important for the G20 to be able to undertake cooperative action facilitating orderly adjustment of imbalances and also ensuring more effective adjustment of exchange rates in line with economic fundamentals,” the official said.” (“U.S. wants G20 commitment to allow currency rises”, Reuters)

Neither the Obama administration nor the Fed want a full-blown trade war with China. They’d rather see China “assume its position in the global system”. (as US diplomats aver) But that means that China will have to compromise on, what it considers to be, a matter of national sovereignty. And, there’s the rub. China is a proud nation and doesn’t want to be told what to do. But that’s not how the system works. Behind the facade of free markets and international institutions, lies an imperial system ruled from Washington. That leaves Beijing with two options; they can either bow to US pressure and fall in line or shrug off Washington’s demands and continue on the same path. If they choose to resist, relations with the US will grow more acrimonious and the probability of conflict will rise.

France’s Expulsion of Roma Migrants: A Test Case for Europe

October 22nd, 2010 by Kristi Severance

Roma, the largest minority group in Europe, have lived throughout the continent for centuries and have long faced discrimination and high levels of poverty. Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the European Union (EU) in 2007, have particularly large Roma populations.

In recent years, Roma have come under new pressure in EU Member States like Italy and France as those countries have emphasized expulsion as a means of addressing migration concerns. For Roma from Romania and Bulgaria in France, 2010 marked an escalation of this pressure.

Although EU countries routinely return Roma to their countries of origin through readmission agreements or other mechanisms, those returns often involve Roma who have migrated from countries outside the European Union. France, by contrast, has drawn attention for its policy of returning Roma who are residents of Bulgaria and Romania and thus EU citizens whose rights to free movement within that area are protected.

This distinction has placed France’s response to Roma migrants at the head of the current controversy, but it is not the only European country whose actions toward Roma are under scrutiny.

Since 2008, Italy has conducted similar expulsions of Roma, and the vice mayor of Milan recently confirmed an agenda to dismantle all Roma camps in that city. In addition, rights groups have alleged clandestine removal of Roma from camps in Belgium.

France’s actions have prompted a strong reaction from the European Union and generated concern over how much latitude EU Member States have to conduct their own policies in the migration arena. This article therefore focuses on what has happened in France and the EU response.

Background on Roma

The term Roma is the most commonly used umbrella description for a group of people who originally migrated from India nearly 1,000 years ago.

“Roma” encompasses a variety of ethnic subgroups and is sometimes used interchangeably with “gypsy” or “traveler.” The term “traveler,” however, does not necessarily signify the same population. In France, many travelers, who are largely itinerant French nationals some of whom live in caravans, view themselves as separate from the Roma.

About the Author

Kristi Severance
Kristi Severance is a lawyer specialized in human rights and immigration law, and a former policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute. She previously worked on Roma issues for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Roma share historical roots and some cultural practices but are far from the homogeneous unit often portrayed. A shared history of discrimination and persecution, including the killing of an estimated 200,000 to 1 million Roma in World War II concentration camps, may be their most obvious unifying characteristic.

The Council of Europe, whose mission is to ensure respect for the fundamental values of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law throughout the European continent, estimates the number of Roma in Europe to be slightly more than 11 million. Precise numbers are notoriously hard to generate. Given the history of prejudice against them, Roma are frequently wary of engaging with authorities and can be reluctant to identify themselves as Roma for fear of reprisals.

In France, there are between 300,000 and 400,000 Roma, as compared with approximately 700,000 to 800,000 in Bulgaria and as many as 2 million in Romania according to Jean-Pierre Liégeois, a French sociologist and Roma expert. The Council of Europe reports similar statistics on its website.

Liégeois notes that the current number of Roma in France who are foreigners is only 10,000 to 12,000, a relatively small number compared with the total Roma population. The majority of Roma in France has lived there for long periods of time; throughout Europe, more Roma live in established communities within their resident countries than are migratory.

A significant portion of the Roma migrants in France has come from Romania and Bulgaria. Government officials in both countries have acknowledged that more prosperous countries like France are attracting Roma. Factors “pushing” them to emigrate are poverty and pervasive prejudice.

Overview of What Happened in France in Summer 2010

Following a spate of violence in July involving French police and some Roma and traveler individuals, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a crackdown on unauthorized settlements. The government estimated the number of such settlements at 539.

Roma settlements in France vary in size but are often located near urban zones. Shelters are constructed out of whatever materials are available, and many do not have running water or electricity. In the case of travelers, the government is supposed to provide designated sites for them to congregate, but rights groups have said this process is not fully implemented.

French police dismantled numerous settlements, primarily occupied by Roma from Bulgaria and Romania, and the French government expelled more than 1,000 of their inhabitants between July and September, sending them back to their home countries.

Sarkozy, for whom security is a hallmark issue, justified the hard-line stance on the grounds that the settlements were illegal and presented a security risk. A statement from the president’s office identified the camps as sources of illegal trafficking, appalling living standards, exploitation of children through forced begging, prostitution, and crime.

Sarkozy also characterized the deportations as voluntary, because a significant number of the Roma Bulgarian and Romanian citizens were given 300 euros (US$380) in exchange for their cooperation in the return process.

A furor ensued when official French government memos leaked to the French press and published in September revealed that Roma settlements had been identified as priority targets of the campaign. This information contradicted statements the French government had made saying that the intensified measures were directed at illegal settlements in general, and not just at those where Roma lived.

Following the leak, the United Nations, the European Union, the Vatican, various rights groups, and politicians opposed to Sarkozy’s policies began criticizing the French government. In a variety of fora, they argued that the Roma were targeted for expulsion from France based on their ethnicity, in violation of EU laws prohibiting discrimination and guaranteeing freedom of movement.

The French Government Position and the Memos

France’s practice of returning Bulgarian and Romanian Roma is not new; it has been ongoing in various forms since 2007. However, the government’s public discourse about the issue did change during the summer.

In late July, not long after the violence, Sarkozy publicly announced an intensified anticrime and immigration control agenda. On July 28, the French president held a special ministerial meeting to discuss Roma. Afterward, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux announced that the government had set a target of dismantling 300 illegal settlements in the short term.

On July 30 in Grenoble, where some of the earlier violence had occurred, Sarkozy outlined several key components of the security crackdown, including his intention to make it easier to expel migrants who committed crimes. The previous week the French president had noted “the problems posed by the behavior of certain travelers and Roma.”

Sarkozy made public his intent to take a tough line against illegal camps amid some of the lowest approval ratings he has experienced during his presidency. Numerous news organizations, including the BBC, Agence France Presse, and Bloomberg, have identified Sarkozy’s crackdown as a strategy to improve his ratings and to bolster his position for the next election.

The leaked official memos later demonstrated that even before Sarkozy held the ministerial meeting and made his speech, the French government was already crafting its strategy for demolishing Roma and traveler settlements. In fact, the first memo was issued June 24, before the violence took place.

The memos, which the Interior Ministry and the Immigration Ministry sent to police and local authorities, provide instructions on how to deal with illegal settlements and their residents.

The first memo identifies three concerns illegal settlements raise: the infringement of property rights; the health and security risks associated with the occupants’ living conditions, which act as an impediment to integration; and the camps’ potential as havens for illegal activity.

Another memo, issued August 5, contained more pointed language. It directed the dismantlement of 300 illegal settlements as the French president had previously announced, but it specifically stated that Roma camps should be made a priority. It was this memo that outraged the European Union and other critics of Sarkozy’s tactics when a French newspaper published it.

EU Response

On September 9, the same day the information in the leaked memo was published, the European Parliament passed a resolution strongly condemning France’s actions against the Roma and calling for an immediate end to the expulsions.

The Parliament’s resolution, while not legally binding, served as a strong public rebuke to France for its policies toward the Roma and travelers.

The Parliament’s resolution was also critical of the European Commission, which is responsible for ensuring that EU Member States respect EU laws and properly incorporate them into national legislation, a process called transposition.

The Parliament accused the Commission of failing to exercise its enforcement mandate by not taking legal action against France for breaking EU laws on discrimination and freedom of movement.

Several days later, the Commission weighed in. It called France’s actions toward the Roma and their settlements discriminatory and threatened punitive action against France for breaching EU antidiscrimination law, as well as failing to ensure the right to freedom of movement for EU citizens.

The punitive action the Commission named was infringement, a process that begins administratively, with the Commission communicating with the Member State and requesting responses to questions regarding the alleged failure to adhere to the governing law. Litigation can follow if the Commission chooses to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.

On September 13, the same day that Commission Vice President Viviane Reding — who is EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship — criticized France and raised the possibility of the infringement process, the French government issued another memo to amend the August 5 memo.

Signed by Hortefeux, the new memo stated that police and relevant local officials were to evacuate all illegal settlements, regardless of who occupied them. Language in the September 13 memo also indicated that this had been the government’s policy all along, implying that it had never singled out Roma or travelers.

The new memo persuaded the Commission to back away from its readiness to institute legal proceedings against France for discrimination. On September 29, the Commission announced that the language in the September 13 memo, as well as assurances from French authorities, convinced it that France was not behaving in a discriminatory manner toward Roma and travelers in pursuing its security policies.

However, the Commission did find that France had failed to transpose the EU Directive on Freedom of Movement into its national legislation; directives mandate a minimum standard that all Member States must meet. As a result, it announced it would send a letter of formal notice in the context of infringement procedures if, by October 15, France did not show how it would transpose the directive into French law and provide a detailed schedule for implementing the proposed changes.

EU Directive on Freedom of Movement

The EU Directive on Freedom of Movement contains several provisions to ensure the right of EU citizens to move freely within the European Union.

According to the directive, EU citizens with a valid identification card or passport can enter any other EU country and may remain for up to three months. People who stay longer than three months must demonstrate that they are employed or that they have sufficient means of support and health insurance to avoid becoming a burden on the host country.

EU citizens can be expelled for reasons of public health, public security, or public policy; however, the expulsion can only be based on the personal conduct of the individual in question. Expulsions of a group based on one or two individuals’ actions are therefore prohibited.

Furthermore, procedural guarantees in the directive require that the host country conduct an assessment of each person’s circumstances and that the individual be notified of any decision to deport him or her at least a month before the scheduled departure date.

Other Responses

Not everyone with an interest in France’s actions was as willing as the European Commission to accept France’s assurances that it was not discriminating against Roma and travelers.

Some members of the European Parliament expressed dismay that the Commission was not pursuing France on discrimination grounds, calling the official memos clear evidence of discrimination, which the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits.

Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International also criticized the Commission’s decision not to move forward with proceedings against France for violating EU antidiscrimination law.

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), a Hungary-based public-interest law organization that provided legal briefs to the Commission on the Roma expulsion issue, argued that France’s actions violated not only the Freedom of Movement Directive and the Charter of Fundamental Rights (known as the Charter) but also the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

In particular, ERRC has argued that its research with Romanian and Bulgarian Roma who were deported from France reveals they received preprinted official expulsion documents, with only their names and birthdates filled out by hand.

ERRC contends this indicates the deported Roma were not given the individual consideration EU law requires, and that mass expulsions may have taken place. Mass expulsions are contrary to the Freedom of Movement Directive, the Charter, and ECHR. It also disagrees with France’s position that the returns were voluntary, saying the right to freedom of movement is fundamental and therefore the Roma do not waive it simply by accepting money from the French government.

France’s actions did receive some support, however. In a debate in the European Parliament on September 2, two members from right-wing parties in the Netherlands and Belgium spoke out in support of France’s right to deport the Roma and foreigners in general.

Indirect support also came from Italy and Hungary, which ERRC said appeared to view France’s actions against Roma as “giving legitimacy to their own ongoing anti-Romani policies and encouraging new ones.”

According to the independent EU watchdog organization Statewatch, during the height of the French crisis, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni gave a speech focusing on the issue of “nomads.” Members of the far-right Hungarian party Jobbik also increased their rhetoric against Roma.

The Situation in Fall 2010

In the week before the October 15 deadline, Immigration Minister Eric Besson signaled France’s intention to comply with the Commission’s demands by the deadline. Although he indicated that French law already contained the necessary protections, he said the government would provide an outline of legislation that would fully incorporate the procedural guarantees the Commission had highlighted as missing.

Shortly before the deadline, France did submit the documentation the European Commission had requested. On October 19, Reding pronounced the Commission satisfied with the submission. She noted that France had provided draft legislative measures and “a credible calendar” for putting the Freedom of Movement Directive procedural guarantees into its national legislation by early 2011.

As a result, Reding said the Commission “will now, for the time being, not pursue the infringement procedure against France,” but she emphasized that the Commission “will closely watch over the full implementation of the commitments made by France.”

The Expulsions in the Larger Immigration Context

As Sarkozy has made clear, the crackdown on unauthorized settlements or camps is part of a larger immigration and security debate within France.

On October 12, French lawmakers in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, approved an immigration bill whose purpose, the government says, is to transpose EU immigration directives. Passage by the lower house is the first step in its journey to becoming law.

That bill, which was originally introduced by Besson earlier this year, includes amendments made at the height of the Roma expulsion controversy. Those amendments would expand the grounds for deporting EU citizens from France in instances where they profit from begging, occupy land illegally, abuse the welfare system, or threaten public order.

The amendments do not specifically mention Roma, but rights groups and other critics say the amendments scarcely disguise that Roma are the real target.

Moving Forward

The firestorm over France’s policies toward Roma has taken place at the halfway mark of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, an initiative that select European governments, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, and Roma civil society began in 2005. The initiative seeks to improve the situation of Roma throughout Europe, particularly in the areas of employment, education, housing and health, and to construct concrete measures to accelerate Roma integration.

Currently, 12 countries participate: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Spain. EU Member States not participating in the Roma Decade program have committed to tackling Roma issues through other programs, with EU funding.

Addressing the many longstanding problems that Roma face, however, will require a more effective use of financial resources than has been demonstrated thus far.

According to the European Commission, Romania has spent less than 1 percent of the money it has been allotted for Roma integration. Bulgaria has spent approximately 5 percent of the funds available. On average, Western European countries have spent more but only about 16 percent of the total funds available to them.

In recognition of this financial gap, and of the inequality Roma continue to face, many leaders in Europe are calling for a renewed commitment to invigorating Roma integration throughout Europe.

According to the EU Observer, Livia Jaroka, the only Roma member of the European Parliament, has called the events following France’s crackdown a good opportunity for change: “I hope it’s a good time to come up with constructive policies, because now everybody wants a European response to the failure of Roma integration in most Member States.”

As a result of the recent events in France and an expressed concern over the rise in anti-Roma rhetoric, the Council of Europe organized a high-level meeting on October 20 to address Roma issues. At that meeting, the Council’s Member States adopted the Strasbourg Declaration on Roma, which affirms their commitment to recognizing Roma rights and improving the situation for Roma in several areas, including nondiscrimination and social inclusion.

These various commitments, if sustained, could change the situation for Roma in France and the rest of Europe. In the meantime, some of the Bulgarian and Romanian Roma deported from France told the press they intended to return as soon as it was feasible, because the opportunities in France were still greater than those at home.

The number of foreign Roma in France, which has stayed relatively constant over the past few years, suggests that those who are sent home are returning, or others are taking their place.

Sources

Alexe, Dan. 2010. “Stop the Repatriation of Roma to Kosovo, Says Council of Europe.” WAZ EU Observer, September 24, 2010. Available online.

Bon, Gerard. 2010. “France to Dismantle Roma Camps, Expel Offenders.” Reuters, July 28. Available online.

Braibant, Sylvie. 2010. “Les Roms, ces citoyens européens repoussés du vieux continent.” TV5Monde. Accessed October 12, 2010. Available online.

Brundsen, Jim. 2010. “Amnesty Slams Commission’s Roma Response.” European Voice, September 30, 2010. Available online.

Cahn, Claude and Elspeth Guild. 2008. “Recent Migration of Roma in Europe.” Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe High Commissioner on National Minorities. Available online.

Daley, Suzanne. 2010. “Roma, on Move, Test Europe’s ‘Open Borders’.” New York Times, September 16, 2010. Available online.

“EU to Urge Member Countries to do More for Integration.” 2010. EUBusiness, October 10. Available online.

“European Commission Assesses Recent Developments in France, Discusses Overall Situation of the Roma and EU Law on Free Movement of EU Citizens.” 2010. European Commission Press Release, September 29, 2010. Available online.

“European Far-Right Defends Sarkozy’s Roma Policy.” 2010. Euractive, September 3 (updated September 7). Available online.

Faiola, Anthony. 2010. “Italy Closes the door on Gypsies.” Washington Post, October 12, 2010. Available online.

Fichtner, Ullrich. 2010. “Sarkozy’s War Against the Roma.” Spiegel Online, September 15, 2010. Available online.

“France Pledges to Comply with EU Migration Rules.” 2010. Spiegel Online, October 14, 2010. Available online.

“France: Reject Anti-Roma Bill.” 2010 Human Rights Watch, September 27.Available online.

“French MPs debate controversial immigration law.” 2010. Agence France Presse, September 28, 2010. Available online.

Liégeois, Jean-Pierre. 2010. “Les Roms, mobiles par obligation.” Libération, September 18-19, 2010. Available online.

Pop, Valentina. 2010. “Roma MEP Sees French Row as Golden Opportunity.” Euobserver, October 13, 2010. Available online.

Prochasson, David. 2010. “Expulsions de Roms, un ‘mode d’emploi’ explicite.” Le Canard Social, September 13, 2010. [Links to the official memos included.] Available online.

“Q&A: France Roma Expulsions.” 2010. BBC, September 30, 2010. Available online.

“Romanies: A Long Road.” 2010. Economist, September 16, 2010. Available online.

Saltmarsh, Matthew. 2010. “Sarkozy Toughens on Illegal Roma.” New York Times, July 29, 2010. Available online.

“Situation of Roma in Europe: MEPs quiz the Commission.” 2010. European Parliament Press Release, September 30, 2010. Available online.

“Statement by Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, on the Recent Developments Concerning the Respect for EU Law as Regards the Situation of Roma in France.” 2010. European Commission Press Release, October 19, 2010. Available online.

“The Strasbourg Declaration on Roma.” 2010. Council of Europe, October 20, 2010. Available online.

“Submission in Relation to the Analysis and Consideration of Legality Under EU Law of the Situation of Roma in France.” 2010. European Roma Rights Centre, August 27 and September 27 (factual update).

Tait, Robert. 2010. “Roma Expulsions Challenge Europe’s Benevolent Self-Image.” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, September 20, 2010. Available online.

Viscusi, Gregory. 2010. “Expulsions of Illegal Roma Win Approval of Public in Sarkozy’s France.” Bloomberg, August 13, 2010. Available online.

Election Guide for Election Haters

October 22nd, 2010 by David Swanson

I’ll admit it right now. My name is David and I hate elections. (HI, DAVID!) I hate choosing the evil of two lessers. I hate attack ads. I hate endless repetitive debates that exclude all the interesting questions. I hate painting one candidate as all bad and the other as infallible even when I have to squint to see a difference between them. I hate that there are only two candidates who have a chance at winning. I hate that most of what we hear is through advertisements funded by unbelievably wealthy people, and most of the non-advertising news consists of reports on the advertisements. I hate that election season lasts for a year or more. I hate that after all this, most people don’t vote, not even for third-party candidates or write-ins or none-of-the-above. I hate how people who do vote prefer candidates who promise never to be influenced by public opinion. I hate the “mandate” for fascism that the televisions announce the next day, regardless of what happened. I hate the very premises on which our electoral system rests: corporations are people, money is speech, and computer programmers have never ever cheated on anything.

But I still promote candidates and vote. Why? Because just prior to an election it really should be election season. Because we can still occasionally vote out some incumbents, which is the only way we get a chance of being listened to for the following two years. Because awful as almost all the candidates are, other candidates are even worse. Because subservient as almost all the candidates are to one or the other of the two grotesque parties, one of the parties is even worse than the other. Because following an impeachable blowjob and an unimpeachable aggressive war with an impeachable fictional birthplace would drain all remaining integrity from our Constitutional government — and there are only a few drops left. Because the possibility exists of unseating some of the very worst members of Congress. Because the possibility exists of reelecting and newly electing some of the very best. Because if the Democrats still had a majority in the House and had 60 or more Senate seats, as well as the White House, they’d have to get a lot more creative than “He’ll veto it” or “They’ll filibuster” or “We need the Republicans to like us” when explaining their abject failure to represent the people of this country. And because electing a gang of undereducated bigoted hatemongers would make things even worse.

Getting involved in elections beyond merely voting should not be limited to your own district. Chances are your district is not the most important one. Most incumbents are protected by gerrymandering, fundraising, favor-bestowing, media kowtowing, and ballot-access-restricting. Most incumbents are not the very worst and their challengers not the very best. Even if your top priority is to keep the better of the two parties in charge, there is absolutely no reason not to do so by backing the best of the struggling Democratic candidates rather than the worst or all of them equally.

So, which races should you be making phone calls for, knocking on doors about, and sending money to?

This is not the same question as “Who is a saint without flaws?” That question won’t get us very far in this political system, if anywhere in the world. The question at hand is this: Which candidates are relatively the best or up against the worst opponents, and which of those races are close?

The easiest way to figure this out is to look at who the DCCC is funding, and start helping everyone else. But the more interesting way to get at the same results is to look at each important issue that matters to you.

One place to start is with wars. There are 115 incumbents who have shown a willingness to oppose funding illegal aggressive wars that are bankrupting us in every way. They are listed here: http://defundwar.org. Ninety-nine challengers have signed a pledge not to fund these wars, and they are listed here: http://caws.us. However, many of those challengers have already lost primaries, and many of them are libertarians who want to defund wars for roughly the same reason they want to defund schools and healthcare and retirement.

So, we have to look at a range of issues. One resource to use is http://progressivepunch.org But in only a few cases can we draw a useful line between the good and bad candidates. For example, my list of incumbents who will fight for single-payer healthcare is blank. But my list of incumbents and challengers who at least say they want single-payer healthcare is quite long. Who would restore the powers of impeachment, subpoena, and oversight? Nobody that I know of. But some have backed bills to restrict state secrets claims or to set up toothless commissions on torture, etc. We’re left looking for those who have gone the furthest most frequently or who plausibly claim that they will go the furthest most frequently, even if the furthest anyone is thus far willing to go falls dangerously short.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who is now introducing a bill to block fraudulent home foreclosures, has been the best defender of peace and justice in the Congress for several years. Supporting him can never be a mistake, but he is likely to win without extra assistance.

Congressman Alan Grayson has emerged as a strong leader for peace and justice. Yes, he talks more than he acts, but talking is useful as well — and Grayson’s talk is so powerful that his challenger refuses to debate him. Yes Grayson’s horrible on Israel. But he actually urged the public to lobby his colleagues to vote No on war funding. Has anyone else done that? And Grayson is in a tough race into which rightwingers are dumping more money than any other. You can go help him out in Orlando, and then celebrate with a vacation. Or make calls and send money from home.

I haven’t surveyed all 435 races and can’t rank them all in order of priority, but there are federal, state, and local elections worth paying attention to all over the country. Congressman Raul Grijalva is in a tight race. He is a progressive vote that can be relied upon whenever his vote’s not really needed and lots of other progressives are also voting the right way. But, aside from a handful of people like Kucinich, that’s the best we can find. And Grijalva is a co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, meaning that if he loses other progressives will not realize he did too little but conclude that he did too much. Keith Ellison will certainly be reelected and hopes also to be elected chair of the Progressive Caucus. He says he would “work to strengthen [the CPC's] internal cohesion and discipline as a voting bloc within the Congress. . . . particularly by expanding CPC communication and policy efforts” and “more actively engage the broader progressive community outside the halls of Congress.” I have no reason to think Ellison would follow through on this without a tremendous force of organized pressure from that broader community, but he couldn’t possibly do less than Grijalva and Lynn Woolsey have done. Whether Grijalva is reelected or not, we should push for a single CPC chair and someone new; and Ellison seems as likely to move in a useful direction as anyone else.

One place to look for candidates worth backing is those endorsed by local chapters of good organizations that you also find worthy of support. By backing those candidates you can also build those organizations. But check the candidates out on your own. They all have websites and a public record of statements. One good organization that backs candidates through local chapters and then pressures them in between elections is Progressive Democrats of America. “We believe the strategic approach to this election is to support the very best Democratic candidates in close races,” said PDA National Director Tim Carpenter. “This differs from those backing the most progressive candidates whom our electoral system is stacked against, and it differs from those working to maintain a Democratic majority by backing the least progressive Democrats. We want not only a majority that’s not Republican, but also a caucus within that majority that strives to represent the American people.”

I think that’s usually the right approach. I won’t back my local Democrat, Tom Perriello, even though the Republican is worse, because I promised Perriello I’d oppose him if he kept voting for war funding, and he kept voting for war funding. But I’ll back anti-war Democrats in other districts. One such candidate is incumbent congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts. He’s been a leader in advancing the tentative steps Congress has taken against wars. We’re better off not losing him, and he’s in a tight race. A challenger whom PDA has backed who has a decent shot is Bill Hedrick in Orange County, California, who is up against a horribly corrupt Republican incumbent named Ken Calvert. It’s always nice to put in a progressive who might be a real leader while taking out one of the worst of the bunch.

Other good PDA-backed candidates include David Gill in Illinois and Rick Waugh here in Virginia, who is taking on Republican Whip Eric Cantor and sending someone in a chicken costume everywhere Cantor goes until he agrees to a debate. Clint Curtis in California’s Fourth District would be a stand-out leader in Washington and unseat a Republican. Justin Coussoule would be an ordinary militaristic Democrat but take out the horrible Minority Leader John Boehner. For that matter, Republican John Dennis would work to end the wars and unseat pro-war Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Over in the Senate, the Democrats have probably the worst majority leader they could have chosen in Harry Reid, but it’s not clear that replacing him with a teapartier would help. The best of the Democrats in the Senate — and I know that’s saying very little — is Russ Feingold, and he’s in a very close reelection struggle now in Wisconsin. Elaine Marshall of North Carolina could easily be the best Senator we have if she manages to unseat Republican Richard Burr, and she just might do it if enough people help her out.

I’m writing for a national audience here, but that does not mean your time wouldn’t in some cases be better spent electing state-level representatives. In North Carolina, Marcus Brandon is campaigning on a promise to bring state single payer healthcare to the Tarheel state. That’s worthy of support from around the country. Brandon defeated the incumbent Democrat in a primary and just needs to pull out the general election against a teapartier. Charlotte Dennett is running for attorney general of Vermont on a platform of finally prosecuting Bush for his crimes. That’s worthy of international support, now that money can come from anywhere!

Let’s do this election season right, and then get back to the important work of organizing, educating, and applying public pressure.

David Swanson is the author of “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union”

http://davidswanson.org

http://warisacrime.org

http://facebook.com/pages/David-Swanson/297768373319

http://twitter.com/davidcnswanson

http://youtube.com/afterdowningstreet

 

Wars are planned, financed and fought by governments, not by groups or ordinary people. Wars are based on political agendas bent on complete control over resources, people and territory. Most wars have multiple reasons, domestic, foreign and global outreach. The U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are fought to maintain US domination worldwide, to occupy the untapped natural resources of the Middle East, in particular oil and gas, and to protect the value of U.S. dollar as a stable international reserve currency. In September 2000, the proactive policy paper written by the neoconservative intellectuals to envision the “Project for the New American Century” (PNAC), sets the milestone, seeking U.S. domination over the rest of the world powers. Its objectives: meeting U.S. energy demands through occupation by force of all the oil and gas resources in the Arab Middle East. The blueprint supports military occupation of the oil-exporting Arab countries and regime change wherever necessary – to fulfill the PNAC policy aims of global domination. Centuries ago, German historian Carl Von Clausewitz wrote On War: “War is not merely a political act but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means.”
 
The wars are declared by the few and not the majority masses. The small ruling elite who plans and wages war is often afraid of citizenry reaction and refusal to accept the rationality of a war. Throughout history, European nationalism institutionalized the doctrine of war as a necessary means to promote national interest and racial superiority over “the other”. Most proponents of wars have used “fear” as one of the major instruments of propaganda and manipulation to perpetuate allegiance from the ordinary folks to the elite warmongers in a crisis situation. Sheldon Richman (“War is Government Program” ICS, 05/2007), notes that “war is more dangerous than other government programs and not just for the obvious reason – mass murder….war is useful in keeping the population in a state of fear and therefore trustful of their rulers.”
 
Ordinary citizens do not have passion for war as it disturbs their safety and security, and destroys the living habitats. The ruling elite, the actual warmongers, force people to think in extreme terms of hatred and rejection of others so that people would be forced to align with the rulers to support and finance the war efforts. Sheldon Richman describes how Herman Goering, Hitler’s second in command, understood the discourse of war-making:

“Of course the people don’t want war….but after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether, it’s a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a Communist dictatorship.” (Sheldon Richman, “War is Government Program”)

Paul Craig Roberts (“The Collapse of America Power”: ICS, 03/2008), attempts to explain how the British Empire had collapsed once its financial assets were depleted because of the 2nd World War debts. Correlli Barnett (The Collapse of British Power, 1972) states that at the beginning of WWII, Britain had limited gold and foreign exchange funds to meet the pressing demands of the war. The British Government asked the U.S. to help finance their ability to sustain the war. Thus, ‘this dependency signaled the end of British power.’ For its draconian wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is heavily dependent on China, Japan and Saudi Arabia. It is well known that the U.S. treasury owes trillions of dollars to its foreign debtors and therefore, its financial dependency is increasingly becoming an obvious indicator of the end of U.S. global hegemony and its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that the US financial system has broken down and some of the leading banking institutions have gone into bankruptcy, the roller coaster repercussions can be seen across the U.S. economic, social and political spectrum of life. Under the Bush administration, U.S. capability and vitality has shrunk and in fact the country appears to be dismantled as a superpower in global affairs. It is no wonder that other nations of world no longer seem to take the U.S. and its traditional influence, seriously.

In The Collapse of American Power, Paul Craig Roberts stated:

“Noam Chomsky recently wrote that America thinks that it owns the world. That is definitely the view of the neoconized Bush administration. But the fact of the matter is that the US owes the world. The US ‘superpower’ cannot even finance its own domestic operations, much less its gratuitous wars except via the kindness of foreigners to lend it money that cannot be repaid.”

It is undeniable that the US is “bankrupt” because of the on-going wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. David M. Walker Comptroller General of the US and Head of the Government Accountability Office (December 2007). reported that “In everyday language, the US Government cannot pass an audit.”
 
If one is a financial investor, the obvious question asks Paul C. Roberts,

“would you want to hold debt in a currency that has such a poor record against the currency of a small island country that was nuked and defeated in WW II, or against a small landlocked European country that clings to its independence and is not a member of the EU?” 

Consequently, the U.S. dollar is being replaced by Euro and other currencies and soon is going to be abandoned as a reserve currency in global financial system. Roberts appears to be seriously concerned: “I sometimes wonder if the bankrupt ‘superpower’ will be able to scrape together the resources to bring home the troops stationed in its hundreds of bases overseas, or whether they will just be abandoned.”
 
This War on Terror is Bogus
 
Michel Meacher, British Environment Minister under PM Blair (“This War on Terrorism is Bogus”) – provides reliable insight into the real reasons for the ‘War on Terrorism’. He claims that the “war on terror” is flatly superficial:

“the 9/11 attacks gave the US an ideal pretext to use force to secure its global domination … the so-called ‘war on terrorism’ is being used largely as bogus cover for achieving wider US strategic geopolitical objectives … in fact, 9/11 offered an extremely convenient pretext to put the PNAC plan into action. The evidence again is quite clear that plans for military action against Afghanistan and Iraq were in hand well before 9/11.”

In their report, the Baker Institute of Public Policy (April 2001), stated clearly that “the US remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma. Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to….the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East” and it its recommendations elaborated the dire need that because it was a challenging risk therefore, the “US military intervention” was the most favored action (Sunday Herald: Oct 6, 2002).  
 
Both the US and United Kingdom have increasing dependence on imported oil from the Middle East. The overriding motivation for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, shielded by a political smokescreen, is that the US and UK will run out of sufficient hydrocarbon energy supplies whereas, the Arab and Muslim world would control almost 60% of the world oil producing capacity and perhaps more significantly, 95% of the remaining global oil production capacity. The news media reports indicate that the US is predicted to produce only 39% of its domestic oil production in 2010, whereas in 1990 it produced 57% of its total oil consumption. The UK Government projects ”severe” gas shortages by 2005 and it confirmed that 70% of the electricity will drawn from gas and 90% of gas will be imported. It is interesting to note that Iraq is said to have 110 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in addition to its approximately 15-20 % of the world oil reserves. 
 
Another research report by the Commission on America’s National Interests (July 2000), observes that the most promising new energy resources are found in the Caspian Sea, Central Asian region and these would spare the US exclusive dependence on the Saudi Arabian oil imports. The report outlined the feasible routes for the Caspian Seas oil deliveries, one hydrocarbon pipeline via Azerbaijan and Georgia and another pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan would ensure the future strategic demands of the US government. To review the documentary evidence of the 9/11 events, it is likely that many strategists have seen the U.S. Government’s failure to avert the 9/11 terrorist attacks as facilitating a much needed stage drama for its policy aims and an invaluable opportunity to attack Iraq and Afghanistan – a military intervention already well-planned in early 2000. The PNAC policy blueprint of September 2000 projects the transformation of U.S. power as an unchallengeable global superpower and the need for some tangible tragedy to make it happen. The paper states, it “is likely to be a long one in the absence of some catastrophic and catalyzing event- like a new Pearl Harbor.”  In his analytical view, Minister Michael Meacher (“This War on terrorism is Bogus”) states “… ‘global war on terrorism’ has the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda – the US goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies required to drive the whole project.”
 
Did the US hegemonic war achieve any of its set goals for world domination? Have the US and UK Governments secured any viable hydrocarbon energy routes to ensure their depleting gas and oil stocks and the much planned control over the Arab oil reserves? Is the US dollar still a welcomed international currency used by the world nations?
 
Mike Whitney quotes the retired U.S. Army General Ricardo Sanchez challenging the prevailing notion of the Bush Administration “Mission accomplished” in Iraq, when he asserted that the occupation of Iraq is a “nightmare with no end in sight.” The General claimed that the US administration is “incompetent” and “corrupt” and that the most U.S. people could hope for under the present circumstances is to “stave off defeat” in Iraq war.
 
Mike Whitney (“Come and see our overflowing morgues…..come and see the rubble of your surgical strikes”: An Arab Women Blues by Layla Anwar), elaborates that General Sanchez is neither against the war nor for withdrawal. He simply doesn’t like losing…. and the United Sates is losing.”

The General is reported to have admitted that “after more than four years of fighting , America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory in that war-torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism.”  Under President Barrack Obama, the global community looks anxiously on how and when the promised change will come to U.S. failed strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. How soon will the new President will be able to put the body of US politics together again after its moral, political and financial collapse? The U.S. and Britain appear to be lost, not knowing how to come out of the self-engineered defeat in wars against Islam.  Masses have sympathies with the true believers and the Islamic Resistance appears to have lost nothing. They had no banks to declare bankruptcy and they had no Bush and Cheney to go down in disgrace. The Mujahideen remain intact and active on all the fronts even buying weapons from the US and Russia to fight against them.
 
U.S. strategists know well how to do business in global arms market. As a declining superpower, the US is extremely nervous not knowing how soon it could be replaced by smaller nations of the developing world or a combination of new emerging economic powers such as China, India and others. The U.S. is in desperate need of a Navigational Change. President Obama got elected with the moving slogan – “Yes We Can.”  Would President Obama know how to make a navigational change when there is nothing left to navigate for Change?
 
Mike Whitney attempts to share a new humane perspective of the concerns of the Iraqi civilians who are the real victims of this ferocious war against their country. To reflect on how the adversely affected Iraqi people think about the on-going U.S.-British led war, occupation and continuous daily bombing of the civilian population, Layla Anwar, An Arab Women Blues writes in her website blog:

“Everyday, under the pretext of either al-Qaida, insurgents, militants or whatever imaginary name you coined, you have not ceased, not even for one day, slaughtering our innocents……for 4 years, you have not ceased for one single day, not during holiday periods, not during religious celebrations, not even during the day your so called God was born….if you have a God that is.”

Dr. Mahboob A. Khawaja, an academic with special interests in global peace and security and conflict resolution, and comparative civilizations and author of numerous publications in global affairs. His latest book includes: To America and Canada with Reason.  Comments are welcome: [email protected] 

An American activist once gave me a book she wrote detailing her experiences in Palestine. The largely visual volume documented her journey of the occupied West Bank, rife with barbered wires, checkpoints, soldiers and tanks. It also highlighted how Palestinians resisted the occupation peacefully, in contrast to the prevalent media depictions linking Palestinian resistance to violence.

More recently, I received a book glorifying non-violent resistance, and which referred to self-proclaimed Palestinian fighters who renounced violence as “converts”. The book elaborated on several wondrous examples of how these “conversions” came about. Apparently a key factor was the discovery that not all Israelis supported the military occupation. The fighters realized that an environment that allowed both Israelis and Palestinians to work together would be best for Palestinians seeking other, more effective means of liberation.

An American priest also explained to me how non-violent resistance is happening on an impressive scale. He showed me brochures he had obtained during a visit to a Bethlehem organization which teaches youth the perils of violence and the wisdom of non-violence. The organization and its founders run seminars and workshops and invite speakers from Europe and the United States to share their knowledge on the subject with the (mostly refugee) students.

Every so often, an article, video or book surfaces with a similar message: Palestinians are being taught non-violence; Palestinians are responding positively to the teachings of non-violence.

As for progressive and Leftist media and audiences, stories praising non-violence are electrifying, for they ignite a sense of hope that a less violent way is possible, that the teachings of Gandhi are not only relevant to India, in a specific time and space, but throughout the world, anytime.

These depictions repeatedly invite the question: where is the Palestinian Gandhi? Then, they invite the answer: a Palestinian Gandhi already exists, in numerous West Bank villages bordering the Israeli Apartheid Wall, which peacefully confront carnivorous Israeli bulldozers as they eat up Palestinian land.

In a statement marking a recent visit announcement by the group of Elders to the Middle East,

India’s Ela Bhatt, a ‘Gandhian advocate of non-violence’, explained her role in The Elders’ latest mission: “I will be pleased to return to the Middle East to show the Elders’ support for all those engaged in creative, non-violent resistance to the occupation – both Israelis and Palestinians.”

For some, the emphasis on non-violent resistance is a successful media strategy. You will certainly far more likely to get Charlie Rose’s attention by discussing how Palestinians and Israelis organize joint sit-ins than by talking about the armed resistance of some militant groups ferociously fighting the Israeli army.

For others, ideological and spiritual convictions are the driving forces behind their involvement in the non-violence campaign, which is reportedly raging in the West Bank. These realizations seem to be largely lead by Western advocates.

On the Palestinian side, the non-violent brand is also useful. It has provided an outlet for many who were engaged in armed resistance, especially during the Second Palestinian Intifada. Some fighters, affiliated with the Fatah movement, for example, have become involved in art and theater, after hauling automatic rifles and topping Israel’s most wanted list for years.

Politically, the term is used by the West Bank government as a platform that would allow for the continued use of the word moqawama, Arabic for resistance, but without committing to a costly armed struggle, which would certainly not go down well if adopted by the non-elected government deemed ‘moderate’ by both Israel and the United States.

Whether in subtle or overt ways, armed resistance in Palestine is always condemned. Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah government repeatedly referred to it as ‘futile’. Some insist it is a counterproductive strategy. Others find it morally indefensible.

The problem with the non-violence bandwagon is that it is grossly misrepresentative of the reality on the ground. It also takes the focus away from the violence imparted by the Israeli occupation – in its routine and lethal use in the West Bank, and the untold savagery in Gaza – and places it solely on the shoulders of the Palestinians.

As for the gross misrepresentation of reality, Palestinians have used mass non-violent resistance for generations – as early as the long strike of 1936. Non-violent resistance has been and continues to be the bread and butter of Palestinian moqawama, from the time of British colonialism to the Israeli occupation. At the same time, some Palestinians fought violently as well, compelled by a great sense of urgency and the extreme violence applied against them by their oppressors. It is similar to the way many Indians fought violently, even during the time that Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas were in full bloom.

Those who reduce and simplify India’s history of anti-colonial struggle are doing the same to Palestinians.

Misreading history often leads to an erroneous assessment of the present, and thus a flawed prescription for the future. For some, Palestinians cannot possibly get it right, whether they respond to oppression non-violently, violently, with political defiance or with utter submissiveness. The onus will always be on them to come up with solution, and do so creatively and in ways that suit our Western sensibilities and our often selective interpretations of Gandhi’s teachings. 

Violence and non-violence are mostly collective decisions that are shaped and driven by specific political and socio-economic conditions and contexts. Unfortunately, the violence of the occupier has a tremendous role in creating and manipulating these conditions. It is unsurprising that the Second Palestinian Uprising was much more violent than the first, and that violent resistance in Palestine gained a huge boost after the victory scored by the Lebanese resistance in 2000, and again in 2006.

These factors must be contemplated seriously and with humility, and their complexity should be taken into account before any judgments are made. No oppressed nation should be faced with the demands that Palestinians constantly face. There may well be a thousand Palestinian Gandhis. There may be none. Frankly, it shouldn’t matter. Only the unique experience of the Palestinian people and their genuine struggle for freedom could yield what Palestinians as a collective deem appropriate for their own. This is what happened with the people of India, France, Algeria and South Africa, and many others nations that sought and eventually attained their freedom.

- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com.

President Barack Obama began his longest campaign swing of the 2010 elections Wednesday, a four-day tour of the West Coast and Nevada to urge a vote for beleaguered Democratic Party candidates. At each stop, he warned that the outcome of the November 2 congressional election would set the direction of the country “for the next 20 years,” making dire predictions of the right-wing policies that a Republican-controlled Congress would carry out.

While his pseudo-populist rhetoric against Wall Street won applause at large rallies in Oregon and Washington, packed with college students, there is little practical difference between the policies the Obama administration is already implementing and the measures the Republicans would carry out if they return to power.

Obama suggested that the Republicans would “cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires,” “cut rules for special interests, including polluters” and “cut middle-class families loose to fend for themselves.” These charges would be a fair summary of the domestic policies of his own administration.

Continuing the bailout of Wall Street that was begun under Bush, the Obama administration has carried the largest handout of public funds to the wealthy in American history. This was followed up by the enactment last summer of a financial system “reform” bill so toothless that it punishes no one for the greatest outbreak of swindling in history.

The White House assiduously protected oil giant BP from the repercussions of the greatest environmental disaster in US history and last week lifted its moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

As for leaving ordinary families “to fend for themselves,” the Obama administration has imposed the burden of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression on working class families, rejecting any serious action as mass unemployment, mass poverty and mass foreclosures have become permanent features of American life.

In the month leading up to the November 2 election, Obama has alternated speeches bashing the Republicans as tools of Wall Street with actions that demonstrate that the Democrats are no less committed to the defense of the financial aristocracy.

On the same day Obama boarded Air Force One to travel to the West Coast, the top administration official in the foreclosure crisis, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, held a White House briefing to declare that “we have not found any evidence at this point of systemic issues” in the manufacture of hundreds of thousands of false legal documents by mortgage bankers.

Donovan rejected any blanket moratorium on foreclosures, claiming, “We are focused on the process early, to keep people in their homes, rather than focusing late, when it is much less likely that people will be able to stay in their homes.” Translated into plain English, the administration policy is to pressure homeowners not to fall behind on their payments, rather than to rescue those who face eviction.

In a column in the New Republic magazine, liberal commentator John B. Judis observed that on the question of home foreclosure, “President Obama’s approach more closely mirrors Herbert Hoover’s than FDR’s.” This was disastrous economically, he argued: “A recovery will depend on increasing consumer demand, not boosting bank capital. And to do that, the administration needs an effective program that will allow working Americans to liquidate their debts without being thrown out on the streets.”

The administration’s indifference was also disastrous politically, he complained, given that the states hardest hit by foreclosures include such electoral battlegrounds as Nevada, Florida, California, Michigan and Ohio. Judis concluded: “It’s the working-class voters who reluctantly backed Obama in 2008, but have been turned off by the impression that the administration cares more about the banks than about them. And there’s little in the administration’s rhetoric to persuade them otherwise.”

In his West Coast speeches, Obama sought to address the mounting economic discontent that is the driving force of the political debacle facing the Democratic Party. He admitted, “There’s no doubt this is a difficult election. It’s because we have been through an incredibly difficult time as a nation.”

This argument fails to explain, however, why the Republican Party has been able to make a political comeback—something it could not do in 1934, two years into the first term of Franklin Roosevelt, although unemployment was far higher than today and living conditions for broad masses of people were far worse.

Obama pointed to the record of the Republican administration of George W. Bush in the eight years that culminated in the Wall Street crash of 2008, but did not explain how, only two years later, this thoroughly corrupted and discredited party is on the verge of recapturing control of Congress.

Unlike Roosevelt, Obama has offered nothing in the way of public works programs to restore employment, or significant checks on the most flagrant forms of Wall Street speculation. This is not merely a personal failing, or, to put more it precisely, Obama’s obvious indifference to the plight of millions of working people is not peculiar to him. It is the attitude of the entire social class, the top one percent in American society, which all the Democratic and Republican politicians represent.

American capitalism is no longer able to provide any significant reform measures. It is an economically declining power, the largest debtor nation on the planet. Consequently, there is no constituency in the American financial aristocracy for economic policies that make any concessions to the masses. Hence the spectacle of record profits and bonuses on Wall Street, while the White House rejects any aid to jobless workers facing foreclosure and eviction.

White House officials concede, albeit not publicly and on the record, that they expect the Republican Party to win control of the House of Representatives, and the president’s main electoral focus has been to safeguard Democratic control of the Senate and of governorships of key states.

There are mounting indications that the administration not only expects to share power with the Republicans after November 2, but that the White House positively welcomes this prospect and is preparing a further shift to the right in both domestic and foreign policy.

In his interview with the New York Times magazine published on Sunday, Obama told reporter Peter Baker that Republican gains would not necessarily be a defeat for him. Baker wrote: “Obama expressed optimism to me that he could make common cause with Republicans after the midterm elections. ‘It may be that regardless of what happens after this election, they feel more responsible,’ he said, ‘either because they didn’t do as well as they anticipated, and so the strategy of just saying no to everything and sitting on the sidelines and throwing bombs didn’t work for them, or they did reasonably well, in which case the American people are going to be looking to them to offer serious proposals and work with me in a serious way.’”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell responded by telling the Associated Press that he hoped to work more closely with Obama on tax cuts, trade agreements and other economic policies.

White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s closest cronies, told the CBS program “The Early Show” Wednesday that Obama still held out hopes of bipartisan cooperation with the Republicans. “He’s not going to give up on that,” she said. “He’s going to keep trying, no matter who’s in Congress.”

Another area where bipartisan cooperation is already well established is in foreign policy, particularly in Obama’s continuation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he has had greater support among congressional Republicans than among some sections of the Democratic Party. Obama retained Bush’s secretary of defense, Robert Gates, and escalated the Afghanistan war as troops became available from Iraq.

Obama was notably silent on foreign policy in his remarks to the first two rallies on the West Coast, where opposition to the Iraq war has been strong. The word “Afghanistan” did not appear in speeches in Portland or Seattle, and there was only one passing reference to Iraq, when he boasted of having withdrawn 100,000 troops from that country—without mentioning that more US troops are now deployed in the two countries than when George W. Bush was president.

The Story of Cap and Trade

October 22nd, 2010 by The Story of Stuff Project

The Cuban Revolution: Challenges and Changes

October 22nd, 2010 by Dave Holmes

For more than 50 years tiny Cuba (its population is currently about 11.25 million) has punched well above its weight in world politics. That’s because it carried out an authentic socialist revolution and has ceaselessly fought to defend and extend it in the teeth of remorseless pressure from its giant neighbour.  This article was  presented as a talk to the Geelong branch of Socialist Alliance1 on October 6, 2010.The slideshow that accompanied the talk can be viewed in Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewa2l.

The Cuban Revolution has been marked by its tremendous internationalism, the high points of which have been its armed intervention in Angola in support of the struggle against the South African apartheid regime and its unstinting medical aid to the Third World.

The Cuban Revolution has shown that a Stalinist bureaucratic degeneration is not inevitable. There are bureaucrats in Cuba but the Fidelista leadership has largely managed to contain this danger by its constant vigilance, mass campaigns and appeals to the people.

Revolution faces biggest challenge

Today the Cuban Revolution arguably faces its biggest challenge. It is confronting severe economic problems. There appears to be a growing bureaucratic danger, an alarming growth of corruption, widespread popular recourse to the black economy in order to survive and a growing social differentiation among the population.

What makes all this even more challenging is that the historic generation which led the original revolutionary process is slowly passing from the scene. The imperialists (and more than a few people on the left) are convinced that the passing of Fidel and Raul will signal the collapse of the revolution.

In this talk I want to present this crisis in its context, to explain where it comes from, the current situation in broad outline and what changes the Cuban government is proposing.

ENORMOUS EXTERNAL PRESSURES

Whatever weaknesses that exist and mistakes that may have been made, the key background to Cuba’s current economic woes is the absolutely enormous external pressures bearing down on them –pressures of this magnitude would have destroyed any other country.

U.S. blockade

Foremost among these is the U.S. blockade. Begun in 1960 after Cuba nationalized U.S. enterprises, it is all-encompassing. As Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla recently described it, the blockade is an “economic, commercial and financial siege that has lasted half a century.”

A report prepared to be presented to the next session of the UN General Assembly puts the direct economic cost of the blockade to Cuba at US$750 billion.[1] To put this figure in perspective, it is approximately seven times Cuba’s current GDP of $110 billion.[2] That is, the blockade has cost Cuba seven years of development!

We might well wonder where would Cuba be today if there had been no blockade.

The innumerable bourgeois commentaries on Cuba’s economic problems rarely dwell, if at all, on the impact of the blockade. The imperialists and their flunkeys go on about how socialism doesn’t work but make absolutely no acknowledgement of their own –far from insignificant –contribution to Cuba’s problems!

Collapse of USSR

Almost from the start, the Soviet Union’s support for Cuba was hugely important to its survival. For instance, the USSR bought Cuba’s sugar and citrus crop at preferential (i.e., fair trade) prices and supplied oil and other aid in return.

Of course, Cuba was negatively influenced by various Soviet ideas and practices but if it had not had Moscow’s backing it might not have survived.

The 1991 collapse of the USSR meant Cuba immediately lost 80% of its exports and imports. This ushered in a desperate struggle for survival –literally. GDP fell by a third. People almost starved. These years are called in Cuba “the special period in time of peace.” The worst time was the early to mid-nineties.

Today, living standards on the island are still below the 1989 level.

‘Natural’ disasters

If all this were not enough, in 2008 Cuba was severely affected by climate change. Three hurricanes –Gustav, Ike and then Paloma –pounded the island, causing around $10 billion of damage.

Ike was the most destructive hurricane in Cuba’s history. The nickel plants were damaged, crops were hit. The already bad housing situation was seriously worsened; hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed and a great many dwellings remain in dire need of repair.

And on top of the devastating hurricanes, Cuba is in the grip of drought. Although Cuba is normally lush and wet, in the face of climate change that doesn’t mean what it used to. The country’s water storages are currently only about 40% full and the population is being urged to save water. In 2004 a severe drought hit agriculture hard in the east of the island.

Collapse of nickel price

Cuba is a major world supplier of nickel and cobalt. It has a third of the world’s proven reserves of nickel, which is essential in the production of stainless steel and other corrosion-resistant alloys. Cuba also produces about 10% of the world’s cobalt, a critical metal in the production of high-performance alloys.

In April 2007 the price of nickel reached $52,000 per tonne, but at the end of 2008 it had crashed to about $9,000. It has since climbed back to around $20,000. In 2007 nickel brought in $2.8 billion and was Cuba’s leading export earner but this figure fell to $1.5 billion in the following year.

Cuba’s nickel is sold mainly to Canada, China and the Netherlands. (The Canadian multinational Sherritt operates a big nickel plant as a joint-venture with the Cuban government.)[3]

Development of tourism

Tourism has developed massively in the last two decades and in 2009 some 2.4 million holidaymakers visited the island. Tourism earns the country about $2 billion per year although receipts dropped 12% in 2009 due to the global financial crisis (the number of visits held up but stays were shorter and less money was spent).

Most of the hotels and resorts are joint ventures between Spanish and Canadian operators with the Cuban government.

However, important as tourism is to the national economy, it also brings with it some very serious problems. Especially worrying is the social differentiation which results as some Cubans have access to higher earnings and foreign currency (tips, payments in kind, selling services and goods to tourists). Prostitution has also staged a certain comeback, although it cannot be compared to either the past or to other Latin American countries.

Tips of tourism workers are meant to be handed over to the state but this is probably unenforceable.

The importance of nickel and tourism as export earners takes place against a backdrop of the decline of the once mighty sugar industry. Production was 8 million tons before the collapse of the USSR, the projection for 2010 is only 1.2 million tons. The government is trying to attract foreign investment.

Venezuela

The development of the revolutionary process in Venezuela has been a life-saving boost for Cuba. Apart from the enormous lift in morale –the feeling that they are no longer alone –there have been very material benefits.

Venezuela is now Cuba’s main source of imports (31% in 2008). The special relationship with Venezuela has also meant credits for projects at low interest rates and various joint ventures.

Cuba has sent tens of thousands of health workers to Venezuela (in 2006 the figure reached 33,000) and these have been vital in enabling the key medical “mission” Barrio Adentro to get off the ground.

Cuba is also helping to train Venezuelan doctors and thousands of Venezuelans have received surgical treatment in Cuba (50,000 got free eye surgery in 2005). In return Cuba gets vital oil cheaply from Venezuela.

A fibre-optic cable is being laid from Venezuela to Cuba via some other island countries. When this is finished Cuba will at last have access to cheap high-speed internet connections. (At the moment Cuba pays a Canadian company through the nose for a slow connection.)

China-Cuba relations growing

Developing economic relations with China has also been very important. China has supplied Cuba with buses and trains and household goods, it has provided long-term credits and takes a significant amount of Cuba’s nickel output. China is also playing a role in helping Cuba prospect for oil offshore.

Having a trade relationship with China is very important in offsetting the U.S. blockade. China is simply too big to be pushed around by Washington.

ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

Current economic situation

Here are some basic facts about Cuba’s economic situation:

1. Between 2001 and 2003, the Cuban economy grew at an average annual rate of 2.9%; between 2004 to 2007, the figure was 9.3%. In 2008 GDP growth dropped to 4.1% and in 2009 to 1.4%.

2. Cuba’s earnings from the export of goods have been hard hit by the fall in commodity prices –primarily nickel (40% of total exports in 2009) but also sugar (13%).

3. At the same time the cost of key imports (fuel and food) has risen significantly. As a result, Cuba’s balance of payments for the export and import of goods is heavily in deficit –in 2009 it was $6.5 billion.

4. This deficit is only balanced by the massive export of services. This is made up of tourism receipts ($2.2 billion gross in 2007) and payment (mainly from Venezuela) for the provision of medical personnel (estimated at over $5 billion in 2007). One inescapable problem of this heavy reliance on the export of services is that it is largely dependent on factors outside Cuba’s control, i.e., Chavez and the Venezuelan revolutionary process and the vagaries of the tourism market.

5. Another very important source of hard currency is remittances from Cubans living abroad, mainly in the U.S. These are estimated at $600 million to $1 billion annually. The downside, however, is that the remittances create a division between those Cubans who have access to them and those who don’t.

6. Food comprises a large part of Cuba’s imports (17% in 2009). 70% of its food is imported. In 2008 it spent $2.2 billion on importing food –567,000 tons of rice and 246,000 tons of dried beans cost it $700 million. Replacing expensive imports with locally produced food is a major objective of the Cuban government. A big part of this is to encourage more people to take up farming and make the conditions of agriculture much more attractive.

7. At the beginning of 2009 a crisis in servicing its foreign debt ($19.5 billion) led the government to freeze around $1 billion in the bank accounts of foreign firms. A lot of these funds are still frozen.

Two-tier currency

Cuba has a two-tier currency system, designed to impose a hefty tax on all foreign currency brought into the country, whether by tourists, remittances or business.

There are ordinary pesos and convertible pesos (CUCs). All foreign currency has to be converted in CUCs. U.S. dollars attract fees and taxes of about 20%; other currencies only 10%.

There is a network of special shops (“dollar shops”) selling all sorts of goods at much higher prices. These stores take only convertible pesos.

This system is very unpopular with those ordinary Cubans who have no access to CUCs. The government has pledged to eliminate the CUC and has made a small start this year.

Daily struggle

Eighty-eight per cent of Cuban workers are employed by state. Only 12% work in the private sector (private farmers, artists) –this includes 142,000 self-employed (less than 3% of total workforce).

The average wage in Cuba is about $20 per month. However, there are no taxes on this income, healthcare and education are free, people own their homes or pay a only a very small rent to the state.

In addition there is the libreta, the ration system. In place since 1962, the libreta allows everyone to purchase from list of basic commodities at subsidized prices.

But today the ration only covers about half the month. Furthermore, over the last few years it has been reduced. For instance, last November potatoes and peas were removed from the libreta. Previously Cubans could buy 4 pounds of potatoes per month at about 1 cent per pound. Now they can buy as much as they like but at 5 cents per pound.

The government simply cannot afford to keep the libreta going as before and there is even talk of phasing it out completely.

The net result of inadequate wages and pensions and the inadequate libreta is that most people are forced to supplement their income with various kinds of activities.

Social inequality is growing as some people are better placed, that is, their jobs enable them –one way or another –to more easily get precious CUCs.

Black economy

The black (non-official) economy encompasses a whole range of activities, from the largely harmless to the seriously criminal and everything in between. There is a very informative study on this by Canadian academic Arch Ritter (although he is very anti-Fidel).[4]

Some examples include: Selling homemade crafts to tourists, selling homemade food on the street; paying extra or bribes to get scarce goods or services; stealing goods from the state and selling them; using a state car as a private taxi; selling jobs in the lucrative tourist sector with prized access to dollars (tips and services).

A 2007 study by the Communist Youth (UJC) found that more than 282,000 young people in Cuba neither worked nor studied; a lot of these are concentrated in Havana. Obviously they get by one way or another. But such facts cause great popular resentment and undermine social morale.[5]

Mere prohibitions and increased vigilance by police and law enforcement bodies won’t solve the problem of the black economy when weighty economic realities are driving people towards it en masse simply to survive.

REFORM PLAN

Raul Castro argues for reform

On April 4, 2010 Raul Castro addressed the congress of the Communist Youth League (UJC). He set out the main considerations behind the reforms which have been announced throughout the year:

Today, more than ever before, the economic battle is the main task and focus of the ideological work of the cadres, because the sustainability and the preservation of our social system rest upon this work.

Without a sound and dynamic economy and without the removal of superfluous expenses and waste, it will neither be possible to improve the living standard of the population nor to preserve and improve the high levels of education and health care ensured to every citizen free of charge.

Without an efficient and robust agriculture that we can develop with the resources available to us –without even dreaming of the large allocations of times past –we can’t hope to sustain and increase the amount of food provided to the population, that still depend so much on the import of products that might be cultivated in Cuba.

If people do not feel the need to work for a living because they are covered by excessively paternalistic and irrational state regulations, we will never be able to stimulate a love for work nor will we resolve the chronic lack of construction, farming and industrial workers; teachers, police and other indispensable trades that have steadily been disappearing.

If we do not build a firm and systematic social rejection of illegal activities and different manifestations of corruption, more than a few will continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the labour of the majority, while spreading attitudes that directly attack the essence of socialism.

If we maintain inflated payrolls in nearly every sector of national life and pay salaries that fail to correspond to results achieved, thus raising the amount of money in circulation, we cannot expect prices to cease climbing constantly or prevent the deterioration of people’s purchasing power. We know that the budgeted and business sectors have hundreds of thousands of excess workers; some analysts estimate that the surplus of people in work positions exceeds one million . . .

In summary, to continue spending beyond our income is tantamount to consuming our future and jeopardizing the very survival of the revolution.[6]

Reform plan

There are a number of key points to the reform plan:

1. One million workers are to be cut from the state payroll over five years; half a million by next March.

2. Many smaller state enterprises in light industry and agriculture are to be converted to worker cooperatives, so hopefully a lot of workers will remain in their current workplaces but under different ownership and remuneration arrangements.

3. 178 occupations are now open to private enterprise; in 83 of these owners can hire workers other than relatives.

4. Previously announced agricultural reforms aim to make farming easier and more attractive: land is freely available in usufruct to those who want to farm; purchases of equipment and supplies is to be localized and made easier; produce prices raised; restrictions on selling are to be significantly eased.

5. An essential corollary of this is that the tax system is to be revamped so that the government can profit from all the increased private activity –without, of course, killing it off.

Reforms: aims and risks

The economic reforms have a number of interrelated objectives:

1. To trim the state payroll and increase the productivity of the state sector.

2. To increase economic efficiency by stimulating people’s self-interest.

3. To draw people out of the black economy into open legal economic activity which can be regulated and taxed.

4. To increase make Cuban agriculture a lot more productive, increase food production and reduce or eliminate the huge food import bill.

5. To make daily life less stressful by making things easier: having services that work, food readily available.

6. Obviously, along with the reforms, the state will need to significantly raise wages and pensions.

There are very real risks. We know that the market always creates inequality and a stronger petty-bourgeois layer. There will need to be a strong regulatory and tax regime. Of course, bourgeois critics –and Cuba has whole armies of them –never worry about such things: the right to exploit and profit is presumably an inalienable human right.

However, despite the risks, Cuba has no real choice. It is trying to establish a clear framework so that it can improve the country’s economic performance and maintain all the gains of the revolution.

BUREAUCRACY AND CORRUPTION

Over the past year or so there have been a number of very disturbing incidents which show there are some real problems in the party and state apparatus. But they also show that no one, even the most high-ranking officials, is unaccountable or above having to answer for their actions.

Top leaders dismissed

In March 2009 a number of central leaders were dismissed from their state and party posts for serious errors. Most prominent among them were Carlos Lage Davila, Politiburo member and effectively Cuba’s prime minister since 1986, and Felipe Perez Roque, Central Committee member and foreign minister.

According to a June 29, 2009, Inter Press Service article:

Raúl Castro’s moves were aimed at eliminating “test tube” leaders –a term that refers to young people who leapt from youth organizations to powerful positions –and at putting an end to parallel structures of power in order to strengthen the country’s institutions … Disloyalty, erratic behaviour, dishonesty and abuse of power are the main charges against those involved … [7]

Lage and Perez did favours for Lage’s lifelong friend Conrado Hernández and talked with him far more freely than they should have. Hernández was a representative for Basque businesses in Cuba. He was also an informant for Spanish intelligence (CNI). Through him the CNI made recordings of Lage and Perez slagging off Fidel, Raul and other top leaders.

Lage had ambitions to the post of first vice-president of the Councils of State and Ministers, which was instead given to José Ramón Machado Ventura in February 2008.

In one of his periodic “reflections” touching on the affair, Fidel said that “the sweet nectar of power for which they hadn’t experienced any type of sacrifice awoke ambitions in them that led them to play out a disgraceful role. The enemy outside built up their hopes with them.”[8]

Reportedly, Lage now works as a pediatrician, Perez as an electrical engineer.

In fact, a large part of the Cuban cabinet was replaced in the first part of last year, either for being too close to foreign business or being ineffective in dealing with corruption.

Rogelio Acevedo

In April 2010 the head of the Civil Aeronautics Institute of Cuba, General Rogelio Acevedo, was dismissed. As a teenager he had fought in the Sierra Maestra and was a veteran of the war in Angola.

He and/or people in his department sold space on Cuban airliners to foreign companies and kept the proceeds for themselves. Apparently, they even planned to buy a plane themselves for several million dollars to cater for their growing business. The ripples of the investigation have spread wider and wider.[9]

Inspection department set up

In August 2009 a Comptroller General’s Department was established. Its charter is to monitor government departments and crack down on corruption. The current Comptroller General is Gladys Bejerano Portela.

An inspection department like this is obviously needed but is only part of the solution to a problem with deep roots. Hopefully if the new reforms work and the material situation of the population eases, some of the pressures promoting corruption will also ease. But of course a lot of corruption seems to take place where foreign companies interact with Cuban entities and that is not going to change.

In a widely noted speech in 2005 Fidel warned that while the revolution could not be overthrown by external intervention, it could be undermined from within –by corruption and the spread of a self-seeking culture in the apparatus.

Esteban Morales affair

In April this year, 68-year-old academic and longtime Communist Party member Esteban Morales was expelled from the party because of an article he wrote –“Corruption, the True Counter-Revolution.” Here are some passages:

When we closely observe Cuba’s internal situation today, we can have no doubt that the counter-revolution, little by little, is taking positions at certain levels of the state and government.

Without a doubt, it is becoming evident that there are people in positions of government and state who are girding themselves financially for when the revolution falls, and others may have everything almost ready to transfer state-owned assets to private hands, as happened in the old USSR …

… corruption is a lot more dangerous than the so-called domestic dissidence. The latter is still isolated; it lacks an alternative program, has no real leaders, no masses. But corruption turns out to be the true counter-revolution, which can do the most damage because it is within the government and the state apparatus, which really manage the country’s resources.

He refers to the Carlos Lage and Perez Roque cases as well as Rogelio Acevedo. He stresses that the U.S. and other intelligence services are keenly studying what happens in Cuba:

They’re looking for confirmation for the words of the commander-in-chief, watching closely what happens every day in Cuba, digging into everything that may allow them to find out where is the real counter-revolutionary force in Cuba, a force that can topple the revolution, a force that appears to be not below but above, in the very levels of government and the state apparatus.[10]

The alarming thing is that this trenchant anti-bureaucratic polemic from the left got its author expelled from the party. Morales appealed but this was rejected. What is going on? This is hardly a good sign. It can only serve to intimidate those Communist Party members who want to raise real concerns.

OTHER PROBLEMS

‘Dissidents’

In March 2003, 75 people were jailed as paid U.S. agents. From that moment on they were 75 “political prisoners” to the West and its media. Most have now been released, the latest batch were freed in July and went to Spain –where a number of them subsequently complained that the authorities seemed to have lost interest in them!

Another manufactured “prisoner of conscience” was Orlando Zapata Tamayo who starved himself to death in prison in February. He was not a political prisoner but had been jailed for fairly serious criminal acts. Cuban doctors did everything possible to save his life (as acknowledged by his mother). But he was hailed by Washington and the European Union as a “political prisoner.” (A trenchant article by French academic Salim Lamrani sets out the issues.[11])

Party congress

The Communist Party congress (the last one was held in 1997) was to have been held in November 2009 but at the Central Committee meeting in August 2009 it was postponed without any new date being set. As Raul said: “Because of the laws of life, this will be the last [congress] led by the historic leadership of the revolution.”[12]

The reason given for the postponement was the need to decide on how to tackle the problems of the economy. Also, arrangements for the post-Fidel and Raul era will have to be finalized and all this needs more preparation.

Transition of leadership

The leadership generation that led the original revolution is slowly passing from the scene. They have fought world imperialism without flinching for over 50 years but they can’t defy the laws of physiology.

There are many people on the left who think that when Fidel and Raul gone and if the embargo is lifted, the Cuban Revolution will be finished. I don’t think this is anything like a certainty; there are many possibilities. There is a significant part of the population which fervently believes in the revolution and will fight to preserve it. But it is undeniable that Fidel has played an historic role. He has been an enormous factor in the equation of the struggle, just like Lenin before him.

The leadership transition that has been going on for some time is critical. A number of “test-tube communists” who looked very good for a while revealed fatal weaknesses. Hopefully, this is a relatively limited phenomenon and the Communist Party will push forward the leaders that the hour demands.

A useful chart and review showing the personnel making up the central Cuban party and state bodies as of April 16, 2009 has been prepared by the Open Source Center, a U.S. government intelligence body. Since this was published there have been some changes due to death (e.g., Juan Almeida), change of responsibilities or sacking (e.g., Rogelio Acevedo).[13]

CONCLUSION

Imperialists howling

Imperialism will never be reconciled to the Cuban Revolution. The reason is simple. Notwithstanding all its problems, Cuba shows what a socialist revolution can do. It is a constant negation of the madness of capitalism, a demonstration to the Third World –and not only it –that there is indeed an alternative path of development, that it is possible to build a society which really does put people’s needs first.

George Bush set up his Cuba “transition office” to plan for the restoration of the “free market” once the revolution has been overthrown or collapsed. Obama is less crude but we can be absolutely sure the U.S. is still plotting and scheming to effect regime change in Cuba.

As Esteban Morales pointed out, the imperialists are undoubtedly counting on the internal weaknesses of the revolution. They hope that the current forced turn to the market will provide openings for capitalism.

And imperialism will keep banging on about human rights in Cuba. Considering the record of the United States, both at home and abroad, this is hypocrisy on a truly cosmic scale! But with the media behind you, mere facts don’t present any insurmountable obstacle.

Revolution still fighting

The Cuban revolutionaries will struggle no matter what. But as we know, there is no socialism in one country and Cuba’s future is tied up with development of the international struggle –particularly with the progress of the revolution in Latin America.

That said, making the necessary reforms at home remains vital to easing some of the most pressing problems bedevilling Cuba and giving it a much-needed breathing space.

It is also important to understand that if the Cuban Revolution has its problems so does the other side. U.S. imperialism’s quest for world domination has not been going so well lately.

Ever since 1959 the Cuban Revolution has been a tremendous example and inspiration to the revolutionary and progressive forces around the world. It has shown the power of the people united behind a revolutionary leadership. It has shown that bureaucratic degeneration is not inevitable, that the danger of Stalinism can be contained. And in an historically unprecedented way, Cuba’s medical aid abroad has shown what human solidarity is capable of.

The Cuban Revolution is our revolution too and we should do everything we can to spread the truth and support it.

Dave Holmes is a leader of the Socialist Alliance1 in Melbourne. This and other writings are also available at Dave Holmes’ blog, Arguing for Socialism3.

Notes

  1. See “U.S. Blockade Causes Billions in Losses to Cuba4.”
  2. Cuba’s GDP at the official exchange rate is US$56 billion but calculated at PPP (purchasing power parity) it is $110 billion according to the CIA website at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cu.html5.
  3. For some basic facts on the Cuban economy see http://www.traveldocs.com/cu/economy.htm6.
  4. See http://www.cubasource.org/pdf/economic_illegalities.pdf#search=7.
  5. Patricia Grogg, “The Challenge of Boosting Productivity,” Inter Press Service, April 30, 2008, http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=421918.
  6. See http://machetera.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/raul-castros-address-to-cubas-young-communist-league/9.
  7. See http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=4742110.
  8. See http://www.juventudrebelde.co.cu/cuba/2009-03-04/healthy-changes-in-the-council-of-ministers/11.
  9. See http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=2234812.
  10. See http://progreso-weekly.com/2/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1589:corruption-the-true-counter-revolution&catid=36:in-cuba&Itemid=5413.
  11. See http://www.voltairenet.org/article164489.html#article16448914.
  12. See http://www.france24.com/en/20090801-raul-castro-postpones-key-communist-party-congress-15.
  13. See http://www.fas.org/irp/world/cuba/chart.pdf16 and http://www.fas.org/irp/world/cuba/overview.pdf17.

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US announces Saudi arms sale of up to 60 billion dollars

The United States announced an arms deal with Saudi Arabia on Wednesday worth up to 60 billion dollars that includes advanced fighter jets, helicopters, missiles and other weaponry and equipment, dpa reported.

The deal that will be implemented over 15 to 20 years is the largest US arms deal ever.

The deal proposes the sale of 84 F-15 fighters jets to Saudi Arabia and upgrades older 70 F-15s previously purchased by the Saudi government, Andrew Shapiro, the State Department’s assistant secretary for political and military affairs said.

The helicopters included in the deal are 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks and 36 Little Birds, Shapiro said. Also in the package are an assortment of advanced missiles, bombs, radar and other equipment.

The Obama administration formally notified Congress of the sale, which is required under such a massive agreement.

The Obama administration decided to proceed with a deal after evaluating Saudi’s defence needs and determining would would not diminish Israel’s military edge in the region, and concluded the deal would promote security and stability in the Middle East.

http://rt.com/Politics/2010-10-21/coup-detat-ecuador-president.html
[Video at URL above]

“There’s no doubt it was an attempted coup, I will support my position with arguments a bit later,” said Rafael Correa. “In our country the opposition can say whatever they like. It is believed here that being in the opposition means denying obvious things, they are even ready to argue that a circle has right-angles, and if I had died that day, they would have said that I committed suicide.”

“Presumably, a certain part of society – in this case, armed people, national police – expressed their discontent with the new law they haven’t even read to the end,” the president added. “The law is a good one, all this has happened because of misleading information.”

Speaking on how the takeover was organized, he emphasized that the attempt was well-planned. “They were not acting on their own. Their actions were co-ordinated by political groups – that’s what I would like to stress. Those groups stayed in the shadow, waiting for the outcome of this attempted coup d’etat. But the attempt failed.”

The Ecuadorian president went on to share some details of that tragic day.

“They blocked the presidential cortege and pinned the tires. Therefore, it was evident from the very beginning, that it was a political trap, and there was no wish to carry out dialogue. We heard no demands to raise salaries. It was a political scenario. ‘Long live Lucio Guttieres’ – this is the country’s former president, who is behind all this. That’s why I opened the window and tried to explain the situation, but they continued interrupting and insulting me. As we knew about the looting and as we realized it was a political trap, I said: ‘If you want to kill me, kill me, but don’t destroy our homeland.’ They didn’t have the guts to do so. Later on, when the coup failed, they did try to kill the president, which can be seen from the recordings and was confirmed by numerous pieces of evidence. The room I stayed in was attacked by gunfire, as well as the presidential car – anyone can take a look at those shots.”

Rafael Correa spoke about some international ties that played their role in the event.

“A few days before the clashes on the 30th September, seven opposition members of the National Assembly made a trip to the United States where, in Washington, they met with the ultra-right who, as we know, finance the opposition groups’ activity,” he said. “We do not have proof that they financed the events of September 30th, but we can prove that they finance the opposition’s activity. Interests of different people meet here: the tough core of the corrupted police – there are 42,000 people working for the police, and this group counts less than 200 – and the Ecuadorian political groups, who know that they will not win over at the election, and who want to defeat us using arms, and also there are foreign groups who are constantly making efforts to destabilize work of progressive governments.”

The president also talked about the impact the tough experience had on him.

“I would say I am the same person I was before September 30th. But it was certainly an experience. Five people were killed and I can’t stop thinking about that. I keep asking myself what I could have done to avoid it. The fact that I was so close to death has left an imprint on me of course. I am still worried. Children write to me, asking me to start smiling again. I have to do that,” the president said.

Afghanistan: US military death toll reaches 400

October 22nd, 2010 by Global Research

KABUL: A NATO soldier from US was killed following “an insurgent attack” in eastern Afghanistan, taking the death toll of American soldiers to 400 this year, the alliance said on Thursday.

The soldier was killed on Thursday, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.

The statement released no further details in line with ISAF policy.

The death brings to 598 the number of foreign troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year.

The total for 2009, the second deadliest year, was 521, including 317 American soldiers.

US troops are stationed in eastern provinces under ISAF command.

In keeping with the global trend manifested in other strategically vital areas of the world, the United States and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – a consortium of all major Western military (including nuclear) powers and former colonial empires – are increasing their military presence in Southeast Asia with special emphasis on the geopolitically critical Strait of Malacca.

The latter is one of the world’s most important shipping lanes and major strategic chokepoints.

In an opinion piece The Times of London granted to George Robertson and Paddy Ashdown – the first a former NATO secretary general and current Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, the other a past intelligence officer and the West’s viceroy in Bosnia at the beginning of the decade who nearly reprised the role in Afghanistan two years ago – in June of 2008 which in part rued the fact that “For the first time in more than 200 years we are moving into a world not wholly dominated by the West.” [1]

In fact for the first time in half a millennium the founding members of NATO in Europe and North America are confronted with a planet not largely or entirely under their control.

With the elimination of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its network of allies around the world a generation ago, the prospect of the West reestablishing uncontested worldwide domination appeared a more viable option than it had at any time since the First World War.

Much as the British Empire had done earlier in positioning its navy and its military outposts overlooking maritime access points to monitor and control vital shipping lanes and to block adversaries’ transit of military personnel and materiel, the West now collectively envisions regaining lost advantages and gaining new ones in areas of the world previously inaccessible to its military penetration.

Southeast Asia is one such case. Divided during the colonial epoch between Britain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain (with the U.S. supplanting the last-named in the Philippines in 1898), it has a combined population of approximately 600 million, two-thirds that of the Western Hemisphere and almost three-quarters that of Europe.

The Strait of Malacca runs for 600 miles between Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore to the east and the Indonesian island of Sumatra to the west. According to the United Nations International Maritime Organization, at least  50,000 ships pass through the strait annually, transporting 30 percent of the goods traded in the world including oil from the Persian Gulf to major East Asian nations like China, Japan and South Korea. As many as 20 million barrels of oil a day pass through the Strait of Malacca, an amount that will only increase with the further advance of the Asian Century.

When the U.S. went to war against Iraq in 1991, notwithstanding claims concerning Kuwait’s territorial integrity and fictitious accusations of infants being torn from incubators in the country’s capital, one of the major objectives was to demonstrate to a new unipolar world that Washington had its hand on the global oil spigot. That it controlled the flow of Persian Gulf oil north and west to Europe and east to Asia, especially to the four nations that import the most oil next to the United States: Japan, China, South Korea and India. The first three receive Persian Gulf oil primarily by tankers passing through the Strait of Malacca.

The U.S. Department of Energy has provided a comprehensive yet concise blueprint for the Pentagon to act on:

“Chokepoints are narrow channels along widely used global sea routes. They are a critical part of global energy security due to the high volume of oil traded through their narrow straits. The Strait of Hormuz leading out of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Malacca linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans are two of the world’s most strategic chokepoints. Other important passages include: Bab el-Mandab which connects the Arabian Sea with the Red Sea; the Panama Canal and the Panama Pipeline connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans; the Suez Canal and the Sumed Pipeline linking the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea; and the Turkish/Bosporus Straits joining the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea region to the Mediterranean Sea.” [2]

The U.S. has moved its military into the Black Sea and Central Asia as well as into the Persian Gulf, and two years ago the Pentagon inaugurated U.S. Africa Command primarily to secure oil supplies and transport in Africa’s Gulf of Guinea and in the Horn of Africa.

The Strait of Malacca is the main channel connecting the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. On its southeastern end it flows into the South China Sea where the natural resource-rich Paracel and Spratly island groups are contested between China on the one hand and several members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the other. The Spratly Islands are claimed in part by ASEAN member states Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam as well as Taiwan. The Paracel Islands were seized by China in a naval battle with South Vietnam in 1974.

The U.S. deployed the USS George Washington nuclear-powered supercarrier and the USS John S. McCain destroyer to the South China Sea in August for the first joint military exercise ever conducted by the U.S. and (unified) Vietnam, three weeks after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said while attending the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in the Vietnamese capital that “The United States…has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea,” adding “The United States is a Pacific nation, and we are committed to being an active partner with ASEAN.” 

Clinton’s trip to Hanoi was preceded by visits to the capitals of Pakistan, Afghanistan and South Korea, all three Asian nations solidly in the U.S. military orbit. While in the last country she traveled to the Demilitarized Zone separating South from North Korea with Pentagon chief Robert Gates, in the first such joint visit by U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War (which led to war with China within three months).

Four days after Clinton left Seoul the U.S. launched the Invincible Spirit joint war games in the East Sea/Sea of Japan with South Korea, the following month the latest of annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises with 30,000 American and 56,000 South Korean troops, and in September anti-submarine drills in the Yellow Sea. [3]

Reflecting on Clinton’s statements at July’s ASEAN summit, Malaysian-based journalist and analyst Kazi Mahmoud wrote:

“Washington is using the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional group for a bigger military purpose and this strategy is becoming clear to observers due to the U.S. push for greater influence in Asia.

By reaching out to nations like Vietnam, Laos and even Myanmar (Burma) as it has lately – ASEAN consists of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam – “The United States is fomenting a long-term strategy to contain both China and Russia in Southeast Asia….Before the Afghan war, the Americans could count on Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia along with Brunei in the region. Today the U.S. has Vietnam and Cambodia on its side.” (In July U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Army Pacific led the Angkor Sentinel 2010 multinational exercises in Cambodia.)

Furthermore, Washington’s recruitment of ASEAN nations, initially over territorial disputes with China, will lead to “turn[ing] ASEAN into
a…military corps to fight for American causes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen
and surely Georgia and North Korea….Once the U.S. has achieved such goals, it will control the Malacca Straits and the seaways of the region.” [4]

Non-ASEAN nations Taiwan, with which the U.S. formalized a $6.4 billion arms deal earlier this year [5], is involved in a Spratly Islands territorial dispute with China and Japan is at loggerheads with China over what it calls the Senkaku Islands and China the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

On October 11 U.S. Defense Secretary Gates met with Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa at the ASEAN defense ministers’ meeting in Hanoi, and the “defense chiefs agreed in their talks…that their countries will jointly respond in line with a bilateral security pact toward stability in areas in the East China Sea covering the Senkaku Islands that came into the spotlight in disputes between Japan and China….” [6]

The pact in question is the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the United States signed in 1960, comparable to mutual military assistance arrangements the Pentagon has with Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand in the Asia-Pacific region. “It is also developing a strong strategic relationship with Vietnam, of all places. It is also working hard on Indonesia and Malaysia, both of which have indicated they want to get closer to Washington.” [7]

During the Shangri-La Dialogue defense ministers’ meeting in Singapore this June Gates stated: “My government’s overriding obligation to allies, partners and the region is to reaffirm America’s security commitments in the region.” [8]

Singapore and, since July, Malaysia are official Troop Contributing Countries for NATO’s war in Afghanistan. In June Malaysia and Thailand joined this year’s version of the annual U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises, the largest in the world (with 20,000 troops, 34 ships, five submarines and over 100 aircraft this year), hosted by the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. RIMPAC 2010 marked the two Southeast Asian nations’ first participation in the war games. Other nations involved were the U.S., Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, Peru, Singapore and South Korea.

In addition to occupying Afghanistan with 152,000 U.S. and NATO troops, building an Afghan army and air force under the West’s command, and integrating Pakistan in joint commissions with the U.S. and NATO [9], Washington is also consolidating a strategic military partnership with India. Last October the U.S. Army participated in the latest and largest of Yudh Abhyas (training for war) war games held since 2004 with its Indian counterpart. Exercise Yudh Abhyas 2009 featured 1,000 troops, the U.S.’s Javelin anti-tank missile system and the first deployment of American Stryker armored combat vehicles outside the Afghan and Iraqi war theaters. [10]

The U.S. has also been holding annual naval exercises codenamed Malabar with the world’s second most populous country and in the past four years has broadened them into a multinational format with the inclusion of Canada, Australia, Japan and Singapore.

Malabar 2007 was conducted in the Bay of Bengal, immediately north of the Strait of Malacca, and included 25 warships from five nations: The U.S., India, Australia, Japan and Singapore.

This September 28 India and Japan held their first army-to-army talks in New Delhi which “aimed at reviewing the present status of engagements, military cooperation and military security issues….” Japan thus became the ninth country with which the Indian Army has a bilateral dialogue, joining the U.S., Britain, France, Australia, Bangladesh, Israel, Malaysia and Singapore. At the same time the Indian Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Naik, was on a “three-day goodwill visit” to Japan to meet with his Japanese counterpart, Air Self-Defense Force chief of staff General Kenichiro Hokazono. [11]

On October 14 the Pentagon launched the latest bilateral Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) and Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) in the Philippines, with over 3,000 U.S. troops and six ships and aircraft involved.

If a recurrence of the 1974 Battle of the Paracel Islands or the 1988 Chinese-Vietnamese clash over the Spratly Islands erupts between China and other claimants, the U.S. is poised to intervene.

On October 13 South Korea for the first time hosted an exercise of the U.S.-formed Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) naval interdiction operation, launched by President George W. Bush in 2003 with initial emphasis on Asia but which in the interim has assumed a global scope. [12]

To end on October 22, it involves the participation of 14 nations including the U.S., Canada, France, Australia and Japan, which are contributing a guided missile destroyer, maritime patrol planes and anti-submarine helicopters.

Six years ago Admiral Thomas Fargo, at the time head of U.S. Pacific Command, promoted a Regional Maritime Security Initiative which was described as “grow[ing] out of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)” and designed to “deploy US marines with high-speed boats to guard the Malacca Straits….” [13] Both Indonesia and Malaysia objected to the plan to station American military forces off their coasts.

In January of 2009 NATO announced plans for the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), part of the NATO Response Force of up to 25,000 troops designed for global missions, to engage in “a six-month deployment to the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean” and to travel “through areas such as the Strait of Malacca, Java and the South China sea, an area of the world that is not frequented by NATO fleets.” [14] The Indian Ocean, which the Pentagon divides between its Central Command, Africa Command and Pacific Command, is now also being patrolled by NATO warships. [15]

The SNMG1, which was the first NATO naval group to circumnavigate the African continent two years before, was diverted to the Gulf of Aden for NATO’s Operation Allied Provider begun in April of 2009 and succeeded in August with the still active Operation Ocean Shield. Also last April, the NATO naval group, with warships from Canada, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, arrived in Karachi, Pakistan “to conduct a two-day joint naval exercise with the Pakistan Navy in the North Arabian Sea” [16] en route to Singapore. According to the Alliance, “The deployment of warships in South East Asia demonstrates the high value NATO places on its relationship with other partners across the globe….” [17]
 
Just as the U.S. has reactivated Cold War-era military alliances in the Asia-Pacific region in the first decade of this century, [18] so have its main NATO allies.

Shortly after Washington deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln nuclear-powered supercarrier with “F/A-18C Hornet, F/A-18E/F super Hornet, C-2A Greyhound, MH-60R Seahawk and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters and other fighter jets” [19] to the Port Klang Cruise Centre in Malaysia this month, the defense ministers of the United Kingdom-initiated Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) collective – whose members are Britain, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore – met in the capital of Singapore for the 13th FPDA Defence Chiefs’ Conference.

“The Defence Chiefs…issued the FPDA Exercise Concept Directive during the conference.

“The directive aims to guide the development of future FPDA exercises and activities to strengthen interoperability and interactions between the armed forces of the five member countries.

“It also aims to further enhance the FPDA’s capacity in conducting conventional and non-conventional operations….” [20] The five defense chiefs then left Singapore to attend the opening ceremony of Exercise Bersama Padu 2010 at the Butterworth Airbase in the Malaysian state of Penang on October 15.

The military exercise continues to October 29 and includes “13 ships and 63 aircraft from the five FPDA countries working together in a multi-threat environment.” [21]

The FPDA was set up in 1971, at the height of the Cold War, and along with similar military groups – NATO most prominently – has not only continued but expanded in the post-Cold War period.

According to the Australian Department of Defence, Bersama Padu 2010, “is a three-week exercise [commenced on October 11] designed to enhance regional security in the area.

“The exercise, which is part of the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA), will take place at various locations across the Malaysian Peninsula as well as the South China Sea.” It includes four Australian warships and eight F/A-18   multirole fighter jets. Australian Lieutenant General Mark Evans, Chief of Joint Operations, said “the FPDA countries shared a common interest in the security and stability of the region, and the exercise would enhance the interoperability of the combined air, ground and naval forces of member nations.” [22]

All five FPDA members are engaged in NATO’s war in Afghanistan as part of a historically unprecedented exercise in warfighting interoperability with some 45 other nations. Britain has the second largest amount of troops assigned to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, an estimated 9,500, and Australia the most of any non-NATO member state, 1,550. [23]

Afghanistan is the training ground for a global expeditionary NATO. And for a rapidly emerging Asian NATO, one which is being prepared to confront China in the South China Sea and elsewhere.

Notes

1) The Times, June 12, 2008
2) U.S. Energy Information Administration
   http://www.eia.doe.gov/cabs/world_oil_transit_chokepoints/background.html
3) U.S.-China Conflict: From War Of Words To Talk Of War, Part I
   Stop NATO, August 15, 2010
   http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/u-s-china-conflict-from-war-of-words-to-talk-of-war-part-i
   Part II: U.S.-China Crisis: Beyond Words To Confrontation
   Stop NATO, August 17, 2010
   http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/part-ii-u-s-china-crisis-beyond-words-toward-confrontation
4) Kazi Mahmood, U.S. Using ASEAN To Weaken China
   World Future Online, August 13, 2010   
5) U.S.-China Military Tensions Grow
   Stop NATO, January 19, 2010
   http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/u-s-china-military-tensions-grow
6) Kyodo News, October 11, 2010
7) The Australian, August 19, 2010
8) Ibid
9) NATO Pulls Pakistan Into Its Global Network
   Stop NATO, July 23, 2010
   http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/nato-pulls-pakistan-into-its-global-network
10) India: U.S. Completes Global Military Structure   
   Stop NATO, September 10, 2010
   http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/india-u-s-completes-global-military-structure
11) The Hindu, September 29, 2010
12) Proliferation Security Initiative And U.S. 1,000-Ship Navy: Control Of
    World’s Oceans, Prelude To War
    Stop NATO, January 29, 2009
    http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/proliferation-security-initiative-and-us-1000-ship-navy-control-of-worlds-oceans-prelude-to-war
13) Financial Times, April 5, 2004
14) Victoria News, January 30, 2009
15) U.S., NATO Expand Afghan War To Horn Of Africa And Indian Ocean
    Stop NATO, January 8, 2010
    http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/u-s-nato-expand-afghan-war-to-horn-of-africa-and-indian-ocean-2
16) The News International, April 27, 2009
17) Indo-Asian News Service, March 26, 2009
18) Asia: Pentagon Revives And Expands Cold War Military Blocs
    Stop NATO, September 14, 2010
    http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/asia-pentagon-revives-and-expands-cold-war-military-blocs
    U.S. Marshals Military Might To Challenge Asian Century
    Stop NATO, August 21, 2010
    http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/u-s-marshals-military-might-to-challenge-asian-century
19) Bernama, October 8, 2010
20) Government of Singapore, October 14, 2010
21) Ibid
22) Australian Government
    Department of Defence
    October 11, 2010
23) Afghan War: NATO Builds History’s First Global Army
    Stop NATO, August 9, 2009
    http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/afghan-war-nato-builds-historys-first-global-army

U.S. Wars Are Bankrupting the World

October 21st, 2010 by David Swanson

The endless and infinite “war on terra” is bankrupting the planet. I don’t mean moral bankruptcy; that goes without saying. I mean financial bankruptcy. And don’t take my word for it. This is the argument made in a new book called “Terrorism and the Economy: How the War on Terror Is Bankrupting the World,” by Loretta Napoleoni, a financial reporter for Internazionale, l’Unita, il Caffe, Mondo e Missione, El Pais, Vanity Fair Spain, and Vanity Fair Italy.

Perhaps Napoleoni is insufficiently subservient to Wall Street to write for U.S. newspapers — unlike, say, the United States government: “Washington needs Wall Street’s help to keep international investors funding the U.S. debt,” the author explains, “which in turn provides the $1.6 billion needed each month to keep troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Which explains the lack of criminal prosecutions and serious regulation of Wall Street.

Napoleoni traces some surprising changes in the world financial system over the past nine years to the latest U.S. warmaking spree: “Though it may sound implausible, as soon as the West focused its attention on the war on terror, the United Arab Emirates and the rest of the Persian Gulf began experiencing an unprecedented economic boom. Money started to flow toward their economies.” The U.S. government did not investigate the sources of terrorist funding, but did put restrictions in place through the PATRIOT Act that led money launderers to take their business to Europe, which suffered from that transfer as well.

The U.S. claimed it wanted to cut off the terrorists’ lifeline, but Napoleoni finds little evidence of action behind the claim. Instead she sees Bush’s failure to pursue bin Laden’s bankers as in line with his failure to try to prevent 9-11 or to capture or bring bin Laden to trial. The 9-11 attacks were Bush’s excuse for war, and war was what he wanted.

Napoleoni sees the “war on terror” as a response to Islamic jihad and draws a comparison to Saladin’s jihad as a response to the Christian crusades. The Pope’s call to “liberate” the holy land in 1095, Napoleoni writes, was for “the starving masses of Europe . . . a way of feeding themselves and an escape from a life of misery and suffering. For the knights and nobility, it offered an opportunity for economic expansion. . . . Europe was a colony of Islam. Today the Muslim world feels equally subjugated to the West.”

One of the ultimate aims of the Islamic insurgency, Napoleoni writes, is “to bleed the American economy until it is bankrupt.” Bin Laden has “even calculated the amount of profits that Americans have accumulated from the sale of Arab oil. For every barrel sold over the last twenty-five years, he claims they pocketed $135. The total loss of income adds up to a staggering $4.05 billion per day, which he describes as the greatest theft in history.”

U.S. actions these past nine years have tended to self-inflict the economic wounds bin Laden desires, while simultaneously building al Qaeda into a more powerful and efficient enterprise. The United States had tended to tolerate money laundering because it benefitted the economy and the domestic money supply. The PATRIOT Act imposed regulations on money laundering and therefore on international banks, which immediately began advising their clients to avoid and divest from dollars. International crime syndicates took their money laundry to Europe. The war on terra also drove the price of crude oil through the roof. But it was the otherwise unregulated free-for-all on Wall Street that did the most damage to the U.S. and world economies. “The likelihood that bin Laden will destroy us is extremely low,” writes Napoleoni, “the likelihood that finance will do so is, on the other hand, extremely high, a virtual certainty.”

U.S. propaganda “magnified al Qaeda’s power exponentially. . . . On 9/11, few knew that this was nothing more than political theater and that few Muslims had ever heard of al Qaeda. . . . Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had no ties whatsoever to bin Laden. . . . [T]he invasion of Afghanistan decimated al Qaeda. Yet we believed what politicians told us.” Our policies — destabilizing Iraq, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Horn of Africa — created shell states and easy recruitment for terrorism, which we thereby helped make more affordable. “The 9/11 attacks cost al Qaeda $500,000, while the Madrid massacre cost only $20,000, and the London suicide bombings less than $15,000. Osama bin Laden no longer operates costly training camps but relies upon the proliferation of jihadist websites to indoctrinate and train a new generation of jihadists at rock-bottom prices.” The U.S. has spent trillions on war, while Iraqis have successfully fought back for less than $200 million.

We can’t waste money this way without Wall Street, which is “as free and unregulated as it was before the credit crunch.” We’d transferred “bad risk accumulated by the private sector to the balance sheet of the state,” rather than eliminating it as needed. “In March 2009, the share prices of companies and banks ‘saved’ by governments were all below the levels at which the state had purchased them. . . . The desire to maintain, at any cost, a damaged and anachronistic system will only bring ruination.”

Instead, Napoleoni suggests, we should restructure the financial system, nationalize the banking sector, prune all the deadwood that does not serve the real economy, outlaw damaging products like derivatives, and preserve insurance operations while allowing gambling operations to collapse. We might learn from Islamic economics, which Napoleoni describes as “the opposite of capitalism”:

“In the Eastern world, the selfish behavior of each individual, aimed at maximizing profits and minimizing costs, is not believed to miraculously enrich entire nations. In the short shadow of the minarets, wealth comes from cooperation and joint ventures between banks and clients.” Drawing on this source, we might require that money always be invested in the real economy, thereby banning speculation on securities not tied to the underlying companies.

And instead of paying people to do nothing, through unemployment compensation, Napoleoni argues we should pay people, the unemployed and recent graduates, to convert our industries to clean energy, build infrastructure, and redesign our manufacturing base. Sounds like a plan that would even take care of the much bemoaned enthusiasm gap.

David Swanson is the author of “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union”

http://davidswanson.org
http://warisacrime.org
http://facebook.com/pages/David-Swanson/297768373319
http://twitter.com/davidcnswanson
http://youtube.com/afterdowningstreet

Digging In For The Long Haul In Afghanistan

October 21st, 2010 by Nick Turse

Some go by names steeped in military tradition like Leatherneck and Geronimo. Many sound fake-tough, like Ramrod, Lightning, Cobra, and Wolverine. Some display a local flavor, like Orgun-E, Howz-e-Madad, and Kunduz. All, however, have one thing in common: they are U.S. and allied forward operating bases, also known as FOBs. They are part of a base-building surge that has left the countryside of Afghanistan dotted with military posts, themselves expanding all the time, despite the drawdown of forces promised by President Obama beginning in July 2011.

The U.S. military does not count the exact number of FOBs it has built in Afghanistan, but forward operating bases and other facilities of similar or smaller size make up the bulk of U.S. outposts there. Of the hundreds of U.S. bases in the country, according to Gary Younger, a U.S. public affairs officer with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), 77% house units of battalion size (approximately 500 to 1,000 troops) or smaller; 20% are occupied by units smaller than a Brigade Combat Team (about 3,000 troops); and 3% are huge bases, occupied by units larger than a Brigade Combat Team, that generally boast large-scale military command-and-control capabilities and all the amenities of Anytown, USA. Younger tells TomDispatch that ISAF does not centrally track its base construction and up-grading work, nor the money spent on such projects.

However, Major General Kenneth S. Dowd — the Director of Logistics for U.S. Central Command for three years before leaving the post in June — offered this partial account of the ongoing Afghan base build-up in the September/October issue of Army Sustainment, the official logistics journal of the Army:

“Military construction projects scheduled for completion over the next 12 months will deliver 4 new runways, ramp space for 8 C−17 transports, and parking for 50 helicopters and 24 close air support and 26 intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. This represents roughly one-third of the airfield paving projects currently funded in the Afghanistan theater of operations. Additional minor construction plans called for the construction of over 12 new FOBs and expansion of 18 existing FOBs.”

If Dowd offered the barest sketch of some of the projects planned or underway, a TomDispatch analysis of little-noticed U.S. government records and publications, including U.S. Army and Army Corps of Engineers contracting documents and construction-bid solicitations issued over the last five months, fills in the picture. The documents reveal plans for large-scale, expensive Afghan base expansions of every sort and a military that is expecting to pursue its building boom without letup well into the future. These facts-on-the-ground indicate that, whatever timelines for phased withdrawal may be issued in Washington, the U.S. military is focused on building up, not drawing down, in Afghanistan.

Jobs on FOBs

A typical forward operating base set to undergo expansion is FOB Salerno, a post located near the Afghan city of Khost, not far from the Pakistani border. According to documents from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, plans are in the works for an expansion of that base’s fuel facilities. Estimated to cost $10 million to $25 million, these upgrades will increase fuel storage capacity to one million gallons to enhance land and air operations, and may not be completed for a year and a half; that is, until well into 2012.

In June, work was completed on a new, nearly $12 million runway at Forward Operating Base Shank, near the city of Puli Alam in Logar Province, south of Kabul. The base was formerly accessible only by road and helicopter, but its new 1.4-mile-long airstrip can now accommodate large Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft, enabling ever larger numbers of personnel to be deployed to the site.

Not surprisingly, government documents released in August show that FOB Shank is also set for a major boost in troop housing. Already home to approximately 4,500 military personnel, it will be adding a new two-story barracks, constructed of containerized housing units known as “relocatable buildings” or RLBs, to accommodate 1,100 more troops. Support facilities, access roads, parking areas, new utilities, and other infrastructure required to sustain the housing complex will also be installed for an estimated $5 million to $10 million. In addition, the Army Corps of Engineers just began seeking contractors to add 452,000 square feet of airfield parking space at the base. It’s meant for Special Operations Forces’ helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. New aircraft maintenance facilities and 80,000 square feet more of taxiways will also be built at the cost of another $10 million to $25 million.

Documents reveal that this sort of expansion is now going on at a remarkably rapid pace all over the country. For instance, major expansions of infrastructure to support helicopter operations, including increased apron space, taxiways, and tarmac for parking, servicing, loading, and unloading are planned for facilities like FOB Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan Province, FOB Dwyer, a Marine base in Helmand Province, and FOB Sharana, a Paktika Province base near the Pakistani border, where the Army also announced plans for the construction of an ammunition supply facility, with storage space for one million pounds of munitions, and related infrastructure.

In late August, Walter Pincus of the Washington Post reported that construction was slated to begin on at least three $100 million base projects, including FOB Dwyer, that were not “expected to be completed until the latter half of 2011.” In addition to enhancing helicopter operations infrastructure, plans were also announced for the construction of a new, large-scale wastewater treatment facility at Dwyer, a project estimated to cost another $10 million to $25 million and, like so much of what is now being built by the U.S. military in the backlands of Afghanistan, it is not expected to be completed and put fully into use until well into the second half of 2011, if not later — that is, after President Obama’s theoretical due date for beginning to lessen the mission in that country.

And whenever you stumble upon a document indicating that work of a certain sort is taking place at one FOB, you can be sure that, sooner or later, you will find similar work at other FOBs. In this case, for example, FOB Frontenac in Kandahar Province and Tarin Kowt, north of Kandahar, are, like Dwyer, slated to receive new wastewater plants.

Much of this work may sound mundane, but the scale of it isn’t. Typical is another of the bases identified by Pincus, FOB Shindand in western Afghanistan, which is to receive, among other things, new security fencing, new guard towers, and new underground electrical lines. And that’s just to begin the list of enhancements at Shindand, including earthen berms for four 200,000-gallon “expeditionary fuel bladders and a concrete pad suitable for parking and operating fourteen R-11 refueling vehicles” — tanker trucks with a 6,000-gallon capacity — as well as new passenger processing and cargo handling facilities (an $18 million contract) and an expansion of helicopter facilities (another $25 million to $50 million).

Multiply this, FOB by FOB, the length and breadth of Afghanistan, and you have a building program fit for a long war.

Permanent Bases?

This building boom has hardly been confined to FOBs. Construction and expansion work at bases far larger than FOBs, including the mega-bases at Bagram and Kandahar, is ongoing, often at a startling pace. The Army, for example, has indicated it plans to build a 24,000 square-foot, $10-million command-and-control facility as well as a “Joint Defense Operations Center” with supporting amenities — from water storage tanks to outdoor landscaping — at Bagram Air Base. At bustling Kandahar Air Field, the military has offered contracts for a variety of upgrades, including a $28.5 million deal for the construction of an outdoor shelter for fighter aircraft, as well as new operations and maintenance facilities and more apron space, among a host of other improvements.

In June, Noah Shachtman of Wired.com’s Danger Room reported on the Army’s plans to expand its Special Operations headquarters at Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan and cited documents indicating that construction would include a “communications building, Tactical Operations Center, training facility, medical aid station, Vehicle Maintenance Facility… dining facility, laundry facility, and a kennel to support working dogs.” A contract for that work, worth $30 million, was awarded at the end of September.

Similarly, according to a recent article in the Marine Corps Times, Camp Leatherneck, which expanded in late 2009 from a 660-acre facility to 1,550 acres, or approximately 2.4 square miles, is slated to add three new gyms to the one already there, as well as a chapel complex with three separate buildings (one big enough to accommodate up to 200 people), a second mess hall (capable of serving 4,000 Marines at a time), a new PX housed in a big-top tent, with 10,000 square feet of sales space — the current base facility only has 3,000 square feet — and the installation of a $200 million runway that can accommodate C-5 cargo planes and 747 passenger jets.

Despite a pledge from the Obama administration to begin its troop drawdowns next July, this ongoing base-construction splurge, when put together with recent signals from the White House, civilians at the Pentagon, and top military commanders, including Afghan war chief General David Petraeus, suggests that the process may be drawn out over many years. During a recent interview with ABC News Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz, for instance, Petraeus affirmed the president’s July 2011 timeline, but added a crucial caveat. “It will be a pace that is determined by conditions,” he said.

Almost a decade into the Afghan War, he claimed, the U.S. military had “finally gotten the inputs right in Afghanistan.” Raddatz then asked if the “counterinsurgency clock” had just restarted — if, that is, it could be another nine or ten years to achieve success. “Yeah,” replied Petraeus, hastening to add that American soldiers killed there over the previous nine years had not simply died for nothing. “But it is just at this point that we feel that we do have the organizations that we learned in Iraq and from history are necessary for the conduct that this kind of campaign.”

The building boom occurring on U.S. bases across Afghanistan and the contracts for future construction being awarded at the moment seem to confirm that, whatever the White House has in mind, the military is operating on something closer to the Petraeus timeline. The new Special Operations base at Mazar-e-Sharif, to take but one of many examples, may not be completed and fully occupied for at least a year and a half. Other construction contracts, not yet even awarded, are expected to take a year or more to complete. And military timelines suggest that, if the Pentagon gets its way, American troop levels may not dip below the numbers present when Obama took office, approximately 36,000 troops, until 2016 or beyond.

At the moment, the American people are being offered one story about how the American war in Afghanistan is to proceed, while in Afghanistan their tax dollars are being invested in another trajectory entirely. The question is: How permanent are U.S. bases in Afghanistan? And if they are not meant to be used for a decade or more to come, why is the Pentagon still building as if they were?

Recently, the Army sought bids from contractors willing to supply power plants and supporting fuel systems at forward operating bases in Afghanistan for up to five years. Power plants, fuel systems, and the bases on which they are being built are facts on the ground. Such facts carry a weight of their own, and offer a window into U.S. designs in Afghanistan that may be at least as relevant as anything Barack Obama or his aides have been saying about draw-downs, deadlines, or future withdrawal plans.

If you want to ask hard questions about America’s Afghan War, start with those bases.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com. An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. His latest book, The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books), which brings together leading analysts from across the political spectrum, has just been published. Turse is currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook. His website is NickTurse.com.

L’uso delle armi nucleari in una nuova guerra implicherebbe il fine dell’umanità. Così fu previsto dallo scienziato Albert Einstein, chi fu capace di misurare la loro capacità distruttiva di generare milioni di gradi di caldo che tutto volatilizza in un ampio raggio d’azione. Il geniale investigatore fu il propulsore dello sviluppo di quest’arma prima che il regime di genocidio nazista avrebbe disposto della stessa.

Tutti i governi del mondo sono costretti a rispettare il diritto alla vita di qualunque nazione e di tutti i paesi del pianeta.

Oggi esiste un rischio imminente di guerra con l’uso di quel tipo di armi e non ho nessun dubbio che un attacco degli Stati Uniti ed Israele contro la Repubblica Islamica dell’Iran, diventerebbe, inevitabilmente, un conflitto nucleare globale.

I popoli sono doverosi di esigere ai leader politici il loro diritto a vivere. Quando la vita della sua specie, del suo popolo, e dei suoi esseri più cari rischiano in questo modo, nessuno può permettersi di essere indifferente, né può perdersi un minuto nell’esigere il rispetto del predetto diritto; domani sarebbe troppo tardi.

Lo stesso Albert Einstein affermò testualmente: “Non so che armi si useranno nella Terza Guerra Mondiale, ma nella Quarta Guerra Mondiale useranno bastoni e pietre.” Sappiamo quello che volle esprimere, ed aveva tutta la ragione, ma non ci sarà qualcuno da usare i suddetti i bastoni e pietre.

Ci sarebbero danni collaterali, come affermano sempre i leader politici e militari nordamericani, per giustificare la morte di persone innocenti.

In una guerra nucleare il danno collaterale sarebbe la vita dell’umanità.
Abbiamo il coraggio di proclamare che tutte le armi nucleari oppure convenzionali, tutto quello che serva per fare guerra, devono sparire!

Fidel Castro Ruz
15 ottobre 2010

On October 21st 2010, Global Research and Cuba Debate released a brief text and recorded video by Fidel Castro on the dangers of nuclear war.

From October 12 to 15, 2010, I had extensive and detailed discussions with Fidel Castro in Havana, pertaining to the dangers of nuclear war, the global economic crisis and the nature of the New World Order. These meetings resulted in a wide-ranging and fruitful interview that will be published shortly by Global Research and Cuba Debate.

Michel Chossudovsky y Fidel Castro.
Fidel Castro and Michel Chossudovsky,
Havana, October 2010

A speech by Commander Fidel Castro against Nuclear War was recorded on October 15. (Complete text and video recording)

In this brief and powerful message, Fidel warned that the US and its allies are preparing to launch a nuclear war directed against Iran with devastating consequences:  

“The use of nuclear weapons in a new war would mean the end of humanity. …

Today there is an imminent risk of war with the use of that kind of weapon and I don’t harbour the least doubt that an attack by the United States and Israel against the Islamic Republic of Iran would inevitably evolve towards a global nuclear conflict.

There would be “collateral damage”, as the American political and military leaders always affirm, to justify the deaths of innocent people.

In a nuclear war the “collateral damage” would be the life of all humanity.

Let us have the courage to proclaim that all nuclear or conventional weapons, everything that is used to make war, must disappear!” (Complete text and video recording)

While the Latin American media has provided coverage of Fidel’s speech, there has been a total news blackout in the North American and European media. So far not a single major English language news media has acknowledged Fidel Castro’s statement. Ironically, while the Reuters and Agence France Press dispatches have been published in Spanish and Portuguese, they have appeared in the original English and French.

There is certainly room for discussion. But not a word, not even denial from the corporate media on such an important subjet.

Meanwhile, coinciding with the release of Fidel’s speech, there has been extensive coverage of the EU Parliament’s “human rights” prize granted to Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas. Almost every single major Western news media has published the same Associated Press report out of Havana.

Visibly, nuclear war is not front-page news. The overriding threat of war and destruction is overshadowed by a barrage of media disinformation.

The military agenda is presented as a humanitarian endeavor.

War criminals are rewarded for their contributions to World peace. The corporate media is complicit in its biased coverage, particularly with regard to the loss of life resulting from the US-NATO led war in the Middle East and Central Asia.

The lie prevails.

In an utterly twisted logic, war is presented as a means to preserving World Peace. 

While the “unspoken truth” conveyed in Fidel Castro’s message to the World has been suppressed from the mainstream news chain, it will reach people around the World.

It will make “possible” what appears to be “impossible”.

It is our hope that it will contribute in a meaningful way to reversing the course of history.

O uso das armas nucleares numa nova guerra implicaria o fim da humanidade. Assim foi previsto pelo cientista Albert Einstein, que foi capaz de medir sua capacidade destruidora de gerar milhões de graus de calor que tudo o volatiliza em um amplo rádio de ação. O genial investigador foi impulsionador do desenvolvimento desta arma antes que o regime nazi de genocídio dispusesse dela.

Qualquer governo do mundo está obrigado a respeitar o direito à vida de qualquer nação e do conjunto de todos os povos do planeta.

Hoje existe um risco iminente de guerra com o emprego deste tipo de armas e não albergo a menor dúvida de que um ataque dos Estados Unidos e Israel contra a República Islâmica do Irão, tornar-se-ia, inevitavelmente, num conflito nuclear global.

Os povos estão no dever de exigir aos líderes políticos seu direito a viver. Quando a vida de sua espécie, de seu povo e dos seus seres mais queridos correm semelhante risco, ninguém pode dar-se ao luxo de ser indiferente, nem se pode perder um minuto em exigir o respeito por esse direito; amanhã seria tarde demais.

O próprio Albert Einstein afirmou textualmente: “Sei lá quais serão as armas que se utilizarão na Terceira Guerra Mundial, mas na Quarta Guerra Mundial usarão paus e pedras”. Sabemos o que quis expressar, e tinha toda a razão, só que já não existiriam os que manejem os paus e as pedras.

Haveria prejuízos colaterais, como afirmam sempre os líderes políticos e militares norte-americanos, para justificar a morte de pessoas inocentes.

Numa guerra nuclear o prejuízo colateral seria a vida da humanidade.

Tenhamos o valor de proclamar que todas as armas nucleares ou convencionais, tudo o que sirva para fazer guerra, devem desaparecer!

Fidel Castro Ruz
15 de outubro de 2010

Cuba Debate e Mondialisation.ca

Mensaje del Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz contra la Guerra Nuclear

El uso de las armas nucleares en una nueva guerra implicaría el fin de la humanidad. Así lo previó el científico Albert Einstein, quien fue capaz de medir su capacidad destructiva de generar millones de grados de calor que todo lo volatiliza en un amplio radio de acción. El genial investigador fue impulsor del desarrollo de esta arma antes de que el régimen genocida nazi dispusiera de ella.

Cualquier gobierno del mundo está obligado a respetar el derecho a la vida de cualquier nación y del conjunto de todos los pueblos del planeta.

Hoy existe un riesgo inminente de guerra con empleo de ese tipo de armas y no albergo la menor duda de que un ataque de Estados Unidos e Israel contra la República Islámica de Irán, se tornaría, inevitablemente, en un conflicto nuclear global.

Los pueblos están en el deber de exigir a los líderes políticos su derecho a vivir. Cuando la vida de su especie, de su pueblo y de sus seres más queridos corren semejante riesgo, nadie puede darse el lujo de ser indiferente, ni se puede perder un minuto en exigir el respeto a ese derecho; mañana sería demasiado tarde.

El propio Albert Einstein afirmó textualmente: “No se qué armas se utilizarán en la Tercera Guerra Mundial, pero en la Cuarta Guerra Mundial usarán palos y piedras”. Sabemos lo que quiso expresar, y tenía toda la razón, sólo que no existirían ya quienes manejen los palos y las piedras.

Habría daños colaterales, como afirman siempre los líderes políticos y militares norteamericanos, para justificar la muerte de personas inocentes.

En una guerra nuclear el daño colateral sería la vida de la humanidad.

¡Tengamos el valor de proclamar que todas las armas nucleares o convencionales, todo lo que sirva para hacer guerra, deben desaparecer!

Fidel Castro Ruz
Octubre 15 de 2010

Fidel Castro y Michel Chossudovsky en La Habana, el 14 de octubre de 2010.

Imagen del encuentro en La Habana entre Fidel Castro y Michel Chossudovsky, director del Centro de Investigaciones sobre Globalización y editor principal del sitio web Global Research. Durante este intercambio, fue grabado en video un Mensaje de Fidel contra la Guerra Nuclear. Foto: Estudios Revolución

Iraq: Toppling a Country: from Statue to Legality

October 21st, 2010 by Felicity Arbuthnot

The welfare of the people, in particular, has always been the alibi of tyrants.” (Albert Camus, 1913-1960.)

Throughout Iraq, Americans bringing “freedom from tyranny”, with their British auxiliaries, and their few arm twisted “coalition”, largely morphed in to tyrants overnight. As with Saddam Hussein’s statue, the U.S., simply covered legality with an American flag – and toppled it. And as across the country, indiscriminate, unaccountable killing sprees started early on – and continue still.

U.S., wickednesses in Fallujah, the district by district liquidations, have probably been documented in more detail, than any other city, town or village, in deaths, injuries and deformities, so serves one tragic service – as an invaluable test case for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq. Whilst the recent, chilling Report by Busby, et al., (1) in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, has received deserved publicity, and been presented to the U.N., another, presented to the 15th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva (13th September-1st October) has received less so.

“Testimonies of Crimes Against Humanity in Fallujah – Towards a Fair International Criminal Trial”(2): “… pleads and implores”, the United Nations in : “.. respect for the memory (of the) victims, to investigate the crimes and violations”, in the document, and all that: “has been inflicted upon Iraq, placing the country at the top of the world’s daily list for deaths, displaced persons, both internally and externally, the ensuing savage corruption, child molestation, rape, rampant kidnapping, contrary to the noble goals and (founding aspirations) of your Organisation.”

After the invasion and fall of Baghdad, the document records, Fallujah remained calm, escaping the turmoil engulfing the rest of Iraq. Exactly two weeks after the toppling of the statue, on 23rd April 2003, when a group of students peacefully demonstrated outside Al Quds school, for its return by the U.S., soldiers, who had – without consultation – taken it over as a base, so they could resume studies. The response was massive violence.

The troops fired “indiscriminately” killing thirteen and wounding seventy five. Three of the dead were children under eleven. In a depressingly familiar story, according to Dr Ahmed Ghanim Al-Ali, the then hospital Director, they also fired on the medical staff who came to rescue the injured.

A week later, troops fired on a funeral, the first such occurrence in Iraq, which, with Afghanistan, along with wedding parties and mourning gatherings, have become a disgraceful litany. Two were killed and fourteen wounded, including children.

In the early hours of the second anniversary of the falling of the Twin Towers, a group driving a blue BMW, fired on the offices of the Mayor of Fallujah. Chased by the Fallujah Protection Force, the car disappeared in to a U.S., camp just outside the city. Returning, they came under heavy fire, eight were killed and two wounded. Again the ambulances were fired on and prevented assisting.

Those marking an atrocity at home, with executions abroad, transpired to be both U.S., forces and allegedly, with much substantiating evidence, mercenaries of the notorious Blackwater Security (now XL.) It took repeated demands by Fallujah’s Mayor and others for the U.S., military to finally hand back the bodies (which: ” … had been left in the back of crushed vehicles in the burning sun”) and two traumatised injured.

Acts of violence, murders, arrests, incarceration without trial and general acts of terror, are the hallmark of the freedom promised to the people of Iraq.

Ironically, American forces, with representatives from then U.S., “Viceroy” Paul Bremer’s Office, in a meeting with the City Council, tried to recruit locals as agents, for protection. Seemingly, they were told that according to the Geneva Conventions, protection of Iraqis lay with the occupying forces. Outside, were BMWs – driven by Blackwater staff. Bremer had given the company its first contract (for a reported $21 million) in Iraq.

It was against the background the brutal, deviant behaviour, that, on 31st March 2004, four Blackwater employees, Scott Helvenston, Jerko Slovko, Wesley Bataloni and Mike Teague, were brutally murdered, dragged through the streets, their bodies hung over a bridge spanning the Euphrates.

The action was presented to the world, largely, as an example of the irrational endemic violence in Iraqis. The brutal treatment of Iraqis, at the hands of the invading forces and Blackwater, had scant mention in the main stream media.

Little can be found about the last three victims – but surreally, Helvenston, a former U.S., Navy SEAL, had been a personal trainer for Hollywood celebrities, including Demi Moore and had taken to reality shows such as: “Combat Missions”, and: “Man vs Beast”, where he completed an obstacle course faster then a chimpanzee. Tragically, though, not faster than the Fallujans. His last reality show appearance: “Extreme Expeditions : Model Behaviour”, had still to be shown at the time of his death.(3)

The revenge April retaliation, came in spite of attempts by the City Council to mediate and negotiate. “U.S., troops rejected the intervention of and presence of the U.N.” A tape recording of their refusal to negotiate and stated determination to strike the city, is witness to their lawless rejection.

U.S., troops gave orders that no one was to leave the city. The population was trapped, reminiscent of General Norman Schwartzkopf’s “turkey shoot” on the Basra Road, in 1991, with the road blocked at both ends and no escape. The bridge to the hospital was cut off, condemning the wounded to death, with five hundred pound bombs, and cluster bombs being dropped on Fallujah’s families – who had nowhere to hide.

That attack, with the subsequent one in October-November 2004, were compared to Guernica, and without doubt equal some of history’s most shameful episodes. The people besieged in a reign of terror, of pure, primitive, savagery – targeted with weaponry of mass destruction.

Instructed by the troops to hold a white flag if they ventured out, sickeningly, U.S., snipers, then targeted heads of those who dared, in desperation, for help, food, water, medical aid, water and telephones having been cut, in contravention to the Geneva Convention. Also in contravention, is fact the forces had anyway, prevented essential foodstuffs and medicines from coming in.

The Report to the Human Rights Commission further reminds of the ongoing bombing between the two major assaults, which has continued, year on year. Whilst the two major attacks on Fallujah have been recorded in acres of newsprint (see also 4) the voices of the survivors have been largely absent. The document records those of one hundred and sixteen, from April’s onslaught, with several earlier ones. Just some of the newly enfranchised, collaterally damaged, disposable Iraqis, include:

*Ahmed Hassan Shaker was killed on 6th January 2004, on going outside his home to find the cause of bullets “which were ringing out.” A missile killed him and his wife, Sihan, instantly. They left six orphans, the eldest six, the youngest, just seven months. (Witness, Ahmed Hassan’s father.) The U.S., military apologized to the family. No compensation has been forthcoming.

*Montaser Sami Hammad Ali al-Awani, killed, on 7th June 2003: ” .. by random firing of U.S., troops on civilians”, in Fallujah’s Nazzal district. (Witness, his father.)

*Ahmed Obaid M’hidi Saud Issawi, died on 27th October 2003, when: “U.S., forces opened fire indiscrimately at everyone …” (Witness, his brother.)

*In April 2004, Ali Dahi Abd Muflih lost fifteen members of his family, the majority women and children, when their home was completely destroyed by a U.S., missile. (Witness, surviving family member.)

*April 2004, Alaa Najim Abdullah Al-Issawi shot in the head by a U.S., sniper. (Witness, his brother.)

* St Valentine’s Day, 14th April 2004, Fatah Saad Abbas al-Issawi, eight years old, killed as a result of “indiscriminate firearm” discharge. (Witness, her father.)

* Heba Abd Awda Jafil al-Halbusi, twenty, killed by U.S., sniper, whilst trying to escape “hell of U.S., fire”, with her family. (Witness, her father.)

*Marwa Mohammed Khalif, her age not recorded, by a bullet to the head. (Witness, her mother.)

*17th April 2004, Ali Ismail Obeid Jassim Salman al-Issawi, aged five, and his brother, Hakki, Ismail Obeid Jassim Salman al-Issawi, ten, both killed by a sniper, whilst playing in front of their house. Buried together in the same grave. (Witness, their father.)

Throughout the testimonies, the words “indiscriminate”, “random”, “rampage” and “sniper” come up unceasingly. Other victims of this very democratic kind of killing, since there was no discrimination, included: Ayah (six); Fadhela, (thirteen); Mohammed, (nine); Shaimaa (fifteen); Alia (thirteen); Bushra (fifteen); Naba (three); Salwa (twelve); Baida (eleven); Hanin (seven.) As in the following November’s psychopathic purge, the football pitch became a cemetery – but in November, they would need two.

The reign of terror in this city, which has existed since – and in some linguistic and archeological evidence, maybe before – Babylonian times, has continued, with “arbitrary arrests”, “systematic torture”, and allegations “of a policy of humiliation.”

Dogs were unleashed by both military and often those accompanying them in plain clothes, suspicions falling on Blackwater again, in a litany. Just one victim was thirteen year old Ameen, whose twenty two year old university student and bread winner brother, Sineen, was shot “in a hail of bullets” when these mixed forces broke in to their home, after blowing out the door.

Ameen was beaten, his hand badly damaged by dogs, the all, he described carried out by men with beards and ear rings. As he was being beaten, it transpired, others were putting his brother’s bloodied, mutilated body under a mattress, behind the curtains. This was after their father had been killed in the April 2004 bombardment.

Leaving the house ransacked and belongings smashed, the group allegedly rampaged through the neighbourhood, injuring, “robbing and stealing … money and jewellery ..” The U.S., forces, has thus taken a town which had escaped the invasion’s murderous chaos, but has it rained upon them by the occupying forces, for now, approaching eight years.

As Dirk Adriaensens (5) has written: “The latest ‘incident’ occurred on Wednesday 15 September 2010 (following the official ‘withdrawal’ of US troops.) Seven civilians were killed and four injured. Their names will be added to the endless list of victims of the U.S., aggression against this troubled city. May they never be forgotten.”

Killed during the raid by US/Iraqi forces on 15 September 2010

* Humadi Jassim Ahmed……….old man
* Manzel Humadi Jassim Ahmed………youngster
* Sameer Humadi Jassim Ahmed……..youngster
* Sadiek Humadi Jassim Ahmed………youngster
* Abid Swissan Ahmed………old man
* Yassein Abid Swissan Ahmed…….youngster
* Yassein Kassar Saad……..Former Iraqi officer in Iraqi army
• Injured civilians
* Omar Humadi Jassim…….youngster
* Ibrahim Abid Kassar………youngster
* Hathima Jassim (85 years old)
* Ahmed Humadi Jassim ….youngster

Whilst the people of Fallujah are stalked by visible killers in the form of Americans with their hardware, they live with an invisible one, in the residues left by the weapons used, including depleted uranium, the radioactivity and toxicity of which they eat, breathe and drink, since it can be measured in air and seeps in to the water table, affecting fauna and flora.

“In 2006, 5,928 cases of previously unknown, or rarely seen diseases were diagnosed (in Fallujah)”, records the Report. “In the first half of 2007, 2,447 seriously ill patients were admitted, showing mostly little known symptoms. Fifty percent were children … five years after the 2004 attacks, cancers had multiplied by four.” In five years: “a twelve fold incident in fourteen year olds was noted.” Birth defects rose by twenty five percent in a six year period.(See 4 and 5 for detail.)

Dr Bill Wilson, a Member of the Scottish Parliament, who is determined to see Tony Blair in Court on war crimes charges, also has the British government’s culpability in using depleted uranium (DU) high on his agenda.
In 1996 and again in 1997, the UN Human Rights Committee included DU., in their list of weapons of mass destruction, urging all States to curb the spread and production of these weapons.
On 19th October 2010, Dr Wilson wrote to the (UK) Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the successor to British Nuclear Fuels Limited, asking for details of all the documents it holds pertaining to the effects of spent or “depleted” uranium on health.

Dr Wilson comments: “Depleted uranium, high in the U-238 isotope, is what is left after uranium has been used to generate power. The nuclear industry, rather than putting this still radioactive and potentially lethal material out of harm’s way, however, sells it on to the arms industry and it is used to make armour-piercing or anti-tank shells. It has been doing this for decades, as a way of decreasing the financial losses associated with what I regard as an unnecessary and dangerous way of generating electricity.

“Such shells produce 3000oC fireballs and the resultant black uranium oxide particles get everywhere; they are blown hundreds of miles and are inhaled and ingested. There is overwhelming circumstantial evidence that the cavalier use of depleted-uranium weaponry in Iraq and Afghanistan has caused a massive increase in cancers (particularly amongst children) and horrific birth defects, both in civilians living there and in service personnel and their families. What’s more, it has a half-life of almost 4.5 billion years!

“The US and UK Governments have been warned of all this, but appear to have ignored such warnings and have done practically nothing to clear up the mess they have left, not even fencing off highly radioactive destroyed tanks to stop children playing on them. It doesn’t take a genius to understand the issues at stake here and the potential for legal action.

“As part of my ongoing campaign for justice and to prevent further massive human rights abuses, I am seeking clarity on what the UK Government has historically known about the health effects of depleted uranium.
A refusal to answer my Freedom-of-Information request will tell its own story.”

The Decommissioning Authority, he comments: “should come clean on dirty fuel.” Indeed: “In the wake of America’s “shock and awe” bombing campaign to take Baghdad, radiation detectors as far away as the United Kingdom noted a fourfold spike in radioactivity in the atmosphere.” (6) The pregnant women, for whom it to too dangerous to undergo an X-ray for fear of of damaging the unborn baby, receives ongoing doses, courtesy the weapons industry, from Fallujah to Florida, from Baghdad to Belfast.

Two letters might be of use to Dr Wilson, written, respectively, immediately after and shortly after, the 1991 attack on Iraq. They are self explanatory. The late Leonard Dietz, to whom the second letter is addressed, was an eminent nuclear physicist and expert on the dangers of inhaled or ingested DU particles. They are typed exactly as written in the originals: 

Los Alamos

Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos New Mexico 87545 memorandum

To: Studies and Analysis Branch (wr 13) (or may be 10, slightly eroded)
Attn: Maj Larson I Mar 1991

From: Lt Col M.V. Ziehman
STOP/Telephone: F668/(505) 665 19??

Symbol: MCLn0

Subject: THE EFFECTIVENESS OF DEPLETED URANIUM PENETRATORS

There is a relatively small amount of lethality data for uranium penetrators, either the tank fired long version or the GAU-8 round fired from the A10 close air support aircraft. The recent was has likely multiplied the number of du rounds fired at targets by orders of magnitude. It is believed that du penetrators were very effective against Iraqi armor; (sic) how-ever, assessments of such will have to be made.

There has been and continues to be a concern regarding the impact of du on the environment. Therefore, if no one makes a case for the effectiveness of du on the battlefield, du rounds may become politically unacceptable and thus,be deleted from the military arsenal.

If du penetrators proved their worth during our recent combat activities, then we should assure their future existence (until something better is developed) through
Service/DOD proponency. If proponency is not garnered, it is possible that we stand to lose a valuable combat capability.

I believe we should keep this sensitive issue at (sic) mind when after action reports are written.

Respectfully,

(signed) Lt Col Z

Department of Defense, United States of America (seal.)

Office of the Director of
Defense Research and Engineering
Washington, DC 20301 – 3030

15th August 1991

Mr. Leonard A. Dietz
1124 Mohegan Road
Schenectady, NY 12309

Dear Mr Dietz:

Your letter of 30th July 1991 concerning depleted uranium was brought to my attention by Dr. Osterman.

In this letter you posed the question of the “probability that lung cancer could develop: after inhalation of depleted uranium. As you are no doubt well aware, since this material is a source of ionizing radiation, the potential for carcinogenicity
is real. The same holds true for nephro-toxicity which, in most of the literature available to me, seems to be the greater limiting health endpoint of concern, protection from which requires a much lower ambient concentration in drinking water or foodstuffs.

The potential risk to human health from exposure to depleted uranium is, of course, dose and time related, both of which must be measured, approximated, or assumed.

Let me assure you that we feel that your concern, which parallels our own, is real and we thank you for sharing that with us.

Sincerely,

(Signed)

John W. Kolmer, MD.,
Military Ass’t for Medical
and Life Sciences.

Keen as Colonel Ziehman might have been to water down the dangers, so as not to “lose a valuable combat capability”, regardless of the health of allied troops or invaded citizens, the U.S., Army’s own manuals are more forthcoming. As has been written in these columns before:

“If DU enters the body, it has the potential to generate significant medical consequences. The risks associated with DU are both chemical and radiological. Personnel in or near vehicles struck by DU penetrators could receive significant internal exposures.” (7) Or indeed those near bombed homes, streets, schools, mosques … Further: “Short term effects of high doses can result in death, while long term effects of low doses have been implicated in cancer.” (8) This warning was sounded by the giant, US government contracted, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in July 1990, six months before Desert Storm.

Further, shortly after Desert Storm, the UK Atomic Energy Authority “self initiated a Report”, warning of half a million extra cancer deaths in by 2000, if just fifty tonnes of residual DU dust had been left “in the region.”

For either government to claim they were unaware of the apocalyptic consequences of further use, would be, as UK Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robert Armstrong admitted, in another cover up a couple of decades ago, to be “economical with the truth.”

Notes

1. http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/7/7/2828
2. http://www.scribd.com/doc/38397725/Testimonies-of-Crimes-Against-Humanity-in-Fallujah
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Helvenston  
4. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=21212  
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=21370  
5.http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=21131   
6. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/07/study-health-effects-felt-fallujah-widespread-nuking-hiroshima-nagasaki/
7. (US) Army Environmental Policy Institute: “Health and Environmental Consequences of Depleted Uranium Use in the US Army”, 1995.
8. SAIC : “Kinetic Energy Penetrator Long Term Strategy Study”, Danesi, July 1990.

Canada’s international do-gooder image was shattered when it lost its bid for a UN Security Council seat
 
The humiliating withdrawal by Canada from the race with Germany and Portugal for a covetted place on the United Nations Security Council revealed what close observers have long known — that the current Conservative government in Ottawa has nothing but disdain for the world’s tattered peacekeeper and would most likely just use its seat to serve US and Israel’s agenda. Four years of Stephen Harper’s government was enough for the world to turn its back on a once beloved peacenik.

Dubai’s police chief’s announcement Monday that Canada is covering up its arrest of a suspect in Israel’s assassination of Palestinian leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in the UAE in January merely confirms the world’s distrust.

Canada has served on the SC many times in the past, once each decade since the 1950s, and was never refused when it ran for a seat. It carved out a highly respected role: the good cop to its southern neighbour’s bad cop. It refused to break relations with Cuba after the 1959 revolution, refused to send troops to Vietnam (unlike another privileged ex-British colony Australia), recognised China in 1970, and refused to send troops to Iraq in 2003 despite intense pressure from US president George Bush.

One of Canada’s finest moments was Lester Pearson’s Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for negotiating the withdrawal from Egypt’s Sinai of Israeli troops, replaced by UN peacekeepers, including, yes, Canadians. Israel killed the 14 UN soldiers caught there during its invasion of Sinai in 1967, though that did not prompt Pearson to return his prize for helping create a no man’s land that proved to be easy prey for the Israelis.

How did the present sorry state of affairs come to pass? Canadian Conservatives from the days of Confederation in 1867 until relatively recently stood for an independent Canada, and old-time Conservatives today are as shocked as anyone. The only arguably great Conservative leader since Confederation, John Diefenbaker, refused to station US nuclear weapons on Canadian soil, defying a furious US president Kennedy.

But the old Progressive Conservative Party was highjacked in 2003 by predominantly small-town right-wingers, boosted by the rising evangelical Christian movement, a repeat of what happened to the US Republican Party in the 1990s. The fiasco at the UN was “the world’s response to a Canadian foreign policy designed to please the most reactionary, short-sighted sectors of the Conservative Party’s base — evangelical Christian Zionists, extreme right-wing Jews, Islamophobes, the military-industrial-academic-complex, mining and oil executives and old Cold-Warriors,” writes Yves Engler, author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid.

In every corner of the world, Ottawa is now following US neocon policies, as if scripted in Bush’s Washington. On environment and the world economy, over the past four year Harper’s government has

-blocked former British PM Gordon Brown’s global tax on international financial transactions
-refused to recognise the human right to water
-refused to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
-blocked consensus at the Rotterdam Convention to ban the toxin chrysotile asbestos
-supported the environmentally disastrous “tar sands” oil extraction project
-blocked a binding commitment on rich countries to reduce carbon emissions. It even suggested the Kyoto Protocol be scrapped at a UN climate conference session in Bangkok last year, prompting dozens of delegates to walk out in protest.

Over 3,000 Canadian mines operate in Latin America, Africa (especially the Congo), India and other unfortunate third world venues, and are far and away the world’s worst offenders in terms of environmental destruction and human rights abuses, according to the Canadian Centre for the Study of Resource Conflict, but these companies are the Conservatives’ close friends and supporters. At the G8 in June, the Conservatives used Canada’s prominence as host to call in the G8 to criticise war-wracked Congo for its meagre attempts to gain a greater share of its vast mineral wealth, which is virtually untaxed and has been stolen from under the Congolese for more than a century.

Targetting poor Congo elsewhere, Ottawa obstructed international efforts to reschedule Congo’s foreign debt, the legacy of three decades of US-backed Joseph Mobuto’s dictatorship. Canadian officials “have a problem with what’s happened with a Canadian company,” Congolese Information Minister Lambert Mende said, referring to his government’s move to revoke a Canadian mining concession acquired during the 1998-2003 war. “The Canadian government wants to use the Paris Club [of debtor nations] in order to resolve a particular problem.”

The Conservatives love the mining companies so much they have even stalled a Liberal proposal that the mining companies themselves agreed to at their Mining Association of Canada under pressure from civil society groups “to make diplomatic and financial support for resource companies operating overseas contingent upon socially responsible conduct”. The Conservatives nod and wink that it’s enough to rely on “voluntary standards” to improve Canadian mining companies’ notorious behaviour.

The relations between Harper’s Conservatives and Bush’s Republicans were so close, there was serious speculation that then-foreign minister Peter MacKay was having a love affair with his US counterpart secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. Moving on from his Foreign Affairs, the Canadian Romeo was made minister of defence in 2008, where he resolved to spend $400 billion over 25 years to increase Canada’s armed forces in line with US-NATO demands.

In 2009, the so-called Canadian Afghan detainee abuse scandal erupted, when Canadian diplomat in Afghanistan Richard Colvin, appalled by his own complicity there in the torture of hundreds if not thousands of innocent Afghans, blew the whistle. He submitted documents to a House of Commons Committee proving both Harper and MacKay knew of the torture. Even now, Canadian Joint Task Force 2 commandos regularly take part in illegal night-time assassination raids.

The government’s answer? Declare the documents top secret and dismiss parliament, just as it did in 2008 when the opposition agreed to join forces and replace the minority Conservative government, as is their right in a parliamentary democracy.

“It’s hard to find a country friendlier to Israel than Canada these days,” chirps Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives
-called Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon a “measured response” (Two Canadian UN peacekeepers were targeted and killed by Israeli in the invasion. Harper refused to protest, asking rhetorically in parliament what they were doing there in the first place.)
-refused to condemn the invasion of Gaza in December 2008 or the siege of Gaza (the only “Nay” at the UN Human Rights Council)
-refused to condemn the Israeli murder of nine members of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May
-opposed an attempted IAEA probe of Israel’s nuclear facilities as part of an effort to create a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East.
-cut off UN humanitarian aid to Gaza because it was going through the Hamas government there.

That $15 million for UNRWA-Gaza was not actually cancelled by Harper; it was cleverly transferred to Operation PROTEUS, a plan to train a Palestinian security force “to ensure that the Palestinian Authority maintains control of the West Bank against Hamas,” according to Canadian Ambassador to Israel Jon Allen. Boasts Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Americas Peter Kent, this is the country’s “second largest deployment after Afghanistan”. 

While Canada trains police to contain Palestinian anger, it is rapidly expanding relations with the Palestinians’ colonial masters. Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan just held talks in Tel Aviv to further expand the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement. Already robust, Canadian-Israeli trade has more than doubled since its implementation in 1997. Canada even allows goods manufactured in occupied territories by illegal settlers to be labelled “Made in Israel”.

Canada and Israel signed a far-reaching public security cooperation “partnership” in 2008 to “protect their respective countries’ population, assets and interests from common threats”. Israel security agents now officially assist the RCMP and CSIS in profiling Canadians citizens who are Muslims and monitoring individuals and/or organisations in Canada involved in supporting the rights of Palestinians. The barring of British MP George Galloway from entering Canada in 2009 was surely at the behest of now official Mossad advisers.

Not only did Congo get a drubbing at the G8 in Toronto this June, so did Iran. Kent told his confreres, “It’s a matter of timing and it’s a matter of how long we can wait without taking more serious pre-emptive action.” Read: Off with their heads! “An attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada.” Read: Canada is a province of Israel. Canadian naval vessels are already “exercising” off Iran’s coast, waiting for the fun to begin.

Harper and MacKay have hosted NATO Arctic war games aimed at the “aggressive” Russians, and announced plans to spend $9 billion to buy F-35 joint strike “stealth” fighter jets to “meet the threats of the 21st century”.

The militarisation of Canadian foreign policy extends from the Arctic to earthquake-wracked Haiti, which got 2,000 Canadian troops within hours, bumping several Heavy Urban Search Rescue Teams, which were left behind. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon later explained that the teams were not needed. Canada was part of the coup that overthrew and exiled Haiti’s elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, and the Conservatives happily support the ban on his political party Fanmi Lavalits in upcoming elections. Similar to its policy in Palestine, Ottawa is spending tens of millions of dollars to train Haitian prison guards and police.

Like its policy in Haiti, Ottawa implicitly supported the coup against left-leaning Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in 2009 and continues to provide aid and train its military. Canada was the only country that did not explicitly call for Zelaya’s return to power — even Obama did that much.

“Americas” Foreign Minister Kent’s kudos are for Colombia and his criticism is aimed at Venezuela: “Democratic space within Venezuela has been shrinking and in this election year, Canada is very concerned about the rights of all Venezuelans to participate in the democratic process.” Venezuela’s Ambassador to the Organisation of American States Roy Matos was nonplussed: “I am talking of a Canada governed by an ultra right that closed its parliament for months to evade an investigation over the violation of human rights — I am talking about torture and assassinations by its soldiers in Afghanistan.”

I need not continue this sad litany. If you want to know Harper’s position on any foreign policy issue, just ask: “What would Bush say?” or in the case of MacKay, “What would Condie say?” Of course, even before this neocon rape of Canada’s body politic, Canadian foreign policy never really strayed very far into the woods. The Pearson legacy of “humanitarian imperialism” endures in his Liberal successors Trudeau, Chretien and now Michael Ignatieff, though the latter, as an American scholar and supporter of the Iraq invasion, is surely pushing the limits.

It’s not even clear that Harper gave a hoot about the UNSC seat. Was there any soul-searching after the defeat? Perhaps a belated acknowledgment that Canada has veered just a tad from its purported role as everyone’s favourite peacenik? No. Instead, the Conservatives attacked stuffed-shirt Ignatieff for scuttling the bid with his criticisms of “Canadian” foreign policy, though no one at the UN needed any prompting, and there is absolutely nothing “Canadian” about what Harper’s neocon crew are up to. 

Israeli-American analyst Israel Matzav laments, “Canada’s candidacy was voted down because of its close relations with Israel.” Perhaps Matzav, Harper and the like should smell the coffee percolating around the world these days. Israeli colonialism and US neocolonialism are increasingly out of favour, at last.

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

Woodward and the Military: Who’s Using Whom?

October 20th, 2010 by Russ Baker

Bob Woodward’s affect is that of a human tape recorder. He claims that he is no more than a passive chronicler of events. Yet, he has played a significant role in the unfolding history he reports, from Watergate on down to the leak of General McChrystal’s memo pushing for increased troop strength in Afghanistan. (See my earlier piece, “Obama’s Wars”: The Real Story Bob Woodward Won’t Tell.“)

Well, here he goes again. Woodward’s new book, “Obama’s Wars,” has caused yet another event: the forced resignation of his inside source and patron, Gen. James Jones, who had been Obama’s national security adviser. Jones had taken Woodward with him to Afghanistan on the trip to meet with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander in that theater. Later on, McChrystal’s secret memo, essentially warning that the president, like LBJ in another era, had no choice but to massively escalate, appeared in a Woodward article.

McChrystal ended up being forced out of his position for critical remarks about Obama and his Vice President Joe Biden. Now, Jones, whose perspective is amply represented in Woodward’s book, has himself been ousted.

Why doesn’t Woodward report on how this power struggle between Obama and the military is being influenced by his own reporting – and explain why these generals are willing to keep dealing with him if the result is that they themselves are jettisoned? Why would they do so unless their criticisms of Obama are themselves sanctioned as part of an organized effort to push Obama – something deemed so important that powerful military figures have to fall on their swords? (If you think McChrystal’s remarks to Rolling Stone that “got him in trouble” were accidental – read these comments from the editor of that piece to Charlie Rose on how McChrystal and his team knew they were speaking on the record.)

ERIC BATES: This is not the interview where somebody forgot the reporter laid down his notebook and it was an off-the-cuff comment. These were comments over a period of days and weeks, oftentimes repeated, in a culture there that was clearly like this. They began within five hours of our reporter arriving. Within five hours of arriving in Paris, they were referring to Joe Biden as Joe “Bite me,” saying those kinds of things openly in front -

CHARLIE ROSE: And never saying to your reporter “This is off the record. You cannot print this, I’m being open with you to give you a sense of the tone.”

ERIC BATES: Absolutely not.

CHARLIE ROSE: “But do not under any circumstances print this.”

ERIC BATES: Absolutely not. They were very specific in interviews when they wanted something not attributed to them or when something was only for background and couldn’t be repeated at all. It was very clear they knew the ground rules as well as journalists do, and we abided and respected their wishes.

It is not like McChrystal suffered inordinately. As noted in my WhoWhatWhy.com blog post, “General McChrystal’s New Job: Dig a Bit, Please,” a wealthy individual immediately created a nice place for the general at Yale. It’s a sure bet that Jones, too, will land on his feet, with a nice military pension, a platform for his views – and perhaps some lucrative earning opportunities in the vast private military contracting sector with such a financial stake in America’s perpetual role in foreign hostilities.

Woodward continues on his book’s victory lap, but you rarely if ever see major media figures pressing him as to his central role in this shadow play.

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Meanwhile, Woodward’s paper, The Washington Post, which has benefited tremendously from Woodward’s celebrity ever since Watergate, downplays Woodward’s precise role in all of this.

“Jones made clear that he intended to serve no more than two years. But several administration officials said Friday that his departure was accelerated by the publication of Bob Woodward’s book titled ” Obama’s Wars,” which portrayed Jones as a deeply unhappy figure often on the edge of important policy decisions.”

So, according to this, Jones was unhappy at being marginalized and, therefore, left of his own volition. What the Post does not do is address the close relationship between Jones and Woodward, and how that itself would have angered Obama (again, see the blog post below for more on that.)

The New York Times, with no stake in Woodward though a dedicated reticence to openly explore the nature of his work, notes:

Hastening General Jones’s departure, two administration officials said, were the quotes attributed to the general in Mr. Woodward’s book, in which he complained about being shut out of White House political debates by Mr. Obama’s political advisers.

“They were very quotable lines,” a senior White House official said Friday.

The Times was even firmer on this point in another, earlier, iteration by David Sanger, the co-author of the piece containing the above passage. In the earlier piece, he styled it thusly:

General Jones’s departure had been long rumored, and he had previously indicated to his staff that he intended to leave by the end of the year. But the schedule was accelerated, and in recent weeks White House staff members had been increasingly critical of General Jones for statements that he apparently made to Bob Woodward, the author of “Obama’s Wars,” an account of the internal decision making on policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

None of this is in the Post. Meanwhile, Woodward’s own past service in the military before becoming a reporter certainly never appears in Post articles – though we definitely deserve more study of his role in top-secret capacities and as briefing officer for some of the most powerful figures in the Navy and Nixon White House prior to his apparently obtaining an unusual early release from service. We also need to know more about the fact that his reporting, even while portraying military leaders as disgruntled toward civilian leaders, almost always has the effect of strengthening the hand of the military. We can hardly expect the Post to issue a disclaimer on the work of its own star. But this points to a broader and chronic problem at the Post – the failure to acknowledge its own role on the Washington scene, and how many events there are orchestrated with the media audience in mind.

So, who’s using whom? It’s a situation that benefits multiple parties – the newspaper, Woodward and the generals. Whether it benefits the public is something else entirely.

Michigan Blues

October 20th, 2010 by Michael Moore

I have a rule of thumb that’s served me well my whole life: whenever corporate executives begin talking about how they support “free markets” and “competition,” check to see if you still have your wallet.

That’s because no one — not Karl Marx, not Fidel Castro, not your niece who owns the only lemonade stand on the block — hates competition more than corporations. The whole goal of a corporation is to crush all the competition. When corporate executives start pushing for “free market policies,” what they mean is a government that lets them become a monopoly.

Don’t believe me? Well, count how many corporate CEOs (and Republican politicians) stand up and cheer for the Obama administration today:

The Justice Department sued Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan on Monday, asserting that the company, the state’s dominant health insurer, had violated antitrust laws and secured a huge competitive advantage by forcing hospitals to charge higher prices to Blue Cross’s rivals.

The civil case appears to have broad implications because many local insurance markets, like those in Michigan, are highly concentrated, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans often have the largest shares of those markets. [...]

Blue Cross and Blue Shield, like most insurers, contracts with hospitals, doctors, labs and other providers for services. The lawsuit took direct aim at contract clauses stipulating that no insurance companies could obtain better rates from the providers than Blue Cross. Some of these contract provisions, known as “most favored nation” clauses, require hospitals to charge other insurers a specified percentage more than they charge Blue Cross — in some cases, 30 to 40 percent more, the lawsuit said.

As the New York Times reports, Blue Cross Blue Shield insures 60% of Michiganders — including me and everyone in my office. They have nine times more customers than the state’s next largest insurer.

And they’re just doing what businesses do, even non-profits like Blue Shield: use all their power to eliminate the competition. In fact, if Daniel J. Loepp, Blue Cross’s CEO, didn’t do that, he’d be kicked out and someone who did would replace him. (I’d hate to see that happen — he always seems like a real gentlemen when he writes every year to tell us they’re hiking our premiums 27%.)

So this is the future we face with health care in the U.S., even with Obama’s new bill: endless battles between the federal government and health insurance corporations as the companies use all their ingenuity to give us fewer choices and higher prices…at least until we get President Palin, who’ll stop fighting the biggest insurance companies and start helping them kill their competition. Which she’ll do while giving tons of speeches about the need for competition and free markets.

Is there any solution for Michigan? Yes, and it’s just across the river in Canada: they have single-payer health insurance. Of course, at this point we pretty much do too. The difference is that our single-payer is run by a corporation. Theirs is run by the government — or to put it another way, democratically.

P.S. Blue Cross Blue Shield is fantastic at making secret agreements with hospitals, but not so great at actually getting people health care: the U.S. is now ranked 49th worldwide in life expectancy. Look out, French Polynesia, we’re coming for you next!

British soldier killed in Afghan war

A British soldier has been killed in a bomb blast in southern Afghanistan as the death toll for US-led forces continues to climb in the country.

The British army says the serviceman lost his life when he was defusing explosive devices in the Nahr-e Saraj district of the restive southern Helmand Province.
….
The latest death brings the number of British troops killed in Afghanistan since the start of the war to 340.

In another development, Taliban militants said at least four American soldiers were killed in Herat Province.

This year’s foreign troop death toll is approaching 600, making 2010 the deadliest year for NATO forces since the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.

The total number of US and NATO casualties in the past 20 months are more than the entire death toll in the first seven years of the war.

According to official figures, since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, more than 2,100 NATO forces have been killed.

This is while Afghanistan’s Baakhtar News Agency puts the overall death toll of foreign troops at about 4,500.

Several NATO member states are demanding an immediate draw-down of troops under pressure from public opinion.

Fidel Castro y Michel Chossudovsky (derecha). Foto: Estudios Revolución 

Fidel Castro y Michel Chossudovsky Foto: Estudios Revolución

A message by Fidel Castro against nuclear war will be announced tomorrow.

From October 12 to 15, 2010, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro had several extensive and productive meetings with renowned scholar Michel Chossudovsky, Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization and editor of Global Research.

Those meetings resulted in a wide-ranging and fruitful interview that will be published shortly.  A Message by Fidel against Nuclear War was also recorded in a video.

Tomorrow, Thursday, October 21, the websites GlobalResearch (www.globalresearch.ca) and Cubadebate (www.Cubadebate.cu) will publish simultaneously this brief and forceful message calling for World peace and the survival of humankind.

Global Research media contact; Julie Lévesque  [email protected]  

A “Memorandum of Agreement” struck last week between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA) promises to increase Pentagon control over America’s telecommunications and electronic infrastructure.

It’s all in the interest of “cybersecurity” of course, or so we’ve been told, since much of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) driving administration policy is a closely-held state secret.

Authority granted the über spy shop by the Bush and Obama administrations was handed to NSA by the still-classified National Security Presidential Directive 54, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 23 (NSPD 54/HSPD 23) in 2008 by then-President Bush.

The Agreement follows closely on the heels of reports last week by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that DHS has been tracking people online and that the agency even established a “Social Networking Monitoring Center” to do so.

Documents obtained by EFF through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, revealed that the agency has been vacuuming-up “items of interest,” systematically monitoring “citizenship petitioners” and analyzing “online public communication.”

The documents suggest that “DHS collected a massive amount of data on individuals and organizations explicitly tied to a political event,” the Obama inauguration.

This inevitably raises a troubling question: what other “political events” are being monitored by government snoops? Following last month’s raids on antiwar activists by heavily-armed FBI SWAT teams, the answer is painfully obvious.

And with new reports, such as Monday’s revelations by The Wall Street Journal that Facebook “apps” have been “transmitting identifying information–in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names–to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies,” online privacy, if such a beast ever existed, is certainly now a thing of the past.

Project 12

With waning national interest in the “terrorism” product line, the “cybersecurity” roll-out (in stores in time for the holidays!) will drive hefty taxpayer investments–and boost the share price–for America’s largest defense and security firms; always a sure winner where it counts: on Wall Street.

The DHS-NSA Agreement came just days after publication of a leaked document obtained by the secrecy-shredding web site Public Intelligence (PI).

“In early 2008,” a PI analyst writes, “President Bush signed National Security Presidential Directive 54/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 23 (NSPD-54/HSPD-23) formalizing the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI). This initiative created a series of classified programs with a total budget of approximately $30 billion. Many of these programs remain secret and their activities are largely unknown to the public.”

Amongst the programs stood up by CNCI “is an effort to encourage information sharing between the public and private sector called ‘Project 12′.”

The whistleblowing web site “recently acquired the key report from the Project 12 meetings: Improving Protection of Privately Owned Critical Network Infrastructure Through Public-Private Partnerships. This 35-page, For Official Use Only report is a guide to creating public-private partnerships that facilitate the implementation of ‘actionable recommendations that [reflect] the reality of shared responsibility between the public and private sectors with respect to securing the nation’s cyber assets, networks, systems, and functions’.”

According to the document, under the rubric of the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP), Project 12 recommends that “critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR) be brought into federal cybersecurity efforts through a variety of means.”

As Antifascist Calling readers are well aware, for decades the secret state has outsourced “inherently governmental” functions to private entities. This process has served as a means to both shield illegal activities and avoid public accountability under a cloak of “proprietary business information.”

PI’s secret spillers tell us that Project 12 stresses the “promotion of public-private partnerships that legalize and facilitate the flow of information between federal entities and private sector critical infrastructure, such as telecommunications and transportation.”

“The ultimate goal of these partnerships” the analyst writes, “is not simply to increase the flow of ‘threat information’ from government agencies to private industry, but to facilitate greater ‘information sharing’ between those companies and the federal government.”

What information is to be shared or what the implications are for civil liberties and privacy rights are not spelled out in the report.

As can readily be seen in the dubious relationships forged amongst retired senior military personnel and the defense industry, a top level Pentagon position is entrée to an exclusive club where salary levels and perks, increase the higher one has climbed the food chain.

Much the same can be said for high-level intelligence officials. Indeed, former officials turned corporate executives constellating the security industry are among the most vociferous advocates for strengthening collaboration between the state and private sectors. And the more powerful players on the field are represented by lobby shops such as the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) and Business Executives for National Security (BENS).

Last year I reported that BENS are key players driving the national “cybersecurity” panic. In that piece I wrote that the group is a “self-described ‘nationwide, non-partisan organization’ [that] claims the mantle of functioning as ‘the primary channel through which senior business executives can help advance the nation’s security’.” Project 12 is one area where BENS power-brokers have excelled in mutual backscratching.

We are informed that “the cost of scoping and building a tool that meets the requirements for cyber real-time situational awareness is likely to be significant and would be a high-risk investment of Federal funding.” In other words, while taxpayers foot the bill, private corporations will reap the benefits of long-term contracts and future high-tech development projects.

However, “before making that investment, the U.S. Government and its information sharing security partners must define a clear scope and mission for the development of common situational awareness and should evaluate a variety of interim or simplified solutions.”

Those “solutions” won’t come cheap.

Market Research Media informs us that “the U.S. government sector witnesses a blossoming of investments in cyber security technologies.”

We’re told that with a “cumulative market valued at $55 billion (2010-2015), the U.S. Federal Cybersecurity market will grow steadily–at about 6.2% CAGR [compound annual growth rate] over the next six years.”

Those numbers reflect the merger and acquisition mania amongst America’s largest defense and security firms who are gobbling up the competition at ever-accelerating rates.

Washington Technology reported earlier this month that “government contractors specializing in the most attractive niche segments of the market are experiencing much more rapid growth and, accordingly, enjoying much higher valuation multiples upon selling their businesses than their more generalist counterparts.”

“The larger companies in the federal market” the insider publication reports, “continue to seek to aggressively position themselves as leaders in the cyber market.”

Amongst the “solutions” floated by Project 12 is the notion that “real-time” awareness can be achieved when “government resources” are “co-located with private industry, either virtually or physically, to help monitor security,” the PI’s analyst avers.

Therefore, “physical or virtual co-location would maximize the U.S. Government’s investment in network protection by facilitating collaborative analysis and coordinated protective and response measures and by creating a feedback loop to increase value for private-sector and government participants. Another key outcome would be stronger institutional and personal trust relationships among security practitioners across multiple communities.”

One firm, the spooky Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) “formally opened its seven-story cyber innovation center in Columbia, not far from the site of the new Cyber Command at Fort Meade,” NSA headquarters, The Washington Post reported.

Talk about “co-location”! It doesn’t get much chummier than this!

In order to valorize secret state investments in the private sector, the development of “Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs),” or fusion centers, are encouraged. Who would control the information flows and threat assessments are unknown.

However, as the American Civil Liberties Union documented in their report, What’s Wrong with Fusion Centers, private sector participation in the intelligence process “break[s] down the arm’s length relationship that protects the privacy of innocent Americans who are employees or customers of these companies” while “increasing the risk of a data breach.”

This is all the more troubling when the “public-private partnership” envisioned by Project 12 operate under classified annexes of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative.

NSA “Power-Grab”

Last year Rod Beckström, director of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity Center (NCSC), resigned from his post, citing threats of a NSA “power grab.”

In a letter highly-critical of government efforts to “secure” the nation’s critical infrastructure, Beckström said that NSA “effectively controls DHS cyber efforts through detailees [and] technology insertions.”

Citing NSA’s role as the secret state’s eyes and ears peering into electronic and telecommunications’ networks, Beckström warned that handing more power to the agency could significantly threaten “our democratic processes…if all top level government network security and monitoring are handled by any one organization.”

The administration claimed last week that the Agreement will “increase interdepartmental collaboration in strategic planning for the Nation’s cybersecurity, mutual support for cybersecurity capabilities development, and synchronization of current operational cybersecurity mission activities,” and that DHS and NSA will embed personnel in each agency.

We’re informed that the Agreement’s implementation “will focus national cybersecurity efforts, increasing the overalI capacity and capability of both DHS’s homeland security and DoD’s national security missions, while providing integral protection for privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.”

Accordingly, the “Agreement is authorized under the provisions of the Homeland Security Act (2002); the Economy Act; U.S. Code Title 10; Executive Order 12333; National Security Directive 42; Homeland Security Presidential Directive-5; Homeland Security Presidential Directive-7; and National Security Presidential Directive­ 54/Homeland Security Presidential Directive-23.”

What these “authorizations” imply for civil liberties and privacy rights are not stated. Indeed, like NSPD 54/HSPD 23, portions of National Security Directive 42, HSPD 5, and HSPD 7 are also classified.

And, as described above, top secret annexes of NSPD 54/HSPD 23 enabling the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative means that the American people have no way of knowing what these programs entail, who decides what is considered “actionable intelligence,” or where–and for what purpose–private communications land after becoming part of the “critical infrastructure and key resources” landscape.

We’re told that the purpose of the Agreement “is to set forth terms by which DHS and DoD will provide personnel, equipment, and facilities in order to increase interdepartmental collaboration in strategic planning for the Nation’s cybersecurity, mutual support for cybersecurity capabilities development, and synchronization of current operational cybersecurity mission activities.”

The text specifies that the Agreement will “focus national cybersecurity efforts” and provide “integral protection for privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.”

However, as the premier U.S. eavesdropping organization whose “national security mission” is responsible for setting data encryption standards, NSA was ultimately successful in weakening those standards in the interest of facilitating domestic spying.

Indeed, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2008 “the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records.”

Investigative journalist Siobhan Gorman informed us that the “NSA enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs” that include “a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world’s main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements.”

“The effort” the Journal revealed, “also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called ‘black programs’ whose existence is undisclosed,” and include programs that have “been given greater reach” since the 9/11 provocation.

The civilian DHS Cybersecurity Coordinator will take a backseat to the Pentagon since the office “will be located at the National Security Agency (NSA)” and “will also act as the DHS Senior Cybersecurity Representative to U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM).”

Personnel will be assigned by DHS “to work at NSA as part of a Joint Coordination Element (JCE) performing the functions of joint operational planning, coordination, synchronization, requirement translation, and other DHS mission support for homeland security for cybersecurity,” and will “have current security clearances (TS/SCI) upon assignment to NSA, including training on the appropriate handling and dissemination of classified and sensitive information in accordance with DoD, Intelligence Community and NSA regulations.”

TS/SCI (Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information) clearances mean that while civilian DHS employees may have access to NSA and Pentagon “black” surveillance programs, they will be restricted from reporting up their chain of command, or to congressional investigators, once they have been “read” into them. This makes a mockery of assertions that the Agreement does “not alter … command relationships.” The mere fact that DHS personnel will have TS/SCI clearances mean just the opposite.

DHS will “provide appropriate access, administrative support, and space for an NSA Cryptologic Services Group (CSO) and a USCYBERCOM Cyber Support Element (CSE) collocated with the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), at DHS, and integration into DHS’s cybersecurity operational activities.”

In other words, the civilian, though sprawling DHS bureaucracy will play host for NSA and CYBERCOM personnel answering to the Pentagon, and subject to little or no oversight from congressional committees already asleep at the switch, “to permit both CSG and CSE entities the capability to carry out their respective roles and responsibilities.”

Despite boilerplate that “integral protection for privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties” will be guaranteed by the Agreement, there is no hiding the fact that a NSA power-grab has been successfully executed.

The Agreement further specifies that DHS and NSA will engage “in joint operational planning and mission coordination” and that DHS, DoD, NSA and CYBERCOM “maintain cognizance” of “cybersecurity activities, to assist in deconfliction and promote synchronization of those activities.”

Following Project 12 revelations, new secret state relationships will assist “in coordinating DoD and DHS efforts to improve cybersecurity threat information sharing between the public and private sectors to aid in preventing, detecting, mitigating, and/or recovering from the effects of an attack, interference, compromise, or incapacitation related to homeland security and national security activities in cyberspace.”

However, we do not learn whether “information sharing” includes public access, or even knowledge of, TS/SCI “black programs” which already aim powerful NSA assets at the American people. In fact, the Agreement seems to work against such disclosures.

This is hardly a level playing field since NSA might “receive and coordinate DHS information requests,” NSA controls the information flows “as appropriate and consistent with applicable law and NSA mission requirements and authorities, in operational planning and mission coordination.” The same strictures apply when it comes to information sharing by U.S. Cyber Command.

As Rod Beckström pointed out in his resignation letter, NSA “effectively controls DHS cyber efforts through detailees [and] technology insertions.”

Despite the Agreement’s garbled bureaucratese, we can be sure of one thing: the drift towards militarizing control over Americans’ private communications will continue.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.

For many years Americans have justified voting for candidates they were not especially thrilled with by convincing themselves that the lesser evil deserved to win office. The fraction of people totally committed to one of the two major parties is small. Most Americans see themselves as independents, liberals, conservatives, progressives or libertarians, but not as loyal Democrats or Republicans. Most Americans are fed up with both major parties, not just incumbents.

But this year’s midterm elections will once again result in only Democratic or Republican candidates winning. Other than staying home and not voting, nearly all voters will employ the lesser-evil justification. Just one problem: That lesser-evil strategy has resulted in the dismal state of the nation that angers most Americans.

The only logical conclusion is that lesser-evil voting perpetuates all the cancerous evil plaguing the political system. This should not surprise anyone. Regardless of party affiliation, major party candidates convincingly lie to voters and the tons of money poured into politics create a mass propaganda machine from both parties that deceives voters.

Lesser-evil voting sometimes works in favor of Democrats and sometimes favors Republicans. Negative advertising creates fear of some candidates and media pundits and celebrities use their considerable power to give voters reasons to vote for or against candidates. The thirst for true reforms of government persists, as evidenced by the Tea Party movement and even the election of President Obama. It is the force that moves the pendulum from one party to the other.

When will Americans wake up and realize that lesser evil still means evil? Least bad still means bad. Least corrupt still means corrupt. Least dishonest still means dishonest. Least stupid still means stupid.

But many people despairingly see no other option if they want to fulfill their civic responsibility and participate in elections. That is because the two major parties have given Americans no real options. They like the lesser-evil system that sustains the two-party plutocracy. Only voters in Nevada can choose the “none of the above” option. The rest of us can stay home or vote for third party candidates that stand no real chance of winning. What to do?

Stop deluding yourself that any Democrat or Republican in Congress or the White House will actually do absolutely everything, even if it means not winning reelection, to reform the corrupt, dysfunctional, wasteful government system being controlled by wealthy people and corporate interests, and devastating ordinary Americans.

Your lesser-evil vote perpetuates evil. Do you want to live with that?

Accept the ugly reality that voting within the electoral system is no longer capable of reforming and fixing our government. Is that it? Is there nothing else to do in our constitutional republic? Actually, there is something else. The Founders put an alternative path to reform in the Constitution. In their wisdom they foresaw the possibility that the electoral system might fail we the people. Very few Americans know about this option in Article V, which itself speaks volumes about the decay of our educational and political systems. State convention delegates could propose reform constitutional amendments that would never be proposed by Congress, and they would still have to be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

Instead of feeling frustrated with lesser-evil voting take the time to learn about the Article V convention option and why Congress has refused to honor the hundreds of state applications for one. Friends of the Article V Convention, a national nonpartisan group, makes those applications available on its website, something that Congress never did, as well as many other resources.

Political powers on the left and right have worked hard to prevent the Article V convention option from ever being used. That should tell you that what they fear we the people need now more than ever before. The main thing to fear is the status quo political system that your lesser-evil votes sustain. Only vote for someone who you deeply believe without reservations is the absolute best person to have in office. That may mean not voting for every office on the ballot.

Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through www.delusionaldemocracy.com. He is a co-founder of Friends of the Article V Convention.

In the wake of the fractious International Monetary Fund (IMF) meeting held October 9-10 in Washington, the descent into global currency and trade war has accelerated, with the United States playing the role of instigator-in-chief.

The US is deliberately encouraging a sell-off of dollars on international currency markets in order to raise the relative exchange rates of its major trade rivals, increasing the effective price of their exports to the US while cheapening US exports to their markets.

While largely responsible for the growing financial disorder, Washington is accusing China, in particular, of jeopardizing global economic recovery by refusing to more quickly raise the exchange rate of its currency, the renminbi (also known as the yuan). By working to drive down the value of the dollar, the US government and the Federal Reserve Board are placing ever greater pressure on the Chinese to revalue, ignoring warnings from Beijing that a rapid rise in its currency will harm its export industries, leading to mass layoffs and social unrest.

The protectionist cheap-dollar policy has an important domestic political function as well. It aims to divert growing public anger over the refusal of the government to provide jobs or serious relief to the unemployed away from the Obama administration and Congress and toward China and “foreigners” more generally. Among its most enthusiastic supporters is the trade union bureaucracy.

The US Commerce Department report Thursday that the US trade deficit widened nearly 9 percent in August, primarily due to a record $28 billion deficit with China, will be used to justify further trade war pressure against China.

The US policy and the growth of international tensions were on full display at the IMF meeting in Washington. US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner declared China’s currency to be undervalued and demanded that the IMF take a harder line against surplus countries, such as China, that fail to revalue their currencies and accept a reduction in their exports.

China’s central bank governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, charged that expectations that the US Federal Reserve would pump yet more dollars into the markets through quantitative easing were compounding imbalances and swamping emerging economies with destabilizing capital inflows.

With the representatives of the world’s first- and second-largest economies at loggerheads, the IMF failed to arrive at any agreement on the currency crisis. Washington’s allies such as Germany and Japan indicated support for a revaluation of the renminbi, but they balked at lining up behind a US-led diplomatic offensive against Beijing.

This, in effect, postponed the US-China confrontation until the upcoming G20 summit of leading economies, to be held November 11-12 in Seoul, South Korea.

The ensuing week saw an escalation of Washington’s cheap-dollar policy, as the Federal Reserve Board gave further indications that it plans to resume the electronic equivalent of printing hundreds of billions dollars, so-called “quantitative easing,” perhaps as soon as its next policy-setting meeting November 2-3. While it is doing so in the name of stimulating job creation, the main effect of a renewal of Fed purchases of US Treasury securities will be to increase the supply of virtually free credit to the major US banks and corporations and fuel a further rise in stocks and corporate profits.

Since August, when the Fed took the first steps toward the large-scale resumption of debt purchases, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen by more than 10 percent despite continuing declines in US payrolls.

In a much-anticipated speech Friday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke broadly hinted that he favored an early resumption of quantitative easing. Speaking of the Fed’s policy-making Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), he said, “Given the Committee’s objectives, there would appear—all things being equal—to be a case for further action.”

Bernanke took the highly unusual step of declaring that the present inflation rate is too low and making clear that the Fed’s policy going forward will be to raise the rate of inflation to around 2 percent by means of monetary stimulus. “Thus, in effect,” he said, “inflation is running at rates that are too low relative to the levels that the Committee judges to be most consistent with the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate [to maintain price stability and contain unemployment] in the longer run.” [Bernanke’s emphasis].

The call for an inflationary monetary policy is not driven, as Bernanke would have the public believe, by a desire to significantly bring down the jobless rate. The Fed would not declare that inflation is too low unless it was confident that continued high unemployment will enable big business to proceed with its wage-cutting drive and prevent a rebound in wages.

In giving his speech, Bernanke was well aware that simply talking of quantitative easing and a policy of reflation would spark a further sell-off of US dollars. In the event, the renewed decline in the dollar, which began after the IMF meeting, accelerated on Friday.

On a trade-weighted basis, the dollar dropped 0.7 percent to a new low for the year after Bernanke spoke, and the Australian dollar reached parity for the first time since it was freely floated in 1983. The US greenback also fell to parity with the Canadian dollar.

In addition, the dollar fell to a new low against the Swiss franc. Virtually all Asian currencies rose versus the dollar, gold hit a new record high, and other commodities such as silver, copper and corn continued their upward spiral.

The dollar is now at 15-year lows against the yen and nine-month lows against the euro.

The Wall Street Journal on Saturday published a scathing editorial bluntly summing up the currency- and trade-war implications of Bernanke’s speech. It began: “Amid the dollar rout of the 1970s, Treasury Secretary John Connally famously told a group of fretting Europeans that the greenback ‘is our currency, but your problem.’ If you read between the lines, that’s also more or less what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said yesterday as he made the case for further Fed monetary easing.”

The editorial continued: “In a nearly 4,000-word speech, the Fed chief never once mentioned the value of the dollar. He never mentioned exchange rates, despite the turmoil in world currency markets as the dollar has fallen in anticipation of further Fed easing… The chairman’s message is that the Fed is focused entirely on the domestic US economy and will print as many dollars as it takes to reflate it. The rest of the world is on its own and can adjust its policies as various countries see fit. If other currencies soar in relation to the dollar, that’s someone else’s problem.”

Earlier in the week, Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf published a column similarly pointing to the unilateralist and nationalist essence of US policy. “In short,” Wolf wrote, “US policymakers will do whatever is required to avoid deflation. Indeed, the Fed will keep going until the US is satisfactorily reflated. What that effort does to the rest of the world is not its concern…

“Instead of cooperation on adjustment of exchange rates and the external account, the US is seeking to impose its will, via the printing press… In the worst of the crisis, leaders hung together. Now, the Fed is about to hang them all separately.”

The Financial Times on Friday gave some indication of growing anger within Europe over US monetary policy, quoting a “senior European policymaker” as calling the Fed’s policy “irresponsible.” The article cited Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin as saying one reason for the exchange rate turmoil “is the stimulating monetary policy of some developed countries, above all the United States, which are trying to solve their structural problems in this way.”

Following Bernanke’s speech on Friday, the Obama administration announced two further moves in its confrontation with China. The Treasury Department delayed the release of its semiannual assessment of the currency policies of major US trade counterparts, saying it would withhold the statement until after next month’s G20 summit in Seoul.

The administration is under pressure from leading Democratic lawmakers, backed by the unions, to declare China a currency manipulator in the currency assessment, an action that could lead to retaliatory duties and tariffs against Chinese imports. The administration, however, has resisted such an overtly hostile move that would, moreover, preempt G20 discussions on the currency issue. It prefers to build a coalition of European and Asian states against China.

At the same time, however, largely to placate protectionist hawks in the Democratic Party, the US trade representative announced that he was launching an investigation into a claim filed by the United Steelworkers union charging China with unfair and illegal subsidies to its green energy industry.

Global impact of US monetary policy

Washington’s cheap-dollar policy increases the pressure on the major surplus countries—China, Germany and Japan—as well as the emerging economies of Asia and Latin America to respond by devaluing their own currencies to offset the trade advantage of rivals with falling currencies, first and foremost the United States.

This is the classic scenario of competitive devaluations and “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies that characterized the Great Depression of the 1930s and produced a fracturing of the world market into hostile trade and currency blocs, ultimately leading to World War II.

All of the major powers and rising economic nations solemnly foreswore precisely this course of action at international meetings following the outbreak of the financial crisis in September 2008. It has taken less than two years for this much-touted global coordination to collapse into mutual threats and outright economic warfare.

Germany and Japan, while more than happy to force China to raise its exchange rate and prepared to fire some shots across China’s bow toward that end, are reluctant to fully enlist in Washington’s anti-Chinese crusade since they know that they too are targeted by the Fed’s cheap dollar policy.

Last month, Japan, whose currency has risen by more than 10 percent against the dollar over the past year, retaliated with a massive and unilateral one-day sell-off of yen, and this month the Japanese central bank announced a further lowering of its key interest rate and its own program of quantitative easing, through central bank purchases of $60 billion in Japanese government bonds.

Emerging economies such as South Korea, Thailand, India, Taiwan and Brazil are reeling from the upward pressure on their exchange rates fueled by waves of speculative dollars seeking a higher return through the purchase of government and corporate bonds of these faster-growing countries.

The Institute of International Finance, which lobbies for major banks, estimates that $825 billion will flow into developing countries this year, 42 percent more than in 2009. Investments in debt of emerging economies alone are expected to triple, to $272 billion.

Last month, the Brazilian finance minister warned of the outbreak of a global currency war and earlier this month his government announced the doubling of a tax on foreign purchases of Brazilian bonds in an attempt to stem the inrush of capital and the relative rise of the nation’s currency, the real.

This past week, Thailand took similar steps, announcing a 15 percent withholding tax on the interest payments and capital gains earned by foreign investors in Thai bonds, in an attempt to arrest the appreciation of the baht, which has already risen by 10 percent against the dollar this year.

The eruption of currency and trade war is being driven by the general slowdown in economic growth to anemic levels that make impossible any genuine recovery from the deepest slump since the 1930s. Faced either with slumping domestic demand or stagnant foreign markets, or (as in the case of the US) a combination of the two, the major economies are all intent on increasing their sales abroad. As the prospects dim for a revival of economic growth to pre-recession levels, the system of multilateral currency and trade relations dating back to the agreements made at the end of World War II is collapsing. So too are the chances of genuine multilateral coordination.

Ultimately, global coordination of economic policy between the major powers in the post-war period was anchored by the economic supremacy of the United States, embodied in the privileged position of the US dollar as the world trade and reserve currency. This has irretrievably broken down, with the palpable decline in the world economic position of the United States.

The result is a struggle of each against all, combined with a general onslaught in every country against the working class, which is to be made to pay—in the form of wage-cutting and austerity measures—for the breakdown of the global capitalist economic order.

US Agencies Had Warnings Before Mumbai Terrorist Attack

October 20th, 2010 by Patrick Martin

US intelligence agencies had numerous advance warnings about the activities of the Islamic fundamentalist group that carried out the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India in December 2008, according to lengthy reports in the American press Sunday. An American informant had a high-level role in the preparation of the assault, in which 166 people were killed by bullets and grenades.

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times carried detailed accounts, in what appears to be, at least in part, an exercise in damage control by US national security agencies, which made several top officials available for anonymous interviews. The newspapers also interviewed two former wives of David C. Headley, a Pakistani-American who has pleaded guilty to numerous terrorism charges and is now in custody and cooperating with the US government.

The reports give a glimpse of the murky world in which US and Pakistani intelligence agencies intersect with terrorist groups, some of them affiliated with Al Qaeda. As in the case of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US agencies seem to have looked the other way as the terrorist atrocity in Mumbai was organized, or else directly encouraged and facilitated it.

Headley, son of a Pakistani diplomat and an American woman from Philadelphia, was born in the United States and has US citizenship. He was born Daood Gilani, but legally changed his name in 2006 to a combination of his Anglicized first name and his mother’s maiden name, apparently because as David Headley he could more easily travel to the United States and India.

His role inside the Islamic militant organization Lashkar-i-Taiba included repeated trips to Mumbai to scout locations for the coming attack, as well as purchasing equipment such as night-vision goggles.

The account prepared by the ProPublica news service and published in theWashington Post, and a long follow-up article in the Times adding many more details, give a picture of a man whose relationship to the US intelligence apparatus has extended over nearly a quarter of a century.

The Times wrote of Headley’s “overlapping, even baffling, contacts among seemingly disparate groups—Pakistani intelligence, terrorists, and American drug investigators.”

Headley, now 50, reportedly first came to the attention of US authorities in 1988, when the Drug Enforcement Agency arrested him for his role in a heroin trafficking ring based in Germany. He cooperated with the DEA and served a four-year prison term. In 1997, he was arrested again in New York on heroin trafficking, but according to the Post account, “Agents soon obtained his release and he became a prized informant, records show.”

Both newspapers quoted unnamed officials saying that the DEA had dropped Headley as an informant before his active role in Pakistani-based terrorism, statements which appear to be official disinformation to distance the US government from the Mumbai attack.

According to the Times, “DEA officials have said they ended their association with him at the end of 2001, at least two months before Mr. Headley reportedly attended his first terrorist training. But some Indian officials say they suspect that Mr. Headley’s contacts with the American drug agency lasted much longer.”

The Times does not question this inherently incredible time sequence. It would have its readers believe that in the last few months of 2001, in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, a US intelligence agency simply dropped a longstanding Pakistani-American informant who is fluent in the language of the country to which Osama bin Laden had just fled.

Far more likely is that the DEA “dropped” Headley by handing him over to a more powerful agency like the CIA, which would have regarded as invaluable his mixed heritage, language skills and Pakistani contacts—to say nothing of his criminality.

Headley’s American wife went to the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York City in August 2005, following a domestic dispute involving her discovery that he was also married in Pakistan. She reported her husband’s role in Lashkar-i-Taiba, adding that he had bragged of working as a paid US government informant while he attended terrorist training camps in Pakistan.

The FBI agents who interviewed her on three occasions took no action. Headley was arrested by New York City police for misdemeanor assault on his wife, released on bond, and never prosecuted.

According to a report Monday in the Los Angeles Times, “The FBI investigated the leads and determined that the information did not meet the legal threshold for opening an investigation of a US citizen, according to the official. The FBI is prohibited by law from investigating the political beliefs of US citizens who have not crossed the line into illegal, threatening or violent actions.”

This picture of a police apparatus with a phobic aversion to violating the constitutional rights of American citizens, particularly those of Arab-American or Pakistani-American descent, would be farcical if it were not so obviously a cover-up. Clearly there was no investigation into Headley because the agencies involved knew very well who he was, since he was on their payroll.

The timing makes the FBI disinterest even less capable of an innocent explanation. Headley’s wife turned him in as a terrorism suspect only one month after suicide bombers trained in Pakistan blew themselves up on London subways and buses on July 7, 2005, killing 51 people. Adherents and trainees of Lashkar-i-Taiba had also been arrested and sent to prison for life in a case in Virginia.

According to the Times account, Headley began working more intensively on the preparations for the Mumbai attack. The newspaper reports, “An officer of the Pakistani spy agency handed Mr. Headley $25,000 in early 2006 to open an office and set up a house in Mumbai to be used as a front during his scouting trips, according to Mr. Headley’s testimony to Indian investigators in Chicago in June.”

In late 2007, a young Moroccan-born woman, Faiza Outalha, Headley’s third wife, visited the US embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan to warn them of her husband’s involvement with the terrorist organization. According to the Times, “She claims she even showed the embassy officials a photo of Mr. Headley and herself in the Taj Mahal Hotel, where they stayed twice in April and May 2007. Hotel records confirm their stay.”

The Taj Mahal Hotel was one of the main targets of the December 2008 attack, with dozens of people slaughtered in its lobby or in their rooms by two gunmen, part of a ten-man team that landed in Mumbai from a small boat.

Ms. Outalha gave an extraordinary account of the response of American officials at the embassy to her revelations: “I told them, he’s either a terrorist, or he’s working for you,” she told the Times. “Indirectly, they told me to get lost.” She continued, “I told them anything I could to get their attention. … It was as if I was shouting, ‘This guy was a terrorist! You have to do something.’ ”

For the New York Times, of course, this account of deliberate stonewalling by the US government represents at most “another communications breakdown in the fight against terrorism.” The US “newspaper of record” cannot say what is: as with 9/11, the evidence suggests not just incompetence or poor organization, but direct complicity between the US government and the perpetrators of a major terrorist attack.

The Indian government, which was given access to Headley after his arrest in 2009, is apparently not satisfied with the claims that the American embassy in Islamabad failed to respond because it was overwhelmed with tips about terrorists, most of them bogus. Indian newspapers report that the issue will be raised in talks with US officials during President Obama’s visit to New Delhi next month.

Foreclosure Expert Confirms Mortgages Pledged Multiple Times, Not Actually Securitized, Document Problem Is Really a System of “Push Button Fraud”

Yesterday, I showed that mortgages were fraudulently pledged to multiple buyers at the same time.

Today, foreclosure expert Neil Garfield (former investment banker, trial lawyer and board member of several financial institutions) confirms this, explains that the loans were not actually securitized, and the whole “sloppy paperwork” excuse is really an attempt to explain away a system of push-button fraud:

The game was to move money under a scheme of deceit and fraud. First sell the bonds and collect the money into a pool. Second take your fees, third take what’s left and get it committed into “loans” (which were in actuality securities) sold to homeowners under the same false pretenses as the bonds were sold to investors. By controlling the flow of funds and documentation, the middlemen were able to sell, pledge and otherwise trade off the flow of receivables several times over — a necessary complexity not only for the profit it generated, but to make it far more difficult for anyone to track the footprints in the sand.

If the loans had actually been securitized, the issue would not arise. They were not securitized. This was a mass illusion or hallucination induced by Wall Street spiking the punch bowl. The gap (second tier yield spread premium) created between the amount of money funded by investors and the amount of money actually deployed into “loans” was so large that it could not be justified as fees. It was profit on sale from the aggregator to the “trust” (special purpose vehicle). It was undisclosed, deceitful and fraudulent.

Thus the “credit enhancement” scenario with tranches, credit default swaps and insurance had to be created so that it appeared that the gap was covered. But that could only work if the parties to those contracts claimed to have the loans. And since multiple parties were making the same claim in these side contracts and guarantees, counter-party agreements etc. the actual documents could not be allowed to appear nor even be created unless and until it was the end of the road in an evidential hearing in court. They used when necessary “copies” that were in fact fabricated (counterfeited) as needed to suit the occasion. You end up with lawyers arriving in court with the “original” note signed in blue (for the desired effect on the Judge) when it was signed in black — but the lawyer didn’t know that. The actual original is either destroyed (see Katherine Porter’s 2007 study) or “lost.” In this case “lost” doesn’t mean really lost. It means that if they really must come up with something they will call an original they will do so.

So the reason why the paperwork is all out of order is that there was no paperwork. There only entries on databases and spreadsheets. The loans were not in actuality assigned to any one particular trust or any one particular bond or any one particular individual or group of investors. They were “allocated” as receivables multiple times to multiple parties usually to an extent in excess of the nominal receivable itself. This is why the servicers keep paying on loans that are being declared in default. The essential component of every loan that was never revealed to either the lenders (investors) nor the borrowers (homeowner/investors) was the addition of co-obligors and terms that neither the investor nor the borrower knew anything about. The “insurance” and other enhancements were actually cover for the intermediaries who had no money at risk in the loans, but for the potential liability for defrauding the lenders and borrowers.

The result, as anyone can plainly see, is that the typical Ponzi outcome — heads I win, tails you lose.

***

So the paperwork was carefully created and crafted to cover the tracks of theft. Most of the securitization paperwork remains buried such that it takes search services to reach any of them. The documents that were needed to record title and encumbrances was finessed so that they could keep their options open when someone made demand for actual proof. The documents were not messed up and neither was the processing. They were just keeping their options open, so like the salad oil scandal, they could fill the tank that someone wanted to look into.

As we write the US dollar is in the process of trying to find at least a temporary bottom at 76.50 and to launch a countertrend rally. We would think a rally back to 80 is achievable, but we do not believe it’s sustainable – only some stabilization through the election. Japan drew a line in the sand at 82 and finished last Friday trading at 81.37. That does not smack of success, but we see improvement over the next two weeks.

One thing the weaker dollar has done is make exports cheaper for transnational conglomerates and that has helped the market along with these companies repurchasing their stock in the market. In spite of these subsidies the market went nowhere last week. That was probably because of the off again, on again, of quantitative easing 2. Half of the Fed members say lets do it and the other half says do not. In the middle of this verbal conflict is the ever-placid Ben Bernanke, who is answering the call of Wall Street by expanding aggregates via the repo market, which he has been doing since early June. At this point we can assume that the wise guys, who really make the decisions and just happen to own the Fed, have discounted an injection of $500 billion. In addition, they know long-term interest rates are headed lower, although a reduction in the ten year T-note of ½% to 1% is not going to change things much. It will only provide a comfort zone and make big corporations more profits. We do not believe it will have a big influence on home buying with the mortgage scandal in process, which could drag on for years. It will be interesting to see if any bankers are charged criminally. In all probability none will, they just pay fines, or their corporations do, which is all the government is interested in.

While this transpires and international business tightens, exporters all want cheap currencies, that has caused neglect of the dollar by the fed and Treasury and their antics have put the foreign exchange market into disarray. This in part has caused consumer confidence to fall generally worldwide. We see no end in sight and from our point of view this is part of a global trade war as greed distorts rational thinking. It had to come and it will benefit the US in time. You have China increasing aggregates at a 20% rate to cheapen the Yuan for trade purposes. If China does not cease and desist their policies will definitely lead to trade war as everyone else follows. In order to solve these currencies, trade and tariff problems, all these nations have to meet and agree on revaluation, devaluation and debt default settlement. If that doesn’t happen the entire system is going to break down.

This is why gold, silver and commodities make sense in this negative environment. Where else can you go that is safe, as countries are most all developing beggar-thy-neighbor policies? We must say the eurozone has refrained from quantitative easing, but how long can that last? The euro just rose from $1.19 to $1.40, and the 12% to 15% price advantage for exports is in good part gone. Germany and other members will continue to see falling exports and that will put great pressure on the ECB to loosen up and perhaps to reduce interest rates. We are seeing one reflationary cycle after another in most nations and that does not solve the problems. We have seen that in the US with the Bush stimulus, then QE1. That is why QE2 is futile. All it does is enable higher gold, silver and commodity prices. The gold and silver markets have been a lock since June of 2000, or for 10 years. Compounded annual gains of almost 20% a year. These kinds of profits have existed nowhere else over that period. In fact nothing comes close and it is going to continue. What you are seeing is classical economics at play. Not only are they an inflationary, hyperinflationary and deflationary depression play, but they are as well the ultimate currency play. The only entity or currency that has no debt or encumbrances. Today we even have ETFs, that are supposed to have physical gold and silver, but instead are loaded with derivatives. We had best hope the derivatives market doesn’t fold, because if it does all the players therein will have some serious problems, as well the highly leveraged LBMA and Comex.

Psychologically the new mortgagegate scandal will put a damper on home and commercial real estate sales in the US. Recent G-20 meetings have produced little in the way of solutions on trade and foreign exchange. Derivatives are not even discussed. Protectionism is being forced on nations by greedy nations, as most all unilaterally act in their own interest. They believe they can continue to get away with what they have been getting away with for years. The US and Europe cannot simply look the other way anymore. This as Keynesians all trip over themselves and the fascist economic model. Nations cannot make people buy things and they are pulling their financial horns in worldwide. That means all that money and credit created does not go into plant, equipment and research, or consumerism. It ends up in speculative markets. It serves to beat off inflation, but it creates nothing, especially jobs and consumption. The insiders, insider Goldman Sachs, say the economic scenario is fairly bad and very bad. Does it get any simpler than that?

We see totally surreal markets, because the US government has been manipulating them under the fascist model for years As in 1984, good news is bad and bad news is good. Market manipulation is insanity and it guarantees a dreadful conclusion. There is no logic and the denizens of Wall Street go right along with the scam least they lose their jobs. Most all of the economic and financial news is bad and that is a fact. Markets cannot thrive on hope in the Fed or the administration or on QE2. The fundamentals simply are not there. Zero interest rates cannot last forever and neither can a never-ending, growing Fed balance sheet. The Fed’s policies have been losers. How can you have faith in a failed system driven by the greed and looting of the American public by Wall Street and banking, which owns the Fed? In fact we now see them praying for inflation so their system doesn’t collapse. They really believe they can propagandize the public into spending more again. That is going to be a very hard sell with real unemployment at 22-3/4% and real estate still collapsing. In June, the banks began to try to lend to the better quality, small and medium sized businesses. Thus far it has been a failure. In fact there is no upturn, or recovery, in sight. All the Fed is doing is creating another asset bubble in the face of mark-to-model and the carrying of two sets of books by major corporations, especially in Wall Street and banking. That means the downside risks are still latently present. What does Wall Street say about 30% of unemployed have been out of work for more than a year and 40% have been out for more than six months? The projection is 11 million homeowners are going to lose their homes unless government offers an effective modification program. How do you get 42 million people off of food stamps? Can the health care bill be reversed? We hope so, but we do not think so. Corporate America and banking have close to $5 trillion, but they are reluctant to spend it or lend it. This looks like a blind alley to us.

The kick off of QE2 began with the purchase of long-dated bonds. That plan we are told has a $500 billion price tag for openers. As we explained in an earlier issue the Fed will have to buy $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion in bonds. That should easily take the 10-year T-note down to 1.5%. This is an accepted fact on Wall Street and has already been discounted in the market. Profit growth is receding and costs are rising for corporate America. If they lay off any more people they won’t be able to function.

As you all know as the dollar falls foreign goods become more expensive in America and that fuels inflation. In addition commodity prices are rising at a very quick rate fueling further price inflation. These competitive devaluations aid as well the upward movement of gold and silver.

Historically the investments that gain in price and stature during currency wars and with the imposition of trade tariffs are gold, silver, platinum and palladium. Commodities gain as well in the flight to quality.

Freedom of Speech: Quo Vadis

October 19th, 2010 by Noam Chomsky

In brief opening remarks this morning I brought up the crucial fact that rights are typically not granted, but rather won, by dedicated and informed popular struggle.  That includes the core principle of freedom of speech.  Recognition of this fact should, I think, be taken as a guide when we are considering how we can proceed on many fronts: in countering the current waves of repression worldwide, in carrying forward the gains that have been achieved and that are now under attack, and in the more visionary mode that was suggested by the organizers of the conference, thinking about vistas that lie ahead after that still remote day when proper standards of defense of freedom of speech are established, and once established, observed.
 
I also mentioned that the United States and Turkey, though differing in many respects, provide clear and instructive illustrations of the ways in which rights are won and once won, protected.   With regard to the United States, it is commonly believed that the right to freedom of speech and press was guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution over two centuries ago.  That is true only to quite a limited extent, first because of its wording, but more importantly because the law in practice is what the Courts decide – and what the public is willing to defend.   I will return to this tomorrow, but would just like to point out now that it was not until the 1960s that the US courts took a strong stand protecting freedom of speech.  They did so under the pressure of the civil rights movement and other activism over a wide front.  And with the decline of activism, the rights are being eroded, as we heard today, another topic I would like to return to tomorrow.
 
Such facts as these open a question about freedom of speech that arises when we consider longer-term objectives.  The question I have in mind is by no means new.  One person who raised it was George Orwell, who is best known for his critique of totalitarian enemies, but was no less acid in addressing the ills of his own society.  One pertinent example is an essay on what he called “literary censorship in England.” The essay was written as the introduction to Animal Farm, his biting satire of Stalinist crimes.  In this introductory essay Orwell instructs his British audience that they should not feel too complacent about his exposure of the crimes of Stalinism.  In free England, he writes, ideas can be suppressed without the use of force.  He gives some examples, and only a few sentences of explanation, but they capture important truths. “The sinister fact about literary censorship in England,” Orwell wrote, “is that it is largely voluntary.  Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without any need for any official ban.” One reason is the centralization of the press in the hands of “wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics.” Another, and I think more important reason, is a good education and immersion in the dominant intellectual culture, which instills in us a “general tacit agreement that `it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact.”
 
The introductory essay is not well-known, unlike the book itself, a bitter condemnation of Soviet tyranny that is famous and read everywhere.  The reason is that it was not published, perhaps confirming his thesis about literary censorship in free England.  It was found many years later in his unpublished writings.  The essential point is that even in some future time when rights are established and the rights on paper truly observed, new and crucial questions arise.
  
A little historical perspective is useful.  A century ago, in the more free societies it was becoming more difficult to control the population by force.  Labor unions were being formed, along with labor-based parliamentary parties; the franchise was extending; and popular movements were resisting arbitrary authority, not for the first time to be sure, but with a wider base and greater success.  In the most free societies, England and the US, dominant sectors were coming to recognize that to maintain their control they would have to shift from force to other means, primarily control of attitudes and opinion.  Prominent intellectuals called for the development of effective propaganda to impose on the vulgar masses “necessary illusions” and “emotionally potent oversimplifications.” It would be necessary, they urged, to devise means of “manufacture of consent” to ensure that the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders,” the general population, be kept “in their place,” as “spectators,” not “participants in action,” so that the small privileged group of “responsible men” would be able to form policy undisturbed by the “rage and trampling of the bewildered herd.” I am quoting from the most respected progressive public intellectuals in the US in the 20th century, Walter Lippmann and Reinhold Niebuhr, both Wilson-Roosevelt-Kennedy liberals, the latter president Obama’s favorite philosopher.

At the same time the huge public relations industry began to develop, devoted to the same ends.  In the words of its leaders, also from the liberal end of the spectrum, the industry must direct the general population to the “superficial things of life, like fashionable consumption” so that the “intelligent minority” will be free to determine the proper course of policy.
 
These concerns are persistent.  The democratic uprising of the 1960s was frightening to elite opinion.  Intellectuals from Europe, the US, and Japan called for an end to the “excess of democracy.” The population must be returned to apathy and passivity, and in particular sterner measures must be imposed by the institutions responsible for “the indoctrination of the young”: the schools, universities, churches.  I am quoting from the liberal internationalist end of the spectrum, those who staffed the Carter administration in the United States and their counterparts elsewhere in the industrial democracies.  The right called for far harsher measures.  Major efforts were soon undertaken to reduce the threat of democracy, with a certain degree of success.  We are now living in that era.
 
Reflection on such matters should bring us to the realization that beyond the hard task of establishing rights of free expression, and defending their formal establishment of these rights, there are still challenging mountain peaks to climb.
 
Turning to Turkey, the immediate tasks are much more difficult.  Five years ago, I was asked to submit a comment for a conference on freedom of expression here.  I would like to reiterate some of what I said, which seems to me important to keep in mind.  Turkey has its share of extremely serious human rights violations, including major crimes. There is no need for me to elaborate on that after today’s discussion.  But Turkey also has a remarkable tradition of resistance to these crimes.  That includes, first and and foremost, the victims, who refuse to submit and continue to struggle for their rights, with courage and dedication that can only inspire humility among people who enjoy privilege and security.  But beyond that – and here Turkey has an unusual and perhaps unique place in the world — these struggles are joined by prominent writers, artists, journalists, publishers, academics and others, who not only protest state crimes, but go far beyond to constant acts of resistance, risking and sometimes enduring severe punishment.  There is nothing like that in the West.
 
When I visit Europe, and hear self-righteous charges that Turkey is not yet fit to join the enlightened company of the European Union, I often feel, and say, that it may be the other way around, particularly in defense of freedom of speech, a record of which Turkey should be very proud, and from which we can all learn a great deal.

October 18, 2010  Noam Chomsky’s ZSpace Page / ZSpace. Speech Presented in Turkey

 
Noam Chomsky is the author of numerous best-selling political works. His latest books are Failed States, The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy and What We Say Goes, a conversation book with David Barsamian, both in the American Empire Project series at Metropolitan Books. The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, has just been published by the New Press .
 

From Global Depression to Global Governance

October 19th, 2010 by Andrew Gavin Marshall

The following is the text of Andrew Gavin Marshall’s presentation at the book launch of The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century”, Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall (Editors). September 29, 2010, Montreal, Canada.

We now stand at the edge of the global financial abyss of a ‘Great Global Debt Depression,’ where nations, mired in extreme debt, are beginning to implement ‘fiscal austerity’ measures to reduce their deficits, which will ultimately result in systematic global social genocide, as the middle classes vanish and the social foundations upon which our nations rest are swept away. How did we get here? Who brought us here? Where is this road leading? These are questions I will briefly attempt to answer.

At the heart of the global political economy is the central banking system. Central banks are responsible for printing a nation’s currency and setting interest rates, thus determining the value of the currency. This should no doubt be the prerogative of a national government, however, central banks are of a particularly deceptive nature, in which while being imbued with governmental authority, they are in fact privately owned by the world’s major global banks, and are thus profit-seeking institutions. How do central banks make a profit? The answer is simple: how do all banks make a profit? Interest on debt. Loans are made, interest rates are set, and profits are made. It is a system of debt, imperial economics at its finest. 
        
In the United States, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act in 1913, creating the Federal Reserve System, with the Board located in Washington, appointed by the President, but where true power rested in the 12 regional banks, most notably among them, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The regional Fed banks were private banks, owned in shares by the major banks in each region, which elected the board members to represent them, and who would then share power with the Federal Reserve Board in Washington. 
        
In the early 1920s, the Council on Foreign Relations was formed in the United States as the premier foreign policy think tank, dominated by powerful banking interests. In 1930, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) was created to manage German reparations payments, but it also had another role, which was much less known, but much more significant. It was to act as a “coordinator of the operations of central banks around the world.” Essentially, it is the central bank for the world’s central banks, whose operations are kept ‘strictly confidential.’ As historian Carroll Quigley wrote:

“The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations.”

            
In 1954, the Bilderberg Group was formed as a secretive global think tank, comprising intellectual, financial, corporate, political, military and media elites from Western Europe and North America, with prominent bankers such as David Rockefeller, as well as European royalty, such as the Dutch royal family, who are the largest shareholders in Royal Dutch Shell, whose CEO attends every meeting. This group of roughly 130 elites meets every year in secret to discuss and debate global affairs, and to set general goals and undertake broad agendas at various meetings. The group was initially formed to promote European integration. The 1956 meeting discussed European integration and a common currency. In fact, the current Chairman of the Bilderberg Group told European media last year that the euro was debated at the Bilderberg Group.

           
In 1973, David Rockefeller, Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank, Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Steering Committee of the Blderberg Group, formed the Trilateral Commission with CFR academic Zbigniew Brzezinski.  That same year, the oil price shocks created a wealth of oil money, which was discussed at that years Bilderberg meeting 5 months prior to the oil shocks, and the money was funneled through western banks, which loaned it to ‘third world’ nations desperately in need of loans to finance industrialization.

           
When Jimmy Carter became President in 1977, he appointed over two dozen members of the Trilateral Commission into his cabinet, including himself, and of course, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was his National Security Adviser. In 1979, Carter appointed David Rockefeller’s former aide and friend, Paul Volcker, who had held various positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the U.S. Treasury Department, and who also happened to be a member of the Trilateral Commission, as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. When another oil shock took place in 1979, Volcker decided to raise interest rates from 2% in the late 70s, to 18% in the early 80s. The effect this had was that the countries of the developing world suddenly had to pay enormous interest on their loans, and in 1982, Mexico announced it could no longer afford to pay its interest, and it defaulted on its debt, which set off the 1980s debt crisis – collapsing nations in debt across Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia.

           
It was the IMF and the World Bank came to the ‘assistance’ of the Third World with their ‘structural adjustment programs’, which forced countries seeking assistance to privatize all state owned industries and resources, devalue their currencies, liberalize their economies, dismantle health, education and social services; ultimately resulting in the re-colonization of the ‘Third World’ as Western corporations and banks bought all their assets and resources, and ultimately created the conditions of social genocide, with the spread of mass poverty, and the emergence of corrupt national elites who were subservient to the interests of Western elites. The people in these nations would protest, riot and rebel, and the states would clamp down with the police and military.

           
In the West, corporations and banks saw rapid, record-breaking profits. This was the era in which the term ‘globalization’ emerged. While profits soared, wages for people in the West did not. Thus, to consume in an economy in which prices were rising, people had to go into debt. This is why this era marked the rise of credit cards fueling consumption, and the middle class became a class based entirely on debt.

           
In the 1990s, the ‘new world order’ was born, with America ruling the global economy, free trade agreements began integrating regional and global markets for the benefit of global banks and corporations, and speculation dominated the economy.  

           
The global economic crisis arose as a result of decades of global imperialism – known recently as ‘globalization’ – and the reckless growth of– speculation, derivatives and an explosion of debt. As the economic crisis spread, nations of the world, particularly the United States, bailed out the major banks (which should have been made to fail and crumble under their own corruption and greed), and now the West has essentially privatized profits for the banks, and socialized the risk. In other words, the nations bought the debt from the banks, and now the people have to pay for it. The people, however, are immersed in their own personal debt to such degrees that today, the average Canadian is $39,000 in debt, and students are graduating into a jobless market with tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars of student debt that they will never repay. Hence, we are now faced with a global debt crisis.

           
To manage the economic crisis, the G20 was established as the major international forum for cooperation among the 20 major economies of the world, including the major developing – or emerging – economies, such as India, Brazil, South Africa and China. At the onset of the financial crisis, China and Russia’s central banks began calling for the establishment of a global currency to replace the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency. This proposal was backed by the UN and the IMF. It should be noted, however, that the Chinese and Russian central banks cooperate with the Western central banks through the Bank for International Settlements – which the President of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, recently said was the principle forum for “governance of central bank cooperation” and that the G20 is “the prime group for global economic governance.” In 2009, the IMF stated that the BIS “is the central and the oldest focal point for coordination of global governance arrangements.” The President of the European Union, appointed to the position after attending a Bilderberg meeting, declared 2009 as the “first year of global governance.” The 2009 Bilderberg meeting reported on the desire to create a global treasury, or global central bank, to manage the world economy. In 2009, prior to the Bilderberg meeting in fact, the G20 set in motion plans to make the IMF a global central bank of sorts, issuing and even printing its own currency – called Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) – which is valued against a basket of currencies. In May of 2010, the IMF Managing Director stated that “crisis is an opportunity,” and while Special Drawing Rights are a step in the right direction, ultimately what is needed is “a new global currency issued by a global central bank, with robust governance and institutional features.” Thus, we see the emergence of a process towards the formation of a global central bank and a global currency, totally unaccountable to any nation or people, and totally controlled by global banking interests.

           
In 2010, Greece was plunged into a debt crisis, a crisis which is now spreading across Europe, to the U.K. and eventually to Japan and the United States. If we look at Greece, we see the nature of the global debt crisis. The debt is owed to major European and American banks. To pay the interest on the debt, Greece had to get a loan from the European Central Bank and the IMF, which forced the country to impose ‘fiscal austerity’ measures as a condition for the loans, pressuring Greece to commit social genocide. Meanwhile, the major banks of America and Europe speculate against the Greek debt, further plunging the country into economic and social crisis. The loan is granted, to pay the interest, yet simply has the effect of adding to the overall debt, as a new loan is new debt. Thus, Greece is caught in the same debt trap that re-colonized the Third World.

           
At the recent G20 meeting in Toronto, the major nations of the world agreed to impose fiscal austerity – or in other words, commit social genocide – within their nations, in a veritable global structural adjustment program. So now we will see the beginnings of the Great Global Debt Depression, in which major western and global nations cut social spending, create mass unemployment by dismantling health, education, and social services. Further, state infrastructure – such as roads, bridges, airports, ports, railways, prisons, hospitals, electric transmission lines and water – will be privatized, so that global corporations and banks will own the entirely of national assets. Simultaneously, of course, taxes will be raised dramatically to levels never before seen. The BIS said that interest rates should rise at the same time, meaning that interest payments on debt will dramatically increase at both the national and individual level, forcing governments to turn to the IMF for loans – likely in the form of its new global reserve currency – to simply pay the interest, and will thus be absorbing more debt. Simultaneously, of course, the middle class will in effect have its debts called in, and since the middle class exists only as an illusion, the illusion will vanish.

           
Already, towns, cities, and states across America are resorting to drastic actions to reduce their debts, such as closing fire stations, scaling back trash collection, turning off street lights, ending bus services and public transportation, cutting back on library hours or closing them altogether, school districts cutting down the school day, week or year. Simultaneously, this is occurring with a dramatic increase in the rate of privatizations or “public-private partnerships” in which even libraries are being privatized.

           
No wonder then, that this month, the Managing Director of the IMF warned that America and Europe, in the midst of the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression, face an “explosion of social unrest.” Just yesterday, Europe experienced a wave of mass protests and social unrest in opposition to ‘austerity measures’, with a general strike in Spain involving millions of people, and a march on the EU headquarters in Brussels of nearly 100,000 people. As social unrest spreads, governments will likely react – as we saw in the case of the G20 in Toronto – with oppressive police state measures. Here, we see the true relevance of the emergence of ‘Homeland Security States’, designed not to protect people from terrorists, but to protect the powerful from the people.

So while things have never seemed quite so bleak, there is a dim and growing beacon of hope, in what Zbigniew Brzezinski has termed as the greatest threat to elite interests everywhere – the ‘global political awakening’. The global political awakening is representative of the fact that for the first time in all of human history, mankind is politically awakened and stirring, activated and aware, and that generally – as Zbigniew Brzezinski explains – generally is aware of global inequalities, exploitation, and disrespect. This awakening is largely the result of the information revolution – thus revealing the contradictory nature of the globalization project – as while it globalizes power and oppression, so too does it globalize awareness and opposition. This awakening is the greatest threat to entrenched elite interests everywhere. The awakening, while having taken root in the global south – already long subjected to exploitation and devastation – is now stirring in the west, and will grow as the economy crumbles. As the middle classes realize their consumption was an illusion of wealth, they will seek answers and demand true change, not the Wall Street packaged ‘brand-name’ change of Obama Inc., but true, inspired, and empowering change.

           
In 1967, Martin Luther King delivered a speech in which he spoke out against the Vietnam War and the American empire, and he stated that, “It seems as if we are on the wrong side of a world revolution.”  So now it seems to me that the time has come for that to change.

 

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a Research Associate with the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).  He is co-editor, with Michel Chossudovsky, of the recent book, “The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century,” available to order at Globalresearch.ca.

Order the book directly from Global Research

Click here for details: ”The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century”, Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall (Editors).

El venezolano Víctor Rivera, viejo socio de Luis Posada Carriles y como él veterano de la CIA,  ha sido eliminado bajo orden del narcotraficante Jorge Mario “el Gordo” Paredes concluye la Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (Cicig) que investigó el caso.

 Víctor “Zacarias” Rivera Aguaje, ex comisario de la DISIP venezolana donde fue colega de Posada antes de reencontrarse con él en el aparato de represión salvadoreño en 1986, ha sido asesinado el 7 de abril de 2008 en la capital guatemalteca.

 Rivera es un viejo colaborador de la CIA quién fue asesor del Ministerio guatemalteco de Gobernación hasta que lo despidiera el gobierno Colom por haber creado su propia estructura de investigación, algo parecido a lo que Posada también desarrolló años atrás en este mismo país centroamericano.

 Según el jefe de la Cigig, Carlos Castresana, el crimen fue perpetrado por los delincuentes Aurelio Ruiz y Werner Gómez Sandoval, mientras facilitaron los detalles de la ubicación de Rivera el agente de la Policía Nacional Civil Santiago Enrique García, y la propia secretaria de la víctima, María del Rosario Melgar Martínez.

 El asesinato fue perpetrado en plena calle cuando Rovera se desplazaba en su vehiculo en el boulevard Vista Hermosa de la capital guatemalteca en compañía de su secretaria, con quien había estado reunido en un restaurante del sector. Dos hombres armados lo alcanzaron con armas de fuego de 9 milímetros y 0.4 pulgadas,

 ”El Gordo” Paredes fue arrestado en mayo del 2008 en Honduras y luego extraditado a Estados Unidos donde fue sentenciado a 31 años de prisión por tráfico internacional de estupefacientes.

 Castresana, un jurista español, reveló que el esclarecimiento del crimen fue posible por las escuchas telefónicas y los testigos que se benefician de un  programa de protección.

 La secretaria de Rivera recibió 100 000 dólares en una cuenta bancaria en Estados Unidos que traslado a Bahamas antes de salir del país.

   En 1986, cuando Luis Posada Carriles tuvo que abandonar la operación de trafico de armas y droga que dirigía en la base aérea salvadoreña de Ilopango por cuenta de la CIA, la agencia lo colocó con “Zacarias” Rivera quien controlaba entonces  la Policía Nacional (PN) salvadoreña, bajo las ordenes de la Embajada yanqui, según los propios términos usados en entrevista por este individuo.

  Documentos de la época, indican que los agentes de origen cubano y venezolano infiltraron  asesores en todas las estructuras clave de los órganos de represión del gobierno Duarte, con un financiamiento oculto de la CIA.

 Por otro lado, el ex agente de la DEA, Celerino Castillo, vincula directamente a “Zacarías” con la operación que habìa dirigido Posada Carriles por cuenta de la CIA en Ilopango donde se encontraba entonces Félix Rodríguez Mendigutía, connotado agente de la CIA hoy jefe en Miami de la mafiosa Brigada 2506.

 Entre 1997 y 2000 Rivera fue asesor del entonces director de la policia salvadoreña, Mauricio Sandoval, conocido socio de Posada, antes de regresar a Guatemala.

How to Kickstart the Economy

October 19th, 2010 by Mike Whitney

On Friday, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke made the case for a second round of quantitative easing (QE) claiming that inflation is presently “too low” to achieve the Fed’s dual mandate of price stability and full employment. By purchasing long-term Treasuries, Bernanke hopes to lower bond yields and force investors into riskier assets. That, in turn, will push stocks higher, making investors feel wealthier and more apt to boost spending. (Re: “trickle down”, when investors increase spending, it reduces the slack in the economy and lowers unemployment.) Thus, QE is intended to divert investment to where it is needed and to lift the economy out of the doldrums.

That’s the theory, at least. In practice, it doesn’t work so well. Over a trillion dollars in reserves are still sitting on banks balance sheets from QE1. The anticipated credit expansion never got off the ground; the banks loan books are still shrinking. Bernanke fails to say why more-of-the-same will produce a different result. QE is also risky; in fact, it could make matters worse. Unconventional methods of pumping liquidity into the economy can undermine confidence in the dollar and trigger turmoil in the currency markets. Trading partners like Brazil and South Korea are already complaining that the Fed is flooding the markets with money pushing up their currencies and igniting inflation.

The threat of more cheap capital is causing widespread concern and talk of a currency war. If Bernanke goes ahead with his plan, more countries will implement capital controls and trade barriers. The Fed is clearing the way for a wave of protectionism. Quantitative easing, which is essentially an asset swap–reserves for securities–will not lower unemployment or revive the economy. Low bond yields won’t spark another credit expansion any more than low interest rates have increased home sales. The way to tackle flagging demand is with fiscal stimulus; food stamps, state aid, unemployment benefits, work programs etc. The focus should be on putting money in the hands of the people who will spend it immediately giving the economy the jolt that policymakers seek. QE doesn’t do that. It depends on asset inflation to generate more spending, which means that we’ve returned to the Fed’s preferred growth formula–bubblenomics.

Quantitative easing is also extremely costly for, what amounts to, modest gains. Consider this, from the Wall Street Journal:

“The Fed’s own internal models suggest that a purchase of $500 billion in Treasuries would only reduce the 10-year bond by something like 15 basis points….. This in turn would increase GDP by 0.2% a year and cut the jobless rate by 0.2%. That’s not much bang for a lot of bucks.”

Bond yields fell more on Friday in reaction to Bernanke’s “jawboning”, than they will when QE is actually implemented. That’s because Wall Street still thinks Bernanke has superhuman powers and can reverse severe deflation and mass deleveraging with a wave of his hand. But it’s not true. When households are repairing their balance sheets, they will not take on more debt regardless of how cheap money is, which is why credit will continue to grow at suboptimal levels. In a liquidity trap–when rates are already stuck at zero–interest rates become irrelevant.

Here’s a clip from Bernanke’s speech that points out the problem with QE:

“One disadvantage of asset purchases is that we have much less experience in judging the economic effects…these factors have dictated that the FOMC proceed with some caution in deciding whether to engage in further purchases of other long-term securities.”

Isn’t this a tacit admission that Bernanke really doesn’t know what he’s doing? Remember, it was Bernanke, who, as late a July 2005, denied that there was a housing bubble. In 2007, Bernanke claimed that the subprime disaster was “contained”. In 2008, Bernanke allowed Lehman Bros. to collapse rather than invoke the Fed’s “unusual and exigent” clause which he used willy-nilly for all of the Fed’s other so-called “emergency actions”. So, the Fed chairman already has a number of strikes against him, and now he wants to take the country into uncharted waters. This is not a decision that should be left to an unelected bureaucrat whose policies helped trigger the financial crisis.

The threat of deflation should be taken seriously, because once it becomes entrenched it can be difficult to root out. But there’s no need for experimentation; the remedies are already known (Keynesian stimulus) and have been used many times before with predictable success. The government needs to expand its budget deficits in order to provide sustained fiscal stimulus until household deleveraging ends and consumers can resume spending. The privately-owned banking system will not generate sufficient credit for another expansion because the banks are still impaired and consumers are huunkering down. It’s the government’s job to intervene and provide relief where it is needed.

Bernanke should align his bond-buying program with a second round of fiscal stimulus, preferably a two-year suspension of the payroll tax. Instead of inflating equities and commodities, the Fed’s liquidity would give the nation’s working people a well-deserved raise in pay that they’d use to kick-start the economy. That’s the best way to create demand and beat deflation.

U.S. Missile Attacks Kill At Least 80 In Pakistan This Month

October 19th, 2010 by Global Research

6 killed in U.S. drone attack in NW Pakistan 

ISLAMABAD: At least six people were killed in a U.S. drone attack launched late Monday night in northwest Pakistan’s tribal area of North Waziristan, local media reported.

According to the report, the U.S. drones fired six missiles, two of which were targeting at a house and the remaining four at a vehicle, at Sandali village of Datta Khel area in North Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan.

Monday’s strike is the 11th of its kind since the beginning of October. At least 80 people, most of whom are believed to be militants, have been reportedly killed in these strikes.

While the public may generally believe lawyers have chosen their profession “for the money,” in fact many pick law as a career from a burning desire to help the underdog.

“Just like Superman and Batman they come to the rescue of people in great distress, to battle evil, well-armed opponents in the name of justice and to aid widows and orphans against Wall Street villains and greedy finance companies,” says Michael Coyne, associate dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover(MSLAW).

In interviews he conducted with law students on the Comcast show “Educational Forum,” to air at 11 a.m. October 24th, 2010, Coyne says, “I want you to meet today’s lawyers, the next generation of leaders, and learn why people turn to the law, how the face of law school has changed and how law schools must change to remain relevant.”

To begin with, Coyne interviewed Clynetta Neely, whose application was rejected by 27 different law schools as she repeatedly scored law on the entry-level Law School Admissions Test(LSAT), which supposedly screens out poor prospects at most of the nation’s 200-plus law schools recognized by the American Bar Assn.(ABA). Even though Neely was working as a paralegal in immigration law at the Department of Justice, law school admissions officials would not credit her experience or prior excellent academic record.

When she applied at MSLAW, though, Neely said she was interviewed in person by an admissions person who was “more interested in how I had established myself as an adult since I graduated from undergrad, and by what I had done in the workforce. It was just enlightening to be able to get into a school where the LSAT was not a..factor.”

(Note: MSLAW does not choose to affiliate itself with the ABA. In fact, it was instrumental in inspiring a suit by the U.S. Department of Justice against ABA for attempting to dictate policies to law schools. ABA the suit settled by signing a consent decree to stop such practices and paying a fine.)

Not only is Neely graduating from MSLAW with honors but she has been highly successful as a member of its trial advocacy teams, winning against schools such as Harvard and Syracuse. In the last five years in the Thurgood Marshall competition, for example, MSLAW teams have finished nationally in third place three times, second place twice, and first place once. “It’s what’s here and now that counts, it’s not what a multiple choice test says you should have the ability to do,” Coyne said, “because you’ve won the Dean’s Award for significant accomplishments and you’ve proven by a long shot that you’re going to be just one terrific lawyer.”

Neely said the most important things she learned in law school were “tolerance for other people…from different backgrounds of life”; teamwork, because nobody in law school makes it alone; and to lead by example because “a great leader’s a leader not because they put themselves out but because they make others greater.”

Albanian-born Daniel Terpollari said he grew up in a totalitarian society that imbued him with a desire for justice that led him to law school. While Americans were enjoying freedom of speech, he said, “we weren’t able to speak, we weren’t able to think, we weren’t able to do anything that a free person should do. Some of our relatives were executed for speaking out by that horrible regime.”

“When I was 10 or 15 years old, I would think to myself and say, ‘One day I will become an attorney…and fight injustice in the world, because unless you experience it you never know what freedom means, what freedom of speech is, and what great opportunities this country has to offer people,” Terpollari said. After completing law school, he says, “I’m still passionate, and I still love the legal profession and I’ll be able to fight for people in the future.”

After arriving in the U.S., Daniel met his wife, Aurora, a foreign exchange student and they decided to go to law school together, which he described as “not a piece of cake” for a married couple, either. “You have to just keep plugging, keep on pushing, you have to work in law school as never before. And even though we had our hard times and our trials, we just kept talking to each other, put our heads down, and worked hard,” he said.

As immigrants, he said, “We have had to surpass all the challenges with a foreign language, and also the financial difficulties, and also other social and economic difficulties that everyone has but are more difficult for us being foreigners in America.” In the process of overcoming those challenges, however, Daniel said the dedication and motivation created in him a work ethic “that will help you in the future.”

Being bilingual, Daniel said, will equip him to help other Europeans who have settled in the U.S. but do not seek legal counsel as needed due to the language barrier. These immigrants, he says, “don’t have friends, they don’t have connections..and I know for sure that so many people suffer because of that.” He concluded that law school had made him “a different person” by enhancing his levels of confidence and knowledge and prepared him to fulfill his dream of helping people in need of a lawyer.

Daniel’s wife, Aurora, added she believes that “everybody should go through law school because the knowledge you get is so broad and deep it makes you more confident going towards the future” and “what I learned for myself made me a stronger person.”

“Another graduating lawyer is one of the rare individuals who also possess a medical degree. Adam Beck told interviewer Coyne that he was inspired to attend by San Francisco Forty-Niners quarterback Steve Young, who got his law degree on the side and, in fact, had to be in class the day after he won the Super Bowl. Beck thought if Young could do it, he could do it as well. Asked how earning a law degree had helped him in his medical practice, Beck replied, “It’s really forced me to look at both sides. Going in, I was (as an expert witness) always on the doctor’s side, pro-doctor everything, and there really are two sides to every story. So I think I try to be as fair as possible.”

Beck says that he also learned to be more careful going over documents such as consent for surgery. “Before I started law school I wasn’t able to even read a contract and make heads or tails of it. Now I can pick up almost anything and read it, and decipher it without calling somebody.” What’s more, he added, he no longer fears lawyers as do a lot of doctors. Additionally, becoming a lawyer has reinforced his approach to treating patients. “In medicine we try not to direct the patient anywhere. We just let them speak and we’re able to formulate a diagnosis. It’s very similar to law in that way. We categorize in our brains where we want to go with a different set of symptoms so I think the two (professions) overlap in that way.”

The most significant lesson he learned in law school, Beck says, was “You really want to get cases over early. Nobody wins in a lawsuit. If there’s a conflict, we try to negotiate or mediate it early. It’s always better if you can talk things through upfront and communicate with the other side, and if you hear both sides of the issue hopefully you can get to a compromise quickly that saves a lot of time and money and stress on everybody.”

Amy Dimitriadis, one of the stars of MSLAW’s trial advocacy teams, said the competitive experience taught her to “stand up in court and get your voice heard.” In most law schools, she said, students are just reading and briefing cases and writing memos. But in actual practice, it’s the courtroom where you really practice law. “And it gave me a feel for what it’s actually going to be like out there eventually when I get to it.” She goes on to say that “for me right now practicing law is about helping people when they need it the most without necessarily holding a badge or a scalpel…it’s helping them when perhaps they are at their most desperate, when they need justice, when they need someone to help them when no one else can.” She said that law school made her even more determined to achieve her career goal of becoming a practicing lawyer.

Neil Judd, another advocacy team winner, recalled that he was “trembling tremendously” when he gave his opening statement in his first competition. But he told himself that the judges are “going to like me or aren’t going to like me but at the end of the day, this is me. And I wish I knew that earlier in life.” Judd added that law school prepared him for those moments because it taught him, “Not everything is handed to you on a silver platter. You actually have to work for it, fight for it. And at the end of the day, you need to only be happy to yourself.” Today, he adds, “you can put anyone else at the other table next to me and I’m not afraid of them, no matter what school they say they’re from, or whatever their background is. We practiced and prepared so much no one else could have done it more than us.”

Shane Rodriguez said he was inspired to attend law school from his childhood days watching Perry Mason on television. “But more than that, it was a way out of the inner city for me. It was a way for me to climb out of living in poverty and to help others climb out once I became an attorney.” Rodriquez, who is assistant chief of police at a public university, said he juggled both time-consuming efforts by “making sacrifices, by giving up a number of different things” so that one day he would pass the bar exam. Law school, he says, has helped him in his work as “one of the things it’s really taught me is to have an open mind and to go into cases and people’s particular situations with an open mind.” He explained that in law enforcement “it’s very easy to rush to judgment when you’re dealing with criminal defendants all the time…and to look at the circumstances behind a particular situation instead of just coming in with a very narrow focused view.”


The Massachusetts School of Law was founded in 1988 to provide a quality, affordable education to students from minority, immigrant, and low-income households who otherwise would be unable to enter the legal profession. A Wall Street Journal article referred to MSLAW as “The Little Law School That Could” and renowned jurisprudence scholar Brian Tamanaha at Princeton University has called upon the nation’s law schools to shift their teaching approach from the ‘academic’ or research model to one designed to train “good lawyers,” citing MSLAW’s example. MSLAW’s dean and cofounder, Lawrence Velvel, has been cited by The National Jurist magazine as “one of the most influential people in legal education over the past 15 years” and The National Law Journal has honored Velvel for his contributions to law school reform.

Further information: Sherwood Ross Associates, Suite No. 10, 1250 S. Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables, FL 33146; (305) 205-8281; [email protected] Ross is a media consultant to MSLAW.